Friday, July 22, 2011


I have a new blog here:

I'll be focusing more on actual writing of actual words over there. (I'm trying, trying, trying to do 500 words five times a week.)

I MIGHT update here too sometimes, but will be more often over at Rhena Tan. Change bookmarks! Come follow me!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stuff My Husband Says About the 5K That I May or May Not Have Run

As I approached a long flat, curve through the University of Minnesota campus a thought occurred to me, "Can I finish this thing? What if I need to start walking? Would it be such a bad thing to start walking?"

A few weeks ago, I ran my first 5K, an inaugural event at the University of Minnesota that began next to and ended inside the new football stadium. In the days leading up to the run, I was nervous. I'd only been running for eight weeks or so and, while I'd run 3 miles before, I wasn't sure what would happen in an official "race." Would I burn out in the first mile? Would it be too hilly? Would I embarrass myself? I had to remember that I was running for me, I was running to meet my own goals and against my own best times. And so it was entirely in jest when, the day before the race, I asked my husband, "What if I win the whole thing?"

Without missing a beat, he replied, "I'll suspect drug use."

He paused.

"If you win and they come to me and ask, 'How did she do it?' I'll say, 'Test her for drugs.'"

He had a point.

The morning of the race, he drove me to campus, our 15 month old blabbering away in the back seat. "We forgot the camera," I told him.

"Oh, yeah, I meant to grab that," my husband joined in my lament. My dream of the sweaty, tired but happy post first 5K shot was gone.

I hopped out near the stadium. They'd park and grab some food while I warmed up and figured out where I needed to go. We'd meet up again at the end of the race, after they'd watched me cross the finish line on the big screen on the football field.

I warmed up a little. I peed. I joined the throngs heading to the start line. I found a spot at the back amidst the strollers and, as it would turn-out, the walkers. This run wasn't chip timed, so I set up my Nike+ and found the music I wanted to listen to. The race began. It was anticlimactic. Those of us at the back walked a good distance to the start line. I took off at an easy trot as I crossed the line and started passing walkers and stroller-pushers. The volume on my iPod was too low and I knew that turning it up would involve a lot of fiddling, so I let it go. I listened to feet hit pavement and conversations around me. A little boy (yes, there were children in this 5K) was telling his friend, "You can do it!" I considered pacing myself to this duo if only for the little nuggets of encouragement.

I found a stroller pusher to pace myself to: a dad in a bold blue t-shirt that was easy to find. I kept him in the corner of my eye. At the halfway point, water and sport drink tables lined the student quad area. A decidedly unbusy medic team sat near the tables. "Wow," I thought, "Nice of them to have these things at this race, but if you need water and a medic on a 5k in the middle of campus, you're probably in a pretty bad way." But I stopped that thought as soon as I had it. No need to get cocky. What if I end up needing a medic?

And so it was that as we rounded the last long curve that I found myself wondering if I did, indeed, need to start walking. My iPod told me I had 1.5 K left. I can do this, I thought. I keep the stroller pusher in the bold blue shirt in my sights. There was a slight slope down to the stadium. 400 meters left, my iPod told me. "I'm doing this," I thought. I still had some energy in my legs and some hope that I'd finish in under 34 minutes. I pushed harder around the outside of the stadium.

And as anticlimactically as it started, the race was over. I'd crossed the line. "Congratulations," a voice said over my headphones. "This is Lance Armstrong. You've just completed your fastest mile." 9:40. Or something like it. My iPod offered to send my run to Nike+ as there was a wifi signal. I sent it. Later on in the day, I found it was lost in the internet-ether.

I searched for my husband and Ada as I grabbed a banana and bottle of water. I found them, staring up, hopefully, at the big screen.

"Eric! Eric!" I called. He'd missed me crossing the finish line on the big screen.

We headed back to the car and I checked my time. Under 34 minutes, or so I remember now. With no pictures, no Nike+ record, no witnesses, I might not have even run that race.

But I know I did. And I know how sweet it was.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Break DC '11!

Ada and I went back to visit my parents and brothers in DC last weekend. The day I arrived my mom said to me, "Think of this as your vacation." I promptly changed into a bikini, slammed three shots of tequila, and ate six crispy cremes.

Not really.

