Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almost There

In 5 hours I have to leave and go pick up the kids (taking a taxi to daycare if need be). At that point whatever has been accomplished here at work is what has been accomplished and everything else will wait until January 2. I think I may need a very stiff drink once the youngest is in bed and I don't have to worry about dropping him in his yogurt.

My mantra today (from some folk song):

Peace will come...
peace will come...
peace will come...
Let it begin with me.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Office Mate Thinks I Should Just Set Up A Cot

Remind me in the future not to plan to have a major multi-event building celebration at the same time as my annual gift drive (700+ kids) and fellowship group Christmas parties.

Oh, wait. I didn't. I just get to make them happen.

To quote a phrase I've been seeing around lately: "Le sigh."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Running Update

I think it's funny that the week I get quoted in a running blog (love this woman! she is such an inspiration to me), I've mostly been writing about sewing.

Of course I've been thinking about running, and have been running too (though not as much as I 'd like to thanks to work), but my season is over and my next race isn't until April. I've been enjoying not feeling pressured about specific workouts, yet keeping in mind my larger goals. And happy to be at the end of a running season without injury!

A couple of months ago there was a Runner's World article (sorry, can't find it online) asking "What Kind of Runner Are You?" I was disheartened to see that based on schedule and mileage, I qualified as "Moderate" (in my heart I saw myself as "Progressive", i.e., kick-ass) and was recommended to stick to 5 and 10ks, with maybe a half once a year. But after some time I reconciled myself to this. As one friend told me, with small kids I may just not be in the running season of my life. I set my goals and races for 2013 accordingly, with the big picture plan of getting faster so that I can qualify for Boston some day.

Well, things change on a dime around here, is that true for you? And it looks like I'll be running my marathon next year after all. Woo-hoo! So I've been working on my training plan for April's Shamrock Shuffle 8k, and will base my marathon goals on my performance in that. And am looking to tweak my nutrition so I can shed those last pounds by May.

Now to start researching marathon plans...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grateful for Mercies

A comment from a new reader on my "About Me" page had me rereading that page for the first time in months. Boy, was I surprised about a couple of things.

"I am very good at my job. I am not exactly happy with it."
"And somehow make a name for myself. "

I shouldn't have been, these are attitudes I have actively been trying to change for some time. So it is really a joyful surprise, that I have been blessed enough, through the grace of God, to have had such a change in spirit that my previous words are now foreign to me.

I'd been meaning to write more about the graces I have been receiving this last month, but this isn't really that kind of blog and I don't mean it to be. So instead I will leave the words that I have been meditating on that best describe my process:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God --- what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

The letter of Paul to the Romans, chapter 12, verses 1-8.

Inspiring Words from a Late Night

But even as a small kid I was in love with the idea of being an artist: Making extraordinary things, having time to meditate, consider things, a daily practice or ritual.
~ Cameron Platter (Hand/Eye Vol. 9)

When we make things we are connecting to that part of ourselves that we imagine is the spiritual part, the part most resembling divinity.

Our making was becoming more important than the products of our craft.

Growth and progress are also mirages of accomplishment; being present here and now are the things we really need to worry about.

~ Callie Janoff (Handmade Nation)

Craft is a way of rejoicing, passing time, meditating, harnessing power, sharing and keeping creative forces in motion.
~ Betsy Greer (


Monday, November 26, 2012


Whenever I pick up sewing again after having let it slide, I immediately get itchy fingers and wonder how I could have ever stopped in the first place.

Pretty much the same way I feel when I've returned to running after a break.

I think it's time to acknowledge that I have these two (often competing) loves and to see how I can satisfy them both.

I know a part of my getting blocked with sewing is that I expect more from myself than I can reasonably hope to. I have an art (history) degree, for goodness' sake! I've been making things (off and on) my entire life!

Yes, well, the same could be said of my running. And I never managed to improve my speed or do more than dream of running a marathon until I started to run consistently and seriously, three and a half years ago. So perhaps consistency is the key to doing something with my sewing as well.

I don't know yet what consistency in sewing will look like for me. I'm open to suggestions.

My New Year's resolution has come early this year.

Along the same lines, I need to stop reading art/sewing magazines and books and comparing myself to the professionals in there. I don't compare myself to professional athletes when I read Runners' World, fer chrissakes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Year Ago

A year ago, my sweet Goo was born.

And now he's ready to take over the world.

Happy birthday, baby.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sewing Again!

The weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and my fingers start itching to make things again. Thankfully, my mother-in-law is visiting, and could help me think through a problem I was having with my current quilt, so now I can finish it and get started on others. (And as thanks, and because the baby it was for has grown a bit big for a baby blanket, she is going to get it for a lap quilt for Christmas.)

Here is one I finished this summer. That baby was born in March. At the time the baby was born, I had about 2 hours work left to do on it. It took me three months. As usual with my sewing projects, I got stuck because I had more elaborate plans for what to do than what I really needed.*

You can't tell from these photos, but I used the backing material to make the binding (it's a much darker blue than this picture shows). And the quilting was done with several colors of embroidery floss: purple, white, black, and green.

And now I have big plans for more quilts!

*Example, the quilt mentioned in the first paragraph. Example, my thinking about "what I should be doing with my life." But that's another post for another day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hot Chocolate 15k - 2012

I wanted to write a play-by-play, but sometimes these breaks in time between posts get to a point where it's just ridiculous. Busy, busy, busy at work, which is where I do most of my computer stuff. So here's the short version.

Despite all my grumbling and worrying and complaining about this race (most of which I spared you, believe it or not), I had a really good time.

I've liked the course every year I've done it (and it's been a new one each time), but it's never been big enough to handle the number of runners participating. So that's been a frustrating experience with bottle-necks and running off the edge of the road and the like. This year they staggered the starts in such a way that it rarely felt crowded on the course, which was lovely. The drawback to this of course was the long time spent standing before the race started (I crossed the start line at 41:50 and was only in corral K - it went through corral T) which then resulted in my needing to stop for a potty break shortly after mile 3 and that early in the race there were still lines for the porta-potties. So I lost time there. But that's a logistics issue to keep in mind for next year or any other race with a lot of participants (I heard this one was just over 20,000).

Oh, and the swag was better this year too (photos below).

Lots of elevation fluctuation on the course, which I like (makes it interesting). Lots of great views.

Right from the start I was running on tired legs because I just didn't get enough rest the week before. So the challenge for me was going to be keeping my pace steady and then, if possible, bring it up again in the last 5k. And I did! There were two key difference between this race and previous ones that I think made it possible. First, I've gotten better at "sucking it up". I've practiced this in long tempo runs, figuring out what I need to do mentally to be able to tolerate discomfort longer. And two, in the past I would have only taken one gel, and this time I had two and also carbo-loaded a bit more the day before and even before the race started --- I could really feel the difference on the second gel and I'm sure that's what allowed me to push harder in the last 5k.

I finished in 1:33:41 at a pace of 10:04/mile. So I didn't make my first or my second goal (to break 1:30:00 or 1:32:30 --- I was so close to that last one but that potty-break is what blew it for me), but I did hit my third one of (nearly) 10 minute miles. Most importantly to me, my last 5k split was the fastest one, at 29:32. (Actually, it was so much faster, it shows me I can do better overall.)

So, lots to work on for next year. Logistically, I want to remember three things:
  1. Bring a throw-away shirt for the time between gear check and the start.
  2. Don't enter the corral until the last possible minute - I could have entered 20 minutes later and gotten another pee in.
  3. Stop drinking an hour or so before when I plan to have my last pee - chew gum instead for dry mouth.
The other thing I want to keep in mind with my training for this next year is to not start training for this race so soon. I'm probably going to train for the Chicago Women's Half again along with this one for my longer races of the year; if I do go that route then I'll make sure to take a longer break after the half so that I'm not running out of steam in October again.

All-in-all, lots of lessons learnt through training for this and running it!

Finally, they have a decent looking item that I have been wearing.

