Today’s Grandma

Having my one year old grandson, Layne, living with us, I have had lots of time to reflect upon ‘grandmotherhood’.  When I first learned that my daughter was expecting, and that I was to become a biological grandmother, I had mixed emotions.  I already had three amazing step-grandchildren whom I adore, but somehow my daughter having a child would automatically age me.  Was I really that old?  I felt much younger than I had imagined grandmothers to feel.  I run; I do Zumba; I bike; and I am basically cool (that last one might be a slight stretch, but I like to think I am a little cool).  However, Morgan was older than I was when I had her.  Little did I know when I became a mother at the age of 21, that would mean I could possibly reach grandmotherhood before most of my  peers.  Who thinks that far ahead?

Once Layne made his appearance, I embraced my new role.  His blue eyes, precious smile, and unconditional love won my heart immediately.  Suddenly, I was proud to announce that I was this little guy’s nana.  Okay, I did choose to be called ‘Nana’ rather than ‘Grandma’ because I thought it sounded younger.  Fast forward one year…Morgan and Layne have taken up residence in our home while Layne’s dad is in Afghanistan.  While going from a house of three to a house of five – and one of those five is quite the active little climber – has been challenging (and exhausting) at times, I treasure having this time with Layne.  I realize that because his dad is in the military, they will likely live away for several more years, and I am very blessed to have this time with Layne.  And he is quite entertaining!

I have also thought a lot about my own grandmothers, and other grandmothers of their generation, and how different today’s grandmothers are.  I loved my grandmas dearly.  Grandma Greenland was a heavy-set lady – the stereo-typical grandma who was an incredible cook.  She treated us to ham loaf, buttery (I am talking 2 sticks of real butter) mashed potatoes, and dessert that would rival any on the Food Network.  Her cookies were not only scrumptious, they were also beautiful.  And her pies?  Wow.  I have never tasted a butterscotch pie that was even close to hers.  She worked hard, raised three sons who all died before she, overcame some devastating times, was active in church, and played the piano.  And then there was my Grandma Allen, ‘Gram’.  I was really closer to her.  I spent many nights with her.  She made me grilled cheese, popcorn, and taught me this game where we connected dots and tried to get the most squares.  She was also a good cook.  Her specialties included fried chicken and eclairs (which I learned to make).   She never had much money, but we never noticed.  She had very few toys for us to play with, but instead saved her thread spools (she also made her own clothes) and greeting cards.  We grandkids could spend hours building with spools and cards.  I have wonderful memories of both of my grandmothers, and miss them tremendously.

 

I wonder, now, what my grandchildren will remember about me.  I can cook.  Well, no one would starve anyway.  I can bake some, but not to the degree my grandmas baked.  I run races; I teach Zumba; I love to travel and attend sporting events.  My Grandma Allen always, and I mean always, wore dresses.  I can’t imagine her wearing Nike running shorts and t-back tanks like I wear to work out.  If my grandmothers heard the music and saw the choreography for Zumba, I imagine they’d be shocked (but secretly jealous).  Saturday I ran a 5k dressed as Super Woman, which meant I wore a short sequined skirt, royal blue tights, and a sparkly blue headband.  If Layne were older, would he think his nana was nuts?  Just the thought of my grandmothers in a Super Woman costume is hysterical.  They never stepped out of their comfort zones.  They both had a sense of humor, but they stayed with in society’s norms.  I, on the other hand, choose not to dress a certain way just because I am middle-aged.  I want to remain active until I can no longer move.  I hope to run races well into old age.  I want to get my Zumba on into those so-called twilight years, and encourage others to do the same.  Sure, I can crochet, which a rather grandmotherly thing to do, but I will crochet only after I have gotten a run in or gone to the gym.

