Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Still the Season

Okay, now that we're past Christmas Day, I wish we'd been able to do more to observe Advent and Christmas. I like the special music, the lights, the TV specials, the movies, the cards, and even the gifts. I'm just not wild about getting/giving LOTS of gifts, and especially not all the crap that seems to flow around at this time of year that otherwise doesn't enter my life. (Scented candles, you know I'm talking to you.)

This year I was so irked at the lack of space in my office and the lack of time to deal with it that when I received some random gifts from people I don't know well (of things I would never myself use), rather than find a way to pass them on to someone who would enjoy them, I just tossed them. Which I'm not happy about either, but there just wasn't space to have them sitting around.

For the record, let me say that I received some wonderful presents from my family and my husband's family, and even from Buster's daycare, and I hope they enjoyed my presents to them just as much. I am not, after all, a Grinch or a Scrooge.

So, since there are still 7 days left of Christmas proper, I have pulled out Christmas music to listen to while I write my Christmas cards. I have put up the cards we've received. I may even dig out some ornaments to hang around the house. We did manage to have a little tree and Nativity scene out all month, thanks to Nana and Fisher-Price:

And finally, my apologies to anyone who followed the link in the previous post to the Advent Conspiracy video on YouTube and then got sucked in by endless numbers of clips of animated cats/dogs/babies set to Christmas carols (like, for example, The Dude). Here's a link to a crap-free version (about 2/3 of the page down, titled "Enter the Story".)

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

An evening all to myself!

Friday, December 18, 2009

'Tis the Season

Done with the gift drive for this year, and off from work for ten days. We leave for Ohio on Sunday.

Working the gift drive leaves me so busy that I don't have much time to think about gifts myself, or spending time in the stores, or going to parties, or any particular preparation for Christmas other than trying to take a few moments here and there to reflect. I like this.

Here's a video that moves me, from the Advent Conspiracy, an organization seeking to reduce the consumer aspect of Christmas.

I do like Christmas cookies though.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Aahhh!

I went for my first run in almost three weeks today and it was glorious. Painful but glorious.

(Painful in an unexpected way - my lower ribcage was all tight! From all the coughing I suppose.)

I've heard a good rule of thumb for deciding whether or not to run while sick: if the trouble is above the neck, go for it, if the trouble is below the neck, take care. My troubles have finally moved to and above my neck so I decided to go for it. I actually started yesterday - with the cold/snowy weather we've switched to using the Green Monster to take Buster to daycare, which is the same stroller we use when running with him. It was so cold yesterday I started jogging a bit with him just to keep warm, and lo and behold, I didn't fall over in a coughing fit (at least not until I stopped). Plus I am finally sleeping more like a healthy person and therefore waking up early enough to consider exercising before work.

So last night I laid out my best winter running outfit, set my alarm, stayed up too late and got woken up early by Buster (par for the course), switched my running outfit completely around (also par for the course), dropped him off and went for a little run. Only 20 minutes to start with but a girl's got to be smart about these things. Then back home for oatmeal, hot chocolate, yoga, and a hot shower. Heavenly.

I am so grateful to be feeling mostly normal again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Holidays!

So, here's the holiday scorecard thus far:
  • 2 cases of flu (not H1N1)
  • 1 case pinkeye
  • 1 delayed trip to Ohio
  • 1 missed race
  • 2 extra days missed work
  • 38 voice messages waiting for me when I got in this morning - but no voice to answer them with.
Coming up:
  • 1 insanely busy work schedule
  • 1 insanely busy rehearsal/recording/performing schedule
  • 0 chance to go shopping (and $0 to go shopping with)
Looks like the Christmas cards will be late this year!

On the upside, after spending a couple of days sick at home with a bouncing-off-the-walls Buster (sent home from daycare for the aforementioned pinkeye), work today was positively restful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Race Report

So, even though we signed up and paid the fee and all, I have decided not to try to do the ORRRC Turkey Trot this year on our Thanksgiving trip to Ohio. It's just too much with both of us being or recovering from being sick, and then not at home to boot. Getting into town just the night before, having to get up early, figuring out who's taking care of Buddy while at the same time dinner preparations (and early imbibing) are going on... you get the picture. If I could drive myself to the race site I would still do it, because then it would just be me away for a while out of a whole household of adults, and The Dude could take care of Buddy, even while still under the weather. But I can't drive his stick shift. I've been looking forward to this for a couple of months - I so enjoyed running it with The Dude on our first Thanksgiving together - but it's not worth the physical or emotional effort this year.

So this Thanksgiving I will pack up Buddy in the back carrier and go for a hike with The Dude on the trails by Nana's house. And then come back and eat too much pie and watch football and try to keep Buddy from breaking anything valuable.

May you all have safe travels and happy homes this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Scary Movie Month - Who Knew?

My darling husband, who apparently has more free time on his hands than I do, put together a list of the scary movies we've seen during SMM since we met. I don't even remember most of these, but defer to his frightening ability to remember all things media-related. I've marked the ones I do remember watching (plus the ones I remembered once I IMDb'd them).

2005
*Young Frankenstein
*The Thing (1982 version)
*American Werewolf in London
--- All winners this year, I think that's how he suckered me into this tradition.

2006
*Corpse Bride
*The Howling
*Evil Dead 2
*Fright Night
*Van Helsing
--- Not quite the all-star lineup of 2005, but with the exception of "Van Helsing," all worth watching.

2007
Nightmare on Elm Street
Teen Wolf
*Bride of Frankenstein
Mystery Science Theater 3K: Touch of Satan
Jeepers Creepers
--- Since I've worked hard to forget that I saw these (aside from Bride), I'm not going to comment. This wasn't a good year for either of us, so I'm not surprised that our SMM suffered as well.

2008
*They Live
The Monster Squad
Friday the 13th: Part 4
*Phantasm
*Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
*Army of Darkness
*Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
*Creepshow
--- I remember "Phantasm" but wish I didn't. Same for "MS's Frankenstein" - this was the one with Kenneth Branagh. "Army of Darkness" was a lot of fun, and the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was really interesting, and, of course, great preparation for this year's viewing of the 1978 version. I have a fondness for both John Carpenter and Stephen King, so even though I'm not crazy about either "They Live" or "Creepshow," I don't regret seeing them. (I'm not crazy about them because they creeped me out too well, not because I didn't think they were good.)

And that's it until next year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scary Movie Month - The End

Well, we've finally come to the (much-delayed) end of Scary Movie Month. After my last SMM post our movie watching got derailed by illness and changing schedules, making both of us determined to go to bed as early as possible, as often as possible. But we were equally determined to finish off at least a couple more movies (and the last of the candy). So here goes.

On Halloween, with a poor pitiful Buddy having made our going-out plans impossible, we settled in to watch Night of the Comet. I feel it is my duty to tell you to spare yourself the same misery. Horrible 80's music - they didn't have the budget to get the hits. (They used a cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun".) Horrible, horrible 80's clothes. Boring for the first half, with miserable dialogue, and then, once it got interesting, a ludicrous ending. It was meant to be a "Valley" horror movie - well, gag me with a spoon.

It was at this point that we got derailed by the aforementioned travails, and for a while I was seriously considering giving up and returning the rest of the movies. Good thing I didn't! We (unwittingly) saved the scariest for last: Drag Me To Hell by Sam Raimi. Bad dialogue? Yes. Campy? Yes. Made me shriek, jump from my seat, turn my face to the wall, clutch at The Dude - over and over again? Yes. Would I see this movie again, especially now I know where the (really) scary bits are? In a heartbeat.

So with that, we close out Scary Movie Month 2009. Definitely a memorable month for movies. My top five for this year? "Coraline," "Let the Right One In," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Gojira," and, of course, "Drag Me to Hell."

Let the Christmas movies begin!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Hate Daylight Savings

Big surprise there, I'm sure, I haven't ever met anyone who actually thought it was a good idea. But now I hate it for a whole new reason...

Buddy's 5:30 a.m. wake up time has now become 4:30 a.m..

Unngh...

Nothing we have done this past week seems to help shift his internal clock, so I have now given up and accepted the new time.

And you know, it's not the 4:30 waking that I mind so much, 'cause we've had some really nice mornings together - it's wonderful to have that extra time with him before daycare/work.

But oh, it's so hard to get myself to bed early enough...

Blessings to babies and mamas (and papas, and grandmas) waking up early all over the world.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Sweet Smell of Success - Hot Chocolate 15K Race Report

Okay, so I'll just come out and say it - I kicked ass. Final time of 1:39:26, for an average pace of 10:41. Just want to point out that at the beginning of this season I ran a 5K at a 12:08 pace. Despite the ups-and-downs of this season, clearly my training is paying off.

Now for the report.

It was a beautiful day, clear, sunny, not too breezy. I was running late as usual but had no problem finding Allison at the entrance to the park which was good since she had my race packet. And then it turned out that the start for the 15K wouldn't be until 8:30 anyway so we had plenty of time. After gear check and porta-pottie visits there wasn't really anything to do but go line up, so we bounced up and down to stay warm and I talked her ear off about running and Buster's current illness. She is very patient with me. The 5K folks started, we moved forward into our pace sections and waited some more - at that point it was too loud to talk.