I liked the emblem on the back shoulder - also the little one running through the picture.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

One Last Movie - And A Race

So, we ended up sneaking in another movie last night, even though my plan was to go to bed early (again - I am always trying to go to bed early and I so rarely succeed), because, really, this is not a high-stakes race tomorrow and I am not a professional athlete and my running needs to support me and my life and not be my life. And this movie came in the mail today.

Troll Hunter (2010)
A Norwegian movie, shot cinema-verite style, about students who start off investigating mysterious bear deaths and end up following (and filming) a troll hunter. Way more fun than you'd think it should be. Too tired now to think what else to say about it.

Oh yes, I have this race tomorrow. The Hot Chocolate 15k. This race that I trained all season for... only to have my training go off the track two months ago, never to really return. This race that I want to love (because I did so much my first year)... but am so disgusted with the race organizers, and have been, year after year, that I just get angry thinking about it, and have no confidence that it will be well run tomorrow. This race I have planned for so seriously all year... only to realize that I need to radically rethink how I go about my training and my racing so that, as I wrote above, my running supports my life rather than being my life.

I have gone back and forth on whether to even do this all week, and if so, how. (In the end I am doing it because I regretted so much not running the Chicago Half after all, and I don't want to repeat that experience.) My original goal was 1:30 or less (basically a 9:40 pace). I am very dubious about my ability to pull that off, though I am willing to try. My first time at this race was in 2009, and it was my first long race since Buddy was born. I ran it in 1:39:26 (10:41 pace). I am in much better shape now than I was then, so I fully expect to do better than that.

My second time was in 2010, after running the marathon three weeks before. I ran it in 1:32:30 (9:56 pace). I don't have the endurance that I did back then, but I am actually faster. So I think it's possible to run it this year faster than that, and I guess, in the end, that's what I'm shooting for.  I've loaded up my iPod with inspiring music (I don't usually do races with music but I'll take whatever help I can get), I'm heading to bed soon, happy to take advantage of daylight sayings time, and I'll put my best game face on tomorrow and not let myself get upset by the surroundings.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Scary Movie Month - The End

Well, Scary Movie Month kind of went out with a whimper this year, which has been pretty much been the case since we had kids. Oh well. The Dude had his gig Halloween night so had to cut out right after dinner, I spent the rest of the evening staying up WAY too late, eating candy and reading. (Not even scary stuff but the latest Sports Illustrated and Jonathan Kozol's new book, "Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America". Well, maybe that last one was a little scary.)

BUT we had a lovely Halloween night anyway, we picked up the boys at school and trick-or-treated on the way home, and then Buddy got to have some candy and he and The Dude watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" while I got the baby to bed and dinner ready.

This was in the morning, before the addition of his Capt. Hook mustache.
And now it's November and time to plan Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scary Movie Month - Week 4 - Tuesday

So... our awesome, exciting plans for tonight have been changed, turns out some folks want The Dude's band to play this really awesome gig tonight so he'll be heading out to do that tonight, rather than tucking in cosily at home.


Just as well, I suppose, since I really should be resting for Sunday's race, getting as much sleep as I can possibly can, rather than staying up late to watch scary movies and then staying up later still so I don't go to sleep thinking about those movies.

Well, because I am mostly a good sport (and because I should really be going to bed early), we have created new exciting plans for tonight and then for later this week. Both involving kidlets and therefore taking place earlier in the evening. I'll report back on those once they actually happen.

Yesterday, however, we kept to the original plan which meant watching this soul-sucker:

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
After we finished watching this, we listened to a bit of commentary and were astounded to realize that this was evidently some kind of cult classic. And even more surprised to go online and find out that there were another three, yes three, sequels. Well, I won't give away the twist ending, but will just say that this movie was not scary, not funny, and not enjoyable. And that it is clearly a product of its time (early 80s), so some of its premises were not amusing to me at all. Overall... meh.

I understand that the exact reasons I disliked it are why some people enjoy this type of movie, that it is a type (bad 80's teen slasher movie), and to be enjoyed as camp, as fodder for ridicule, in comparison to others of its type, and so on. I'm just not the right audience for it then. I take my movies too seriously to enjoy watching something just to make fun of it (hence my inability to enjoy "Plan 9 From Outer Space") and yet not seriously enough to dig down into what makes this one better/worse/different from others like it. Oh well. The Dude insists on one teen slasher movie each year (I thought "The Cabin In The Woods" was enough of that trope to count for this year's but I guess not) and so this year "Sleepaway Camp" was it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scary Movie Month - Week 4 Countdown - Sunday & Monday

After the last batch of disappointing movies (and the last couple of weeks' movie viewing being disrupted by illness, kids, work, or rehearsals), we determined to end the month with selections we knew would be satisfying. Plus a special surprise for Halloween night itself!

Sleepy Hollow (1999 - Tim Burton)
Oh, Tim Burton. We can always count on you for a visual treat. And oh, Johnny Depp. We can always count on you for, well, we can just count on you. This was beautiful to watch, plus funny, interesting, moving, and scary but not that much. My only quibble is that Christina Ricci kind of breaks the mood when she first speaks but that eases as the movie goes on. Don't know that I'd want to own this but I would certainly watch it again.

Spirited Away (2001 - Hayao Miyazaki)
Somehow it got really late in the evening before we were even ready to begin watching (and this is a long one), but I had a taste for a beautiful Japanese ghost story and so we plunged in. I love this movie. I love pretty much all the Studio Ghibli movies, though I'm behind in my viewing. Though after this The Dude and I thought we might just immerse ourselves in Japanese animation for a while. The last time I watched this was before we had kids, so it was interesting to watch it both from the perspective of a parent and with a child's sensibility in mind.

And for those who might say this doesn't count as a scary movie, I would say that any movie that features vomiting ghosts, bleeding serpents, attacking paper birds, the possibility of parents being eaten, and a ferocious witch, counts as scary in my book.

For tonight it's either a teenage slasher movie (since we haven't had one this year so far), or, if it doesn't come in today's mail, one from our growing collection of scary movies. I was joking with The Dude that at this point we have enough to stock a whole month's worth. Maybe some year we'll get rid of Netflix and just watch what we own.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Scary Movie Month - Weeks #2 & 3

We've moved into the last week of Scary Movie Month which means I need to get on the ball with my movie notes! We had a couple of, mmm, odd weeks... nothing that really hit right. But we made up for it with Buffy watching - we are finally moving through the last season!

Here's what we did watch:

Fright Night (2011 version)
Oh, what a disappointment. I'm not going to do a side-by-side comparison with the 1985 version, in part because it just fell through on pretty much everything but production values and visuals and also because I'm just not that much of a geek. But it wasn't as funny or as moving, and it gave its scares away too soon. Part of the enjoyment of the original is the "is he or isn't he" suspense. There was no suspense in this version. I thought it picked up at the end when we got to see more David Tennant, and I think there was some good visual stuff that stayed with me afterwards, but otherwise I would give it a pass.

Dead Alive (1992 - Peter Jackson - originally released as Braindead)
Whoa. Absolutely the most disgusting movie I have ever seen. Also incredibly funny. I would totally watch it again. Thankfully the gore is all pre-CGI so it's clearly fake and over-the-top. Otherwise I probably would have thrown up instead of just thinking I was going to. There's so much fantastic about this I don't know what to single out except maybe... zombie baby.

The Village (2004 - M. Night Shyamalan)
Another disappointment. This time because there was so much potential... great actors, beautifully shot, grand music, interesting ideas... and then it fell off the rails, storywise. And the problem with that in a suspense movie is that you then walk away thinking less of it as time goes on, instead of admiring it more and more as you think about it. There were hints to its flaws early on... we talk when watching movies at home and I asked about a couple of things that just didn't feel right... but I didn't realize it was going to fail itself as epically as it did. Sigh.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959 - Ed Wood)
This one is often viewed as one of the worst movies ever. I think we thought that the kitschiness might make it amusing. Alas, no. Boring, yes. I kept falling asleep and finally gave up and went to bed. The Dude started practicing guitar and lost track of what was going on. And it was only 80 minutes long!

