The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Lost in a Run.. Again

I dropped the kids at class on a beautiful afternoon.  I decided to treat myself to a nice run along the reservoir.  I had not been there much since spring and it is such a great trail to get lost in thought during your run.

The kids were at 14th St and the RRoom I was going to start/finish at was also on 14th St.  Kids north, RRoom south, but same street.. how easy, right?  No need to map it.  I know where I am going.  I drove off.  Only, 14th St doesn’t go all the way through south of city centre. Crap.  I drove around, trying to navigate the way over to the RRoom.  Problem was that while I knew my location, I just didn’t know how to get where I wanted to go (it happens a lot).  At least not by car.  I was passing streets and trails that I knew from running in the spring and was starting to get frustrated.  Time was a-wasting.

Determined not to let the afternoon get the best of me, I kept on. Everything was so familiar – the dog park, the Bow River trail weaving in and out of where I was driving.  How in the world do I get back over to 14th St?  I started to grow more and more impatient with being in the car on such a cloudless day. Then I stumbled upon an elementary school near the dog park.  I knew this school as a landmark from previous runs.  It’s a school that is built on top of a ridge, which always intrigued me.  Why would anyone build an elementary school playground on the side of a ridge?  And how do I get to that golf course down below?  I was close to RRoom, I could smell it.  But, with no clue as to how to get there unless on foot, I parked the car.  I mumbled a few expletives and decided to just run the trail to the RRoom and back.  It couldn’t be far.  I had planned to run the 6k route from the RRoom “to oscar” (a garbage can at a fork in the trail) and back.  It was a run I had done so many times, in the dark, in the snow, in rain, in daylight..  but I was not near that part of the trail.

Due to the fact that I had planned to park at RRoom and do a quickie 6k, I had not brought a water belt or much nutrition with me.  In fact, I didn’t have my garmin.  After assessing my new plan, I headed out with my ipod and timex.  The run was great.  I was not tracking pace, just thinking back to training.  Random thoughts I had during the run..

  • hey look! there’s Rose’s favorite outhouse.
  • Peter usually started talking about what he was making for dinner around this bridge during our long runs.  I wonder what he is cooking today?
  • AAHHH! A really fat robin!  (I almost stepped on it)
  • Jon’s daughter was playing competitive soccer for the first time this spring.. wonder how she did?
  • I need to message Michelle and Heather to see if they want to do a fall race.
  • AAHHH!! A bunny!  (I almost stepped on it)
  • When the hell am I going to be at the RRoom?  I have to pee something fierce and am sweating like crazy.

Upon arriving at RRoom, I was a sweaty mess with a glowing red tomato face.  Thankfully, it is a place that is accustomed to runners coming in like this to use their facilities and grab some water.  I did both and headed back out.  The parking lot where my car was located was further away that I had anticipated.  I thought so, anyway.  It was hard to tell without my garmin.  It occurred to me how touristy I am while running with other people.  No wonder Heather always took off; she is not a talker during runs and I never shut up.

At the end of the run I chugged down some water between inhaling the granola bar and dried apricots I had in the car.  I made a note to map the distance upon returning home.  It then occurred to me that I really didn’t know how to get back to where the kids were and the time was fast approaching for me to pick them up.  I would need to show up at the art studio smelly and sweaty.  Getting in the car, I cranked the air conditioning and tried to retrace my drive.  I arrived at the art studio just in time for the kids to walk out.  They looked at me in disbelief, (or disgust, I couldn’t really tell), and asked, “Mom, didn’t you do anything while we were at art?”

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Back on Track!

Or, the Art Classes that helped to get my training back on track and the vacation that threatens to ruin it…

I have noted previously that the kids and I have gotten into the habit of a bike/run. Each time has been a little more successful and I am really enjoying it. However, I have to begin training for the next race. It’s not a full marathon, but I need to start focusing my runs, (or at least some of them), so that I am ready to put into gear for 21.1k. Or, just keep up enough that I don’t injure myself when the hard-core stuff starts.

