Author Archives: amyreinink

About amyreinink

I'm an award-winning writer and middle-of-the-pack runner who moved to the Washington area as a freelance journalist in October 2008. I'm also a marathon runner who recently signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25, 2009. This blog, which I first started to chronicle my training for the National Half Marathon on March 21, 2009, is the story of my training for the MCM, and for many shorter races before it. I have run one full marathon and three half-marathons previously, and I'm looking to improve my time of 4:34 from the Nashville Country Music Marathon in April 2007. To avoid burnout and injuries, I'll be using the FIRST marathon-training method — running three hard days a week and cross-training hard two days a week. In this blog, I'll provide suggestions for running routes, training strategies, staying motivated, cross-training without boredom, injury prevention, playlists, sports nutrition and more. I live in a revamped Canada Dry bottling plant in Silver Spring, Md., that serves as a jumping-off point for running in Rock Creek Park, camping in Shenandoah National Park and skiing at Whitetail Resort, where my husband, Steve, and I are members of the Mountain Safety Team.

How to hike with a toddler, part 2

I’ve learned a few things about hiking with a toddler since I posted about the topic last summer. I still sing a LOT of silly made-up songs to bide the time in the dreaded hiking backpack, but I wanted to share some other things I’ve learned from my tiny hiker.

1. Stop frequently to throw rocks into rivers, to inspect moss and dig dirt, and to listen to red squirrels chirping. Allow for extra time to mimic the high, piercing cry of the red squirrels.

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2. Always, always choose the route with the most rocks. It’s way more fun to scramble over rocks than to walk on a smooth dirt path.

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3. Provide eye candy. Years from now, I hope H is able to appreciate the stillness and peace of the woods. For now, though, it helps to offer a hike with a lot of bang for the buck. The short (less than a mile) hike to Copperas Pond in the Adirondacks’ High Peaks region is steep, but offers a killer view AND a lean-to to explore up top.

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4. Crackers. If all else fails, bribe your offspring to keep going with crackers, or whatever your child’s chosen treat may be.

5. Repeat this mantra: It’s not about the destination. It’s not about the destination. It’s not about the destination.

Parents of little ones: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from hiking with your toddler?

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The itch

I stood with my face against the glass, watching the swimmers glide through the pool. My son and I had just dried off and gotten dressed after his parent-child swim class at our local YMCA’s pool, and were enjoying the “show”—the other swimmers doing their thing—from the lobby. My son pointed to a man with a kickboard and fins, then looked at me, asking without words: What is he doing, anyway?

“That guy is kicking, and making big splashes with his legs, just like you do!” I said. I pointed to the man’s lane partner. “And that woman is doing breaststroke.” I lowered my voice and gave my son, 2, a conspiratorial look. “She’s really dropping her elbows. I have a drill that could help her.”

Then, my eyes wandered to a young woman, likely a college swimmer home for the summer, gliding along with a perfect freestyle stroke. She approached the wall, executing a snappy, quick flip turn. And just like that, I could feel it: The smooth, silky sensation of my hand entering the water; the feeling of progress and renewal after every turn. I wanted to be in the pool, chasing her heels. I thought about how I could maybe drag myself out of bed to join the master’s group one morning, or how I could join my local tri club at its open-water swim practices Thursday nights. In other words, I got the itch.

 

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Moreau Lake is calling my name. I haven’t heeded that call yet—but soon! 

As I’ve discussed on this blog many times, swimming comes and goes from my life. Often, it comes when I’m injured and unable to run, and goes when life gets hectic. And the past few years have been nothing if not hectic. Who has the energy to haul oneself out of bed at 5 a.m. for an hour-long workout that absolutely requires a shower afterwards when you’ve got a newborn, or a toddler going through a sleep regression?

When we got home, I went into my closet and dug out my cap and goggles. I have not actually taken them (and myself) to the pool, but I’m one step closer to doing so.

I look forward to the day that my son can watch me from the pool deck, and say: “Mama’s really overreaching on her entry. I have a drill that could help her.”

 

 

 

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My thing

This week, for the first time in about two years, we stayed home from “boom boom room” or “cry at the Y,” the fun, chaotic parent-child boot camp class at our local YMCA that has defined my mornings since H was a newborn.