Thankfully things have started picking up again... full report after Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Reason #54 To Stay In Chicago

The Grind Cafe. Where else am I going to go after a great swim to get my hot chocolate with almond milk (not soy), listen to Neko Case, view great one-of-a-kind poster art, donate gently used winter clothing to refugees through the Heartland Alliance, and otherwise get my oh-so-precious but really kind of vulnerable and touching peace-to-all-things-and-people groove on?

And the beauty of Chicago is that even if we move from this neighborhood, there are a hundred other places (not quite) like it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

No, I'm Not*

Some people use their blogs to announce what they plan to do, to put it out into the world and for everyone (who reads their blog) to see and hold them accountable to it.

Me, I'm going to post what I'm not going to do. So that if later I start frothing at the mouth you all can stop me and say, "Hey Annie, now wait a minute. Didn't you swear not to do this?"

I'm not going to train for a marathon next year.

Oh, I want to, I want to.

To repeat: I am not going to train for a marathon next year.

No? Really? Maybe just a little one?

I am NOT going to train for a marathon next year.**

Sigh. Whimper.

I make no promises abut 2014, however.

*And no, I'm not pregnant, either. I swear, I've been getting asked that question a lot lately.

** I hardly need to explain why not, given that I haven't even managed to get a simple blog post written in the past two weeks despite having plenty to talk about. I'm thinking I might try having balance and simplicity be my mantras for next year.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Scary Movie Month - Week 1

I've never had to worry about spoilers with my Scary Movie Month reports in the past, because the movies we were seeing were typically already many years out of the theaters (and because I report more on my response to them rather than details about them). But last weekend we saw two that were released fairly recently, with plot points that could, if known about in advance, perhaps lessen one's enjoyment of them. Just possibly. Not for someone like me, of course, who frequently skips to the end of books, but for someone like The Dude, who will avoid reading reviews of movies he's interested in so as not to sully his viewing experience. So I will be careful in this post.

The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011)

Classic Joss Whedon. (Yes, it was directed by Goddard, but Whedon co-wrote it and it has Whedon stamped all over it.) Scary, interesting, sad, funny, disturbing. A treat to see so many familar actors used in very different ways. This is one that will stick with me... and that I had no immediate desire to see again. Because, in the end, I was left with such a feeling of sadness.

Except... as one reviewer writes about it (on IMDB):
The resolution. The end. The explanation to everything that's been going on, and also possibly the greatest 20 minutes ever shown in horror movie history. This is the part where the audience is silent and speechless as every die-hard horror fan's dream is realized on screen. All your dedication, love, and sacrifice for this genre is justified. The credits roll, you walk out of the theater saying to yourself, "Did that just happen?" - and then you buy another ticket and watch it again.
Yes. If you have any love of horror, you should see this movie. And yes, I will probably watch it again, avidly.

Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011)

Fantastic. Aliens attack. Home is threatened. Unexpected alliances are formed, an unexpected hero rises to the occasion. All classic alien-movie tropes, always satisfying if done well enough. But wait! Home is British council-housing, the hero is a thug. Not so easy to root for?

I think what I liked best about this movie is the richness to the characters (and the housing estate is itself a character). Not sterotypes, not easy to sum up. Lots to think about. And then just the pleasure in watching, a visceral satisfaction that I think we then go to great lengths to try to explain, but really can come down to a bodily pleasure. This is one that we will likely own someday.

Looking forward to this weekend's viewing! And in the meantime, we've gone back to Buffy, and our seemingly never-ending quest to actually finish the whole thing. We are finally in the seventh season, and things have finally gotten good. (Though I cringed through all of the episode last night, and didn't start enjoying it until the last third. That's what fast-forward is for.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Chicago Marathon Sunday (No, I Didn't Run)

This year, I observed the Chicago Marathon by:
  • Cheering on my husband as he went for his long run before church;
  • Making french toast for breakfast in honor of my friend B, who was running;
  • Baking apple pie and cornbread (The Dude made chili) in honor of our anniversary and because I am too poor* right now to buy The Dude a nice present;
  • Deciding not to do my long run so that we could have a more relaxed day at home with the kids (who knew it took so long to make apple pie?);
  • Watching a scary movie and drinking good beer;
  • Dreaming about running it next year!
Congratulations to all who ran it!

*Shorthand for "I am well aware that I am not really poor by any standards but I do not currently have much discretionary income in general, and none at all this month. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Scary Movie Month Begins!

Last night. The Manchurian Candidate (1962). With Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra. And really good India Brown Ale and homemade pumpkin bread.

Very interesting ( I managed to stay up for the whole thing despite being desperately tired), and deliciously creepy in some key places. Not super scary, more thrilling, but I have to work up to the scare each year.

We've got a pretty packed schedule this month so it will be lighter on movies than some other years - all the more reason to really savor the ones we do get to watch.

Let the chills (and squeals) begin!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Because It's Friday And Life Is Good

A picture of contentment.

Last night. Both boys, asleep, in their room together. (This is worth noting because they only started sleeping in the same room last week, and so far, it is AWESOME. Baby sleeps better, boy gets off to bed better and is happier, we have our room back. This is what I have been dreaming of for months now.)

No cat puke that I'm aware of.

The Dude pulls out the penny jar and a deck of cards and tries to teach me poker. I do not completely suck.

Beer and peanuts in the shell are consumed.

Once I finally drag myself away so that I can go to bed on time for once, I get a strange burst of energy and finally tackle the paper on my desk that has accumulated since we got back from Ohio. I fail to get to bed on time but succeed in making sense of my desktop.

Sleep is sound, even if short.

The baby does not have scabies, despite his teachers' concerns. (There was another kid in room who had it and Goo's skin is perpetually rashy/rough, thanks to the everlasting drool, our dry apartment, and his rough-and-tumble ways. So, not a model for "baby soft skin", but parasite free.)

It is a beautiful day.

And it's Friday!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Anyone Want An Elderly, Neutrotic Cat?

So, within a 24-hour period, I had the joy of...

Cleaning up cat pee and poop because the litter box opening was shoved too close to the wall for the cat to get in (since little boys apparently think litter boxes make great things to sit on (Buddy) or practice standing against (Goo)).

Cleaning up cat puke from the bedroom floor and my blanket.

Being woken up at 2:30 a.m. by a crying cat, then fearing at 5:00 a.m. that the crying cat would wake up the baby who had only just gone back to sleep, then thinking at 5:20 a.m. that the baby was, indeed, awake, only to find that it was just the cat crying (again). At which point there was no more hope of my sleeping anymore.

Coming out into the kitchen from all this activity to find, yes, more cat poop on the floor to clean up.

I realize I'm not making much of a case here for kitty adoption, but really, he is a sweet cat.

And The Dude won't let him go, so this is just wishful thinking anyway.

Oh, for a day without cat puke.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One Step Back to Leap Forward

Just been evaluating my training this season and thinking about what works for me and what doesn't, as I move into the last month of race training and start thinking about next year and what I'll do over the winter.

I like that I've added in rowing, it's great to have an intense workout that isn't running since I'm not a fast swimmer and don't want to be (and I'm building some nice arm and back definition in the process!)

But I need to add swimming back in as a regular workout because it helps me recover from long/hard runs in a way that rowing doesn't.

And while it was ego-satisfying to increase my mileage by adding in an extra run most weeks, I can't make this a regular practice, as I don't have the time to do all the recovery stuff I need to do to make that work. You know, since I'm forty now, and seem to be falling apart. I'm sure my fragmented sleep schedule doesn't help with that either.

So I'm back to my workout routine of past years --- three runs and two cross-training sessions, plus stretching/strength mini-workouts --- only with added intensity in the form of rowing and more focused strength-training.

I want to keep all this in mind this winter as I read up on marathon training plans and plan out my racing schedule for next year. Winter itself will be about maintaining my running base and losing the last pounds (knowing that winter here is defined as November through March).

And yes, I realize that I've chosen the hardest time of the year to make a weight-loss push, but I do not want to go into marathon training with any thought of trying to lose weight. I've made that mistake before and it was ugly.

