Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Why.

One of my most vivid memories as a child is of watching my dad warm up before a jog, circa 1980-1985. Outfitted in his "Slow but Steady" t-shirt and some fairly short shorts (think Prefontaine, mustache inclusive), Dad would stand at the top of the driveway and go through a quick series of calisthenics, readying himself for a run. First, the classic quad stretch of pulling one foot up behind him to his glutes, holding it for 10 seconds, then switching legs, followed by some side lunges/hamstring stretches, and always, always ending with ten explosive, quick jumping jacks. The intensity with which he executed the jumping jacks is what really sticks with me--he showed those jacks who was boss. After that, he was down the hill in a blitzkreig of knit and polyester, then out and about through the neighborhood for a quick jog.

Running has always been a big part of Dad's life, and he often participated in races, as is evidenced by this photo from the Charlotte Observer 10k. Fitness in general has always been really important. Both Mom and Dad are strong, coordinated, athletic people, and they encouraged my brother and me to participate in sports, to stay healthy and fit. And though I think of myself as relatively strong, to this day I have still never beaten my mother in arm wrestling. True story. She'll take you down in a flat heartbeat, smiling at you the whole time.

Earlier I wrote that why I run continues to be revealed to me, and here are three of the primary reasons:
Photos by TB
My kids. Sometimes I want to run from them, to be sure, but mostly I run so that they have a healthy, happy, confident mom, so they see running and fitness as a way of life. They may not touch a single green vegetable and may have to be bribed with a Starburst to try squash, but at the very least, they have a model of fitness that they'll hopefully see as a part of life. And that's important.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One Foot in Front of the Other.

This morning, Davis's (the 6 year old I'm running in honor of for Team in Training) mom, Kenya, sent out a Caringbridge update. Though there wasn't anything overly sad about this particular email, I found myself crying while I was reading it. Kenya doesn't write for pity by any means. But I was overwhelmed by emotion, by thinking about this child fighting cancer, and about his mom, fighting for everything else.

So many of you have kindly told me how much you've enjoyed reading the blog, how you've been inspired to run...or at least inspired to think about running, and that's something too. And though I certainly don't think of myself as inspirational(cue Wind Beneath my Wings), I'm happy that's one of the outcomes of this writing and training.

What's really inspiring is reading Kenya's updates. Her unfailing honesty about the difficulties of having a child with leukemia, her celebration of the small victories, her ability to laugh when what she probably just wants to do is cry, her trusting the doctors and nurses, her finding time to work, finding time for her daughter Grace, finding time for friends, her giving the man at Toys-r-us who's griping about the long line a dose of perspective soon after Davis's diagnosis, her faith, her strength, her humor, her keeping it all in the road for Davis and her family--that's inspiring. I'm sure some days she's just putting one foot in front of the other, willing herself to keep moving, to stay positive for Davis.

So when I was slogging through 10 miles yesterday, thinking about Kenya and Davis made putting one foot in front of the other seem like the very least that I could do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fleet Feet.

Last October before the Spinx Half-Marathon, I stopped in to Fleet Feet to buy some Gu for the race. As Jon S was ringing me up, he asked if I was running in the race the next day. I said yes, and said I was hoping to run a PR, that I'd never really trained with a goal time (1:50) in mind. I then asked him if he was running. He said yes, and then said something vague like "We'll see what happens" or "We'll see what I can do."

A few days later I was scrolling through photos of the race online, and I came across one of Jon. It was a finishing photo, one of him running around the outer edge of the baseball field, heading toward the finish line. I noticed that unlike the photos of other folks I'd been seeing, he was alone. And then in the second photo of him, he had his arm held up in the air, as in...victory.

Now there are all sorts of victories during a race, which is one thing I like so much about running. Some folks crawl across the finish line, but that's a victory because they've made it. And whenever my son asks me if I won, I say yes, everyone who ran won. Because they did.

But Jon actually won won this race. In 1:12:02. That's an average of a 5:30 mile, in case you're no good at math like yours truly, meaning that he had time to go home, take a shower, get a latte, and head back to watch me cross the finish line thirty-eight minutes later.

There are so many ways Jon could have responded when I asked him if he was running. He could have said "Yes, I hope to win" or "Yes, I've placed top three the last couple of races so hope to do the same thing here" or "Yes and you are slow but good luck anyway." Instead he answered with humility, encouragement, and genuine interest in my running, characteristics that make him an exemplary running store employee.

