The Best 5.5 Miles

If you’re not a runner or don’t care about running, feel free to skip this post.

Photo of me in the dark after a run.

Me after tonight’s run. Hey, did you know it gets dark at 8pm these days? I didn’t.

I haven’t told you how bad it had gotten.

I think I told you that I was having a lot of hip pain and I was going to a physical therapist and an orthopod, but I didn’t tell you how much it hurt or how depressed I was about it or how I was worried that I was never going to run again.

I’ve had to defer a race until next year. I had to switch my upcoming 20-mile race to the 10-mile option. I was starting to worry about whether I’d be able to run any of the races I’d registered for this fall.

I’ve barely run for such a long time. I could practically feel my fitness draining away.

I had two cortisone shots a week apart and I didn’t run at all for many days, as instructed. I even waited a couple of extra days before running because I was scared that I would try and not be able to. See, even after the shots and even with complete rest, it still hurt just walking around. It’s not even that I cared about the pain—except when I was running.

I finally went out this past Monday. The hip didn’t really hurt, but it was weak. And felt…off. Running was really tiring. I just did a couple of miles and those were run/walk intervals. I was trying to be smart, so I took a day off, then did a slightly longer interval run on Wednesday. Same deal with the hip.

Both of those runs were haaaard. I don’t know if it was that I was out of practice or that my hip was weak or that it was ninety fucking degrees, but I was discouraged. I knew that I could get back, but I figured that it would take a really long time. I started to worry that I’d be doing three-mile runs for months.

I rested another day and today I went on a longer run. I was trying to decide if I could run my ten-mile race in two weeks or if I should defer that one too. I figured if I could run five or six miles after being out of practice then I could get to ten for a race.

You guys. I knew as soon as I set out that it was good. I ran. Without pain. Without weakness. Without walking. I almost started laughing around mile four because I was so relieved.

I ended up running 5.5 miles and could have gone farther. I’m working very hard at not doing too much too fast though so I didn’t push farther.

I’m so happy though. I think I didn’t realize how fully depressed about it I had been until that really started to lift today. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (or my hip, as it were).

I have a long road ahead of me to get back to where I was and and an even longer one to get to my January marathon. But for the first time in more than a month, I feel like I can run there.

The Three Mudketeers

I have a group of friends that I run races with. You might be familiar with them from my Facebook race selfies. Four years ago I could never have imagined that I’d have running buddies. That’s a whole post of its own. I love them.

Between all of us, we get a lot of emails advertising races in the area. We send them around to each other to see if we want to participate in them together. Usually we are able to come to some sort of agreement about how fun a race is going to be and how we should run it together.

I recently sent one out that advertised the Frederick Mud Dog Run. No one bit.

But then I was all, “Aw, obstacle course races are so fun!” and “They’re not hard!” and “I’ve done them by myself but never with anyone and I think it would be really fun to do one with someone,” and by then everyone just felt sorry for me so my friend Lyda signed up.

Then her husband Bob signed up without understanding much about the race past the fact that it was a 5K.

No one else was kind/dumb enough to join us.

Race day was a couple of weekends ago and we all showed up at the start line scrubbed, fresh, and ready to go.

Photo of me, Bob, and Lyda before the race.

We would not be so clean again for quite some time.

Lyda and Bob had, by this point, spent a fair amount of time circling and fretting, both literally and figuratively. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure that they were still going to be my friends after the first mud puddle.

Incidentally, the first mud puddle is where Lyda learned to keep her mouth closed when you jump into muddy water. That’s a tough lesson to learn.

While she was learning that, I was learning how hard it is to climb up a slippery, muddy slope, even if someone is giving you a hand as long as your foot keeps getting stuck in the mud bog you are standing in.

We had a really fun time, mud, blood, and all. We climbed walls, forded streams, walked across seesaws, and ran between every single one of those obstacles and more. We were awesome. I laughed a lot, even when Bob teased me about all the mud and smeared some on my shoulder. I got back at him by smearing mud on his face. Unfortunately for very many reasons, my finger ended up in Bob’s mouth, which shut him up pretty effectively. (Sorry, Bob.)

Two photos: one of Bob covered in mud climbing out of a bog. One of Lyda sitting on a mud bank grimacing.

See? See how much fun they had? Don’t they look happy?

