Monday, November 30, 2015

Alarm clock wake-ups are SO over-rated

Whew!  It's not very often I am blessed with three consecutive "not-setting-the-alarm" mornings, but I'm feeling pretty wiped out. That's not a complaint; actually, quite the opposite. I'm lucky to have a lot of things happening, and I'll gladly take "wiped-out" over "bored-out-of-my-mind" any day.

My first "not-setting-the-alarm" morning was Thursday, also known as Thanksgiving in my household.  I usually host Thanksgiving dinner, so I have the routine down to a science. I had baked the pumpkin pie and assembled the scalloped corn casserole on Wednesday evening, so all we had left was to make the dressing and stuff the bird (the husband's job---eeew! I'm not putting my hand in there!) and cook the potatoes (and mash them, add the extra "secret" ingredients, and put them in the crockpot until mealtime).

Fresh out-of-the-oven goodness
We also had a local Turkey Trot to get to at 8:00AM (after putting the bird in the oven). A friend, the husband, and myself have organized this Trot since its inception, and this was the fourth year. It's a free event, and we encourage runners (of all abilities) and walkers to participate. We have 1, 2, or 3-mile options, and also have donation boxes on site for non-perishable food items (that we take to the local community food pantry).

We got very lucky with the weather. Rain had been in the forecast all week, but the temps were going to be in the upper 40's. And guess what? The rain held off until after the Trot was finished, so we had great attendance!

Our Thanksgiving dinner (at 1:00) went off without a hitch, and we spent the afternoon scanning the newspaper ads in search of must-have Black Friday items. For the first time (in a very long time), nothing grabbed my attention. Sure, I saw a lot of things I liked, but nothing that warranted fighting the crowds in the late hours of Thursday evening (or the wee hours of Friday morning). We decided to post-pone our Black Friday adventure until late Black Friday morning.

With two college kids, it's rare to have all of us under the same roof

 My  the second "not-setting-the-alarm" morning was Friday. Even though I didn't set my alarm, I was still awake by 6:30 (an hour later than my usual rise-n-shine time). I did a quick Streak run, rallied the daughters (the husband and son elected to stay home), my sister picked us up and we departed around 11:00 for our Black Friday girls' day. Surprisingly, the stores weren't too crowded. We did find a few good bargains, but nothing stellar. We made it back home in the early evening, and spent the rest of the night watching movies.

The third (and final) "not-setting-the-alarm"day was Saturday. Did I mention that I'm doing the Runner's World Holiday Running Streak again this year? Participants are encouraged to run at least one mile everyday from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day (37 total days this year). This is my third year doing the Holiday Streak. Normally, I am not an advocate for daily running. On occasion, though, I do take part in short streaks. Saturday morning (already my third day of streaking) had me lacing up and heading out .

Once back home, I got started on putting up Christmas tree #1. We have vaulted ceilings in our living room, so we have a 9-ft. tree (which still looks dwarfed). We bought this tree several years ago (the day after Christmas), for next to nothing. It's a basic tree, and it's not pre-lit. Guess what? The pre-lit trees made their big debut the following year! So, yes, we totally missed the boat on that modern invention. I can usually have the tree set up (with umpteen strings of lights) within a couple hours. I have learned to do the lights on each row of branches (row-by-row, as I'm putting the branches in place), instead of dong all the branches first and having to wrestle with the lights in between the rows. It takes quite a bit longer, but it ends up being a much easier process.

Tree #1...stay tuned, the ornaments are coming
Next on the agenda was a photo session at our church for the new pictorial directory. The timing of this photo session was ideal since our two college kids were home and able to be in the photo. We even took our dog along, and he cooperated and smiled for the camera (sort of).

Sunday arrived, with the usual 5:30AM alarm wake-up. A group of runners have been meeting on Sunday mornings at a nearby nature preserve and running the trails. After a tough and frustrating excursion the weekend prior (in several inches of snow), I kind of had some unfinished business to resolve. All of the snow from a week ago had melted, and left us with a lot of mud and damp conditions. I was surprised to find the ground so wet; even though the snow had melted, I was expecting the trails to be somewhat frozen.

We ran with a decent pace, and finished in our usual time (just under an hour). The temps were in the upper 20's and the air felt great! I didn't dress as warm this week, so I was completely comfortable. My pretty shoes need a bath, though, and my favorite socks are playing peek-a-boo with my big toe.

I hustled home, and was able to make it to church. Later, after lunch and a movie with the husband and still-at-home daughter, I got Christmas tree #2 put up and lit (also needs ornaments).

