Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Things to Come

Just a quick note: I'm cutting back on my internet usage and so I will be taking a break from some of the sites where you might have seen me (a permanent break in some cases). But not from here!

More to come in the next days.

I wish every one a safe and enjoyable start to the New Year!

Anticipatorily,
Annie

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baby, It's COLD Outside

On Monday I went to the gym based on a forecast of ice drizzle that never materialized. I had a pretty hard dreadmill experience (I'll just say that it was an exercise in mental fortitude), and it would have been a perfect day to run outside. Nice fresh snow, sunny, quite cold but not horribly so. I was determined not to make that mistake again. My new winter mantra: when in doubt, run out!

So today I bundled up. Today, it was 1 degree when I left the house. Yes, 1 degree above zero. Fahrenheit. And not sunny. Oh, and windy.

One kid dropoff, 8 miles, and two hours later, it was a balmy 6 degrees. Still pretty windy. A little sun.

Here's what I wore:

Regular trouser socks underneath my regular, year-round ankle-height running socks. I have some thin wool running socks on order but they haven't arrived yet, and my old winter running socks bit the dust last year. At least the trouser socks were acrylic, not cotton.

Long underwear under my lightweight running pants.

A short-sleeve thin running shirt, long enough to cover my butt. This is an ugly shirt from a race I'm not wild about, but it's a perfect underlayer, so I've kept it.

A thin long-sleeve overshirt. Again, another shirt I'm not wild about, but it's good as an overlayer, especially since the sleeves are long (this became important).

My Hot Chocolate 15K tech hoodie from last year. This is a great cold weather top.

The baby has claimed my neck gaiter and my replacement one hasn't come in yet, so a wide acrylic scarf, wrapped around my face and neck several times.

A tech running beanie hat.

Chapstick smeared liberally all over my face as a wind break. You laugh, but it works!

The hood of my hoodie kept all my head and neck gear in place.

Running gloves. These on their own were definitely not enough. All the way to daycare my hands were freezing and I was thinking that this would be the weak link in my outfit, the one that had the potential to spoil my long-run plans. Luckily, just before I was about to raid the kids' clothing boxes for extra socks I remembered my shirt has really long sleeves, and I was able to pull them out and cover up my hands in the gloves. Perfect!

Once my feet warmed up I was pretty good for the whole run. The wind was an issue and impacted my choice of route - I had wanted to run along the lakefront but that just wasn't an option for me today. When I started I really didn't know if I would be able to complete my intended eight miles, but figured that at the very least this would be an information-gathering exercise in what kind of gear I might need to keep running outside this winter. I will say that it is unusually cold for Chicago, we get testy when it dips into the teens, let alone the single digits. And most winters I've been sidelined by injury and haven't tried to do regular long runs outside. So I really don't have a "winter running gear" selection, just some odds and ends that I throw together for the few times I have gone out. But apparently that works! I will be happy to get those wool socks, though.

I could use some hot chocolate right now...

Not yet warmed up -
Annie

Monday, December 2, 2013

Almost Forgot

Oh, and the "making friends" from the title of my last post?

This:



And this:


Need to start spending some quality time with them. Or rather, on them.

Yours stiffly,
Annie

Going Long, Refining Plans, Making Friends

Running my virtual half last week made me remember just how much I love running long. As in, I love it.

And then I read this post from No Meat Athlete, "5 'Easy' Steps for Making Your Unrealistic Goal a Reality".

So I'll just go ahead and say it. For some years my Secret Burning Ambition has been to run Western States 100.

Go ahead, look it up. It's insane, I know. Even if I manage to qualify I don't know that I could ever get in (a lot of people trying for not a lot of spaces - it's a lottery system).

But knowing that Western States is my ultimate big-ass goal (and claiming it as that) makes other things clearer.

So here's the updated plan for 2014 (and beyond).

I'll keep working towards my virtual indoor Olympic tri on February 28, just to keep my training options open during these winter months and for overall fitness. But I'll also keep going long every other week or so, just to maintain half marathon readiness.

Then come spring I'll start extending those long runs so that I can be at marathon readiness, and I'll also start actively investigating trails and trail race options. My plan is to run at least one half marathon or longer trail race next year, and hopefully two. (Plus I'll do the Fleet Feet Women's Half again in June just because I love it.)

And then in January 2015 it's the Harbison 50K outside of Columbia, South Carolina.

I have some good resources for running ultras, so over the winter I'll read up. And I won't be doing this alone, there are at least two other folks from my online group planning this too.

But, wow!

Yours excitedly,
Annie

Monday, November 18, 2013

November Randomness (How Is It Already November 18?!)

Thursday was an absolutely beautiful day for a long run, simply gorgeous, the best I'm likely to have until spring.

Too bad I got the kids' cold and it worked itself into my chest. No long run for me. Tea and restorative yoga instead.

I would be more sanguine about it if I hadn't had this run on the books for a couple of weeks now, and if I weren't doing a virtual half in ten days time. Well... oh well. I can trust that I can pull 13.1 miles out of me next Saturday (slowly) IF I respect where I am now and don't try to do too much. Regardless of how beautiful the weather is. Grumble, grumble, grouse.

(Written three days ago now, the cold is mostly gone. Plus it should be sunny - though COLD - for my half on Saturday.)

***************

Awesome workout this morning, the kind that makes me feel like a rock star all day. Triple punch at the gym: rowing, cycling, and running. Felt great, wanted to do more (I had kept the times really short). I love those days.

***************

But it's a sunny day today, and so I'm doing good. This time of year (October - December) is really hard for me. And it always takes me a while to put two and two together as to why I'm feeling low. Or rather, why my lows feel so very low.

Thankfully I think I figured it out a bit earlier this year and can start on the self-care: making sure I get some exercise every day, making sure I get some drawing/painting time every day too, being careful around sweets and alcohol. Being gentle with myself (most important). And indulging myself in anything that gives me pleasure: novels, movies, music, relaxing with my kids.

That's probably part of why Scary Movie Month means so much to me each year (movies, extra time with my husband, yummy treats, fun stuff with the kids). Something to keep in mind for the future.

Forty-one years old and still learning about myself.

****************

I had noticed that my reading had shifted, from my usual art theory/history and theology, to novels and memoirs and running books. A good one I just finished: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. And I'm currently reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie (short stories). And there are plenty around the house to keep me busy through the winter, plus the ones requested through the library.

***************

Any good books you'd recommend? Any good movies?

Yours in quiet exuberance,
Annie

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not Making Plans - Hah!

I should know better than to ever claim that I won't make any training plans for a period of time.

Here's where the last three weeks of "not planning" have led me:
  • Running a "virtual" half in two weeks time with my online group.
  • Running a virtual 5k in three weeks time with my other online group.
  • Adding in cycling to the routine.
  • Researching trail races.
  • Planning for a trail 50k in South Carolina in January 2015.
How did this happen? Well, I'd already been thinking about trying to get in more trail running, and then one of my online running buddies invited the group to do a 50k trail run with her...

And then I read this post from Kristen Armstrong. Not always a big fan of hers but this hit home with me.

The challenges for trail races are similar to marathons, stuff about nutrition and practicing techinques and steadier pacing. The real challenge for me is that I will need to be able to drive out of the city. I don't currently have a driver's license and am scared silly by the idea of driving. I've needed to take care of this for a long time though and if this gets me moving on it finally...

One step at a time. First I need to get a new state ID (I've been using my passport which I don't like to do) and pick up the Rules of the Road booklet - that's this week's challenge. First goal: have my learner's permit by the end of the year.

Yours nervously -
Annie

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scary Movie Month - The End

Yes! We did it. Ten years since the show came to its network conclusion (as opposed to its ongoing life in graphic novels), and five years since we started watching it, we finally managed to finish Buffy Vampire Slayer. Now to knock Angel out...

Frankenweenie (Tim Burton - 2012)
If you've watched a lot of Tim Burton, as we have, then there's a lot about this movie that is awfully familiar, almost a bit too familiar. But we liked it anyway. I was really taken by how lovingly and carefully the dog was depicted, in all its very dogginess. And then we enjoyed all the shoutouts to different monster movies from the past. Not one for the boy though, not yet, anyway. (He's been busy watching "The Nightmare Before Christmas" as often as he can get us to let him.)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Another classic, but this one is a goodie as well as an oldie. Creepy and interesting and moving. Perhaps the best of all the Universal monster movies (though I still need to see "Creature from the Black Lagoon").

And then finally...

Halloween (John Carpenter - 1978)
One of his best. A perfect way to go out. (Aside from watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" with the kidlets.)

And we are done. So done. We had contemplated seeing some others over the next weeks, but not anymore. Time to get caught up on some other movies, time to get caught up on sleep.

