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Monday, September 26, 2016

Leaving It All Out There: The 2016 Richard S. Caliguri City of Pittsburgh Great Race

Feeling GREAT! (And loving my new CUCB arm warmers!)

If you've never run the Richard S. Caliguri City of Pittsburgh Great Race…what is WRONG WITH YOU?? This race is more than great. More than fantastic. It's amazing. I run it every year and I love it.

Things I love about the Great Race:

1. It starts at 9:30am. No 7:00am starts with a 5am wake-up call! I was able to roll out of bed at 7:30am, leisurely eat breakfast, drink my coffee, use the bathroom and get dressed. So relaxing. Perfect for race day.

2. It's mostly downhill. Not completely downhill, because this is still Pittsburgh. And mostly downhill is something to celebrate in this town. Yes, the race starts uphill, ok, I admit it. But that's a good wake-up. Then you get to roll down from Squirrel Hill past CMU into Oakland, chug up a gentle hill through Pitt, then down a nice hill onto the Blvd of the Allies and get a sweeping city view. Push up the hill at Duquesne and then you are literally downhill to the finish. Those downhills help my pace tremendously. It's perfect.

3. It's point to point. I love the feeling that I'm going somewhere. I love that when I'm done with a hill I'm DONE and I don't have to loop around it again - or, what would be even worse, turn around and GO BACK UP the hills we just went down.

4. It's a big race. Some people don't like running in crowds, but honestly, I don't mind. Big races mean pace groups, lots of water stops, plenty of people to pace off of, crowds cheering you on, and lots of people to pass. It can be hard to run on your own and having a crowd keeps you going. Well, it keeps me going. And a big race means extra features like getting your 5K split and 10K finish time texted right to you!

5. It's in September. Spring races are a little tough for me because my winter training can be sabotaged by bad weather and short daylight. Fall races are usually better because I'm coming off a summer chock full of cross training and good mileage. And September is my lucky month.

6. It's in my adopted hometown. This may not seem like such a big deal, but when you're a running mom, it's really handy to have a wonderful race like this nearby. I love that there are so many friends willing to help take care of the kids so my husband and I can run this together. We have a little routine that includes a bathroom break at a donut shop in Squirrel Hill, a traditional selfie before the race, and he always seems to find me right after I finish no matter how big the crowd is.

I worried about this race, frankly, because the week leading up to the race was focused mainly on writing. I had a huge idea I needed to get down on paper. That meant staying up later than I wanted to and missing some easy taper runs. But sometimes the needs of the writing mom outweigh the needs of the running mom. Friday I had an excellent run with a friend when we looped North Park lake. The word that kept popping into my head on that run was "restorative." I felt like my reserves had been refilled.

This year's race was my third fastest Great Race time, but second fastest post-baby time: 51:13, about 8:14 or 8:15 average pace.

In 2012, I ran my PR of 46:17 and in 1998 (before kids) I ran a 50:33. My mile splits were relatively even and when I crossed the mat at the 5K, my finish time prediction was right on!

5K Split Text

10K Finish Text

When I got home, I told my boys I left it all out on the race course. And I did. Every mile I ran my best and I don't think there is a spot in the race where I think I could've done better or pushed harder. I feel like I ran smart and I'm very proud of my finish. I hate those races where I feel strong and move quick for the first 75% and absolutely die for the last 25%. That did not happen yesterday. I used my first mile as warm-up then pushed hard through each subsequent mile to keep my cadence close to 90 and my pace strong. 

So, like I said to my boys, I left it all out there yesterday. And I told them I wanted to see them leave it all out there in their activities. 

And now I'm telling you: Leave it all out there. Do your best. Be proud of yourself. 

Have a great race. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

I Miss My Hawk

I had a guardian hawk.

My hawk symbolized soaring over obstacles and taking action. 

My hawk was a good hunter.

But my hawk is missing, and the bunnies are growing bolder.

A guardian rabbit does not seem nearly as intimidating as a guardian hawk.

But these bunnies are not wimps.

There are two that are seen everyday in our yard. This mottled brown one and one with a white stripe. They don't run when we come near. They are very calm, very bold. Especially the one with a white stripe down her nose. She's not scared of anything. She sits out there, daring as the daylight, nibbling on our overgrown weeds and flowers in the middle of our backyard.

I miss my hawk, but I was born in the Year of the Rabbit.