Tree #2, this one resides in our family room
This is the first year I have thought of utilizing our ficus tree as a Christmas tree. This poor tree fought a long battle, and when it was finally declared non-living, I spray-painted it black to make it look like a decorative tree (it's tall and helps fill up the space in the corner of our sun room). It reminds me of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Although it doesn't have lights, it currently is the only Christmas tree in our house sporting ornaments!

Tree your heart out, Charlie Brown!

And, last but not least, I have successfully surpassed my goal of 200 planking minutes for the #plankingontheflyCHALLENGE. My November planking minutes (as of Sunday evening) are at 202. There will definitely be a few more minutes added before December arrives on the calendar. I'm good with that. Onward!

Planking.....yadda yadda yadda

Do you treat yourself to "not-setting-the-alarm" days once in awhile? Or, are you like me, and wake up early without an alarm on the days when you can sleep in? Do you head out or stay in for Black Friday? If you put up a Christmas tree, do you do it all in one shot or stagger the decorating (adding the lights and/or ornaments) over the course of a couple days?

I'm linking up with Holly at HoHo Runs  and Tricia at Misssippipiddlin  for their Weekend Wrap. Head over and check out all the happenings of fellow bloggers. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Five Friday Confessions

 OK FrIeNdS, I'm fessing up. I'm human (shocker!) and I do not live a perfect life, nor do I have a perfect attitude every moment of every perfect day. I'm linking up with Marcia at Marcia's Healthy Slice  for the Runfessions linkup (go ahead, check out all the other runfessions being disclosed), and I'm airing a little of my own dirty laundry......just to keep it real.

Here's a mere five runfessions, just to whet your appettite....

1- I don't wash my hair everyday. Currently, my hair is at its longest length (since I was in 7th grade), and I'm really loving the many options I have for those days when I don't wish to spend 20 minutes (sometimes longer) blow-drying it. I have gotten pretty clever disguising the "day after" hair with clips, headbands, and messy up-do's. I don't want to be one of those who sports the exact same hairstyle 24/7 for several years at a time anyways.

2-I have a love/hate relationship with running tights. I love how toasty warm they make me feel...but I hate the self-imposed paradox I have on the appropriate way to wear them. I think it looks like something is missing when you wear them on their own. (Really, does anyone wear "street" tights alone, without a skirt -or something- covering their backside?) But, running tights also look awkward with shorts/skirts covering both options leave me questioning my fashion sense. What's a gal to do? I have decided to just go with it, and usually wear them "as is." Maybe doing so makes me look more like a real athlete (a gal can hope)!

 3-There have been times when all of my clean exercise bras have been on the drying rack (down in the laundry room), and I have been too lazy (or in too much of a hurry) to go down the stairs, and traipse to the opposite side of my I have grabbed one out of the (dirty) laundry basket. There. Ahhh, it feels so good to come clean on that (no pun intended).

4-I'm usually a pretty patient and tolerant person, but small town traffic drives me crazy. We have one McDonald's restaurant, and it's really annoying trying to get home at the end of the day and getting stuck on the one busy road in town, behind all the peeps trying to turn into the McDonald's parking lot. And, I try to not be judgemental, but the bulk of said peeps will wait in line for the drive-up (for several minutes) instead of getting out and WALKING into the restaurant......causing the traffic to back up because none of the other peeps can pull into the parking lot (to wait for their turn in the drive-up line) leaving the rest of us at a stand-still. I know, first world problems. I need to let this go.

5-Sometimes, during the first few miles of a race, I find  myself wishing for the race to just be over. As much as I enjoy racing, I don't consider myself a "racer." Quite honestly, sometimes I just don't feel like giving it "my all"  for fear I may not have a decent finish time that will reflect my efforts. Of course, when I run a difficult race, I always learn something from the experience.....but I always seem to forget that little piece of wisdom in the midst of struggle.
So, there you have it. I'm keeping it real and confessing some of my imperfections (please, don't judge).

How about YOU? Anything you'd like to add? Any dirty little secrets you need to get off your chest and share with the cyber world? (I'm listening.....)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankfulness...tis the season

It seems like just last week I was posting my Let Me Say Thanks post for forward, and here I am again.

Without looking at this previous blog post, I wrote a quick list of some favorite things. And, (not so surprisingly), the same things came to mind. Why mess with a good thing? Instead of re-writing the text, I have modified some of the wording, and updated the pics.

* My family.  I am so absolutely in love with my husband and three amazing kids.  They don't usually run with me (stay tuned, I'm working on that detail), but they let me run.  And, they don't complain too much about the running shoes scattered throughout the house or the occasional icky toenail. We don't always get that perfect family photo on the first attempt, either.

*My faith.  I'm not gonna get all high and almighty on you, but my faith is my cornerstone. My humbleness, and my strength. It's my everything.

