Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giving Thanks

I had a wonderful visit, as always, with my family in Southern California over Thanksgiving break. This stretch, from Thanksgiving to Christmas is always one of my favorite times of year because it encompasses the most time I spend with my family during the year. Our family is full of traditions and I have especially enjoyed in the last years as we have welcomed new faces into these special moments.

This year, we had my older sister's husband and his mother once again joining us. It must be 4 or more years that they have been an added part of our Thanksgiving, but this was the first year that James attended as an 'official' part of the family, which was exciting. Ed, of course came down, as well as his mother (who came last year) and his brother Tom (a wonderful new addition!). Hopefully next year we'll have Ed's whole family :D

The magnitude of our blending families was emphasized when Ed and I went to pick up the race bibs for our annual Turkey Trot 5k. We've been doing this since I was a sophomore in College, and I look forward to it every year. I missed last year because of a nasty cold (which seems to visit every time I have any time off from work), but I was proactive with airborne, vitamin C, and ecchinaccea, which I took this year the moment my sniffles started (coincidentally the moment that I said goodbye to my little balls of germs, a.k.a, my students). Somehow it worked and I didn't get sick!

Anyways, this year we were picking up EIGHT race bibs! Quite the showing from the Suhr/Geaney/Bonner-Lyon clan. This year we got snazzy nylon bags in addition to the shirts, which was fun. We also got blessed with crazy race weather. Last year it was raining; this year it was at least 70 degrees and sunny at the start!

I ran with Ed and his brother Tom, who promised to stick with me. The crowds of people made it difficult to stick together, and Tom and Ed ended up taking the lead (of us), leaving me to chase after them, and running quite a bit faster than planned. It was actually pretty fun, even though I was struggling a bit. At about mile 2, we cut Tom loose, who was itching to speed up (unfortunately, he thought the race was almost over at that point, not understanding that there was another out and back loop before the finish). Ed stayed with me until we could see the finish, and then I cut him loose and watched him sprint ahead with superhuman speed. I pushed myself, despite the fire in my lungs and my legs. I certainly hadn't run like this in probably years.

As I saw the clock ticking closer to 32 minutes, I gave one final push. Since it took over 2 minutes to get to the start, and I hadn't set the timer on my watch, I wasn't sure what my time would be, but I wanted it to be my best.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I slowed to a shuffle, carried along by the crowd but about ready to collapse. Thankfully, I saw Ed soon and grabbed onto him, letting him guide me through the crowd. I felt a bit ill and claustrophobic with the throngs of people around me, and crossed my fingers that I wouldn't pass out. We grabbed waters, and then I felt panicky as I realized that we were being corralled up a large hill into a parking lot where the sponsers were set up. I was fairly confident I wouldn't make it through the crowds and asked Ed to find me a way out.

There was no solution but over the metal fences set up to keep us heading upwards. At first glance I didn't think I would be able to hoist myself over, but seeing no other option I gave it a try and made it over. As soon as we were free from the crowds, I felt better and Ed and I headed to the group meeting spot. Within a few minutes I felt fine, and proud that I had done my best.

The rest of my family trickled in over the next 30 minutes, with my brother in law, James, coming in next with his crazy fast walking (in converse no less) followed by my dad and sister, who stuck together, then Sabine, Ed's mom, and finally Pat, James' mom. We all felt happy and content with our performances, and were ready to enjoy the rest of the Thanksgiving day, starting and ending with wonderful meals.

The next day, I discovered that I ran the race in 29:53, a 9:38 pace!!! Pretty good for a girl recovering from an injury :D

I have lots more to share about the other great experiences we shared, but as this post is plenty lengthy as it is, I'll leave these stories for another day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Snowy Weekend in Tahoe - Part II

We woke up Saturday morning happy to still be on our wonderful trip. Lauren had arrived the previous night (unfortunately I was too tired to stay awake) and it was fun to have our full group here at last.

We finished our card game from the night before and then set off on a hike around the neighborhood, hoping for some good lake views. Luckily, we weren't disappointed by the scenery.

Ed and Bill had fun playing with the icicles and snow, and before we knew it,

we were back at our cabin.

Once we got back, lovely bowls of leftover chili were waiting to be eaten. It was the perfect hot meal after a cold walk. However, before we got too comfortable, Ed and I wanted go for our run. We decided to head down to the town visitor's center to find out where we could go to run that wouldn't be snowed over. While the snow yesterday was fun, we were looking forward to an easier adventure that day.