First, I went for a run. My first one outdoors. It's warm enough to do that in DC right now. It is in Minneapolis too, but not at 6 am: the time that our family schedule permits a run. Running outside, in the breeze, on the concrete kicked my butt. But it was also glorious: the sun was out, the daffodils were in bloom, and the puddles were few.

Granny and Ada and I also took a walk together, went to the zoo, and hung out at their house.

I love DC. I love staying a few blocks from a huge national park. Ada loved being near a playground with swings
... until she realized that said park also had wood chips.


We chose this weekend to visit because my little bro, Pete, was running his second half marathon.

He rocked it. He rocked it really, really hard.

He picked me up at 5:30 at my parents and we headed down RFK in the dark. (Why must so much running take place in the early morning?) I stayed with him (mostly wide-eyed, taking in the thousands of runners out that morning) until he joined the herd and then waited at the start line to try to catch him passing. I could not.

Once the race had started, I figured I had enough time to ride the Metro to the mid-way point (actually about mile 7.5 out of the 13.1 miles he was running) to cheer him on there and still make it back to watch him cross the finish line. I knew exactly where I was going, I already had a ticket, and I was lucky enough to catch each train. I was walking toward the intersection, thinking about how I could stand there for about 20 minutes before I had to turn around to make it back to the finish, when lo and behold! there was my brother in his red, white, and blue American Cancer Society race shirt.

"Go! Pete! Go!" I shouted, still a good 20 feet from the intersection. He was sailing. "Run! Pete! Pete! Run!" I'm going to miss him! "Peter!" Finally he turned and pumped his fist once, twice before he was out of sight again.

I turned around and headed back to the Metro once again catching all the trains. I made it to the finish line to catch those finishing at under 1 hour and 35 minutes. I was watching these early finishers roll in, when I caught sight of, once again, a blurry red, white and blue figure, head shorn, racing sunglasses glinting in the light. Is he really already finishing?

"Pete!" I screamed. "You're almost there!" Those around me turned at my piercing shrieks. Pete did not. He sprinted across the finish.

1 hour, 36 minutes, 29 seconds. He shaved 11 minutes off of his last time and averaged 7:25 minute miles. (He also raised over 2 grand for cancer research.)

Way to go, little bro, way to go!

My lesson: when trying to get from RFK to Columbia Heights as fast as possible. Try running. It might be faster than the Metro.

With Granny still on Ada duty, I was able to get out for a cup of coffee with one of my oldest, dearest friends (whose baby kindly slept through our entire visit) without having to entertain Ada at the same time. It was luxurious. On my last day in DC, I made it out to the park for one more run. Three miles up and back to the horse stables, where the equine beasts were standing in the sun and a few of the younger ones were nipping each other's knees (didn't know horses do that kind of thing). A lovely visit overall, and almost long enough to do all the things (writing and fabric shopping and sewing and knitting and reading) that I'd love to have time to do at home, almost long enough to start to take granny for granted. I'll have to save that for the next one.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sewing and Running

Yesterday, I rewarded myself for sticking to my six-week "run for 30 minutes" program with a Nike +. It's mostly a glorified pedometer that is wirelessly linked to your iPod. You can track distances, time, calories and a soothing voice interrupts your music (or in my case audio book) to tell you when you're half-way through. Apparently there are also coaching options, but I'm not that advanced yet.
It has to be attached to your shoe to work and most Nikes have a spot built into the sole where the chip can comfortably sit. I wear New Balance. I looked around the web, however, and found this pattern at the Web Goddess Blog.
I grabbed fabric from my scrap stash and some velcro and did a really down and dirty Nike + holder.
It's not the prettiest thing I've made....

... but I used it this morning and it seems to have done the trick. I might sew closed one end of the tube so it looks a little "neater." Or maybe I'll work on my speed so I can run so fast that no one will notice.
Don't ask why I used chicken fabric. Maybe I was thinking "Chicken Run."

I might see how one in vinyl works for some weather proofing and durability.

Until then: sewing and running, together at last!

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Did It!

This morning, the room still middle-of-the-night dark, my husband tapped me on the shoulder.

"It's 6:30," he said.

I rolled over, tried to ignore him.

Then I remembered why he was waking me up. This is the morning, I thought. I've got to get to the track so I can finish this program and run for 30 minutes for the first time ever. (Admittedly, my thought did not link to the Women's Health running program. That only happens on the blog.) I dragged my tired self out of bed and got dressed and watered before driving to the gym.