Yours sleepily,
Annie

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scary Movie Month - Part 2

And then after the marathon was over we could really settle ourselves down and get in some serious viewing...

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002 with Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis)
This may be one of my favorite movies ever. Elvis in a nursing home, a soul-sucking mummy, and JFK somehow put into the body of a black man, now elderly as well. And yet it is one of the most moving films I've ever seen about aging, regrets, family, and what makes a life well lived. Plus some kick-assery by the elderly Elvis and JFK, working as a team.

Dark Star (John Carpenter & Dan O'Bannon - 1974)
Not scary, but the first effort by two men who went on to make horrifically scary movies, so we watched out of historic interest. I was falling asleep so I missed the last twenty minutes but I wish I'd managed to stay up for it all. Atmospheric and interesting, if perhaps not as funny as they'd hoped.

The Hand (1981 with Michael Caine)
Caine was good in this, but then I felt the ending threw all that good work away. We did get some good conversation throughout about the characters, though, so the experience of watching it was fun, even if in the end it was disappointing.

The Wolf Man (1941 with Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney)
A classic. And it's a sign of how much Scary Movie Month has become part of my life that I actually watched this one on my own. I've seen the beginning of this at least three times (and then fallen asleep), so I was determined to make it through this time. I dozed off a little here and there but made it to the end! And then realized that I hadn't missed all that much of it before - it's just a short movie, and the end, when it comes, happens pretty quickly. So this was more about filling in my monster movie gaps than being particularly engaged with it. A good choice for solo viewing.

The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock - 1963)
Oh, fantastic. A pleasure to watch, to think about, to wonder at, and then to be scared by. No false notes here.

Gojira (1954)
Another one I watched on my own, but this time because I really like it. A movie to be savored, thought about, and listened to (the music and the sound effects are well worth paying close attention to). I had forgotten enough about how it was structured to be surprised, especially once Gojira is on the streets attacking the city. So much to think about with this one. What would it have been like to see this in 1950s Japan? How very different from the bowlderized American version that was made.

In the Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter - 1994)
Oh, I wanted this to be better than it was. It had such promise at the beginning. What I would change? The actress, the ending.

And then heading into the last weekend, and determined to finish out Buffy...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Scary Movie Month - Part 1

You wouldn't know it by my posting, but I have been watching scary movies all month long. This may even be the most movies in a single month that I've ever seen. I suspect if I tried to give a full report on every movie the way I have in some years I would never finish, so here's the short version. This post covers everything we watched up until the marathon (Oct. 13).

ParaNorman (Christ Butler - 2012)
Very sweet. And smart. And spooky. Some big themes and ways of handling them - if this had been live-action it certainly would have been for adults. Chris Butler worked on Coraline (one of our faves) and Corpse Bride so he certainly cut his teeth on some good stuff. A great start to the month.

Dreamscape (1984 with Dennis Quaid, Max van Sydow, and Christopher Plummer)
As my cousin put it (we were debating this one on Facebook): "It hasn't aged very well but chock full of great ideas! A solid B movie, ripe for a remake! I mean, dream therapy, dream assassins, that boy and his monster, so much to love!!!" Exactly.

The Gate (1987)
Some good classic scary bits, lots of silly stuff, lots that doesn't really hold together from a character or a story perspective. Probably ultimately forgettable.

Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Nothing scary here, but very enjoyable and surprisingly sweet. Lots of SNL alums involved: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Robert Smigel, Molly Shannon, etc. My only criticism here is one I have of a number of kids' movies - using "popular" actors and music will date it more than necessary, and there is no need for a big musical production at the end. My oldest wanted to watch it again immediately after finishing it and I suspect we'll end up owning it.

Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raini - 2009)
Oh, what was I thinking? I forgot how scary (and gross) this can be. I think I was only remembering the funny bits. (Time spent under the blanket hiding my eyes - 30%?)

And then lots of single episodes of the last season of Buffy, since we were determined to finish it finally. Started off the month with 12 episodes remaining...

Friday, October 18, 2013

So Now What?

Of course I've given this a lot of thought this week. The Dude's first question to me when I got home was "Do you think you want to do another one?" and my answer is a resounding "Yes!" And I may have sorta promised not to do one until 2015... but I may kinda be doing some retroactive finder-crossing on that... you know, if the right one comes along sooner...

Here's what I do know. I'm going to take a break from active training until March 1. This gives me the winter off (holiday/ice season) and also happens to end with my birthday. I will enjoy my running / swimming / rowing / yoga / hiking without thinking about it being for anything. I'll want to build up my distance and speed again starting in a couple of weeks, but not with a particular race in mind. Then in February I'll start to think about the season and making plans.

As for marathons, I think I need to develop some guidelines for myself. This is what I've come up with so far:
  1. My knee pain at the end (mostly gone now, by the way) was, I think, my usual IT band stuff, aggravated by all the pavement pounding - I had always done some of my long runs off pavement so I hadn't been prepared for that. If I want to do another city marathon I need to a) work on rehabbing that ITB more seriously than I have, and b) get more serious about my walk breaks.
  2. For the same reason I want to look more into trail running, my first love. That will involve needing to get my driver's license back (I rarely drive and forgot to renew it last time so now I have to take the test all over again) and then getting more comfortable driving. But we have an automatic now so I have no excuse not to anyway.
  3. I was so inspired by all the people running as part of a charity team that I'd like to take part in that myself. Maybe that will be how I do the other ones in the World Marathon Master series(Tokyo, London, New York, Berlin, Boston - certainly the only way I could get into that one). I have raised money through both my marathons but with both I trained and ran alone - I think it might be fun to do it as part of a team.
  4. And I think my goals for my next one are a) to have fun and b) to finish strong. No time goal, but to run more consistently throughout, and not needing to walk at the end as I have had to both times now.
I took the week off from running and am now excited to go again! I will be slow and steady in returning though. Seriously. No finger-crossing there.

Yours excitedly -
Annie



Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Struggle

Those who are regular readers know that I have struggled all summer long between conflicting mindsets when it comes to training (and to the rest of my life, really, but that's a different post). There's the me that wants to be in the moment, appreciate the journey, take everything in, be at one with the universe and at peace with whatever comes my way. You know, the evolved me.

And then there's the competitive weasel me that seizes on any external marker as a way to size myself up and provide affirmation.

This struggle is evident in the story of my marathon.

I'm not disappointed AT ALL in how things ended. I am still really proud of what I did and that I was able to go after my true goal - that of enjoying the day and loving other people. But I'm writing today because I'm a little bit regretful about how things started. Not just in the day but during taper (the three weeks before the marathon when I should be resting and recovering while still keeping just active enough to stay sharp).

I had the feeling throughout those weeks that I was self-sabotaging. Not getting enough sleep. Not eating well. (I'm not going to detail the food stuff except to say that I struggled with an eating disorder for many years and still struggle sometimes with eating and how I think about eating.) Not adjusting my workouts well. And then, in the days right before the marathon, by not eating enough -- not carbo-loading well. Same thing that morning. And in the first part of the race I wasn't careful enough with my walk breaks. My breakdowns in the last five miles were very clearly related to the choices I made in the weeks of taper and in the days and hours immediately before the marathon, and my mindset going into it.

In the end I'm happy with how I handled what came up during the event itself - but things didn't need to have gotten to that place to begin with. I'm sorry I wasn't more self-aware in those last weeks. I think really I was trying to sabotage the competitive me so that I could have the experience I really wanted (and had).

But you know, wouldn't it be nice to have just chosen that course instead of tricking myself into it?

I belong to an online running group, and one of the members of that group (hello, Joel!) wrote this reflection about goals after reading my story:

I trained as best as I could, but came to the line knowing that my original stretch goals for the event were not in reach... The races themselves were more like regular training runs, but with crowds and a tight schedule. I worked my way through, so that I could wear the t-shirt, and set my next goal. I still want to keep doing them, although they have been far less fun [than his first race experience].

All of this is why I am so delighted with [Anne's] Chicago Marathon experience. I was downtown volunteering and hoped to meet her, so I was watching her times. I knew she missed her goal, and was worried when she went Facebook-silent for the rest of the day. Her recap yesterday was pure sunshine. Anne did all of the work to get to the start line, and her physical and mental fitness are not at all diminished by the fact that her pace wasn't what she hoped for. But I've been in this activity long enough to know that to let go of goals and just enjoy the experience of the run can be much harder than actually pushing all the way and meeting your time. Anne deserved her victory lap through the city, and I am inspired that she was able to take it as such, goals notwithstanding...

  
[Regarding fellow Sub-30 Group runner Lonnie St. John] ... he has shown how to keep the joy while still running with real intelligence and self-awareness... [italics mine]

That is what I want, really. To run with joy and intelligence and self-awareness. I think I am a little bit closer to this after this year's marathon. And I'm looking forward to getting closer still.