Fleet Feet, located at 1708-A Augusta St beside McAllister's, is hands-down the best running store in Greenville. Upon walking in the door, you're greeted kindly by anywhere from one to three people who are all willing to help you find what you need. These folks know running, like running, and want you to like running. Obviously they've each got their own running achievements, but at Fleet Feet they're more interested in helping you achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

In addition to stand-out service and a knowledgeable staff, they have great products, selection and variety. (This store is where I bought the aforementioned shorts after much perusal and thorough and helpful consideration from Elliot.) And they always have good sales so if money's a little tight, no worries-you can still come away with some quality goods and feel great about supporting a local business. As a former employee of The Open Book, which is sadly no more, I recognize how important local business is in not only providing great service, knowledge and products, but also in promoting a sense of community and pride in that particular community. Fleet Feet is an integral part of Greenville's running community and they do a great job fostering this through group runs, pub runs, and Girls'/Guys' Night Out, among other activities.

So if you want to get involved in Greenville's running community or if you just need a new pair of shoes, Gu, or anything else running related, head to Fleet Feet. You won't be disappointed!

Post Script photo of Joy and I finishing the Spinx last year, not in first place but victors nonetheless!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting Chicked.

We're back at the beach again, this time with my mom
and dad at Ocean Isle Beach. I brought the boys on Tuesday and we've been having a great time playing on the beach, fishing with Mimi and Bobo, watching cable tv (a treat since the very
austere Barnhardts only have 12 channels at home-did you know there's a show called "Confessions:Animal Hoarders" on Animal Planet??), and trying to thwart Cameron's insistent pleas to go to "Myrtles Beach" and play putt putt at one of the volcano/airplane/dinosaur tourist traps. Aside from that, I've been trying to say yes as much as possible. Sometimes I need a vacation just from saying no.

Thanks to very gracious parents I am able to keep up with my training while I'm here, and so went for a four mile run yesterday afternoon around 5:45 and a six mile run this morning. It goes without saying that it was hooooot, and humid, and windy and flat. It was fine, really, because I was happy to be out running. It was fine, that is, until I got passed.

I could hear the guy coming up behind me for about 20 seconds, and when he finally did pass, I started laughing and said "That's very unsporting of you!" He laughed, continued to pass me, and said "I got passed by two teenagers yesterday, so I know how it feels. Keep it up!"

Like most people, I would much prefer being the passer rather than the passed. And in a race, I typically do pass people, especially in the last 3 miles or so. Now let me be clear. I'm not up in the lead pack, passing people at a 6 minute mile clip, elbowing them out of the way for a spot in the top ten. I'm passing people who came out too fast, or who are falling apart towards the end, or who have pulled a hammy and are just trying to bring it in steady. That's who I'm passing.

It was recently brought to my attention that there's a term for getting passed by a girl-"getting chicked." When I heard this, I laughed. Kinda. I laughed the kind of laugh that my brother and I laugh when something's kind of funny, kind of not, kind of maybe making us want to put the beat down on someone. Anyone who knows both of us knows the accompanying face-somewhere between a smirk and a smile, with a little bit of trouble behind the eyes.

What's the term when you get passed by a guy then? "Normal" or "typical" or "expected"? Now don't worry--I'm not going to go all Gloria Steinem/Naomi Wolf/Soujourner Truth "Ain't I a Woman" on you, but I'm thinking about it. I am.

For now I suppose I'll call getting passed by a guy-or girl-motivation. If you've ever run, you know it can be demoralizing to get passed. But it can also serve to get you moving a little faster, to pick up the pace, or to just flat out keep going. I'll never forget Maddy passing me on the bike in the Greenville Tri last first I just wanted to keep her in my sights. When that wasn't happening, I just wanted to catch up to her and her sweet tri-suit during the run.

Getting passed by Maddy made me push that much harder, not so much because I wanted to beat her (though that would have been nice too), but mainly because I wanted to do my best, to put it all out there and put down the best race possible.

So whether you get "chicked" or you get "motivated" or you get "manned", keep going, like the guy who passed me encouraged me to do. You'll be happy you did. And you never know-you may end up chicking/motivating/manning them too.

Monday, July 12, 2010


This past Saturday afternoon Jay and I volunteered at the Greenville Drive 5k. Though my position on the route at mile 2.5 was not exactly scenic-see left-I did at least get to point folks to the shade about 200 ft up on the right, where they turned in to the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

It was hot and I was wearing a thick black cotton volunteer T-shirt, but I can't really complain because I was standing around, not running. It was a small race, probably 200 people, and the participants ran the gamut from the winner, who averaged a 5:25 pace, to 12 year old boys, to mother-daughter combos, to walkers, to folks from the Gateway House.

