Tuesday, June 30, 2009


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.


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!