Race recap: Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

9 Oct

The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon was another for the books. Three years ago, this race was — what felt like then — the race of a lifetime. This year, this race was better, if only because it brought me a new personal record.

I again went into this race relaxed. I had a good shot at beating my time from three years ago. I had trained hard, putting in the hill training and speed work over the previous four months. I had endured some brutally hot, humid weather. I had stayed, for the first time in a few years, illness- and injury-free. I was excited to see Christopher and the girls, my mom and my dad along the course. I was excited to run through familiar neighborhoods and along the iconic lakefront.

My mom drove me to Grafton High School, and we scurried inside to stay warm until it was time to head toward the starting line. We finally headed outside with about 15 minutes until race start. I lined up behind the 4:20 pace group, but ahead of the 4:30 pace group with intentions of staying comfortably between them. The race director counted down and blew the horn, and we set out for our 26.2-mile journey.

Just like three years ago, somewhere between Mile 1 and 2, as the course ventured into its only truly “rural” setting, the breeze blew in the unmistakable smells of a dairy farm. I laughed as everyone around me grimaced. I took that moment of deja vu as a good omen for the race.

At about Mile 5, I saw my mom. I did not expect to see her out on the course, so I was pleasantly surprised. She was so excited and cheered so loudly and proudly.

I felt some aches and pains around this point of the race, but I shook them off. I had too far to go to get into my own head about those tings and twinges. I told myself to push forward, nice and easy.

Around Mile 8, I saw Christopher and the girls, my dad, and our good friend Bass. I was so glad to see them with their signs, which together read “There goes our hero. Watch her as she goes.” (Extra credit to those of you who know from where those phrases were clipped.)

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Between miles 8 and 15, the course heads south through Mequon and Bayside, fairly close to the lake, where the houses are beautiful and large, but the roads are pretty quiet. There were plenty of spectators, many who used our first names, which were printed on our bibs.

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Around Mile 15, and again after Mile 20, I saw Christopher and the girls and my dad again.

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At that point, my low back was really sore. I tried to focus on remaining upright and pulling in my core to support my spine and tailbone. I reminded myself there was just over 6 miles left of the race and, with a steady 10-ish-minute mile, a personal best at the finish.

After Mile 20, the course gets into familiar territory–the UW-Milwaukee campus, Lake Park, and Lincoln Memorial Drive. It’s always such an incredible sight to head toward downtown.

There are three aid stations between miles 21 and 25; I had not truly walked through any of the aid stations until those last three, forcing myself to relax my stride. I probably lost the most time in those three stops, but I needed those mental breaks.

In the last two miles, I pushed it as much as possible. Whereas Mile 23 was my slowest mile of the race at 11:22, Mile 26 was my second-fastest of the second half at 10:01 (Mile 13 also was a 10:01, while Mile 15 was a 9:58).

The last quarter-mile of the race is unlike the last stretch of any other marathon: The crowd is thick on either side of a fairly narrow path. Spectators fill bleachers 10 feet into the air on either side of the chute. It is loud, as people are cheering, clanging cowbells, and clapping, and the race director is calling out the names of runners as they cross the finish line.

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I picked off other runners down that quarter-mile stretch, catching up to the 4:30 pacers, who I had lost in the last 4 or 5 miles of the race. The clock read 4:30…

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It was close. But I didn’t care. I wanted nothing more than to stop running; my stomach was uneasy, my legs were shredded. I had given it everything.

After I had my medal around my neck, I trudged through the muddy finish area to claim my gear bag and my snack bag. In the runner-spectator meeting area, I finally found Christopher and the girls and my dad. At that moment, I found out my time was about 4:29 — a PR by 10 to 20 seconds. I couldn’t believe it. I squeaked it out. I truly had left everything out on the course.

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The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon was, once again, such an incredible race. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m really doing this running thing and not just dreaming it. I can’t believe my body, my mind, and my heart allow me to dream so big and accomplish so much. I am blessed to have a husband who, year in and year out, supports me through weekend-morning long runs and busy race days. I have daughters who fuel my fire and are my motivation to do hard things. I have an incredible family and amazing friends who believe in me, support me, and put up with all of my crazy running adventures.

Here’s to another 26.2-mile adventure…

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Distance: 26.2 miles
Duration: 4:29:18
Average pace: 10:16 per mile
Miles 1-6.2: 1:00:38
Miles 6.2-13.1: 1:09:08
Miles 13.1-20: 1:13:10
Miles 20-26.2: 1:06:22

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Race recap: ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon

25 Sep

I was fortunate enough to serve as an ambassador for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon on Sept. 15, in Delavan, Wis. It was my first ZOOMA event, my first women-only race, and my first half marathon in more than a year.

