Friday, December 19, 2014

It May Be Cold Outside But My Heart Melted

So, I must be doing something right.

At his second wake-up call, my eldest son informed me that

  1. All of his stuffed animals currently in the bed needed to give me a kiss;
  2. He had written a story about my being the best mommy in the world.

Our lives are so rush, rush, rush, and I get so little time with just him (since the Goo still demands so much more from me), that these kinds of moments feed me for days.

Blessedly,
Annie

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Baby, It Was Hot Outside (2014 Chicago Women's Half Marathon - Aug. 31)

Clearly this is long overdue. I haven't seen hot weather in a while! I've been finding it useful to me to go back and read reports of past races when preparing for new ones. Since I had taken notes on this race right after the event and just never managed to post them (perhaps because I was, oh, moving), I thought I'd go ahead and finally throw these out there. Perhaps they will be useful to you too.

Here's the link to when I was preparing for it. In it I mentioned planning to run with a pace group and figuring out my hydration/nutrition, along with my goals and in general hoping for an fun experience. In reviewing my notes I see that I addressed all of these concerns, so...

I lost my pace group almost immediately. I had been thinking to try for a 10:30 minute/mile pace (for a final time of 2:20) but then by mistake I locked in with the 2:30 group. By the time I realized this I couldn't catch up. It felt better to run on my own anyways, it always does.

I felt I got my fuel/hydration down pretty well:
  • 2.5 hours before I had tea and my Emergen-C;
  • 2 hours before I had oatmeal, a banana, and coffee (all this in transit);
  • 1 hour before I had half a Clif Bloks package and sips of water;
  • In the last half hour before the start I chewed some gum for a dry mouth but didn't take in any water;
  • I had two 10 oz. bottles of Tailwind in the chest pockets of my racing vest.
This plan worked well since I didn't have to make any pit stops on the course. I had some tummy tenderness during the last half of it (probably from the heat as much as anything else) but nothing unmanageable.

I knew with the heat and humidity I was going to have to take walk breaks every mile (rather than every other mile as I usually do at this distance), to give myself moments to cool down and so I could get more fluids in. I drank Tailwind at those breaks so had a steady intake of carbs during the race. As it turned out I didn't like having the bottles on my chest (I had even written about this with a previous race but didn't remember). When I run to work the chest bottles are balanced out by the stuff I'm carrying in the back pouch so I don't really notice them, but during a race I really notice the extra weight in front. I don't like using a hydration bladder (I just feel stupid sipping through a tube), so I'm going back to experimenting with gels for races, since I should always be able to access water on the course.

This race was billed as the first opportunity to run "The Magnificent Mile". Meh. I see these streets every day so it wasn't the thrill for me that it might have been. It felt the same as running downtown during the marathon. I didn't really like the activities structured around the race this year (a fashion show and black dress gala). It no longer feels about women's empowerment - we're all getting healthy together! - and more about women as consumers. I have very much loved this event in the past but since the new time (end of August) is also not a great time for me in the year (things get busy at work and school is about to start for the boys) I think I will sadly give this one a pass in the future.

I started the race with music but it jut didn't feel right so I turned it off until mile 7. Then over the last six miles I repeatedly tried to pick up my pace - and kept not being able to do it. I tried again with four miles to go... then again with two miles left... and then over the last mile I had to walk up the hills and resume running going down or on the straights. It was so frustrating - I can almost always push at the end and this time I just could not do it. Not even on the last stretch coming in to the finish line. Then I hit the finish line, stopped, and immediately felt chilled and sick. So it must have been the heat.

Official results: 2:17:48 total. 10:31 pace.

The first mile was 11:00 and then I was pretty much between 10:20-10:25 for miles two through eleven - I must have slowed down more than I thought in those last two miles. I was only 1:07 away from a PR - could I have found that on the course? The heat and humidity were out of my control. My training leading up to it, however, was more in my control, and it was not the best - I had missed a few long runs and endurance runs. I don't think that could have been avoided given what the rest of my summer was like, but I can't fall short on the training and then still hope for a PR

Could I have found another 30 seconds out there, just enough to lower my pace to 10:29? It doesn't really matter... but that I can even think that way shows me the power a number can have. Silly, but true for most serious runners I've found.

So, going back to my goals for this race, yes, I think I ran a strong and smart race given the weather conditions and my training. And yes, this race is well enough organized and I like the course enough that the actual experience of it is worth doing. But did I have fun? Was it exciting? Would I do it again? Not at the moment, no.

But never say never when it comes to races.

Non, je ne regrette rien -
Annie

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Scary Movie Month 2014

Despite all the work we were doing on the house in October to get it "viewing-ready" (for our annual Halloween party), we did make sure to celebrate Scary Movie Month with a good share of movies. To make it a little easier on ourselves we chose a number of well-loved ones and also split a number of them into two days viewing. And promised ourselves no movies about haunted houses, since we're still getting used to living in one. A house, that is, I don't have any reason to believe it may be haunted.

The Fog (John Carpenter - 1980)
Previously viewed in 2009
A classic, and scarier than I remembered. Lots of jumps! Of course we watched this in an old creaky house that is not familiar to us so we did have some "What is that?" moments after seeing this film.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957 - on Svengoolie)
This was a Svengoolie movie (a Chicago area horror movie host who shows on Saturday nights). Frequently I only make it through an hour or so of his selections but this one had us sticking through the awful low-budget commericials. If we'd been able to watch this straight through we might have been able to make it to the end as it was interesting, but in the end time was against us and we went to bed. Don't tell me the ending if you know it - I might want to watch it again some day.

American Werewolf in London (John Landis - 1981)
Previously viewed in 2005
One of the first scary movies I ever saw with The Dude, and again, better than I remembered it. Certainly funnier, and scarier to boot. And also just interesting. I love how these late 70s / early 80s movies could just take their time setting up the atmosphere.

The Host (Joon-ho Bong - 2006)
Previously viewed in 2006 (in the theater)
One of my favorite monster movies ever. And I love that it gives me a view into another culture as well. For me this is up there with Gojira (the original Japanese movie that was cut up and added to to make Godzilla) and I could watch these both every year.

Coraline (Henry Selick - 2009)
Previously viewed in 2009
If you have kids, be afraid, very afraid. When you're not busy being enchanted, that is. And do not let your children see this until they're at least eight.

Evil Dead 2 (directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell - 1987)
Previously viewed in 2006
Another one where I forgot how scary it is (and gross). Really I should have known better since I had the same experience with another Sam Raimi movie last year (Drag Me to Hell). Why do I only ever remember the funny bits of his movies?

Rope (directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart - 1948)
We're working our way through Hitchcock, a new one every year. This one was a little tedious - it was adapted from a stage play and felt very "stagy" - it was also very much of its time and class and I had little sympathy for the characters (elite New York socialites / upper crust). But it was nicely suspenseful to watch the characters break down and it was nicely satisfying in its ending. Thank you, James Stewart, for making this worth our time after all.

Bloodlust! (1961 - on Mystery Science Theater 3000)
This would have been entertaining (not great, but entertaining) without all the interruptions. (Mystery Science Theater 3000 was another TV show that showed horror movies - but only B movies - and with ongoing commentary). It made me appreciate Svengoolie all the more, since he comments on the movie at set times but not all the way through. In the end I couldn't finish it. The best part was the opening feature, some promotional film from the National Dairy Council from the 60s. With that the constant snarky commentary amused me and improved on the film. But the nonstop chatter just took away from any suspense there might have been in the main feature, or any opportunity to build sympathy for the characters.

Creepshow (directed by George A. Romero, written by Steven King - 1982)
Previously viewed in 2008
A collection of five short films, paying homage to the classic horror book series. These didn't creep me out as much as when I saw it before (even the bug one), I think I've gotten used to a certain level of grossness. Instead they were weirdly familiar and comforting. It was good to have this to watch while we assembled more Ikea furniture, in our last push to get ready before our Halloween party.

Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero - 1978)
This was one of the few movies this year we watched all the way through in one night. Our party was past, and we could fully commit to Scary Movie Month. A good movie, and neat to think of it as a precursor to the many zombie movies that have since followed. And also to think back on its predecessor, Night of the Living Dead, and to see how this built on that one (and how times had changed in the ten years separating the two).

The Omen (directed by Richard Donner, starring Gregory Peck - 1976)
Two of my least favorite tropes in horror movies - demonic possession and children - combined in one movie! And yet it didn't feel real to me in the way The Exorcist did, and therefore not all that scary. Maybe because the child in this movie really just felt like a prop and not a real child? I didn't feel anything for him or have any good sense of the different relationships - so then who cares about the rest of it? This was a lesson that a truly scary movie also needs to be a good movie on its own. It did make me want to watch Firestarter to see if my theory about good child actors making a significant difference holds true.

My Name Is Bruce (Bruce Campbell - 2007)
Last one of the month. Halloween night. Something lighter to balance out the last two. But I still expected something better than what we got - maybe another Bubba Ho-Tep? Bruce has it in him to be good and this could have been an intersting reflection on what it means to be a B-list actor in some very good movies. Instead he was just a joke. Lesson from this one - the director matters. Bruce should not be directing himself.

