Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What I've Been Up To (Part 2)

What I haven't been doing is a lot of running. I struggled to find new routines after the marathon. Some of that was logistical - we changed our commuting schedules based on the kids' school - and I wasn't helped by literally not being able to get into a routine: I was sick a couple of times - not for long, but enough to want to take it easy the rest of the week. We had family visits. There's always something at work, especially in the fall. The holidays were here. And I was really run down after the marathon, just more easily tired, not as fast, not as much endurance.

But I think mostly my malaise came from not knowing anymore what I wanted to do with running. I've been vaguely looking to make changes for a while, but hadn't fully committed to doing so. It's safe to say running has been my number one thing for several years - and I no longer want it to be so. I have other things I'm working on. But then what does that look like in my day, my week? Could I be content with all short runs? Could I be content with not training for anything in particular? With not trying to run faster or longer or both?

I'm glad to say I'm finally feeling back in the groove. I'm running short 2-3 times a week, and once a week I'm running "fast" (but not keeping track of my paces). Then on Saturday mornings I leave the house before the others are up (but later than I do during the work week) and run "long". I am always going to love the feel of going long, and of orienting the rest of my running around that. Those times of just me and my thoughts covering ground feel essential to me. But the distances don't have to be as long as before.

Is this what "normal" running looks like?

Contentedly,
Annie

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Little Things

And the internal soundtrack on my run today...

Sinead O'Connor "I Am Stretched On Your Grave"

Miranda Lambert "Little Red Wagon"

I could have put on headphones today and I did bring them with me, but it was misty and still dim when I started, and even when the sun came up the air was soft and gray and it was nice to just float along in the quiet of the world.

And now it's time for more cookie baking. Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles, to mail to a couple of friends who pledged this summer. Apricot almond glaze cookies, just because I saw the recipe in the Trib and wanted to try it out. And seven layer bars, for a dessert potluck this week. I may pull out a Sinead O'Connor album or two and listen while I bake. G will be my helper today if I can pull him away from his Duplos.

Merrily,
Annie

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way Round The Park

... And now I can't remember what it was.

It's dark when I leave the house for my runs now, and on weekdays it's still dark when I return, though the sky has begun to lighten. I don't wear headphones at these times, and watch the sky to gauge how far into the park I can go. Can I run all the way in, by the river? (Only on weekends, when  I can leave the house later.) Can I run on the path that goes more or less parallel to the street? (Only if it's not overcast.) Much of time I content myself with staying on the sidewalk next to the park.

I remember now. When I run without headphones sometimes a song gets stuck in my head and that's what I hear for the duration of the run. Over and over, in an endless loop, just the bits of the song that I know. Yesterday: Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You." Except I don't even know the words, really, just bits and pieces of the music. Over and over for half a mile. It's a good thing I like the song.

Only a couple weeks more of shortening days. By the end of January I should be able to run along the river again. In the meantime I'll cross over the bridge and "settle" for the breathtaking view of the early morning sky reflecting off the river, with the dark trees on either side. I slow down and linger to take it all in.

Early morning blessings to you,
Annie


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Update on Holiday Baking

Turns out the brownies have been a big hit in our house... which is a shame because I already threw away the recipe. (I had a photocopy from a library book.) Well, I'm sure there's a better one out there, one that I can get out of the pan (and yes, I did let them cool completely first).

The Dude likes a more cake-like brownie and for him I will make his mother's brownie recipe at Christmas, eggs and butter and all. But D and I are fans of the fudgey, gooey brownie type, so I will keep experimenting with different plant-based ones.

Yes, I could get that book out of the library again, but given how poorly they fared getting out of the pan I don't think it's worth the effort. Plus the recipe was oddly fussy. I'll just keep looking for something else.

I had the pleasure of watching The Great Holiday Baking Show on ABC earlier this week. Apparently this is a holiday-themed remake of a British competition. I always want to watch baking competition shows, and when we used to stay at my mother-in-law's and she had cable she and I would watch the Food Network together. But those shows were always too frantic and I would end up doing something else. This show is more quietly paced and less cutthroat - at least so far - and it's only on for four weeks, so I'm looking forward to watching it in its entirety.

The Dude keeps grumbling about it but then reminds himself in the next breath that I don't fuss about him watching TV during various playoff weeks.

Looking forward to the last piece of pumpkin pie tonight,
Annie


Monday, November 30, 2015

What I've Been Up To (After the Marathon) (Part I)

Baking. Lots and lots of baking. Within the last ten days...

Birthday cake for G's birthday party. Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, covered with fresh blueberries and strawberries. Utter and complete hit with my guys. Me, I'm not wild about buttercream frosting, I may need to do more experimenting if I'm going to keep baking them cakes.

Cowboys Cookies for Monday Night Supper, to fulfill a pledge towards my Chicago Lights marathon fundraising. These are a favorite in our house: oatmeal cookies with pecans, coconut, and chocolate chips. I make some without chocolate chips for G, who's not fond of chocolate. Though he keeps trying it, bless his heart, since he doesn't like feeling left out.

I wasn't planning to bake again until Thanksgiving, but we all happened to be home on G's birthday, and he asked for cake. What? You just had cake! But that was for the party and now it was his birthday and he wanted cake (and we'd eaten nearly all of the first at the party). And it was early afternoon and I had nothing pressing to do and so I looked through my pantry and looked through my cookbooks, and I improvised a gingerbread cake with lemon glaze. The flavors were a little strong to start with, although G liked it just fine which was all that really mattered, but in subsequent days they mellowed and I think we may have a new holiday favorite. I've made a note for next time to be sure to bake it a day ahead of when I want it, to give the flavors a change to settle.

Then it was Thanksgiving and I made pumpkin pie. And we all enjoyed it, and then enjoyed having it for breakfast, and then again the next day. And then it was gone and we all felt we hadn't gotten enough pie, so on Saturday I made another one. Because, why not? And also, was I really going to make another pumpkin pie later this year, when there are now Christmas treats to be made? I didn't think so. Better to just make that pie now.

And then it was Sunday and I had a brownie recipe I wanted to try out (since I haven't found a completely satisfying plant-based one yet) and a colleague at work to bake for (another marathon pledge). That one, alas, was an epic fail. Well, maybe not epic - it tasted good enough - but it didn't hold together well enough to even consider presenting outside of the house. It will work very nicely at home for brownie sundaes at some point though, so I froze a portion of it and we'll nibble on some this week. And I didn't sacrifice really good chocolate or cocoa on it (just because I didn't have any of the fine stuff in the house) so I'm okay if we end up tossing whatever's left at the end of the week...

...Since clearly I'll be baking again next weekend. I've already made my schedule for December...