Yours truly,
Annie

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Story

It was a beautiful day.

Everything to the beginning of the race went smoothly.

Standing in the corral I felt like crying, I was so happy to be there and to be doing it.

I had my goals in mind and a plan for executing them. (I will just point out here that this is a racing mind-set for me. My focus at this point was on time.)

And then we started.

It took a long time to warm up, and there were a lot of bottlenecks. Okay, to be expected, no worries. By the end of mile three I was nearing 11:00 miles, slower than my #3 goal time but still with plenty of time to speed up.

(I also want to mention that while I had slept well the last few days and was feeling good, I did not feel any "zip". No hunger. No nerves. This is not actually how you want to feel if you have ambitious time goals in mind.)

We went through downtown. I found myself bothered by the noise - I didn't remember that from the time before, or being bothered by it. I was fully present to experience it, and I didn't like it. (I also didn't like two slogans that I got to see over and over again - "Worst parade ever" - and - "If this were easy it would be called 'your mom'". Grrr.)

Another drawback to the noise: I couldn't hear the beeps of my watch to alert me to my walk breaks. So I was keeping numbers in my head and checking my watch frequently. First, for the time of my next walk break, and second, to see if I was on pace for that mile. Not much fun, that. It also meant I wasn't really taking my walk breaks as I had planned...

I went through the zoo and up north, then turned into Boystown, renowned for their spectator entertainment. Looking at people, their outfits, the signs on the sidelines, the funny stuff. And so impressed with how many people were running "for" someone or something. I had raised money for Chicago Lights, the nonprofit arm of the church I work for, but I wasn't really running for them. Trying to accelerate to 10:50 miles and not able to do it consistently, mostly because of the crowd. I'd get going faster and then find myself in another bottleneck. Or have to slow down because of all the trash on the street after an aid station. I found myself watching my feet more than the people, or more than I'd wanted to, at least.

After mile 7 I was also watching for toilet facilities without lines. I knew from last time that I wouldn't find that for some time in. I was doing okay - no urgent need to pee - but also knew that I'd be more comfortable if I could use the facilities, and also that I'd then be able to stop thinking about it (since I probably wouldn't need to go again before the end). At mile 8 I thought I saw one and moved over, only to realize that there were lines after all. Well, I was stopped, might as well suck it up and deal with it, right? Then after waiting for a while this guy told us, "The toilets on the other side have no lines." I dashed over, and... bullshit. The lines were worse than before. I was on the street again so decided to just keep going. Mile 9 came and there were toilets again - with lines - and I just decided to hell with it. I stopped, chose a line... and waited. And waited. While the other lines moved. And then I waited some more.

At this point I had my first breakthrough. I was not going to meet my goal #3. There was no way I could make up the time lost over the remaining miles. I had to let go. I didn't want to spend this marathon like my first one, worrying, fretting about how fast I was going and whether I'd meet my goals and completely in my head and in pain and miserable. I decided to stop tracking my pace, to make sure I took every walk break, and to enjoy myself as I went along.

And so I did.

To be honest, I still kept vague track of my pace, along the lines of "what's my 1/2 marathon split?" and "how long did it take me to run miles 15-20?", all in service of the larger questions, "can I finish under 4:50?" (unlikely) and "can I finish under 5 hours?" (hopefully). But I really didn't focus on it the way I had at first. I enjoyed the sunshine. I slapped hands with small children. I smiled. I felt myself slowing down as I entered the last 6 miles and I didn't worry about it.

(Although at this point I did start saying to myself, well, with X miles to go, if I maintain an 11:00 pace, I can finish under 5:00 with time to spare - and also noticed that window of time was shrinking with each mile. At this point I put my music on in the hopes of giving myself a little boost. I didn't mind not hitting my #3 and #2 goals, but I did really want to finish under 5 hours.)

But again, no worries. I enjoyed my music yet turned it off when I passed a cheer zone. The number of spectators was growing again and the energy was high. I looked around at all of us and I was so proud of us all. We had come so far. We were going to finish. We were amazing. The volunteers were amazing. The spectators - and the marching bands and the drill teams and the dancers and the people handing out candy and oranges and pretzels (which I should have taken and didn't) - were all amazing. The city and all that goes into an event like this - was amazing. This wasn't about me, it had nothing to do with me, it was about all of us and what an amazing thing life is and celebrating that life.

Of course I was hurting. That goes without saying. Every time I stopped it was harder to start again and when I did I was slower than before. But then I got moving and it went smoother and I still had moments where I felt good and buoyant, even. And grateful. Oh, so grateful.

And then, at mile 23, I hit The Wall. I started running again after a walk break and found I could not run. And I stopped. And walked.

And had a moment of panic, "I can't run, what do I do?"

And then a good song came on my iPod and I thought, well, now I walk. And walk with pride. And with a smile. And with purpose and energy and love for everyone around me.

And I did. I turned off my watch (wasn't going to make 5 hours now) and waved at the people who were waving and chatted with a pregnant lady I came up to. And then after nearly a mile of this I thought, well, my feet hurt, and this is going to take a really long time if I walk the rest of the way, so I started running again, slowly, stopping when I needed to but always starting up again, watching my shadow to see that my form was still good, if slow, and thinking, maybe I can even run the rest of the way in. Maybe I can even run a little faster that last mile.

And then I entered the last half mile, and the pain struck. Sharp. On the right side of my right knee. Oh! I had to stop. I walked a little, then gingerly started again. Ran another 100 meters and it hit again. Okay. Breathe deep. This is how it's going to be. Go slow. Walk if you have to. And then the hill and the signs: 400 meters... 300 meters... Still running, so slowly, not wanting to stop. 200 meters... 100 meters... and the finish line is right there and I am crossing it running so help me God.

And I did.

And I was never before so grateful for the volunteers at the end. And the sunshine. And the heat blanket and the medal and the volunteer with the tape to hold the heat blanket together. And beer. (Though that didn't sit well so I gave that up.) And then the refreshment box from Mariano's and the ease of gear check and sitting on the ground, on my blanket, in the sun, slowly changing my socks and shoes and getting into warm clothes and eating the food from the box and drinking my very own sports drink I'd brought with me. And reading the text messages The Dude had started sending to me once my pace started slowing. And then walking to the Brown Line and getting a seat and riding home in the sun, talking to my parents who'd been keeping track the whole time via Facebook, which is how The Dude knew I was slowing. And then coming home.

And all so happy and proud of me and of my city and of the day. My epic adventure.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Last Days... Hours... Minutes...

Thursday

Taper has been hard, after all. I've struggled with my eating this past week, and it took me a while to figure out what was going on. Once I did I was able to make changes and I'm feeling better now, though still a little angry with myself. Not such a good head space right now.

Friday

I took the free shuttle to the expo this morning. Super easy, super fast. Once there I had my packet and t-shirt within 10 minutes. Unreal. Of course I then walked around for a while, wanting to find something to buy, some kind of souvenir. Except I don't really have money to spare and I have more than enough running shirts.

Runners' World to the rescue, or rather, Rodale Press, the good publishers of RW. They had a stand full of their books, all on sale, so I picked up their latest, The Runners' World Cookbook (which I'd already been thinking of getting). That, plus a free souvenir magnet, satisfied my expo itch, and I headed to work.

Later in the day...

I'm so excited I can barely stand myself. Ack!

Saturday

Slept well last night! That never happens. And then I got in a nap too! And then watched Hotel Transylvania with the kids and ate popcorn. And am actually prepared for tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be perfect...

I had a twinge in my left ankle yesterday that is worse today, but I've also spent all day walking around the house barefoot. I suspect that once I'm in running shoes I won't notice it at all. At least, that's what I'm telling myself right now...

Sunday

Twinge still there, but ignorable.

Slept right to my alarm, so a little later than hoped for. Still on track though.

And I'm off!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Seven Days and Counting...

I've been burning the candle at both ends, this week, between staying up late for Scary Movie Month and then waking up early to paint. (I'd be waking up early, regardless, thanks to Tash, so I'm just taking advantage of her wake-up call with the painting.)

But this is it, now. This is the last week. If I'm going to do anything more than just finish I need to rest, rest, and rest. And eat well - not a lot, just well.

I've been watching the weather and while it looks like it's going to be warmer than I'd hoped for, it should be cooler than I feared. And not humid, praise the marathon gods. My wave doesn't even start until 8:00 and I'll probably be crossing closer to 8:30, so we'll probably be at full heat by the time I'm halfway through - exactly when the route loses most of its shade. So I'll want to keep that in mind too as I plan things out that day.