So many movies I would have liked to have seen. But oh well. There's always next year!

What's your favorite scary movie (doesn't need to be horror)?

Still working through the Halloween candy -
Annie




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baby, It Was Cold Outside (2014 Hot Chocolate 15K Race Recap)

Oh, what a cold day it was.

I decided to arrive late to avoid a long and cold wait in the 1st start wave. (With over 40,000 total race participants they had 20 different start corrals divided into two waves.) I didn't know for sure if it would work out to do so - if I would be allowed to move into a different corral or  have to wait till the very end instead - but it also allowed me to leave the house later. I like leaving the house at 5:35 a.m. instead of 5:10.

I had an extra pair of pants with me to wear on the way there and for afterwards, and a hoodie to throw away at the start (all throwaway items get collected and donated to local charities).

I've been more carefully timing my nutrition and liquids before races since reading Matt Fitzgerald's book "The New Rules of Half-Marathon Nutrition", both to make sure I have enough fuel for the event and to avoid needing a porta-potty during it. I ate my usual oatmeal with raisins and walnuts at home before leaving, with a small cup of coffee (if I'd left earlier I would have brought these with me and eaten them in transit). Then I brought just enough water with me to wet my mouth occasionally and to take with a Vega gel fifteen minutes before starting, and gum to chew on right before the beginning if I felt thirsty. For this race I didn't need to worry about super-hydrating the day before, since it was cold and not so long.

I got to the race site and found a porta-potty. Once I was there and could see what the weather conditions by the lake were like, I swapped out my usual running hat for a beanie so I wouldn't have to worry about my hat being blown off if we encountered serious wind (which we did).

It was well organized this time (I've done it three times before and each time there was something poorly planned). No lines at gear check, barely a line at the first porta-potty visit and NONE at the second, amazing. With no one else to worry about I took my time at the second porta-potty stop, taking a little shelter from the wind.

I walked over to the race corrals and then continued walking around the park, I didn't want to get in a corral any earlier than I needed to and wanted to just keep moving so I could stay relatively loose and warm. Once I was sure the first wave of corrals was closed and the race had started (so I wouldn't be directed to enter my actual, assigned corral, the last one of that wave) I started walking over to the 2nd wave to see if I could get into the first corral there. No problem! I entered 5 minutes before the official closing time (for a wait of 25 minutes before starting vs. a hour) and was even able to move right to the front. Sweet.

The announcers did a good job of keeping us entertained while we waited and the race officials did a good job of keeping us moving forward, reminding people to move to the side if they slowed down or stopped for water, and not to run more than two abreast, and then we were off.

I started quickly and wondered if maybe I was going too fast, but figured I'd check myself at the mile splits and see if I needed to adjust. There were also a couple of downhills right at the start as we went under streets and so I just went with the flow. I had turned on my Garmin, not to keep strict account of my mile splits but more as a timer. I compared their time against mine when I hit the first mile so I would know approximately when I crossed the starting line and how fast I took that first mile. It was a good thing I wasn't relying on my Garmin since we spent a chunk of time underground during that first mile and it doesn't handle that well, though it seemed to have adjusted itself by the end of the second mile.

So first mile done, okay, finished that in just over 10 minutes. All right, if I can keep this up with no bathroom breaks, and then push it at the end, I should be able to to break 1:30 overall. But better still would be to make every 5k split under half an hour.

When I race, as I pass each mile marker I set myself a clock goal for the next one, based on how fast I took the first mile and what my overall goal is. So for instance, in this race, I crossed the first mile marker at 55:40. Knowing I started at 45:16, I set myself a goal to cross the next one at 1:05:40 or sooner. And so on and so forth. And then I don't think about the rest of the distance much, just that next mile. If I go over (or under) my goal in that next mile I still give myself the full amount for the one after that - I don't start making adjustments to each individual mile goal until I'm a ways in and can more accurately gauge how I might perform going on.

Anyway, first mile done, going fast but not uncomfortably so. (I can still clearly remember the first time I ran a mile in 10 minutes and what an amazing thing it was to me. And how much effort it took!) Can I keep this up? I'll have to - and then some - if I want to make my goals. So I kept on for another mile. And then another. And then I was fully warmed up and crossing the first 5k in just under 30 minutes and I thought, I really could do this.

The course started in Grant Park, went north and underground to head over to the Loop, then south on Clark St., then jagged over to Michigan and then again to Lake Shore Drive where it stayed until heading over to the lake and then turning back north. There were some odd in-and-outs to make up the total distance so some tight turns, and it eventually ended by going around Soldier Field and the Museum Campus (the west side of the campus - the hillier side) and then back into Grant Park.

I'm pretty familiar with much of this terrain so there was nothing noteworthy per se. There was a lovely sunrise over the lake when I arrived at the park in the morning. It was interesting to see some bits of the South Loop that I hadn't before, especially the Columbia campus. And I knew the last mile would be surprisingly hilly and hard. So while I enjoyed my surroundings, my focus was on keeping as steady a pace as I could.

At mile 5 I took a walk break and had my second Vega gel. I'm still trying these out - I love the taste, and they go down easily, but the texture is a little gritty and I think I would want to switch things up if needing more than one gel. Any recommendations for vegan gels? I don't like Clif Shots. GU works well for me but their amino acids are from animal sources. I did just see that their VP of research and development was featured in the latest Runner's World (former Olympian Magdalena Lewy Boulet) - I may write to suggest they find plant sources for their amino acids to make them vegan friendly.

I took walk breaks at miles 2, 5 (for the gel), and 7 miles. I think these breaks make a lot of difference in being able to maintain a consistent effort - they refresh my legs, changing up the muscles used. I don't ever walk for long, maybe a minute, tops - but it's enough. And all the while I kept an eye out for those mile markers. I kept coming in consistently under 10 minutes, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot.

The second 5k split came and seemed pretty even to my first, maybe a little faster, so I knew unless the wheels fell off completely I would be able to make my 1:30 goal. And potentially then some! I was still feeling good but aware of the hills coming up which would slow me down, so I started speeding up a bit, both to bank some time against those hills and to see how much under 1:30 I could potentially go. I started passing people more deliberately and going down the hills more aggressively to get my legs used to the quicker turnover. It started getting a little crowded on the course, at times I had to push past people especially at the bottom of hills when I was going fast and couldn't easily slow down to avoid them. Watching the miles move by at closer to nine minutes pace than ten.

Then the last mile, with all those uphills. My goal here was just to keep moving, to keep a steady effort and not to worry about speed. Only a mile, now, only a mile. It was the longest-feeling mile on the course, though.

And then I was at the mile 9 marker, and there was the straightaway to the finish line just after (somehow it was still a very long feeling three-tenths of a mile). Could I pick it up again? Yes, I could! Once I got started I was just going too quickly to stop and had to push through two people running close together - a quick "Sorry!" and then through.

And then I was past the line and stopped immediately. Whew! I always feel for a moment that I might throw up. Then walking, walking. Yes to medal, thank you. Yes to water to save for later. I had a single goal at that point: gear check. There I would find warmer clothes to swap into or layer on, a change of shoes and socks, my home-made sports drink (water, lemon juice, agave nectar, cayenne, salt, and chia seeds) and food. I tried to find my group in the Runner Reunite section but couldn't, and it was just too cold to wait. Grabbed my free sample of blue corn chips and left. SO many people! I walked over to the restaurant where we would be meeting up but it wasn't open yet, so I stopped by a Starbucks for a decaf americano to warm me and to get some spicy seed mix and a banana, since the food I brought wasn't inspiring me, and then hopped on the train and headed home.

Final time: 1:27:44 (nearly 5 minutes off my previous best).

5k splits:
  • 5k - 29:41 (9:34 pace)
  • 10k - 59:08 (9:31 pace)
  • 15k - 1:27:44 (9:25 pace)

213th of 1118 in my age group - top 20%.

I'll take it!

Proudly yours,
Annie

Friday, November 14, 2014

Building Up

I've been experimenting with what I can realistically do in the mornings before the household wakes up. I'd like to increase the amount of time I spend boxing each week, and also the intensity of those workouts. I had been doing some every morning, gradually increasing the amount of time each day and thereby increasing my weekly totals. But I was finding, just as I have with my running, that if I'm doing it every day I have to go easy every day. I had a couple of weeks where it felt as if I was just putting in the time - and that is valuable, that teaches my mind as well as my body to get used to that amount of time on my feet / in the ring. But over the days I became less thrilled with the quality of that time. This is actually a small victory for me - I had acclimated to the longer times! That's no small thing for someone who is trying to maintain a solo practice.

So this week I started doing longer, but fewer, sessions. Just as I do with running (I typically run four times a week: two easy short- to mid-distance runs, and then one tempo or speed session and one long run*), I'll box four times a week, and continue to increase the amount of time I spend doing it - but now I'll be able to increase the intensity as well. And go on like that until I just can't increase the amount of time I spend on it in a week, at least not without giving something else up.