Last week I had an opportunity, as there was a free program put on by the city at our neighborhood park. All the kids could go and I was counting on them being there for at least a few hours so that I could get the usual glamorous errands, cleaning and laundry done and sneak in a couple of good runs. Problem was that it was hotter than Hades. The kids wilted after being outside for a while. There was also the problem that the games they were playing at this program were “lame” and “babyish” (their words, not mine). So last week was shot.

Enter this week. The kids are in an art class in the afternoons. Perfect! Running in the afternoon once again! The kids love the art classes, (huge win), and I enjoyed a run or two on my own. Thursday morning, however, the kids all looked at me and asked when we were going for a ride/run again. Also, could we do one after breakfast? I hate to say no to a productive activity, so after we were cleaned up from breakfast we headed out on our usual route. It was a beautiful morning, sun shining, nice breezes and not too hot. Truth be told, though, I was a dripping mess upon our return home so stepped in for a quick shower. My queue was Jaybird asking, rather dramatically, “what’s that smell?” when we got in the house. Turns out, it was me.

Anyway, this art class for the kids has been a godsend for me to get back into some regular training. Looming on the horizon, however, is our vacation to the Badger State, full of all its microbrews and crafted spirits and fried food and….

So, friends in the US, hear my plea. I am going to say things like, “I have to get a run in so need to stay hydrated” and “can’t stay out too late tonight, need to run in the morning” and post things like “anyone up for a run today?” Please be gentle. I will have only a few weeks to get ready for a half marathon upon returning home and keeping disciplined while on vacation may prove to be a huge challenge for me. Hell, staying focused during the summer is a challenge for me without a vacation thrown in the mix.

Thanks for your help. Now, who wants to meet for a beer? Or a run? Or both?

Three Bikes and a Pair of Running Shoes

When I was a kid my parents worked opposite shifts so either my dad or my mom was always home.  During my formative years, (I guess.. when are your formative years, anyway?), my mom worked primarily night shift and dad worked second shift.  This left a bit of the taking care of my brother and I to my dad during the day.  Enter my dad’s group of friends that play tennis together.  They play almost every day, weather permitting, either singles or doubles, depending upon who is available to play.  As an aside, we used to (respectfully, of course) refer to this group as our own town’s little United Nations.  I think only a couple of the guys Dad hung out with were actually natural-born US citizens.  As a kid watching them play tennis I probably heard swear words in at least five different languages.  Too bad I was not paying closer attention.

Anyway, in the summer my brother and I would hang out with friends, go to the neighborhood pool, keeping close to home.  When it came time for Dad to meet up with his buddies for some tennis, he had a few choices.  He could not play, (unthinkable), find a sitter (also unthinkable, he’s too cheap), or take my brother and I along.  So, you guessed it.  We spent many a summer afternoon tagging along with Dad while he played tennis.  They usually played on courts that were built into a hill, with a huge, tall cement wall on one side.  Dad would instruct us to take our own racquets and ball, hit the ball against the wall and stay out-of-the-way of the grown-ups.

Why am I writing about this?

As noted in many of my posts and a category on this very blog, I am a runner.  I am also a mother of three school age kids that are on summer break.  Temporarily gone are the days when I could do my midday run alone while they attend school.  What’s a running momma to do?  I need to run for reasons such as stress relief, stay healthy, eat ice cream, you know the rest.  I also want to run a fall race, so to stop training after a successful spring marathon was unthinkable.  This is when I recalled those summers of my childhood and hitting a tennis ball against a cement wall.

I told the kids to get on their bikes.  I explained that since they are not quite old enough to be left home alone, even if it’s for a half hour so I can get in a quick run, they are going to have to come with me.  Knowing that I get rather crabby when not able to exercise regularly, they agreed.  Also, I was pretty clear in that they had no choice in the matter.  If my father is reading this post, this is time when he throws up his hands and says two things to my mom.  First, “It really was not a big deal to take them to the tennis courts.” And, “Why am I always right?”