It's a busy week for me so I'll go ahead and post my goals now, in case I don't manage to write again beforehand...
  1. Enjoy myself and come under 5 hours (I finished at 5:03 last time while making pretty much every first-timer's mistake so this really should be doable).
  2. Finish under 4:50.
  3. And if the weather holds and all things line up right, finish under 4:40.
Wish me luck, but also wish me good sleep this week!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Last Long Run and Randomness

I had my last long run before the marathon last Sunday, a 20-miler put on by the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA). It was a point-to-point along the lakefront (with a couple of short loops), fully supported with aid stations, pace groups, gear transportation, food and beer afterwards, and then bus transportation back to the start. I took part in this before my last marathon and it was so well run I decided to do it again.

It was a beautiful day. I was a little hesitant about how I would do, since I hadn't been sleeping well for a few nights and I was (gentlemen, avert your eyes) having bad cramps and bleeding freely. Oh, and coming off of a monster mile week. But I decided that I would just take it easy and go along with my pace group - I had deliberately chosen one slower than what I really hope to do.

I should mention, again, that it was a really, really, beautiful day, and the course was magnificent. Wooded areas, beach, prairie, well-marked, great views of the city, friendly volunteers, funny signs at mile 12, well-stocked and well-staffed aid stations. A runner's delight.

I started with my pace group and warmed up with them, but within a couple of miles found myself pushing forward. Wanting to keep running every time we stopped, wanting to walk quickly when on a walk break (I usually do, I was surprised at how slowly folks were walking), wanting to pass immediately when we came up behind a slower group. And so I did. I broke away about mile three and the rest of the way I just ran on my own, no music, just enjoying myself and the surroundings.

And in the end I ran a full half-minute pace quicker than expected and felt comfortable throughout - my last two miles were my fastest overall. I think I'm ready.

Some technical stuff:
  • I've been supplementing my nutrition/liquid stores with Starburst jelly beans and water - that way I don't have to carry quite so much liquid with me. (Otherwise I would have had to carry my bladder - 70 oz. - plus two small bottles - 24 oz.  - for this run, and presumably the bladder and two large bottles for the marathon, which is a lot to carry.) The mix continues to work well.
  • I've been finding the 5:1 run/walk ratio to be a bit short, so I expanded it to 7:1, which feels more comfortable. (I only do this on runs above 15 miles. Runs that are 10-15 miles long I take a walk break once a mile, and anything shorter than 10 miles I just rely on traffic breaks to get a rest.)
  • The only trouble with the course was that it canted to the left, exactly the wrong slant for my legs (my left leg is marginally shorter than the right and I notice it in my right ITB if the road tilts left). This gave me some serious trouble during the middle section when there was mostly pavement and I didn't have a choice but to run on it. Once we got past mile 13 I was able to run on the shoulder where it's sand or dirt and the pain went away. During the marathon itself we're on city streets so I'll be able to choose to run on the right. The lakefront paths all tilt towards the lake so I don't have a choice - if I'm running south the lake is always to my left. Up north where I usually run I can almost always run on the side of the path so I don't think about it, but in the middle of the city it's only pavement.
And then some random stuff on my mind...

I seem to have gone over completely to dairy-free (as much as I can living in my household, where I have promised not to mess too much with classic baked goods - I make no such promises about new recipes, though). It makes me very happy for all kinds of reasons. And now I've successfully made almond milk hot chocolate at home, so I think I really don't have any reason for going back.

I was talking with a couple of women during the brief time I was with the pace group about recent races and I was just struck by the ridiculousness of some of the swag given away at these events. All I want is a good tech shirt, a fun medal if it's a long enough course, and maybe some very runner-specific extras (I have received, and enjoy using, a yoga mat, headband, and reusable drink bottle from different events). But necklaces? Champagne glasses? Half-naked men at the end? I'm not kidding about that one - not exactly swag in that you couldn't take them home (at least, I wouldn't try to) but definitely falling into the ridiculous category.

Okay, done ranting.

What's the most ridiculous swag you've ever gotten from an event? Professional conferences also fall into this category.

Annie

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bits and Pieces

The weather has been odd here. Hot last week, cool, even cold, at the beginning of this week, and today warmer again (and humid!). I've loved running in the cooler weather and loved seeing my times drop so radically with no extra effort. I have to remember that this is Chicago and cooler temperatures now mean nothing in regards to marathon day itself. That is to say, I still don't have a good sense of what to expect for time or plan for pacing.

I had a rest week last week and enjoyed myself. It ended up being even more of a rest week than I had planned for, between work and family activities I missed a couple of low-key workouts I'd been looking forward to. Just as well, this week is a monster one. Again, due to work and family I wasn't able to do a long run earlier this week, so instead I have been running 5-8 miles every day - I'll finish up with a 7 mile run tomorrow and then have my 20-miler on Sunday.

And then taper.

This year I'm not worried about taper so much, I'm looking forward to being able to get back to swimming and going to the gym for a couple of weeks. Plus Scary Movie Month starts soon and I'm excited about that. I'll just have to make sure I'm getting enough sleep that last week...

And in other news, Buddy turned 5. Woo-hoo! And now that the celebrating is done, I have to resume the school agonizing/selection/lottery process. (He'll start kindergarten next year, in Chicago you have to be 5 by September 1 to start kindergarten.) I had visited a number of schools last year and we know which one we'd most like him to go to... but because of the lottery process we have no guarantee that he'll be able to. Or he might be on the waiting list and we find out he gets a spot August 24, two days before school starts. Or not until September 7. So I'm continuing with school visits to open up our options. I'll have him tested for the gifted schools for the same reason, though I'm not wild about putting him in a gifted program. This is all for public schools, by the way.

Why not just put him in our neighborhood school, you ask? Well, we could... and we might end up enrolling him there if it gets to be the end of August 2014 and he hasn't gotten a spot anywhere else... (or we might end up moving to a different neighborhood if we really cannot deal with the uncertainty)... But we don't like the classes we've visited and we don't like the principal and we're concerned about gang violence in the immediate proximity of the school. And, and, and. And there are such great schools close to us that we could potentially get in (because in addition to being neighborhood schools - open to children living in that district - they are also magnet or gifted option schools that can take in students outside of their district - which is based by lottery (magnet) or testing plus lottery (gifted)).

We live 1/2 block out of district for the school we want. Can I tell you how frustrating that is? And two blocks out of district for another really good school.

Okay. Done with this. (For today, anyway.) Bah.

Much nicer to think about running...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Looking Ahead and Looking Back

Had an 8-miler today that I turned into a 7-miler. I just didn't feel like fighting the humidity anymore and was feeling low about my slow, slow, slow start. My knees hurt (a sign I need to swap out my shoes) and my legs had no zip. Which is all fine, this is a rest week. But I still needed to somehow get home, with four miles still to go (and no iPod). So I practiced mantras and visualizations. I think I have one but I should get some more in my head.

I feel so much more prepared for the marathon this time around. So much more so that I keep wondering how on earth did I do that first one? And in that time? As I train this year I grow in appreciation for what I accomplished back then.

Friday, September 6, 2013

To Help Me Remember

From the discussion following my last post...

Feather Tattoos.
Not my tattoo, but have been thinking of doing something like this...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Letting Go

I had my long run on Sunday. I've gotten my attire, shoes, hydration, nutrition, etc. all pretty much worked out so now it's pacing and the mental stuff I'm still working on.

Sunday was a good test for those.

I started slow... and then kept going slow... and just didn't seem to get any faster... and then needed a pee break much earlier than I usually do... so by the time I was an hour in I was seriously behind where I expected to be by then. But still had way too much in front of me to really think about trying to run much faster.

Normally this wouldn't be much of an issue but we had brunch plans with my parents and I had already left the house later than originally planned. And despite having brought my phone I couldn't get in touch with The Dude to let him know I was running late. So, really, it was excellent practice for the marathon - what do I do when there is a time limit (real or mental) and it's looking bad for meeting it?

I was running without headphones so I had plenty of opportunity to watch my thoughts. And I noticed that when I didn't think about the time, I felt "in the flow". It was a beautiful day, I was running through my great city, with lots of varied scenery and people to admire, I could enjoy myself.

When I thought about the time, things felt effortful. I hurt more. I saw less of what was around me.

Friends, I think the lesson here is clear.

But to be honest, I'm not sure I'm ready to completely let go of time goals for the marathon. I want to be ready. I really do. Especially since I'd like to do ultras and trail marathons in the future, and the only way to do that is to move into this different mindset.

So. What to do now? I'll keep running without headphones. I thought about not running with my Garmin at all, but I like how it keeps track of the run/walk intervals. But I can turn off the lap function so it's not quite as easy to obsess over speed. I've got another long run and signed up to do it with a pace group, but I don't need to stay with them. So I guess I have another chance to practice not caring about my speed.