Now it's ever more clear to me that I need to find some training. There's a UFC Gym near my work that offers free sample classes, and I think I'll try to get a session in December. And then keep exploring my options.

Ever hopefully yours,
Annie

*I'd like to run five times a week, but right now I'm not running at all on weekends, and I need a day's break during the week.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Getting Ready

This Sunday is the Hot Chocolate 15k. It's my fourth time running it. It's the first race in a long time where I've been able to stick with my training plan pretty closely, and I was feeling good about it. My paces for my speed workouts and tempo runs have been much faster than my training plan called for in fact, since I had input my results from my last race (the Chicago Women's Half) which was tremendously hot and humid, but it's gotten a lot cooler since then.

I think I finally have the hang of how to work the Runners' World Smart Coach training plans so they work for me - a lower mileage range but high intensity. I naturally push myself hard, but I can't always get in all the miles, just from life conflicts.

I was feeling good about this and then I got a cold at the beginning of this week. I still wasn't worried - just a cold, after all, and plenty of time until race day - but yesterday did not feel good. All I can do at this point is rest as much as I can today and see what tomorrow brings me.

My first goal, as always, is to run a "smart" race, depending on the circumstances of the day (such as being sick), but also one where I feel I left it all out there. My second goal is to break 1:30. And my third is to just take as much time as I can off my PR (1:32:30 in 2010).

I'm excited about the course, we'll be running a lot of the trail but not until the second half (so hopefully the crowds will thin out by then), plus some time on both Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. The race finishes heading north into Grant Park, so the usual challenging uphills right before the end. But I'm familiar with them at least. I think they've finally worked out the logistics of the sheer number of people (+40,000); yesterday's packet pickup and expo was MUCH better organized than it's ever been in the past. I'm trying to work the start corrals so that I don't spend a lot of time waiting around in them - my initial assignment had me at the end of the first wave which would mean nearly an hour of standing around. I've requested to be moved back (so I can start at the beginning of the second wave) but if need be I'll just show up late. Everything is chip-timed as it is, and I know from experience that I'll be spending the first mile or more just trying to get free of people, so I'd rather do it after 15 minutes of standing around than an hour.

More after Sunday!

With hope,
Annie

Saturday, October 25, 2014

On The Road Again

Well, after a break of maybe four years (and my license expired), I drove the car again. Got a call from The Dude saying Buddy's bike had broken down on their way to soccer practice and could I drive down to where they were with a screwdriver. After trying to think of all the different ways they could possibly manage without my doing it, I got the Goo dressed, found my keys, grabbed the tool kit, screwdrivers, and diaper bag and headed to the garage.

I don't think I have ever been more freaked out in my life.

And then I just did one thing at a time. Turned on the light in the garage. Got Goo in the car seat. Put the other stuff in the front seat. Sat down. Adjusted the seat and the rearview mirror. Put on my seat belt. Checked the emergency brake. Turned on the car (keeping it in park) and tried out the pedals to remind myself which was which. Opened the garage door. Put the car in reverse and backed out into the alley. Closed the garage door. Drove the 3/4 mile to where the boys were waiting for me on the side of the road.

And then after they fixed the bike, I loaded up the car with tools and toddler again and drove back home. They continued to soccer.

And you know what?

It felt good.

It really does come back to you. Just like "riding a bike" (something else I don't want to do in Chicago but with more reason, I think).

I can't wait to get re-licensed and be officially (ahem, legally) on the road again.

Bravely,
Annie

Friday, October 24, 2014

Still Slugging Away

As you may remember, I was given a gift certificate for a month-long small group class at my gym, and I chose to use it in May for boxing. And promptly fell in love with with the sport, so much so that I quickly signed up to take the class again in June.

I knew I would not be able to take the class in July, so I asked the instructor for suggestions for training on my own for that month. I also went ahead and found an instruction book for women from Gleason's Gym (yes, that Gleason's Gym).

During July I mostly trained at my gym in their open studio room, following a routine similar to what we'd done in class (minus the heavy and double-end bags and partner work). So, shadow-boxing, drills, jumping rope, and boxing-specific strength training, with some cardio work before and afterwards just to make it feel like a full workout.

August came and we knew we would be moving and that life would be too busy (and funds too tight) to take another class. I also knew I would be losing my gym membership once we moved. I knew if I were going to continue with boxing I would need to find a way to do it truly on my own. 

Of course I asked myself whether it made sense to continue at all. Do I need to be doing this? What for? Especially knowing that it may be a long time before I can work with a trainer again and longer still before I would be able to spar. And then one night I had a dream... and when I woke up the answer was clear. Yes. Pursue this.

And with renewed dedication, I found ways to motivate myself for those times when it's hard to continue on my own, and worked on finding a way to fit this into my life. I spent September practicing routines and habits so everything wouldn't be new once we moved. 

So where am I now? Five to six days a week I get up early, make my tea, put away the dishes from the day before, say my prayers, and then head downstairs to the basement. I work on strength-training for both running and boxing for about 10 minutes, switching up my exercises each day. Then I start my drills and shadow-boxing. I started at about 45 minutes over the course of the week, am now at 75 minutes, and am working up to 90 minutes per week. How much I do in any given day depends on what's going on in my day overall and what other workout I have planned. I don't jump rope right now - the ceiling in the basement isn't high enough and I don't have time to go outside and then back in again, every minute in the morning matters. That's fine, I have confidence I can pick up jumping rope again easily enough. I would love to have a heavy bag or speed bag in the basement - maybe as a Christmas present?

And then I stretch a bit, go upstairs and get myself and the kids ready for the day, and get my run in after dropping The Goo off at daycare.

I do plan to find someone I can work with on an intermittent basis, and eventually I'd like to find a gym I can work at regularly. I've looked into the Park District gyms and there are none near me that offer boxing but perhaps that will change. And next year I plan to attend the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament so that I can connect with the women's boxing community in Chicago - there is a Masters level at the Golden Gloves so there have to be other women my age out there doing this!

Life is good.

Contentedly,
Annie

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Running Updates

You may remember that I was just a wee bit worried about how I was going to continue my running as our commute got longer (moved further west) and also more complicated (kids in two different locations).

I'm very happy to report that it's been okay. I have primary commuting responsibility for the Goo, and he's still in the same location, so my runs into work haven't been impacted at all. Those days when I want to run home first I have to be more mindful of time - a lot more mindful, as it takes longer to get him there in the first place, and longer to get myself to work once I'm back home. So those runs have been made shorter, or sometimes scheduled for my lunch break instead. That's fine for now, as I'm currently training for a 15K and don't need to put in a lot of mileage. Once I start training for my next half I'll probably start run commuting into work twice a week (right now I just do once a week, for my long run). But I've done that before, and enjoyed it, so I'll be fine with doing that again.

(One unexpected benefit from running during the workday is that I've started heading north, into Lincoln Park, and exploring that area more. Which includes the amazing boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo! So that's been a real treat.)

All this needing to be super mindful of how I spend my time has led me to decide that I am not going to run a marathon in 2015 either. I want to wait until I can really train properly for it, which will involve getting weekday runs in before the kids need me in the morning (so Goo needs to get a bit older) and also doing my long long runs on the weekends instead of on the way to work (I've learned I can manage up to 14 miles as my commute but more than that takes too much time and too much effort from my workday). So here's to 2016!

And here's to keeping my runs in! Next week I'll update about the whole boxing business.

Gratefully,
Annie

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back Again

Let's see, what have I been up to in the last SIX weeks?

Ran a half marathon. Yes, I owe a race report. Looking back at the year, I owe several. They will all get done, I promise.

Got my oldest started in kindergarten. He loves it. We love it too, but not the new double commute (one kid at school and one kid at daycare, in nearly opposite directions). Hunting for EASY and FAST dinner recipes these days because bedtime has gotten ridiculously late these days (and then the Goo gets horribly cranky to boot).

No need to recommend slow-cooker recipes to us as we would just have to prep them the night before, and that, my friends, ain't happening. 

Daycare issues have pretty much gotten worked out. New interim director, new slate of teachers in the toddler room (good ones, too). Thank God, because we really didn't want to pull the Goo. And just in time, because the Goo has morphed into a full-out MONSTER, what with all the changes going on (and just being almost three years old and all). And he's a SMART monster, which makes it extra challenging. Thankfully when he's not being monstrous he's wickedly cute and funny and charming and helpful. Right up until he's a monster again. We need his teachers to be good excellent more than ever these days.

We closed on our house right after school started and moved in at the end of September. LOVE IT. Until we can't find the salt / cold medicine / fall pants / you name it that is somewhere in this space. Or haven't left enough time (again) for the morning commute. Or want to, say, actually work at a desk instead of out of a backpack. Our bedroom needed to be painted and we couldn't get it done before moving in (a sick Goo took all my scheduled painting days off for himself). So that's had a cascading effect - those boxes are in one room, which means the stuff for that room is in another room, and so on. But I got the bedroom painted this week so this weekend we should be able to start moving boxes back into the right rooms, and maybe even unpacking some of them. Though we also need a fair bit of storage containers / shelving since we are missing storage space on the first floor and in the bathrooms. Plenty in the bedrooms and basement, but we can't always be heading back into the basement to get towels or toothpaste.