*My friends. I have an abundance of awesome people in my life.  I appreciate all their kind words, messages and hugs. Some of them are just as crazy as me, and have been known to run Ultra's overnight, in the heat (and humidity) of summer...complete with lightning, rain, and Christmas lights. They make me smile and feel warm & fuzzy.

*Maxton McArthur. We adopted Max from a nearby animal shelter almost a year ago. I didn't grow up with a dog, and our family has never had one. I totally didn't get the "dogs aren't pets, they are family" thing. Well, I totally get it now. This adorable little guy has wormed his way into my heart, and everyone else who has met him. He makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, too.

*Freedom to set my own goals. I don't have be fast. I don't have to run every day. I don't have to run excessive weekly mileage. And I don't have to love every experience in my running shoes. Most importantly, I don't have to impress anyone other than myself. Running has liberated me like nothing else.

*My virtual running buddies.  There are so many wonderful people who have become dear friends, and most of them came to me via this blog and my running page, Running on the Fly .  There have been countless messages, well wishes, (virtual) high-5's, and many laughs shared through our computer screens.  I have met some of these fabulous peeps in person, and look forward to meeting many more.

*The racing community.  I don't consider myself a racer, but I love the atmosphere on race day.  There's something about an entire bunch of strangers, all running towards the same finish line, that makes me feel at-one with all others on the race course . Nothing is better than the final 100 feet of a race...the finish line fanfare is intoxicating.
 *The gift of running.  Having spent most of my life believing I was not an athlete, I am so humbled (and proud) to call myself not just a runner, or a marathoner, but an Ultra Marathoner! It's not my intention to impress others. Instead, I hope to inspire them to violate their own comfort zones. If I can be an "athlete" (with my less-than-athletic body), anyone else can be one, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, FrIeNdS!

What are you most thankful this year? Do you think about your bountiful blessing every year at Thanksgiving, or do you ponder it throughout the year, month, week, or day?

I'm doing a new (to me) link today, linking up with Deb at Deb Runs.  
Go check out not only her blog, but all of the other linked blogs as well....the Wednesday Word is Bountiful, a perfect theme for this time of year.

<div align="center"><a href="" title="Deb Runs"><img src="" alt="Deb Runs" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Monday, November 23, 2015

Triumph on the Treacherous Trails: Weekend Wrap-up

I had kind of a sucky week. Chilly and damp weather (can you say, "Rain, wind, and cold temps?"). I was blind-sided with an energy-zapping under-the-weather cold (early last week) that left me shivering from the chills yet feeling warm and feverish all at the same time.

As far as exercise, I did the bare minimum. My #nevermissaMonday found me firing up (and dusting off) the treadmill briefly. I also did some moderate strength-training, and my #plankingontheflyCHALLENGE maintenance (I'm still on track for my 200 #Novemberplankingminutes....current count has me at 152). And that's all she wrote.

Thursday arrived and finally my head felt (somewhat) clear, so I was able to take it outside for a couple "fresh air" miles in the evening. Much better!

Friday, Momma N rewarded us with the season's first snowfall, and it was a doozy. A good 6-8 inches of the white stuff was dumped on us, causing a lot of Friday evening activities to be cancelled.

Saturday, I got outside, this time for my first "winter run" of the season. Later, I was SO happy to watch my Iowa Hawkeyes defeat Purdue, claiming an 11-0 season! A few hours later, Michigan State scored a last-second field goal and were victorious over the OSU Buckeyes. Our family lived in the East Lansing area several years ago, so we consider ourselves honorary Spartans.

Sunday found me eager to head out to the local nature preserve with some local running friends. Our group has been meeting out there and running most Sunday mornings in recent months.  We had just received several inches of snow, courtesy of the season's first snowfall on Friday afternoon/evening.  Having spent the greater part of last week inside (due to that unexpected nasty cold), I was ready for some fresh air and physical movement.

The scenery was beautiful with the new-fallen snow. There are a couple of main trails (and a few smaller trails that taper off into the wilderness). This was my first time out there with snow cover, so I didn't really know what was in store for me.
All smiles...not aware of the challenge awaiting me...
For the most part, the trails are hilly. There's a good mix of gentle, rolling hills as well as steep, winding hills.  And, adding to the challenge on Sunday, nothing had been plowed (other than the parking lot). It's a preserve, after all. We did have some cross country ski tracks to follow and a few random animal foot prints, but most of the path would be trail-blazed by our shoes.