On the track, I fiddled with my iPod for a little bit, delaying, it would seem, the inevitable. There would be no walking warm up or cool down as part of my 30 minutes (although I did do both just for my own comfort).

I gradually fell into my slow pace. I watched the clock and, for the first time, I actually started counting laps. Rate times time equals distance, I chanted to myself as if I was back in the tiny windowless math room of my elementary school. If I counted laps, I could figure out how fast I was actually running. Rate times time equals distance.

Last night we had a few friends over for dinner. Mary is a marathon runner and her husband, Brad, recently took up running himself. The conversation turned to exercise.

"Are you running, Rhena?" Brad asked.


"You should run the half marathon! I'm doing it. It's June 5th." Brad's better half is currently pretty pregnant and, therefore, not training for anything other then, well, creating a human being and bringing it into the world.

"I don't think I can do a half marathon by June 5th. I'm doing this program and I'm only going to get to about 3 miles tomorrow." It was really only a half-truth. I had no idea how far I was running, only that I was almost running for 30 minutes, but it seemed like a lot to explain.

"That's perfect," Mary said. "Most training programs start with a 3 mile base."

"It starts tomorrow," Brad said.

"I'll think about it. I'm really, really slow, though."

"We're very laid back. Very relaxed," Brad assured me.

"I get smoked by everyone on the track,"

"So do I!" Brad nodded.

The conversation turned towards how women runners are at their peak speed in their thirties, which, for me, is true so far. I mulled over the idea of a half marathon the rest of the evening and checked the website when our friends had left. Could I actually do this?

On the track this morning, mental and physical fatigue were starting to set in about 20 minutes into my run. The first two miles took me about 22 minutes to complete and I knew I wouldn't reach three miles in thirty minutes. Rate times time equals distance. My legs were getting tired. I don't think I can do a half marathon, I thought to myself. I imagined how it would feel to be two miles into a run, outdoors on the hard concrete with hills and the wind and the weather knowing I still had more than 11 miles to go. I can't possibly do that, I thought. I'm not even going to get to a base of 3 miles on an indoor, flat, climate-controlled track.

I watched the clock and then I tried to ignore it. I tried to calculate how long it would take me to finish three miles (34 minutes? 36 minutes?) and then let go of that thought. Five minutes until I hit thirty minutes. Four minutes left. Three minutes. Wait, I realized. I only have two minutes left and only a few more laps to get to three miles. Should I just keep going past the thirty minutes?


I kept going. One extra lap. Another one. Three miles! This is it! I'm done!I did it! I finally slowed down to a walk at 33 minutes.

Three miles.

I had done it.

As I walked an extra lap and then made my way to the stretching room, I thought again about the half marathon. Maybe I can do it. If I can make it to three, I can make it to five. If I can do five, I can do seven and then I'm more than halfway there. I don't know if I'll have the time and the discipline. We'll have to see and I'll decide in the next week or so.

In the meantime, I'm basking in the glow of passing thirty minutes, reaching three miles, and knowing that if and when I decide to run a half marathon, I will get there.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Final Week of Running Program!

A few months ago, I was having shooting pains and soreness in my hips almost everytime I carried Little A around. One day, I carried her out to the car and as I was putting her in the carseat, I nearly cried out in pain. I almost couldn't get myself in and out of the driver's seat because my hips hurt so badly. Having to get her in and our of her car seat felt nearly impossible. I started doing some lower back and hip stretches, but I still felt twinges and soreness at times. It was hard to sleep on my side for any length of time.

Then I started running.

Assuming all goes as scheduled, I'll be running 30 minutes by Monday. I wasn't able to run last weekend, so I'm one day behind on the Women's Health program. I've changed up the program in a couple of other ways. I go to an hour-long class at my gym twice a week instead of doing the at-home work-outs they recommend. I've also supplemented it with two one-hour yoga classes each week.

Thoughts so far?

I feel SO much healthier, stronger, and more energized. Sure, I'm sometimes sleepy in the afternoons, but I think that's just on the 5:30 wake up days. And the hip and lower back pain? Gone. Completely gone. I haven't felt that horrid shooting pain in my hips for weeks because my lower back and hips are stronger and stretchier.