But life is good here and we are blessed.

Thankfully,
Annie


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Getting Ready

I'm running the Chicago Women's Half Marathon tomorrow, and, as has been the case with a number of races lately, the last couple of weeks I've been of two minds about running it, and even toyed with the idea of skipping it. Thankfully I seem to have found my enthusiasm again, and have been getting ready:
  • Organizing my playlist
  • Deciding to start with a pace team
  • Mapping out my transportation schedule
  • Prepping my breakfast today (since I'll have to leave pretty early in the a.m.)
  • Thinking through my hydration/nutrition strategy
  • Figuring out my racing kit
  • Setting my goals
No joke, it's going to be hot and humid, even more so than the two I ran last year when I was preparing for the marathon (and therefore had more of an endurance base than this year). So I'm not looking to PR tomorrow. If I'd been able to stick to my training plan over the last three months I would have had a chance of that but that just wasn't in the cards for this summer. I have my eye on a January half so maybe then... But I do think I can run close to what I did last year, maybe in between the two times.

And what I'd really like is to have an experience that combines the best of last year's half marathons - to run it the way I did my second half (strong and smart), but have the event experience of the first (fun and well organized and with good energy).

It's going to be so hot I'm tempted to wear the race shirt that we got (a light grey singlet), but I don't know how that will go with my race vest. Guess I'll go try them out together! My only other sleeveless tech shirt is black and a little heavy, I usually save it for the gym when I want to feel tough. Or maybe I'll just wear one of my marathon shirts, those are the most lightweight ones I have. Though I don't like to wear shirts from longer races at a shorter race, that just seems rude somehow, as if I were bragging. Silly, I know. In the end I'll probably wear one of those since I'm hesitant to race in a shirt I haven't run in before, especially one that's a different cut than I'm used to.

I pointed out to The Dude that he was treating this race as if it were just any other long run (he'd been asking if I were going to be back in time for church, and if not that, then in time to go to family swim - that is, going about the rest of the day as if it were any other Sunday). His response?

"Aren't you the one who just ran a marathon on your own and then went into work, without telling anyone about it?" (My birthday challenge.)

Me: "Well, I took the rest of the day off, I didn't go into work."

Him: "But you didn't tell anyone you were planning to do this, and you barely told anyone afterwards, right?

Me: "Well, yeah."

Him: "Hmm. I think you reap what you sow."

I have since negotiated a somewhat reduced post-race schedule, though, plus going out for dinner. I think perhaps I just needed to take this more seriously.

Now to try out outfits and finish up my playlist. I'll cook my oatmeal later today, when it's not so hot.

See you on the other side!

Excitedly,
Annie

Monday, August 18, 2014

On the Track Again

Have I mentioned that everything will be changing soon? Buying a house, changing neighborhoods, our oldest in school? (Have I mentioned that all this is causing me great stress?) And with that all my own personal routines will have to be reinvented as well. Such as, oh, I don't know, WHEN I RUN?!?!?

Gah.

Today I was presented with a foretaste of all that. I needed to enroll Buddy in kindergarten, and the school has limited office hours during the summer. I couldn't take a half day for this due to my work schedule this week, but then that meant I couldn't figure out a way to go running. I meant to go to the gym yesterday and just couldn't get it in - but if I didn't do something today it would be three days of no activity, and that means a seriously unhappy mama.

So what to do? Why, turn to an old solution, one I relied on when Buddy was first born and I was bringing him downtown for daycare. Head out during my lunch hour and run on the track at the park a half mile from work.

What with this, that, and the other at work I didn't get out until mid-afternoon - not ideal for me any day, and not ideal today with the weather (hot and sunny). But I loved it. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy track workouts, and running on this track in particular, how the temperatures and winds and smells change as you go around, in the sun and then next to gardens and then nearer the lake. And how much better a speed workout is on the track than on the treadmill any day. I've had kind of a crummy week thinking about my future with running and with boxing and with any kind of athletics (and I'm having a weird foot pain thing going on so that doesn't help), but getting out on the track today just restored my spirits tremendously. (Made me hungry for more speedwork too.)

And made me very grateful for a renewed sense of possibilities. The changes that are happening in our family life are good ones, great ones, and I know this and am excited for them, but it is also, oh, very hard in the transition time (and in anticipating the transition time). So I will take any small hope I can.

Anything challenging your sense of equilibrium right now? My word of the week has been "unmoored".

Cast adrift and out to sea,
Annie






Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Running Update

I'm three and a half weeks out from my half marathon, and my training has been completely haphazard. I've been running long, yes, and I've been throwing in surges and even longer lengths at speed on some of my commuting runs, but I haven't been keeping to any kind of serious schedule or training plan. Earlier this week I decided on the spur of the moment to make my run a tempo run - so four miles at a significantly brisk pace - and was feeling pretty good about it until I compared it against the tempo runs that in theory I would be doing, if I had actually been keeping to the training plan I started with two months ago.

Yeah, that's not what I ran that day.

I do still feel good about that run. And it's not too late to get a bit more focused on what I'm doing between now and the half and to make my runs have a bit more purpose to them. While the goal set out in my training plan is not achievable now, for sure, I have to say that I always thought it was kind of over-ambitious (a sub-2:00 half). I've been finding with time that I just do not have the motivation to run long AND fast. My 5k times, when plugged into the various racing calculators, keep predicting faster half marathons and marathons than I have been able to do, and I've realized this year it's because I just don't care enough to put in the kind of work I need to do to make those times happen. Or, more accurately I think, there are just too many other things I want to do, to have the kind of focus I would need. Things like boxing, for example. Or Scary Movie Month (coming up!). Or spending time on the weekend with my kids.

So I have a new goal for my half at the end of the month, and have mapped out my remaining training accordingly. And I have a 10k on the calendar for November and I will train seriously for that. And I think next year I'll run a couple of halves for fun, and a couple of shorter distances for speed, and sprinkle in some other ones just for a heck of it.

And maybe see if I can still convince The Dude to let me do this one this year still (oh I want to do this so badly).

In focus,
Annie

Monday, July 21, 2014

Least Favorite Thing?

Making phone calls.

Especially business-y ones.

So my job for today?

Calling prospective attorneys to find one for our house purchase.

And I kinda need to complete this today because the clock has started ticking on the contract.

Bleah.

I cheated a bit, I emailed everyone on my list first with the spiel our realtor gave us to use. So far that's netted me one conversation and one "not taking on new clients at this time" return email. So that's good, that's two off my list of six.

I'll give it another hour and then start calling the rest directly.

Sigh.

Do you have a least favorite thing?

Anxiously,
Annie

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good Grief

This is so overdue, it's embarrassing.

Let's see, in the last month we've gotten to spend time with my parents (visiting from out of town), gone to Ohio to visit The Dude's family, spent more time with my folks, and celebrated The Dude's birthday.

And while this has been going on, we've also been house-hunting (put down an offer today) and dealt with daycare drama of a truly disheartening nature (it looks like all may work out well, but it's been a really rough month of it).

So not much time for writing, and now I need to arrange an attorney and inspector and oh yes, start packing? Or at least start purging.

I will say I'm hugely grateful for the mild summer we've been having.

I'll try not to let so much time pass going forward...
Annie

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

If The Shoe Fits

You know you might be an athlete when...

On hearing about a friend losing a trainer/boyfriend your first comment is, "Wow, that's rough, good trainers are worth their weight in gold." (To be fair to myself, I didn't realize until afterwards that he was also her boyfriend.)

When fantasizing about playroom space in a possible new home you start thinking about exercise equipment and a dedicated workout space... when others in your household are thinking about musical instruments or building/dress-up materials.

You realize when reviewing your spending and schedule that all your spare funds and free time go towards your athletic pursuits.

Someone calls you one.

Lately I've gotten a number of compliments about my youthful appearance and about my organizational ability. While I certainly appreciate such comments, these are things that are just part of me, without any particular effort on my part. Just lucky, I know. But I have worked, I am working hard to become the athlete I always dreamed I could be... even when I couldn't admit to myself that's what I wanted.

So thank you.

Gratefully,
Annie

Friday, June 6, 2014

Out in the Open

I wrote after the recent holiday weekend how I had to change my plans for training that week around. Pretty much the story of all my serious athletic endeavor (excepting one period in my life I'll come back to later) has been like that, because it all has been after becoming a mom. And, you know, things happen. Your life is no longer your own.

Which, for me, is a very good thing. And in some very surprising ways.

So, after that intense holiday weekend I decided to take it easy on my Tuesday run, so that I would be more refreshed in the evening for my boxing class. Good thing, too, because it ended up being a private lesson. Talk about intense. And I got to ask my questions, one of which was what I should work on in practice between classes.

And then last Friday, I went to the back room of the gym, and I practiced.

