Monday, June 27, 2016

Deer, Oh Deer

I was running in the park the other day, early in the morning, when I looked over and saw a deer watching me.

Excuse me?

The parks that I run through are bordered by the Chicago River on one or the other side. The park district is restoring the river bank in that particular stretch, so for two years now the parkland leading up to the river has been fenced off.  I'm sure all manner of wildlife have gotten used to people being safely on the other side of a fence.

Since they can roam freely through the entire city, following the river (and the deer up by the nature center northwest of us are quite tame), while we're bordered in by streets and traffic and bridges and buildings, I imagine to them it might look as if we were the ones in a cage.

Just a bit surprising for that early in the morning.

Deep in the wilds of Chicago,

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Feeling Better

It's such a pleasure to once again wake up and look forward to running. If anything, I need to hold myself back and not try to add on too much. I am older than I was, after all, and creakier, and without a lot of time of recovery measures, though I have been incorporating more of those back into my routine.

But oh, how lovely to get up and go again.

I think I may be a permanent convert to early morning running. To go out early into the world, see who else is out and about. The quiet of the streets. And then to come home refreshed in spirit and satisfied in body.

On a side note - restoring my Vit D levels seems to have had an effect in areas I wasn't expecting. My decades-long vertigo has receded back to "normal" levels (it had become troublesome last fall/winter, enough so that I finally went to an ENT - we're still investigating), and my shoulder is feeling a lot better as well (after some improvement with physical therapy it had regressed again). Nice to have that unexpected relief.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Random Running Notes

It's the time of year for early morning runs, even for mid-length ones. Too hot otherwise. I've been trimming back my pre-run routine to make it more likely that I'll get up and out in time. Coffee left from the day before - check the weather - teeth - contacts - clothes - let's go.

The sun is fully up by the time I leave but we've had some stormy nights so I still have amazing skies to watch while I run.

I've settled on my races for the rest of the year, or rather, my race. The Hot Chocolate 15K. I've run this a number of years and always had a good time. And knock on wood, if my training continues smoothly I even have a hope of getting close to previous times, if not a PR. And yet it's far enough away and low stress enough that I don't need to fret if hiccups occur.

I've noticed lately that my paces in tempo runs are all over the place. It usually averages out to what I was aiming for but it's never even. Has it always been that way? I suspect so. I warm up slowly so my first mile post-warm up is still slower than I'll get to, and I run on city sidewalks so I can't always manage the traffic (today I noticed I slowed down at each intersection, even if I could run straight across). I'm not sure it matters - I'm trying to keep things even by feel - just something I've noticed. It's probably more important to keep my track repeats even, should I ever get myself to a track again.

Hmm... and now I'm trying to figure out how I can get to a track again...

Friday, June 10, 2016

Monster Writing

Well, I went to the poetry workshop last night, and it was really good.

The Poetry Foundation offers workshops on a regular basis - it's part of their free adult education offerings. (I attend their monthly Book Club.) Past workshops have been on forms - such as sonnets or eclogues - or on issues such as voice or description. There's a set format to the workshop, which I learned last night:

  • discussion of the form/issue;
  • reading and discussion of poems exemplifying that form/issue;
  • opportunity to write (given a set assignment);
  • sharing your writing - later, via email - either what you wrote in the session as is or after continued work.

I enjoyed the discussion (I also felt it was a step up from the Book Club discussions, perhaps because everyone there last night is a writer) and was excited by the work I got down. Thanks to the constraints set by the assignment, I ended up going in a somewhat different direction than I'd expected - which then provided me with a possible solution to a problem I'd been having with another poem.

So now I have two weeks to work on this before sharing and I may end up getting some feedback on it - I haven't found a writers group to be part of yet so I'm curious about what I might hear, from the facilitator (who also leads the Book Club) if no one else. Feedback is such a tricky thing to negotiate - you really need to find the right people to be your readers - and without being in a writing program I'm not even sure how to find the right people. But I don't have much at the moment that I would even want to have feedback on, so I can afford to take my time and see what comes my way. At least for now.

Looking for the next workshop -

Thursday, June 9, 2016

We'll See

I'm attending a poetry workshop tonight at the Poetry Foundation, my first ever. I have no idea what to expect. It's on hybrid forms of poetry ("forms that trouble, cross, and blur literary genre boundaries"), inspired by a recent exhibit, "Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago" at the Smart Museum. We had homework to prepare in advance: to see the exhibit and take notes on everything that struck us - the art, certainly, but anything else noteworthy we experienced while there.

The exhibit itself was remarkable and I think I will be absorbing it for a while, especially as I've started painting again. I'm nervous about the workshop. I haven't shared any of my recent work and my writing process is so slow (multiple rounds of working and reworking) that I'm sure I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing anything I write tonight, tonight. But I've been wanting to take part in a workshop and everything lined up for this one - the timing (usually their workshops are on Saturday mornings), the topic, the exhibit - so I'm putting on my "big girl pants" and showing up, regardless of what happens.

Venturing out,

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Soldier Field 10M 2016 Recap

This was a good race, one I enjoyed greatly. Everything about the day seemed to flow. I woke early with my gear already prepared - which meant I had time to deal with some last minute changes without panicking. I forgot my watch at home - which meant I didn't pay overly close attention to my pace and could run based on feel. (This became important since it was a very humid day.) I chose and timed my fuel and hydration well enough that my energy stayed high and I avoided having to take a break during the race. I ended up in a corral somewhat faster than I meant to run (since I was overconfident when I registered for the race) and so I very quickly ended up as "back of the pack" - but that meant I never had to deal with overcrowding, which can be a real problem on that course.