Our first ride/run was a little bumpy.  They were nervous about the trail onto which I was leading them, the hills we were encountering and how far we were going to stray from home.  It seemed that I was constantly reassuring them throughout the first part of the ride/run that I knew exactly where we were and would not take them farther than they could handle.  The first was absolutely true but the latter entered gray area, seeing this was our first try at this. About half way into the ride/run, they pointed like a pack of hounds seeking a fox.  “PARK!”  They asked if they could stop and play for a bit at this new, glorious neighborhood playground we encountered.  I agreed, but only for a few minutes.

Turning up the trail and heading for home, we came upon a couple of cyclists.  “Start them young!” one shouted.  I nodded.  When we got home there were icey-pops and watermelon for everyone.  It was a nice little run for me, they got to be outside and the kids have a new appreciation for the freedom their bikes provide.  All asked if we could do it again tomorrow.  Win!

So, what have we learned?  Yes, my dad is right sometimes and did my brother and I a favor by taking us to the tennis courts each and every day during the summers of our youth.  Yes, you can be a mom with three kids home for the summer and still keep some resemblance to your fitness routine.  Finally, children like to be outside and enjoy exercise, especially when you, their parent, do it with them.  It also helps if there is a little bribery in the form of cool snacks upon the return home.

Independence Day

It’s Fourth of July weekend. The time of year when we load our kids into the minivan and park on the side of the road on top of a hill and wait for the small towns around us to start their fireworks. By the end of the displays, our necks hurt from straining from side to side to see all the different firework shows. We are up late, running around, celebrating Independence Day.

It’s the time of the year when the backyard neighbors see our fire pit going and come down the hill with a pitcher of margaritas and glasses. Again, our kids play inside and out while we enjoy each other’s company over a fire, drinks and finger foods. Its nice out, cool in the evening and warm and sunny during the day. There are parades through every downtown with people sporting red, white and blue outfits. There are marching bands, (once upon a time I was in a marching band.. loved it), loud bands, signs of patriotism everywhere. Every evening the noise of fireworks interrupts our sleep and the smell of burnt fuses is in the in the smoky air.

It’s the time of year when grandparents, family and friends come over and we grill dinners. We have fruit salads, vegetable salads and pasta salads followed by icey-pops and frozen custard. We are a mess of sunscreen, mosquito repellant and sweat. It is summer in Wisconsin and it is a great time of year. We relax by lakes, relive years gone by and reflect on how lucky we are to live in a free country. Of course, we give thanks for those that fought to make it so.

I still live in a free country, but this year there is only red and white. The stars and stripes have been replaced by a maple leaf. If you are saying to yourself, “Man, she seems homesick,” you are right. I love our home in Canada and feel very thankful to be close to the mountains, living in a great country with terrific people. But it is not home. Not yet, anyway.

We attended the festivities for Canada Day this week, as it is a national holiday here as well. It did not disappoint. The sun was shining, there many areas for people to hang out eat, try on cowboy hats or whatever. I was an arm’s length from Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary. Really, I was. I wish I had the camera ready. He gave a little speech that made my homesickness go away.

He talked of Canadian independence. He talked of being thankful to live in a free country. But what hit home for me was his talk of the Canadian tradition to welcome people from all over the world into this great country. To show that all are welcome here. It made me smile. So, although this started as a self-pitying post about my longing to celebrate the 4th of July with American friends in the great state of Wisconsin, I am finishing by saying that I am a lucky woman. I am a citizen of the United States and while we may not get everything right and our foreign policy may be a little off at times, (our domestic policy can be way off, too, come to think of it), I still believe in us. I believe that we can do great things and that despite the challenges the US faces, we are still one of the best games in town. I am also lucky because I live in a country that welcomes newcomers and is doing and capable of doing great things, albeit more quietly and politely than their southern neighbors.

So this week, no matter if you are celebrating Canadian independence, The United States’ independence, or are lucky enough to celebrate both, I urge you to take a moment.  Breathe it all in, look around you and count blessings.  My guess (and my hope) is that you will have too many to count.

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