And then I did it again yesterday.

I don't know if I can sufficiently convey to you the importance of this to me. The back room of our gym is an open space. There's a rowing machine and some bikes against one wall, a mirror the length of one wall, a cabinet with audio/visual equipment in one corner, and then one wall has an assortment of various gym equipment. Jump ropes, kettle bells, stability balls, slider pads, yoga mats, other stuff I haven't paid too much attention to. Mostly in the past I come in there to row and maybe to stretch a bit. Other people come in there to work on drills or fitness exercises, by themselves or with a personal trainer. So it's a place where people come to do private stuff (no classes) - but it's a wide open space, and the mirror means everyone can see everything that is going on.

So that's where I practiced. I started by rowing for 5 minutes, then jumped rope, then worked on my footwork, then on combinations. No bags there so I couldn't really hit, and I felt way too self conscious to really shadowbox. But I could work on technique, making sure I kept my head down and hands up, that I didn't cross my feet over each other, to lean in when I ducked and not too far when I slid. When I didn't know what to do or felt too stupid doing what I was, I jumped rope until I regained my composure and decided what to work on. I did this for twenty minutes and then rowed for another five.

And sure enough, people came in while I was practicing, and left, and new people came in. And they had their thoughts about what I was doing, or didn't (I always have thoughts about what I see people doing in there, though they're always good ones, I just like watching people and seeing what they're up to). And I didn't spontaneously combust.

Last Tuesday ended up being another private lesson for me, nice, but I can't make next week's (The Dude has a gig) so I'll be going in to the Sunday class instead. I'll know at least one person there but don't know what it will be like otherwise.

Oh, and my hand wraps came in, bright red. Trainer said it may take me a while to get used to them but they felt like part of me right away. Though I don't fully remember how to put them on and every guide I can find online has different instructions. So I'll just have to ask again. I do need to remember not to throw them in to the wash unless I want everything I own to be bright pink.

I've been reading The Boxer's Heart: A Woman Fighting by Kate Sekules, and it's really helpful on the philosophical question front, basically because she had the same ones I do. But the piece I've been really moved by is the documentary Shadow Boxers, which gives a brief overview of recent women's boxing and then profiles Lucia Rijker, a world champion and my new hero. She is an amazing fighter but also very articulate about the dangers of it and why she goes into the ring.

Oh, and all this makes me think about lots and lots of other stuff, and I've been looking into other gyms and classes since I can't afford to do this every month (which was another reason why it's important that I be able to work on my own)... though mostly my investigation has shown me that I was really lucky to stumble onto what I have, so I may end up sacrificing some other things (that trail race?) to keep going.

Now if only Mexican boxing would come on random late night TV again...

Infatuatedly yours,
Annie


Friday, May 30, 2014

And This Is Why I Don't Mind

So, those changes to my training schedule I mentioned? Continuing in the theme of surrender, I've found that to the extent that I can go with the flow, good things follow...

That trail hike we took on Sunday had two purposes (besides just being, you know, a hike). First was to practice getting out of the city and to try out a new book I picked up, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles Chicago.

The Dude and I have deliberated for years about whether to move out of the city, either to the suburbs (ack) or to a different part of the country altogether. The last time this came up for serious consideration we decided to be deliberate about planning a move... and started with our bucket list for Chicago. When we came back together a few days later to discuss our lists we realized they were so long there was no way we could ever accomplish all of them... so why were we thinking about moving? Aside from the obvious (affordable housing, a good school system) the main thing we miss about this city is easy access to hiking and camping. So Sunday's hike and this new book were the first steps in our new program of find (and get to) some good outdoors activities.

Oh, and the book was dead on in its descriptions of the trail and how to get there, etc., so now we're a lot more willing to try some other ones. Maybe even one recommended for kids...

Then the second sneaky purpose to this hike was to suss out the conditions of a race I want to do in October, on this trail (the Des Plaines River Trail). All signs were good and on Tuesday I went online to look at the schedule again. And found that what I thought might be my first 50k... was actually 50 miles.

Whoa.

Not ready for that.

Well, shoot.

And then I thought, no, this is a good thing. 'Cause I'll be taking on a couple of other challenges with this race - driving myself there being foremost among them. (Did I mention that my license expired and I have to go renew it? As in, retake the written and driving portions because so much time has passed between it expiring and now? And that's because I don't drive?!)

But our trip out there was an easy drive, and the trail conditions are as good as one could possibly get, and the start time for the marathon is late enough in the day that I can just drive out there, instead of having to go out the night before and stay in a hotel, etc. etc. So, all good things.

Speaking of good things, exploring the trail was only the first of many good things that happened "outside the box" over the last two weeks...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Is What It Looks Like (Ha)

Last week was a great training week:

Sunday: Rest (time in pool with kids = water massage!)
Monday: Tempo run - hit my paces
Tuesday: Run commute a.m., Boxing p.m.
Wednesday: Easy swim
Thursday: Long run
Friday: Run commute p.m.
Saturday: Gym (rowing & bike)

With assorted stretching, recovery techniques, and strength training sprinkled throughout.

Picture, if you please, an idealized training plan printed out for the next 14 weeks. It would look much like that, with steadily increasing runs, and alternating speed work for the tempo runs on occasion. A thing of beauty.

Now, this week so far:

Sunday: 7 mile hike, mostly pushing a stroller since Goo pitched a fit whenever The Dude pushed it. Not a rest day by any stretch of the imagination. Okay, I can go with the flow. I'll just make Monday my rest day, right?

Monday: Another day off with the kids. Pool, picnic, football. Punctuated by standing on my feet in the kitchen, making meals and cleaning up after them. Mmm... not exactly restful, even if not a high intensity day.

Last night couldn't sleep between the heat and the puking cat. Seven miles in the morning looked like a great way to have a lousy boxing class tonight. Cut the run to three miles.

Looking ahead... Oh, The Dude is away this weekend. There goes the gym on Saturday. And I'll need to bring the kids with me to my race on Sunday...

And this is all more than okay.

But it's also why I pencil in my workouts.

Taking what I can get,
Annie




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hooked

Okay, forget anything I wrote about not continuing with boxing. I went to what I thought would be my last class last night (after taking a week off the week before) and found myself just as in love with it as the first time. And this was after having run seven miles to work that morning...

This time, in addition to the intoxication of the speed/power/form/skill/thinking of the actual exercise, we spent a fair bit of time discussing the different types of boxing and what they focus on. (We ended up skipping a whole jump rope segment to talk about this - thanks to those seven miles earlier I was quite happy to skip that!) The other woman has recently started going to another gym to be able to qualify for amateur fighting, and had a lot of questions/complaints about how things are being done there. Our trainer comes from a professional background so was explaining the difference between the two. Which gave me room to voice the teeny tiny issue of what about this whole hurting people business...

...because, really, what business do I have learning something that's all about hurting someone...

...except for the fact that I really, really love it (and so far, have not hurt anyone).

No answers yet. That's okay. It's enough that there was room for the question. And I have some idea of where to begin looking for other voices.

One of my favorite writers comes to the rescue:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I guess I will just have to fit this into my training somehow, especially as I'd like to start practicing a bit in between classes. Perhaps by becoming stronger and more fit? Well, time will tell.

Excitedly,
Annie


Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Begun!

Oh, so excited, I sorta started training for my half marathon last week (first longish run since my injury), and this week started with a training plan in earnest.

It's taken me a while to settle on a training plan, and in the end I'm back to using my tried-and-true Runner's World SmartCoach (the free version), but with some new adjustments.

Over the winter I read Matt Fitzgerald's Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running By Feel, which was tremendously inspiring, and got me thinking about what elements work best for me in my training. I then delved into Run Less, Run Faster (since I do love my cross-training) but then also, on the complete opposite end of the training spectrum, the Hansons Half-Marathon Method (because it makes more sense to me and because I've really loved how I've felt when doing higher mileage). And I even started off last week with the idea of doing the Hansons plan.

But I have small kids, one of whom now has sporting events on the weekends. And no treadmill. And a husband who is also training for a half. Oh, and work. And even some travel. And I could just tell that there would be a lot of switching around of workouts to accommodate all that, and probably some skipped ones, and that would all just create stress. And that would not be in keeping with one of the Fitzgerald principles I most agreed with: Run happy.

So on a whim I looked up what the RW SmartCoach would prescribe for me, and I liked what I saw. When I use these plans I pretty much just worry about nailing the high-quality runs (one long run a week, and one tempo or speedwork run), and then fill in the other days as works for me and my schedule that week. From the Hansons plan I am taking the idea of higher mileage and running slow on easy days, but I'm also keeping a cross-training day because I love them and it's a nice break from the running, physically and mentally. I'm feeling very excited about making this summer's training truly my own.

Another thing I'm excited by is that since I started running again, I've taken the opportunity to rework my form, based on this article from Running Times. It was, as promised, a rough transition, but I have been keeping at it and finding it easier and easier to maintain. So last week was my first long run trying to maintain those changes, and today was my first tempo run, and I'm really happy that both went well. I'm not as fast as I used to be, not yet, but I trust with time I will be faster (and less injured).