I love a race. I especially love cheering during a race. I am that girl, the one who tells you that you are awesome, to stay strong, that you're looking great. Sometimes people wave, sometimes they say thank you, sometimes they ignore me, and sometimes they look like they want to knock my block off. I've been there; I get it. The interminably peppy are often irritating, especially in situations such as these. But I've been in plenty of races when all I want to see is someone on the sidelines, someone telling me I'm doing well, someone telling me I don't look like I'm about to expire. Even if it's a bold-faced lie.

I'll never forget last October when Chuck and Katie and their two small boys were hanging out at mile 11 of the Spinx half, in the rain, holding a sign that Charlie had made with my name on it. Or in January 2004 when Katie and Clark and their then 2 boys showed up at the end of the TR half, right before Joy and I had to climb that excruciating hill to the finish line. Or when Rob and Stephanie and their 2 girls cheered Joy and me on at the end of the Spinx half in 2007. These unexpected displays of support, these gestures of friendship--to a runner in a race, these are vital, they keep us going.

During a recent race, a friend was running on the course with no one in sight. Below details what kept her going, a short but effective conversation she had with a spectator.

Spectator: Dude. You are so kicking a** right now.
Friend, irritated: What?
Spectator, after looking into the distance behind Friend: Seriously, I can't even see anyone behind you. That's how far ahead you are.

This story, it makes me laugh. It made my friend laugh, and helped her get through the last portion of the race with a smile on her face. And at the end of the day, that's what we're out there to do, after all. Have fun, push the limits, make some friends, laugh, get stronger, see what we can do. And support each other.

So you should sign up for a race, to run or volunteer. You know I will support you, cheer you on, and will definitely have a sign with your name on it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What you gon' do with all that junk?

A month or so ago, my facebook status update read

Kelley Dickerson Barnhardt apologizes to anyone who may have just seen her running in her husband's (ridiculously short and revealing) running shorts.

These things were skimpy, I'm telling you. I felt like I was running around town in a speedo, and I'm not sure I have the chops to do that. The one benefit, however, was that what was supposed to be an easy run turned into a tempo run, as I was trying to get home as fast as possible so fewer people could rest their eyes on my pasty white thighs.

Well guess what? It's your lucky day if you missed the aforementioned spectacle, because I just bought the exact same pair of shorts on Monday.

Finding the right running gear has been a challenge. I wish I were more like my sister-in-law, Joy, who can roll up in her lady coach shorts, or her cute tights, or heck she could run in cut-off jean shorts and probably not have any problems. But due to a proclivity for rashes and chaffing (is this too much information?), I have to be particular about what I wear. Factor in 3 children in 4 years and the search becomes even more complicated, an evolving process that's seen my size fluctuate from Medium to Maternity with a whole range of flabbiness in between.

I was into running skirts for a while. Can't wear those anymore.

Then onto knee-length spandex. Can't really do those either.

Occasionally I'll rock a pair of LA Gear spandex, cotton/poly/lycra blend, that I've had since 1992. The first time I pulled those out I had to text my cousin, Jeanne, knowing that she would both appreciate and be appalled by 1)the fact that I still owned them and 2) the fact that I look totally ridiculous in them but still wear them because I'm clueless that way.

The offending shorts, pictured above, are men's, made by Brooks, and are commonly referred to as "splits" because they split up the leg and basically reveal the unfortunate-looking upper part of my quads/glutes. But after trying on many pairs of shorts, these were the ones I settled on. The women's Nike shorts that everyone wears that are so cute made me look like I had big balloons on my backside. And after wearing the splits, the other shorts just had so much...fabric. These shorts, I swear, I'm going to look like a pegasus striding towards the sun in these. Like Jason F, or Scott B, or AK, or my husband.

I've learned from buying a lot of cheap stuff that having a few nice pairs of shorts, socks, etc, does make a difference, if not in increasing my speed then at least in my mind (I'm a pegasus!). That being said I have some great inexpensive Champion running shorts from Target that will probably last a few years, at least until shorts no longer work for me and I'll have to start running brother's wrestling singlet from college? Anyone?

So, apologies to anyone who now sees me running around town in my (ridiculously short and revealing) running shorts.

They work for now. And I'm going for it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Start Spreading the News.

I bought our plane tickets for New York last night! Three total-for Jay, Cameron, and me.

Then I promptly ate a whole box of ginger snaps.

Buying plane tickets is always stressful for me; I sat at the computer for an hour and a half, agonizing over this arrival time and that departure time, this seat or that seat. Even though we used miles and Team in Training will reimburse my ticket (assuming I meet my minimum, that is), I'm always worried I've got the date wrong, or something will come up, or it's just so darn expensive to travel, blah blah blah.

When Jay went to get ready for bed, I was ready to pull the trigger, having discussed all possible options with him. When he came back out a few minutes later and the scre
en was still on the "Purchase Now" option, I knew it was time.