So here's to smart training and saying no to Christmas cookies! And Halloween candy. I firmly believe there is room for the occasional hot chocolate and Thanksgiving pie though.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Half That Wasn't

So, I don't really need to drill too deep into this (or at least not any more - it's a good thing I rarely manage to write right after an event). About half an hour after posting about the Chicago Half, I decided not to do it after all. I felt that my reasons for doing it, coupled with the impact it would have on my day/week, were not worth the risk of injury to myself. Not when I have another race in eight weeks that I am actively training for. Plus in talking with The Dude (who has done the half) it didn't sound like a fun race as much as a fairly serious one - not something to just go do on a whim (unless I didn't have kids or were in a lot better condition than I am now).

Instead I slept in a bit and then went out for a ten-mile run in the neighborhood. I decided I would make it a time trial and aim for 11:00 pace for the first half and 10:00 pace for the second (faster than any of my long runs). I struggled during the first half - not physically but mentally - it took me a while to stop feeling sorry for myself, and the music I was listening to was all over the place so that didn't help. Things finally started clicking about halfway through and I enjoyed pushing myself to keep at a steady, yet faster, pace. Then, with what I thought was 1.75 miles to go, I saw I had 16 minutes to hit my time goal, so even though a stretch of this was uphill I leaned into it and pushed as hard as I could until I rounded those last blocks and made it home. And then realized that I'd failed to turn my watch back on after one of the last traffic lights and so had no way of knowing for certain whether or not I'd made my goal. Utter dejection, and back emotionally to where I was at the beginning of the run.

Utter foolishness, yes? Because I still ran that 10 miles, and the second half considerably faster than the first. And it was a beautiful day, and I was out running, and my kids were having a great time with The Dude at home, and I had no reason in the world to feel sorry for myself at all.

(I've since mapped out that last stretch and found that it was only 1.6 miles, not 1.75, so I was in no worry of not meeting my goal for the morning anyway. The danger of trying to convert minutes into miles at the end of a run.)

I still had to go through a couple of cycles of alternately feeling sorry for myself and counting my blessings before I was done with it and could embrace the day. And it was a glorious day and I was so glad I was there to be available to my family, not trying to recover from a race I had no business running.

And the lesson learned from all this? To not mess around with my racing schedule too much once I've set it for the year. 5k's and 10k's excepted, of course.

Although, as a friend pointed out, I did end up getting those long runs in that I'd had trouble with...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Last Thoughts Before Tomorrow's Half

I've been trying to figure out why I'm even doing this half, since I've already run a half this year, I have another long race in just eight weeks, and I really have too much planned in this month already. I could just get up early and run long without having to travel all the way down to the other end of the city on top of it. But no, I'm going to do it, and I'm doing my best to be excited for it. Plus knowing why I'm doing it will help me know what my plan for it is.

And I realized that the main reason I'm doing this is to prepare for my race in November. I was having a hard time fitting in my long runs, and I very seriously thought, well, if I sign up for a half, then I'll have to get those long runs in. And I have.

So with that in mind, tomorrow I will go out and run a bit more carefully than I otherwise would. I'll still plan to start off relaxed and increase speed gradually as I go along, but I'm not going to do any of my crazy competitive stuff. I will exercise patience in the face of runner gridlock. I will not tear down any hills. I will not run on the side of the path if things get crowded. I may not even sprint at the end (though I'm not making any promises about that). I will do everything I can to run a good run and not get injured. And then I am taking two weeks off from running (and I can tell I need this because I've been excited about going to the gym and riding the bike - and I never want to do that).

And then I will have done the Chicago Half, which I have heard so much about and have thought so long about doing, and I will never have to do it again. (And I'll have a new long-sleeve running shirt to boot.)

P.S. Ten o'clock, and I have just decided not to run it after all. Feeling very happy about this decision and my alternate plans. More later.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Random Thoughts Before The Chicago Half

I hate tapering. Even though my taper for this half is short, I still feel all thrown off, mostly with food.

Some of that is also because I had a lo-o-ong weekend (5 days) and baked cupcakes twice during that time. (And then again last night - I'm trying out recipes for Buddy's birthday party.) I'm having a hard time "resetting" my sugar consumption.

I've been very regimented around food this summer (meat, sugar, dairy) and I've realized I'm not going to be able to continue in that way. It's taken me a few days to feel okay with that and I'm still not quite certain what not being so regimented will look like for me. It's helpful to know that this is a cycle I go through naturally with the seasons; it took me a little while to recognize this since all my "regular" cycles (and I do mean all of them) got disrupted with being pregnant and I'm only just settling back in to them.

(Yes, I am one of those annoying people who claim to be "in tune with" their bodies and sensitive to the earth's cycles --- or at least when I am not overriding those signals with sugar and white flour and dairy.)

I feel like I have been pushing pushing pushing on a number of things this summer and I am worn out. Two is more work than one (despite what my friends told me - liars). The outline of my life may not have changed much with having a second child, but there is a lot more packed into that space.

Thankfully in the last week I/we have stepped back a little bit from some of that pushing and have a more relaxed timeframe for some of the things I/we want to accomplish. Nothing like going away for a bit to put things into perspective.

Went to the Milwaukee Art Museum last weekend with the whole family. (Happy sigh.) I love that museum, and I love that museum campus. And I love being there with The Dude, and now, with Buddy and Goob as well. While it would have been nice to have been able to take in more of the exhibits, for now I will take what I can get.
Quadracci Pavilion

I have been frustrated to realize that this little race, that I just signed up for on a whim four weeks ago, is having a more significant impact on my training for November than I had anticipated. And this week I am feeling run down, with strange twinges that suggest overwork. I think after Sunday I will take a two-week running break and stick to swimming and the gym for a while. I really want to be able to attack November's race and I won't be able to if I continue to feel so run down, or worse, hurt myself.

But as the week goes on  I start to feel more excited about Sunday!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

And The Planning Begins... For Scary Movie Month!

After much deliberation, ordering and re-ordering of the Netflix Queue, creating categories and voting within each category, here is our short list for Scary Movie Month (we'll be lucky if we even get through half of these):
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • The Cabin in the Woods
  • Attack the Block
  • Dead Alive
  • Black Swan
  • CJ7
  • Cowboys & Aliens
  • Trollhunter
  • The Birds
  • Dawn of the Dead
  • The Brother from Another Planet
  • Fright Night
  • Shutter Island
  • Spirited Away
  • Forbidden Planet
  • The Wolfman
  • American Scary
  • In the Mouth of Madness
  • Piranha
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • The Village
  • The Illusionist
  • War of the Worlds
  • Alligator
  • Plan 9 From Outerspace
  • The Ring
  • My Name Is Bruce
  • Red: Werewolf Hunter
  • Seven
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Enemy Mine
  • Hellraiser
  • Vertigo
  • Amityville Horror
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  • Halloween II
  • The Game
  • 9
  • Dreamscape
  • Pumpkinhead
Now to come up with some tasty but low-calorie treats to consume while viewing; the days of mini candy bars throughout the month are over.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Speedy I Am Not... Scared I Am

I went to the gym for a speed workout this morning, two 1-mile repeats with warmup, cooldown, etc., for a total of 5 miles. My first mile was in 8:57 and the second was in 9:05. I would have liked to have gotten that second mile under 9:00 and maybe if I'd realized it wasn't going to be I could have pushed harder, but that's okay. Originally my plan called for 9:10 miles and I just this morning decided I could go faster, so I'll content myself with what I did.

I am still trying to hit an 8:30 mile so I may have to start doing some shorter faster intervals in my speed sessions, just to get my body used to the quicker turnover. I feel like I've done a bunch of 9-minute miles now and if I want to go faster I'm going to have to practice going faster. I mean, I can run faster than 9:00 pace, heck, I can run faster than an 8:30 pace, but right now I don't know just how long I can go at that speed.

I have friends who routinely run sub-8:00 miles and I'm confounded. Never mind the elite runners, even finishing a 5k in 25 minutes seems amazingly fast to me. I think until I see myself going faster (even for shorter distances) I won't really believe it's possible for me.

