Tuesday, June 28, 2011


For the past few days, I've felt great when I was on the road, but the rest of the time - at work, after running, and first thing in the morning, I've felt kind of under the weather. The glacial A/C they have blowing at the office probably doesn't help matters any...and running in the rain on Saturday probably didn't, either. So instead of writing, as I'd intended to do, I think I'm going to hit the sack early. I'm too tired to be coherent anyways. Apologies, all.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Thanks to the Facebook/Twitter/Dailymile phenomenon, I seem to hear about every single case of sexual assault that occurs along the trails and roads in the Kansas City metro area. Recently, a woman was raped while walking along the Trolley Trail, where I had my Saturday long run. While I heard they caught the guy, I still couldn't help but speed up a little as I ran through the wooded section, staying within shouting distance of the guy in front of me...just in case. Fortunately, I've never found myself in a situation like that, but like any female runner, I've wondered what would happen if anything DID happen. I mean, I'm not very fast, and on certain days, I push myself pretty hard. I can't help but wonder, if someone should try to take advantage of me on a bad day, would I get the adrenaline rush that would permit my escape? Or would I have to say something like, "Look, I've been running, I'm tired, there's no way in hell I can outrun you. Do whatever you have to do, just make it fast, okay?"

In fact, the ONLY time I've ever encountered anything that could have been even the slightest bit dangerous on a run was the time Recon and I were chased by a homeless man in the West Bottoms. I probably should have known better than to run there by myself, but when you live in super-hilly downtown (at the bottom of a huge hill, in fact) and have to stay on the sidewalks to avoid getting hit by cars, there's a certain unmistakeable attraction about a place that's deserted and pancake-flat. We were just finishing a nice run and getting ready to head back up the 12th Street Bridge into downtown when we passed three dirty guys sitting with their backs against a dumpster. I pass all sorts of odd characters on my run and didn't give them a second look, but apparently one of them wanted something badly enough he thought it would be worth getting up and following me. (I think he said something, but I was wearing headphones and couldn't really hear. Needless to say, I don't wear headphones when I run anymore.) I looked back, saw him coming, and broke into a sprint. He chased me for about a block before falling back and stopping.

After telling my dad that story, he advised I stay out of the Bottoms when I'm running alone. "There's a halfway house down there somewhere," he said. "If you're going to go down there, take someone with you." So now, I don't run that course unless I'm with Brian, which sucks because my pace is so slow to him, it's practically moving backwards. He'll agree to go with me, but not as often as I get the urge to go run that course. Oh well.

That said, I'm hardly ever intimidated when I run downtown, even on those middle-of-the-night, can't-sleep-for-the-life-of-me runs, because I have Recon, my 9 year-old Alaskan Malamute. I've had him since he was 6 weeks old, and when we moved downtown, I was concerned he'd get fat from lack of backyard exercise...so, slowly but surely, we became runners. And now he's my favorite running buddy and the friendliest, furriest marshmallow dog in the entire world...but he DOES look like a wolf and he's been known to send many a child screaming in the opposite direction when he comes running down the street with me. (I only feel sort of badly about this - can't those kids see he's on a leash?) His size and wolf-like appearance keep certain people at bay, and if I've ever passed any would-be attackers, I've never had to find out.

People often ask if Recon would protect me if I ran into trouble. Fortunately, I've never had to find out. The closest I ever came to seeing if Recon would defend me was on a summer afternoon, the last one Mom lived at home. At the time, her doctors were experimenting with her cocktail of meds, trying to find something that would ease her agitation while, at the same time, not turn her into a zombie. Certain days were better than others, and this was not a good day. I remember I'd poured myself a glass of red wine, and was going upstairs after a book I'd left in the laundry room. Dad had just left, and Mom was agitated when she couldn't find him. She came after me, shouting and grabbing my arms. Wine went everywhere, and she had me backed up against the bookcase, and was screaming at me, ignoring my attempts to calm her down. Finally, I called for my sister, but she was upstairs on the third floor and couldn't hear me.

