Two weeks ago I organized my first trip away from both kids since giving birth to Little Dude in April. It was just a short weekend jaunt to Sin City, but I experienced a mixture of emotions between being drunk on the feeling of forthcoming freedom (I promise, that’s all I was drunk on for the time-being) and extreme guilt over leaving my seven-month old while he was still so attached. Friends talked me off a ledge and assured me that taking time for myself and my love would make me a better parent, and even though I wasn’t entirely convinced, I proceeded with my plans. Cheese strings were bought in bulk, favourite toys and pajamas were cleaned, and endless lists were made. I am a great list-maker, but not such a great list-follower-through-er. I can easily identify what needs to be done, but when it comes to actually doing it, I get easily side-tracked by very important things, like feeding my baby and making sure the cork doesn’t break when I’m pulling it from my Friday happy hour bottle of Zinfandel.
Given that I needed to gather all of the necessities for myself, as well as for the kids’ stay with their grandparents’, writing it all down ahead of time seemed to be the responsible thing to do. Heaven forbid my daughter should decide at 3 a.m. that Grover would be better company than her SpiderBear. I only wish I were exaggerating the possibility.
My own packing list was short and sweet. While I knew I would need important things like socks and jeans and my own corkscrew, the first two things I actually wrote down were running shoes and my breast pump. The last time I was in Vegas was pre-kid, in 2008 and my packing list back then was vastly different. Not only did I not have children four years ago, I considered running something one did when trying to make it from house to a vehicle in -30 degree weather as quickly as possible or to escape from the mafia. And up until that point I had only had experience with one of those (I’ll leave you to debate which one).
Confession: I stayed up all night the night before I left. List or no list, I kept remembering just one last thing I had to do. By the time I finally dropped, exhausted onto my bed, I had about three hours before I needed to be at the airport. I immediately fell into a heavy sleep only to be woken up by the phone 15 minutes later. It was a nice idea while it lasted. I cried almost the entire way to the airport, kissed my babies goodbye and boarded the plane tired, disoriented, worried, but desperately craving some time to remind me of what life was like before I had little ones.
Mr. S and I had planned to run somewhere in the area pretty much as soon as we booked my flight (maybe even before). Originally we thought about heading to the famed Red Rock Canyon, however a friend who lives in the area recommended a trail beginning at Lake Mead and leading through tunnels that were part of an old railroad system leading to the Hoover Dam. It was almost exactly six kilometers to the Dam and six back. I haven’t done a run that long since half-marathon training, but my brain is always more optimistic than my running legs.
Unsolicited advice: when planning a 12k run, don’t go to the casinos until 2 a.m., even if you ARE on a roll and up to $10 on a lucky penny slot. Also, don’t drink a Bloody Mary and then champagne and then a half-yard of strawberry colada and think that a 9 a.m. alarm will look and feel just fine (Hint: it won’t).
Fortunately measures such as non-refundable car rentals made it impossible to hit the snooze button until mid-afternoon. Instead, we grumbled, downed strong Americanos like they were an electrolyte replacement and drove the half-hour to our course. Even more fortunately, my half-marathon prep this summer often involved severe sleep deprivation and even poorer nutrition, so my body didn’t seem as ill-equipped to handle 12k fueled on four hours of sleep and caffeine as I initially expected.
I can’t tell you every little detail of everything we saw (in a nutshell, a lot of cacti and some very cool tunnels). What I can say with certainty is that I’m glad that I can call myself a (almost) runner this time around. This felt more “us” than a typical tour of the Hoover Dam, which can take several hours and require you to board a bus crammed with hung-over/overeager tourists. Instead we got to experience it as (mildly) hung-over athletes. We were able to talk without interruption – about our kids, how nice it was to be away, but how much we missed them; about our future; about their future; about things not even related to them. Somewhere in the middle, we got to share a bottle of water and Gatorade and a baked pretzel (without a three-year old clamouring for a bite) and see a major tourist attraction and an engineering wonder (P.S. That’s what my husband called it. I wouldn’t know an engineering wonder if one beat me over the head with an infrastructure blueprint). And we only had to wear one layer of clothing in the middle of November!
We were tired at the end of our adventure, but not so much that we couldn’t enjoy some liquid refreshment (ahem, recovery) at the nearby Boulder City Brewery. Above anything, we felt alive, reconnected and so glad to have seen more of Nevada than the Strip. While it was nice to have a break and feel like a human instead of just mom for a few days, I would never have started running if it weren’t for the birth – and ensuing hormonal surge – of my firstborn. Somehow it felt as though four years had come full circle and one hour and 24 minutes of a steady, slow pace almost (almost) made me ready to come home. Once I conquered the penny slots, slept in one last time and had a final Bloody Mary.