When I look around, I see that my friends who are also grandparents no longer fit the molds our grandparents so eagerly set either.  They are also working out at the gym, running, walking, going to Zumba, taking classes, or somehow continuing to grow.  I think we are setting an incredible example for our grandchildren.  We are teaching them that one is never too old to set new goals, that we must remain physically active, and that learning is a life-long process.  We are active grandparents who, rather than spoil our grandkids with cookies and pies, spoil them with our time and energy.  Because we are active, we are able to really play with them.  Because we are tech-savvy, we can also post all those adorable pictures (like this one from Layne’s first birthday where he has cake smeared all over his face) on Facebook!  See, we are cool!

As I typed this, Layne walked in wearing his shirt that says ‘My nana runs faster than your nana!’  That pretty much sums it up!

The Evansville Half Marathon

Jennifer Land, me, and Jackie Fischer after finishing

Every race offers a unique experience.  Some are amazing; I feel great, run well, and enjoy the atmosphere.  Others are not quite so incredible; I feel tired, don’t run as well as I’d like, and the atmosphere is less than uplifting.  Sunday’s half marathon was an odd mix of the two.

Though I felt I had adequately trained, I hadn’t put in the miles I normally do when training for a long race.  I ran between 2 and 4 miles a couple times a week, and ran 5 miles during the week only a couple of times.  I did my long runs on the weekends, but never concerned myself with speed.  I taught Zumba classes 4 times a week while training, so I was curious as to what, if any, effect that might have on my running.  It is definitely a great workout, and I work different muscles, but I wasn’t sure if it would actually improve my endurance or speed.

In the days leading up to the race, I kept telling myself that I needed to be drinking more water so I would be properly hydrated – but Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi found their way to my thirsty lips.  I also knew that I needed to eat healthy (non-gassy) foods.  But then we went to this great wedding the evening before the race, and not only was there fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and bread, but there was this fantastic dessert spread.  I knew it was fantastic because my daughter made the cheesecakes (and someone had to test them), and I baked some of the cookies (I tested those too).  There were cupcakes, mini apple pies, cake pops…and on and on!  I have always admitted that I have an extreme weakness for sweets.  If it’s available, I am going to eat it.  No willpower at all.  So, we piled our plates with desserts, anxious to try each one.  That wasn’t exactly the best pre-race nutrition (but, gosh, it was delicious!).

In my previous post, I mentioned that cleaning out the system is necessary before a good run.  When a runner gorges on fried food and dessert, it becomes even more crucial to evacuate.  But sometimes it doesn’t happen.  It didn’t happen.  I won’t go into the particulars, but I had this really heavy feeling the whole time I ran.  It was not pleasant.  It actually took a couple of days to feel normal.  ‘Nough said.

Race morning, Jackie, Kassi, and I left town at 5:00 a.m.  It was a cold morning!  I had stressed all week over what to wear for this race.  We all ended up in running capris and long-sleeved shirts, which was perfect for the temps.  Once we all arrived at Reitz High School, the starting point for the Evansville Half, the waiting game began.  We waited inside to try to stay warm, all the while contemplating just how our runs would go.  We had agreed that we would each run our own race.  My first half, I ran with Jackie.  I am so glad to have met that goal hand-in-hand with one of my best friends!  However, we have discussed how we talked the entire way, and that now we are wise enough to realize that talking takes a lot of energy, and that we run faster when we aren’t chatting.  So we all lined up together, but once that gun went off, we were each in our own zones.