Oh happy day!
Annie




Thursday, May 15, 2014

Words for Today

From an article by M. Craig Barnes in The Christian Century:
We all live with many callings in life... but most of all we are all called to glorify and enjoy God.
Nothing gets in the way of this highest of all callings more than trying to get the right answer on which fork to take in the road. God owns all the roads. As C.S. Lewis once said, "God can use even the wrong road to get you to the right place." That right place is not to a particular job, but deeper into the divine heart.
 Good news for people like me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bits and Pieces, Again (Again)

Bits of randomness...

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On the boxing front, while I still enjoy the class, I don't plan to continue with it. Already in the second week I was a bit resentful of how it was impacting the rest of my training week (since I've started training for my half). Plus I missed my evening with the kids!

And there's the question of what would I do with boxing if I continued... the natural next step would be to train to fight, but that's a level of fighting I'm not interested in. I really don't want to inflict (or receive) a black eye... missing tooth... concussion...

On the other hand, taking these classes has shown me that I would like to return to martial arts training, someday. I don't know what style. Though judo is compelling...

I'm not going to actively pursue this now, I figure at some point what path I follow with it will become clear. There's certainly no lack of opportunity in this city.

But this certainly makes more sense of my visceral response to good fights in movies.

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

Starting a new Runner's World Big Guy Blog* Challenge. Take the number of miles you want to run in the next six weeks, then do the same number in minutes for stretching in that same time, and then multiply it by 10 for your number of pushups (standard or modified) in that time. Since the training program for my half has me running close to 30 miles per week pretty soon, my goals are 180/180/1800.

I already stretch for at least 5 minutes after each run, so for this challenge I'm doing an additional 30 minutes of stretching each week. And I'm going to include foam rolling in that as well. I will be impressed if I really can get in 30 minutes of extra recovery work in each week. I'll need it to accommodate the increased mileage.

And the pushups? Well, it will be a nice way of continuing the upper-body work once boxing ends. Plus, I sometimes do modified pushups at work (off the handicapped bar in the restrooms) since it's a nice pick-me-up if I start getting tired or antsy. My count for today is 105 so I'm not too worried about meeting this part of the challenge. Maybe by the end of the six weeks I'll start doing standard ones as well.

*This is the guy that started the online running groups I take part in.

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

Took my first bath with Epsom salts last week. Why have I not used these before?! It was definitely an odd feeling but I felt much better the next day. Plus my skin was unexpectedly smooth! A nice way of getting to some of the little, hard-to-reach muscles I've been working lately (through boxing but also changing up my running form).

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My greatest treat from Mothers' Day weekend was the chance to try out some new recipes from the Runner's World Cookbook. I like trying new meals but the family is sometimes resistant to them, especially if they suspect they might be "healthy". I tried three new things and two were a win (a pasta dish and a stir-fry) - the healthy berry crisp was not a success but I have some ideas on how to tweak it. And even then I will probably be the only one eating it, which is fine. I don't feel the need to share yummy berry crisp with ungrateful small fry.

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Speaking of the small fry it's time to head home to get them. Homemade tacos tonight - I'm hoping to get Goo involved in the process, I figure he can probably cut up mushrooms without too much drama. We'll just hope more end up in the bowl than on the floor.

Cheerfully,
Anne


Friday, May 2, 2014

Floating Like a Butterfly

I know I owe a race report, and it's coming, I promise.

But I had my first boxing lesson on Tuesday and I had to write about it.

Some background: Our gym offers small-group 4-week personal training sessions for an additional cost. The Dude asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I have a hard time not asking for practical gifts but thought that this year I should ask for something that would really be a treat. When I looked up the class offerings boxing was the one that stood out for me, and May was the month where it best worked out for both my weekly schedule and my training plans.

Some more background: Many years ago I studied Indonesian Kung Fu for a couple of years. I loved it, and had hoped to continue with it when I moved to Chicago, but for a number of reasons that wasn't possible.

So, cut to Tuesday. I was so excited, and so nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I had so many emotions... so I knew this meant a lot to me. Didn't know why. Still don't, exactly.

Class Description:

It was just the trainer (Carlos), and one other woman, clearly experienced. It was circuit based, so we spent the same amount of time on each of the components, but not both of us on the same component at the same time:

  • Jumping rope (single-foot and both feet together);
  • Working with Carlos as he wore pads for us to hit and called out punches;
  • Working with the double-end bag (this is small and is attached by flexible cables to both the ceiling and the floor - we were supposed to throw light and work on form);
  • Working with the heavy bag (for strength);
  • Shadow-boxing (against our reflection in the mirror);

And then after going through several rounds of the circuit we ended with a speedwork and strength drill, meant to wear us out thoroughly and mimic how we might feel after many rounds in the ring.

With each turn through the circuit Carlos gave more instruction and added new components, such as dodging blows.

All his instructions were based on what we might experience in an actual fight, and it all made sense. A lot more sense then I was expecting, really, my limited sparring experience from kung fu came back to me quickly. But enhanced by what I've learned in the meantime about body mechanics, movement efficiency, race technique, training practices, etc. And enhanced by a fierceness that I did not have fifteen years ago - or at least was not willing to let out back then. And certainly an increased sense of fearlessness.

It was fascinating to listen in on his instruction to the other woman, who was getting ready to visit another gym this weekend and who is planning to fight. And really, it didn't sound all that different from the instruction he was giving me, just more advanced.

Aftermath

Three days later and I'm still on a high from class. Though boy howdy, was I sore yesterday (delayed onset muscle soreness). I had to go swimming today, slowly, just to feel I was knitting my body back together.

There was something incredibly intoxicating about working on the combination of skill, form, and power in what we were practicing. Similar to what I've learned in running, but heightened. I have three more weeks in this round and I'm looking forward to them - I suspect there may be more in the future.

And I feel there may be a lot more emotional "unpacking" I need to do for myself over those weeks...

But for starters, I need an adult-size jump rope for practicing at home. Kept tripping myself up on the kiddie ones!

Curiously,
Annie






Friday, April 25, 2014

Breathing Deep, Holding Back

Ten days ago, my leg started feeling markedly better. As in, I would go periods of the day without noticing it at all.

I tentatively started planning to try running again the following Monday, just an easy mile on the treadmill at the gym.

By that Friday I was feeling so good I couldn't wait any longer. I left work a little early, went to the gym, and got on the treadmill.

The first half mile felt very strange, though not painful. "Is this how my legs are supposed to work?" Everything felt a bit wobbly. I started off slowly, took a 30-second walk break, then started running again, this time for a bit longer.

By the time I got to 3/4 mile I was feeling pretty good and decided to see if I could keep going for a full three miles (since in all this time away I've been very aware that there's this little 5K around the corner...). I also started speeding up on my run segments, just a little bit...

By the time I got to 1.5 miles I was feeling grand and in no need of walk breaks. "I wonder just how fast I can go?" I finished my three miles at the pace I had targeted for this race, three months ago.

No pain.

Sunday I wore heels for Easter and my leg was twingy afterwards. I took Monday off from running, but Tuesday I ran the race course (it's in my neighborhood). Yesterday I went back to the treadmill and ran the workout that had been scheduled for me back when I was actively training for the 5K, a nice little shakeout of 2 x 800m. intervals at faster than race pace. I figured either I could handle it and this would be a nice confidence booster, or it would show me that I had no business trying to run fast at this point.

I finished, having hit my paces, with both speed and endurance to spare. And no pain.

Today I get my race packet...

Tonight I must go to bed early, as I haven't gotten the rest I wanted this week. (Damn cats waking me up early each day, damn "Game of Thrones" keeping me up, not exactly late, but not early either.)

Tomorrow I will stay off my feet as much as possible.

And Sunday?

Sunday I plan to fly.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Surrender, Annie

Earlier this year, Ali at Hit the Ground Running asked what our word for the year was. I knew mine immediately: surrender.

It's actually something I've been meditating on for over a year now, knowing that I am more the person I wish to be exactly to the extent that I can surrender to the here and now, in all aspects of my life.

I find this so hard to write about yet it's the thread that has been running through everything this year and keeping me going...

Surrender to what?

The circumstances of my life. Being mom to two young children. Wife to a wonderful man, who has some considerable stresses in his life right now. Living in a major city. The work that I do. My past. All of these have their considerable joys and satisfactions but also impose their own limitations. I can butt my head up against those limitations, or relax into things as they are.

And, like water, flow towards that which is necessary for me to keep going.

Moments of silence. Of comfort. Of joy. Of longing.

("This longing you express is the return message." Rumi).

And always, of movement.

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

But it isn't just about surrendering to, it's a matter also of surrendering up:
  • the idea of being "successful"
  • what I "should" be doing
  • my expectations for myself based on others
And thereby surrendering to myself, to who I really am.

Having children has forced me to spend my time on what I really want to do. Observing this - seeing what choices I make - has opened my eyes to seeing more clearer who I am and who I want to be.

