Sunday, October 26, 2014

Longest "Warm-Up" Ever

Colette drew this super sad face...
she really knows how to capture my emotion.

I’m totally bummed and in disbelief. The NYC Marathon, which I’ve run over 300 miles training for over the past 16 weeks, is on Sunday. That date has been noted in my calendar for the past three years (sandy, post-pregnancy, injury).  This is now the second NYC Marathon that I have trained for and will not be running, but the heartbreak is worse this time. When it was cancelled post Super-storm Sandy, all runners we’re disappointed together, and the experience (or lack thereof, was shared).  This time, 45,000 runners are running, running without me. I just want this week to be over.

I strained my adductor/hamstring over four weeks ago during a sprint exercise, following a 17-mile run without a stretch in sight and continued to run, stubbornly thinking it would go away. That has not been the case. Once I realized it needed professional attention, I’ve been in physical therapy three times a week trying to massage and stretch it back into top condition.  It’s getting better, but so incredibly slowly. I can do everything without pain, except run.

Post 17-mile selfie
There’s a reminder at every turn of the excitement, joy, pain, and thrill, I will need to wait another year to experience.  As I log into Fresh Direct, our online grocer, it highlights the best carbo-loading food to eat this week; I get on the subway and it’s plastered with “Get Your Amazing On” advertisements for the race; I receive daily e-mails from my on-line running coach pumping me up for the final stretch. Oh, shut the fuck up, I think to myself.  

Also, Jeff is running it, and he’s unavoidable. He’s trained incredibly hard, harder than me and bought all the top running gear to prove it. He’s bummed for me and I’m jealous of him, so as you can imagine when he’s not stretching and I’m not icing, the sex has been amazing.

This really sucks for me (and a little for Jeff)…but I don’t want to be sad about it any more. Booze is helping. Muffins are too. But the biggest help is planning my comeback, which oddly enough doesn’t involve booze and/or muffins. I have guaranteed entry for NYC Marathon 2015 (as does my Sister and Jeff) and I’m going to be fitter and faster than I am now. You’ll see. You’ll be jealous.

As for this year, I’m going to be drunk on the sidelines with family and friends, full of emotions I’m trying to suppress. I might not be getting “my amazing on”, but I’m going to do my best to support all of those that are. Go get it…Bynne, Nikki, Jeff, Rachel, Ashley!!!

Even when life sends shitty stuff my way, it's still really freakin' good. This is why. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Vacation from Vacation

I’m in Pittsburgh at the moment attending a 3-day work-related conference. I’m staying in the Westin downtown, connected to the conference center and it has been raining on and off since I arrived. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh before and should be more interested in exploring the city when not working, but instead I have been so thrilled to spend the time in my room alone…doing whatever the fuck I want...reading blogs, writing, filling and abandoning shopping on carts on, etc.  Ya know, the shit one does when there’s no laundry, no diapers, no dishes, no sex you should be having. That’s the best part, there’s no guilt for what I think I could/should be doing. I’m just doing whatever the selfish Ashley wants to do and it’s amazing.

Using the windowed sky bridge from the hotel to the conference center has basically been my exposure to the outside. I don’t want to hate on a city without giving it a chance, but it’s not so attractive, and looks and feels like a large Waterbury, CT. If Jeff were here with me we would have a great time exploring and finding it’s best hidden and exposed gems.  But, I’m solo, just me, a glass of chardonnay and complete wonderful solitude.

4th of July race, pre-rain
Family life is fab, but last Friday we returned from a 9-day family vacation, and by the end of it I really needed a vacation of my own.  Jeff and I don’t normally spend that much concentrated time with our kids, and as interesting, funny and cute as they are that’s a lot of “kid time” and lacks the structure to which we are accustomed to and from which I thrive.  I was beginning to twitch by the end of it and was having a hard time finding the cuteness and funniness of it all.

Our trip didn’t take off as swimmingly as I had planned.  The drive to my parents’ lake cabin in East Haddam, CT was long and riddled with 4th of July traffic, even though we did an impressive job of weaving through it using Google traffic and Navigon, our go-to tools for car travel. In my mind, I envisioned us on the highway shortly after lunch, just in time for naps and before the mass exodus out of the city for the holiday weekend.
Bashan Lake beach
Camper Kisses
Unfortunately, Jeff’s last minute packing derailed that dream. He has an unrealistic understanding of how long it takes him to pack. He only packs for himself, which also includes being able to support any technical malfunction/need that might occur within a 25-mile radius, i.e. Various cables, wires, speakers, chargers and adapters.  I fear we would never cross the apartment threshold if I added anything else to his plate.  Unlike, my laidback extended family members, who throw a few essentials in a plastic grocery bag and are on their way, Jeff packs like he works in a Gucci store, aligning all edges, seams and corners. (I shit you not; he uses a shirt folding board). We were about 3 hours behind schedule but Jeff’s socks we’re color coordinated so as you can imagine I wasn’t annoyed.
Blue Our dinner