At exactly 8:30 we were off, though it took about eight minutes before we actually crossed the start line. LOTS of people on this course which was actually pretty narrow, so I ended up going at a faster pace than I meant to, just to make sure I didn't get boxed in. To be honest, I loved it. I loved the way the course changed constantly, with curves, rises, dips, bumps, curbs, grass, sand, dirt, even tree roots. I loved how I had to constantly pass people, not for the sake of passing them but to make sure I always had room to move, looking for gaps and moving into them, seeing where spaces were closing and moving to avoid them. And there were hills! - little ones to be sure but I loved the feel of them, trucking up the rise and then letting myself fly on the way down. I knew I wasn't going to be able to maintain the pace I was at, but oh gosh, it was fun.

This went on for about three miles, and then things started to spread out a little bit (though I was surprised at how crowded the course was at every point - I really am used to being "back of the pack" in all my races and there's a bit more room back there). I had been waiting for a good moment to drop my speed down and just could never find it, until I got a wicked side stitch which decided the matter for me. Luckily I'm pretty used to side stitches so I knew I could keep running, I would just need to slow down a bit and breathe into the stitch to recover, though this one was strong enough that I actually did stop for a moment to stretch.

And then I kept going, and let myself just run. I had worried a bit about how I would keep myself going without my iPod, since I almost always listen to music on my runs (not during races). An hour and a half with just your thoughts can be a long time. But there was so much to pay attention to it was never an issue. Mostly my feet, to make sure I wasn't going to trip on the curb or another runner, but I tried to remember to look up and around from time to time since the course was so pretty - through the lakefront park, back along the lake, back onto the path with all the trees in full fall color, through the playing fields and golf course. From time to time I would catch up with Allison, chat for a bit, then slip back again. I thought about when I would want to pick up the pace again - not too soon, so I could be sure to sustain it for the rest of the way - but not so late that I missed the opportunity to shave off some time.

At 5 miles I stopped, had my GU*, and drank some water. Then after that I must have spaced out for a bit, since I missed the time clock at 6 miles. I remember thinking that it had to have been 6 miles already, and then as we came up to another time clock praying that it would be the 7 mile one, please God, not 6 miles. I was feeling okay but didn't really want to have another 3+ miles to go, especially if I wanted to finish strong.

At that point I decided to seriously think about picking up my speed, at least for 100 meter increments if I didn't feel like I could stay at the quicker pace for the rest of the race. I saw Allison in front of me and caught up to her, planning on dropping back after a while, but we were talking and then suddenly the harbor was in front of us and there was only another mile and a half to go. I stayed with her as we swept around the curve of the harbor arm, out into the lake with the Chicago skyline spread before us, let her slip ahead as we made the tight turn back around the other side of the harbor arm into the park, and then we were at half a mile left and I started going even faster in 100m bursts, and then we hit the 9 mile clock and the finish line was just visible in the distance through the trees and around the curves and then we were at 200 meters, then 100, then 50 and I sprinted ahead to finish just before her. Because I am a competitive little weasel, after all, and Allison, bless her heart, is not.

And then we were done. Almost immediately volunteers popped up with bags full of Halloween candy for the taking, waves and waves of them. (It is called the Hot Chocolate 15K, after all.) We walked around to get our bearings, then went to gear check, meaning to meet up again on the other side to get our hot chocolate and post-race food (fruit, pretzels, graham cracks in, oh yes, chocolate fondue). But we both got held up at gear check which was the only thing about the whole race that seemed poorly organized, and by the time I got through I assumed she was already done and lost somewhere in the crowd. I texted her to let her know I was leaving and headed home.

So how is it that I did so much better than I was expecting? Well, all season long I've been working with the McMillan Running Calculator, plugging in my best times and then using it to determine my training paces. It had given me the estimate of 10:38 pace for a 15K, but honestly, I just didn't believe it. I think I don't yet have enough experience with racing - really racing, as opposed to running races for fun - to have a good sense of how the race itself changes things.

My watch doesn't allow me to record splits but this is what my approximate ones were:
  • miles 1-3 @ 10:30
  • miles 4-7 @ 10:55
  • mile 8 @ 10:45
  • mile 9 @ 10:30
  • last 0.3 miles @ 10:03
In my age group, I placed 387th out of 546, so about 2/3 of the way back. Not Speedy Gonzalez by any means, but certainly no longer "back of the pack." This is new, and exciting, and a little bit scary. What might I do next? What could I have done in that race if I had really believed I was capable of running it faster? These are exciting, and scary, things to think about.

At the same time, it's clear to me that I could not have done it without support. Support all season long from The Dude, who listened to my obsessing and encouraged my heading out every Sunday, even if sometimes I came home to "I thought you would never get back!" and a crying child. And support from Allison around the actual race, from being willing to do it with me in the first place, to picking up my race packet when it was clear I couldn't negotiate taking Buster way up north for his shots and then back south to the race expo (all on public transportation), to being an unsuspecting pacer through most of the race and then not giving me grief about my urge to "win" at the end. (For the sake of complete honesty, in the official time-keeping she actually placed before me - I must have crossed the start line before her as well).

So I am grateful to The Dude and to Allison, and grateful to the McMillan race calculator (I will heed its counsel more closely in the future), and grateful for my health and opportunities and this funny odd desire to run fast - at least as fast I may be able.

*For my non-runner readers, GU is a sports gel for easy digestion on long runs. It's the only brand I've been able to tolerate - the stuff is as nasty as it sounds.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ready to Race!

Race day. 6:02 a.m. Sick child, sick mama, not enough sleep. Par for the course this season - par for the course of having a young child. I am revising my race goals upward, back to my original one of an 11:20 pace.

But it looks to be sunny and clear with only mild breezes. The trees have not yet lost all their leaves and we are beginning and ending at Montrose Harbor with their gorgeous fields of wildflowers - a beautiful day and a beautiful course for a race. This All Saints' Day I will run in memory of all our mothers and all the women who have come before us and made our world a beautiful place, using their strength and determination and endurance to move forward and to make things better for their children and for all children - that is to say, for all of us. I am privileged to be able to spend my energy and focus on running, and I hope in some way, through this sport I love, to be able to make the world better too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ready to Race?

I have a race in two days, the Hot Chocolate 15K. And I'm not quite ready.

I chose this race back in April, after the Wrigley Early Start 5K, when I wanted to challenge myself for the season, to keep my motivation for running high. Since I hadn't run in two years, I thought it would be a good distance for me - doable, but enough of a stretch to be challenging. I wasn't even thinking about trying to increase my pace at that point.

Well, I didn't anticipate how well my training would go this year, how easy it turned out to be to get faster and to increase my mileage. But I also didn't anticipate how inconsistent that same training would become. The interruptions seem to follow a regular cycle of work - illness - travel... there have not been that many weeks where I have actually managed to do all my runs as planned.

So now I have a race at a distance I am totally comfortable with, but I'm not quite sure I can sustain the speed I want - I haven't been able to get in the longer tempo runs I'd hoped to. I'm not quite sure of my strategy for this race - I'm not sure enough of what I am capable of over that distance.

In the past it wouldn't have been an issue, my goal with every race was just to finish, running strong and easy. And sure, I could do that again. But I am certain that I can do more than that, that I have it in me to really push myself. But by how much? Do I set a goal that I know I can make (with effort, to be sure), or do I set a more ambitious one? I don't know. I think I probably won't know until that morning - after all, I have no way of knowing how much sleep a certain little one will let me get the next two nights...

Well, however it turns out, I'm in pretty much the best shape of my adult life, and I know I can easily run it faster than any race I've done before, so whatever the final time, it will be confirmation of the work I've done this year.

(And I'm still going to cross my fingers for a sub-11:00 pace.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 4

Another week, another humiliating Bears loss. I could have been watching movies!

Not the best SMM week either, although it got better at the end. We started by watching The Hunger, which I had seen and enjoyed in college, and while it held up perfectly fine on second viewing, it still couldn't keep The Dude awake during what turned out to be his round with the cold Buddy brought home two weeks ago. Then a couple of nights later we tried to watch the original Dracula with Bela Lugosi, and I just couldn't get into it. Background music might have helped, but watching an old slow-moving movie with a plot already known to me, punctuated only with dramatic shots of Bela Lugosi's eyes, just couldn't compete with the possibility of going to bed early.

We did notice that in both this version of Dracula, and Francis Ford Coppola's, by far the most compelling figure to watch was Renfield.

I was uninterested in trying to finish either of these movies on a later night, which led to the first argument we've had this year about SMM. What emerged from this exchange was the realization that we have different expectations for our viewing experiences during this month. (Big surprise, I know.) For The Dude, it is in part about seeing as many horror movies as is physically possible in a month. For me, it is about having a special evening with The Dude, in which we get to make popcorn, watch an interesting/funny/moving movie that happens to fall into the "scary" category (or is a spoof thereof), and then talk about it. Without exactly making this explicit, my view appears to have prevailed, probably because The Dude really does want to share these movies with me, and he knows I am perfectly content to let him watch them by himself while I go curl up with a book in the bedroom.

With that settled, we then had a great viewing of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum (we'd seen the original 1956 version last year). Very satisfying. Interesting, clever, scary without being too terrifying, moving. One of the best I've seen this year.

And then yesterday we watched Monsters Vs. Aliens which was entertaining though not as good as we thought it could have been. Lots of references to other movies that felt more like rip-offs rather than homages. And, I'm sorry, but I can't have been the only one who thought that the B.O.B. character (a gelatinous blue blob), voiced by Seth Rogan, most of the time most looked like a rather squat penis. It was a bit disconcerting to watch a kids' movie featuring what seemed to be a talking dildo in one of the main roles.