With sugar and spice and everything nice,
Annie




Monday, November 23, 2015

Snow What?

It was the first day of running on snow and ice today. I can't say I was thrilled about this as I got ready but once I got started I enjoyed myself.

Between the music I was listening to  and the intense focus on my footing, there wasn't any room in my head for thoughts of time, pace, or the like. Just noticing the sun on the snow and being grateful it wasn't colder.

I think the only way to approach running on Chicago sidewalks in the winter is to treat them as trail runs. You never know what kind of surface you'll be running on; it can switch from clear and dry to carefully packed down to icy knee-high caverns in the course of one block. It all depends on how the individual property owner maintains their stretch of sidewalk. So I step lightly and quickly and practice "monkey walk" when it looks icy (a technique I learned in kung fu years ago: keeping all joints slightly bent and sinking my center of gravity a bit lower).

And layer, layer, layer.

Carefully.
Annie

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Some Leftovers

And, as mentioned, we managed to get in a couple more movies before declaring Scary Movie Month officially over...

House on Haunted Hill (William Castle - 1959, with Vincent Price)
Funny, both of our last two movies centered around a group of people stuck together somewhere - no way in, no way out - and then people start to die... This one was nicely creepy with some scares without being too disturbing.

Identity (James Mangold - 2003, with John Cusazk, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet)
We watched this based on a recommendation from my aunt, and for the first half hour we were united in thinking that we wouldn't be taking her advice again any time soon! It just didn't seem to make any sense and there were so many characters. And then it started to get a little more interesting... and then a lot more... and then super creepy. And that character count went steadily down... Unlike House on Haunted Hill, however, this one was disturbing and stayed with me into the night (and the next morning). A good one to go out on!

And some scary books this month too!

Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot

And I'm currently reading Stacia Kane's Sacrificial Magic, Book 4 in her Downside Ghosts Series.

I don't bother finishing books I don't like (unlike movies) so these all get my recommendation.

I'm particularly interested to see what Nnedi Okorafor does next in her adult fiction (prior to this one she wrote for young adults) - I read her Who Fears Death first, and then this one, in opposite order from how they were written, and could quite clearly see that her writing was more sophisticated in the second book. Both books struggled with the pacing, I think, and both had endings that surprised me and tore at my heart and stayed with me. So I'm eager to see how her writing develops if she continues to write for adults.

I've read a sampling of Neil Gaiman's works over the years, mostly some of his graphic novels and then works for children. I find his "allusiveness" in the graphic novels a little overwhelming (this was a new word for me, it means the degree to which he alludes to other sources, in his case mostly fairy tales and myths from a variety of cultures plus classic British literature), which is why I've stayed away from his longer novels. But after reading The Ocean..., which had a very clear writing style and had me believing in his characters, I think I might be interested in reading more.

In between working my way through Stephen King, that is. I have no interest in reading everything by him (unlike my husband who is an SK completist), and in fact take a fair bit of time in deciding which ones I'm willing to read - with the result that everything I do read of his, I love. Plus I love his writing about himself. He is definitely on my list of people I would invite to a dinner party. Except in my experience of dinner parties you never get enough time with each person and I think I would be too intimidated to meet with him one-on-one.

And the Stacia Kane is just spooky sexy fun with some very deep ideas anchoring all the shouting and witchcraft and kissing.

And now into November,
Annie

Friday, October 30, 2015

Scary Movie Month 2015

I'm amazed at all we managed to view during Scary Movie Month this year, despite my marathon plans and The Dude's work commitments. Oh yes, and the Cubs were in the playoffs! That probably put the biggest crimp in our movie watching, at least for that week. But truly I'm amazed at how many movies we managed to see (and there are still a couple of nights available to us...)

I think we made such an effort in part because it was a hard month, and it was something we could look forward to together. Plus I didn't have to get up so early in the mornings any more... I'm kind of looking forward to being done with all these late nights, though.

There are so many I'm not feeling compelled to write in detail about all of these. Plus I never like to write too much in case someone wants to watch these --- I would hate to give away any plot-related spoilers. So not reviews so much as random thoughts.

Carrie (Brian de Palma - 1976)
Previously viewed in 2008.
Blood, blood, and more blood. And this time The Dude got surprised and jumped at the end (I was anticipating it). I've been reading a bunch of Stephen King lately, so it was kind of neat to see this movie again. It's short and tight and good.

Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii - 1995)
Partial viewing.
We liked this... but were tired... and the music was kind of mesmerizing... so we called it off rather than fall asleep on the couch. I'm glad to hear that Scarlett Johansson will be playing the lead in a live-action version of this, perhaps I'll manage to see it all the way through then. Also we couldn't quite follow what was going on... all that mesmerizing music, perhaps.

Sin City (Robert Rodriguez - 2005)
Previously viewed in the theater. Partial viewing.
I like this movie. Really, I do. It just got late and it's got quite a distinctive visual style which can be a little wearying so we only watched two of the three stories (it's composed of overlapping characters). I meant to pick it up again as the last story is my favorite of the three, but in the end other movies competed for our viewing time and won.

Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright - 2004)
Previously viewed in 2005.
What can I say, I love this movie. I wouldn't go so far as to say I would watch it once a month (as The Dude claimed), but certainly once a year. See it!

Monster House (Gil Kenan - 2006)
Previously viewed in 2007. Partial viewing (I was making dinner too).
I wish I could have seen the whole thing! We own it, though, so I suspect I will get other chances. The kids were a little unhappy to realize that it wasn't about a house full of monsters but rather a house that was a monster, they found that way creepier (I concur). They talked about that for a number of days afterwards. This is the first year that we made a point of watching a scary kids movie every week and I think they liked being part of our tradition.

Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock - 1943)
We're working our way through Hitchcock. Again, what can I say... he's a master. I can't think of anything I can complain about (well, the main female character, but she's of a certain type that just sets my teeth on edge so that's not a complaint about the movie). And some seriously scary moments, some subtle... lots of them subtle... and some just grip-the-pillow scary.

Firestarter (Mark Lester - 1984)
Very partial viewing.
The Dude reread this book recently and after watching Carrie I thought it was time to see this. I also recall wanting to see how Drew Barrymore was in it. But it just fell flat, I can't remember why now. After fifteen minutes I decided I would just rather reread the book myself again.

Simpson's Treehouse of Horror I (1990)
In the final days before the marathon and I wanted to get to bed early. This was a treat from years past.

It Came from Outer Space (Jack Arnold - 1953, from a story by Ray Bradbury)
A Svengoolie feature. Partial viewing.
We were enjoying this and I hated to cut it short, but the marathon called... Maybe another time.

Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Steve Box & Nick Park - 2005, voiced by Helena Bonham Carter & Ralph Fiennes)
Previously viewed in 2006.
Post-marathon viewing! It was the day afterwards and I was home with the kids since it was a school holiday. I almost never get to watch the whole movie with them (since I'm always making dinner at that time) but I made a point of it with this one. Good thing, too, since G got a little freaked out. He made it further than D did on his first time watching it, though. This is so fun.

Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson - 2008)
Previously viewed in 2009.
This is beautiful and haunting and your heart breaks multiple times watching it. When you're not being horrified by what you're seeing, of course. One of my favorites and an owner.

The Innkeepers (Ti West - 2011)
Nice haunted house/hotel story! Lots of creeps without being too graphic. We ended up breaking this into two nights which is always dangerous, especially with a quiet movie like this one, but the characters felt so real we wanted to see how they would handle things. We'll make a point of looking up his other work now.

The Cat and the Canary (directed by Elliot Nugent, starring Bob Hope - 1939)
A Svengoolie feature.
I love watching Svengoolie movies (Saturday night special at our house) but often don't make it past the first hour... and it's not the movie or the commentary that kills it for me but the commercials. So I fought to make it all the way through but I wanted to see this one, goshdarnit. Bob Hope was a blast and I wanted to be sure our leading lady didn't die (or get declared insane). And who was behind it all? Made it through, well satisfied, and then crawled up to bed.

All Cheerleaders Die (Lucky McKee & Chris Sivertson - 2013)
Awesome campy teenage witch revenge movie. At the end they hint at a second one to come but that hasn't happened yet. Interesting to see how the world has evolved too... a more contemporary look at rape and violence against women then we usually see in horror movies.

Terror Train (Roger Spottiswood - 1980, with Jamie Lee Curtis & David Copperfield)
Bwahahaha... Classic slasher film, before they got completely formulaic. The Dude picked this one up at our local thrift store so I suspect this will move into regular rotation. But nothing compares to the one that birthed them all... John Carpenter's Halloween.

Dial M for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock - 1954, with Grace Kelly)
Another Hitchcock. We picked this one out thinking my parents (who are with us for part of the month) might like to watch it, but they found other things to do. We enjoyed it nonetheless.

Hotel Transylvania (Genndy Tartakovsky - 2012, voiced by Adam Sandler among others)
Previously viewed in 2013.
Oh, this one is just fun. Fun, fun, fun. A little too hip with their musical sequences (those often don't age well, especially when heavy on the Auto-Tune), but I'll see it again. (And most likely, again, and again, and again.)

The Haunting (Robert Wise - 1963)
The Dude found this truly scary. I didn't, but it was certainly interesting enough. By now I've read enough references to the book this was based on, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, that I kind of feel I need to read that... except I don't. My love of Stephen King aside I don't ever set out to read scary books, it's just that some of them end up being that way...

Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon - 1985)
Oh, so gross. I covered my face a lot with this one. Apparently a cult classic. But I'd rather just watch Peter Jackson's Dead Alive again.

Vampires (John Carpenter - 1998)
We're also working our way through John Carpenter's movies. I've been reading Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot so I watched this with that in mind (also Buffy: Vampire Slayer, it had a very Buffy feel to it). I wouldn't say this was a must-see, and certainly not in my top-five John Carpenter list, but enjoyable.

We've got two more nights to go and lots and lots of choices...

Spookily yours,
Annie

Friday, October 16, 2015

Yes, I Am A Marathoner

Well, I've now run a marathon without sufficient training. This is a new experience for me, and one I don't plan to repeat. But a useful experience, I suspect, especially as I continue to contemplate longer distances.

Here's the overview of the race. My memory does get hazy over the last ten miles. But I ran smoothly for 16 miles, and then started taking extra breaks in order to get more fuel in. Only I found it wasn't so easy to get started again... Still, I was able to keep moving well enough through mile 19, and 20, and 21, I think. I do remember thinking about halfway through mile 18 that, wow, I've just run farther than in any of my training runs, and I'm feeling pretty good.

(A side note: I didn't run with my Garmin and instead just checked my watch from time to time. At the halfway mark I was on course to not only break the 5:00 mark but to smash it.)

I don't know exactly when everything started to hurt and I could no longer run more than a few minutes at a time. As I kept going it became harder and harder and I hurt more and more. The pain wasn't localized, as in my last marathon. It was just everywhere. I wasn't tired, I had energy, it just hurt.

I was frustrated that I couldn't think my way into finding strength, as I know it's possible to do and as I have in the past. In hindsight I see that I hadn't planned for this kind of possibility and so hadn't prepared any strategies.

The last two miles came and I checked in with myself, can I push forward? At this point I still could have finished under 5 hours if I'd been able to run more or less consistently. I wanted to. I so wanted to.

But somewhere near the one mile mark I noticed my leg muscles were beginning to spasm. I decided then not to worry about running and just worry about crossing the finish line. I was walking strong when I was walking --- head up, arms moving --- but I know during that last mile I also started grimacing, it was taking so much from me.

At 800 meters to go I gave up on even trying to run --- I wanted to be able to for the last little stretch in and I needed to save my energy for that.

At 400 meters (when we turn and go up the rise) I looked at my watch and saw it read 5:00 on the nose. All along the course the phrase "run your own race" had been with me, courtesy of The Dude, and at that moment, that day, my race was not going to break five hours. So be it.

At 100 meters (when we make that last turn and the finish line is right ahead) I decided by God I was going to cross it running, and I did, but then stopped as soon as I crossed, my legs spasming, and a volunteer rushed over and put her arm around me and walked with me through the finish chute (I think it's about another quarter mile). She asked if this was my first marathon (no), if it was my first one in this heat (no), and then just walked with me while I got water and put an electrolyte tab in (she had to open the bottle for me), and then picked up the food bag and beer and got my medal and picked up a bag of ice (that was a nice touch, I hadn't seen that before). She asked if I wanted my photo taken - Hell no. By the end of finish chute I assured her I would be okay and she left.

I sat down on the side of the curb at that point (you can't stop while in the finish chute), and drank my beer and looked in my food bag to see if there was anything that looked helpful, and iced one area of my legs and then another until I started feeling a little better. Then I got up and walked, stiffly, slowly, to get my gear bag and then I left the park and started home, stopping by a mini-mart on the way to the train to get some snacks a little more palatable than the ones they were offering and some seltzer .