We arrived to the cabin just in time for a lovely family dinner, shortly followed by rainstorm that chased the intense heat and humidity away.  The rain was welcome at first, but not so much when it continued to pour throughout the entire 4th of July.  We made the best of it by playing games, drinking and grilling under an umbrella.  We were happy when the sun returned the next day allowing us to hit up the beach, boat and the Blue Our, a great spot located on the Connecticut River, for a lobster roll dinner.

The following morning Jeff and I packed up the kids and car, said goodbye to the family and headed 40 minutes south to New London to catch a ferry to Greenport, Long Island.   The ferry was low-stress, breezy and sunny. The four of us shared a salty pretzel and the two of us, a cold beer.

Greenport, is a small beach town as far north and east as one can go on Long Island, generally known as the Northfork. Northfork, unlike its southern counterpart, the Hamptons, is very laid back, void of crowds and unpretentious.  It’s lined with hundreds of vineyards, farms, fruit stands and beaches. We arrived at our weeklong rental, which was a beautifully renovated cape-style house shortly after our friends arrived and quickly settled in.

Winery with kids

Drive-thru wine tasting

Winery without kids

Early morning pig-pile (notice the whites)

Introducing herself to a pony

Views from the ferry

 Almost the entire interior of the house was decorated and painted white of varying shades, lined with huge glass lamps, artwork and seashells galore, had two exposed stairways, and a pebble-covered patio. It was a 9-month olds dream and my nightmare. Visiting the vineyards during the day, buying and drinking wine by the case helped calm some of the anxiety this environment caused me.  When we weren’t prying ceramic starfish from Julien’s strong, sticky grip, we were hanging out on beach or in the ocean (again, lots of prying from tiny hands and mouth but of less precious, non-decorative flora, fauna, rocks and shells), petting farm animals, taking walks downtown for rides on the carousel (Colette called it the carrot show) and enjoying great food and company.

It took a few days to get used to the fact that you didn’t have to rush to the beach to save a spot in the sand or find a parking spot.  This survival of the fittest and fastest mentality, which we have become accustomed to in the city, has no place in Northfork. If you have two hours to spare the artisanal ice cream shop down the street from our apartment is great, but in Greenport, when you wanted ice cream, you just got ice cream.  There were no crowds, lines, nothing but a really easy beachy lifestyle…hot and breezy.

Of Friday afternoon, en route back home to Brooklyn, as the kids napped in the car ( we stood guard with doors and windows open) we continued to hit up farm stands that operate on the honor system and vineyards trying to squeeze every last piece out of the vacation and headed towards the city traffic.

After some much needed alone time in Pittsburgh and as my twitching has subsided, I’m already looking forward to the trip back next year. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Dream of Fields

A few weeks ago I had two weird dreams in the same night. In one, I had sex with a fat nasty chef in exchange for cooking lessons and in the other, Jeff and I left the kids unattended in a field so we could meet up with our running groups, and were subsequently picked up by Department of Child and Family Services.  I awoke a little disturbed, but mostly humored. Eating and running are popular subjects in our home and both command a lot of our attention consciously and apparently subconsciously. Let me fill you in on the running subject…

Brooklyn Half Pre-Race Party at Brooklyn Bridge Park
(this picture was taken at an amazing fitness playground for all ages)
As I picked up Julien from daycare the other day, a fellow parent noticed my Brooklyn Half t-shirt, and commented on how impressed she was that I ran that race, given that I also had an 8-month old. It was a hurried interaction, and I quickly replied with a shaky, brushed off “ha, yeah” and moved on to pick up Colette next door. As I walked home with the kids, Julien in the Ergo and Colette holding my hand, her comment stuck with me.  I felt proud and I wanted to scream back….”fuck, yeah, I ran the Brooklyn Half, but I also ran the New York City Half and the Austin Half …starting at 4 months post-partum and all within 3 months of one another!!!”

It took an outsiders comment for me to pause for a second and reflect on the drive, hard work, and incredible support that made those races possible. I’m proud not only of myself, and my Run Club, but especially proud of my running support crew Jeff, my Sister Shawna and my Mom.   I had the ambition but they are ones who made it possible.