I kid them of course. They rock. They defeated each and every obstacle with vigor and good cheer. My guess that it would be fun to do an obstacle race with other people? I was right. These two are cheerful and tough—two things I also consider myself to be. We were a good team.

We were a good team even when we came across the bog filled with deep mud that we CRAWLED across. It is maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done. It wasn’t even soft mud either. Under eight or so inches of mud there was no shortage of sharp branches that left little cuts up and down my right shin.

I was really happy when I got to the other side.

Photo of me with arms raised at the end of a field of mud. My arms are muddy past my elbows and my body is muddy past my waist.

At least none of us lost our shoes in there.

It wasn’t all mud though. Roy Rogers restaurant was a sponsor of the race, so they created an obstacle where they mixed BARBECUE SAUCE with the mud.

Barbecue sauce. Imagine that for a moment.

Photo of me and Lyda army crawling under a net. There is a Roy Rogers banner above us.

Look how cute we are even covered in mud and BBQ.

We finished happy, victorious, and with all our glasses and hats intact.

Two photos: One a close up selfie of the three of us covered in mud; the second is a full body shot of the three of us covered in mud.

At this point, I refrained from pressuring my friends into signing up for the zombie version of this race that takes place in October. That will come later.

We dropped some stuff in the car and headed back to the finish line for two very important things: our free beer and a hose—a hose with a very long line. We opted to get our beer first.

Photo of Bob and Lyda sitting at a picnic table laughing and drinking beer.

I love this photo. I love my friends.

Standing in line waiting for the hose was way more fun once we were a little tipsy and I was able to function again because I’d used the beer to clean off my fingertips because if there is one thing I can’t handle, it is dry dirt on my fingertips. You’d think I wouldn’t do these kinds of races with that sort of sensory issue. To that I say I am a bundle of delightful and infuriating contradictions.

There were a lot of people in line for the one operating hose. We patiently stood there until it was finally our turn. Chivalry isn’t dead and/or I was whiniest and Bob used the hose to clean me off first. Then Bob hosed off his wife.

Photo of Bob leaning down and aiming the hose at Lyda.

It must be awesome to have a friend like me around to immortalize moments like this when you’re hosing down your wife’s butt.

Then, just as Bob was ready to hose himself off, the water pressure dropped and there was no more water and so Bob had to drive home covered in mud. No good deed goes unpunished.

It was right around this time that I started feeling even worse about putting mud inside Bob’s mouth.

I had such a good time with my friends—and I am happy to say that they are still my friends, even after I quite literally dragged them through the mud.

Photo of muddy me giving a double thumbs up.

 

Stagnation and Progress

Effort is hard, y’all.

Ever since I got back from my half marathon, it has been a struggle to get out the door in my running shoes.

In my mind and on my training calendar, I was going to be back running 11+ mile runs starting the week I returned. That didn’t happen, nor was it probably realistic to imagine that it would happen. I’ve been consistent enough with running and I ran a killer 5-mile race last month, but I need to step it up because I have a 20-mile race scheduled for September 18.

That said, in addition to all the little aches and pains and the worthless right knee that I have, I have developed what seems to be a groin pull. And, in case you’re wondering, if you want to get treatment for a groin pull, you have to both say the word “groin” too many times to too many different people and point to your crotchal region about the same number of times. It’s not fun.

Much to my surprise, however, I did those things. I was concerned that if I pulled a Stimey and ignored it and assumed it would get better that it might, in fact, NOT get better, which would be surprising because isn’t that how these things work? Like I unplug and replug in my groin area and it’s better, right?

Regardless, I decided that even if the pain isn’t a problem for me on most days, I should deal with it now rather than run on it until I am completely immobilized and can’t do my 20-miler.

Happily and coincidentally, I happened to have a med check appointment with my doctor last week, which I turned into a Groin Pull Appointment, which in turn led to today’s evaluation at the physical therapist’s office.

Also, henceforth, my groin pull will be referred to as my Painful Situation, because I have met my lifetime quota for saying the word “groin” to virtual strangers.

The therapist did a full evaluation on my right leg and my right arm (because I offhandedly mentioned an upper arm/shoulder situation that I have been assuming would just get better for a couple of months now and he didn’t seem to think that was the proper course of treatment) and came up with a much nicer way of telling me that the right side of my body is all kinds of jacked up from toe to shoulder.