For all the frustrations I had going into this marathon --- with my training, the last days of taper, some of the details of the day, and definitely with my headspace the day before --- I somehow managed not to be too frustrated by the race itself, at least not in the moment. (Later, sure, but that's no surprise.) In fact, my overwhelming feeling was pride. Pride that I had done it. Pride that I hadn't let these frustrations take away my experience of it. Pride that I'd had a good fueling plan and stuck to it. I had the feeling that I owned this marathon in a way I hadn't my previous ones, that it was mine. I would say this is the first time that I really felt like a marathoner.

So I got my medal engraved and I've bought some commemorative swag. And I don't have anything to prove to myself this season still so I'm taking the time I need to properly recover. I have lots of thoughts and ideas about next year and the year after that but I'm not putting anything down on paper (or here) until I feel completely myself again.

But I am so doing this again.

Still resting,
Annie

Saturday, October 10, 2015

So, There's This Race Coming Up...

I've done a lot of thinking thus summer about what I want from this marathon and how it might be different from my previous ones. Both of my official attempts were disappointing in one way or the other, although obviously not enough to keep me from trying again! So I've read my previous marathon reports and looked at my old training logs leading up to them, to see what I struggled with and what I wanted to address. It was interesting to see how my memory of them had shifted over time.

In both cases there was some factor out of my immediate control that impacted me. In 2010, it was the heat. In 2013, it was hitting the wall and then pain in my knee.

But in both I did not have a realistic expectation for my time/pace, and that probably had the biggest negative impact on how I went into the day and in my experience of the event. It took some very focused effort in 2013 to change my thinking halfway through and to start enjoying myself.

I started off this year thinking I had a good chance of meeting my ultimate goal for a marathon (sub-4:25). My first break in training came and went (a week in Ohio at the beginning of July) and with it any realistic hopes of meeting that goal. Just because going on that trip gave me time to think about the big-picture goals for my life --- as trips so often do --- and I realized I didn't want to commit to the training I would need to do this year to reach that time, as I have other goals also taking my attention. I still believe that one day I'll be able to reach it, I just think it will take me more than a summer's worth of training to get there.

I wen through July and August feeling good about my mileage, although not necessarily about my speed. At this point I was doing no speed or tempo workouts, just running 6 days a week with progressively higher mileage. I was also not doing any strength training, in part because of ongoing issues with my shoulder, and in part because of lack of time. I was also barely doing any stretching, again for lack of time. Nearly all my runs were early morning ones and I would come home and immediately have to jump in to getting myself and the kids ready for the day.

Then at the end of August we went to Germany for a week, and when we came back the wheels went completely off the track. I had stayed reasonably active while there, so then came back and jumped right back into my previous training without thinking how I might need to recover from the trip itself. (Trips to see family are many things, but they are never restful.) I had my highest ever mileage week, topped off by my 18 mile long run, then gardened like crazy on my "rest" day, then started right back in... and crashed and burned, unable to run with any energy or for longer than a few miles. I thought I would just need a few days of easy running to recover but it ended up being more like two weeks, and by then it was time to taper.

Once I realized I was in serious shape I decided to act as if I didn't have a marathon coming up. Easy runs at first, more stretching, putting back some easy strength and core training... all the stuff I've not been doing this summer but really needed to have kept up with. And eventually I started feeling more like myself again and thinking I might be able to do this.

But not quickly. And, I think, without any time goal.

Of course I have hopes. I do really want to break 5 hours, since I haven't managed to do it yet and every time I've expected to. Allowing for at least one porta-pottie break (with wait to get in), that would require an average 11:15 pace. And really I'd like to maintain an 11:00 pace. Looking at my long runs, that's not an unrealistic goal. So it's certainly reasonable to hope for that. (Though with the temperatures forecast to be in the mid-70s, that turns an 11:00 pace into... an 11:15 one.)

But weighing against those time goals are three memories. Three good ones, not just the memories of what it's like to run with just a time goal in mind. (It sucks, at least at that distance.)

The first is of the one marathon that was "successful". My birthday challenge from last year. I took lots of walk breaks, going by distance and feel, rather than time. I refueled constantly. And I had no expectations about time. The result? No wall. No pain. I felt amazing during the last six miles. I could have done more. (In retrospect I wish I had, just to have broken that 50K mark for myself.)

The second is from that 2013 marathon, once I gave up on time. I started to really enjoy myself, looking around more and enjoying the sights and sounds of the city turned out to support us. When I hit the wall and had to start walking, I told myself, "Well then, I'm going to walk with pride." I put on some good tunes, gave high fives, smiled at everyone, waved at the kids. Then when I got tired of walking ("Man, it will take me a long time to finish this way!") I just ran when I could, taking in the love and giving it out.

And the last one is a more recent memory. On my last long run I left the house in a downpour, so I didn't have my iPod out for most of the run and it was just me and my thoughts, for hours. Somewhere around mile 15 I thought, "This is a journey." And it was kind of a mind-blowing vision. I know this is a cliche in running circles... and this was definitely fueled by exhaustion... but I had never felt it so clearly before. And I wondered, what would it be like to run the actual marathon with that as my focus.

So, as before, my desire to meet a time goal is warring with my desire to just run this and see what happens (and leave the time goals for shorter distances). My better self knows which one is right for me.

I've counted my carbs and mapped out my fueling. I'm prepared to take as many walk breaks as necessary, especially as it gets hotter. And I'm leaving my Garmin at home and will just wear my kids' Timex. I'll set the timer function so I can have a general idea of the time but otherwise strive to not focus on it. And try to take it all in...

Good travels, friends,
Annie

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Changing Lives, One at a Time: Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

There's one more program in the Chicago Lights family that I want to talk about here, the Elam Davies Social Service Center.

Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center (EDSSC) meets basic human needs while working with partner agencies to support persons on their journey toward greater stability and self-sufficiency. Its services include case management, a food pantry, clothing assistance, housing assistance, job-readiness training, street outreach, and support groups. With the exception of the food pantry, there are no geographic boundaries or eligibility requirements. Their goal is to serve all neighbors with dignity and respect.
This program has changed so much in the fifteen years that I've been working for Fourth Church. Back then it primarily addressed the immediate needs of the men and women who came through --- clothing, food, emergency transportation --- and did so out of a couple of dark, cramped rooms of the church basement. They're still in the basement but have now taken over the whole wing, and the space is bright, colorful, and cheerful. And the focus now includes addressing long-term issues of homelessness and poverty, both on an individual basis, and through legal advocacy at the state level. In particular, their case management program works with each guest individually to assist them in addressing their particular needs, from obtaining legal identification to learning how to budget. They also have a street outreach program now, going out to deliver needed basic-care items and to encourage the folks they encounter to come in to the EDSSC for help with housing.