Because I did not have fun with my first marathon and I would like to this time. And I know what I need to do for that... Now I just need to convince myself that's what I really want to do as well.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Roundup

Last Thursday I ran the Elvis Is Alive 5K for the third year in a row. This year I did it by myself  - my original running partner was unexpectedly deployed and spent last week preparing to leave, and none of my other potential running partners could make it. I had a great run but the party would definitely have been better with company! Next year if I can't find anyone to do it with me I'll just head home after my post-run beer.

Next year I will also find some way to get into the Elvis spirit with my attire, I loved all the things people did. Even if it's just adding in sequins. Or maybe I'll run in my Graceland t-shirt and find some way to jazz it up a bit. I have a note on my calendar to start thinking about it a little earlier.

On Monday I did my first long run using a run/walk method, 18 miles. So much better than my last few long runs, even though it was just as humid and hot as those have been. I felt so fresh for the first miles that I definitely took them faster than I should have, so I have got to rein myself in for the first half. The last 6 miles still hurt but not nearly as much as before, and I was able to stay pretty much on pace (I was also listening to a podcast at that point which always slows me down). Then my last mile was the second-fastest of the day, unbelievable.

For those who are interested, I used a 5:1 run/walk ratio.

I have a couple of shorter long runs in the next weeks and then my 20-miler on September 22. And then that will be it before the marathon (My weekly mileage has ramped up and I'll continue with that but I don't have any good opportunities for really long runs in the next month.) I'll continue with the run/walk strategy for anything over 12 miles and practice not going out so quickly. Everything else seems to be working (vest, bladder, hydration/nutrition) so I don't think I need to make any changes there. I have changed my anticipated time and moved down into a slower start corral. My goal is to have fun, keep a steady pace, and hopefully break 5 hours, since I was so close last time. I have been thinking of this as an adventure rather than a race and I think that will also help me have a better experience than last time.

And then we'll see about doing any more.

I wrote last week about doing a bucket list and I will be putting that up as a separate page shortly. I had gotten excited about putting some running goals on there (which is what I was referring to in my post last week) but as the week went on I realized I didn't want to get so specific about particular numbers or locations of races. Our bodies, while capable of amazing things, are also fragile vessels sometimes, and I never want to value specific physical endeavor over all else. So my revised list is much more general in scope now.

But I'm still posting it! There are some things on there that surprised me when I first started thinking about doing one, dreams I've had for a while without fully acknowledging them, and I don't want to let them go into hiding again.

Any item on your "bucket list" that surprised you?

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

10 Questions

Sweet Ali tagged all her readers with these ten questions...

1. What is your ideal weekend?

With kids, or without kids? The answers would be very different. But I think in either scenario it would have to include time to run, time to read, time to sew/paint, good food, some kind of fun outing, and then snuggling with The Dude with a movie in the evening.

2. When you were in school, what was your favorite subject?

High School - English. College - Art History.

3. Name one teacher who you remember - for something positive - and tell me why you remember them.

Barbara Kellum - Art History. She made me feel that I had worthwhile things to say about art.

4. What was your first race?

2005 Miami Valley Turkey Trot 5-miler. I ran this with The Dude on my first Thanksgiving at his mom's home. It was rainy and cold and he totally carried me through it. I still have the t-shirt (beginning to shred) and love it. We have not been able to do it since though almost every year we make plans to.

5. What is your favorite takeout food?

Thai. Almost anything.

6. What's the earliest you've ever gotten up to go for a run?

No idea... For the past several years I can only go running after I drop off the kids so I get up early to get other stuff done. I'm looking forward to being able to get up early to head out early too.

Oh, I've gotten up early for races... maybe 3:45?

7. What's the latest you've ever headed out for a run?

Can't remember... I used to run at night so I imagine fairly late, maybe 9:00pm or so.

8. What is something you've accomplished that you're proud of?

This is not exactly an accomplishment per se, but I am still proud of myself that I pursued The Dude as fiercely as I did (very forward of me) because the rewards have been so many.

9. Who is your biggest cheerleader/motivator/supporter?

The Dude! Without a doubt.

10. If you could go back in time and change one event from your life, what would you choose, and why?

I have regrets for things I have not done, not for anything I have done. Unfortunately I feel I have a number of those...

Now questions for you!

1. Favorite movie, and why?
2. Any place you would like to visit that you haven't yet?
3. Artwork that has made an impact on your life.
4. Happiest childhood memory.
5. Proudest moment.
6. Perfect weekend?
7. Favorite dessert food.
8. Favorite piece of clothing.
9. Most despised chore.
10. What do you most want to accomplish?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Feeling Loverly

I am feeling on top of the world.

No right to be, really, work is stressful this week and I'm behind on stuff with no expectation of getting fully caught up until next month sometime.

But who cares today!

It's a beautiful day. My oldest and his dad are playing hooky to go see a baseball game. In a few hours I will leave here, stop by Fleet Feet Sports to get my Elvis Is Alive packet, and pick up the GooGoo monster.

My extra weight is coming off steadily and slowly, I feel good about how I'm going about it and good about how I feel.

I just registered for the Ready To Run CARA supported 20-mile run September 22, exactly three weeks before the marathon, with a run/walk pace group. I had not planned to do any group runs but I was having a hard time figuring out when I was going to do my 20-miler. Our weekends coming up are packed and quite honestly it's hard to recover from a long/hard effort with the kids around, which is why I've been taking half days at work and doing most of my long runs on Mondays. But this run is fully supported - water stations, pace groups, food/beer and massage afterwards - so by the time I get home I should be in halfway decent shape to roll around with the rug rats.

I've finished one quilt I've been working on for over two years (photos soon) and have planned out another one.

And I've figured out my bucket list... that's been on my mind since Ali wrote about hers... there was one piece that I couldn't quite articulate and it fell into place last night, so I've been buzzing on that. I then had a dream that I told the family about it and everyone was like, yay, mom, that's great, we'll help! Didn't have that reaction when I told The Dude about it this morning, ha. Don't mean to be cryptic but I don't have the time right now to post on this (that work stuff I mentioned before).

Hope you're having a great day!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Some Photos

It's been a while since I shared any photos... I wouldn't say these show us at our most attractive, but certainly with our typical energy!

The room that had a grocery delivery guy ask if I ran a daycare.

That belly!

That grin!

Ready for a big day at Kings Island

"Resting" at Kings Island

The family at play.

That Half (Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken)

Getting the recap out of the way, 'cause it's a crazy week and I want to move on to other things.

Good news: I had a good strategy and executed it well.

Bad news: The course/event was poorly organized and in the end I don't trust the results. (Won't go into a lot of details but I think the course was short based on my Garmin and the reports of others around me. Or if not short then something went wrong with all the turns out there. Plus lots of other little things.)

Lesson learned: Stick to events I know will be well organized (Fleet Feet or the major Chicago races or word of mouth) or if I'm doing it just for fun.

It was a beautiful day. It was close enough to walk to so by the time I got there I was completely warmed up and ready to go. I took the first third conservatively, eased up to goal pace for the middle third, and then went faster in the last third, especially in the last mile and again in the last quarter mile. I felt good but definitely left it all on the course, which also felt good. Their results aside, I shaved at least a couple of minutes off my previous half. I used my race vest with bladder and felt like I was getting adequate nutrition/hydration throughout. My plan of walk breaks every mile seemed to help with the heat - I definitely got hot but never felt close to overheating, and was able to skip a couple of the walk breaks towards the end.

I wanted to report on something I experienced at the end of the race, in the last third. I worked those first nine miles, I felt very conscious of the effort I was putting out there to move up to pace and then try to stay at pace. And of wanting to slow down and not doing it. (Except mile 8, I seem to always slow down in mile 8. Plus I needed to retie my shoes, which I never need to do. Three times to get it right!)

And then I hit the ninth mile and started to fly. It just felt... effortless. Beautiful. Heavenly. Wow.

Very grateful.

I walked the two miles home which meant a total of 17 miles on my feet that morning, which makes me just that little more confident about the marathon now only 8 1/2 weeks away. But only a little bit. Mostly I think, am I crazy? Or wish that I could properly race it instead of enduring it, but I'm not that good and am not willing to put in the effort to become that good, I've got other things I'm working on.

So why do another marathon?

I guess, as someone in my online running group wrote, for the adventure of it.

And maybe, just maybe, another taste of that wow.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Three Days To Go

...before my next half marathon.

Two days ago I was a bit worried. There's been a wee bit of stress in my life this last week and my sleep was suffering horribly, every day I was waking up more tired than the day before. Monday I even had to skip my run which I almost never ever do.

Thankfully some of that stress was resolved on Monday (work stuff) and I've been sleeping better since then and also making a point of going to bed earlier. Amazing what a couple of nights' better sleep will do for my mood. So now I'm beginning to be a bit hopeful again.

The weather forecast is for 77 degress, a bit cooler than the half I suffered through in June. We've been having on-and-off rain all week so it's a bit steamy out there right now, which worries me more than the heat, really. I'm hoping that eases a bit in the next couple of days.