We've coming to the end of our SMM, with only a few possible viewing times left to us. The Dude has proposed we do a double-feature one night, but I have a race in less than a week that I am quite serious about, so I'm afraid the "late-night double-feature picture-show" won't be happening this year. But we have some good movies lined up and apparently on route, so I think we will still end this year's movie watching on a good note.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 3

Not so many movies this week, the stars just didn't align properly...

"Halloween" (the first one, by John Carpenter)
I suppose I'm glad to have seen this, both for its place in horror movie history and because Jamie Lee Curtis is good in it (and it's interesting to see her young - she looks like a colt, not quite grown into herself). But I'm also glad that, having seen it, I never have to watch it - or any of the other "Halloween" movies - again.

"Gojira" (the original Japanese)
After reading about how the first American "Godzilla" movie was made (and watching half of it), I realized the parts I had enjoyed most - the music, the Japanese characters, the images - were all from the original Japanese movie. So I decided to take an evening on my own and watch it by myself, which, as The Dude can attest, is something I never do. But watching an old b&w non-scary foreign monster movie is really the best possible use of one's time when sick and tired.

"The Exorcist"
I mentioned to The Dude that I might, for the sake of being complete, be willing to watch ONE movie in the demonic possession category. So what does he choose? Only one of the most scary movies of all times. I got my revenge however... he was more spooked by it than I was... and he'd seen it before! Very interesting, how it was put together (as a story), and very sad. And the last ten minutes of the movie were the scariest of them all.

The next two weeks are going to continue to be light on the scary movies... I can't help it if The Dude is going to hockey games and rehearsals and gigs instead of attending to what should be his first priority this month: scaring the crap out of me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 2

This week in Scary Movie Month was a mixed bag - we watched more movies, but enjoyed them less, and some we didn't even finish.

"Night of the Living Dead" (the original 1968 one)
Eh, interesting as part of movie history and as social commentary (which The Dude claims all the good horror movies are essentially about). Very intense, in fact I would say unrelenting in its intensity. I was glad it was short.

"The Fly" (the 1986 version directed by David Cronenberg)
Truly disgusting, and truly awesome. Very moving. The best kind of horror movie.

"Bram Stoker's Dracula" (directed by Francis Ford Coppola)
I loved this movie when it was released - The Dude loved this movie when it was released - clearly we were both insane back then. (Well, we were both in college then, so I guess that goes without saying.) Awful, just awful. We got about 20 minutes in - decided to start fast-forwarding - got through another 20 minutes of watching before deciding to call it a night.

"The Most Dangerous Game"
Clearly a must-see for any true King Kong fan (ie., The Dude) - shot on the same set as the original King Kong and at the same time - this was shot during the day while KK was shot at night, using the same actors as well. Talk about making movies on a budget.

"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"
Genius, pure genius. But skip the commentaries (both singing and regular) unless you really love everything Joss Whedon - the "Making Of" featurettes provide enough info on the process, and the extra ELE video applications provide enough extra giggles.

"Godzilla, King of the Monsters"
This was the first American Godzilla movie, made by taking the original Japanese version and dubbing in scenes with Raymond Burr as a reporter (who could then provide the necessary exposition). Unfortunately, we started this one while up early in the morning with a sick Buddy. We got about half way through before the Tylenol kicked in and B started feeling better (and therefore uninterested in cuddling on the couch while Mama and Dada watched an old monster movie). Since I'm home sick today myself I may finish watching it.

Tonight it's the original "Halloween" by John Carpenter. I don't like slasher films as a rule, but am persuaded to watch this one for its role in horror movie history and because it's a John Carpenter movie. Full report next week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 1

It's October, which means it is Scary Movie Month in my house. A whole month full of scary (and not-so-scary) movies, with enough popcorn, hot chocolate, and candy corn to fuel Godzilla. The Dude starts planning for this in August, with at least once-a-day visits to the Netflix queue to make sure our selections are lined up in the best possible order, taking into account such things as work schedule, weather, lunar position, and cosmic rays.

This year we are challenged by the fact that I go to bed so much earlier now - no double features for me! This has taken the Netflix-queue visiting to new heights, as we now need to consider the length of the movie and whether or not I can manage to fit it in on a weeknight, or if it needs to wait for a Friday or Saturday night when I can stay up a smidge later.

This year we chose our movies based on four categories: Classic, Kids, Dude's Choice, and Annie's Choice. Do you think you can tell which movie falls into which category?

Our first week's movies (in order of viewing):
  • Psycho (the original, natch)
  • Coraline (from the Neil Gaiman book, directed by Henry Selick, who also directed "The Nightmare Before Christmas")
  • Let the Right One In (Swedish vampires - this one was really amazing)
  • The Fog (the original by John Carpenter)
All winners! I would add that the so-called kids' movie was actually the most disturbing.

I was not a big fan of scary movies when the Dude and I met, so it's really a big deal that I am now choosing some of my own accord. (I mostly endured the first couple of years of SMM.) There are movies I am pretty adamant about not seeing: anything with serial killers, torture, demonic possession, or where children get hurt. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies I can handle.

Let the film roll!

Monday, September 28, 2009

September Reading, Had Me A Blast

Not that I've read many books this month, but with the new daycare being a short walk from home, I can finally read on the train on my way to and from work again. Bliss!

I've also been reading a bit more at night, oddly enough because I'm going to bed earlier --- I need a little literature to settle down and go to sleep at what feels to me like a ridiculously early hour.

So I've been catching up on my magazines on the commute and tucking into more thoughtful books at night, and what a pleasure it is. And of course continuing with the urban fantasy kick I've been on for the last three months, though I am slowly running out of titles. But that's okay, it's fall. Time for football, scary movies, and documentaries, so I think I'm ready to put aside the speed reading for now.

Here's a sampling of what I've been into the past six months.

Magazines
  • Running Times & Runner's World (big surprise)
  • The Week
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Random issues of Real Simple, Wired, Parents, and Men's Health
Summer Quickies
  • Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
  • Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris
  • Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
  • Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs
  • "Fables" vol. 9-11 (graphic novel)
  • Jennifer Crusie novels
Novels That Caught My Eye at the Library That I Actually Finished
  • "Good Faith" --- Jane Smiley
  • "Downtown Owl" --- Chuck Klosterman
  • "Fool" --- Christopher Moore
Recent Fave Sports Reads
  • "Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running" --- Rachel Toor
  • "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" --- Christopher McDougall
  • "Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town" --- Warren St. John
Currently on the Shelf
  • "Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America" --- Jonathon Gould
  • "The Great Transformation: The Beginnings of our Religious Traditions" --- Karen Armstrong
  • "Dara Torres: Age is Just a Number" --- Dara Torres with Elizabeth Weil
  • "Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon" --- (ed.) Neal Jamison
  • "Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done" --- David Allen
Slow and Savory (Bedside Table)
  • "Quilts in America" --- Patsy & Myron Orlofsky
  • "Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life" --- (trans.) Mirabai Starr
  • "Der Raeuber Hotzenplotz" --- Otfried Preussler
  • "Reflections on a Mountain Lake: Teachings on Practical Buddhism" --- Tenzin Palmo
  • Gute Nachricht Bibel
I wonder how many of these will still be unfinished, six months from now?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oh Yes, That

As for the update about my efforts to not be so angry with everything, I am glad to report some success with this too. Deep breathing, inspirational reading, positive self-talk, disengaging with love, and so on. More yoga.

Wish me luck in my continued efforts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quick Update

Oh my, it's been over a week and I've barely been online in all that time. Buddy's birthday and work have kept me busy, and then he got sick (better now). His one-year shots have been postponed twice now, once due to a scheduling error, once because he was sick, and now won't happen for another three weeks. Guess I'm just behind in everything.

Including the update on the Buster Brown Celebration Fun Run! Which was fun! We all headed out after lunch and B's nap for a smart jog to and through our favorite park, which runs along the Chicago River (Buddy likes it when we go fast.) At the end of the park, about three miles, we stopped for a break on the kiddie swings, then turned around and headed back. The weather was beautiful, there were lots of dogs and other babies to wave to, and we all enjoyed ourselves. This was the first time we'd all gone running as a family and we plan to do it again. We may even get the real running stroller fixed. (It's on loan from a friend and needs a tune-up which we haven't gotten to yet --- especially since we can't figure out how to collapse it so it will fit in the car --- in the meantime we've been using his all-terrain stroller which is heavy).

No t-shirts this year: I couldn't get organized enough to make them (and wasn't sure until the last minute that we'd actually be doing it). Next year, though! Design submissions most welcome.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Changing My Tune

The Chicago Half Marathon is this weekend, and I am not running it.

The Chicago Marathon is in exactly a month, and I am not running that either.

See where I'm going with this?

My training schedule has been all over the place for a while, since I haven't had any race to focus on.

Our plans for the Buster Brown Celebration Fun Run have been all over the place too, as The Dude's running season has not gone as he'd hoped. This has led to a lot of back and forth on his and my part. I'm running it on my own... no, we're running it together, but it will be short... no, I'm running it on my own again... no, together... This has been frustrating. And has contributed to the lack of focus in my training mentioned above.

However.

After spending the first six months of Buddy's life a wee bit sad, and then the next six months a wee bit angry, I have decided it is high time for an attitude adjustment. I will start doing whatever I need to --- prayer, visualizations, mantras, meditation, holy water, WHATEVER --- to be able to have a loving, more kind heart, towards myself and others, and to count my blessings and not my misfortunes.

(Side note to The Dude: sorry I wasn't on the ball with that this morning.)