Another nice treat at the gym today is that I continue to lose weight (I only weigh myself there and only about every ten days or so). I'm almost back to where I was before Champ/Goober* was born. I'm looking to lose another 10-15 pounds and/or get more muscle... I don't know if I'll end up losing that much but at the very least I want to no longer be "overweight" by the health charts. Yes, I'm vain that way. Plus, I own some t-shirts that are just a wee bit too tight still (thanks to "M" not meaning the same thing everywhere you go), and I'd like to be able to wear them with more confidence.

So, the scared part. I met yesterday with the admissions director for a program I am thinking about enrolling in. We didn't talk about me, it was just an opportunity for me to get some questions answered before I move ahead. It would mean a complete change of career and take a lot of work just to get into. It's very exciting... and right now I'm scared witless. But then I think about doing what I'm doing for the rest of my life, or even a variant of it, and that scares me even more.

In some ways this new career would be a circling round to what I grew up thinking I would be doing, not quite but kind of a parallel path, so the George Eliot quote keeps coming into my head, "It's never too late to be who you might have been." I should get that tattooed on my forehead maybe.

Oh, between the fast miles and the fast thoughts, my tummy is in turmoil. Sigh.

*Despite our best efforts, "Goober" seems to be sticking as a nickname. From his brother's calling him "Goo", as in the sound he thinks a baby makes. Not that Goober ever actually says "goo". 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Elvis Is Alive 2012 5k

Second year running the Elvis Is Alive 5k last week, and I had a great time. Went with Erin from work - it's an evening run so we changed at work, hopped on the bus, and wandered our way down to the lakefront. I meant to run slow (and had to for the first mile - I'm not a night runner and had terrible abdominal cramps starting off), but then I warmed up and couldn't help trying to go fast! First mile 11:03, second 9:53, last 1.1 miles at 9:03 pace, for a total time of 30:54. Next time I'll warm up first!

Before the run, of course.
And then afterwards peanut butter & banana sandwiches, 312 Goose Island Ale, and Elvis tribute band. And lots and lots of people dressed up as Elvis, either in full-blown jumpsuits or just with fake sideburns. Before the run I was jealous of all the folks who dressed up and was thinking I might do so next year - then I realized there was no way I'd want to be wearing a jumpsuit while running. Maybe a cape, though... or at least sequins in some way. I need to start thinking about this.

I really really really want The Dude to do this with me at some point, I'd love to have the whole family there, but since we don't have a double running stroller I'm not sure how right now. In time, perhaps.

And now on to preparing for my half.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Next?

It took me a while after the Women's Half in June to figure out what my next training goals were going to be. I had already decided not to run a marathon this year, despite my intense longing to do so. I played with the idea of doing a trail half but figuring out how to get to one seemed like too much work (I don't drive my husband's stick shift so am limited in getting out of the city). I liked the idea of another speed challenge but there weren't any 10ks that attracted me. I knew I wanted to work on the following three things: 1) losing weight, 2) increasing the length of my "average" run, and 3) improving my "average" speed. I knew that trying to train for another longer distance (half or full marathon) wouldn't actually be the best way to go about those goals.

(Plus it's HARD to work in long slow runs into my family schedule these days... I may not be able to do that on a regular basis until the kids are old enough to fend for themselves in the morning.)

So I decided on a tried but true race, the Hot Chocolate 15k in November. The last time I ran this I swore I wouldn't do it again until they improved the course (they did), and even then I wasn't sure... It felt unique and fun the first couple of years and since then has felt just very corporate and slick. But it's the only Chicago race of that type of distance at that time of year, and it's the right distance for my goals. Plus the last time I ran it was right after the marathon in 2010, when I was at my best running, so my progress towards reaching (or besting!) that time could give me a good view into where I am overall.

And then since my training for it has been going well... I decided to throw another half into the mix, just for fun, just because I can. (And so that I get some long runs back into the equation since I've been having the aforementioned difficulty in doing them... there's nothing like having a half on the calendar in a month's time to give long runs a little more urgency.) So Chicago Half, September 9, here I come!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Trying Again

The other reason I haven't been writing much this summer is that I got seduced into using DailyMile to track my workouts. I say seduced because in the end it hasn't worked out the way I hoped it might, while it has prevented me from doing something I really love (that is, posting on this blog). It's been very easy to track some things I wouldn't otherwise, since I'm a pen and paper kind of gal usually, but it also makes it very easy to write about my workouts there... so I don't here. And, in the end, I haven't found it that great a tool for connecting with other people, which was the main reason to start using it.

I have found one great venue for connecting with other people about running, a running/weight-loss group on Facebook. In doing both DailyMile and this Facebook group over the same period of time I've found that I don't always care to see the details of other people's workouts - or if I do, I'll read about it on their blogs - but I love hearing about how people's decisions about their workouts, or their food, or any other health-related activity, makes them feel. And we've somehow created a real little group in the ether. So adios, DailyMile! I'll be ordering an old-fashioned training log soon.

(And to all my pals on the Sub-30 Losers Group - you're the best!)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chicago Women's Half Marathon (Finally)

I've gotten hung up on writing a recap of my half and so haven't written at all. There's also been a lot in the rest of my life that's frustrated me and I don't like to write about my frustrations, mostly because I know most things will resolve themselves with time and so why give more permanence or energy to them than they deserve. But that's left me with not much to write about.

Ah, the Chicago Women's Half Marathon... It was a great experience. I really wanted to write a mile-by-mile recap since I was so pleased with how I did and how I went about doing it, but I've realized that I'm just not going to manage to do that. So, some highlights.

I unexpectedly saw one of my favorite running friends before the race started - a magical person who inspires me in so many ways. We don't run together (she's much faster than me) but it was a thrill to see her and spend some time with her.

I had meant to run without music but at the last minute before leaving the house I chickened out and stuffed my tunes into my bag. I just didn't quite believe that I wouldn't need the help in the last miles. But then during gear check I forgot to take them out... And realized about half an hour before the start that I was musicless after all. It felt right.

It was hot, especially the first three miles, and I could feel myself inching towards overheating which seemed just ridiculous given how much longer I was going to have to run. So my mantra became "Rein it in." I'm really proud that I could recognize this, take stock of where I was and what I needed to do still, and adjust properly. Because then I did really well the whole rest of the way - I felt comfortable and was able to maintain a pretty consistent pace over the next five miles.

At mile 8 I was feeling really good (we got some cloud cover) and I thought to myself, "I own this." So I picked things up a wee little bit and felt good about that.

Then we hit mile 10. I mentioned that the first three miles were really hot, no shade, surrounded by concrete on one side and blazing water on the other. Well, those three miles heading out were the same as the last three miles coming back. And mile 10 also marked the longest distance I'd run this year. So there was no way I could continue on as I was. I slowed down. I took an extra walk break. I had more water. And then I just resolved to not walk, even if I couldn't keep up the pace I'd been enjoying. And I didn't. But some of those moments of not walking were truly gutted out.

And then we got to the last mile and I asked my legs if I could ask a bit more of them, and I was able to try to run a bit stronger and then a bit stronger still as we continued to the end and finally ended up running as hard as I could to cross. that. finish. line. I even heard someone on the side shouting "She's actually going to sprint!" and let me tell you, I felt like the badass I aspire to be. Oh, glory.

I finished with my supreme, I-would-barely-admit-it-to-myself, goal of under 12:00 miles (11:59) at 2:37:03.

Afterwards, the usual post-race letdown. Had I really done my first half at a 12:00 minute pace? I ran my marathon two years ago faster than that! I had to work very hard to remember that I had decided to do this race only two months beforehand, when my longest distance was 4 miles. That I finished at all, let alone feeling consistent and strong (and enjoying myself), was due to smart training over those two months and smart running (and walking and eating and hydrating) on that day.

Because what I really want to remember about that day is that I had an incredible time. And I can't wait to do it again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mini Update

It's been another weird week, at work, at home, and with the weather. I've been meaning to write about all sorts of things and just haven't been able to sit down and think well enough to do it. So mostly I've been working out instead. I know in theory this should be a recovery week after my big race, and I have cut back on the intensity of my workouts, but I'll be on vacation next week with little time to run (and no chance to swim or go to a gym), so I've been loathe to give up any opportunities this week. Especially since our gym now has an ergometer (rowing machine) - sweet! I love rowing machines and have missed being able to use one. And then to be able to hop from a row right to the treadmill - love it!