I love doing yoga again regularly. I love the hour of quiet, meditative movement in the mornings. I love that I can really feel a difference in my flexibility and my strength. I can hold plank pose longer and can move from plank into chaturanga in one fluid motion and am close to being able to move from there into up dog without putting my knees on the floor. And I'm almost able to put my heels completely down in down dog and still keep my hips lifted. One of the things I love the most about a regular yoga practice is that there are so many modifications so when I'm having a "recovery" day, I can take an easier pose. There are always options and it's easy to see your progress.

I'm slow on the track. Really, really slow. But I'm learning that there's no shame in that. I get smoked by the other runners all the time, but I'm still running and when someone passes me on the track, I think, "Someday I'll be able to run like that." And I will.

In the first two weeks I was having some problems with a side stitch on my right. It brought me back to 7th and 8th grade when we had to run around the block for PE and I'd end up walking because of getting a side stitch (and out of pure laziness, I'm sure). I looked around on-line to find out how to get rid of them, but I kept running through them. Apparently, it's a pretty common phenomenon for beginning runners. I focused on:
  • drinking loads of water, not just before a run but throughout the day
  • breathing as deeply as I could as I ran
  • not eating anything heavy the hour or so before running
Lo and behold! The stitches have ended. I still feel a slight niggling every now and again, but I think that my diaphragm has figured out what it needs to do.

I'll do another update or two next week when I get to thirty minutes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What's All the Buzz About?

Around this time last year, Eric, Ada, and I went to the Bell Museum for a presentation about bees. I know, I know -- not exactly a wild a crazy night out, but it's close to where Eric works, there was a display about food there at the time that included pictures from Hungry Planet that I wanted to see and, with a new baby, we were taking the opportunity to get out of the house together for short jaunts.

The bee presentation ended up being, well, fascinating. We learned that bees feed over about a 2 square mile area, it takes 2-3 drops of nectar to make one drop of honey, and the queen lays about 1500 - 2000 eggs in a day. The presenter showed us how they extract honey from a hive. Eric loved the science and I loved the honey.

In order to raise bees in Minneapolis, you have to take a course about raising bees. Unfortunately, the next course at the U was full, so we signed up for October. October rolled around, we were starting to hunker down for the winter, and when the reminder about the bee course arrived in my e-mail inbox, we were decidedly unenthusiastic.

It's a weekend-long course! Who can sacrifice an entire weekend? Who can find that much childcare?

Turns out, we can. We switched to the March course and traded off attending -- Eric took the mornings, I took the afternoons. It was a mad dash to exchange information between sessions.

"Quick tell me what you learned before you forget," Eric would tell me.

"Um, the smoker demonstration wasn't very helpful because I couldn't see. I think we'll just have to practice. Raccoons won't bother the bees. We'll just let the parent colony die in the second year. By dividing the colony in the spring, you facilitate a swarm and create two colonies. The second is called a... oh, shoot, what is it called? A divide! That's what it's called."

We were frantic, full of information about bees and our kid as we swapped responsibilities.

It was fun. Once again, Eric loved the science (the adult bees maintain a temperature of 90-95 degrees in the brood nest!) and I loved the honey (we got to sample ones from around the world and I couldn't believe how many different flavors bees could come up with!).

By the end of the day on Saturday, we were texting frantically back and forth trying to figure out if this was something we'd be able to start this spring. Turns out, we should be able to. It's been a mad dash to get the Minneapolis honeybee permit and to buy the bees before the supplier in Stillwater, MN runs out of "packages" of bees, as they're called. We're taking the risk of ordering the bees before we have the neighbors sign off (we have to get 100% of the neighbors right next to our property to sign and 80% of neighbors whose property is within 100 feet of ours). We're also taking the risk in assuming that Eric is not allergic to them. He's never been stung in spite of being a country boy. I, on the other hand, stepped on a bee every summer in various backyards around the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Turns out (as we learned in the course) that bee venom allergies are very rare. A local reaction (including a lot of swelling) is not an allergic reaction.

So we're keeping bees! Watch this spot for more updates as this adventure begins and when we have a subscription to this journal:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Running Through Obstacles

When I started this running program a few weeks ago, I knew that there would be struggles. At the time, I thought the main struggle would be getting myself up and to the gym. I thought I'd just be looking for excuses. I thought that I'd get so tired and winded by the time I was up to running for five-minute stretches, that I'd just lie down in the middle of the track and declare, "Turns out I'm not a runner."

So when Tuesday of this week approached, I was pleasantly surprised that I was still looking forward to getting on the track. I packed up Little A, drove over to the gym, got changed, and took her up to the babysitting room.

