Come for the job. Stay for the walk.

Today it is 71 degrees in Hastings, MN. Over my lunch hour, I can head in any direction for an uplifting three mile walk with a good chance of spotting an eagle.

The Mississippi River and the Vermillion River run parallel to one another and are separated by a 17-by-2.5-mile tract of floodplain forest.

I’m within walking distance of Vermillion Falls. A paved walking/biking trail follows the river in both directions.

Last fall during one walk I found myself at Mill Ruins at Old Mill Park and felt just like I had when I used to skip high school. Happy. The path to Old Mill Park also leads to Adams Park and Bullfrog Pond and to the rest of the 15 mile trail system that loops around town.

Mill Ruins

Mill Ruins

If I head behind the manufacturing plant where I’m a Human Resources Manager, I am in Veterans Athletic Complex and can take a right to follow a paved trail past a plowed field down a hill overlooking a valley.

Walking south takes me to Hastings Sand Coulee identified as one of the most biologically important sites in Dakota County. I came upon it all of a sudden. The 2.5 mile long coulee is a former

Hastings Sand Coulee

Hastings Sand Coulee

glacial stream valley. It is registered as a Scientific Natural Area. I walked a grass path that ended at an old cemetery that sits on top of the western bluff. 69 bird species have been recorded at this site.

 

Recently I started using Runkeeper during my walks. Runkeeper is a free app for your iphone that 28 million people are already using. Track your runs, walks, bike rides, hikes and more using the GPS in your iPhone.

I like the Runkeeper so much – It’s so EASY, so I’ve been using that instead of the pedometer I’m in charge of introducing to our employees next Monday.

Whatever your activity is today – Get Out and Enjoy.

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Why Run A Half Marathon?

Half Marathon start wearing a trash bag

Half Marathon start. Wearing our trash bags.

What am I doing? I asked myself at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

Often I find myself asking this question—whether it’s getting bitten by a police dog, jumping off a cliff, or sparring a 20-something man.

Why do we do what we do?

I would have 13.1 miles to ponder this question, if I followed through on running Grandma’s Half Marathon.

It wasn’t that I haven’t run a half marathon before. I have, many of them. I’ve also run many full marathons—the entire 26.2 miles—Twin Cities, Grandma’s, Chicago, Big Sur, Whistlestop, etc… Some of them, I’ve run more than twice.

Most likely, I asked myself, What am I doing? then too.

Starting Line

Gun has gone off. Moving towards the start.

Saturday morning, it was drizzling. If it was a downpour, I wouldn’t have left our tent trailer where Antonio, Crystel and the dogs were sleeping—warm and dry.

There were times that I haven’t made it to the start line. On one occasion, I had a broken toe. Others, maybe I wasn’t prepared for the venture.

Today my only reason would be that it was a little wet. That wasn’t enough to keep JODY out of the half marathon so I didn’t even bring it up. I knew that I would feel bad if the weather cleared and the sunrise took care of the haze and most importantly, JODY would be out there running the race and not Beth.

Why We Do What We Do, Reason #1: We are partnered with a person who follows through when we might quit if left on our own.

I’ll admit right now that Jody is a better person than me and a much better athlete. With that thought, I just got into the van for the ride from the KOA in Cloquet to the Duluth Convention Center where we would board a bus and be taken to the start of the half marathon.

Discarded clothing and trash bags. I kept mine for the first mile.

Discarded clothing and trash bags. I kept mine for the first mile.

Generally, if I am able to get myself to a race, I can finish it. Even if I fall down in the first few miles like I did during a rollerblading marathon. I picked myself up, swatted at the road rash and kept going. I still have the scars.

There are events when wearing a trash bag is perfectly good attire, even envied. Saturday morning was one of those times. It didn’t appear that the drizzly weather was going to quit.

I had a strategy for the half marathon. I was going to run walk it. So the fact that I hadn’t run walked more than 7 miles to get ready for the half didn’t bother me.

Reason #2: To see if we can actually do something that we aren’t prepared to do.

I thought that I could run 10 minutes, walk five minutes and in that manner I would stay in front of the bus that would pick you up if you were too slow. It clearly stated the time requirement in the rules: A policy regarding time requirements will be implemented for the half marathon. The policy requires participants to maintain a 14-minute-per-mile pace (finish in 3:03:40). Those unable to maintain this pace along the course will be bused back to the DECC parking lot. Failure to comply with this time policy will result in immediate disqualification.

My new goal. To keep her in my sights.