I really get into a different zone during a race.  I have so much running through my head that I am better off by myself.  My goal for this race was to be in the top 20 in my division.  In April, I ran the Derby Half in 2:04, which was a 9:29 pace.  I wanted to be able to run that pace, but really didn’t think I could run that fast again.  My strategy (and I use that term very loosely) is always to run hard – and faster than normal – as long as I can, and if I have to slow down, I will.  I figure it will still average out to be a faster time.  I took off fast (for me).  I didn’t obsess over my time throughout the race.  I checked my watch a few times when I hit a mile mark, and knew early on that I was running well.  I just knew I wanted to give everything I had so that I would have no regrets.  At about mile 7 or 8, the back of my knee began to hurt.  A lot.  I had never had that pain before, and wasn’t sure what had caused it.  The pain remained for the rest of the race.  At one point, I thought I might have to stop because it was so uncomfortable, but I just kept going.  I knew that I was limping at some points, and my race pictures show a miserable look on my face.  I just kept plugging along, and by then, I wasn’t really worried about my time.  I just wanted to keep running.  I finally got to mile 12, and I looked at my watch.  When I read 1:49 and realized that if I could maintain my pace, I would break 2 hours – which is something I NEVER thought I would do – I was determined to push through the discomfort.  I could hold up one more mile.  I got about a block or two from the finish line and heard my friends yelling for me.  I looked at my watch and saw that I was going to make it!  I kicked it up and sprinted (picture old-lady sprint) to that finish line.  1:59:43!  It was close, but I did it!  I knocked 4 minutes off my previous time, and I broke 2 hours.  I had also placed 19/119 in my division.  I was ecstatic!  Though I felt bad for my husband because he was unable to run due to having had surgery, I was surely glad that he was at the finish line to greet me.  He is my biggest supporter, and at that moment, I needed him with me.

I still don’t know how I was able to maintain a 9:09 pace for 13.1 miles.  I believe that the Zumba made a difference.  I also listened to music for the first time in a long race.  I found that I liked it, but I don’t think it made that big of a difference.  This was one of the hardest, most uncomfortable races I have run, so now I wonder what would happen if I had eaten properly in the days leading up to a race, hydrated with water, had no pain, and maybe even used some of those energy gels.  Could I run faster?

I have now run 4 half marathons.  My times have been 2:13 (Fall ’10) 2:08 (Spring 2011), 2:04 (Spring 2012), and now 1:59.  To know that though I am getting older, I can still improve my speed is so satisfying.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too old to do anything!  I am looking forward to continuing to challenge myself to reach new goals.  Just a few short years ago, I could not even imagine myself running a mile.  Really.  It took me weeks and weeks just to be able to run one mile on the treadmill, and then more time to get up to two miles.  This coming April, I will be running my 5th half marathon, and with me will be several newbies.  I am so excited to get to share this adventure with them because I know how amazing they will all feel when they cross the finish line of their first half marathon!

I cannot post about the Evansville race without congratulating my friends.  First, Kim Strobel – my goodness!  Kim is a beast!  She tied for 3rd place OVERALL in the women’s group.  That’s 3rd out of over 1100 women!  She is just freaky fast.  I couldn’t be more proud!  Jackie Fischer beat her previous time by 4 minutes – amazing!  Kassi Rogers, who injured her foot a couple weeks before the race, and had to take several days off running, was determined to run the race, and finished with a great time – not the time she had hoped for, but she hadn’t hoped for an injury either.  Her determination is so impressive.  Jennifer Land had another fantastic race.  She has faced injuries over the past year and a half, and wasn’t happy with her time, but we all are.  She rocked!  Eric Kehl…he worked his tail off to get in at 1:57, also breaking the 2 hour mark.  Sarah Kluender fell on Saturday and looked like she had been in a fight (and lost), yet was also determined to run this race.  Amy Hollinden and Sophie Fischer ran the race together, and they managed to talk the whole way AND break 2 hours!  They came in at 1:57 as well.  Debbie Reed ran her first half marathon!  Getting in training runs was difficult because of her work schedule and kids’ activities, but she managed to get it done, and crossed that amazing finish line in her first 13.1!  I am so proud to call these runners my friends.  I have said many times that running is an incredible sport because runners are so supportive of one another.  When one of us is having a tough day or feeling bad about a run, there are plenty of friends around to lift us back up.  When someone has a great run, we are all sincerely happy for him or her.  I am truly proud of all of my friends!  Thank you all for inspiring me every single day.  Your passion, determination, and work ethic show me what it takes to be a better person.

Bring it on!