So instead of mourning the races I am not doing this year (and couldn't have imagined doing six months ago anyway, hello), I will find some fun and meaningful ones to do next year (I already have some in mind). And I will set my focus on the one race I actually do have this year, the Hot Chocolate 15K, November 1. Which, while it doesn't have any particular personal meaning for me, should be a lot of fun (post-party sponsored by Hershey's, after all).

And as for tomorrow's run? Well, it is the Buster Brown Celebration FUN RUN after all. And what could be better than heading out on our favorite route, Buddy in tow, and taking time at the halfway mark to let Buddy have some fun, pushing his stroller in the grass and swinging on the swings?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Good Grief

Of course, it doesn't matter if I go to bed on time if certain infant progeny wake up at 5:15 a.m., instead of an hour later as is usual. Hmph.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lessons From a Hard Run

A couple of weeks ago I had a lousy long run, one of those where you feel certain that you have just lost all your running ability, your best days are long behind you, and what business do you have calling yourself a runner anyway.

And really, I knew better. I made some serious mistakes heading into the run and didn't make adjustments. Looking back, I should be grateful I was able to do it, and without injury to myself. I guess that's testament both to my general hardiness, and to my bullheadedness.

So, in the spirit of learning from my mistakes - and admitting them - here are lessons from a hard run.
  1. I missed my morning snack the day before (too busy at work) and then was so pleased that I'd missed a meal (since I still have a bit of crazy dieter mentality left in me) that I didn't make it up later in the day.
  2. I didn't get to bed on time the night before, and haven't been getting enough sleep this month, so when I got up that morning I already felt depleted. Right then, I should have revised my training plans for the day.
  3. It was HOT! Ninety-seven degrees. Given the heat, I should have a) been much more deliberate about going at a slower pace, b) planned in more frequent walking breaks, and c) changed my planned route to one more in the shade, instead of on the lakefront.
Any one of these I could have taken in stride, ha, ha, but not all three.

Since I'd already done 9 miles this season, I didn't give it the respect I should have. I finished, and I was never in any danger of heatstroke (I am at least good about keeping tabs on that), but it was not fun, and I didn't feel good afterward. And of course I went over my estimated time range, which is probably what rankled me most.

Last week was an easy week, so tomorrow will be the first long run since then, and I have 10 miles planned. I'm not worried about it going poorly, since I've had some good runs in the meantime, and conditions are much more favorable. But what I want to take away from the lousy run, and why I'm writing about it, is not to be cocky about any run, of any distance. Every run is a gift, not to be taken lightly.

And now to bed!

Friday, August 21, 2009

In Her Words...

I've been wondering how to explain why running is so important to me, and why my secret burning ambition in running is so important to me (still not ready to share that, you'll have to wait), and then I read Ironmatron's post on why she wants to qualify for the Kona Ironman. And while it's not my S.B.A.* to do a triathlon of any length, I really related to what she wrote. Especially:

"Because I don't want to look like the middle-aged mom that I am; I want to look like the twenty-year old lassie I wish I once was."

Emphasis mine. Except for me it's about feeling like the twenty-year old lassie, rather than looking like her.

I always wanted to be an athlete, and somehow, not quite sure how exactly, this is the year I decided I would be.

I've heard there's nothing like becoming a parent to get clear on what you really want. So thank you, Buddy, for giving me that extra gift, beyond your own sweet self.

*Secret Burning Ambition

Monday, August 17, 2009

Be Nice

Why I Have Not Been Writing

  1. I have been too busy with work. That makes me angry.
  2. I am too busy to do the things that make me feel better. That makes me more angry.
  3. So mostly I've had angry thoughts. But I don't want to have an angry blog.
  4. I have had non-angry things to write about. I just don't have the time/energy to write about them. See #2.
  5. And, oh yes, it's August in Chicago, my least favorite month.

That's it, I'm back to work. Grrrr. See you in September.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sad

My cousin buried his young son today. Z would have been three years old this October. He had the best care possible but in the end the cancer came back and killed him.

I don't know what to write. There's so much I wish was different. I think really all I can do is be sad.

Rest in peace, Z. You will be much missed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Buddy's Got A Brand New... Daycare

Buddy will be changing daycare at the end of August (big sigh of relief).

The long-term impact...
  • Possibly better learning opportunities since it's a larger center and located in a child-friendly and resource-rich part of town.
  • We will be able to meet other families in our neighborhood, have playdates, etc.
  • It may be a resource in navigating the local schools when the time comes (a very big deal in Chicago).
  • They have Spanish in the classrooms, fish in the hallway, and a rabbit in the toddler room. 'Nuff said.
The short-term impact...
  • I no longer have to go downtown to bring him to daycare (his current setting is at my workplace). This frees me up tremendously, even though my daily commute will be longer, since my work schedule varies considerably each month and it's been a drag coordinating daycare and work on those weeks I don't work Monday through Friday.
  • I no longer have to make the commute with him. No more fending off busy little hands that want to grab other people's striped pants, newspaper, or iPhone. Not to mention my glasses. And I can read on the train again!
  • It's $400 less a month. 'Nuff said.
Oh happy day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weighty Matters

I've been thinking about this posting for a while, a couple of months in fact, ever since Jen M. wrote about it on her blog.

The problem is, what I want to say keeps changing.

But I'm tired of thinking about what I might write about it - at this point I just want it written.

So in a nutshell...

I have struggled with my weight and eating my whole life.

I finally feel like I have a healthy relationship with food and with exercise.

Part of getting healthy with those things has included a weight gain after my last significant weight loss, which was not done well.

I've had to be okay with being heavier during the time that I got healthier, but I've always known I didn't want to stay that way. I've made inconsistent efforts over the years towards losing some of that weight (plus, you know, there's been some life stuff that's gotten in the way), but I've also been scared to commit to losing more than a portion of the weight I had put back on.

I told myself different stories in which my having lost all that weight was a bad thing - that it made me weaker, that I didn't look good, that it wasn't sustainable.

None of which is true.

The truth is, I liked how I looked back then, and I liked how I felt. For the first time in my life I felt my outsides matched my insides. And I was strong, and with some minor changes to my eating (and much healthier thinking), it would have been sustainable.

Plus, I've progressed enough in my running this year that the extra weight is now limiting me.

So I'm ready.

And, inspired by a quote from Journey to 13.1, "It's a dream until you write it down, and then it's a goal," I am writing down that I am committed to losing 25 pounds.

After that we'll see. Twenty-five pounds doesn't entirely bring me to where I was before, but it's within spitting distance of it if I decide that feels right.

Wish me luck!

Englewood Reserve

I went out to the Englewood Reserve to run - it's been years since I got to go trail running!

Before our trip to Ohio I hoped I could hit the trails, though I couldn't remember if the reserve was paved all the way in or not. It started with a steep paved downhill, and then a long curved drive that climbed back up, all lined with tall trees. I love hills, so even though I wasn't convinced that I would find trails I was already happy with the run. But then I got to the first open area and found trails, hoorah! I immediately took off my iPod and stashed it in my shorts – I just can’t run on trails and listen to music at the same time. It feels disrespectful somehow, never mind the fact that I've got to watch my footing. And these trails have lots of rocks, roots, and quick up-and-downs.

I ran one loop and was surprised at how short it was, so I decided to just pick a path, follow it to the end, and then find another loop to take. After a while I ended up on one path bordering the lake. Very narrow, very overgrown, lots of serrated leaves catching at my calves - I prayed that my good luck with poison ivy would continue to hold. I saw a snake, thin and writhing, right before I was on top of it – there was no room to move around so I just went over instead.

The trail got narrower and narrower (and the leaves sharper and sharper) so when there was a chance to leave I took it and ended up back on the main road. Followed a couple of different loops in that area then rejoined the trail by the river, came back to the first loop I had run and just ran that a few more times until I felt I should probably head home. Decided to run up that initial steep hill I’d run down - made it!

Heavenly. To be in all that green, to have every step different, to not worry about how fast I was going but just have my pace shift with the trail. Just my breath, my feet, and the ground I was passing over.

I don't know if I'll get back any more on this trip so I am writing this down to carry it close to me when I'm back in the land of concrete and steel.

Whoa, mama.

Here's an interview with Anita Ortiz, female winner of the Western States 100. Inspiring, yes, especially when she talks about her strategy for the race. But also sobering. Aside from the fact that I need more than 4 hours of sleep a night (oh, how I wish I didn't!), I'm glad my life isn't all about running.

Today I'm taking more inspiration from Michelle at "Back of the Pack," who sounds like she's literally more my speed, and yet manages to run marathons and ultramarathons anyway.

Here's to running long in miles, and years, and with kids, and resting well to boot!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Junk Miles

I had a very unsatisfying run this afternoon, made worse by knowing I had all these great runs over the weekend. I felt like I made dumb choices, the two main ones being that I ran on pavement in shoes that are best on the track, and I started off too fast when it really does take me a full mile to get warmed up. Plus I was kind of experimenting with my form, which might have been better to do in a more controlled setting. Like the track, say.

I thought I would try running on the sidewalks lining Lake Shore Drive (heading north from where I work up to Lincoln Park) since I enjoy walking on them and I don't like running on the lakefront that far south - but enjoying those walks did not translate to enjoying the run. Or maybe it would have if I hadn't made those aforementioned mistakes. I don't know. There was exhaust from the cars on LSD, there was sticky warm air coming off of the lake, there was construction and tourists and lots of traffic stops. Plus I don't know my way around Lincoln Park at all and was running out of time, so once I got there I pretty much just ran in a little circle so I wouldn't get lost and then turned back around into the traffic, tourists, and construction.