And Rabbit symbolizes abundance, good luck, and the arrival of something new. Perhaps I need to open my mind to the possibility that new things are on the way.

The bunnies are bold. The hawk is missing. Changes are on their way.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Playlist for a Kitchen Renovation

Since the end of May, our first floor has been under renovation. Contractors have been in, out and around our house every day from 8am to 5pm. They work hard and have done a great job, but one thing I have noticed is that each set of contractors has a different musical presence.

The main crew is all about classic rock. Lots of Pink Floyd, Bowie, late Beatles, Paul Simon was in there. Some early big hair bands. Nothing too metal. 

The plasterers came in to fix the ripple textured ceiling. They straddling balance beam scaffolding and stared at the ceiling all day and alt rock was their jam. Not modern alt, but late 90s and early 2000 in the grunge and post-grunge scene. 

Then the painters arrived. They brought with them a country vibe. Cold beer, trucks, cold beer. 

The guys who did our closet were here and gone in less than 2 hours and worked without music.

When the countertops were installed, we got to listen to banjo music. I couldn't tell you if it was by one band or more than one, old or new. But I recognized a banjo. And the countertop guys also wore beards. 

Then the painters came back and painted the outside of the house. This time all I heard was classical music.

For my part, I played NPR and WESA from my iPhone.

The main crew lead, John, asked me one time who my favorite band or kind of music was. I was at a loss. How could I answer this? How could I explain I knew all the words to "Sweet Child O' Mine" and did a great rendition of the Axl Rose dance but also had a blast at The Decembrists and loved singing "Sons and Daughters" at the top of my lungs? I couldn't show him my running playlist that featured a Nicki Minaj song, (Super Bass) an Eminem song, (Without Me) and a Carly Simon song (Nobody Does it Better).

My favorite band or music depends a lot on where I am and what I'm doing.

So I fell back on an old standby and said, "Oh, I like Radiohead."

"Radio who?' he said.

I'm just hoping we've got everything in its right place.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Board Meeting Live Blog

7:01 - arrived and signed in, had to choose if I was going to make comments based on agenda items at the beginning of the meeting or public comments at the end. 

7:02 we are asked to stand for a moment of silence and for the pledge. I briefly consider going Kapernick. 

7:04 after I stand for pledge (I'm weaker than Kap) we hear from student reps. That's exactly the kind of job I would have wanted in high school. 

7:05 superintendent introduces new online computer systems. He says it's great but I remember hearing from teachers that they are still writing grades on paper because they know other apps like this have deleted data. Hope there are no problems because they fired the computer tech. 

7:07 Super brings up bus problem for the first time. PowerSchool (the app) and ABC Transit apparently can't work together?? No further detail.

7:08 Project Connect is mentioned. We are reassured iPads won't replace teachers. (Yet)

7:09 West View is getting some cosmetic updates. But is this just lipstick on an over enrolled pig?? 

There were a lot of changes this summer according to the super. Perhaps too many?? Or not enough??

7:14 classroom enrollment numbers reviewed. 

7:18 WHOA. Whoa. Super was going to show us what happened if we didn't redistrict. But he zoomed right by the slides!! He didn't go through them. But I did catch a glimpse that Ross 2nd grade would not have 24 students a class. I'll have to review those slides. Hmm. 

7:20 On to busing. Gloria retired. She graciously agreed to stay on. Super met with ABC staff. Today. Is that his first meeting with them?? 
"Revising routes is common" says the super. I revise every day. But their revisions aren't working. It happened every day as the driver revised our bus rote each afternoon. 
Traffic was so bad on day 1, buses couldn't get out of the hilltop. Sounds like a safety hazard in the event of an evacuation. 

7:24 - board member asks how many students might be fraudulently enrolled. Students must "lay their head" in Ross and WV. 

7:28 Ross PTO president asks why 2nd grade has 4 sections with 25 students .

7:29 I go up and embarass myself. I asked these four questions:

- will second grade be at the limit again next year?? 
- how did the district determine what percentage of parents had wifi for 6th grade iPads? Were they really told to use wifi at McDonalds?? 
- what's being done to make sure these busing problems don't continue??
- will the school board advocate for parents about the new ordinance stating they can't park or "wait in line" for their kids?? 

7:49 Friend gets up and asks why kids on her bus are sitting 3-4 to a seat. 

