“The race where my inner Race Director died a little”
“Baku Julie Miller Invitational”
I should explain, first.
I’m in Baku, Azerbaijan (a former Soviet republic north of Iran) as a part of Baku 2017, a small multi-sport games for this region.
I’m here for a month.
It’s going to be a long month.
Before coming, I found out online that there was a half marathon happening while I was here and quickly figured out that some colleagues were also planning to run. Excellent, I thought.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find previous results online, or much information in general. No matter, it will work out. Right?
Online registration involved putting in my passport number.
No, thanks. In person sounds good.
This registration process may be why I can’t find results from 2016:
I was handed them my $30 (or so), they handed me a sticker, instructions in Azeri and sent me on my way.
No plastic bags
No folding chairs or tables
Also: buses will follow the runners en route should they wish to stop and take transport to the finish line.
We meet and walk to the start line, which happens to be barely organized chaos and a sea of people. Almost no one speaks English.
We are dressed as runners (shorts, tees, runners. Pretty standard stuff). Wouldn’t you know, this put us in the minority, surrounded as we were by jeans, leather jackets and completely inappropriate running footwear all ’round.
We head towards the start arch, with a vague sense of which direction we should be facing.
Pretty soon, we’re in a crush of people — personal space, be dammed – and the police are gesturing us to move backwards more. There’s nowhere to go, we can only laugh and try not to touch people inappropriately.
We stick out.
The start line and time were merely suggestions
With 5 minutes to go (by my watch), suddenly it appears that we are off and the jeans and leather jacket brigade are off and flying. We’re talking full, zigzag, sprint to… where exactly?
Since there were no course markings, no barricades, and, the best yet, no timing mats or timing chips, it would appear that so long as you made it across the line at the stadium, doesn’t matter how you get there, CONGRATULATIONS!
I saw the first person pull the pin at 1.98km in.
There was a roughly 5km out and back section. I was pretty lonely out there, just trucking along and minding my own business. From what I could see, there were maybe 35 people ahead of me, total. I couldn’t spot any women (I tried).
The men in this group didn’t appreciate me passing. I’d run by, they’d surge. I’d run by again (having maintained pace), they’d surge again and then eventually give up. Over and over. So that was… interesting.
As we rejoined the course at the start of the out and back, suddenly the pack got way larger once again. With men in cargo pants and Keds. Who weren’t sweating.
What?! Where did you guys come from?
I suppose that out and back maybe wasn’t mandatory?
And on and on it went. I’d come upon people running in dress shoes, casual outfits, from seemingly nowhere. Or, you know, subways.
I crossed the line and was given a little card that said “12”. I assume this means I was the 12th woman. No matter that I only ever laid eyes on 2 women ahead of me. Cool, cool.
I signed my name on a piece of paper, was handed a water bottle and shooed away. Literally.
I wandered around the finish area looking for food and more water, and got to cheer on Marco and Kara as they crossed the line together. We searched in vain for bathrooms, walked another 2kms or so for Marco’s gear. Listened to yammering in Azeri. Could have purchased a carpet, chose not to.
As you do, in race expos.
In the end, we got medals.
Actually, scratch that. We have to go get our medal between May 5-9, passports in hand.
I’m not talking easy-breezy. I’m talking old-man-hold-on-to-the-building windy. Unpleasant, hurt your ears windy.
If I’d done my research before coming, I’d have known that Baku is also known as the “City of Wind”.
One of the first things I noticed here was the abundance of little old ladies, sweeping. Sweep, sweep, sweep. With no real sense of purpose. Just sweep, sweep, sweep.
Most peculiar, is that they seem to sweep on the windiest of days. It appears really they are just swirling stuff around. The other day, when it was so windy that I literally had to lean into the gale to walk, they were everywhere.
The last 2 days have been calm. The little old ladies with their brooms? Nowhere to be found.
This week, on a very special episode of the Blog Squad…
We thought we’d change it up a little. If you’ve been reading these past few weeks, you’ll know that we’ve been tackling the same topics. This week we are doing a round robin of questions for each other, challenging ourselves to get outside the box a little.
When did you first start to think of yourself as an athlete, and why?
I read this question a few days ago and have had ample time to write and think of the answer. And yet it took me a long time to organize these thoughts into a somewhat cohesive post.