So I'm committed to going to New York for the weekend of November 5-9. Jay and I are taking Cameron for a special kindergarten adventure, and Jay's sister Elizabeth has very graciously offered to keep Thomas and Patrick. She's a brave woman.

Also due tomorrow are my Re-Commitment forms for Team in Training, which means I'll also be running a marathon during the above weekend in New York.

Committing to plane tickets and recommitting to TNT, as it were, is reminiscent of going to college. Telling people, "Yes, I'm going to Chapel Hill in the fall" is vastly different from actually going to Chapel Hill in the fall. The theoretical, the idea of college comes crashing down when your parents back the van up to Ehringhaus, move you into your unairconditioned room on the 6th floor that you're sharing with a girl you've never met, and then drive away, leaving you stranded-I mean standing-on the curb, wondering whether you should chase after them or whether you should head back up the 1970s urine-soaked elevator and make friends with your trumpet-playing potluck roommate.

But once I've committed, I'm in. After watching the last bit of Dad's van edge around the corner, I pulled myself together and got on that elevator up to the 6th floor (baseball side) met my roommate(who turned out to be great), and crammed a lifetime's worth of memories into my time at UNC. And I'm committed now, to running for a cure, to honoring those fighting cancer and those who've lost the fight, to making this training count for something more than just sore muscles.

Thanks for coming along with me and for helping me make it count.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Runner with Style.

This past weekend on July 4th, my good friend Heather ran her first 10k in Atlanta in the super-hot, super-crowded, and hopefully super-awesome Peachtree Road Race.

Heather came out of the blocks marginally motivated-she did get to buy a new running outfit, after all, so she wouldn't have to run in her oversized Chi-O cotton T's from college. But despite the outfit, she's not exactly what we'd call 100% dedicated-not yet, at least. The text she sent me the other day of her McDonald's lunch, which read "Lunch of a 10k champion" featured a photograph of a quarter pounder with cheese, a large fry, and a large frappucino.

Despite what some may consider a
lackluster training diet, she did get some decent runs in before the race and though I haven't gotten an official post-race recap, she did set a PR and hopefully had a great time. Her husband Len also ran, but Len's had the fever for a while now.

What I love about Heather signing up for this 10k is that she did so in the spirit of camaraderie, in an attempt to "get" what it is that Len gets, to understand what all this fuss is about running. The other thing I love is that if you've ever seen Heather, you'd know that she is absolutely made for running. Those of us built like brick houses look at those built like Heather-long, lean legs and arms, and we think, man. What's that like? Like a gazelle. Like a deer. Not like a tank, which is often how I feel. And you can see for yourself at right that she makes running look good!

And again, though she is not yet particularly dedicated to running, she is dedicated to her family, friends and to Simply Stitched, her monogram business, which you can find here. The photos above showcase some of her work; thanks to her the Barnhardts always look at least somewhat put-together, (when I can actually wrangle them into some clothes-all of the neighbors and passersby of Meyers Drive can attest to this fact.) Her website is still under construction but be sure to check back soon or call her if you need the perfect gift. She's so ridiculously talented and creative I find myself looking for excuses for her to monogram things for me. Oh look! My running socks! Those would be cute with my initials!

So Heather is a dedicated wife, mom, daughter, sister, business woman, friend and...runner?

She's run 6.2. And that's quite a start!

Friday, July 2, 2010

High Five.

The aforementioned non-running friend ran 5 miles this past week.

Though I don't think it was particularly transcendent for her, it was at the very least a huge accomplishment. Keeping in mind that it was 94 degrees and 100% humidity and running this past week was akin to trudging through a gelatinous force field caped in a hot, wet blanket, 5 miles is undoubtedly a big deal.

Marc Parent, author of the Newbie Chronicles published monthly in Runner's World, writes about the first time he ran five miles--I'd post a link but it was only published in April and thus not available. Of this experience, he writes
I had just run five miles, and five miles makes you different. I felt it immediately...At the shopping center, I seriously thought people might see it for themselves. I felt like a completely different person--different from anyone who hadn't run five--far more different than if I were wearing a bird suit and people would certainly notice and possibly comment on that. Maybe the checkout woman would finish my order and say, Total is $58.60 and--wait, did you just run five miles? Strangers in the parking lot would yell across the rows of cars, Yo-five mile...Yo--Hawaii 5-0...Yo--fivealicious.
Marc Parent recognizes that it's a Big Deal, and anyone who's ever run those fivealicious miles--or not!-- knows it is too, so I thought I'd send my friend a shout out. Even the Boss says "Tramps like us/ baby we were Born to Run(five miles!)" and who's going to refute him?