This was when Recon came into the picture. He inserted himself very gently between me and Mom, and nudged at her leg, trying to get her to step back. She did, and she let go, but she continued to shout. Recon stayed in front of me, careful to keep his body between mine and hers, but showed no aggression or sign of agitation. He was calm and smiling in his silly-dog way, but watchful. Eventually, my sister came downstairs and together, we calmed Mom down...but Recon followed me closely for the rest of the day.

Mostly, I was impressed by the fact that, not only did he protect me, he showed the wisdom to differentiate between an aggressive situation and, well, an unfortunate one. Not a single time did he show his teeth or growl at my mother; instead, he realized what was called for and merely kept an eye out. I've never been prouder of him than I was that day. And as a result, I can run with him with complete and total faith that he knows exactly what he's doing. If Recon doesn't think a situation is threatening, it probably isn't. Not only does he keep me safe, he also makes me happy. He runs right along with me, smiling, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, making sure I don't slow down and stop, because the sooner we get home, the sooner there will be dinner. Not sure what I'll do on the day that Recon can no longer run with me. It's another one of those things - numerous, these days - that I'd just rather not consider for now.

Top photo: Me and my watchdog, Recon. Middle photo: Mom and her watchdog, Paco. Dad gave Paco to Mom when they were dating in college. While I remember Paco as a sweet dog, apparently he used to terrorize a family friend who was trying to sell their house.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Culinary Sunday: Sub-3 Marathoner Pasta!

I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to run. Fortunately, running and eating are two activities that go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, one usually usurps the time it takes for the other, so the only days I really do much cooking are Friday nights or Sunday nights, since I don't run either day. Tonight, we opted for Chinese food since we were running sort of late after the grocery store, but I'm going to try to make a habit out of posting a favorite recipe here Sunday night.

Rigatoni con vodka was a big thing in my family - it's one of Dad's favorites at Italian Delight, and he orders it every time he sees it on a menu. When we went to Italy, we discovered it's really more of an American-idea-of-Italian-food item (read: only served at touristy type places) but it's still quite good. You can buy vodka sauces here in jars, but you won't get the same effect unless you cook the pasta IN the sauce, otherwise it won't stick.

Though personally, I prefer to make my own. Since Brian doesn't drink much anymore but had a huge unopened bottle of vodka in his cabinet, I make this a lot. This has turned into a Friday night (pre-run dinner) favorite for Brian, the sub-3 marathoner and vegetable hater, and I - and it's moderately healthy, too.

Rigatoni Con Vodka
Serves: 2-4
Prep time: 45 minutes

1 - 28 oz can stewed tomatoes, whole
1 - 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes, whole
10 garlic cloves, peeled
4T olive oil
1/4c vodka
1/2c heavy cream
Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)
1 box whole wheat rigatoni, penne, or other tube pasta
1 wedge fresh parmesan, shredded

Put tomatoes in the blender or in a food processor. Pulse a few times until tomatoes are finely chopped or JUST turned pink (don't let them get frothy).

Heat olive oil in a large pot/skillet. Gently crush garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add to pan, tossing for a few minutes until lightly browned. Add tomatoes to pot SLOWLY (they'll splatter) and stir. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add red pepper flakes (to taste), salt (to taste), and 1/4c. vodka. Stir occasionally.

While the tomatoes are reducing, cook pasta in salted boiling water according to directions on the box minus a minute or two or until very al dente. Drain and return to pan.

Fish the garlic cloves out of the tomato mixture. They'll be nice and soft. I like to chop about 5-6 of them and return them to the sauce. (or spread them on Italian bread!)