I've been making some changes to my eating and doing a lot of reading to support those changes, so that's been something new for me as well. I don't feel like going into any of this right now, especially since I don't want to proselytize for anything, but it has certainly kept my brain busy.

Next week we're off to The Dude's hometown, where we will play in his mom's back yard, go to King's Island, and get on some trails! I'm really looking forward to it. Maybe I'll even get some writing done.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Weird Week

It's been hot. Really hot. I'm in taper and that's always a little crazy-making. I've been working at home (no air conditioning) because of some unexpected work in my office and I hate working at home. The heat makes the baby cranky. The heat makes the boy cranky. The heat makes me cranky. I leave it to The Dude to decide if he's cranky.

But... things are edging back to normal. It's gotten cooler as the week has gone on and it should even be temperate for my race. I went to family yoga last night (first half just parents, second half with kids) and for my intention I had "equilibrium in confusion", and I've been feeling more grounded ever since. Next week I'm back in the office and then to Ohio for a week and the idea of both are making me very happy. And I have a race in three days!

Life is indeed good.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Still Hot, Still Long, Not So Slow

This was the best long run I've had in a long time. I've been thinking a lot about ultrarunning and what I heard at the Scott Jurek event (the book is on order, I can't wait!). Especially since The Dude is more than a little nervous about all of this. I can't help that this is what I want to do, I think I've just spent too many formative years out on trails on in view of mountains, despite my recent sojourn in the land of pavement and flatness.

So I've been taking each long run as if it were preparing me for even more. Not in the sense of "If I gut this out I'll be ready for my next race" (which begs the question of why prepare for an event I don't expect to enjoy), but rather with an idea of "What can I learn from this run that will allow me to do more (because I love it so much)?"

Some of what I focussed on this week:

Planning in walk breaks. In the past I've planned walk breaks in theory, but haven't necessarily followed through with them - only to be bitten in the butt by that at the end of my run. This week I set my watch alarm to go off every 20 minutes, basing my breaks on the time covered rather than the distance, and then spent 60-90 seconds at each break walking briskly before starting up again. I then also based my water and gel consumption around these, making sure to start hydrating/eating before I felt the need for it.

This reminded me of what I first started running and I had the thought, electrifying to me: if I just slow down, I can run forever. And then: I want to do that! Maybe, if I take walk breaks and eat/drink properly - if I replenish myself consistently - I really can run forever.

Running tall, staying light on my feet. And visualizing these things when I got tired and my form started to slump. Worked like magic!

When it got uncomfortably hot/humid/sunny, thinking to myself: The sun is nourishing me. It makes everything grow. I am pulling energy from everything around me. (This could only work because I've had a few weeks to acclimatize myself to the heat and I knew the rest of my planning was protecting me from overheating.)

In the last two miles, when I had the opportunity to run on the grass for brief periods, I used that as a way to energize myself. Instead of slowing down, seeking out the most even path with the thought of "I will protect my feet by running on a softer surface," I thought, "Here is an opportunity to play, to bound, to spring, to be as a child." Happy feet!

I have to say, it all worked. I planned out two loops of five miles each that I knew I would enjoy traversing, and stashed a bottle of water/electrolytes at home in our mail lobby so I could easily access it halfway through and refill my handheld bottle (and get a moment's coolth as well). I made sure to take water in every time I stopped, and timed my gels for every 40 minutes. Put a jazz album on my ipod, and set out slow.

The first 5 miles were so comfortable that I felt totally prepared to take on another 5, maybe even with some zest. When the jazz ended I let it roll on into Miranda Lambert's latest and adjusted my pace to the music, letting myself pick up speed. In hindsight this is the only thing I would have done differently, the tempo changed significantly with each song and I felt I was constantly needing to reset my pace. Perhaps next time for those last miles I'll just turn the music off.

With one mile to go I looked at my watch and saw I had just over ten and a half minutes before my alarm went off again. Can we do it? Yes we can!

I came home feeling grand. The baby, who had been perfectly content while I was gone, started howling as soon as he saw me and realized I wasn't planning on immediately picking him up, so my stretching got scrapped (I paid for that later). But otherwise, a perfect run.

Friday, June 8, 2012

But What Do I Really Really Want (To Do For Work)?

I've done some more thinking on the career front since my last post. The old adage, "be careful what you wish for" is certainly true... since writing that I wanted to work with women or children in a sports-related capacity the opportunity has arisen to apply for a job in exactly that field (and even for an organization that I've wanted to work for). I was very excited at first...

But on reflection I realized that particular job wouldn't be right for me. Not now (with two small children), and perhaps not ever (the type of work). Which made me realize that while I'm clear about what field I want to be in I'm not yet clear about what kind of work I want to be doing in it.

I have some time to consider this. The Dude is also considering career changes and while my job is not quite, well, right, it's certainly tolerable and offers a number of benefits to our family beyond my paycheck and insurance. At the same time, if the universe is gracious enough to answer, then it behooves me to get clear about the question.

Any other musing on this just makes me depressed so that's enough for now! Next up, why I'm not running the marathon this year (even though I want to).*

*Another depressing topic! Better to just tell you how thrilling it was to hear Scott Jurek speak yesterday, and that I got to high-five him during the fun run before the presentation. Swoon!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'll Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want

I want to run the Western States 100.

I want to hike the Appalachian Trail (with The Dude).

I want to have a job where I'm working with women or children in a socially responsible health/fitness/sport-related capacity.

Since I started thinking about this post I've had all kinds of arguments going in my head with imaginary opponents. In my head it's somehow self-indulgent and wasteful to focus on the physical. Well, screw that. This is what I want. This is pretty much what I've always wanted, though the exact goals have changed over the years. And even when I was eighty pounds heavier and my only exercise was walking all over town in the middle of the night, in my dreams I was hiking tall mountains and swimming oceans and leaping obstacles in a single bound. And now I'm forty and I've had my kids and it's time to do it.

Goodbye doubts, hello blisters!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Long, Hot, and Slow

Yesterday was my first long run in a long time --- one where I pushed myself to go significantly longer than my previous long run and also the first where I needed to think about fluid/nutrition intake on the run (8 miles). It's funny, there was a point in my marathon training where it felt like "8 is the new 5" - that is, not really a long run at all - but right now 8 is the new 12. Or 14.

The first two miles were hard (it was already 90 degrees when I started and I was feeling tight and sore), then the middle four miles felt great, and then the last two miles were hard again. Here's what I learned from the day.

1) I tried out Clif Shot gel for the first time. I'm a big fan of Clif products as a rule, so I had been wanting to try this anyway, but it's also what will be offered at the Women's Half that I'm doing. A win! It tasted good and I had no tummy troubles afterwards.

2) Early last year I had bought a Nathan hand-held bottle, looking for something lighter than what I was using.
When I used it the first time it seemed like a lot spilled out, so I assumed I had a faulty one and wrote to the company asking for a replacement, which came promptly. But then I got pregnant and didn't use it. Now, over a year later, I tried out the replacement. The liquid didn't so much spill out as shoot out, which made me realize that was the design --- it's made to be easy to drink from while running. You just have to make sure to hold it upright (and not squeeze it) when not drinking from it. Once I got used to that I really liked having it. It's possible to buy a small attachment for it to allow for holding gels and I might do that.

3) About halfway through my run I came close to a water fountain and questioned whether I should stop, take a drink, and fill up my bottle. I still had 1/2 a bottle left so I didn't and continued on. Note to self: if you're asking the question, the answer is YES.

4) Same thing with the walk breaks. Take them early, on schedule, and you might be able to skip some at the end. Skip them early (especially in this heat) and you're almost guaranteed to have to take extra later on.

So, not an easy run, but a good one. I finished strong, and felt of good mind throughout. These first long runs of the season are about learning what you need to do (training the mind) as much as about training the body to run long, so, success!