So much for changing things up on a workday run. On the way over I passed the track and thought, "Oh, maybe I should just run on the track, it'll be nice and breezy, it'll feel comfortable, I didn't get to at all last week, I miss it," and then I just kept going, wanting to try something new. But it takes me too long to get anywhere good from downtown, so that doesn't work for my short runs - by the time I get someplace I like I have to turn around again. So forget it. No more exploratory runs from work. I like the track and I'll just stick with it.

It probably didn't help that I had an unsatisfying day at work prior to this, no? Or that I've been feeling F-A-T? So much for all that lightness and joy I was raving on about.

In the end I was too disgusted with myself to even shower - I just wanted to come back to the office and get through the rest of the workday.

The Dude calls days like these "junk miles" and says they're useful. I don't run so many days a week that I want to have any of them be junk. But I suppose maybe I learned some things that will be useful to me later.

Like don't run downtown!

Monday, July 20, 2009

What a Week --- Part 2

Lately I've been reading the book "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall, and there's lots and lots in it I could talk about, but what stayed with me this week on these tough runs is when he talks about the joy of running, how children and certain athletes and the Tarahumara Indians that he's writing about all have this profound joy in their running, a lightness in spirit, and how that ends up being a lightness in their physical running as well. And how his own running is transformed in trying to emulate that lightness.

This speaks to me because I feel that I frequently have that joy in my running - so often when I pass people on the street I see grim, intense faces (and I'm sure the same is true for me too sometimes) but so often I know I'm smiling instead.

And sometimes when the running is hard I can call on that lightness, think about being light on my feet, imagine myself breathing in light, see all my muscles and tendons and ligaments and bones being held together loosely, connecting lightly, instead of being tense or locked together --- and it helps.

I called on this for the first run with Buster in particular, both at the beginning when I wasn't yet warmed up and when it seemed impossible to do this kind of run with a stroller (remind me again why I chose to run 6 miles with a baby in tow*) - and then again at the end after I ended up running an extra mile and a half... a little bit too fast... in the sun... and was hurting, oh, just a little bit.

And that lightness carried me through.

*Why am I doing this? Because I love it, and I want to run much more, much farther, and I want to love it all the way. And if some days that means taking the baby along, well, endurance is endurance, yes? Seems like good practice for the kinds of crazy-ass races I want to run someday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What a Week --- Part 1

It was not at all the week I was expecting, and my feelings about it have been all over the place.

Tuesday was my day off, and I had just finished some cleaning up around the house and was settling down with lunch and a book before getting ready for a nice, long, rambling run down to the lakefront and back: no watch, no goals, just go enjoy the sun, the lake, and the run. Then I heard a key in the lock. What's this? The property manager didn't say anything about a visit. Oh, it's The Dude, with Buddy, wanting to know why I haven't checked my voice mail at all this morning since Buddy IS SICK and has been sent home from daycare.

So no run that day but instead a trip to the pediatrician and figuring out which one of us will take which day off from work to stay home with him. The Dude took Wednesday, I prepared to take off Thursday if need be.

Wednesday I was still a wee bit cranky about having lost my afternoon to myself and my planned run. Looking at notes I wrote that morning I see I was planning to post about the advantages/disadvantages of only doing three runs a week, since I had missed one at that point with the likelihood not only of not making it up, but possibly missing another one as well. You know, super-concerned mom stuff.

Well, he was feeling better by then!

At four-thirty The Dude and I conferred by phone and decided Buddy should stay home another day after all - he was in good spirits but had had a bit of a fever again that afternoon. I stayed an hour later at work to get things cleared up... that went far more smoothly than expected... and by the time I left I was even looking forward to a day home with Buddy. Perhaps I could even go running with him!

Thursday Buddy was in fine form with just a sore throat. The sun was shining, the air was dry. We went to the park and I scored big time at the library, stocking up on light summer reading to fortify myself for the weekend evenings when I would be a Pitchfork widow (a three-day indie music festival here in Chicago).

And our run? Wonderful. Kind of grueling since it is harder with the stroller and I didn't quite get the hang of doing a long run with it until my second try over the weekend. Plus my wrist is not back to normal (I doubt it will heal until Buddy can both walk on his own and follow directions so that I neither have to carry nor wrestle him), and I didn't pace myself well, and I went farther out than I'd planned. BUT...

I got to see things I don't normally (in that park I usually run on the grass and am always watching my feet to make sure I don't trip): wildflowers, water fountains, and a bird and butterfly sanctuary.

I got to hear things I don't normally since I usually run with music: the wind in the leaves of the trees by the river, kids playing, Buddy ba-ba-ba-ing once he woke up.

I discovered a nice loop within that park that I can use to extend my runs when I want (and made use of this three days later when I went running with Buddy again).

I came home just in time for The Dude to take over Buddy-care and me get my ice bath and hot shower before The Dude had to head off again to rehearsal.

Plus there was the joy of getting to be Buddy's personal salt lick. He kisses me with a wide open mouth, and after my run he gave me a kiss - then drew back, made a funny face and smacked his lips a bit - then leaned right back in again for another kiss, another taste, and so on.

And having gotten to spend that day with him I started looking forward more to the weekend. Sure enough, more fun excursions and another couple of runs including a long one that was much less grueling since I'd learned the lessons of the first one. And lots of playing on the floor. I'd been a bit worried about what it would be like to take care of him now that he's mobile - no more plopping him down somewhere and knowing he'll stay put - but it's way more fun now that he can get himself around. Way more scary (I'm not telling you what he did on Monday that had my heart stop for a moment), and a bit more tiring, but more than made up for in the increased joy of being with him. So a good week after all!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Huh!

So last night I realized that my new favorite late-night snack, Honey Maid graham crackers, spread thinly with Smucker's Natural peanut butter (and accompanied by a small glass of milk), tastes exactly like Nutter Butter cookies.

I don't know whether to be happy about this or scared.

Friday, July 10, 2009

9:53

That is how fast I ran a mile during my speedwork session today.

The second mile (after warming up for a mile and running my first fast one at 10:20).

And while some of you speed-bunnies out there may be scoffing, saying that you couldn't run that slow if you tied lead weights to your feet, I have never before run a mile that fast. So I am pretty well pleased.

Could 9:30 be that far behind?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wave Bye-Bye, Buddy

Heading home today after a wonderful week in Ohio with Nana and Emma, and visits to Grandpa and Grandma. None of us want to leave.

What I will miss most (aside from Nana, Grandpa and Grandma) -
  • being able to walk around with bare feet;
  • watching the birds in the morning;
  • sitting outside on the back patio reading with an eye on Buddy;
  • sitting outside in the grass with Buddy listening to the wind in the trees;
  • getting out for trail runs and hill repeats;
  • going on hikes with the family;
  • watching the Food Network (we don't have cable).
What Buddy will miss -
  • Emma (Nana's dog);
  • Bugsy and Shade (Grandpa and Grandma's dog and cat);
  • grass under his feet;
  • watching the birds at the feeder with Nana in the morning;
  • concrete to practice crawling on (great traction for little toes);
  • and probably a lot more than I'm not cognizant of, to the extent that he's capable of missing anything yet.
I'm already starting to tear up so I will just say "Bye-bye! We love you!"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Beautiful Day

We went to visit the Aullwood Audubon Center yesterday, and what a treat that was!

The Dude took off his shoes and pushed Buster in his new lightweight stroller through the grass and over dirt paths and gravel, with Buster kicking his legs in delight every time the road got bumpy.

We went into the woods for a nice easy hike and it was just beautiful - the sun coming through the trees, the brook trickling by, a field of ferns in the shade.

At the rose garden we startled a young deer and watched it bound across the grass into the prairie, white tail flashing.

Then up into the prairie, where we watched barn swallows swooping through the air, and the many bees buzzing over the wildflowers.

Places like this make me think of the summers spent visiting my grandmother in southwestern Germany and how I would walk up into the fields behind her house, with the sun, and the buzzing of insects, and the breeze rustling in the tall grasses.

I often wish that I lived closer to the outdoors when I visit places like this. Today I will be grateful that I do have such rich opportunities to be outside, and to share those times with people I love.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Aahhh...

We're here in southwestern Ohio for the week, visiting the fam. It's been Buddy's first opportunity to go on a hike, play in the grass, and be up close and personal with his Nana's beloved dog, Emma, and he's been loving all of it. And sleeping like a champ, which makes The Dude and me very happy as well. All that fresh air!

We've been fitting in our runs while here, and I'm looking forward to getting to do a couple of trail and hill runs as well. I don't get to run those much in Chicago.

Fresh air and good sleep for everyone!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

OMG.

Anita Ortiz is my new hero.

Are you kidding me?

Less than a page of coverage of the Western States 100 on RW online? Harumph.

Thankfully Running Times has links to the Auburn Journal, so my WS100 fixation may still be satiated.

Finally...

I have been waiting since last Thursday to read more about the Western States 100 (Runner's World online had said earlier last week that they would have info on the top female contenders before the start of the race... and then didn't. Nor could I find anything on the Running Times website over the weekend. And then we were on the road all day yesterday...)

But the baby is now put to bed, the dishes have been washed, my internet connection at Nana's house is established. I am settling down to read.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Trying Something New

I did a tempo run yesterday on the track, and it was awful and it was glorious. Awful because of the heat and humidity, glorious because I managed it despite the heat and humidity. This was the first tempo run I had done under my new program and I was nervous about my ability to do it, especially in this weather. But I got through, on pace, thanks to just enough of those beautiful moments when you feel that all is merging together perfectly to bring you, the run, and the world into blissful harmony. That, and the garden volunteer who kindly watered me when I asked him to.