A little bit painful (humbling).

A lot freeing.

The Dude and I had thought we might bear another child and then, last year, closed the door on that idea. I feel, in this 42nd year, as if I might be giving birth to myself.

A late bloomer, I know.

But better late than never.

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

Some more Rumi for this Holy Friday (translation by Coleman Barks):

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


With love and peace -
Annie

Friday, April 11, 2014

Things I Think About While Swimming

The pattern of the sunlight on the floor of the pool.

How dirty the floor of the pool really is. Best not to think about that too much.

My form: chest down so my hips rise, reach long but then tuck my arm in close on the downstroke. Keep my head down and my neck relaxed.

People I'm praying for...

...and then others, and then work, and my schedule, and all the random things one thinks about while moving.

Imaginary blog postings that I almost never manage to write.

What the $%*# is this idiot doing, floating in the middle of the medium zone?!

Would it be unspeakably rude to splash water on him?

Ah, better just to swim around. At least there's only four of us in this zone right now.

Back to my form.

Is that a rubber duck on the side of the pool?

Why yes, yes it is. How cool. (And today that duck was joined by a second.)

Wait, what lap am I on?

Back to the sunlight.

At some point I always think about my happiest swimming memory: summer laps in the outdoor Olympic size pool in my Oma's town. The coolth* of the water, the warmth of the sun, occasional breezes, often just me in the pool, back and forth for ages. *This really should be a word.

Oh, coming to the end of lap swim. How many can I still get in?

Last lap: Relax, relax, relax.

And we're done.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Two Steps Forward...

After seeing some real improvement last week I was feeling hopeful that I might be able to run (a very little bit) soon. Maybe even run my 5k at the end of the month, instead of walking it?

Then yesterday came. I did a longer workout at the gym, which in itself didn't seem to be a problem. But then I spent another 5 miles on my feet running around town - visiting a homebound friend, taking Goo to the doctor, random errands. And in particular, dashing for a bus, lots and lots of stairs, dashing for another bus with the stroller... By the end of the day my leg was screaming at me. And it's still unhappy today. Nothing to do but reset that mental countdown.

So it goes. At least we don't have snow!

Grateful for pool and gym memberships -
Annie

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Evolution of an Injury

First, start with one truly exhausted mama.
     It's gotten better in the last week, but for nearly three months I had not been getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night, and that, interrupted.

Next, add in overly ambitious training plans.
     After my challenge went so well I continued with my plans to run an ultra in May, suddenly bumping up my overall weekly mileage as well as continuing my regular long runs.

Don't forget to underestimate the effects of running a marathon distance.
     With my previous marathons I had "hit the wall" by running out of fuel. This, oddly enough, had the effect of protecting my legs as I was forced to stop and slow down significantly. In last month's challenge I had locked in my nutrition which meant I was able to keep pushing - and even speed up - in the last miles. I truly had not expected, or previously experienced, the fatigue and wear that I had after this run.

And then don't make any accommodations for those effects in the days and weeks following.
     All good marathon training plans would have you rest for a least a week and take another two weeks to slowly return to your regular mileage. 

Then, right before you have a long run, eat poorly.
     I wrestled with Girl Scout cookies and sadly, they won. Not only won, but smacked me down and dragged me all around. And then sat on me.

Oh, and get woken up by a youngster for several hours in the middle of night.

But don't change your plans based on how you're feeling.
     No, I was regretting those cookies and made the equally poor decision to "run them off".

And don't change your plans mid-run, no matter how you feel.

Even if you start experiencing shin pain two-thirds of the way through.

Sigh.

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

The verdict is out on what this is. Shin splints? Stress fracture? Inflammation? I've seen my doctor and had an x-ray done, which neither of us expect will tell us anything useful, but has to be done so that insurance will agree to the more useful MRI. We're waiting on the results (or rather, non-results) of that. In the meantime, how to treat it? Rest to the extent that I can. Icing seems to be helping. Waiting on ibuprofen (which would help with inflammation) until we can rule out a stress fracture, since ibuprofen impedes bone healing.

I haven't been taking anything for pain (at least, not since those first two awful days) since I have a pretty high pain tolerance and often just don't think to take anything. And honestly, the pain I do have is useful. Does it hurt when I do this? That? It gives me guidance on what I can do since the other option - not doing anything - goes against every last bit of my being. I mean, I will if I really have to, but if I don't really have to...

I am grateful that both of the races I have already registered for are meaningful to me beyond an opportunity to race. I'll be able to take each of them as they come and enjoy them at whatever state of fitness I'm at. And I want to keep that in mind with all future races.

My mother asked if it bothered me to have to reduce my training. I'm feeling really grateful right now to be able to say no. This is just what is going on right now. I'll swim more than I have been and have switched to more strength training, especially leg exercises so that I don't lose too much there. (Hello, squats!) I see this as an opportunity to start over again, correctly, for the long-term goals I have in mind. And as an opportunity to assess more realistically what some of those goals might be. (No worries, Ali, I still want to run an ultra someday.)

And maybe in the meantime I'll work through my stack of mending and actually get started on my next quilt.

Ever optimistically.
Annie

Monday, March 24, 2014

What's Up, Doc?

Note: I don't normally repost from my Facebook groups here, but I just haven't managed to write a post for a while - too many thoughts swirling around when given unlimited space to express them. Sometimes shorter really is better... or at least written. 

Apologies to anyone reading this a second time.

Okay, this is for accountability. I have been doing too much, running-wise, especially since my birthday challenge last month. This was borne out by a sucky long run last week, where I ended up with shin splints.
And it's not just been physically too much, it's been too much in terms of my peace of mind and ability to be fully present with my family. We have a lot of changes coming our way this year and I need to be more ready to flex with them.
So, I'm changing my plans for the year. I've got some fun races lined up (two 5Ks, a half, 15K) and will look to slo-o-wly build up my running base to 25-30 miles per week so that next year I can be in a better position for another marathon and an ultra. And no more personal "challenges" for myself. It was an awesome day and I'm really happy I did it - but it also took more of a toll on me than I was expecting and I tried coming back too fast afterwards. I don't need to do anything more like that this year.
If you hear me coveting my neighbor's ultra, please, smack me. There's always next year.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Marathon Madness

Registration for the Chicago Marathon lottery was supposed to have started this week (yes, that's right, not registation for the marathon itself,  just the lottery for it) but has now been delayed a couple of weeks.

I had not been thinking of doing the marathon again this year and then I was sort of approached about being part of a charity team. (I won't go into why this was "sort of", it's convoluted and involves work.) But of course that got me wanting to run it again, and looking into options. Cue a couple of days of crazy obsessive marathon thinking.

I think I now know what I'm going to do, but I will sit on it for a few days (and talk to The Dude) to be sure it feels right.

Those of you who aren't runners, what gets you obsessed?

Yours,
Monkey Mind Annie

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Back in the Pool, Again

Hmph. I went all winter, running on all kinds of crazy snow and ice without any injury, and then in this last week as things start to thaw I slip on a little ice while leaving work and have pulled my lower left calf muscle. And some combination of lugging groceries/child have left me with knots in my shoulder and neck.

So, back in the pool it is!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mission Accomplished!

And I feel grand.

Looking forward to writing about it later this weekend.

But just a quickie...

After mile 20 I started worrying if I was going to hit the wall, as I have in my previous two marathons. I had to really step in with some serious self-talk about how I am so much better prepared for this, I am tougher than I've ever been, I am smarter about these things now, etc. At some point the thought popped into my head,

"Wall? What wall? I piss on the wall!"

And you know what?

I never did hit it.

In fact, my last three miles were my most enjoyable (not fast, I was both battling headwinds and going uphill, but fun), AND I felt like I could have done more.

I am now eating a sandwich from my favorite bagel shop called the "Xena, Warrior Princess" and about to take a hot shower.

Damn, it's a good day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Can She Do It?

This weekend I turn 42.

My 7s years have always turned out to be meaningful for me so I've been curious for some time about what this next year might bring me. And I wanted to mark it in some way.

So tomorrow I'm going to run 42k.

(Yes, that is just about a marathon.)

Now, when I made this plan, about six weeks ago, I really didn't expect it to still be so cold. I envisioned myself running down the length of the lake to the south side until I was halfway done, then simply turning around and coming back. I rarely get to run on the south side of the lake anymore (I used to live down there and loved running that stretch), so I was really looking forward to it.

But with the current forecast two things worry me. One is the wind. Up on the north side if the wind gets too bad along the lake I can always cut back in to the city, and I'll know where I am and how to get around. But that's not at all true farther south. In fact, once I get too far south there are places where I definitely do not want to be forced off the lakefront trail. So for safety's sake, now is not the time to be exploring the southern lakefront by myself.

Then the second concern is having my water bottles freeze. The forecast is better than it's been for the past few days, with a current expected high of 26. But it's going to get down to -4 tonight, so it will start off cold tomorrow, and I don't know how long it will take to warm up. Now, I've taken the day for myself tomorrow, so instead of gearing up to leave from daycare as soon as I drop the kids off, I'll actually come home first. That will give me the opportunity to assess the weather conditions and also provide a little warming-up time. But I do have to expect that it will be cold for much of the morning.