The truth is, I really don’t know. In fact, I don’t even know that I do!
I’m not that introspective and have spent little to no time self-identifying as anything, really. It’s not something I have considered. I’m more someone who is governed by tangibles and measurable objectives, and this felt like something that I couldn’t quite define. And honestly, no one has ever asked me this question.
If I were to identify as anything, it would be as a mother above all else. This is the role I assume 100% of the time, whether I am physically with my children or not. Everything else, love it or hate it, must be secondary.
As I pondered this further over the last few days (ironically, whilst at a training camp), I really had to wonder if I did consider myself an athlete. I looked up the definition:
a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.
a person who is skilled in competitive track and field events (athletics).
(To confirm: the British definition definitely does not apply to me!)
I don’t know. It doesn’t really seem to fit. I’m pretty proficient, I guess? But does that make an athlete, specifically? I mean, I love junk food! I am lazy! But then again, I own so much active wear…
I thought about it some more. I’m sporty, yes. But I don’t like team sports. I can’t catch a ball to save my life. I’m outdoorsy, but I hate being cold and I’m scared of bears. I’m athletIC, but does this make me an athleTE?
I turned it around – as I often do – to the kids. How do they identify me as, besides Mom (obviously)?
I called them via FaceTime from the airport on my way home from training camp (hello?! Athletes go to training camps!!) I asked: if you were to call me something, besides Mum and “event worker person”, what would it be?
The answers were, in order: “biker” “runner” “Ironman person.”
(Please note, swimmer never comes up. They know me well).
Huh. Maybe I am an athlete after all. Maybe?
Why I am so sceptical about this? What is it that’s stopping me from calling myself an athlete? This is going to require a little more thought. Maybe I should should own it, go with it, try it on for size.
So Caitlin, to answer your question: Today, I will start identifying as an athlete. Because as it turns out, all signs point in that direction.
I’ve been thinking about what to write since the idea first got lobbed this way and, well, I got nothin’. Seriously. Nothing. No tips, no tricks, no hacks.
I often get asked “how do you do it all”? This is in no way a brag/humblebrag/pat on the back. It’s a fact.
The simple answer is: I just do. And I just don’t.
Let’s take yesterday as a fine example of my time management skills. I mean, I have 4 calendars between my desk and the kitchen (so basically, 8 feet apart). None of them are synced. The irony of this post is not lost on me, by the way. It still rings true some days.
I got up at 5:34AM. Why?! Beats me. That’s when my little brain woke up. Coffee, emails, news then all of a sudden everything is on fast-forward for 90 minutes as the minions get up/eat/fight/pack for school/forget stuff to bring to school. Then time slows down again for a few minutes. I distractedly get ready for work and a quick trip to the city. I pretend to myself that I’ll use the drive to catch up on all these calls and leave myself voice memos when in reality I’ll sing along to bad 90s music, look at the view and daydream.
So far, so good, right?
Except stuff runs long, I get delayed and low and behold I’m now back to fast-forward mode trying to make it home in time for school pick up (newsflash: I don’t), and I’m now late for a conference call and ask for a 7 minute grace period (7? What?) I know deep down that today’s scheduled workout won’t happen and I’ll get the dreaded red Training Peaks box. I park the car and realize that once again, I forgot the recycling.
Pressing pause on this riveting narrative to point out that I am in no way complaining. This is my life! Is it how I envisioned it? Nope. Is is easy? Not always. Would I change it? Probably not. I’ve got a damn good life.
Fly in the door, yell “did anyone let the dog out! I have a call! Yes, you can watch TV!” as I’m looking for earphones, tripping over backpacks and trying to remember the agenda for this call.
Oh yeah, that’s right. I have a rule about no TV during the week. Oh well! Exceptions to every rule, right? I ignore the hot chocolate spilled on the counter and the floor, jump on the call.
The call goes long. My mind is wandering and I’m wondering if I’ll get my workout in after all. Stand up and lunge at the desk. Crane my neck back to see if kids are still alive (they are). Put the call on mute, feed the dog, wipe up the hot chocolate. The call ends.
We eat dinner together (this is one thing I won’t negotiate on, ever. No one eats in front of the TV. We sit down together every single night). Leftovers, because I’m tired and now a little frantic. I text Liz and ask what’s the earliest acceptable bedtime for an adult. She says 7.