Friday, May 25, 2012

She's Mighty, Mighty

I woke up this morning feeling tight from a hard night with the baby. I wanted to swim for the physical release it would bring (and because I hadn't yet this week), but I wanted to run for the emotional release it would provide. What to do?

The answer came while nursing: why both, of course! Instead of walking to the pool I could run there (with a little extra just for fun), and then run home. Not all that much different from what I do on swim days anyway, just a little added distance and then my shower at home instead of the pool (much nicer anyways). With the baby still nursing I popped over to the computer to map out my routes, to make it an even two miles there, one mile home. Now I just had to make sure I made it to the pool in time.

The boys cooperated, I dropped them off, and started my run. It wasn't until I started that I realized this was essentially a brick workout*, and it wasn't until my swim that I realized I was already doing the distances in a sprint triathlon (1/2 mile swim, 3 mile run). Now, in the past I've sworn never to do a triathlon, but I have to say, I had a lot of fun this morning. It felt a little weird when I started swimming, and again a little weird when I started running again, but within a short while I felt back in the groove. And my swim ended up being the fastest I've done that I can think of --- shows what can happen when you warm up first!

I had so much fun I think I'll do this on a regular basis --- it's a nice way of getting in an extra workout. I did find myself noticing that having different gear would make the transitions easier... I may be getting sucked into the dark side of triathlon after all. Now where did I put my bike?

*Training on two disciplines in the same workout, a triathlon term.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mash Note to NYT Book Review

New York Times Book Review, how do I love you? Let me count the ways...
  • For referencing my favorite unknown writer on motherhood (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy) in a sensible review of two recent books on mothering/children/feminism. Thank you, Judith Warner.
  • For reviewing children's and young adult books. 
  • For your mini book notes on the best sellers pages.
  • For your thorough reviews of nonfiction books that allow me to get a sense of the book's main points --- without actually having to read the book if I don't have the time to. Which is most nonfiction books these days.
For a brief time I had a weekend subscription to the NYT. It was glorious, and the Book Review and the Magazine were my favorite parts. Alas, even the weekend subscription is expensive as hell, and I had to drop it. But some kind soul at work has recently been bringing in the Book Review and leaving it on the lounge table, oh bliss. I make sure to return it when I'm done so that the good karma fairy keeps nudging that person to continue...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In My Ears

Running is about the only time I have where I can really listen to music, so I almost always have my ipod shuffle with me. Typically I have a mix of jazz, country, and something soul/funk/r&b. I almost always have Michael Franti, Cassandra Wilson, Nina Simone, and Miranda Lambert on there.

Here are the albums I have on there now:

Michael Franti - "Everyone Deserves Music"
"Hunger Games" soundtrack
Miranda Lambert - "Four The Record"
Vijay Iyer - "Historicity"
Ellington/Mingus/Roach - "Money Jungle"
Nine Simone - "Silk/Soul"
Allen Toussaint - "The Bright Mississippi"

And then my running mix. The master mix stays on my laptop and has about 70 songs on it; I typically put about 40 of them on the shuffle. This includes disco, pop, and rock.

I've been listening more closely to music in the past few years, really listening, piano and bass mostly (guitar too, thanks to my rock star husband). I've even been putting on monster headphones at home so I can get a good listen in while I sew. The other day I was listening to a Starbucks compilation from the 60s - Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, etc., and was just blown away by the backing bands. I mean, I've always known they were good but on this day I was really listening carefully and could really appreciate it. Unfortunately, all this careful listening meant that later in the week I was out running and one of my favorite go-to running songs came on --- and I was disappointed in the piano part, it was completely rote and uninspired. And of course then that was all I could hear, even though the piano was really one of the least parts of the song. Dang.

Any favorite running songs?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Breath

I'm going through a book of spiritual poetry written by women (one of the benefits of my job), and found this:

You who want
seek the Oneness

There you 
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting
--- Hadewijch II (13th century)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beautiful Day

Oh, it was a beautiful day for a run today. Bright, clear, about 65F. I went along an old friend of a route, one that had been my favorite before getting pregnant, and it was so nice to run it again. Hello,old friend. A mix of homes, park, quiet business districts, with gentle hills (plus one hard one to make you feel like you've done something). I took it easy, and steady, stopping only for traffic, and then when my legs still felt fresh quietly moved up the pace for the last mile and a half.

I always try to look around and really see things on my runs --- a friend of mine suggests looking for three new things each day. I've run this route so many times I don't always see new things, but today... ducks! Two mallards snuggled into the grass next to the path. And they made me think of my morning with Buddy, since we'd been talking about waterfowl on the way to school. So an extra little treat as I went about my run.

I noticed my IT band twinging a little as I ran so when I got home I made a point of doing my IT routine. Oh, I have lost so much strength in all those little stabilizing muscles! But now at least I know and can start addressing those weaknesses, before I have gotten myself and my muscle memory set into bad habits for the season.

I am so happy to be getting stronger.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Words To Thrill A Mother's Heart

Sunday evening, I'm making dinner. Buddy comes tearing in to the kitchen.

"What's cooking, Mama?!" he shouts.

I tell him I'm making ham, mashed potatoes, and kale.

"Kale?! I love kale!"

And off he tears again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

RR 5K Recap

So, Sunday was a beautiful day. Sunny and brisk, perfect running weather. The baby had slept reasonably well for two nights in a row, so I woke up feeling halfway rested. I decided to act as if I could hit my goal, a sub-30 5k. I ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee, nursed the baby, read a story to the boy, woke The Dude, and walked out of the house in my race clothing and nothing else besides my keys and watch.

I warmed up by slowly jogging in the neighborhood, about 3/4 mile, picking up the pace for a last block. I walked the last couple of blocks to the race. I visited the porta-potties, not because I really needed to but because that's just part of race routine and I didn't want to make any changes to my race routine, not today. I lined up at the 10-mile mark (and found a friend from church there); I thought I might try to find someone at my speed and stick with them for a while.

But no go, once we crossed the start line I was out and moving fast. I didn't even want to go fast right then, I just hate being caught behind people, and this was, as it's billed, a neighborhood 5k. So: lots of kids, lots of walkers, lots of people who have never done a race, kids on scooters, running strollers, dogs, etc. All of which is great, we ran this with a running stroller ourselves last year (though we made sure to start at the very back). But even if I hadn't wanted to run it fast I would have still fought to get out from behind.

Once I felt in the clear I tried to rein in my head at least and evaluate my speed. Was I going to be able to maintain it? And of course I hadn't hit my timer when I crossed the start so I couldn't be sure of my time. I tried to just stay as present as I could: to my breath, to my form, to all the people on the sides cheering their folks on, to the trees above and the sunlight filtering through the leaves.

The first mile came and I checked my watch, mentally adding another 5-10 seconds since I'd been late to start it. 9:50ish. Cool, I thought, if I can keep this pace and maybe surge a little at the end I should hit my goal. I tried to keep steady, not trying to pass anyone but also not letting myself get caught behind anyone else. I was already feeling a little tired and knew that it would be a fight to stay on pace the whole way. I reminded myself of the recent studies that give insight into why our ability to persevere is due to our mind and not our bodies (yes, I'm a geek, I read those studies and then use them to motivate me while running). I was starting to weary and was thankful it was only 5k and not 10. I told myself that if I was on track to get below 30 at the two-mile mark than I would do my best to do so (and if not then I would stop trying and just enjoy the rest of the race).

Then suddenly we were at the halfway point and I was cruising through the middle of the street, staying well away from the water stations and the people stopping at them. And then just a little farther and we were at the two-mile mark and I saw that I'd done the 2nd mile in 9:20. Wow. Okay. Guess I gotta see this through then.