When tomatoes have reduced to desired consistency (usually about 1/4in down in the pan - I just kind of eyeball it), remove from heat and stir in 1/2c. cream. Add sauce mixture to the drained pasta and heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce sticks to pasta (about 5-10 minutes). I stir in about 1/2c. parmesan cheese and serve topped with parmesan. :)


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday's To-Do List:

14 mile run - check. One of the things I have to do to solidify a time goal for NYC is to see if I can actually sustain faster paces for longer periods of time. This was the first time I tried this in the group environment. Last season, I trained with the 11:20 minute mile group and had a BLAST. This season, in the interest of getting faster, I decided to jump up a few groups for the first run of the season, and attempt a run with the 10:30 minute mile group. According to conventional wisdom, for a 4:15 marathon (9:30 minute mile pace - a VERY early, VERY tentative goal), this is right about where I should be for long runs. It was different - we didn't take walk breaks at the mile markers, and the aid station breaks were brief - but I enjoyed it, and I actually averaged a 10:07 pace for the entire run.

My friends turned back at the 12 mile turnaround, but I was committed to 14, so I kept going. The skies pretty much opened up on me at the farthest point from the start, but it made for a refreshing, unusually cool morning for late June in Kansas City. It was a nice confidence builder. I'm not sure that a 4:15 marathon is actually the end goal - people keep cautioning me that it might be too optimistic - but what they don't understand about me and running is that I have no ego. Every time I thought I might be getting faster, I've been knocked down by GI tract issues (the KC Marathon was basically a 26.2 mile toilet tour) or injuries (which, incidentally, also began with GI tract issues and an inopportune pit stop and culminated with a DNF at Illinois). I have absolutely no problem changing the goal to a slower time, or even just a "do it" goal.

Though, if I can, I'd really, REALLY like to come in under the 4:30 mark. Any time longer than that, and I won't make the deadline for the marathon edition of the New York Times...and that'd be a great memento for my trip to NYC.

Splits: 11:12, 10:26, 10:09, 10:01, 9:55, 10:15, 9:31, 9:36, 9:58, 10:18, 9:55, 9:47, 10:00, 10:04. I am not fast, but I am consistent. :)

For the uninitiated - in the future, if you'd like to read the daily details I write about my runs, click on the dailymile link on the left side of the page. I have about a year's worth of documentation on there, it's kind of fun to read back through.

Finish fundraising page and go live - check. Thanks to a couple of close friends who know both me AND my mother, and whose opinions I value beyond measure approving of the very nonconventional text for my fundraising page...I went ahead and posted it, along with a favorite photograph and an Elie Wiesel quote I thought was fitting. The only thing that concerns me is that Dad won't think it's appropriate. Guess we'll see. After playing around with some of the icons I found on the actionalz.org site, I switched the html code to refer to my fundraising page. Hope that's kosher.

Celebrate!!! - check. Usually I save the big meals for the 20+ mile training runs, but today I felt like I really achieved something. So Brian and I went to Oklahoma Joe's for dinner - I had the rib/pulled pork dinner and we split some of KC's best fries - and Glacé Artisan Ice Cream for dessert. The caramelized pineapple ice cream was fantastic, but I wasn't as crazy about the peach - I think it was the cinnamon.

I'd chase such a productive Saturday with a lazy, laying-in-the-sun Sunday, but there's still work to be done!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stay Tuned...

Yesterday I spent the day writing about NOT writing for the fundraising page...and today, I wrote for the fundraising page. It's very nonconventional. I can't tell if it's my sense of relief at finally having written something that makes me think it works, or if it actually works, so I've run it by a couple of loved ones who know both me and my mother to see what they think.

I was going to ask Dad, Hanna, or one of my brothers, but I'm afraid it would make them sad, and maybe they've had enough sadness for awhile.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Darker Side of Honesty

Having finally conquered my blog-stipation yesterday, and after receiving several positive comments on my first post, I felt more than capable to take on today's writing challenge - the fundraising site.

I've had several requests already for the link to my fundraising site, so I want to go live as soon as possible. But the generic "Thank you for supporting the Alzheimer's Association New York City Chapter. Your contribution is greatly appreciated" doesn't do Mom justice, and I don't want anyone to contribute thinking I couldn't find the words - about Mom, about the marathon, about the overwhelming sense of gratitude I feel for their support.