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This summer, the weather has been brutal in terms of heat and humidity, and even into the middle of September, it continued to be brutal. A beautiful sunrise over the lake gave way to race-start temperatures in the low 70s.

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I approached the starting line relaxed. I didn’t intend to “race” this half marathon. I planned to run comfortably (saving my racing legs for the marathon) and to enjoy the course and the experience.

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We left Lake Lawn Resort and headed southwest around Delavan Lake, an area that 10 years ago was quite familiar to me, but whose rolling hills had escaped my memory. The pace groups thinned pretty quickly, many ladies undoubtedly holding back because of the the hills and humidity. I ran as much as possible, slowing up hills when necessary, otherwise slowing only through water stations.

We ran along township and county roads, past beautiful lakefront homes. We spent about more than a half-mile (in Mile 7) along a channel that feeds into the lake, where on either side of the channel folks have small boats tied to private docks. It was so quaint!

We chugged uphill a fair amount in Mile 8 and Mile 9, as we headed northeast around the lake. I maintained my steady 9:30-ish pace, until I saw my family right around the marker for Mile 10, where I stopped to kiss the girls and grouse about the hills.

The route around the lake continued onto Highway 50, which by that time was busy with weekend traffic. We ran on the gravel shoulder, past whizzing vehicles, in full sunshine. I was so warm; I could feel my face was red and probably slightly sunburned.

Finally, for the last 1.1 miles, we turned back into the resort, running first on a gravel road around part of the gold course and then on a paved walkway right along the lake. I had lost my reliable signal after about 3 miles, so I had run most of the race without music. I finally took my headphones out of my ears and my phone out of my belt as the finish line approached, and I just soaked in the sounds of cheering — my favorite being “Yay Mama!” from Anna and Elise.

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I ran through the finish with my arms up in celebration, a smile on my face. I had pulled out a really great half marathon, missing my personal best (from 2016) by only 22 seconds! I was proud.

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After a bit of relaxing and refueling (and imbibing with Lake Lawn Punch, aka vodka and pink lemonade), we watched Anna and Elise in the kids’ race.

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They ran really well and earned their very own medals, of which they are–not surprisingly–very, very proud!

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My heart was very full by the end of the morning.

The ladies behind the ZOOMA race series did a really wonderful job resurrecting this race, and I was honored to be a part of it. The whole experience was so positive and supportive. It reinforced why I am so proud to be a part of the running community.

Distance: 13.1 miles
Duration: 2:05:28
Average pace: 9:35 per mile

Free learning resources for school-age children

24 Sep
Fall is official here! And while that brings with it the fun of playing in the leaves, dressing up for trick-or-treating on Halloween, and visiting the apple orchard and pumpkin patch, it also brings the hard work of learning to read, write, and count.
Anna and Elise are kindergartners this year, and they are thriving in their all-day classroom settings. Both girls (they are in different classes with different teachers) already have a dozen or so sight words memorized, can write their names properly, and can describe their environs using “above,” “below,” and “beside,” among other descriptors.
The girls’ teachers do not believe in issuing homework to kindergartners, as the daylong work of learning is taxing enough for their little bodies and brains. But they do ask us, as parents and families, to read at least 10 minutes a day and, if we’re able, to practice their “popcorn” words (words that pop up frequently in text and in conversation) and their amassing math skills.
One way parents can help their children reinforce their newly acquired skills is with free worksheets and activities from Education.com.
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Anna and Elise tackled this cute Halloween matching worksheet this afternoon. They sounded out the words, and while there were a few tricky ones (deciphering between “candy” and “candle” and “castle”), they successfully found each matching picture.
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Check out Education.com this fall! Their worksheets, puzzles, mazes, color-by-number pages, and more (all of which are broken down by grade and topic) are a great supplement to what your children are learning in school!

Race recap: Hard Cider Run

21 Jun

It’s been a long time since a race recap has appeared ’round these parts… But Christopher and I ran a really fun 5K race last weekend — the first 5K we’ve raced in almost 3 years!

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The Hard Cider Run is a series of races held mostly in the Midwest and Northeast at orchards, wineries, and cider mills. Participants run a scenic 5K through the apple trees and earn a sweet glass of hard cider at the finish.

We have bypassed so many short-distance races in favor of full and half marathons the last few years, because we opted to spend our race dollars on the Big Kahunas — races in which we get more bang for our buck. But we signed up for this one not only because it was local, but also because our entry fee got us a T-shirt, finisher’s medal, and commemorative stemless glass.

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The race was Saturday morning at Jonamac Orchard in Malta, Ill., about 10 minutes west of DeKalb. The weather was brutal: hot (temperatures in the low 80s at race start) and humid.