My new goal. To keep her in my sights.

I’ve been threatened before with a mandatory bus pickup, but it hadn’t happened … yet. Now is the moment to tell you that I did run a marathon with my adult niece who was in the portapotty when they were coming to clear the course. I had to stop them from loading her and the potty onto the semi bed. She should be forever grateful to me.

When the race crowd surged forward, Jody and I knew the run had started. We moved with the wave and soon Jody was saying her goodbyes.

I altered my running strategy to run the first 3 miles and not walk any of it, because I knew that I could run that far without stopping and in that way gain minutes on the bus. You might think I am jesting here, but my goal was to finish the half marathon in 3:00:00 hours. That only gave me a 3 minute and 40 second leeway or I’d be forcefully placed on the bus. Being in front of busses, trash haulers, and portapoppy picker uppers has been a lifelong goal of mine.

The crowd I was with wasn’t moving too fast. That is the funny thing about these races. You wear a chip on your shoe and it tells you everything. For instance, I know that after the race started (gun time) that it took me 5 minutes and 52 seconds to cross the starting line.

Lemon Drop Hill

Lemon Drop Hill

This posed a problem for me. I only had a 3 minute and 40 second leeway before I would be picked up by the bus.  Does a bus pickup go by the gun start or the chip start? Most runners don’t think of these things, but I pondered that question for the first few miles.

Fortunately, about the 4th mile, when I started slowing down I saw a woman runner holding a placard that said 2:45. Whoa. If I could hang with her and her group, then I would do better than I thought.

 Reason #3: Sometimes we surpass our own expectations.

I was pleased to find like-minded people to run near. They ran and walked. So now, my new goal was to stay right with them and not lose sight of that woman with the sign.

Music urging us onward.

Music urging us onward.

I was around the 10-mile mark when Jody finished the half marathon. I know this because she finished at 1:54 minutes and at the 10-mile mark my chip time said 2:03:21. I had 3 more miles to run.

It is one of those things about our relationship that I have accepted. I had just started feeling my groove and was in the zone, but she was toweling off, wearing the finisher’s jersey, and fiddling with her medal.

It was there at the 10-mile mark that I left those 2:45ers behind and started running my own race.

Reason #4: We constantly push ourselves to make living worth living, to feel alive.

The last three miles of the race were my fastest times with the last mile of the half marathon being the quickest at 11:03 minute a mile.

In the zone you feel like you are flying and your feet have wings. I gave it everything I had and passed 220 runners in the next 34 minutes (this stat provided by your chip).

Finishers!

Finishers!

Reason #5: It makes us feel good, young, and healthy.

After the race, Jody said that she thought her full marathon running days were over.

“Oh, no,” I said. “When we’re really, really old there won’t be that many people in our age group.”

In our 50 – 54 age group, there were only 217 females running the half marathon out of 6,627 people. Just think how that number will drop when we are 65 years old. Now that’s the time to run a marathon.

Reason #6: Against all odds, against all stats, against all reason, we might win. Never give up.

Beth’s Stats:                                              Jody’s Stats:

Average Pace 12:04  per mile                    Average Pace 8:46  per mile

Overall Place 5881 out of 6627                  Overall Place 1927 out of 6627

Sex Place 3336 out of 3904 Females        Sex Place 725 out of 3904 Females

179 out of 217 Females                              22 out of 217 Females

STRAIGHT TALK about TEENAGE BOYS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery week on Sunday, I receive an email alert about new nonfiction titles that are new to Hennepin County Library.That’s how I came to have in my hand the paperback STRAIGHT TALK with YOUR KIDS ABOUT SEX by Josh and Dottie McDowell.

Skimming the book, I stopped at page 127 and read: A young couple that lives near us always asks if there is an older brother in the family where their children have been invited. If there is, they have a family policy that the kids must play at their house, not at the neighbor’s. They also have a policy that no teenage boy will ever babysit their kids. This may seem strict, but it is simply for the safety of their children.

That’s when I knew that I had to write about my experience with teenage boys babysitting our children.

Antonio, Crystel and Charlie

Antonio, Crystel and Charlie

Ten years ago, with intention, Jody and I brought teenage boys into our home and into our lives.

We are lucky to have had teenage boys in charge of and responsible for our children.

Our family unit consists of two women, a boy, a girl, two dogs, two cats, two hamsters, and 10 fish.I can’t imagine the boy and the girl growing up without the experience of having other boys and men in their life. Well, maybe I can imagine, which is why we purposely have uncles that visit them on a regular basis and have had Charlie and Sam as their babysitter.