Lucky for us, the visitor's center was close and very helpful. It ended up that there was a walking trail down by the waterfront that stretched 3 miles in all. Before we left for the run, we headed down to the beach to enjoy the beautiful sights.

However, it was quite cold down by the water, and we soon had to get moving so that we didn't freeze.

We headed down the pathway and got to appreciate the beautiful houses that lined the water. The houses were more castles than lakeside cottages. There were a few others out, also bundled up, and it was fun to see the other runners and walkers out.

We ran the 2 miles to the end of the pathway and then headed back to the beach. We took a short break, enjoying the views until we got too cold. Then we headed off the other way another mile to the other end of the trail. Initially, we were just going to go a little further to make 5 miles, but we missed the mile marker and before we knew it, we had gotten to the end. I was excited to see that last mile marker, since that meant that we were going to have completed 6 miles, my longest since I've started back up.

The last mile home was a little tiring, but not too bad. When we arrived back at our starting point, we realized that the rest of our friends had made it down to the same beach.

We headed back to the cabin and enjoyed a lazy afternoon of games, naps, and reading.

That evening, we got to celebrate the birthdays in style, heading to the Lone Eagle Grill for a delicious and long lasting meal. My healthy eating took a bit of a break, but I did try to, overall, make good decisions. It was a great evening.

A trip to Nevada wouldn't be complete without gambling, apparently, so we headed to a casino to give it a try. This was my first try at gambling (and probably my last). It was a quick way to lose money, but I didn't put much in, and it was an experience to be sure.

All in all, a great day.

On our last day, we Ed and I were really committed to seeking out one more trail experience. Ed called our now friendly visitor's center and got a recommendation for a snow free trail that would be on our way out. We were led to the North Tahoe Regional Park. We all parked and got out next to a big field. After a few minutes, Will and Lauren decided to get back on the road so that they could get home at a reasonable time, and Bill, Ed and I headed off onto the trails.

The maps and trails were a bit confusing, as this is a cross country skiing area in the winter but a frisbee golf course in the summer. Still, we ended up finding a good loop that was much shorter than it appeared. Apparently the scale of the map is misleading, and the 'vista point' that we thought we couldn't be able to reach was just over a mile away.

At the crest of a big hill, we could just start to see the lake, and decided to take a quick break and think about it we wanted to keep going. We weren't sure if the views would get any better and we couldn't afford to spend too much time out there. Still, after a few pictures, we decided to keep going.

We gave ourselves a time limit of 15 more minutes, but in much less time than that, we reached a great viewpoint.

Bill wanted to get a bit of a better view, so he climbed onto a rock.

After a few more minutes of taking in the view, we decided to keep going. Looking on the map, we realized that we would be able to turn this hike into a loop. Luckily, more views were there to greet us before we finished.

In what seemed like no time, we were suddenly at the other side of the field we had parked by.

Finally, we were ready to say goodbye to Tahoe (for now).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Snowy Weekend in Tahoe - Part I

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of traveling to Tahoe with friends to celebrate Ed's birthday (Happy 29!) and on of our other friend's. As I have so many pictures, I've decided to split the post up into 3 parts so that the posts aren't as ridiculously long :).

Our trip began after work Thursday evening. We all met up at our friend Bill's house and got ready for a long evening of driving ahead. With the fear of potential snow on the forcast, we decided to take a car that had chains, just in case, though luckily, that ended up to be unnecessary. Tahoe is about 4 hours away, and left at around 7pm.

Normally a beautiful drive, we could barely make out the features around us as we traveled northeast across the state. However, we could eventually tell that we were rising in elevation and suddenly, I started noticing pockets of now along the road. Soon, the hillsides were coated in it, as well as the trees. It was a gorgeous sight, with the many stars that we could see twinkling above.

At around 11pm we arrived at the cabin, stepping out onto icy ground and cold temperatures. But, we were excited to be here. We were amazed by the beauty of the cabin, but we were tired. After getting settled, we soon headed off to bed.

The next morning we awoke to crystal blue skies and now capped peaks surrounding us.

After a quick trip to the store to stock up, we had a leisurely breakfast, enjoying a lazy morning. By the time we were done with breakfast, it was almost noon! We noticed that you could actually see the lake from our cabin, a lovely surprise. Ed and I decided to relax with a book while our cabin mates played a game, and then it was time to be active.