We were placed in the first corral, which actually proved to be a blessing. The race was popular, although the unfriendly weather likely kept a good number of people away, but the first corral was not very crowded. We had plenty of room to run.

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Christopher and I didn’t have any time goals, but we figured since we were in the first corral, we might as well try to go as fast as we could, for as long as we could, given the conditions.

We ran almost entirely on grassy “trails” that wound through the orchard, only stepping on crushed limestone or gravel “roadways” to turn into the next line of trees and, at the end, to come down the finish chute.

The first stretch of the route was situated where the orchard has its corn maze, so it had been tilled last in the late fall; it was uneven and filled with ruts, roots, and rocks. I unfortunately stepped right in one of those holes and fell flat onto my knees and stomach. I got right back up, brushed off the dirt, and kept on.

Our first two miles were 8:20 and 8:25, respectively, and we benefited from an occasional breeze. Our last mile was 9:10, when the sun was at its highest and hottest, and the breeze had stopped.

The final stretch of the route was situated where the orchard has its “attractions” in the fall — a petting zoo, children’s play area, etc. — which meant all of the spectators gathered there to cheer on the runners. We spotted our family — my dad and his sister came down to watch the girls while we ran — and bolted down the chute; my RunKeeper says that last quarter-mile was a 7:50 pace!

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I crossed at 27:26 which is my second-fastest 5K — only 30 seconds off my personal best from 3 years ago and good enough for third place in my division. It’s just too bad the race didn’t hand out age-group awards!

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This was a fun, well-organized race with lots of perks! It was well worth the $35 registration and is a truly fun 5K, especially for runners who don’t often race the shorter distances or for those just starting out on their distance-running journey.

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 27:26 chip time
Average pace: 8:50 per mile
Mile 1: 8:21
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 9:11

Free learning resources for parents

10 May
Summer is both a fun and challenging time for us: The girls are out of school, which means more time for outdoor activities, special projects, and day trips; but the girls are out of school, which means less structured activity, fewer school projects, and quicker boredom.
We enrolled the girls in summer camp at the YMCA three mornings a week, so I can maintain my hours at work on those busy days; they’ll go to Kids Zone at the YMCA the other two mornings (or evenings), on my less busy days.
They’ll still get some structure with camp, but our other mornings, and all of our afternoons, are sure to need some.
My grand plan this summer is to institute a weekly schedule that incorporates arts and crafts, science, cooking, playing, and learning, possibly following the camp theme each week.
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I hope to impart not only academic-type lessons, but also personal and social skills (e.g. age-appropriate chores, manners, etc.) through hands-on and play-based activities — just as the girls have gotten in preschool.
But I undoubtedly will run out of steam and inspiration, so I am really excited that there is a veritable treasure trove of resources at Education.com.
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This cute maze, for example, is something the girls will love!
I’m also a fan of this sight words bingo worksheet and this home scavenger hunt idea.
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Check out Education.com this summer! Their worksheets, puzzles, mazes, color-by-number pages, and more (all of which are broken down by grade and topic) are a great supplement to your summer activities!

How I stopped short-order cooking for my kids

26 Apr

My daughters, Anna and Elise, are 4 1/2 years old, and have been pretty picky eaters since they gained enough independence to make decisions about what foods they like and don’t like — especially for dinner.

Maybe more than 2 years ago, for lunches, I introduced the “snack plate”, which was an ice cube tray that I filled with little bites and nibbles of a variety of foods: lunch meat, cheese, crackers or chips, raisins, nuts, cut-up fruits and vegetables — and very occasionally, a sweet treat.

But around that same time, for dinners, I found myself making a meal for the girls, and then a meal for Christopher and me. Sometimes, I would get brave and hopeful, and I would make something especially for them with hidden vegetables or beans — butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese, spaghetti pie with garbanzo noodles, zucchini-turkey meatballs with marinara — and other times, I relied on the staples: chicken nuggets, (boxed) mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza, waffles or pancakes, and sandwiches.

Rejection after rejection left me feeling dejected and under-appreciated — by two little 3-year-olds! I was cooking food especially for them — delicious AND nutritious food — and they hated it…and thus, they hated me. (#overdramatic)

Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago: I joined a Facebook group run by two mamas of little ones, who also happen to be registered dietitians and have a lot of knowledge and first-hand experience with feeding children. The conversation among the women in that community was immediately inspiring.

Simultaneously, Christopher and I have been starting to prepare the girls for the next developmental stage: kindergarten. Anna and Elise are beyond ready, academically, and for the most part, socially and emotionally, but they still have some growing up to do…and one of those benchmarks is being able to eat a well-balanced meal, focus on eating and not talking or playing (because 20 minutes is all they will have for lunch in the cafeteria), and having good table manners.