The kids go to bed, they’re tired, too. Time slows back down. I cast around at the baskets of laundry, the messy house. I take care of some of it, but halfway through emptying the dishwasher, I stop. I don’t want to do this anymore. It can wait.
I crawl into bed with Kobe, ostensibly to read. I read about 3 pages and fall asleep in my clothes. I’m awake again… at 5:34am. This is a cycle I might need to break, I think to myself as I smell the coffee already brewed downstairs (#winning #oldschool)
And here we are again.
So you see? Life gets done, it happens. Mostly. I’m healthy. They’re healthy. The important stuff happens. There’s collateral damage daily. Some days I’m a to-do list ninja. Others, like yesterday, I’m a sitcom Mom and the to-do list gets transferred in its entirety to the next day. And it’s alright, I got this. I’m learning not to be so hard on myself, consistently.
I blinked and 2017 is here and in full swing. If we still wrote cheques, I’d be scribbling out the 6 for the 7 till about July. Oh, just me? Ok. Carry on.
Anyhow. Along with these lovely ladies (you can meet them here: Erin, Jen, Liz, Caitlin, Elizabeth and Laurel), I’m sharing with you how I think I can make this year work in my favour. This is also about as existential as I get.
Herewith, 7 things I hope to achieve before 2018 is banging down the door.
I’m very much a gal who likes routine and for things to go as smoothly as they can. When I’m consistent with what I’m doing, I do it better and I enjoy it more. Doesn’t matter if it’s training, eating well or folding laundry (let’s face it: folding laundry for 4 people once a month is a task no one needs to take on). I’m aiming for consistent consistency this year. Also? My little people depend on it.
I love my friends. And I also really miss my friends. Parenthood/life can kick your ass that way. So I’m going to try to make a point of reconnecting with old friends I haven’t seen or talked to in a while. I’ll write the damn email. Pick up the phone. Make plans. Stick to them. Surround myself better. When I look at photos of me with my friends, I have a huge, all tooth grin. So that’s a good indicator right there.
A few weeks back, I wrote about being not that busy. And while it’s still mostly true, I still need to slow down. There’s no reason to sprint from one thing to the next, is there? We don’t fare well when I turn everything into a timed event in this house. So I’m gifting myself with permission to take a little time, and to slow down (caveat: not at races, please and thank you).
Say yes. And say no
It doesn’t hurt to put yourself out there and say “YES”… when you’re feeling it. Because it’s also perfectly acceptable to say “NO” and not have to apologize for it.
Along those lines, I want to check out new places, try new things. Doesn’t have to be crazy. That new coffee shop I’ve been meaning to try will do just fine.
We have a rule in the house about no TV (for kids) during the week. It’s time I tried to stick to the rule… a little. I mean, I love me some Netflix. And I’m not into depriving myself… but there’s no harm in reading for an extra hour instead of watching a weird documentary about someone who sews sweaters out of dental floss.
I’m going to have fun. Want to join me? I’ll say yes. I promise.
As I type this, the kids are downstairs playing some game that specifically excludes adults (and sounds kind of rough, but they are laughing, so I’m staying out of it).
My inbox is very much under control (it’s a quiet time at work), my workout for the day is done and the dog came with, so that’s a 2-birds, one stone kind of situation.
The house is mostly under control (I mean, I could probably do another load of laundry but whatever).
I glance around the living room as the sun sets way too early and realize, with some trepidation, that there is nothing urgent that needs my attention.
And for some reason, I feel guilty.
There’s an expectation these days that moms (and dads, or anyone, really) need to be busy-busy-busy oh-no-no-time-to-sit-down. It’s a pet peeve of mine when you ask someone how they are and the first thing they sigh is “oh, I’m just so busy!” Uh huh. Aren’t we all.
I’m not. I’m really not! I have free time. Time that I don’t feel I need to assign a task to. Frankly, sometimes I don’t know how to fill that free time. Sometimes, I am even bored. And yet, it doesn’t feel right that I have this magical unicorn kind of time.
It’s like I’m admitting something, finally coming clean:
Hi, I’m Christine and I’m not busy all the time.
Maybe I need a hobby.
Editor’s note: I even feel guilty just writing this.