7:51 Another mom gets up and is angry that we are told to call the bus company and when she did she got the run around and transferred to dead end numbers??? 
Are people supposed to leave work early? Late? Over a week. This mom is mad. 

7:55 Ross PTO president doesn't have bus problems but asks why kids who were arriving late were marked tardy. Board DENIES this. Interesting. 

7:59 Board member tells me offline that the township doesn't respect a thing the school board does, doesn't care at all what the school board thinks. Pretty damning. 

8:02 discussion continues about the seeming failures of redistricting. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

How to Have Fun Doing a Triathlon

It's done. The "triathlon I didn't do two years ago" is now the "triathlon I just did!" It feels so good to be done. In a way, I knew nothing was going to stop me, not even toxic algae.

The Presque Isle Triathlon is run by the Presque Isle Partnership. No race medals (boo!) but they do have neat drone footage.

Everything really went great over race weekend. The race was Saturday morning, but we headed up to Erie on Thursday and got settled. Friday morning, we headed over to the peninsula and I was a little surprised to read about toxic algae. Just like Rio!!

So Instead of doing an open water swim in the bay, I did a little bike ride and we all swam on the lake side. The kids had a chance to ride bikes and swim in Lake Erie.

I had a good meal for dinner the night before (ok, it was veggie pizza plus a s'mores pizza) and a quiet room in the hotel. I slept great. I wasn't even thinking about the toxic algae.

Yes, we were a little rushed the morning of the race, but that's what it's like doing races with kids in tow.

I had a lot of help on race day. My oldest actually helped me set up transition, which was nice. I had some help from a friend who literally held my hand as we entered the water. She was so cool for doing that. My husband helped me calm down when I cried before the race. Just because I was prepared and wanted to do this didn't mean I was totally fearless or free of anxiety.

The water was calm and a great temperature. I implemented my plan to use breaststroke as needed. You can see me breaststroking in the second swim drone video around 4:43. By the time I turned the first buoy, I was ready to freestyle. Two years ago, I remember thinking very early in the swim "I can't do this." This year, after I got in the water and thought quite early on, "I can do this." 

And I did it! Two years ago my husband remembers me getting out of the water shaking my head in defeat. Not this year. All celebrating!

I also had a plan for the bike and it went well. I started easy and calm. I decided not to look at my speed on my bike computer. I knew the landmarks of the peninsula and just focused on riding strong and calm. I averaged 13.4 mph. I know it was slow, but it was better than panicking and not riding at all. 

I let it all out on the run. Full speed ahead. It was flat, so I wasn't worried about my left leg bothering me too much. I averaged 8:31 a mile and felt so proud. The volunteer handing out water didn't get my joke about the toxic algae being in the water we were drinking. It wasn't that funny.

The kids were waiting at the finish to cheer for me and we were all pretty darn happy. I was proud of the boys for their support of me. They knew how anxious and worried I was. They encouraged me and really celebrated at the end. (And yes, they poured water on me. Sort of like a Gatorade celebration, but also washing off toxic algae).

And this guy was amazing.

Sunset over Presque Isle Bay.

When it was done, I was thrilled and happy but I was also really tired. Like most night before races, I didn't get a ton of sleep. So like my friend said in her voicemail, "you're either drinking or napping!" I did both. I had a cocktail at lunch to kill the toxic algae I had probably ingested and then napped hard. After I woke up, we took the kids to the pool.

Old Race Number, New Race Number

Mementos of a Successful Race


race #270   
place 272   
place AG 21/27  
Elizabeth PagelHogan, 40, Pittsburgh, PA    
swim 260    18:12      
T1 271     3:02      
Bike 347    55:18      
T2 286     1:52      
Run 112    31:00      
Total 1:49:23

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Because I Can (Do This Triathlon)

On Saturday morning, I will wake up early and head to Presque Isle State Park and compete in the 2016 Presque Isle Triathlon. It's not going to be easy, and I'm going to have to handle anxiety and concern during the open water swim and my bike ride and a sore left hamstring during my run, but I'm going to do this. I'm going to finish this race.

One of the ways I plan to handle these challenges is with a positive inner monologue. I am also planning to think of people I love and people that inspire me.

Positive Inner Monologue

  • Look, you're at the first buoy!
  • (Count your strokes. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….)
  • Now you're past the first buoy!
  • You are so lucky to be able to do this.
  • You are past the second buoy. You can do this.
  • You're done the swim!!! First victory!!