For those of my non-running readers who don’t know what I’m talking about, a tempo run involves warming up at an easy pace for about 10-15 minutes, then an extended run at a middle race distance pace (that is, not as fast as you would do a 5K, but not as slow as you would a marathon), and then cooling down with an easy jog for another 10-15 minutes. The idea is that they teach your body (and mind) to run at a fast pace for a long period of time, thus getting you ready for actual racing conditions. This is something new I've been doing this year, and aside from being fun to do on its own, it has also really boosted my confidence about my abilities.

As I said, this was the first week of a new training program. I’ve been getting mine from the Runner's World Smart Coach program, and previously I had been working with one created from my 5K time of earlier this year. But as I started incorporating speedwork and tempo runs into my training, I realized I was improving much faster than I had expected, and that in fact I was finding it harder to go at the slower pace set by the program than to just go at a faster one. Was it possible that I had already improved so much as to need a new program? It seemed so - every time I changed my planned runs to go faster the transition was effortless, even at the longer distances. I was tired of the endless tinkering I was doing, and worried that I might end up "improving" my program to the point of overexertion, so after a few weeks of this I decided to recalibrate and create a new one, based on the actual speedwork I'd been doing.

Of course I worried that I was being too ambitious, but after a week it feels just right - hard enough to have to put more physical and mental effort into it, but temperate enough to feel like it's a challenge I can continue to meet, week after week. (I hate the word "moderate.") I really do need to be able to stay the course on my training - as the mother of an almost-toddler who relies on my runs to keep me happy and grounded (and pleasant to be around), I cannot afford to be injured or to burn out.

I would love to be able to do more - I read the blogs of other mother athletes and envy what they are doing. But I have a thirteen-year history of not managing to string more than two years of running together, despite my great love for it. I am determined this time to keep it going, which means, for this first year back at least, I need to keep my ambition in check. Or rather, to recognize that in order for me to realize my running ambitions, I need to maintain a steady, measured effort over the long haul, and not succumb to the allure of a fast dash out of the gate.

Because I have dreams, baby, I have dreams. And I have sat on them for thirteen years, and I am not content to sit any more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Races & Times

So, I haven’t run that many races, despite how much I love them, since my running has been sporadic over the last 13 years (a topic for another post). And since I suck at keeping scrapbooks and the like, before today I didn’t have records from any race I’ve done prior to this year.

Where does a gal turn in this predicament? Why, the Internet of course! All praise the Internet, because I was able to find all my races, even the ones under my maiden name, at http://www.athlinks.com/.

And here they are, in reverse chronological order (all paces are minutes/mile):

Wrigley Start Early (10K)
Chicago, IL: April 10, 2010
1:01:21 --- 9:54 pace

Hot Chocolate (15K)
Chicago, IL: November 1, 2009
1:39:26 --- 10:41 pace

Wrigley Start Early (5K)Chicago, IL: April 18, 2009
37:36 --- 12:06 pace

Wrigley Start Early(10K)Chicago, IL: April 21, 2007
1:19:07 --- 12:43 pace

Shamrock Shuffle (8K)Chicago, IL: March 25, 2007
1:02:23 --- 12:32 pace

Ohio River Road Runners Club Turkey Trot (5 miles)
Miamisburg, OH: November 24, 2005
1:02:34 --- 12:30 pace

Chicago Distance Classic (20K)Chicago, IL: July 8, 2001
2:58:51 --- 14:23 pace

What strikes me about my race times (as of June 2009) is that my basic pace is pretty consistent, varying in a predictable way with the length of each race (a useful tool for gauging this is the race calculator at Runner’s World online). This means I have been UNSUCCESSFUL over time in running faster as well as longer. But in between each race year I have had a period of time where I wasn’t running at all (usually a break precipitated by injury and then extended due to upheaval in life events) – so each time I’ve had to start again, at what appears to be my basic pace.

Well all that is about to change, baby, because I have been running faster and better this year, thanks to my new training methods. As in, actually following a plan. As in, doing speedwork. As in, taking rest days seriously. As in, cross-training with yoga. As in, actually listening to my body and taking the long view. As in, running WISELY!

I love that running involves my mind as well as my body and heart.

And I look forward to posting new race results with better times, though that won’t be for a while, given the current fiscal situation. The next official race won’t be until November – I paid for that one early with my tax refund – I am so glad I did!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lemonade Out Of Lemons

Well, first the bad news.

I found out that the daycare we want to move Buster to probably won't have a spot available until next year. We've been on the wait list for a while and I'd been hoping for the fall, but that was apparently wishful thinking on my part. So until then we're with the daycare he has now - which is EXCELLENT and we love his teachers and he's making friends there - but it costs so very much, more than we can afford. And by now we've run through the extra funds from the tax refund and The Dude's bonus, so times are going to be very tight for a while.

We started looking at some expenses we'd been planning on, to see what we can cut out, and we've decided not to sign up for the Chicago Half Marathon, which we'd been planning on running together. This made me very sad, and I worried that I would end up dropping the training I've been doing - all geared towards running a half, and which I've been loving. Speedwork, tempo, and long runs, oh my! So clearly I needed to find something to motivate me in the same way as the Chicago Half.

(And yes, I realize that given the current economic climate, and the other ways we'll need to cut back in the next half year, this is really a luxury problem. But it's my blog, and if I choose to obsess about races and running, that's my prerogative.)

And so, I've come up with (drumroll please)...

The First Annual Buster Brown Celebration Fun Run!

To be honest, this will actually be the second year of it. The Dude was signed up to run the Chicago Half last year, thinking it would be a couple of weeks still before I went into labor (I really had been counting on going past my due date). But I started pre-labor the week before, so by the time that Sunday rolled around it was clear I could go into labor at any time. We didn't want him to be so far away from me (the race is on the opposite end of the city from us), and I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to head down there, so instead he plotted out a half-marathon course in our neighborhood with a couple of loops that kept him near the house and ran that instead.

It was CRAZY rain that whole weekend. The Dude's path took him along the Chicago River for a time, which had started to spill over onto the banks. He came home and told me he'd seen two crabs while running - at first I thought he meant people dressed up in crab outfits (you see some wacky things in this city), and then I thought he had been hallucinating. But no, the rain had forced some river crabs out of their burrows or whatever it is they live in, and they'd been on the running path, waving their claws at him. Quite a memorable run.

(And I stayed home and tried to get my notes in order for work, since I had by then realized I was not going back into the office before this babe was born.)

So it seems fitting that instead of the Chicago Half we create our own run instead, to honor our hard work as parents, and celebrate our amazing little boy.

The Cons:
~ No swag (t-shirt, finisher's medal, gear bag, etc.).
~ No aid/rest stations.
~ No official time.

The Pros:
~ We don't have to run on Lake Shore Drive (easily the most unappealing thing to me about the Chicago Half) but can make up own own - shaded - route.
~ We don't have to travel down to Hyde Park just to find no parking once we're there, or pay another $20 for the shuttle from downtown.
~ We won't have to get up at 5:00 a.m. and then drop Buster at someone's house way early in the morning - it'll be a lot easier to get convince someone to babysit for him this way.

I think I will have to insist on at least getting a t-shirt out of this deal - maybe I'll design something with a crab on it.

I had been thinking of calling it the Buster Brown 13.1 Mile Celebration Fun Run, just for the absurdity of labeling a half-marathon a "fun run," but I've gotten really attached to the idea of doing a run every year in celebration of Buster's birthday, and I think I want to be flexible about the length of it - maybe next year we'll do it with Buster! And I'm not pushing him 13+ miles in a stroller, no matter how light-weight it might be.

Here's to running as a family!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Inspiration

In between not posting and not sleeping, I have been thinking again about "what should I do with my life?" Thankfully, there is a book I love called exactly that - What Should I Do With My Life: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson.

It has stories about people in a variety of circumstances who have examined and then changed their lives to better suit their true selves.

I've read this book before, but this time I looked at the reader's guide at the back as well, and found a number of questions that I've decided to use as a guide to helping me figure this stuff out.

Given that I already have half a dozen ideas for posts for this blog that I haven't yet managed to write, it's a little silly to think I will manage to write much on these. But it's worth trying. And if I do succeed at wrestling with these questions, I will share with you here.


FINDING YOUR STORY
(Selected from the reader's guide at the end, also available here.)

19. What have you been called to, over the course of your life? Have you listened to those calls? Which have you acted upon, and which have you chosen not to?

22. Po concludes that it’s in hard times that we’re forced to overcome the fears and doubts that normally give us pause. To what extent have the changes in your life been self-selected, during good times, or been forced upon you, during hard ones? When you’ve suffered hardship, has it altered what you consider important? Has hardship changed your life, or have you fought to get back to "normal"?

23. Po warns against editing out important pieces of our story in order to make our story more presentable to others. "Embrace your luck, pain and ghosts," he suggests in one chapter; in another he writes, "look backward even more than forward, and chase away preconceptions of what our story is supposed to sound like." He contrasts the Resume Version with the Work-In-Progress Version. How do you describe yourself in a public situation? How do you do so differently in a private situation? What failures do you rarely bring up? Do you agree that we should be more revealing of our "real story" in public situations?

24. In the chapter "The Brain Candy Generation," Po says the true search is for what you believe in – what kind of world you want to live in. In what ways are you making the world a better place – even if it’s just one quality interaction at a time?