Thing is, for something so personal that I've discussed countless times with family and friends, I've never actually had to write anything down for public consumption. If people ask me how Mom is doing and I don't feel like talking about it, I give a wishy-washy answer like, "Oh, good days and bad days," or "Same ol, same ol" and kind of leave it at that. (Most people don't want details anyways, because there's never anything really positive to say.) I'm still paralyzed by this need to be articulate and polished and evocative, that will inspire people to donate more than they originally intended to do...but it's hard to fit a raw, awful, messy, ambiguous situation into a neat little presentable word package. I'm not sure it's even something I WANT to do, because doing so indicates some level of comfort with the situation...and I'm still anything but comfortable with it. I'm not even sure I ever want to be.

And this is where the confusion takes a darker turn, because when it all comes down to it, this is starting to feel an awful lot like an obituary for someone who isn't actually dead yet. I don't want to offend anyone by saying this, but the Mom-ness isn't there anymore even though she's still alive. To what degree she's "still in there" I'm not certain - her eyes light up when she sees me sometimes and I think that deep down, she knows who I am...but then I watch her struggling with other things she did effortlessly her whole life (going up stairs, say) and realize it's probably more coincidence than anything else. But she is still very much alive in the vital signs sense of the word, and in writing about her like she's gone, I can't help but think of the "Bring out your dead!" Monty Python scene, where the man in the wheelbarrow screams, "I'm not dead yet!"

As a result, "I'm not dead yet!" has been running through my head on a loop all afternoon, blocking any hope of logical thought on the matter. Mom used to tell me that my voice carried when I spoke, and that if I couldn't remember to talk softly, I needed to watch what came out of my mouth. Maybe this is one of those times. But that's all I can think about.

I'm beginning to think that when it comes to the New York City Marathon, the running - and writing about the running - might actually be the easy part. I have 5 miles on the schedule for this evening. Maybe that'll help me get some clarity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thoughts From The Starting Line

Anyone who's listened to me speak in public (or read one of my many blogs over the past few years) has probably heard me utter a version of this line - "I have absolutely no idea how to begin, and I'm really not very good at this." It's kind of hard to believe I aced public speaking. But hey, if you can't be smooth, you might as well be honest. And sometimes, from such inauspicious beginnings, great things can grow. Not all of us are first-impression people, after all.

Still, it's amazing that someone who spends most of her time either running off or running off at the mouth (or running off at the mouth about running, as my brothers would remind me) could have such a difficult time putting one foot in front of the other, so to speak, and writing something along the lines of an introductory post. I started one other running blog, right before beginning to train for my first marathon, and my introductory post was simple - paraphrased, "Intros blow and mission statements make me uncomfortable, so I'm not going to write one. Screw expository nonsense, here goes." I'm pretty sure I was the only one who ever read that blog, so it didn't really matter - it was just the deep breath before the starting gun.

For that particular blog, and that particular race, I was running to prove to myself that I could finish. For this next race, I'm taking on a cause bigger than myself and running it for Mom, for Grandma Nancy, and for my family and loved ones and all the challenges we've faced together since Mom's diagnosis. I've been given this amazing opportunity to represent the Alzheimer's Association at one of the biggest-deal races in the world, the 2011 New York City Marathon. I'm going to ask my friends, family, and acquaintances to invest their hard-earned money in my efforts for the cause. If I'm lucky, my readership is actually going to grow beyond, well, me. And that's left me with the sudden urge to be articulate and do things properly...and the best I can do is yammer on about not knowing how to start.

Instead of writing a kind of blow-by-blow running journal that could bore even the most enthusiastic coach to death, my aim here is to write about my life, as framed by both my running adventures (and misadventures) and my experiences with my mother's condition and its effects on my family. There is an undertone of accountability to any running blog, especially when fundraising is involved, but I'm hoping to inspire my readers to not only donate but to continue reading and sharing my journey to the finish line...and the next one...and the next one.

So. Enough expository nonsense. Here goes.