  • Nice and easy, get rolling and clip in.
  • First pedal. You're doing this.
  • Remember how great you felt on that duathlon? This feels good, too!
  • No hills. 
  • You are so lucky to be able to do this.
  • Another mile down. You can do this.
  • You finished the bike ride. You did it. Second victory.

  • Running. You know this. 
  • Nice and flat. 
  • Your legs are strong. 
  • Your heart is strong. 
  • You will finish, because you can. 

People I Love

1. I'll think about my youngest learning to ride his bike this summer and how happy he is flying down the road. He's even trying to ride with one hand. I could use that kind of bravery!

2. I'll think about my middle son learning to put his face in the water this summer and how he loves swimming underwater now. He's even talking about going off the diving board and considering swim team. Absolutely brave.

3. I'll think about my oldest handling everything from trying out for a new soccer team to having teeth pulled. Totally tough.

4. I'll think about my husband doing his first duathlon and pushing himself out of his comfort zone.

People Who Inspire Me

I know I am not an Olympian, don't worry. No delusions. But Olympians inspire me!! I'm going to think about these women while I compete in my own little race.

I want to be like Kristen Armstrong who is about my age, and won that gold medal because she knew she could do it. I will tell myself "I am biking in this race because I can!"

I want to be like Katey Ledecky. She said she had goals in the water, but one of them was to have fun. "It's fun to swim fast," she said. I love having fun.

I want to be like Sarah Robles. She won bronze in weightlifting. Yes, weightlifting is not a part of a triathlon. But she screamed before her lift and in an interview she said she did it to get the bad guys out of her head. She wanted her voice to be the loudest voice in her head. I want that, too!!

I want to be like Desiree Linden. She started the marathon at the London Olympics at 2012, but didn't finish. I know what that's like. (Sort of.) But she finished at Rio, and she finished in the top 10. TOP TEN. That's amazing. She said, "I can be proud of it now...Before, it was something that I didn’t want to talk about. I’ll wear the T-shirt now. When people ask I’ll have a story."

I love stories. I can't wait to tell mine.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Apple Camp for Kids

This summer, my older two boys were able to participate in Apple Camp at Ross Park Mall. This camp is free and lasts for 90 minutes on three separate days. It is only offered for a short time and is extremely popular and hard to get in. There are three topic areas: iBooks, iMovie, and Video Game Design and Programming Robots. We picked the last topic and chose the afternoon sessions on a Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.

On the very first day, we learned that kids can also have birthday parties at the Apple store and schools can bring field trips! So that's a cool idea to keep in mind for winter boredom days. 

Apple Camp is great, but it isn't a drop off camp. Parents are asked to stay in the mall and if they want to stay in the store, they can participate in a creativity session. I thought I'd be learning about neat ways to use my own iWork apps, but on the first day we actually got an overview of what our kids would be learning and some insight into the purpose behind the camp. It was interesting!

Back to Apple Camp. The campers used apps like Tynker and Hopscotch that encouraged them to think about coding in steps. This reminded me of the board game Robot Turtles which also encourages this kind of thinking without any technology. 

Of course they wore Beats. 

The instructor for parents was thinking along my lines and recommend the website that helps kids make the leap from instructional design to actually coding AND offers paper-based products so kids can develop these skills without access to computers. 


Turns out Apple needs engineer and this camp is designed to encourage instructional design and logical thinking. But it's not a long camp, so it's really an intro into apps that kids can use year round to develop instructional design and logical thinking. 

I daydreamed a little and imagined what it would be like if my kids applied logical thinking to their entire lives…probably too good to be true.

The second day of camp focused on some hardware options and introduced the campers to Sphero. Our instructor suggested we also look into the Little Bits products that encourages kids to use everyday at home objects with electronic components to build projects. Sounds like a fun Christmas present idea to me! 

I didn't actually hear everything that was mentioned about this next part because I was multi-tasking and getting my oldest son's cracked phone screen repaired. 

The last main thing we learned that the Swift Playground apps will be available for free when iOS 10 launches this fall. Swift the language has been around for a few years, but the Playgrounds app will allow kids to code mini-programs.

Also, we learned that the wifi at the mall stinks and it's hard to catch Pokemon there. But I did snag a Meowth. That's right.