Jennifer and me after 2010 Half

We have complained; we have celebrated; we have whined.  We have trained!  Since mid-August, my friends and I have been training for our 4th half marathon.  4th!  It wasn’t that long ago – 2 1/2 years – that I said very adamently that I would never run a half marathon.  Who would even want to run for over two hours? I asked.  I don’t have the time or the energy for that!  But then something happened.  Once I found out I could run 5 miles, I wondered if I could run 6.  And then I ran 6 – and wondered if I could run 7.  And so it goes.

Two years ago, my running (and life-long-totally-amazing) friend, Jackie, and I began to discuss running a half marathon.  The Evansville Half Marathon.  We, along with my husband and some other friends, decided to try it.  We totally rocked it!  On October 10, 2010, we completed our first half marathon…13.1 incredible miles…and we held hands as we crossed that finish line.  Our pace just so happened to be 10:10 on 10/10/10!  How great is that!

We haven’t run another half together.  I have run the Kentucky Derby Mini twice since then, and Jackie and my other best-life-long-super spectacular running friend, Jackie’s sister, Kassi, have run Evansville and Owensboro.  So this Sunday will be my first half with Kassi.  And I can’t wait!  Jackie, Kassi, and I have done most of our long training runs together.  The wonderful thing about there being three of us is that one of us can always take the lead.  When the other two are having a less-than-fantastic run, someone steps up and pulls us along.  I have yet to be the leader on a long run, but have had some rockin’ shorter runs.  On our last long run, I told Jackie I was glad it was the last one because if we had another, it would be my turn to lead!

Our last long run was my favorite.  My husband drove us out to a little church in the country (Lillydale), and dropped us off.  We took the old, winding highway 10 miles back to Kassi’s.  It was a gorgeous morning, and the countryside shone with fresh dew and sunshine.  The hills spilled before us, beckoning us to challenge ourselves.  Dogs barked threatening us should we choose to approach their houses; cows munched on straw and were oblivious to our passing.  Some miles we talked; some we ran side-by-side in silence.  Our relationship is such that we can be completely comfortable talking non-stop, but we are also comfortable with silence, each knowing the other is lost in her own thoughts.  Kass was the rock star that morning.  She stayed about a block’s distance in front of us, but at the end, we all finished together.  The week before, Jackie kicked butt.  She not only stayed blocks ahead of Kass and me, but she also ran 12 miles when our schedule only demanded 11.  Kass and I stuck with 11.

This past Saturday, we each had other obligations, so our not-quite-as-long runs had to be solo.  I ran Saturday afternoon.  Though I had planned to run 6 miles, it was so beautiful out that I stretched it out.  When I got back to my car, I was at 6.6 miles.  For some neurotic reason, I like to end with even mileage, so I ran until my Nike GPS Sportwatch read 7.0 – exactly.  If you run, you understand.  This week will will do a couple of short, easy runs.  And then Sunday, if all goes as planned, we will have an awesome run.  The thing about half marathons is that so much has to go right.  My stomach cannot be in the least bit upset – can’t be too hungry or too full.  Bowels need to be regular (If you run, you understand – promise!).   The temperature needs to be in the 60s.  My legs need to be rested, but not too rested.  Clothing has to be completely comfortable (and cute).  Allergies need to be in check.  If all of this is perfectly aligned, I can meet some goals.  My main goal is for the three of us to be in the top 20 in our division.  After analyzing last year’s results (yup, I really do that), I feel this is very possible.  Maybe even likely.

This weekend, several of my running friends will be running the half marathon, and I am sure that I will forget or miss someone, but I want to wish them all a great run!  Kassi, Jackie, Jen, Kim, Eric, Tony (you are going to run, aren’t ya, Tony?), Amy H, Sophie, Trish…and all the other TC runners – Kick some butt this weekend!  I will see you at the finish line.  And to my husband, I am so sorry you can’t run this weekend, but am glad you will be waiting for me at the finish line (with a Diet Pepsi?).  I can’t wait until April, when we, along with a bunch of newbies, rock the Derby Mini!  Run On, Friends!

(Pictures and captions just wouldn’t go where I wanted them!)

Gary and me – after completing our first half marathon!

Jackie and me finishing our first half marathon!