You guys, physical therapists are like magical mystery workers. He, like, tapped my foot and was all, “Do you have any toe pain?” and I was like, “YES! I haven’t told anyone because, you know, toe pain…that should probably resolve on its own right?…but I’ve been having stabbing pain radiating out from that very spot you are pointing at.”

Magical mystery workers.

Also, probably science and years of training. But mostly magic.

So, the dude has a plan that involves things like better posture and exercises at home and frequent visits to his office, but happily not things like surgery or mysterious toe pain for the rest of my life.

He asked if I had any questions and all I wanted to know was if I could run while treatment was ongoing. Joyously, the answer is yes. I’m allowed to run as long as it doesn’t hurt. I nodded, smiled, and gave two vigorous thumbs up at which time he added sternly, “It can’t hurt after you run either.”

*insert less vigorous thumbs up here along with a questioning face because doesn’t everyone hurt after running*

Long story short, I will likely have a month of easy, shortish, slow runs ahead of me. Not so bad really. So far, physical therapy is kind of awesome.

Cheetah-thons Aren’t Just For Cheetahs!

The Montgomery Cheetahs logo

Remember the Cheetahs? Remember how Jack played on the team for years? Remember the magic of special hockey? Remember how your baby is my baby?

Jack didn’t play for the Cheetahs this year, but we still have a deep love for them and want to support them. Their big annual fundraising event is this Saturday and I would like you to take part.

First, I would like to invite you to skate with the Cheetahs at their Cheetah-thon this Saturday from 6:15 to 8:15 pm at the Rockville Ice Arena. Team Stimey will be there and we’d love to see you. Even those who don’t have a connection to the Cheetahs are welcome. Your family can skate for free—don’t forget to bring a helmet! (Bike helmets are good if you don’t have a hockey helmet.)

There are raffles with great prizes and you are encouraged but not required to donate when you are there. It is all around a really fun event. I hope if you can come that you will. It’s all kinds of fun.

But! If you can’t come to the actual Cheetah-thon, you can donate online like I did. I know the people who run this organization and they are really good people working hard solely for the benefit of the athletes on the team.

I hope to see you at the Cheetah-thon!

*****

p.s. My half marathon was GREAT! Trust me, you’ll hear lots more about it later this week.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon, Here I Come!

I’ve trained.

I’ve stayed uninjured.

I’ve created a new playlist just for the event.

I took advantage of the fact that my feet aren’t entirely tore up to get a pedicure from a professional when it isn’t TOTALLY embarrassing.

I mostly successfully stayed on the edge of the plague that took down my family one by one over the past two weeks to make it to a state where I am fully embracing denial and claiming to be NOT SICK and being about 95% right.

I am going to go run the motherfucking Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday.

Probably in the rain. Because what is more fun that 13.1 miles on foot? 13.1 miles on foot in the rain.

This will be my second half marathon. I ran my first a year and a half ago and fell down twice. I’m hoping to, if not run faster this time, then at least stay vertical. Also, I’m running with (or behind) my running buddies Heather, Lyda, and Bob, so at least I’ll have someone to meet me at the medical tent afterward if I do fall.

I have lots of thoughts about my running and the races I’ve run recently and how awesome I feel about myself and stuff, but I haven’t packed and I’m due in Pittsburgh this afternoon. However, I haven’t updated you on my Project Stimey/New Year’s Resolution running/weight loss goals, so I’ll do that quickly.

Until I ate that burrito last night, I was down 19 pounds this year, which I feel great about. I feel like that is the kind of weight loss I can sustain. All of it is through running and tracking what I eat. I’ve noticed some changes in my body, mostly in that my pants are all too big now and I don’t want to buy new ones until fall, but not changes that people who aren’t Alex would probably notice. I’m okay with that too.

Four photos of me during or after races. They were taken in January, February, early April, and late April. In each, I am wearing black pants. In the first and third one, I am wearing flourescent yellow and in the second and fourth, I am wearing purple.

Look at how I coordinate! (From January, February, early April, late April)

In that last photo, I was actually running faster than I normally do, but somehow I look like I was standing still. I guess Shuffly Jean is faster than Runny Jean.

Anywho, wish me luck this weekend and send non-rainy, non-fatigued thoughts to me on Sunday morning.

Because Pittsburgh, here I come.

You Might Not Want to Come to My House For a While

About four years ago, I purchased a praying mantis egg sac for my family. Things went well. They hatched, we released them into our backyard, and we even saw grown up manti* in our garden, like a year later. Success!