Of course, Ed had already done his research and decided that it would be fun to head up to the Tahoe Rim Trail for some good running. I entreated on my friends to hike with me so that I could still experience the trail, albeit a slower pace. However, we made one small error in envisioning our trail running experience:

Snow. Luckily, everyone was a good sport, and we headed off for an adventure. Ed took of right away, aiming for a 10 miler, while we planned on a 2 hour hike. We had dressed warmly and the snow wasn't too deep, so it seemed like a good plan.

While we couldn't see the trail, the footprints in the snow seemed easy enough to follow. It was quiet out in the woods, with only a few others enjoying the crisp (and by crisp I mean freezing - literally) weather. While we initially tried to stay on the TRT, we soon gave up - it just wasn't well marked. Instead, we headed off with some other sets of footprints on a thinner 'trail' that took us to a beautiful, more open area.

We enjoyed seeing the animal tracks in the snow and guessing their owners.

We also had some fun making some 'tracks' of our own. Bill even got motivated enough by the fluffiness of the snow to leave an angel behind on the side of our trail.

Of course, he paid for that in coldness later, but it was very fun in the moment :). As the trail started to get steep and slippery, I voted to turn around, and back we went. We did have a fun surprise, though, about halfway back. Ed! He had caught back up with us and was enjoying his run, even with freezing hands. I gave him my gloves (which apparently didn't help much) and then he was off again.

We felt like we were getting close to the end, but the last part was deceptively long. Eventually, though, we made it back. There were a few sections in the last part that weren't snowed over, and walking on that dirt made me appreciate how much easier it is to hike without the snow. While I really enjoyed the cushiness of walking on fresh powder, it certainly is more difficult. Back at the car, we waited just a few minutes and Ed came up the trail from the other side. He had completed his 10. With just a few steps between myself and a nice warm car, I made the tactical error of misjudging the slipperiness of the road. Even with a warning offered up by Will about the dangers of the road, I still fell. Even more embarrassing, it was in front of a family. The woman quickly called to her son, "Go see if that woman is okay!" I called out to the boy and mom that I was fine before he could run over. Cheeks reddened, I headed more carefully to the car, rubbing the sore palms of my hands. For the rest of the trip I was very careful around ice.

As we were about to leave, we took one look out over the meadow, taking in the setting sun and the icy mountains in front of us.

Back at the cabin, we were ready to warm up. The boys put a log on the fire

and I got started making my healthier but still delicious chili. It's a cooking light recipe and never fails (at least it hasn't the two times I've made it). It's pretty easy and seemed like the perfect food for a cool wintery evening. I read while it cooked, and in what seemed like no time, we were sitting down for a piping hot meal.

I realized how fun it was to cook for more than just Ed, and laughed as both Ed and Will had 4 servings of chili. Good thing I doubled it!

Once we couldn't eat any more, we cleaned up the table, kept pouring the wine, and played cards into the evening.

It was a wonderful first day in a wintery wonderland

Sunday, November 08, 2009

And Away We Go

This was a weekend full of wonderful hiking. My younger sister, Kortney, came to visit from Chico State, which was great. It was so nice to have her come to stay, and Ed and I got to show off one of our favorite trails.

Up in the mountains above Saratoga, we enjoyed an hour on the calming and relaxing trails. It was beautiful up there, and Ed and I noticed that it was much greener than the last time we had visited. The new grasses were starting to peak up beneath the golden grass of summer.

This morning, Ed and I were talking about our respective runs when Ed mentioned that he was thinking about going up to Mission Peak. I'd always wanted to go there, and asked it maybe we could make it a hike that we could do together. Happily, he agreed, and so we took off to the East Bay. In only 20ish minutes, we arrived at our destination and were impressed by the sheer number of cars there.

Ed tried to encourage me to run in the beginning, but I soon was committed to full on hiking. I was feeling very out of shape going up those hills, needing a few resting breaks, but Ed reassured me by saying that we were moving much more quickly than most of the other hikers. The higher we climbed, the windier and colder it became.

I was feeling great, despite the steepness of the hike, until we got closer to the top.

Suddenly the wind was incredibly strong, and we were freezing. The trail became thinner and more rocky and we knew we were almost there. We could barely hear anything besides the wind soaring past our ears, but now our eyes were excited taking in the views.