Brooklyn Half post-race party at Coney Island
Jeff and I hardly run together. He’s faster and prefers to run later in the day than me.  Also, he needs to stay behind to watch the kids (although a field, fenced-in of course, sounds like it has some potential). I often run early in the morning when the kids and I have the most energy, unfortunately it’s when Jeff has the least, but he feigns interest in play-doh and paints, until I return sweaty and happy with muffins and coffee (basically, anytime I cross the threshold, night or day, Colette asks if I have muffins). He tends to run when the kids are napping or already asleep, which for obvious reasons is fabulous no matter my energy level. He never pressures me to shorten my runs, or return home soon and I try to offer him the same courtesy.  We encourage one another when it’s hot or rainy, or need the extra kick out the door, to go out and get it done. 

My hot Mama

I hardly run with my Mom and Shawna, either, even though we run at the same pace.  It’s a special treat to run with them when they visit us in Brooklyn or on our monthly trips to West Hartford.  Shawna is an ambitious, athletic, busy, working mom with two kids under the age of 4 so naturally she gets me and I get her.  When I bitch about my thighs chaffing in running skirts and saggy tits in sports bras, she laughs and responds with a joke about not having tits. We encourage one another to sign up for races (NYC Marathon 2014…here we come), listen and share advice on work, parenting, running and life.

My Mom and her running deserves a post all on it’s own. In   short, she’s incredibly talented and inspiring. She wants in…on everything; every trip, every race, every pre-race party, every post-race party, every first place in her age group. She’s pretty damn good about getting what she wants. We love her a lot so we want her in on everything too.  She will turn 60 next year and can keep pace with her 30 something year old daughters, not for 1 mile or 2, but 13.1! That’s insane and awesome. Most often, I run alone, but with those three by my side, it’s never lonely.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Mom Video

By now, I'm sure you've seen this video....

I loved it. Jeff hated it. This is us battling it out via e-mail...

Jeff's take on it (seems to have a lot of anger for such a calm and gentle dude): 

This is a pretty good article articulating why I hate that video. I despise the new trend of making parenting out to be a depressing chore that leaves no time for anything else. It's bullshit, at least in our circle and to everyone I saw share that video. Parents still run marathons, go out to concerts, dinners, watch Game of Thrones, drink wine, etc. 

Parents, with normal, healthy kids that feel that this "job" accurately describes raising children are assholes. 

Do kids demand attention? Lots. Is it boring. Sometimes. Challenging? Absolutely. But is it the "toughest job"? Fuck no. I'd take hanging out with my kids over lots of jobs. Night security guard? C'mon no contest. Effort for a task does not correlate to the enjoyment extracted from it. Something can be challenging and equally enjoyable. 

This article doesn't mention that fathers are also not completely useless. 

I understand that a single mother, with no family or available daycare, and a colicky 1 month old may have a different opinion.

My response: 

1. It was for Mother's Day so it's not about fathers....or anyone else, intentionally. Plus, all the moms I know (myself excluded) do a shit-ton more work than dads. 

2. Even when moms (and dads) are out drinking with friends, at work, running marathons...they are still parents first and foremost. The responsibility, love, planning, worry, etc. never ends and has no boundaries. 

3. The video said it's the toughest job, not the worst job and I agree 100%.  Just the way marathons are doesn't mean we don't enjoy (or at least get some satisfaction from) all the ups and downs and hard work involved...we do, which is why we run more of them and have more kids. 

I bought this coffee and muffin at our corner coffee shop at 8am this morning (I took Julien with me and Colette and Jeff were still asleep). It sat there mostly untouched until 9:30am....because I was too busy trying to get Julien and Colette ready to daycare and out the door and their immediate needs (food, clothing, cleanliness, safety, etc.) will always come before mine. I'm home now, kid-less, and can write this post, drink my coffee and eat my muffin (which, by the way, no one interrupts in a professional office setting). I'm sure if I was a SAHM, I'd be eating this muffin for lunch and pouring the coffee over ice with Kalua. 

Was my morning enjoyable? Yes. Was it tough? Yes. And I will do it again, or some version of it, for the rest of my life and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Little Plan Derailers

I’ve heard others say about parenting that the days are long, but the years are short. I couldn’t agree more.  Some mornings drag on and on and I feel like 9am, our daycare drop off time, will never come. But then, I catch glimpse of one of Colette’s baby pictures and I am amazed at how quickly the last several years have passed and how much they have changed me.