Here's a sampling of what contributions can bring:

  • $25 can provide a birth certificate and new ID card for a guest applying for jobs or housing, or a new outfit for a guest interviewing for multiple job opportunities.
  • $50 can provide 50 sets of hand warmers to distribute to those on the streets in winter, or 40 winter hats, or 8 weeks of fresh produce.
  • $100 can provide 100 pairs of reading glasses, or 4 application fees for single room occupancy apartments, or a month's worth of unlimited public transportation for a guest to find and keep employment.
  • $1000 can provide an apartment application fee, first month's rent, and security deposit for a guest in low-income housing.

It's been amazing to see how this program has changed over the years. They truly are changing lives, one at a time.

In five days time I'll be running 26.2 miles in honor and support of the amazing people --- staff, volunteers, students, and guests --- who are involved with Chicago Lights. You can read about the other programs here and here... you can contribute here (and if you do so know that I will bake something for every pledge of $45 or more)... and you can track me by signing up here (under Anne Ellis, bib 30659).

Wish me luck!
Annie




Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chicago Lights: CLASS and Free Write Programs

Today I want to tell you about two programs of Chicago Lights that I hold especially dear: CLASS (Chicago Lights Academic Success in Schools) and Free Write Jail Arts. Here are brief descriptions from their website:
Chicago Lights Academic Success in Schools (CLASS) supports learning and creative self-expression through fine arts programs for students in under-resourced schools. Throughout the school year professional artists teach drama and dance classes which uncover talents, build self-esteem and confidence, and increase students' desire to apply themselves in school. Courses are offered during the school day and are integral to students’ learning process. The curriculum is closely linked to state standards and includes detailed assessments.
Chicago Lights Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy at Nancy B. Jefferson School (Free Write) provides the only one-to-one literacy tutoring available to more than 400 youth incarcerated in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Free Write seeks to reduce recidivism and help students find meaningful pathways to self-expression and further education through daily writing and arts workshops.
Some of you reading this blog may not know that I have an MA in Expressive Therapies with a focus on art. Basically, these are forms of therapy that take the arts --- visual, music, dance, drama, poetry --- as the form of expression, as opposed to traditional psychotherapy. Different therapists and different client groups may rely more or less on speech as well, but all share the conviction that the arts can be used as (or inherently are) healing modalities --- that art can heal.

Although in the end I decided not to work in this field, I fervently believe in the healing power of art. So I was excited when I first came across Chicago Lights and heard about the work of these two programs. Typically, in Chicago an "under-resourced school" also means that it stands in a poor neighborhood - and violence and generational poverty are epidemic in these areas. The youth in the Juvenile Detention Center are also overwhelmingly from these neighborhoods. Living in these places is inherently a traumatic experience, because even if your family is intact, even if you have somehow managed to avoid direct personal contact with any kind of violence, there is no way to avoid witnessing it, to avoid knowing people who have experienced it. And the effects even just of witnessing trauma on the young are well documented. (If you want to learn more about it, I recommend this manual created for people working with children - it's easy to read and thorough.) Art can be a force in addressing this trauma, both directly --- as in the brave writing of the Free Write students --- and indirectly.

And, of course, I think the arts should be a vital part of every students' education. Never mind all the benefits they supposedly confer on kids' abilities to learn other things --- I'm sure that's all true, but I think they are of value to us, just because. (We're sending our kids to a school with an arts focus, so you know I feel seriously about this.) Oh, but these schools, being "under-resourced", are of course lacking in arts programming, as that's usually the first thing to go when resources start getting tight.

So, for all this and more, I am grateful to Chicago Lights for placing the arts front and center in their programming. Their students' lives are richer and more hopeful for doing so.

You can donate to Chicago Lights through my campaign. Right now I'm $375 from my final goal of $1500.00 and amazed and honored by the support people have shown. I have a whole lot of cookies to start baking! (Because of my pledge to bake for anyone donating $45 or more.) And of course most of those will be going to the Sunday Night Supper hosted by Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center (I'll be writing about them next week) --- most people have wanted their cookies to go to that supper rather than their personal pantries.

With gratitude,
Annie




Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gone and Back Again

I was away at the end of August visiting my parents in Germany (and then school started and work got busy so no posts...) --- it was my first trip back in eight years and the first time the kids had been there.

It was the perfect age to visit with them. They are old enough now that they could really enjoy themselves, ask questions, and handle the new challenges we were asking of them. And not need constant attention, so The Dude and I could spend some time relaxing and enjoying our own interests as well. The weather was great, even the predicted rain was nowhere near as bad as we had expected. And it felt like a great end to the summer. We went on walks and hikes in the countryside, swam in a lake on a beautifully sunny day, made a shopping/sightseeing trip into Munich, visited two castles, saw a children's opera/play, hung out with Oma and Opa, and visited biergartens and parks. I enjoyed going through my mother's garden and then, in the evenings, her collection of gardening books. And we all enjoyed lots of good bread. (Possibly a little too much.)

A brief view from Schloss Lindenhof:
D took this photo, that's why he's not in it.
There was very little running (lots of walking and hiking) and not the best sleep, between my jet lag and then G's struggles with sleeping in a new place. I meant to ease into these last weeks of running before the marathon but I think I took it too hard that first week back. I had a miserable week last week and ended up abandoning some runs and cutting others significantly back, so now I'm just trying to rest and recover some energy and enthusiasm before the big day. The response to my fundraising has been good so that helps!

And soon it's time for Scary Movie Month! I need to sit down and think about what movies I want to watch.

Trying to sleep more,
Annie


Friday, August 21, 2015

Changing Lives, One at a Time (Chicago Lights)

Regular readers of my blog are very aware that I’m training to run a marathon. But did you know why? (Other than that I love to run.) Especially since after my last one I swore never to run another road marathon again?

Well, I was offered the opportunity to be on a team to raise funds for Chicago Lights, an organization connected with the church I work for.

If you live in Chicago you’re well aware of the ongoing insanity of our public school system. There are real improvements in individual schools (such as the one my sons go to), but these improvements are typically driven by parents and homeowners in the community surrounding these schools. Overall, the system is a mess, and if you’re a student in an area plagued by poverty, it’s unlikely you’re getting what you need. Chicago is also a very segregated city, with vast disparities in the resources provided across neighborhoods. I imagine it’s not that different in most major cities in the United States.

The Chicago Lights programs work directly with children, youth, and adults from some of Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods (and in partnership with other agencies and businesses around the city) to address some of the root causes of poverty and create change, one person at a time.

There are six programs in the Chicago Lights family and I’ve gotten to work closely with several of them over the years.

Chicago Lights Tutoring helps students from low-income communities improve their academic performance, stay in school through high school graduation, and prepare for higher education and meaningful careers, through one-to-one tutoring sessions and access to career development opportunities, plus healthy meals and other enrichment programs. They just celebrated their 50-year anniversary!