Though, Crystel has informed us that she is never, ever going to get married, how in the world would she learn to be at ease in the company of men if she didn’t have older males in her life? And, what message would we be sending Antonio about his worth as a male if we align ourselves with the belief that teenage boys are not safe?I agree that men are a different species. Antonio, our son, is one of those species. He needs to know how to navigate with his kind. He isn’t going to gain that knowledge secluded in a house full of women.

Antonio LOVED to eat snow. Here he had a whole snowman to eat!

Antonio LOVED to eat snow. Here he had a whole snowman to eat!

Down the street from us lived a house full of boys. I walked down to that house 10 years ago when Antonio and Crystel came home with us from Guatemala and asked their single mother if her sons would like a babysitting job. Charlie was 13-years-old when he started caring for Antonio and Crystel. Antonio and Crystel were still in diapers and not yet walking. And, yes, Charlie has changed their diapers a time or two. Charlie continued babysitting Antonio and Crystel right up until he was 17-years-old and then his brother Sam took over.

Sam was 12 going on 13 when he took over their care. Sam had a tough initiation with the children because they loved and adored Charlie.

Antonio, Charlie, and Crystel at Charlie's graduation party

Antonio, Charlie, and Crystel at Charlie’s graduation party

But you know what, in short order it became “Sam.” “Sam.” “Sam.”This isn’t to say that my children give their loyalty easily or to just anyone.

When we first took them to an in-house daycare at seven and eight months old, it was simple enough to slip off in the morning, but when I picked them up to bring them home in the afternoon they would sob so hard in the car that I would have to pull off the road onto a side street and take turns holding them until they felt safe outside of my arms. Only then could I drive again.

Leaving them in the care of someone else so traumatized them that Jody and I decided one of us would have to be a stay-at-home mom.But now, Antonio and Crystel would like us to have more dates so Sam can come over and babysit.

Crystel, Sam, Antonio

Crystel, Sam, Antonio

Saying that Sam is the children’s babysitter doesn’t do him justice. Instead I describe him as their adult male caregiver. He has been their fulltime caregiver for the last four years. During the summer he spends over eight hours with them every day from the time school lets out in June until it starts again in September.

Sam manages the children’s summer schedule which includes reading, writing, math, cooking, swimming lessons, dentist appointments, orthodontist appointments, Tae Kwon Do, engineering, exercise, and field trips.

Sam taught them to read

Sam taught them to read

This summer they worked their way through the books Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden and the Daring Book for Girls by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz.Antonio and Crystel have had options to do the park program, community activities, a season pool pass, Fun Club, etc…. but they choose Sam. They figure they have it all. And, they do. Most often in the afternoon I come home and all three of them are playing in our backyard swimming pool. They don’t feel like they are missing out on seeing their friends as Sam also watches them when playdates are scheduled.

During the summer Sam, Antonio, and Crystel bike all over Richfield. I often get compliments by people who have spotted them: Police Officers, Tae Kwon Do instructors, and friends. They are surprised how mobile and safe Antonio and Crystel are. The dentist remarked to me how Sam was definitely in-charge during their summer appointment but was struck by their affection for one another.

Sam has spent overnights with the children when Jody and I have gone on our own adventures. We were thankful that we had him to call when we were in Mexico and their Aunt and Uncle who were staying with them had to leave suddenly. Sam went over to our house, spent the night with Antonio and Crystel, and got them off to school the next morning before he himself went to school.

"We like playing with him the most."

“We like playing with him the most.”

I asked Sam what he liked most about babysitting Antonio and Crystel and he says it allows him to be a kid. I asked Antonio and Crystel what they like most about Sam and they said that he plays with them all the time. A good match.

This year at school conferences (4th grade) Antonio and Crystel’s teachers were impressed because they generally see a dip in reading because of no school during the summer. Antonio and Crystel’s reading level had actually increased and there was a steady incline in skill. Sam taught them how to read when they were five.

IMAG0013Crystel is looking forward to the day when she can start babysitting. After she turns 11 and takes the community babysitting class she will be ready. She has had Charlie and Sam as excellent role models in being a great babysitter.

Sam is 17. Antonio and Crystel are 10. In taking the baton from Charlie, Sam has been big brother, friend, teacher, and guide to our children.The straight talk about teenage boys is that our family has been blessed to have had two teenage boys tending too, caring for, and loving Antonio and Crystel.