I plan to run without headphones and have been doing all my recent runs without to get used to running "naked" again. I also think I have a more accurate idea of what I can hope for pacing-wise, so I'll be more conservative at the start than I was before. I plan to take walking breaks every mile, and I'll have my water on my back instead of on my chest, which will be more comfortable. The course is also near me, on the north lakefront, so it will be familiar to me (and offer more shade). So all-in-all, I think that I'll be better able to enjoy this half, regardless of what my end time is.

Though of course, ahem, I'll be hoping to PR.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Under Water

My swimming has taken a hit over the last month as I've upped my running mileage. I'm tired and have no "kick". That doesn't surprise me.

I have been surprised at how choppy my swimming has been, I just cannot get into a groove. I think some of that is because there are just a lot more people in the pool in the summer - more people at all different speeds. The water is more turbulent and I constantly have to be aware of people passing me and trying to pass people.

I also think my body has changed. I know I have more muscle in my legs and butt and am a bit lighter on top. When running upright that doesn't much impact my sense of gravity, but in the pool I'm very aware that I'm not riding in the water in the same way I used to, and I haven't managed to rebalance myself. Same thing happened when I've been pregnant, too.

Well, the swimming is the only thing keeping my body from being completely given over to aches and stiffness right now, so I'll keep at it. But it is hard to enjoy feeling so unnatural in the water.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lately

I switched up my training plan a few weeks ago and have just finished my first three-week block of increased mileage (25-30 per week). Feeling good!

I noticed overall my runs were slower - not a great confidence booster - so today I took the last half of my run at slightly slower than tempo pace (but faster than goal pace for the half). Score! Feeling much more confident now.

Of course it made a BIG difference going out in 70 degree temps instead of 85. We've had a few days now that feel like fall and I have been so happy. I know it's going to get hot again and I don't care, I'm just so happy to have some cooler weather for a little while.

It's been nice as well to have cooler temps at night. Though last night was a doozy, my dreams were super wild and woke me up several times.

Another constant I noticed while reading through past race reports was that I'm always commenting on not getting enough sleep. It's actually been getting better the last week or so (last night excepted) - I've made a truce with the Princess Kitty and she has been not quite so annoying in the night. I've also reluctantly given up full-caf again and am back to decaf everything (except for my first cup of tea in the morning). I was falling asleep just fine when I first went to bed so could tell myself I wasn't affected by the caffeine, but it was keeping me from being able to fall back asleep easily if woken up in the night. By say, oh, a small child with a nosebleed. Or a cat. Or the other cat. Or the first cat again. Or a husband coming to bed late after rehearsal. Or that first small child having wet the bed. Or the baby waking up early. Or... You get the picture.

Spent the weekend with The Dude sorting through stuff to discard or better manage. And then cleaning up all the dust (and worse) discovered in the process. Walking through I don't think anyone would notice a difference, but things do feel more manageable now. More possible. Hence the dreams, I suppose... We have a lot more to do over the next few weeks before my parents come into town (they are not staying with us but still). Our annual fall cleaning/reorganizing, done a bit early.

And the fall temperatures make me think about Scary Movie Month! Oh, time to start planning.

Monday, July 15, 2013

No, Really, I Love This Stuff

I realized last week that I may not have expressed how much fun I had with my last race, despite the copious room for improvement I actually wrote about. So I just want to make it clear...

I love racing.

Even when I don't think I've done as well as I could have. I love the people, the music, the crowds, the excitement. I love thinking about the course, figuring out a new course, feeling familiar with an old one. I love talking to the volunteers at packet pickups. I love being a volunteer at packet pickups. I love talking to other race participants (and seeing who will actually talk to me). I love getting up early and leaving the house before anyone is awake and moving through the city early. I love coming home and feeling that no matter what else I do that day I am a badass for getting up early and running a race. (And for having license to eat extra treats.) I love thinking about racing strategy and I love it even more when I not only plan things well but keep to that plan and get the results I hoped for. And then I love sharing about it afterwards. (I don't always love race photos but I've had some good ones lately.)

So, with that in mind, I've created a new page here which has all my race results and links to the ones I've written about. In going through these I have found some unfortunate trends (though typical)... going out too fast, not taking the heat/humidity seriously enough. But also a happy one... that my best experiences are when I run what I feel was a "smart" race, regardless of time: one where I start off conservatively, pick up the pace progressively, and then have enough left for a strong finish at the end. I also see that these are the ones I've done without music, so I am going back to racing without an iPod (I reserve the right to keep one on me for the marathon). Though I may need some new mantras then.

And as an extra treat, a link to a very funny comic strip (be forewarned about the swearing): God of Cake.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Itty Bitty Race Recap

I'll start with a photo which may say it all.

Near the end... a grimace, not a smile.
It was horribly hot (though not as humid as recently around here).

When setting goals, and therefore my initial pace, I failed to take two things into account.
  1. While I had trained to cover this distance I had not been training to race it, this race was just tucked into my marathon training. (Yes, these distinctions do make a difference.)
  2. The temperature at 6:30 a.m. was not the same as at 7:35, approximately halfway through.
The last five miles were brutal for me. And while friends congratulated me on finishing as well as I did, I know that I could have done better, by starting off more conservatively and taking more walk breaks to compensate for the increasing heat.

By finishing better I don't mean faster, though I'd certainly take that too. I mean stronger, enjoying myself more, able to feel that in the last miles I was actually racing, as opposed to just trying to run (not walk) as much as possible and keep from overheating.

Ah well. I promptly signed up for a second half, in August (when it may well be hotter and more humid). I've made adjustments to my hydration/nutrition system which seem to be working out well. (No more heavy bottles on my chest - I have graduated into full runner geek mode and now have a bladder for my race vest.) I have adjusted my training to better prepare for this next one and also rethought how I'm going about the marathon. I feel good.

I do love this distance. It is long enough to be challenging, to require strategy, to have to be smart about it, but I don't really worry about my ability to finish it. Even if I do have to stop and walk more than I'd like sometimes.

One very cool thing that happened: After the finish a young woman tapped me on the shoulder and told me that she'd been following me the entire time, I had set a very steady pace and it helped her. I don't know what she'd been doing those last five miles - perhaps walking as well? - but it was a real kindness of her to tell me that.

Bring on the miles!

Monday, July 8, 2013

An Aside

Goo has been picking up new words rapidly now, to go along with his mad climbing techniques. I'm amused at the difference between his first words and his older brother's.

Buddy's first words? Mama. "Dites." (Lights). "Dis?" (What's this?)

Goo's?

Up! Out! Open!

Be afraid, world. Be very afraid.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One Step At A Time

There just isn't ever enough time in the world for all I want to write, and all I want to read, and all I want to sew, and all... you get the idea. Everything gets done in little stolen bits.

The exception to this right now appears to be painting/drawing. I'm finding that these 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes that I'm scrabbling out each day feels like just enough (for that moment, that is, I'd love to be able to do it three times each day). I do a little bit, and leave it, and then come back and do a little more... it seems to be what I can sustain in concentrated creative effort at one time.

And actually, my writing is much the same way, whether at home or for work. Hmm.

I have always been a subscriber to the idea that limits can stimulate creativity. And I know that having big chunks of time in which to do things hasn't worked out well for me in the past. So, I guess I shall just lean into my limitations and keep working.

And keep writing/sketching out the many ideas I have for work knowing that not all most of them will never live past the pages of my notebook. Just like the books I want to read.

I thought this was going to be about the half marathon I just ran but I guess that will wait till later this week.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Streak Of My Own

A number of my runner friends are taking part in various "streaks" this summer - committing to running every day (even just a mile) for X number of days. And reporting all kinds of physical/mental benefits as a result.

Taking a note from this, last week I started a streak of my own - to spend some time every day working on my art. Drawing, painting, preparing materials to be able to work with them, etc.

100 days' worth.

The goals? To be more consistent in my efforts. To exercise my hand and my eye. To make this part of who I am and what I do. And more...

I'm trying also to figure out how to write about what I think/feel about art, my own and others'. So one hope is that in writing about this streak I will also create opportunities to write more broadly about art.

I'd like to write something witty now to close off this post but I take this art-making business so terribly seriously that to write anything facile would be a lie. So... until next time...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work I Run

First time running to work this year. (It's about 8 miles, by the way. Today I did the middle five as a tempo run.)

New running vest + new showers at work + improved speed/endurance = ?

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

I had brought in a change of clothes a couple of days ago, and my food for the day yesterday (but then ended up going out for lunch with a friend anyway). Still need to make some adjustments to the list of what to leave behind at work the day before (ie., my datebook) and what to add to my clean-up pack that I'll leave here (shampoo), but overall, this was the smoothest run to work I've ever done.

