Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's lunchtime on Thursday and I am finally taking enough time to catch up. Funny how I thought I could better control my routine once I was married and stopped all the back in forth involved with dating. Wrong, fish face. My life has never been busier and more out of control than it has the last two months. Not complaining, just sharing the realization that having 3 girls in my family is truly like herding cats. Of course there is nothing more rewarding than teaching a lesson, sharing an experience, holding hands with my daughters, or any one of a hundred other things that make me realize that maybe, just maybe, I am a father.

Running. Yes I am. I've been building base the last several weeks, trying to run at least four days a week. I really haven't done anything more the 5 miles at any one time but it is running. This week was sort of a breakthrough week. I had a good run on Monday and on Tuesday I went for a hilly workout and pushed the pace. It felt great!

I cannot run the half at Mercedes which is only a couple of weeks away but I will likely run on a relay team. I won't be fast but I won't be last. Maybe that should be my new motto.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy New Year and a lesson learned

Wow. I cannot believe that it has been a month since my last post. Holidays and new family definitely affect what was once expendable time.

The question is, have I been running? Yes. Some. Not enough to be considered in shape but enough to know that I need to be doing more. I am not going to try to capture the last month worth of running. Probably averaged 12-15 miles a week-terrible, I know. Plus the week after Christmas I was fighting a head cold and didn't do much. Plus it seems that it has been raining in Alabama since Thanksgiving. I try to hit the days when it's not storming outside and that has affected my schedule also.

I will tell the story of this past weekend. Even though this actually belongs on my other sight (formerly My Hot Girlfriend and will probably be renamed My New Family), there is physical exertion involved so I'll just write about it here.

The girls, like most school kids around the nation, have had close to two weeks off from school. As such, their schedules have been all hosed up. After getting the girls back from their dad, we noticed the ability of the girls to sit up much later than usual. Not good. Not being used to kids I always assumed that most folks could get by on 6 or 7 hours of sleep. Nope. It seems kids like 8, 9, or even 10 hours. That being said, this past Saturday Susan and I decided that we needed to do something with the girls on Sunday that would wear them out and force them to go to sleep early Sunday night. We decided a nice challenging hike would do everyone good. Get out of the house, exercise, see nature and all that stuff.

After church and lunch on Sunday we headed out to our local state park-Oak Mountain State Park ( Great place for all kinds of activities. Lots of trails ( The shortest trail is the Peavine Trail. It is about 1.9 miles to a parking lot and another 1/2 mile to the waterfalls located in the park. Now anyone who knows the park knows that though this is a short trail, it is probably the toughest climb. The elevation change from the trail head to the highest point is about 550 feet and that occurs in the first 1 1/2 mile. Very good . . . that will make the girls sleep. We discussed this with the girls and they were excited about it. Told them it was a tough hike . . . that there are probably no other kids in there class that have done this hike. Even more excitement. I guess they are like me and love a challenge. I figured that since MAC practices/plays soccer continuously and E is slender, rides her bike and climbs like a monkey, they could handle it.

We parked near the trail head. I strapped on my day pack with two water bottles, a couple of Oat Meal to go snacks, a lighter, a flashlight, trail map, cell phone. Should be good enough for what I anticipated to be 3 hours of hiking. The key word here is ANTICIPATED. I forgot to factor in the kid factor. The first half mile is a very steep climb. The girls immediately came to the realization that there was to be no running ahead on the trail. This was fun to watch as they realized this . . . . hands on knees and breathing like fish out of water. Susan and I looked at other, pleased with our plan to "wear out" the girls. We stopped for a few sips of water. At the end of the first half mile, the trail levels off and then drops down through a bottom (or hollow, as we say here in Alabama). This is one of the easy stretches on the trail and lasts for maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 mile. The next 1/2 mile is all uphill. I have to admit that it is a good climb so I know the girls were really working hard. About halfway up, E wants more water. DANG. We can't keep stopping every few feet, it will slow us down. She also wants a snack. We stop and get into the day pack. Not part of my plan. I figured a few sips of water along the way and then split the snack bars once we got to the waterfalls. I also didn't count on E slurping and gulping down the first bottle of water halfway to our destination. Okay. Explain to the girls that we only take sips and we need to concentrate on moving. I quietly decide to give up my ration of water for the hike.

We hit the high point of trail, about 1 1/2 miles from the trail head. Guess what? Yep. Need to stop, eat and drink again. Not good. Now mind you, I am not an avid hiker but I know enough to realize that the farther you go, the longer you have to come back and I also realize that on a cloudy day, mid-afternoon can turn into nightfall quickly. I tell everyone that we are closer to the falls than the car but we have taken too much time. I tell them that the last mile is reasonably flat and faster. However, we may need to turn around now before we all get tired and before it gets dark. Yells of "NO!!!! we want to see the falls" encouraged me and warmed my heart. Yes, these girls will tough it out (I thought). I silently take note of the mist and fog that is rolling in on us-not good. However, we plow on.

We had to stop a couple of other times along the flat, fast part of the trail. MAC was doing fine and enjoying it. E, to her credit was tough and determined to make it to the falls but she was slowing exponentially and wanting more water than we brought. We finally get to the parking lot and breath a sigh of relief. We are now only a 1/2 mile from the falls. I check my watch and we have spent twice as long as I planned just getting to the parking lot-CRAP. E is now in a pseudo whiney stage . . . "my legs hurt", "we've been here for hours", "we've walked 10 miles", "I'm thirsty". Things I should have anticipated but didn't. This is turning out to be a good lesson for me.

I start talking to Susan as we approach the falls. I inform her that we will almost have to run back down the trail just to beat dark. We both realize that E can't do it. We're screwed. We go ahead and go to the falls, noting that there are several cars on the parking lot-this means 1) that the gate on the road is open and 2) we can beg for a ride back if need be. After 15 minutes or so at the falls I decide that I will high tail it back to get the car. I know it is not smart to split up but this is a state park in Alabama, not the middle of the wilderness of Montana. We hike back from the falls to the parking lot and E is about to quit. Susan is walking with E and they are falling farther and farther behind MAC and me. I tell MAC about everything in the day pack-lighter, flashlight, cell phone. Once to the parking lot I have a decision to make- should I go back on the trail which is about 1.9 miles down hill but rocky and shrouded in fog or should I run back down the road which is about 4 miles down hill to the trailhead but decently paved road. I opt for the road. Even though it is a longer run, it is a steady downhill grade, will have traffic on it, and I am not likely to get lost on a twenty foot wide strip of gravel and asphalt. I check the time and know that it will be dark in 1 hour. The fog makes it seem like nightfall is already on us. I tell MAC that I figure I can be to the car in about 35 minutes and it will probably take another 10 to drive back up (15 mph speed limit due to the curvey road). I give Susan the day pack and my hat. I roll up my sleeves and take off down the hill.

Those of you who know me know that I wear orthotics when I run. Guess what? I am in hiking boots with NO orthotics in them. I also wearing heavy cotton shorts with a thousand pockets and not wearing nice, light weight running attire. I don't know if I should credit my somewhat physical conditioning, the fear of losing my new family in the dark to a mountain lion, the downhill grade, or just plain old fear of failure but I made it to the car with no problem and back up the mountain in 39 minutes. Credit the girls . . they decided to start walking down the road towards me so I met them about a mile down from the upper parking lot. Better still, there was no crying and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Once we got back down to the lower elevation, the fog broke and though it was twilight, things didn't seem quite so ominous. My legs and ankles are sore but I did survive. I think that I was the first one asleep that night.

I think the next time we want to "wear out" the girls, we'll just make them do jumping jacks in the driveway!