Then over the summer, Chicago Lights Summer Day provides a safe place to learn and take part in academic and arts classes for 1st-8th graders each summer. This is especially important in our city where so many schools are struggling and where gang violence rises during the summer months.

The Chicago Lights Urban Farm provides job training and youth development, as well as nutrition, science and arts activities for younger children. Families come to learn about nutrition and healthy cooking, and have access to affordable, organic produce. It also provides a true sanctuary in a sometimes violent and dangerous neighborhood. (I worked here in its first years when it was a community garden.)

Part of my job involves overseeing a school supply drive that provides backpacks to the students in the Summer Day and Urban Farm programs, and supplies to the Tutoring program, so I’ve gotten to know their staff over the years and see many of these kids grow. I've gotten to see and hear firsthand from the students and their parents the impact these programs have made in their lives, the opportunities that have opened up to them through the programs' offerings and their hard work.

I’ll write more on the other Chicago Lights programs later this summer. It's an honor to be able to support them, and I hope you will consider supporting them through me as I run this summer.

And, as in past years, to sweeten the deal, for every donation of $45 or more I will bake a batch of cookies, or cupcakes or pie if you live in delivery distance. (Some people have chosen to have their cookies donated to one of the Chicago Lights meals programs instead. Just something to think about.)
 
To support my fundraising for them, go to http://www.active.com/donate/2015BOAChiMarathon/anne_ellis.
And for more information on Chicago Lights, go to http://www.chicagolights.org/.

Gratefully, 


Annie

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You Oughta Be in Pictures

I was impressed with myself this morning - I managed to get up early, run 7 miles, shower, eat breakfast, get the boys dressed and fed - all before 7:00 a.m. so I could bring G to the eye doctor for his mandated appointment (he's starting at a new school this fall). I felt like a movie mom - I even dressed the part in a smart shift dress, flats, lightweight sweater - with my child nicely turned out in matching clothes and mini backpack. And he was reasonably well behaved! We should have taken photos because I'm not sure we'll ever see such coordination of schedule or attire again.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Soldier Field 10M - Race Report (Two Months Late)

Well, this report comes only two and a half months after the race, not too bad, right?

I had been watching the weather the week before this race, hoping it would stay cool. While it wasn't too bad, when I stepped outside in the morning I barely needed my extra pants and sweatshirt - not a good sign. And by the time I stepped into the start corral the air was warm, a nice day for a walk but not for a race.

I had a light bowl of cereal and a cup of tea, and brought coffee for the road along with half a banana. I also brought plenty for pre- and mid-race fueling: a Vega gel, half a package of Clif Bloks, a GU. Once I got there I still didn't want to take much in so I decided to trust in the carb-loading I'd been doing, had the Clif Bloks right before the start along with a little water, and tucked the GU into my pocket for during the race. 
  • Mile 1: A good start - the corrals were well organized and things felt smooth. I felt I had a good pace. (9:34)
  • Mile 2: I sped up a bit more than I meant to, I could tell I wouldn’t be able to sustain that the whole way and could burn out too early. I started trying to pull back. (9:00)
  • Mile 3: Still a bit too quick. (9:08)
  • Mile 4: I took my first water and walk break and used it to adjust my pace. (9:32)
  • Mile 5: Right on pace. Then a big downhill! (9:01)
  • Mile 6: Halfway done. Then the terrain changed as we moved from streets on to the lakefront path. It became more crowded and the footing less even. I stopped to walk and have my GU. (9:59)
  • Mile 7: It was getting hot but I kept keeping steady, or so I thought. When it’s hot it takes more effort to maintain pace, so really I was slowing down. (9:41)
  • Mile 8: Mistook an early unofficial water stop as my planned one and took another water break, then wondered why this mile felt so long. It became even harder to move - I started to weave between people more. (9:38)
  • Mile 9: Another slower mile, between the people and the heat. (9:40)
  • Mile 10: I realized I was going to have to pull it all out in the last mile if I wanted to make my goal – and I did want to – and I did. (9:05)
 Final time: 1:34:08 (9:25 pace). Positive split.

I was proud of myself and everything I did to make this happen: training, taper, fueling, my pacing on the course (not perfect but improved from past races). I was happy to use this result to determine my paces for the marathon training.

And still...

I wasn't that much faster than what was predicted for me, based on my training plan for this race - but my paces on tempo runs and speed workouts were consistently faster than what the plan called for (I was running more distance too). I felt I could have gone faster. 

We’re always looking to improve, right? That’s okay.

I basically ran this at the same pace as my last race (the Hot Chocolate 15K last November), which was only a little bit shorter. My training would have suggested that I improve my time more... so why didn't I?

Some ideas:
  1. I was carrying about ten more pounds on me than when I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K.
  2. It wasn’t a hot day, but it was warm, and the effects of that will show up over time (especially when carrying extra weight).
  3. My pacing throughout could have been better.
  4. There was a lot of back and forth from the pavement to the shoulder during the second half. I would have done better to have stayed on the pavement except for when going downhill.
  5. I could do still more to push myself – I’ve improved with time and experience but I could still do better.
At the same time I enjoyed every moment of this race, even when it was painful. And there were a couple of special moments that I will remember:

Having the opportunity to fly down trails on the side of the course a couple of times during the second half. We had a few downhills and the course was crowded at those times - plus when running downhill I prefer to run on dirt, it’s easier on my legs. Almost no one else was doing so and it felt great to fly by people, hurtling down the hill, leaping over uneven spots and just letting it rip. Flying. I have dreams about running sometimes and they have this same sort of feeling.

I came up alongside a dear friend – I didn’t know she was running this race and it was such a pleasure to see her. One look at her face and I could see she was struggling (and didn’t want me to stop or slow down for her), so I left and then waited for her at the end and grabbed her and helped her get what she needed. We hung out together after the race and then took the train home together. I only see her a few times a year but she is a deep friend and it was such a blessing to see her at this.

Overall, a great day and a great race. And now…

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lessons from a Miserable Tempo Run

  1. Just accept that any intense run, done in the middle of a string of running days, is going to be hard.
  2. Remember to adjust goal pace for the heat.
  3. Forget sunglasses and just wear a hat. That way you can read your watch correctly.
  4. Corollary to above: Don't go out too fast.
  5. Gels or fluids only. No gummies, dried fruit, or anything you have to chew.
  6. Take more frequent walk breaks to compensate for the heat.
  7. And if you really can't do it, slow down, adjust your plan for that run, and forge on as best you can.
Grateful now for the foresight to bring extra electrolyte tabs in to work earlier this week, and a quiet schedule for the rest of the day. And ready for a decaf soy latte (carbs and protein for recovery, some caffeine for a little boost, and heat to combat the chill from the run + air conditioning).