When I signed up for a gym membership, a big motivation was the babysitting provided. I thought it would be a good way for her to socialize and for us to have some (very limited) time apart from each other. She did well the first few times, but a few weeks into it, I could see the slightly tortured looks on the babysitters' faces when I returned to pick her up.

"Did she cry the whole time?" I asked.

"Not if I was holding her," they'd answer.

She's a toddler, so technically she's old enough to just take one babysitting slot. They started putting her down for two spots, like an under-one-year old, because she had to be held the whole time.

My husband started calling her "Double Baby." Our needy, needy Double Baby. Still, it seemed a solution.

Then, on one trip to the gym and in the middle of a strength-training class, one of the babysitters found me. She'd been crying the whole time (Ada, not the babysitter). I had to abandon the class.

The next time, I tried to spend more time with her in the babysitting room before I left. I even tried to run around the track pushing her stroller, but she didn't want to ride in the stroller, she wanted to walk. I left the gym, having spent an hour and a half trying to get her to 1) not cling to me or 2) at least do what I wanted her to do, like sit in the stroller. I was disconsolate. I glimpsed flashes of my old life, when I could happily attend a yoga class or go for a walk without having to account for a 23 pound Double Baby.

We were mad at each other the rest of the day.

The next morning, I woke up early and went to a yoga class, leaving Ada in her dad's care. I breathed, I stretched, I laid on the floor and did absolutely nothing. I didn't even think about Ada until the last few moments of class when I sat up for a final "Namaste."

We had a much better day. I'd started out with time for myself so I was better able to focus on her when I was with her. We drew and bought a new toy and read books. I didn't resent that she was "getting in the way" of what I wanted or needed to do. As I walked with her up the stairs for the 50th time, I remembered, "She doesn't have glimpses of her 'life before.' This is all she knows."

My gut tells me that I can't take her to babysitting at the gym for at least a few weeks (maybe a few months). She's learning to walk and teething and is, after all, a Double Baby. And, for the time being, taking her there stresses both of us out more than it's really worth. Dad and I have arranged for how I can still get my alone time each day and, thankfully, a really generous friend who understands that moms sometimes need time away from kids has offered to take her for an hour here or there so that I can keep up with the running.

Was I using her as an excuse to not run that day? Possibly. Regardless, though, we've both worked passed it. Obstacle removed. No more excuses. Run.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Friend Jess and THE Red Coat

At the beginning of winter, I found a few cute items at Once Upon a Child, the second-hand kids store. The items were cute, but kind of plain Jane.

I sent them off to my friend Jess of My Friend Jess (I know confusing: our husbands always say, "We get it! Jess is your friend!" when my sister and I talk about "My Friend Jess"). Anyway, she worked her magic and transformed some cute items into some ridiculously cute items. I had to e-mail her recently and tell her that I get SO MANY comments on this little red coat that some days, if I know I'm going to be in a hurry, I wonder if I should put Little A in it because we'll get stopped so many times. I always end up putting her in it anyway because it's warm and so awesome.

Lately, after we've had some swim time at the Y, she'll practice walking while holding my hand in the lobby (why the lobby at the Y? who knows!) and every third person who walks by comments on the coat. I have to share the love and spread the word about the awesomeness that is My Friend Jess.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Running at 800 Feet

I've been listening to an audiobook while I run/ walk around the track. Music would be an easier way to get into a rhythm, but, honestly, when you're only running for two minutes at a time, rhythm isn't too much of a concern. Music (or silence) would also be an easier way to "clear" my head, which, from what real runners tell me, is one reason why some people run. I am not a real runner. I clear my head in the shower.

So I've been listening to a book. It has it's benefits. As a non-runner running, I like to distract my mind from what my body is doing. Also, I've opted for Into Thin Air (by Jon Krakauer about his ill-fated summit of Mount Everest) as my first running book. It's a great book to run to because, as uncomfortable as I am running, I often think, "At least I'm not at 27,000 feet. At least I don't need an oxygen mask... yet." This is not an ideal way to "read" a book -- I much prefer to be curled up on the sofa where I can re-read sections I like (or sections I spaced out during) -- but as I'm getting to the really gripping parts of the book, I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next. I only listen to the book while I'm on the track. Ha-HA! I've tricked myself into looking forward to running!