It started about a month ago: As soon as we walked in to the gym, he shook his head, no, and said: “No. All done. Home!” I ignored the request. After all, he’s 2, so “no” is basically the background music of my day. But boy, did he ever mean it. He clung to my leg the whole class, and I eventually picked him up, doing squats, lunges and planks with him in my arms or on my back (talk about extra resistance!).

The trend continued: He kept protesting. I kept ignoring his protests, thinking: But we do this every morning! This is the way I get exercise with a toddler, and how he gets social interaction. And there are tricycles! And balls! What’s not to love for a kid? We tried the Y’s daycare, but that proved to be an even less popular option.

After a few weeks of clinging, one morning last week, he started exploring the gym, like he used to do. Finally! I thought. He climbed up to the first level of the bleachers, and I walked over in case he needed help getting back down. Then, I saw her. The 3- or 4-year-old girl sitting higher up on the bleachers, scowling at my son. Before I could run over, she put both hands on my son’s chest and pushed him off the bleachers. Thankfully, he only fell a short distance. But in an instant, I saw it: My attachment to the class was clouding my vision so much that I couldn’t see his perspective. The happy madness that he used to love now felt a little scary and overwhelming. The class, which was supposed to be fun, had become burdensome for both of us—even I had started dreading it, knowing it would be a hard sell for my skeptical little workout partner.

Here is the irony: When I first brought H to the class in his infant carseat in 2016, I was having a hard time letting go of my last “thing”—the long, leisurely yoga classes I’d taken before H was born. Then, too, my attachment to what I thought was my thing didn’t let me see that the boot camp was a great way to meet new friends and spend time with my son.

The weather in Saratoga Springs has been heavenly, springlike but cool, perfect for running. So on Monday, I strapped Henry into the baby jogger and ran around town with him. We stopped at every construction site, and I stretched or did push-ups as he admired the excavators and lifts. Oh, I thought. This could totally be our new thing.

This, too, will change. But hopefully, the next time our lives shift, I’ll be clear enough to go with the flow, embracing whatever comes next.

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Race report: Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot

He was happy at the start line. We have the picture to prove it.

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H at the start of the Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot in Saratoga Springs, NY.

We have no finish-line photos. If we did, you’d see a screaming toddler tearing off his mittens despite being freezing; a mama still wearing her toddler’s Elmo hat, which she put on in an unsuccessful bid to distract him; and a dada sprinting for the finish after the mama told him: “Open it up and finish this [expletive.]”
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The whole family at the start of the Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot in Saratoga Springs, NY. The toddler is already skeptical that this is a good idea.

Let me back up. H and I ran a race together a couple months ago. He had so much fun, I wondered if I should find a 5K for us to run together every weekend.

But it is very cold outside now, and I have an outdoor-loving, mitten-hating kid. I also have a kid who (apparently) strongly dislikes the weather shield for his running stroller. I will spare you the play-by-play, but will simply tell you that my race at the the 16th Annual Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot consisted of one mile of jogging while singing “The Wheels on the Bus;” half a mile of walking while holding a cold, sad toddler (dada pushed the stroller alongside us); and a mile of flat-out sprinting to just END it already.

Everyone recovered after warming up and taking a nice, long nap. After H fell asleep for his well-deserved rest, I told my husband that I felt like a selfish jerk for dragging H along for the race. He reminded me of one of my favorite family mottos: “Mama, Dada and H are people who try things.” That was true before the race, and true now. Not that we’ll be trying a jingle bell 5K anytime soon …

I wanted to share this here because in running, parenting and life, it can’t all be puppies and unicorns, right?  Have you ever had a race like this? Share your horror story below.

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How does your garden grow?

The metaphors for life are endless: You reap what you sow. Better soil yields better plants. Many things are out of your control—including both unhappy and happy surprises (the eternally disappointing bell pepper plants, the sunflowers that bloomed late and unexpectedly thrived).

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I garden because I want to be reminded of all of this. I want to spend an afternoon getting dirty, sweaty and tired in the chilly, early days of spring so I can harvest a lazy summer dinner in the steamy days of summer. I want to spend the whole winter planning and the whole spring planting so that I can enjoy what feels like a healthy-living hack all summer.

I want to be surprised at the beauty of a squash blossom, and I want the reminder that nothing is permanent—not the long, cold winter and not the bountiful harvest.