25. Po tells Tom Scott that happiness is too easy a test; rather, we should ask what will be fulfilling. Leela de Souza found that fulfillment when she stopped asking what would make her happy, and instead asked "to what could she devote her life?" Mike Jenzeh’s life improved when he gave up that it was all about himself. Yet these stories are balanced by the likes of Warren Brown, who stopped suppressing what made him happy, and Kurt Slauson, who had been denying himself permission to enjoy his life. Have the most fulfilling periods of your life also been happy ones? Is happiness essential?

26. Bart Handford tells Po the parable of the three bricklayers building a cathedral, suggesting that even menial work can be meaningful if it’s contributing to something you believe in. Have your most meaningful accomplishments required a lot of menial work?

28. In the chapter "The Ungrateful Soldier," Po recounts C.S. Lewis’s assertion that belonging to an Inner Ring is a powerful, wayward desire. Po asks Tim Bratcher who’s sitting at that table – who’s in his Inner Ring. Are there ways you’ve used status as a surrogate for individual expression? What elusive ring do you long to belong to? Are there people in your life (or in your past) that you don’t respect, yet are still trying to prove wrong?

29. Both Stephen Lyons and Chi Tschang tell Po that if you can develop into a person of good character, your chances of succeeding in life improve dramatically. What do they mean by "character"? What’s an example from your own life of good or bad character?

Inspiration

I've had a number of people recommend this talk to me but resisted because I don't like watching video online: Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of "Eat, Pray, Love" on genius.

And now that I've seen it I recommend it to anyone who is involved in creative endeavors.

Blessings on your work!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Still Here...

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a week since I posted, especially since I've had so much I've wanted to write about. I guess I've just been busy doing things.

So what have I been up to?

~ Buying one pair of running shoes that are great, and one pair that have not worked out at all. I'm going back to the store on Monday to see about replacing the latter, so I've spent some time researching different kinds of shoes.

~ Going running in the pair that are great - the Nike Free. Closest to barefoot you can get in a running shoe, apparently. So not what I need for long runs on pavement, but GREAT for speedwork on the track. And fun, fun, fun.

~ Seeing my sister and her family. First to help out with the Lion Baby while she got the house ready for her husband's graduation party (and his parents' ensuing visit), then for the party itself last Sunday (for which I also baked), and then today because my mother arrived for her month-long new baby visit.

~ Going to bed earlier to compensate for Buddy's new sleep difficulties - waking up very early some days, waking up multiple times some nights, waking with night terrors on a few of those. He is teething, and going through some growth spurts, and has newly developed separation anxiety - all in all, he's needing extra help in the night. And I need an earlier bedtime to be able to give that extra help.

~ Lots of PLAYING with Buddy. 'Cause during the day, he's a lot of fun.

~ Researching training schedules for a half-marathon. Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to try for the Chicago Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon this year, and I'm not. BUT I think I can train for the Chicago Half Marathon, one month later in September. I've found a schedule that looks possible - better yet, fun! - so I think I will go for it.

~ And finally, I've been reading about running, which is its own pleasure.

And now for some time with The Dude - frozen pizza, beer, and a movie. Life is sweet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spring Is Here!

I've started running in the park near me at work, part of my new plan to get more runs in each week. I drop Buster off at daycare, drop my bags off at work, and then head over to the park. Thankfully, there is a field house there with a changing room and showers - I don't think I could really consider running in the summer there if there wasn't. Not and then head into a day of work.

It's a lovely park, just off the lake, with a quarter-mile track, picnic tables, tennis courts, softball diamonds, and playground. So lots of opportunity to watch people. The local neighborhood association maintains the garden that frames it to the east and west, with a nice assortment of annuals and flowering trees and shrubs. And of course the views are fantastic - looking to the east there is the lake, and to the west the Chicago skyline. And there you are, running your miles, with a great stretch of green in the center and beautiful greenery along the sides. In the middle of the city.

I love running in my neighborhood, but I always have to watch out for something - cracked and uneven sidewalks, cars coming out of alleys, a new intersection every minute or so. Here I could really pay attention to more attractive distractions. A red-winged blackbird streaking across the field. Sparrows bathing themselves in the dust. The differences in shade and light as I ran through and then out of the gardens. The slight breeze from the lake as I turned east.

And I loved not thinking about distance, just setting my watch for 30 minutes and then running as I felt like it until it went off. At home it's easier to run for distance, because I can plot out a course and know I'll be back home at the end of it. The times I've run for time in my neighborhood, I end up overshooting my home or not being anywhere near it at the end of the time, which isn't very relaxing to me. So in the park I had a nice easy run of half an hour, occasionally picking up my pace for a lap just for the heck of it, and remembering when that half hour would have been a slog.

I've been thinking about my running history recently (and will post more on that later). Usually when I think about it I see the gaps in my running, the months I didn't run, the races I wasn't able to train for. It's kind of startling to look back and see that I've been running for thirteen years now. And as much as I've been grousing to myself about how out of condition I am, I was able to go out and run a 5K three weeks after starting running again, after a break of almost two years. Without hurting the next day. That's pretty darn cool.

I am looking forward to making this a regular part of my week, and to having a place where I can really watch the seasons change.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lucky Me

Before Buddy was born, and then again in the first few weeks when he was still so unformed, I would think about what my hopes for him were, what kind of kid I hoped he would turn out to be. Again and again, I hoped the same three things for him (leaving aside the obvious one of health):

1) a love of music
2) a love of movement
3) curiosity & enthusiasm about the world

I feel very lucky that so far he is blessed with all three.

I mention these hopes because today he delighted me with his delight. We went to visit his new cousin, the Lion Baby, and he was DELIGHTED with him (once he got over his anguish that someone in the room was nursing and it wasn't him). And then we went outside and he was DELIGHTED by the breeze on his hair, and the sun on his face, and his uncle fixing a hammer, and the metal table he could bang on, and his daddy singing to him. He laughs and laughs, and giggles, and smiles, and flings himself wide open to grab it all.

I just love this kid.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Talking myself back down...

I so nearly signed up yesterday to do the Chicago Rock'n'Roll Half-Marathon in August. I had even pulled up training schedules and started taking notes to compare them. But the reality of trying to pull off the kind of training schedule I would need to establish (since I'm starting, if not from ground zero, then from ground 2), convinced even me that it wouldn't be a very satisfying attempt this year.

As in, if I managed to maintain the schedule my daily life and my sleep would suffer (I don't think it's possible for me to function on any less sleep than I already do), if I didn't maintain the schedule yet tried to run the race anyway, my body would suffer, if I ended up giving up on the schedule and the race my pride would suffer, and I'd be out a bunch of money to boot. Bah.

But my desire to train more intensively made me look again at my current schedule and think about how I might increase the number of runs I do each week. In particular I've started looking at how I might do some runs once I'm already downtown in the morning, and I think I've found a way. It will involve schlepping even more stuff with me on my commute, but oh well.

And then next year, once I've built up a better foundation, and Buster is in a different daycare... Chicago Rock'n'Roll Half-Marathon 2010, here I come.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wrigley Start Early 5K - April 18, 2009

So, I started off the day by running... late.

Man, if this had been my first race I would have been panicking. Thankfully by now I've run enough races to know the usual drill, plus I knew where to go because I ran this race in 2007, though they have changed the course since then. I did insist that we go ahead and park in the zoo lot, despite the hefty fee - normally The Dude is a stickler for finding the best deal on parking and other matters. Good thing we stayed in the lot, though, since part of the new course involved running on the streets we'd planned to find parking on.

I got dropped off and waved a kiss to Buster and The Dude, got my race number and t-shirt, dropped off my jacket and juice, figured out how to attach the disposable time chip to my shoe, used the facilities, then joined the other people streaming over to the actual start post. I had barely time to stretch... and we were off! The big thing for me at the start of races is not to go too fast - I thought that would be easy this time since I hadn't gotten much sleep in the days before, plus was not warmed up. Mostly my body just hurt and complained as I tried to settle in to a steady pace and watched great streams of people move past me. That's my usual start to races - watching great streams of people move past me, that is, not feeling achy.

This was one race where at first I regretted not running with music. When I do my weekly runs I almost always listen to music - it helps with the run and also gives me a chance to listen more carefully to new music or music I love, since I don't get enough opportunity to do so otherwise. But on race days I feel it's important for me to be fully present for the experience - completely aware of my surroundings and what is going on with me. But that means I don't have it to fall back on when the running is harder.

So at the beginning, to keep my focus off of how hard it was, once the crowds thinned out a bit, I looked for who was near me and likely to stay there. Just behind me there was a mother-daughter couple - it was the daughter's first race. The mom was clearly an experienced runner, trying to coach her daughter as they ran (although her daughter kept saying, "Don't ask me questions! Don't talk to me!"). Her daughter had the right instinct, since one of the first things I heard the mom say was, "If you run a 10-minute mile, then this will only take a little over half an hour. Ten-minute miles, pretty good for a 9-year-old." Meanwhile I was thinking, "Lady, while I can run a 10-minute mile, I'm certainly not doing it now. And you're staying steady with me, so you aren't either. Don't set your daughter up to fail - let her first race be a success." And in fact, over the first 2K, they needed to take more and more walking breaks, until finally I lost them behind me.