So, a little more than 2 weeks ago, I decided the girls were going to eat the same dinner (or almost the same dinner) as Christopher and me. And it’s gone surprisingly well!
Here’s how I did it:

1. I involved the girls in the meal-planning process. I sat them in front of my Pinterest boards and my cookbooks, and I suggested recipes they might like, explaining the ingredients and flavors with familiar and positive words. I didn’t limit it to dinner, either; I let them select breakfast, lunch, and snack recipes, too, if things caught their interest.

2. I involved the girls in the cooking process, as much as possible, and when appropriate. They dumped ingredients into the mixing bowl when we made snack bars and muffins. They helped roll up lasagna noodles when we made spinach-ricotta lasagna rolls. They rolled meatballs when we made zucchini-turkey meatballs.

3. I purposely served our first family meal on a weekend night, when we all could eat together at the table. Christopher and I were both there to encourage the girls, as well as model good manners and good eating habits. We continue to eat together, at the table, whenever possible — most usually on the weekends.

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3a. I purposely deconstruct as much of the meal as possible. For example, we selected a spring vegetable and gnocchi skillet, and while Christopher and I had it all together in a bowl, the girls had their gnocchi, vegetables (corn, tomatoes, and zucchini), and kielbasa separate.

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4. I ask that they take at least one bite of anything new or different on their plate. Some parents don’t believe in making their children take a “no thank you” bite, and prefer to let their children make the decision about what and how much to eat. I disagree; I believe that even one small, apprehensive bite could lead to more and enthusiastic bites. Just the other night, Anna and Elise took nervous slurps of coconut carrot soup, only to finish their entire servings.

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5. I put at least one or two things on their plate that they will definitely eat. Most nights, the girls get some kind of fruit with dinner — applesauce, strawberries, or mandarin oranges. Sometimes, they get bread or crackers with cheese or hummus. For example, when we had that coconut-carrot soup, the girls had a piece of French bread with cream cheese, a hot dog, and a pickle with their small bowl of soup.

5a. I am not above hiding veggies in familiar snack foods. We’ve made roasted carrot-oat bars, and while the girls don’t like them plain — they prefer them with a simple cream cheese frosting — they still are eating a pretty nutritious snack. We’ve also made chocolate-avocado muffins, and the girls love them.

6. I incentivise the act of trying new foods. I did this shortly after preschool started this past fall, because the girls would come home and tell me what their snack was, but admit that they hadn’t taken even one bite of the fruit or vegetable, and I was tired of them a) not getting a well-balanced snack and b) wasting food. We used a sticker chart: The girls received a sticker every time they tried something new, and they could pick a small toy from the dollar store after they earned five stickers. It was very motivating for them, and since then, the girls have grown to love grapes, oranges, and raspberries, and they have tried salsa. More recently, the incentive is a lot simpler: I tell the girls to think of how proud Daddy and I will be if they try (and better yet, finish) these new and different meals. And it works! Last night, the girls literally shouted when Christopher walked in the door, “Daddy! We had carrot soup!”

My method might not work for you and your children, but it might give you some ideas. And my method is nothing new or unusual, but it is comprised of tried-and-true strategies. I encourage you, if you are struggling, to just try one or two of these tactics. Maybe start with a sticker chart, or start by having your kids eat one meal a week the same as you and your partner. Maybe start with lunch, rather than dinner. Maybe take it a step further and let your kids (this works especially well for older children) pick a new fruit or vegetable at the store, and then help you decide how to prepare it for a meal.

I don’t know why we waited so long, but I guess the silver lining is the girls must have been ready, because this transition has gone really smoothly. And my stress level has gone way down.

The only tricky part is finding meals and recipes that fit this new normal…

I am a ZOOMA Great Lakes ambassador!

16 Apr

Abassador Badge Great Lakes

I am thrilled to be an ambassador for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon this year!

The ladies-only event features not only a half marathon, but a half marathon relay and a 5K, too. It takes place Sept. 14-15, at the beautiful Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wis.*

Register at http://zoomarun.com/race/great-lakes and use the promo code “KAYLA2018” for a discount off any of the races.

ZOOMA Great Lakes offers races for women of all abilities, as well as a post-run celebration, yoga sessions, and great swag — all against the incredible backdrop of a Midwestern lake in the fall.

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Join me for the weekend. Bring your mom, your sister, your girlfriends. I promise you’ll have an incredible experience! And I promise, I’ll be one of your biggest cheerleaders!

The details:

ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay and 5K
Sept. 14-15, 2018
http://zoomarun.com/race/great-lakes
Next price increase is May 1.

 

*Fun fact: I worked as a reporter for the Janesville Gazette for a couple of years, and I covered Walworth County, which includes the city of Delavan.