The temps were showing 18-degrees, so I dressed warm...fleece-lined tights, a couple layers of shirts, puffer vest, and two layers of wool socks. There was minimal wind (which probably wouldn't have been been a factor due to all the trees acting as a barrier) and ample sunshine. Did I mention, there was a good 6-8 inches of fresh, newly fallen snow to trek through?
This pic does not do the snow justice
Oh my! Was this a tough little jaunt in the woods! I had a great deal of frustration from all the necessary high-stepping through (and over) the snow (which felt more like quick sand). The hills aren't just an up & down challenge, but several also have a good 30-45 degree "sideways" slope to battle as well. By the third mile, I was toast. Not only did I feel like a hot & sweaty mess, but my arches were aching from all the slipping and sideways sliding. My legs (especially my hamstrings) were majorly burning from all the wear and tear of maintaining my balance (also from the slipping and sideways sliding).  I managed to remain vertical, though, which was a major victory for this coordination-challenged gal.

By the time we made it to the 4-mile mark, I had resorted to walking most of the inclines. That was another source of frustration, because walking really wasn't any easier than running. Every step had my feet sliding in opposite directions (and not necessarily in a graceful manner). As we approached the 4-mile mark, we did have the option to veer off on a different path that would take us back to the parking lot much sooner than if we stayed on the main trail. The temptation was overwhelming to turn off.....but I decided to keep going and finish what I had started.

Yikes! The deep snow ain't for sissies!

Thankfully, the remaining 1.5 mile to the parking lot was mostly downhill, so I was able to run (slowly) more than walk. My body was so exhausted (as was my mental stamina), that my form was really starting to fail. I've been running long enough to know when it's time to press on and when it's time to take it easy. If your form is going south (like mine was), you are at a much greater risk of injury because you're just not able to maintain your posture, stride, cadence or focus. Personally, being a hero is not worth the risk. I took my time finishing the run, being careful to make sure my footing was solid before taking each subsequent step.

I'm glad this was a group effort and I wasn't out there alone. My three friends did a great job keeping me going when I really felt like stopping.....but stopping out in the middle of the woods wasn't really an option anyways. I don't think anyone could have brought in a helicopter to rescue me.

This run was a difficult challenge for all four of us. Usually, we can make it through the same trail in under an hour, but it took us nearly 90 minutes with all the deep snow to trek through. Having spent the majority of the previous week sick (in other words, not as active as usual), I think my energy level was compromised, too. As mentioned, I was slightly over-dressed, so I think that also was a factor.....being over-heated (in hot or cold weather) is not an ideal scenario.

 Bill, Andrew, Barb and myself...feeling victorious for having finished!
I am a strong believer in the theory that every run has something good to come out of it. This run certainly challenged my confidence in my level of fitness, but it also solidified the strength of my endurance and ability to persevere when I would much rather have given up.

Lesson learned? Never, not ever, underestimate snow on the trail!

Have you ever been over confidant on a trail run, only to be humbled? Have you run in the snow yet this season? Ever wished for a rescue helicopter?

***I'm linking up with Holly at HoHo Runs  and Tricia at Misssippipiddlin for their weekly Weekend Wrap, do check out their awesome blogs and all the other blogs in the Weekend Wrap link-up

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Driveway is my Canvas

I have blogged a time or two (actually several) about my love for art. I have come clean, and admitted to being an art geek (more than once). One such medium I enjoy is chalk art.
Celebrating the New Year!
This all started way back when I was a new blogger, and had a brand new Facebook page that was in need of its own unique nuance. I have always had a fascination with dragonflies, hence the name Running on the Fly. I even incorporated a dragon fly "logo" of sorts, that accompanies most of my chalk creations.

It's no secret that I love to run (and I love my pretty running shoes).

I wanted to be a gal whose running page encompassed all runners, not just the "fast" runners.

I have used my driveway as a temporary canvas for various holidays...

 Valentine's Day

St. Patrick's Day

The Fourth of July

I even have created Easter eggs.....with subtle hints as to what was to come....

 I had just committed to running my second marathon (IMT Des Moines Marathon 2014)!
Look closely, there's a "new" goal race in the works
Shortly after starting my blog and Facebook page, a bunch of fellow running buddies convinced me to register and train for my first marathon (Quad Cities Marathon, 2013)

This past summer I ran my first Ultra...and felt the need to psyche myself up for the experience

I have used my chalk art to document long training runs
The first time I ran farther than a half marathon was cause for celebrating

It's also no secret that I LOVE my RuNnEr FrIeNdS

I even traveled to the Windy City in 2014, and ran the Rock'n Roll Remix Challenge with one of my runner friends, Penny
My rendition of a couple Chicago landmarks

I live in Iowa, so I get to experience the change of seasons....

And I have used my chalk art to pay tribute to tragedy...
 Boston Marathon 2013
And, most recently, Paris
In summary, art serves many purposes. It encompasses beauty, serenity, and expressiveness. It can bring us happiness and it can help us cope with tragedy. I am so ever thankful to have it in my life.

Any other art geeks out there?