So my new plan is to run different loops, with our lobby as the base for all of them. I'll be able to stash my drinks and extra food in our mailbox, and dash upstairs if I need to take a pit stop. I'll even be able to discard or change layers if it gets too warm for what I'm wearing. I'll do my longest loop first and work my way down (8-7-6-5) which should be a nice mental boost, and for variety I'll do each one in a different direction (N-W-S-E) which will allow me to end on the lake. I'll have to deal with some ice, but the sidewalks are largely clear right now after last week's rain, so it shouldn't be too bad. Sounds nice, huh? Postively indulgent.

And I'll wait until spring for my lakefront adventure.

Anticipatorily,
Annie

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

May Be Some Kick in the Old Girl Yet

I mentioned last week that for my return to speedwork I was taking a conservative approach to my paces for my half-mile and mile repeats workouts, working up to my desired pace by the end of the workout (rather than starting at the recommended pace).

Well, this past Sunday I had a tempo run planned, four miles at 9:39 pace with a mile warm up and mile cool down.

That felt a little slow to me (plus I misrembered when I got to the gym and thought it was at 9:30 pace), and I get easily bored on the treadmill and usually mess around with pacing to keep it interesting. So rather than keep it at an even 9:30 pace I started there, but then after a quarter mile I started laddering up (increasing my speed every 0.1 of a mile or so) for a while, then laddering back down, then holding at 9:30 again for another quarter mile or thereabouts.

At the end of my workout I had done the four miles at an average pace of 9:15. Nice.

And then, for comparison's sake, I looked to see what my training had been for this race last year. (I had used last year's results to come up with my training paces for this year. But it's been so long since I did any kind of speedwork that I was disbelieving of my ability to keep those paces, hence the conservative approach up until now.)

What I found out blew my mind. Not only had I not been hitting anywhere near these paces last year at this time, but my overall mileage (and fitness) was significantly lower as well. So while I may have started slower this year, I've been able to recover some speed pretty quickly.

Oh, I am going to rock it this year.

But first I have a couple of crazy long runs on my plate... my birthday challenge this Friday, and then, if that goes well, possibly my first ultra in April...?

Excitedly,
Annie

Friday, February 21, 2014

I Can Run for Miles and Miles and Miles

Despite my concern about the sidewalks, today had some of the best conditions for running in a while. The temperature dropped enough overnight to freeze a lot of the water (the crazy big puddles turned into slush but it was easier to see and avoid them), and then it was snowing lightly which provided traction! I was worried about the wind when I set out, but still determined to at least try the lakefront path, and it ended up being less windy along there than I thought. There was only a mile of really blustery conditions where I nearly tripped up twice just from the wind blowing me sideways - I felt like those ice skaters who trip on their own feet from not getting the timing right on their jumps. But that was close to the end so I just got off the lakefront at the next opportunity and ran the rest of the way on the inner drive. It was interesting to see just where the wind was worst: on the lakefront it was whenever the trail got close to Lake Shore Drive, and on the inner drive it was when crossing the street, I had to make sure I didn't get blown onto the drive itself.

One unexpected treat was that the path was clear enough that I didn't have to look directly in front of me the whole time, as I've been doing all winter to make sure of my footing. I could look up and around and enjoy the sky (rapidly moving clouds) and the parks (huge frozen ponds), the shoreline (crazy ice formations) and the trees near to me (fat squirrels and red berries!). What a joy.

This week I've run into work twice, once long and once mostly direct (it's about a mile and a half more to run into work along the lakefront vs. taking a street that runs diagonally across the city). I love it, I love it, I love it. I think I'm going to try running in to work every other day.

And in other good news, Goo slept through the night after going down pretty easily! He came out in the morning to tell me "bunny awake mama" (we got a new nightlight that can change pictures from a sleeping bunny to an awake bunny if you set it)... time to now slo-o-owly move that wake-up time a little later in the morning. And as I've been getting more sleep I have again been waking up before him anyway, and can reclaim at least a little of my quiet morning time.

Got a bunch of baking to do for our church's annual South Sudan bake sale/auction - carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies. I imagine some of the cookies will end up staying home with us...

Happily,
Annie

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Since Last We Met

Finally getting over a tummy bug that moved through the house, one person at a time. And for some reason I got it last (and worst). The worst of it was over within a few days, but my appetite and digestion continued to stay off for a while and I'm still hesitant to consume anything exciting (coffee / dark chocolate / beer, sigh). It made things interesting as I tried to figure out how to continue training for my birthday challenge next week, first in resuming exercise at all and then in how to properly fuel myself in light of my tender tummy!

Yesterday's long run was crazy. We've had some big melting days here and the sidewalks are treacherous. Much worse than anything I've encountered all winter. Canyons of deep, cold, slushy water on top of ice. After an hour or so I gave up trying to keep my feet halfway dry and just ran through the standing water. The first half of my run was at a 14 minute pace (my usual slow/long run pace is 11:15/mile) as I was running on sidewalks, not all evenly shoveled, and unplowed park paths. But I was on my way into work and feeling anxious about time, so once I hit the lakefront I hammered it the rest of the way in. And then spent the rest of the day with sore legs. They're fine today though.

I've started incorporating speedwork again, first time since before the marathon. It's amazing how powerful it makes me feel, like I can accomplish anything. I didn't know what paces to set for myself so I used my time from last year's Ravenswood Run 5K to get paces from the Runners' World SmartCoach program, and have been working up to them within a session. So for example, this week, the program had me running four half-mile repeats at a 8:36 pace. I did my first round at a 9:05 pace and then steadily increased my pace with each repeat until my last one was at a 8:30 pace. This has been really helpful. I have a bad habit on the treadmill of going too fast too soon and then having to back off considerably (and end feeling disappointed), but by deliberately starting off at a slower pace I've been avoiding that and have instead ended feeling confident! I've also seen over the last three weeks that my speed is coming back more quickly than I'd thought, so I can start being more aggressive with my pacing again.

I've been reading Matt Fitzgerald's "The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition". I know my performance with my two marathons suffered greatly because of inadequate fueling so this year I've been making it a priority to make sure I'm doing better. This is essential to get on top of if I'm going to move into ultras. I've been trying hard to consume more during my long runs (not easy since I don't like gels which are the most compact fuel, but I'm working on it), and know I need to do more with my pre-run fueling as well, hence the book. I'll let you know if I find it helpful. I already own his book "Racing Weight", which I think is sound, but everytime I've read it in the past I get fixated on losing weight more quickly than I should and then that derails my training. That's my own head stuff, not his book. But anyway I like the approach of this new one better.

The Goo is still struggling with sleep but things have improved, thank goodness. Everybody's happier when we're all getting more sleep.

It's raining steadily today - I'm not looking forward to the sidewalks tomorrow - and then it will freeze again. What a winter. But I'm so grateful the low temps will be in the 20s and not the teens (or below). I like not having to turn on the space heaters at home. And having use of our dishwasher!

Warmly,
Annie

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Odds and Ends, Again

Sometimes, after a long or hard run, there really is nothing better than potato chips and a Coke.

I have now run to work using the shortest possible route. It's 6.25 miles. (Four years of occasionally, and now more frequently, running to work, and I never thought to do this before?) So once the weather gets warm and I get a larger running pack, I can start making this routine. (Right now I have to plan at least one day in between runs to work, preferably two, so I can pack in extra clothes/food.)

Yesterday my workout consisted of pulling/dragging Goo in his stroller through the snow for the 3/4 mile to daycare (and just picking him up and carrying him in it for about a quarter of that distance when the sidewalks became completely impassable otherwise). I had delayed our leaving home thinking that the sidewalks would be mostly shoveled by then, but I bet that horse wrong. During this time we were passed by one bus that was too full to take a stroller --- that was then immediately followed by a near-empty one --- I didn't think to look for another one so soon and we were too far from the stop so we missed that opportunity. But the kids were great, even with stinging blowing snow, and Buddy spontaneously helped pull. (Note: when your 5-year-old "helps" with the stroller, it is rarely actually a help.) My arms were shaking once we got there.

We've had two days of Goo sleeping through the night again (after several weeks of middle of the night upset only assuaged by my making up a bed on the floor next to his and sleeping the rest of the night there.) And last night it only took 5 minutes of upset before he settled down. He's still waking up earlier than he should be but I can deal with that for now. I am beginning to feel hopeful again.

Prior to the holidays he was going to bed no problem, sleeping through the night, and waking up at a decent hour. The last four weeks have been trying to say the least. He's had an explosion of language skills during this same time so we're blaming growth spurt combined with his realization that the whole world doesn't actually shut down when he's sleeping (and the utter unfairness of that). But holding the line again around going to bed (we'd let things slip while we were trying to figure out what was going on but it was getting ridiculous) plus the addition of a night-light seem to be doing the trick.

More snow scheduled for this weekend!

Disbelievingly,
Annie