Annie



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tech Talk

Some little updates on the tech front...

It took me a while to get used to the new watch - it has a more abrasive tone than my old one so I don't like using it as an alarm clock as much. And the buttons are slightly different, though now that I've figured them out for each function it's actually easier to use, mostly.

What has surprised me most about this new one is that I've found myself just wearing it as a watch during the day. I know, what a concept, but I hadn't worn a watch except for running for years. I've been using it as a timer throughout the day which I like being able to do (it's much easier to use than the timer on my cell phone), and now I can check the time when I'm on the phone more easily. I can check the time, period. Mind you, it doesn't mean I'm any more likely to be on time, but that's not one of the habits I'm working on.

Also on the tech front, not long after my previous watch died my iPod shuffle did too. Too much getting drenched in heavy rain. My previous one died this way too, which I'd forgotten, so now I'm not wearing an iPod at all when it rains. We have an old Mac setup and there's a lot it doesn't support anymore so I figured I was just out of luck and would have to get used to running without music or podcasts. Ever again. (I was not thrilled about this taking place during marathon season.)

But The Dude managed to find one last version that our computer system will support and bought two, one for me and one as a backup for him. It means I have to set it up on his computer rather than on my even older laptop - I imagine it will be months until I figure out all of the music I think he's missing and get that transferred - and again, it functions somewhat differently than my old shuffle and I will have to get used to that as well. But at least I have music again.

Every now and again I stumble upon the cabinet that the towel I wrapped my old watch in is in. (Our laundry room has lots of cabinets, most of which I don't use, so I end up forgetting which ones I do use.) I think about unrolling the towel to see if the watch could possibly still be beeping, but haven't actually done so yet - I think it would feel slightly creepy if it still were. So I just open up that cabinet, remember what's in there, and then close it again.

Annie



Friday, July 17, 2015

Not Happening As Planned

Well, I got through most of the first week of the "real" training (using the Hansons Marathon Method) and then went on vacation. I thought my time away would feel like a rest but quite the opposite was true - I came back feeling physically wrecked.

I had also started a couple of serious writing projects right before I left and was able to use the time away to really focus on habit-building around those - and came back not wanting to give those habits up or put them on hold.

So I woke up early on Monday morning facing the first of the Something of Substance runs for the week... and thought, Nope. This is not going to be sustainable.

I went ahead and put in the miles (though I pulled back on the intensity of it all) and that was fine, and then later that day I pulled up another possible training plan from the Runners' World SmartCoach program, which I've used before. And the next day I reviewed the concepts from Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel by Matt Fitzgerald, a book I highly recommend to all serious runners. And then I just let things float around in my head for a while.

And then on Wednesday I made myself some tea and pulled out a pencil and a calendar and made up my own training plan, one that I think incorporates most of the essentials (and most of the mileage) of the Hansons method while having a greater focus on the kind of running I like best, and will therefore want to do, and being a bit easier on my schedule as well, so I don't need to give up any newly minted writing habits.

And if I don't hit the time goals I had set my eye on with the Hansons method, well, there was never a guarantee of that anyway. I have yet to finish a marathon feeling sure and steady throughout, and that is really where my first focus needs to be. I think I know what I need to do in training to achieve that goal and I think my new plan actually allows more room for focusing on my weaknesses (in-race nutrition, proper carb-loading and tapering, consistent and persistent pacing) while giving me more opportunities to play, to enjoy my running.

Because that, my friends, is what it is all about.

Happy Running,
Annie

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What We Do For Our Children

As usual, we spent the first week of July in Ohio, visiting my mother-in-law and making the annual trip to Kings Island. No running at all on this trip and not nearly enough hiking either - too many mosquitos, for one, and G is not such a fan of hiking as D was at that age (we have moved on from the stroller, much to his occasional regret). A lot of walking, though, and being tugged at - a lot of picking up and carrying. My shoulder is not happy with me - my PT will not be either. Sometimes it's tough being three-and-a-half.

I did have a new adventure. No stroller meant no stroller at Kings Island, either, which meant both kids were able to have their own experience of it. We split up most of the day, each taking one child, and while I was mostly with G, I did get to hang out with D for part of the day.

"We can do whatever I want?"

"Yes." (Within reason, of course, but he's such a reasonable child I didn't even have to say that.)

"I want to go on the Adventure Express."

O-kay. What have I gotten myself into? But okay. Must not show fear.

I should mention that I am not a fan of heights and have only slowly been working up to riding roller-coasters at all.

Almost no line. "Secure your belongings." Four sets of three rows of seats, two across. Strap on, restraining bar down. A sign before us says hands, feet, arms and legs must stay in the car. "Clear?" "All clear." And off we went.

The point of this coaster - and why D loved it - appeared to be to throw you around, very fast, in tight turns. One slow rising and a view of the park from up high, then down and immediately into a turn into another into a tunnel into a turn. Then I lost track. I wasn't expecting all the being thrown about and was holding myself too tightly, bracing myself - my shoulder hurt, my neck hurt, everything hurt. But the boy was loving it. We came into the landing. "Can we do it again?" Almost no line. "Okay."

So we rode it again, and again, and again, and would have snuck in one last time for lucky #5 but the line suddenly swelled and we needed to get back to the others. After the first time through I cradled my shoulder and let everything else get very loose, relaxing myself as much as possible so it wouldn't hurt and I could enjoy myself.

But mostly, I enjoyed D.

Fondly,
Annie


Thursday, July 2, 2015

No Más

I've started physical therapy for my shoulder, and the first thing the therapist told me - after listening to what I do and what I did and poking me and measuring muscle strength and range of motion and that good thorough physical therapist stuff - was, no boxing. At least, not until I was allllll better.

I had slowly started doing some again - only what I felt I could do without pain - but my PT said even this was too much. That if I continued I would only be wasting our time.

So we're looking at a couple of months here, minimum, and by then I will be well and truly in the thick of marathon training and unable to fit anything else into my schedule, so that effectively means no boxing until after the marathon. Which is why I was trying to integrate a little bit back into my schedule, even 5 or 10 minutes a few times a week, so that it could remain just part of what I do.

But now, three weeks into that command, I find I'm surprisingly okay with it. (For now.)

As I read more accounts of the study of fighting the more I come to think that for me physically it's all about refining my running anyway. (Developing more strength and explosiveness. More guts.).

And that in the rest of my life it's about sharpening my focus and strengthening discipline and developing fearlessness.