Finally we made it!

Since it was so cold, we spent very little time at the summit before we turned around and headed back down, this time running. Our own pause in the much quicker forward momentum was when we had to pass the cows - for that we walked slowly, so Ed could keep me safe :)

After feeling so out of shape on the way up, it was nice to feel much better about myself as we ran past all the hikers going up. With every step the wind got a little softer and we got a little warmer.

Two hours after we began, we were back at the cars. All that continuous downhill running made my legs feel a bit like jelly once we finally stopped, but otherwise I felt great. I was telling Ed while we were descending that doing things like this together has been this missing part of our relationship while I was injured. This is how I had always imagined our relationship being, us being an active couple together, and I've really enjoyed these past weeks of hiking and running.

This weekend we're off to Tahoe, and Ed's already looked up the distance to the Tahoe Rim Trail. It'll definitely be chilly, with lows in the teens, but it should be beautiful!

Happy Trails :)

Friday, November 06, 2009

A New Routine

Another work week has passed and once again I got out for 3 days of running during the week. I've been telling my students about my running and healthy habits, which is nice, as I feel like I'm getting to set a good example for them. What's sort of fun/exciting is that my colleagues are noticing my new habits. Yesterday a fellow teacher asked me if I was going to be running after class and today my Principal asked me how the running was going.

I like that I'm building up a 'reputation' as it were of a healthy active person. It makes it easier to keep it up :)

I've been running a little less this week, with 30 minutes Tuesday and Wednesday and 40 minutes yesterday. My legs have been feeling tired after last week, and I figure that I'd better not push it. What has been helping me a lot is a mind shift. Instead of worrying that running will make my leg worse, I'm convincing myself that running will make it stronger and, eventually, better. I have been feeling stronger this week. My breathing is now relatively normal during my runs, and I've been finding a kick in my step at the end of the runs. My legs seem to be getting stronger, too. They're still the weakest part of me though, and I'm hoping that eventually they'll feel like 3 miles is easy.

As an added bonus, I've now lost 11.2 lbs :). Again, I'm trying out a shift in mindset with this as well. Instead of looking at it as not being able to eat things (like the chocolate that is constantly present at my staff meetings) I'm looking at it as making the healthiest choices that will make me feel the best. I'm also focusing on making this a manageable change, which means that I'm still allowing myself to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner most nights. Ed has been wonderfully supportive, and I think he is enjoying the new found confidence that comes with being healthier. That, and all the new recipes we've been trying.

So, life is going great. My younger sister is coming to visit this weekend, Ed's birthday is next weekend, and Thanksgiving is coming up soon!

Lovely Fall :)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Twenty Miles

Running has been going great! It's hard and the leg is still hurting, but I really do feel like I'm getting stronger. I ran 50 minutes on Tuesday, 32 on Wednesday, 40 on Thursday, 44 on Saturday (Trails), and 50 today. I'm estimating that to be about 20 miles.

The trails are definitely harder, but I was so proud of myself for running the whole way. It was gradually sloped, with uphill the whole way back, but I kept going without walking. It helped that Ed was with me. I had him run behind me so that he wouldn't speed me up too much, but it was great to have the company. Today's 50 minutes definitely took it out of me, though. I ended up feeling pretty zapped of energy afterwards and got a bad headache, despite bringing water with me and, I thought, hydrating well. Still, it felt great to be moving for that long.

My current plan, despite my desire to start training for something, is to just keep doing what I'm doing. I've been saying for years that if I could only run 3 miles a few days a week, I'd be happy. Now I'm doing more than that, so I need to feel content with what I'm able to do. I'm going to keep doing my mixture of 30 - 50 minutes of running 4-5 days a week until it gets comfortable. Right now, it's better, but not comfortable.

I do think I might have my first 'goal' race to put on the calendar. Ed is doing the Big Sur marathon in April, and I think I might sign up for the 10.6 mile option. The only downside is no technical shirt, but otherwise, it seems like a good option. Of course, part of me wants to sign up for the 21 mile option, but that definitely would be too ambitious, especially if I want to keep from getting even more injured. It would be a beautiful run, and it would be fun to run the last 10 miles of this great marathon course.

Tomorrow is a day off, and I'm looking forward to giving the leg a rest. I hope that next week is as good as this one :)