Good thing, too, because I'm hoping to do it once a week once July comes.

Do you ever run for your commute?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

After The (Long) Run

Homemade potato salad makes an excellent post-long-run snack.

This was my first time trying out a liquid nutrition system (Tailwind) on the go. I liked! Much easier to use, light tasting and refreshing, and I probably came a lot closer to what I should be consuming in liquid and calories. The main disadvantage is in carrying all that liquid with me. For today's run I should have brought 48 oz. (or even more), but the bottles I had for my vest only held 36.  And in longer runs I'll need to bring yet more. And of course going with that method means I'll be relying solely on my own provisions at races. I'm considering getting a bladder for my running vest (100 oz.), which means I'll be joining the ranks of the seriously geeky. Oy vey.

I have been stressing about the time that my training is taking, as my long runs get longer and even my mid-week ones get longer too. ("Stressing about the time" is probably too lightly stated.) I thought briefly about giving up doing the marathon this year and I may still leave that as an option. For now, though, I've gone back and reviewed my training plan, taking out a couple of the long runs and planning to do more of my runs as part of my commute to work. I won't be saving a lot of time, but I think it will ease things just enough so that I don't feel overwhelmed. This should be fun, after all.

And this week, along with trying out the new nutrition system, I also took seriously my post-long-run tender tummy woes, and planned to have lots of little snacks that are super easy to digest. Still healthy but not as robustly healthy as I usually eat (ie. I ate mostly fruit and lower amounts of protein and fiber than usual). Success! No ouchy tummy.

The only other thing I'm longing for now is new compression calf sleeves... the ones I have are great but heavy, and I've seen some lighter ones around...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Oh, Life

I've missed writing, so these are just random thoughts. I had hoped to get on a regular Tuesday/Friday schedule and then life intervened a few weeks ago, and has kept intervening since.

My rest week last week wasn't... our family trip turned into a family emergency. Here's the quick and lowdown. My MIL had to be hospitalized - long standing issues led to dehydration, malnutrition, dementia - there may be permanent damage - we don't know what the long-term prognosis is. She spent the week in the hospital and is now in a skilled nursing facility. She may be able to return home with help in a few weeks. She lives a 5-hour-drive away. This was completely unexpected. Prayers are welcome.

My kids are great, and have been weathering all this well, though Buddy will not be happy when he learns that his dad will be gone another weekend.

I think that's all I want to write about that.

Long run today! Twelve miles. It was a beautiful day for it, nice and sunny but a little cool. My race vest continues to be be awesome. Today I cinched my windbreaker to the back and within a quarter mile had ceased to notice it. I backed down from trying out my new hydration/nutrition system 'cause I just didn't have the headspace to figure out quantities, so went with my standard Nuun water plus gels - and then resented the amount of time it took to consume the gels. So next week I have motivation to figure out the new stuff (plus I want to try it out once before I race with it).

I've been drawing and painting as I can (and then staying up late some nights to do some more). The problem always with this is that I then want to do so. much. more! I'm going to have to give some things up but I don't know what, aside from reading Sports Illustrated and Slate.com.

May was supposed to be my weight-loss challenge before the long runs started up. Hah. So that's now on hold until after the marathon. Can't say I'm sad about that... I am going to go through my clothes though and remove all the "too small for now" t-shirts I've acquired (gifts and race shirts) so that I don't give myself grief about it. Everything else I fit into fine. Although I did get some new bras last fall that are a bit padded and now some of my summer button-down shirts are just a touch too snug across the chest. I should have just bought running bras that can double as everyday bras, strap everything down and forget about them.

My run this morning was great but the lack of sleep lately means I am feeling trashed. More stretching, more sleep! This may be my new mantra for the week.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Odds and Ends, Again

I am LOVING my training right now. I am nearly three weeks in and will be taking a rest week soon, and so far everything feels really good. I am enjoying my long runs and comfortably fear my intense ones, and am in love with my swims. The swims are what is making this possible, the tiredness and aches just lift after a good swim. I can feel such a difference that I am scaling back rowing and will stick mostly to swimming --- in fact, I will do whatever I can to make sure I get these recovery swims in. What I won't do this time around is try to seriously increase my swim times or speeds... I think last time I hurt some of my runs by trying to do too much with swimming. But the pool closes earlier for lap swim than it did three years ago, so I can't do so much even if I wanted to.

However, chlorine + allergy season = fountain of snot and sneezing and itching. I finally had to break down today and pick something up at the drugstore to be able to keep working. So now I'm just snuffling a bit... and just the least bit spacey... hmmm...

I broke down and finally got a running vest and I am so glad I did.

AK Race Vest
Badass, yes?

I've never liked the feel (or look) of hip belts, and with my shoulder still misbehaving I knew I couldn't go with a handheld. (Plus that's not enough for these long summer runs.) And I will be running in to work on occasion and was tired of my makeshift running pack, a child's backpack I tried to secure with safety pins but always slid all over anyway.

This pack is a dream. I did swap out the water bottles shown here with some smaller curved ones from my hip pack, and will probably get some larger curved ones for use on longer runs (so they curve over my breasts instead of mashing them). And at the end of my ten miles yesterday I did notice that my neck and shoulders were starting to feel tense. But otherwise I barely felt it at all. I also liked that I didn't have to adjust my arm swing to avoid the bottles, another disadvantage of the hip belt. I also look a lot cooler.

The whole weight loss challenge is out the window already. First I had some bad news a couple of weeks ago and chose to comfort myself with modest amounts of chocolate and beer... but that led into Mothers' Day weekend and full license to enjoy, oh, whatever. And then I started having longer runs. Now, one thing I've learned since my last go-around with the marathon is that long runs truly are easier when you fuel up and hydrate well in the day(s) beforehand. Not overeating, of course, that would not have the desired effect, but just being mindful of the need to be well fueled. Which is really not compatible with a weight loss "challenge". Without stepping on a scale I can tell that I am getting trimmer, and I feel lighter on my feet, but I've already hit the point in my training this year where everything is focused towards supporting my workouts.

In answer to an earlier question, I don't create a meal plan for myself, per se. But at this point I know what works well for me before a long run (and after) and what really doesn't, and I do plan accordingly. (I tend to plan out my meals the day before anyway, except for weekends, and even then I strive for a good mix of fruits/veggies/protein/carbs.)

The piece I'm still struggling with is during long runs. I don't like the sensation of eating while I'm working out, even gels or chews, and so I know I sometimes frequently fall short of taking in enough while on the road. Thanks to Erin at See Mom Run Far I have now ordered sample packs of Tailwind Nutrition and I'll see how that goes. Crossing my fingers...

I have cute stories about my kids that I wanted to share, and some photos, but this has gone on long enough already...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let The Training Begin!

Well, marathon training started this week for me. It's a long training period (23 weeks), but there will be a significant break at the end of June / beginning of July as I taper for the Chicago Women's Half, recover, and then travel to see The Dude's family. The rough outline of my weeks won't look much different than at any other time of year --- long run / cross-training / easy run or rest / intense run / cross-training / easy run or rest --- but those long runs will get longer and the intense runs (tempo or speedwork) will as well. I'll have to spend more time on recovery - more yoga! - and try even harder to get as much sleep as possible. Eating well goes without saying.

This month, in fact, eating well (and not that much) is the priority. I'm doing a weight-loss challenge with my online running group and I've set it up so it will be a challenge. I'd like to be a bit lighter during this marathon season (lighter = faster, within reason), but if I'm going to lose anything it's got to be before I get into serious mileage. I know from ugly experience that I cannot try to lose weight and seriously train at the same time. Luckily, I'm already feeling lighter and springier a week in, so regardless of the actual numbers at the end of the month I should feel like a winner and in good shape for the season.

I'm so excited to be starting!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Just One More Update (Plus Photo)

I went for a run this morning, and ended up running the street where I stopped during Sunday's race.

Let me tell you, that is a boring stretch of road. Parking lots and strip malls. I have more sympathy for my mental state on that street now.

I don't think I've ever run a stretch so unattractive (during a race). Most of my races are on the lakefront or through parks or neighborhoods, or some combination of them all. That shows me I need more practice in how to deal with boredom in race situations. Especially since there are stretches like that during the marathon, and even more so in the Chicago Half Marathon which I'm wanting to race next year.

How do you deal with boredom during a race?

About mile 2? Not the ugly part. Clearly I'm still enjoying myself here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How Did This Happen? Ravenswood Run 5k Recap

Back when my training felt like it was going well, back in November, early December, I had dreams of doing this 5k in 27:00.

Pretty ambitious, I know. Last year I ran it in 29:20 something, a PR, and one I was very proud of.

Then the holidays happened, my shoulder got injured, everyone got sick (and then again), I gained 8lbs., and it all went to pot. I feel I've been inching my way back since mid-March.