And so I fought myself the rest of the way in. My legs felt heavy. I wanted to stop. I had plenty of air but my legs just. felt. so. heavy. I thought I had to be slowing down but had no idea by how much. I like to be able to push things faster during the last mile of any race I do but I just didn't think that would be possible this time. And yet somehow we were passing by the last blocks faster than I thought. I couldn't sustain a push --- in fact I was barely certain that I could even keep going --- so I settled for mini-surges: running hard for three counts of four, and then letting up again. I just kept doing that as much as I could and then there was the three-mile mark with only 0.1 miles to go and the clock read 30:08 but I knew I'd crossed the start line at about 2:00 so if I could only keep going I was bound to finish in time. I was slowing, I was slowing, but all I had to do then was keep going and so I did, and crossed the line, and then I could stop. And I did.

And walked around to keep my legs warm and loose, and looked for the boys, and ran into another friend from church and waited with him for a while (as he waited for the friend I'd started with). Then that friend arrived and they left, and it started to get crowded so I wasn't even sure I'd be able to see the boys and I got too nervous (and cold) to stay put. I walked through the sponsor tents, got a banana and a granola bar for later, a Clif shot blok and bite of cinnamon roll for right then, and walked back up to the finish line where they found me, Buddy still in his pyjamas and Champ tucked in under multiple blankets, and we all walked home together. And then I made pancakes --- chocolate chip because I ran a race --- and eggs.

My final time: 29:09.

So my splits worked out to about this: 9:40 / 9:20 / 9:15 / 0:54, which means that I managed to keep going faster even though it felt I was going through mud. Good to know.

And I came in 61st out of 194 in my age group, so at the bottom of the first third. This also makes me very happy --- for someone who always thinks of myself as slow, it means a lot to know that while I may be slow compared to where I want to be, I am not, compared to the larger group, slow. (And as I get older and do start slowing down these kinds of comparative times will become more and more important to me.)

And best of all?

I'm ba-a-ack!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ravenswood Run 5K 2012 - Before

In less than two hours I'll be running the Ravenswood Run, my first attempt this year at a sub-30 5K. I don't have a good idea of how fast I can run it really, so I'll just try to go as fast as I can. Warm up beforehand, head out at a good clip but not superfast, and then see how I can speed up. Chasing people down is my favorite way to do that.

I've had my oatmeal and my coffee, it's a beautiful crisp and sunny day, the race is walking distance from my home, and I've had the two best nights' sleep I've had in a few months. Crossing fingers!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keeping It Short So I Can Keep Going

For the last two weeks I've been sticking to shorter distances and taking them slower as well (and after taking a week's break, thanks to the baby and his nighttime demands). I'm liking the laid-back routine --- I feel I'm beginning to get back some enjoyment to my runs and with that more excitement about what I might do this season. Day by day I find my runs getting smoother and the recovery faster. I forget that in addition to needing to build my heart and lungs and muscles back up, which is relatively easy, I also need to get all that connective stuff back on track, the tendons and ligaments and fascia, and that takes longer.

I just entered my workouts into (you can see them on the right) and can now look over the whole year at once --- when I did that I could see that I had jumped back into multiple runs way too quickly, increasing distance AND speed AND frequency all at once. I was so happy to be able to get out on my own again (once I went back to work and Champ was at daycare) that I just plunged back in without giving my body time to accomodate to the new stresses. I think I also felt that these shouldn't be new stresses since I've been running for years... but of course not at these distances/speeds/frequencies since getting pregnant.

The other thing I'm excited about is returning to SWIMMING! I didn't swim much while pregnant, first because of the smell and then because the awkwardness of getting in and out of a swimsuit, and then I didn't have any good opportunity in the months at home with Champ. But the other day it suddenly occured to me that swimming would be the perfect antidote to all the baby-carrying and nursing I do. (Plus the hunching-over to minimize the current ridiculousness of my breasts, which I know is stupid but I can't help it.) I've been trying to do yoga at home to help with my back, but honestly the minute I step into the house it's all about chores (and baby-carrying and nursing...). But with the boys starting at the same daycare soon I'll have time to go to the pool again and I am positively giddy at the idea of slipping into cool water and str-e-etching out with each stroke. Lovely. Now I just have to go through my swimsuits and see which one actually fits.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Running Smart, Running Short

I've spared you all the back-and-forth I've gone through over the past weeks about what my running goals for the year should be. The short version is that, surprise, surprise, I want to bite off more than I can chew, and I've been flirting with injury as a result. (I get a couple of really good workouts in and suddenly I think I am impervious to the effects of waking up three times a night to nurse. Doh!)

But I find I can't not have some goal to work towards. If I don't have some goal, then I make up new ones with every single run, or missed run, or someone else's run. This is not very helpful to me.

Soooo... with all that in mind, I've joined an online running group of people shooting for a sub-30 5K. (As in below 30 minutes, for my non-running friends.) I don't tend to run 5Ks, so I don't carry a lot of baggage around this distance. And it's a short enough distance that the training won't require a lot of mileage. And I think I won't have to do a lot to be able to reach it... just enough to keep me interested and to keep me from making stupid plans I can't follow through on. I'll run the Ravenswood Run 5K in a week as a way of assessing where I'm at, and then find another 5K that I can use to train for my goal. And I've been enjoying the online group already.

And this way my mantra for the year doesn't have to be, "Don't run stupid."  'Cause that is definitely where I was heading.

Painting And Music

"Purely formal characteristics [in painting] exercise the senses as do string quartets, piano concertos, Dixieland. Because of this, the representation I am interested in is of those things only the eye can touch. I think of painting without subject matter as music without words. It affects our innermost being as space, spaces, air."
--- Kenneth Noland

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jealous Again

Of my twenty-something friends who have their lives together in a way I could not have even dreamt of when I was twenty-something... (and who presumably will be more accomplished at 40 than I feel).

Of my boss's 9-year-old daughter who is already quite an accomplished and creative seamstress. Or rather, I'm envious of the opportunities she has to pursue her projects. (I was forced to give away my proudest sewing creations when I was young. And yes, I am still bitter.)

Of women with babies who sleep easily and who are allowed to nurse uninterrupted.

I suppose that's it, really. But they have sat heavy on me in past weeks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fail Club

A woman from my book group at church has started “Fail Club”. Here’s the description:

The Fail Club is a chance to admit to or devise a goal which may seem impossible, or at which you have already failed. Perhaps you are a hippopotamus and want to learn ballet? This is a place to voice a hope and, regardless of success, receive encouragement. We shall not fear failure, in fact we will befriend it together. 

I, of course, immediately signed up.

I’ve realized I’m not comfortable with actually naming my monstrous fat ambition*, so for now I’ll just say that it has to do with quilts, and art-making, and writing about art and quilts. I imagine I’ll also have a better sense of what exactly I’m trying to do as I keep moving in that direction.

I have, however, come up with a very nice list of reasons why it’s ridiculous to even consider doing so.

  1. Despite my degree in art history, I have not been part of any kind of serious artistic discussion in almost 20 years. But I read about art and visit museums, and just this week had lunch with two different people to talk about art, and have a list of others to reach out to.
  2. I have two children under the age of four and typically have almost no time to myself in a day. Except for my commute, or in the early morning, or when The Dude makes a point of taking them. And this will change as they get older as well.
  3. My artistic production over the last years has been haphazard at best. But I have been consistently working over the last two years, even if slowly, and have been doing enough to feel that I am learning and developing as an artist.
  4. I am an absolute beginner when it comes to working with fabric. True, but the only way to change that is to keep going.
  5. I haven’t found many people working in a way that feels simpatico to what I’m fumbling towards. But I have found a few and will keep looking.
  6. I very much fear how others will see me. The one quilter that I know in person works in a manner hugely different than I do. But that is only one person, and even looking at her work informs mine, if only in opposition to hers.
As I write out all my “good” reasons for thinking my ambition is ridiculous I am instead seeing how ridiculous these reasons are.

Guess I’ve got to keep going then.

*Or, my M.F.A., not to be confused with my “Secret Burning Ambition” (S.B.A.), which is running-related, and which seems farther and farther away as I continue to not get enough sleep.

A postscript. As I’ve been thinking about all this stuff over the last week, I’ve been coming up with more and more regrets about choices I’ve made (or rather, failed to make): in high school, college, graduate school… I think, in order to be able to move forward, I’m going to need to make a bit more peace with where I am, and possibly with who I was then. Maybe.