My 'hood

Becoming a mom and going to therapy have made the past few years, the most life changing. I stopped seeing my therapist, whom I saw weekly, for almost two years shortly after Julien was born. I felt we had worked through the issues (anxiety, guilt, stress, depression, babies, work, marriage, moving, etc.) that initially drove me to seek help. I ended the relationship feeling incredibly happy, proud and empowered and those feelings remain to this day. The more openly I speak with others about my experiences, the better I feel. Maybe, it’s the crowd I roll with, but everyone seems to have relatable feelings and stories of their own to share.

Just the other day I ran into my therapist on the street in my neighborhood (lucky for me, I was on my way into work and looking like my best self).  She gave me the warmest hug, was happy to hear I was doing so well, and reminded me that she’s always there for me if I ever need her guidance down the road.  It was nice encounter and I walked away smiling and I’m sure she did too.

The biggest discovery through therapy was letting go of, or at least, tightening the grip on my life’s plan. For the most part, my life has been pretty well scripted and has unfolded as I have envisioned it…go to college, graduate college, live with roommates, date, become a professional, travel, get married, and have kids, remain a professional,  stay married, travel. 

I never dreamed of moving to NYC (nor really wanted to) and I certainly never envisioned staying in the city for as long as I have (9 years), and I definitely did not see myself having children here, and I was absolutely against the idea of raising a family anywhere but Connecticut.  Deviating from the plan made me anxious and caused a lot of tension between Jeff and me. Finding things to hate about the city and our life here was exhausting, mostly because our life is really good. Good jobs, good childcare, good friends, good apartment, lots of culture and things to do and great take-out (as Uncle Jay and Uncle Dave will attest to).  The more I uncovered and accepted that I need to find my best self regardless of location, I felt better, and the pressure to move diminished. Also, my family, the main draw of relocating, has been incredibly supportive and understanding. 

My little plan-derailers

Instead of only focusing on what I’ve planned for myself (raising a family in West Hartford), I’m focusing on what feels right for my family and me in the moment. Right now, our lifestyle is working for us and we are staying put.  Having kids has forced me to be more flexible and accepting of deviating from the plan, if not forgetting it all together.  Over the passed two years I’ve learned that babies make every process take 15 minutes longer than it would normally and toddlers’ main goal in life is to take your plan/schedule/itinerary and make a mockery of it....combine the two, and it's a miracle I'm able to write this post. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Running Fast and Running Around, but Mostly Running Late

Yesterday was our 4-year wedding anniversary. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same in that time.  Obviously, our lifestyle has changed with the addition of two little kids. We party less (no more hangovers), have less professional ambition (at least for the immediate near future), and have less expendable income (two daycare bills is no joke), but our lifelong pursuits to travel, spend time with family and friends, enjoy food and booze, and stay active have remained the same, if not intensified.  

I’ve been back at work for almost two months now, and personally and professionally, there’s always a lot to do and and so little time to get it all done. I do a lot of multi-tasking and Jeff will be the first to tell you, I’m so fucking bad at it.  I leave the dishwasher half emptied, the kids partially dressed, the bagels burning and my voicemail overflowing all the time.  “Mom, use two hands!” has become a common command from Colette, when I go to tuck her into bed, or put on her boots, as she catches on to my sub-par ability to do more than one task at a time.  

Great start to the day!
Recently, a friend asked me if having two kids is really that much more different than having one. Um, in short, YES! I’m sure in a few years, the difference might not be that dramatic, but right now it is. Julien is just over 4 months old now, and has been to the doctors a fair share and emergency care once.  He’s wheezy and has the skin-care regimen of a supermodel. When one is sick the other isn’t, when one has blow-out poop diaper, the other demands not to wear pants outside, when one is taking a nap, the other wants to play hide & seek in the room of the napper.  It’s pretty exhausting and if Jeff weren’t the rockstar Dad/Husband that he is, I think I might have tapped out by now.

Grand Army Plaza on a 8pm run
And as if life isn’t busy enough on a go-nowhere day at home, we seek out ways to intensify it and really push the strength of our marriage to the test.  Jeff and I are both training for multiple half-marathons and squeeze in runs before work, between snowstorms and after the kids are in bed. This weekend we’re headed to Austin, TX so that my Sister, Mom and I can run 13.1 miles in their half-marathon.  The men in our lives will be our support team, babysitters and cheerleaders just like they are on a normal day. I’m incredibly proud to be running with this team of powerhouse women.   It will be the first long-distance race for my Mom and the first long-distance race for my Sister and me post 2nd pregnancies.

She's the only one who doesn't mind all of this cold!
Before we run in Austin, we have to get to Austin with two babes in tow, which is a little more intimidating than the race itself.  Wish us luck!