But then we moved and our new home had no mantids.

*sad face*

Alex asked me to procure another egg sac so we could populate our new garden with mantises and only remembering the cute little babies from last time, I eagerly looked up Insect Lore and made my second lifetime purchase of an egg sac.

We put the egg sac in its little net and hung it from a window. Then, much like last time, the egg sac just sat there until I became convinced it was a dead sac. It had been hanging below the window and I thought that maybe if it were in the sun, it might hatch better. For reasons that were logical at the time but disastrous in hindsight, I ended up turning the little habitat upside down in the windowsill.

Say what you will, but it seemed to have worked. The next day, Alex and I came home from a trip to the farmers’ market to find a net full of manti.

Photo of a net enclosure with a solid green top filled with with many small praying mantises.

Us: Oh cool! The mantes hatched!

But then we saw what was behind the little habitat.

Photo of a window sill covered in baby praying mantises.

Us: Oh shit! The mantids escaped!

I think you can picture what happened next. Whatever you are imagining though, you should add Alex loudly blaming me and me quietly coming to the realization that *I* had released dozens of tiny, vicious insects into my home.

See, when I turned the habitat upside down, I neglected to notice that the bottom, where the egg sac was supposed to sit, was solid. And the top, where the egg sac had come to rest when I turned it upside down, was mesh.

I had only one question, which was, “Why would you make and sell a praying mantis egg sac container THAT ALLOWS PRAYING MANTIS BABIES TO ESCAPE WHEN A DIPSHIT TAKES CARE OF THEM?” I mean, really. I can’t be the first person to turn that fucker upside down.

Alex, on the other hand, was FULL of questions, but they all sounded like, “WHY?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! WHY?! WHY?! JEAN, WHY?!”

There were so many manti. So, so many.

And they were EVERYWHERE.

We freaked out for a little while about how to get them back into their net without releasing the other billion mantis that had compliantly stayed in their intended home. Fortunately, we’re also raising butterflies and our caterpillars hadn’t yet moved to their larger net, so we put the mantes’ net inside the butterfly net and Alex set to work catching the baby manti one by one with an index card and carefully placing them in the butterfly net.

Photo of Alex trying to pick up mantises with his index card.

In case you’re wondering why we didn’t just open the window and shove them out, (a) it was supposed to freeze that night and Alex was all, “If we put them outside, they’ll diiiiiiiieeeee and (b) that window apparently doesn’t open.

Alex sucked at that, by the way.

I stood nearby taking photos and telling Alex what a terrible mantis catcher he was as he continued to say, “WHY, JEAN?! WHY?!”

I tried to point out the silver lining that since we now had praying mantes living in the house, we would never have spiders again and Alex was all, “Yeah, we’ll have far more terrifying insects living here.”

Photo of two praying mantis babies. The one on the window is not in praying posture.

Until they become terrifying, they’re super cute though. Just look at them. Although when I posted this photo on Facebook, my friend pointed out that the one on the window is an athiest.

Eventually I took over mantis duty and, caring slightly less than Alex about their little lives, was far more efficient in escorting them to their new habitat.

For the rest of the day I felt like they were on me. And, different than most every other time I have screamed, “ARE THEY ON ME?! I THINK THEY’RE ON ME!” they probably fucking were.

After we had everyone with six legs (or at least most of them) contained, we showed the children the miracle of mantis birth. Or tried to. Some of our kids wanted nothing to do with them. Alex started telling them about the great escape before I shushed him. He then altered course.

“Quinn, if the manti had escaped in the house, would you want to know about it?” he asked. Quinn’s response was swift and vociferous: “NO.”

I guess he wants to be surprised in a few months when a fully grown praying mantis jumps out at him from our coat closet. More power to him.

 

* There seem to be several ways to pluralize “mantis.” I prefer “manti,” because it’s fun. My editor friend swears it is “mantids,” which is also great. I found a website that listed the plural form from different dictionaries that also suggested “mantises,” “mantes,” or even “mantis,” which is the exact same word as the singular. I have decided to use all these terms completely interchangeable because that amuses me.

Bambi Meets Snowzilla

(In case you’re wondering, the “Bambi” referred to in the title is ALL OF THE DC AREA.)

It snowed this weekend. I don’t know if you heard.

EVERYTHING shut down. It was amazing. The farthest I ventured from my house so far this weekend is four houses down to rescue my children on their return from sledding and I fell down twice and had to go inside and sit down after I was done. It is a SCENE out there.