Some little pleasures about the day:

  • Roses in the road dividers so as we ran by I could smell flowers;
  • I walked the long way back to the train and ended up seeing the entry procession for a Hindu wedding - complete with bridegroom entering by horse (and everyone bedecked with embroidery and sequins);
  • The wind that never picked up into a storm but instead gave much needed breezes throughout;
  • A seat on the train both there and back, allowing me to read Ed Roberson's City Eclogues as I traveled above a similar city.

The course, briefly:

I made myself run miles 1-5 easily, breathing through my nose to keep my speed down. It was a humid day and I knew I needed to be careful not to go too fast. We were running on city streets south from the Museum Campus for this stretch, with lots of room. I took walk breaks at every mile and sipped my sports drink.

Gel break at mile 5, shortly after turning onto the lakefront path and heading back north. I put music on at this point - I have a special running mix of more "trance-like" music, also meant to keep me from running too hard - and didn't worry about my breathing at this point anymore.

At mile 7 it began to feel hard. I think I took a couple of extra water breaks in this mile.

At mile 8 I switched to more uptempo music.

There was no clock reading at the 8 mile marker. I had not been tracking my time vigorously but I knew my approximate pace and also knew the time I would need to come under if I was to finish in 2 hours (my "B" goal). I tried to just stay constant at this point.

(My "C" goal was just to finish - I've had to DNF due to humidity before and didn't want to again. So many people walking the last two miles in.)

At mile 9 I saw that if I could bring my pace down to 11:00 for the last mile (and I knew I'd done at least one mile at this pace already), I would be able to make my "A" goal - to finish under 1:55:00. I found a good song and kept replaying it (Queen's "Somebody To Love", the live version from Montreal). I felt strong but was careful still, I knew we'd see the stadium long before we actually entered, and because they were setting up the stage for the Beyonce concert that evening, I knew we'd need to wind through the stadium a bit before hitting the finish line. You don't want to give a final last push only to realize you still have another quarter-mile to go.

And it all worked out, because I finished under 1:55:00, feeling like I'd given it all I could. (I found out later I'd finished in 1:54:10, a 11:25 pace.)

So I was quite pleased, with my planning and with my day. It wasn't until later, when I found out my actual time and pace, that I remembered that I'd run this at a 9:25 pace last year, exactly two minutes per mile faster. And I was still pleased, because I'd run the race the best I could for that day, and it didn't matter what I'd done before.

And there was an odd satisfaction in that as well. I've wondered, what will it be like to race when I start slowing down? Right now I still have hopes of getting back to my previous speed, but I also know that I'm approaching the edge of my being able to improve my times. But this race showed me that it will all be okay - that I'll be able to enjoy competing against myself even as I slow down.

So now I have my eyes set on a 10K in August and one of my favorites - the Hot Chocolate 15K - at the end of October. I think this will all make for a very satisfying race season.

With pleasure,

Friday, May 27, 2016

This Season's Planting

Most of what we've planted this year has been from seed - because it's fun, and cheaper, and the boys have been planting from seeds with surprising success for years now - I don't think they even think there's another way to do it. (Eat a piece of fruit - save the seed. Will it grow? Let's see. That's how we now have a 5-foot lemon tree in the upstairs study.) Almost everything is coming up nicely which is SO much fun to watch.

Another try at pumpkin (we'll keep better track of it this year - maybe put up a low fence).

Tomato seeds in newspaper planters - those are ready for re-potting this weekend.

Years ago, when I managed a community garden and had my own plot, The Dude used part of it to create his own "Skull Island", and he planted the Native American "three sisters" combination of corn, beans, and squash. He's been wanting to recreate it ever since, and this year he got his chance.

Carrots - that was D's particular request.

I am most interested in herbs, so to add to the thyme from last year, I planted chives in a flower box, cilantro (from seeds collected from our cilantro last year!), and oregano. Unfortunately, no one knew I had planted the oregano in the pot that I did, and the seedlings had been struggling anyway, so I think that was a bust. I have another flower box that isn't working with what's in it either, so I think this weekend I'll do some re-potting overall and also just pick up some oregano plants.

Then on the flower front...

I put in some coreopsis and alyssum in front. (Forgetting that I already had some coreopsis in there. But it could use more.)

Marigolds in the box with the chives. The marigolds were already in there - again, from seed harvested last year - but there was a lot more room so I tucked the chives in there too.

A mix called "Made in the Shade" for our flower box on the side of the garage.

A mix called "Heralds of Spring" for the flower box that D. has claimed. That box is prone to weeds and now it's just a mess of green things - no idea what might be weed and what might be from that mix. We'll wait and see, and next year maybe we'll plant something more recognizable in there.

I had sown forget-me-not seeds in one flower box, and then added in some succulents and moss that I'd started in one place and needed to move. But that box is prone to squirrels getting into it, and now I have to find a new home for my succulents. I don't think the forget-me-not seeds will handle a second replanting. So, the succulents and moss will go into the pot the oregano had been in (and then I can take them inside in the winter), and I'll put oregano plants (and stakes to prevent squirrels) into that window box.

We transplanted a fern from inside that wasn't doing well (we have two other ferns in the garden so I thought, why not?) It hasn't died yet, so...

Then I sowed sunflower seeds a while ago that don't seem to have sprouted, so I'll go ahead and sow some black-eyed-susan vine along that fence as well. And milkweed in one unused corner, and nicotiana and lavender hyssop in another. And we'll just see what comes up.

I'm hoping for some good garden time this weekend. I'll take more photos too and put them up next week. If nothing else I have more shrubs needing identification...

Hoping for some sun,