The same thing happened for another group near me. A woman in her early 30s caught my eye - she had on a black visor, black running shorts and top just cut to cover her bra, but then white arm sleeves covering her forearms, white racing socks that went up to her knees, plus a tattoo of her kid's feet in the small of her back. Quite noticeable, to say the least. Then I realized she must be a pace-setter for a group, and sure enough, there they were, two frathouse-gone-to-seed guys, both dressed in black t-shirts and shorts, just behind her. I came up behind them just as they were starting a walking break and could hear her giving advice to them about pacing. As I passed them one of the guys said something friendly to me, I don't remember what, and I smiled and nodded, and said "See you at the finish line." I could tell by the way he looked at me that he wasn't expecting me to finish or not anywhere near him, at least. And soon after I stopped for my first walking break, a little after mile 1, and they passed me. But again, they started taking more and more walking breaks, I could hear their pacer talking to them about steady breathing, and then they were behind me and gone.

That's one of the things I love about racing, even a short distance. You can't be stupid about it - it's important to run a smart race. To think about your distance, and your pace setting out, and the weather conditions, and your condition particular to that day, and when you'll take your breaks if you are, and when you'll take water or food if you're going to, and the people around you, and the terrain... all of that goes into figuring out how you can run the best race possible for you on that day.

And even then there's plenty of room for surprises. I did take off too fast after all, and knew that I would be struggling over the distance, but I found I couldn't go slower - the adrenaline of racing makes that hard to do sometimes. So while I hadn't been taking walking breaks in my training runs, I knew I would need to in this race, and just hoped (through sheer determination) to keep them to once a mile.

I got to the first mile marker and saw that I had done it in just over 12 minutes, which was much faster than I had expected. (I hadn't been keeping careful track of pace in my training runs, but I knew it was somewhere between 13-14 minutes a mile, possibly even more. Back when I had been running more regularly my race pace was usually about 11 1/2 minutes a mile, and I knew I wasn't anywhere near that condition). At that moment, despite how difficult the first mile had been, I thought, "Huh, maybe I can maintain that pace. I'd certainly like to."

During the 2nd mile, enthusiasm and a water break kept me going at that pace. At the beginning of the 3rd mile, however, I realized I was going to need something extra, I was going to have to find a way mentally to keep going, and going strong. I slowed down a bit to give myself a break, and thought about what I could do to inspire myself.

At the beginning of the race, when I was surprised by how hard I was finding it, I thought about why I was doing this particular race in the first place (to raise money for child abuse prevention), and I thought about all the people who were supporting me, through donations and through their thoughts and prayers. That helped me while I was warming up, until some of the aches eased up. At this point in the race, however, I knew that thinking about things was not going to carry me through - I needed to find something inspiring that was beyond thought.

What I needed was a running cadence. I started with something we'd sung to Buster while visiting his Nana at Easter - "Hey baby, hey baby, wipe those tears away" - it was the first thing that came into my head. I sang that for a while but it didn't seem cheery enough, so then I switched to a song I'd been singing to him the day before that felt more appropriate - "We're walking, we're walking," - only for this I changed it to "We're running." This worked and gave me the extra oomph I needed. It's always very satisfying to find some mental key that unlocks greater effort when it's needed.

We're running, we're running, under the bright blue sky.
We're running, we're running, under birds that fly.
We're running, we're running, under the great gold sun.
We're running, we're running, we're having ourselves some fun!

In the last 1/2 mile things began to reverse themselves and I started steadily passing people. I kept looking ahead to get a sense of where the finish was, and then looking inward to see if I had the reserves to quicken my pace and sustain it for the duration of the course. At one point, actually, I misjudged how close the finish was and picked up my pace, only to realize a couple of minutes later that it was farther away than I'd thought and I'd better drop back down. And that was satisfying too, to see that I was going to be sensible about this, that as hard as I was willing to work to keep myself going and meet my goals, I also knew when to back down so that I'd end the race excited about what I'd done AND wanting to do more.

And then I saw the finish line, and knew it was a distance I could go ahead and push more quickly on, and then I saw Buster and The Dude smiling and waving at me (well, The Dude was smiling and waving, Buster was looking a bit grim - he's not wild about his stroller any more), and I knew I could step it up just a little bit more for those last yards (though no sprinting, not that day, not yet) and then I was done. And I walked around a little bit, decided not to eat an unripe banana, snagged my favorite kind of energy bar from a race sponsor and went and found my guys.

Final time for my 5K --- 37 minutes, 36 seconds, for a pace of 12 minutes, 8 seconds per mile. Two walking breaks.

Initial goal when I started the day --- 40 minutes, no more than three walking breaks.

I so rock.

Fundraising goal --- $200.
Final tally --- $385.

Thank you, my friends! You roll.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

March 2009 Books

Okay, here's what stood out for me from my March reading. Mysteries! No surprise there, I've been reading a lot of mysteries this past year. It's almost no use recommending ones to me, though, I'm tremendously picky about which ones I read, but I couldn't tell you what the common denominator is among them. Aside from good writing. And no serial killers.

"O Jerusalem" and "The Game" --- Laurie King
These were ones I re-read. I read quickly, but not very carefully, so I don't usually remember plot points - which means, of course, that I can read and re-read mysteries without any worry that I'll remember something critical and thus spoil the fun of reading it. I also don't read mysteries to try to solve them myself, but for character and thrill, I suppose. I've read Laurie King's San Francisco mysteries and some of her stand-alone books, but those are typically more dark and pessimistic than I find her Mary Russell books to be, so I haven't read any of those for a while. But I love the Mary Russell series.

"Suffer the Little Children" --- Donna Leon
This was a deeply depressing book to read as a new mom. I kept wanting to stop and couldn't. About the investigation of an illegal adoption ring in Italy. I also didn't think it was one of her better ones. Donna Leon's books are ones that I remember the plots too, or at least enough details from the plots to not have any fun in re-reading them. And they are too sparse, streamlined, almost, to just lose myself in. But I like the main character and his family and how steeped they are in their setting.

"Legacies" --- F. Paul Wilson
A new mystery series that The Dude's friend Dean introduced me to. But I've read all the ones he has, and don't know that I'll bother to go out and find the others on my own. My hold list at the library is long enough as it is. And I don't see any of these finding their way on to the book cart at work, which tends towards more feminine mysteries. This series features a man named "Repairman Jack" and leans towards the bizarre - it brings to mind the short-lived TV series "Life on Mars" (the American series, that is, the British one was not short-lived, but I haven't seen that one). I'm sure anyone who has seen that series and read these books will wonder why I'm comparing them, but they just have a similar feel to me, somehow.


Spring (and Summer and Fall...) Training

Well, ever since I went back to work in December I have been feeling unhappy in my body. While I was home with Buster I was eating well, going for walks every day (I had to, it was the only time he'd sleep), and even getting in some yoga from time to time. Then work started, plus the holidays, and I started eating crap and getting NO exercise. Plus every day I was a packhorse extraordinaire - carrying Buster in a front carrier, a backpack with the pump, then a large tote with his food, my food, his diapers, whatever I needed for work, etc..., and then sleeping on the living room couch at first and then a cot in Buster's room. My spine, she was not aligned.

Over the years I've come to realize that I need to be moving on a regular basis - like nearly every day - or I just don't feel like myself. I don't even need to trouble myself much with food if I'm working out - not because I'm expending so many calories but because I'm just so much more conscious of how I feel in my body and how eating well makes me feel well, and that's its own reward (plus feeling bloated gets in the way of my exercise). So I knew I needed to get some kind of exercise schedule together, designed to take into account my need for challenges AND the reality of taking care of Buster, who is a pretty demanding little kid. Oh yes, and my work schedule, and The Dude's rehearsal/performance schedule...



I do best when I have a specific goal in mind. While pregnant my goal was to be able to have an easier birth and recovery. Now, while I do need to lose weight, I don't find that to be an inspiring goal, and never have. And exercising for the sake of exercising, while good enough in an earlier life in which there were fewer demands on my time, also wasn't compelling enough to get me really going in these last few of months of trying to get active again.

But races! Oh, how I love to run, and how I love to run races. And how I have missed being able to run races these last two years. I don't remember where I got the idea of starting running again, but once it was in my head, there was no getting it out. Running, I reasoned, was something I could do with Buster in our all-terrain stroller (since I am so very slow and because the front wheel does lock), and something we could do all together as a family, both the training for it and the race itself. So I decided to commit myself to running a couple of family 5Ks later this year, but I didn't have any individual race schedule in mind.

At first.

I was on the train going in to work when I saw the poster for the Wrigley Start Early race. I ran this race (the 8K) two years ago - in fact, it was the last race I had run before becoming pregnant the first time. I had enjoyed the race itself greatly, though I was frustrated by how poorly it seemed to be organized. I had even raised funds for its charities, Prevent Child Abuse America and Voices of Illinois Children.

The fact that there were posters at all suggested to me that it might be better organized this year, and when I got into work I couldn't help but look it up online. And then I couldn't stop thinking about it. Sure, I hadn't yet run more than a mile since starting again the week before, and it was only three weeks away, but I figured at the very worst I could walk as much as I ran, and I knew I could cover the distance walking no problem. So within a couple of hours I had signed up to run the 5K.

The race itself was great, and I'll post on it later. But what I've been really jazzed about since doing it is how WONDERFUL it is to run, and to run races in particular. So I immediately starting thinking about what my next individual race would be, wanting to do a 10K at the least, and then thinking about what kind of training I would need to do to be able to accomplish a longer race. And before I knew it (well, after a great deal of thought and some research, but it felt like it took no time), I had myself a race to shoot for (the "Hot Chocolate 15K" on November 1) and a training schedule for the year, one that incorporates strength and flexibility training, distance and speed training, is challenging and yet not intimidating, and that looks like it will fit into our family's schedule. Feeling pretty proud of myself.

In fact, I am STOKED!