It’s difficult to really show the magnitude of this snowfall because all the photos I took just look like us standing pathetically in a lumpy white landscape.

Photo of me in winter gear standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than my shoulders.

I made a hill.

Photo of Alex standing in a partially shovelled driveway, with heaps of snow piled along the side.

Alex made a whole series of hills.

And then it snowed for ten more hours.

Happily, we didn’t lose power all weekend, which, frankly, was just about the only thing I really cared about. The thought of hanging out through days of no heat sounded horrifying. I’m also grateful that no trees fell on my house.

Photo of my backyard covered in snow. On the far left, you can see the treehouse, still triumphantly up in the tree.

And the treehouse is still standing!

At one point on Saturday, Alex and I were busy shoveling and we sent the munchkins down the street and around the corner to the sledding hill. They didn’t last long.

Quinn reappeared first as a black dot way down the street. He got bigger and louder as he approached, but happily, he wasn’t crying. He actually seemed to be in pretty good cheer, which was a nice surprise. “One of my legs isn’t working!” he shouted. Then he fell down. “There goes the other one!”

Photo of a field of white snow, with a small black dot of Quinn approaching. He's falling over.

(Click to embiggen.) This photo perfectly exemplifies the verb “to trudge.”

Most people hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks yet, so the going was pretty tough. We cleared ours early. It was fun to watch kids walking to and from the sledding hill discover the sidewalk path. We were definitely the best house to walk past.

Sam and Jack had a tougher time making it home. Quinn had left Sam in charge of bringing home all three sleds and an extremely bummed out Jack. I noticed them slogging along together waaaay down the street. They were kind of blurry blobs. Then the bigger blurry blob picked up the smaller one and started to carry him. That’s when I knew there was trouble.

Photo of Sam carrying Jack, cradled in his arms. It's really hard to see though.

It’s hard to see that Sam has Jack cradled like a baby here. It was impressive, if short-lived.

By the time I reached them, Jack had lost a shoe and was lying in the snow crying because he couldn’t feel his foot. All said, it was a reasonable reaction. Also, the fact that Sam didn’t just leave Jack to fend for himself speaks very highly of him.

They didn’t leave the house again for a very long time.

Thank God there was sun today (coincidentally, Sunday). Also confused cats.

Photo of Sharky looking at the back sliding door, where snow is piled up against it.

Sharky: “Something is different, but I just can’t quite put my paw on it.”

When I looked out the window and saw that the street had finally been plowed, I was delighted.

Photo taken from second floor of my house of the very snowy street in front of my house. The road is plowed.

Do you see that beautiful flat road? That means access to the outside world.

Or so I thought. See that area at the end of the driveway between the two piles of snow? That’s, like, three-foot deep snow that had to be cleared. And sadly, it turns out that Alex and I are the adults in the situation and there was no one but us who was going to shovel it.

The munchkins fought their way out of the driveway and then took a much easier walk down the plowed road to the sledding hill while Alex and I chipped away at the snow.

Photo of Alex standing in the driveway next to almost waist high snow. The driveway is partially shoveled.

I was the first to battle my way out.

Sadly, however, one path that required a long step over a pile of ice chunks wasn’t going to release the car. So Alex and I kept at it, shovelful by shovelful, each of which had to be hurled over our quickly growing piles.

Me standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than me.

We made our pile bigger.

Our children eventually came back from sledding. Sam disappeared inside and Quinn made some microwave popcorn only to reappear twenty minutes later with the demand, “Mom! Make me an igloo!”

It must be nice to be ten and oblivious.

(I didn’t make him an igloo.)

Jack stuck around and helped us by chiseling away at the icy crust on the pile and throwing snowballs at me from his perch on top of our new hills.

Photo of Jack leaning over the top of a snowbank.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

It only took Alex and I a couple of hours to clear the driveway, remove the car’s snow hat, and make sure the car could back up out of its snow nest. Earlier in the day, I had wondered if I could put on my Yaktrax and go for a run in the streets. Now I just want to sit on the couch for the rest of my life and enjoy the thought that if I wanted to, I could go somewhere.

Screenshot of a facebook post of mine, which is a photo of Alex with arms up in celebration after I made it to the street. The caption reads "WE'RE FREE!!! WE MADE A HOLE TO THE STREET!!"

For the record, I don’t want to.