In my efforts to improve on my racing techniques, I ended up swinging too far in the opposite direction. To wit:
  • To not run extra on the turns I cut the corners tightly - but got boxed in and had to slow down.
  • To not worry about the extra I might be running I didn't wear my Garmin - but I didn't bring a watch either or remember to look at the time when I crossed the start line.
  • And I just don't know why I decided not to run with headphones.

The result? I started off fast, and had no idea how fast I was going. Never. Or how far I had come - I saw the first mile marker but not the second one. All I knew was that I was working very hard, and I didn't like it. I couldn't really take in what was around me, and I had no music to distract me. I got bored. And then I hit a point somewhere in the last mile where I was just tired of it being hard and I thought, do I really care? And I stopped. Oh, I kept on moving (walking), and after some time (probably less time than it felt like) I started running again, although not as fast, and with about a quarter-mile to go at the last turn I thought, well, I should at least try to finish nicely, so I picked someone ahead of me to pass. And by the time I did I was at the 3-mile marker and realized with some surprise that if I didn't totally bail out I could probably finish in under 29 minutes at least (remember I had no idea when I crossed the start line). And so I tucked down and ran as fast as I could and then I ran a little faster and then I sprinted. And then I was done and wanted to throw up.

(Except I have a cast-iron stomach and never do, even when it would make me feel better.)

Friends, I ran that race in 27:15.

I was 41st out of 250 in  my age group, a fact which excites me even more than my first place age group finish from a couple of weeks ago (since that field was so small my placing first really was a fluke).

How did this happen?

And what would my time and place have been if I hadn't given up for those few minutes?

I guess if this were my favored distance I would find ways to work on my mental preparation and really figure out how to best go about running it and how to handle those "do I care" thoughts. (And find some other ones to practice on this year.) And I'm sure I will both to some extent. But it's not my favorite distance so mostly I will just find out what could have been, the next time I run one. And glory in the craziness of this one. (And reconfigure my marathon training plan.)

But not next year. Next year we have plans to run this as a family with another family from the boys' daycare/preschool. Four adults, two earnest small boys, and two running strollers with toddlers. Yes, we'll be one of those groups at the back spread out across the whole street and irritating anyone who got there late but thinks they can maybe still slip in and get their PR.

And then we'll eat pancakes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Heading Out Soon...

And I've had a horrible night's sleep, thanks to son/husband, baby, cat, baby. In that order.

I don't like running super fast so I always doubt my ability to make myself do it for a long time. I wasn't going to wear headphones for this but now I'm not sure. Maybe bring them for insurance.

I don't feel ready. I'm not. I leave in an hour and I haven't gotten my stuff on or together and the baby is waking up for real this time.

Gah. Why do we care so much about these things?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bits and Pieces

How did this day get away from me so fast? Talking with friends at work, mostly...

I race again on Sunday, the Ravenswood Run 5k. I'd like to break 28 minutes, I think I can break 29, which would also be a PR. I've been careful this week about not overdoing any of my runs and even took an extra rest day today, but I don't know if I'm fully recovered from my last race. We'll see.

My big question this week has been what to wear at the race. I now have a "race outfit" I like that makes me feel speedy, but for this race I typically wear the shirt they provide. It's for a great cause (our neighborhood food agency) through our church, and it's traditionally very family and kid friendly, so it's neat to be part of the crowd all wearing the same shirt.

I'll also be wearing a "Race for Boston" bib, so I think that while I'll be trying to go my fastest of course, this race is about others, not just myself.

I guess I've answered my question.

What's your biggest concern when it comes to choosing your racing outfit?

Happy running this weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Some Details After All

So, a correction from my earlier race report: In the overall results, I placed 111 out of 173 finishers, not 134. To the non-runner this may seem inconsequential, but to the runner - huge! That means I finished in front of 62 people, not the mere 23 I had previously thought. Go me!

I mentioned details in my previous entry, technical, tactical, and mental, and thought that I would go into some of them here after all (thanks, Laurie).

Technical
  • This was my first time racing with my Road ID, which freed me up to only use existing pockets instead of carrying a pack, however small. I carried house keys, my bus pass, my iPod and my Garmin, nothing else.
  • This was also my first time wearing my Garmin. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet, it ended up being a bit distracting, especially after the race when I had not yet gotten the official results.
  • Also my first time racing in my calf sleeves - yes! I felt like a dork but pretended I wasn't wearing them. Added bonus: they kept my legs warmer in the nasty weather.
Tactical
  • I made sure to warm up (in part because it was so cold) and I think it made a sizable difference in being able to start off strong and stay there.
  • I started off tired (this event started late in the morning and I'd been up for hours already wrangling a toddler). I tried for a feeling of lightness and lift through my torso. Although at times I felt I could go faster it would have been at the expense of that sense of lightness, and I knew I could not afford to push that way until the very end.
  • I also held myself back the first mile by keeping my breathing through my nose.
  • As usual, I let myself tear down the hills and then muscle my way up them. Crazy but fun, with the added profit of possibly confusing my fellow competitors. I really need to find some trail events.
  • While I was able to accelerate a bit in the second half and over the last mile in particular, it was clear to me that I wasn't going to be able to sprint until the very end. Luckily, about 200m from the finish line, two ladies that I'd previously passed put on their own surge. Exactly the push I needed! I couldn't keep up with them in the end but they got me going for those last seconds.
  • I have to work more on getting to the inside corner. Running with the Garmin showed me that I ran an extra 0.15 miles - easily an extra minute. And this was over only a 10k.
Mental
  • I knew (from practice) that I could push myself in the second half and then again in the last mile and again in the last 100m. Because I knew it, I could do it. It makes a difference to know that so much of performance is mental. Practice really does make perfect. I don't think I used any new mental tactics at this race but even six months of practice on my weekly runs has made a difference.
  • And pain is not something to be afraid of. Again, the more I practice this, the easier it is to believe.
Random Details
  • The whole first half I had an odd feeling of being pushed... on the turnaround I realized what it was - the wind. Which was now in my face. I am such a contrary bugger though that I like the feeling of pushing against something (I also like hills).
  • The next two days I was wiped out. I have never been so affected by a race or run afterwards. So that was also proof to me that I have gotten better at pushing myself past what I think I can do.
I feel like I am being tempered as a runner (the way metal is tempered in a fire). I like how this feels. I suspect this is also carrying over into other areas of my life and I like that as well. But perhaps this is just the result of being now firmly in my 40s and of being a mother. So much just seems inconsequential now. But that's ponderings for another time.

Next race is next Sunday!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wrigley Start Early 10k - A Race Report of Sorts

In light of Boston, I really can't bring myself to post a detailed race report of last Saturday's Wrigley Start Early 5/10K.

Which is kind of a shame, because it was amazing.

Not the event itself. That was not well organized, it was muddy and windy and cold and snowy (!), and they cut the festivities short (including food and volunteers) because of the weather.

But because...

Not only did I break an hour (59:52)...

Not only did I fight the entire way to make that happen, the first time I've really done that...

Not only did I learn all kinds of useful things for future races (tactical and equipment details, I don't need to go into them now)...

Not only did I put into practice a number of mental strategies I've practiced over the last year...

But because I came in first in my age group.

Booyah!

I must point out that it was an extremely small field, and I came in 111 out of 135 overall. (I started at the back and I think I remember passing every single one of those 24 people behind me.) But of the eight women ages 40-44 who finished, I was the first. By 6 seconds!

Ah, victory.

Needless to say, this was an incredible way to start my racing season.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Look for the Helpers" and Little Things

I had been working on a report about Saturday's race when the news about Boston started coming in. That report can wait.

Other people have already posted the Fred Rogers' quote about when disaster strikes, look for the helpers. It's the most comforting thing I've come across today. Especially as a parent, thinking about how to talk about this with my children. Perhaps not now. Buddy might be spared this for a little longer. But the next time some tragedy occurs.

I'm wearing my Soldier Field 10M shirt today, at work. I'm the only one wearing a race shirt here and it feels odd. Oh well. I'm wearing this one since it's the only one I have from a memorial event, and in honor of the National Guard who were among the first responders there. I'm wearing a Celtic cross, too, in honor of all those Boston Irish.

Runners' World has an article about how to help or show support. My next 26.2 miles are dedicated to the victims. I'm two and a half miles in so far.

It was a terrible morning for a run. It was a beautiful morning for a run. Every song that came up had some connection to Boston for me. I went to school in western Massachusetts and in Cambridge so I feel somewhat connected, a little? But I really don't know Boston proper. Only through this most glorious of runners' events, this beacon of hope and ambition, this most storied of marathons.

And it still is. It still is.

There is no place in the world that has not seen blood. "And still we rise."

May the souls of those killed, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.