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Do you garden? If so, how did your garden grow this year?

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H’s first race: The Saratoga Springs Palio 5K

H didn’t immediately love the running stroller.

When we received it as a Christmas gift, we immediately headed out for a family run, only to turn around a few minutes into it with a very unhappy baby and disappointed parents.

A little time (and the purchase of a snack tray for the stroller) has worked wonders, and H now happily tags along for short runs. I figured it was time to try a 5K. Not for time, because I am less of a serious runner these days and more of a snack administrator and toddler soother. Just for fun. I was curious to see if H would enjoy the crowds and spectators and atmosphere and post-race snacks as much as I did.

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Me and H running the Palio 5K in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Sept. 17. Too bad we didn’t have any fun.

And did he ever! H spent the Palio 5K in Saratoga Springs on Sept. 17 kicking his legs, smiling, and waving to our fellow runners on the streets of this lovely course through Saratoga Springs. It was also the most fun I’ve ever had running, hands down. What a relief to be freed of the burden of obsessing over your pace! What a joy to focus on the experience rather than the clock!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t my worst-ever time, either, albeit not a PR. Something magical happens when we prepare for a race, then detach from our need to achieve a certain result.

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Post-race, eating alll the finish-line snacks. 

The best part was seeing H proudly clasp the race medal and nosh on post-race snacks once we crossed the finish line. We stayed to cheer on a friend running the half-marathon with her son, who is a senior in high school. As I watched H clap along with the other cheering spectators, and point to runners rounding the corner to Congress Park, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d started a little family tradition.

How did you introduce your kids to running? Did the habit stick?

 

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Babe in the woods: How to hike with a toddler

“The baby in the forest goes ‘wah, wah, wah,’ all through the woods,” I sing.

We are five minutes in to a hike. I am singing a song with my own lyrics set to the tune of “The Wheels of the Bus.” H, now 14 months old, stops shrieking for a moment and sings along: La, la, la. We laugh. Soon, he begins shrieking again. I offer a cracker. I place another dangly toy on the hiking pack he’s riding in. I get ready to dig out the Ergo, in case he’ll be more amenable to the soft carrier. I wonder if this hike is really worth it.
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H and Dada hiking to Owl’s Head in Keene, N.Y.

Now that H is mobile, he has become less amenable to spending time in the hiking pack. As outdoor-loving people looking to raise an outdoor-loving kid, this leaves us scratching our heads to figure out how best to introduce the woods to a kid who’s barely walking.

To be clear, we’re not trying to raise the second baby to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (though the first baby’s journey is fun to watch from afar). In the example above, our goal was to make it less than a mile, to a pond that happens to be on the way to one of New York’s 46ers.

The following tactics have helped: Making sure he is physically comfortable (layers to accommodate weather changes, nothing poking or pinching). Snacks (our hikes are fueled by halved grapes and Ritz crackers). Toys on the top of the pack. Singing (we have LOTS of verses of “The Baby in the Forest.”)

But you know what helps the most? Letting go of any agenda we have to actually hike.

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Who wants to sit in a pack when you can scoot around on the rocks?

It turns out, we already have an outdoors-loving kid. He just prefers to experience the woods in an up-close-and-personal manner, by getting the heck out of the pack and throwing leaves and pine needles like confetti; splashing in streams and brooks; touching the moss growing on trailside rocks; and zig-zagging up and down the trail at his own speed. We’ve started letting him do just that after about 10 minutes of hiking in the pack. Because really, the goal isn’t to raise a kid who summits high peaks so much as it’s to raise a kid who loves and appreciates his world.

When we return to the trailhead, we see a family of fit-looking people getting ready to launch their own peak attempt.

“Nice singing,” says the dad, smiling. I explain that the singing is a necessary ingredient in a shriek-free hike. The dad points to his teenage son.

“When he was little, we went to Colorado and tried to hike with him in a pack like that,” he says. “We thought we’d do these great hikes. He only wanted to throw rocks in the stream.”

How wonderful to see that one little rock-thrower grew into mom and dad’s hiking buddy! I watch them embark on their hike feeling optimistic about the future—and also feeling pretty certain that they miss the throwing-rocks-in-a-stream days now and then.

Have you hiked with a toddler? How did you make the experience more fun?

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