I have no desire to hurt or be hurt, even if I like to hit. But there is so much to learn from the study of fighting.

From my favorite writer on the martial arts: "We are all fighting something."

What am I fighting?
What might I accomplish in that fight?

Seems like a good time to pick up meditation again.

Always striving -
Annie

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pushing Things (Just a Little)

Monday morning was steamy and dark and I was tired, despite Sunday having been my "rest day". And not very excited by the prospect of six miles before breakfast. So I did what I do when I just have to get through some miles and it's a distance I can manage - I play. With speedwork. I figured it would make the time go faster along with the miles, and it would make me feel more confident about the start of proper speedwork next week. So I did five quarter-mile repeats, not trying for a certain pace but just to pick the things up a bit - get my legs and head used to the idea of working that way again (it's been about a month now since I did any).

It felt good - and it was fun - so much so that I decided to make my Thursday run a tempo run. Maintain marathon pace for 3 miles in the middle of a longer run into work. Not a lot compared to what I've done in the past or even what I'll have to do next week - but something to get myself used again to doing these more intense workouts. And again, it felt good, stretching and challenging myself and taking away some of the fear of what will come next. Because, you know, I start every speed or tempo run not knowing if I can do it, afraid that I can't.

I train to push my mind and my heart - my guts - as much as my body.

I've done a lot of comfortable running this past month - pushing myself with changes to my schedule and with increases in my total weekly mileage - but each of the individual runs have been easy. At a comfortable pace and with no real doubt that I would be able to do it, even if I was tired or if things got harder by the end. I am stubborn and determined and it's been a long time since I didn't finish a run. So just putting in miles doesn't scare me.

I am ready to be scared.

Manageably.

Bring it on.

~ Annie

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Two Weeks Now

Warning: Technical training stuff ahead.

On this new training plan (Hansons Marathon Method) I will eventually be training six days a week with three easy runs (still up to 8 miles, though) and three runs that they call "something of substance" (SOS): a long run, a tempo run, and a speed or strength run. Typically I've run 3-5 days in the week with only two "SOS" runs, for an average of 18-24 miles per week, so this is definitely a step up for me.

(I am used to working out 5-6 times a week, just not all running.)

The first week of the plan starts with only three days running for a total of 10 miles, increases mileage slowly over the first month, but then jumps from 21 to 39 miles within just two weeks. That seemed like a recipe for injury to me. Since I'd already been running more in preparation for my race, I decided to ramp up my schedule within the earlier weeks so Week 6 wouldn't be such a shock - to my routine, to my mind, to my iliotibial band.

(The plan does call for those who have already been doing higher mileage to start where one is and let the plan catch up - not exactly what I'm doing but in the same spirit.)

So over the last four weeks I've been adding in more runs in the week, keeping them short to start, and also doing as many early morning runs as possible, as that's been a huge mental shift to adjust to. I've also been scheduling my longer runs to mimic the schedule I'll have once the SOS runs start, also in Week 6. That way once Week 6 comes I'll already be familiar with as much as possible - the schedule, the time of day, the mileage - and all I'll have to adapt to will be the higher intensity of the SOS runs. As if that weren't quite enough of a shock.

I need to get serious about stretching too.

I've now finished the second week of six-run weeks, and while I'm tired, for sure, I can feel myself adapting. At first the early morning runs seemed hard and now they feel normal; at first the idea of running every day seemed impossible and now I look forward to it. So I'm excited to start the "real" training in a couple of weeks. It also helps that I'll be taking vacation right in the middle of that first week so I know my legs will catch a break between this initial phase and when things get really serious.

I'll start posting my training plan for the week once I get into the thick of it so you can see exactly what I am doing (or failing to do).

Determinedly,
Annie

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Day After

We've had rain four days in a row (and will get more later this week) - with torrential rain yesterday, unbelievable amounts of rain, just sheets of water coming from the sky. I got soaked not once but twice and the boys too - the house smells like wet shoe.

But today the air is clear and the sun is out - this morning on my run the whole world felt fresh, with everything green and shimmering. And open: after days of heavy gray everything felt as if it were reaching out. The peach of the sunrise reflecting on a seagull's wings, as it soared above the trees that kept me from the seeing the sunrise itself. Sunlight sparkling on the puddles as I walked G to school. Our pumpkin plants, grown two inches in a night.

And oh yes, the red and black worn by our neighbors on the sidewalks, the bus, the train as people made their way to work without umbrellas or raincoats to cover them. Did I mention that the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup yesterday too? It's been fun seeing people wear their Blackhawks shirts all across the city.

Delightedly,
Annie

Friday, June 12, 2015

And Now It's Gone

Twelve years ago, when I moved to the north side of Chicago, I walked one day into Fleet Feet in Lincoln Square and bought myself a sports watch, my first one, so I could time myself running. And since I am somewhat tech-phobic and also because I have a small wrist, I bought myself a kid's sport watch, a Timex Ironman Kids.

You should be able to see where this is going.
Eventually the band became stretched out and I couldn't wear it anymore. Some time before then it had also morphed into being my alarm clock and also a timer (for meditation and strength exercises), so it was still an essential part of my daily routines.

And now it's gone.

Three days ago I was using it as a timer for exercises and after the first round it just didn't turn on. (0:00:00). And then it went blank. And then, horribly, as I pressed different buttons to see if I could get it to work, it started beeping - and it hasn't stopped since. I have it wrapped up in a towel in the basement hoping that the battery will finally wear out - it has to, right? - we don't have a small enough screwdriver to remove the battery ourselves. The Dude has kindly offered to smash it for me but I just can't picture doing that to my running, my sleeping, my self-improvement buddy.

I'm going to miss this guy.

The Dude offered that now would be a good time to get an actual alarm clock. Yes... I suppose. But after a couple of days of looking around online I ended up ordering this instead:

Timex Kids' T78751 "Digital Flames" Watch with Black Cloth Band
I looked into getting another blue one 
but that just felt wrong.
It should arrive Monday.

And in the meantime I'm using my phone - not the most relaxing way to fall asleep or wake up (or check the time in the middle of the night).

Goodbye, old friend.
Annie

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Garden Runs Amok

Because, why not?
This summer it seems all our rain is falling on the weekends - exactly the days I have to work in the garden. So things are a little... chaotic back there right now.

However, I did go out in the rain to harvest cilantro and thyme for two different recipes. It's wonderful to be able to use herbs I grew, makes me very hungry for more.

I think zucchini plants are in my future. I felt very silly buying them in the store when I know I could have an abundance of them at home. (Yes, I realize I would still have to buy them most of the year, but still.)

And I just got this book from the library:

Nom, nom, nom.

Experimenting,
Annie