Thursday, October 27, 2016

What I've Been Getting Up Early For

Well to run, obviously, but why? And why so early, to run quite so far?

Well, I've decided that 2017 is the year for my first ultra - a 50K in fact. The exact date hasn't been set yet, but if this group holds true to form, it will be the second Saturday in April, so April 8, 2017. My official training plan starts next week but I've been preparing to start it over the last two months, increasing my weekly mileage to 30-35 miles per week and getting in a midweek mid-distance run. And working on my core!

I've wanted to run an ultra for a long time - like, ever since I started running, about 18 years ago. And I just kind of figure if not now, then when? Especially since at some point I'd like to do some of the multi-stage events - it will take me a while to work up to those in knowledge needed, not just running.

Then that opens up the fall for me to rejoin the Chicago Lights Marathon Team! It's the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Marathon so charity recruitment has already started. I'm excited to run it again with my team.

I'll be posting more frequently about my training and the whole adventure of going ultra - it'll be a trip, I'm sure. In so many ways.

Stiff and sore today but loving it,

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

There They Are

I heard them before I saw them. Two geese, honking in the cold early hours. The sound came from below me, so I looked over the railing to the river - all darkness, the trees on the shore seeming to melt into the water, except for the steam rising from the surface.

At first I couldn't see them, and then they honked again and I saw the smear of their bellies reflecting bright against the surface of the water, the steam making space as their bodies slipped through, black shadows indistinguishable from the water except where defined by their edges.

And then they slipped under the bridge and I ran on, looking up at the stars and across to the awakening lights of the city.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Night People

An unexpected pleasure of running in the early morning are the people I encounter at that time (weekdays). Some are regulars:

  • The older Latina woman, her hair in thick braids, out in all weather, walking with effort but energy and purpose, and greeting everyone she encounters;
  • The sporty/outdoorsy white woman my age with her golden lab, looking like she takes no nonsense from anyone, whom I often see in the park with her friends (and their dogs) but sometimes also on the street on the way;
  • The Italian gentleman walking alongside the park from the other direction - we say hi but he doesn't seem to recognize me if I run into him elsewhere in the neighborhood;
  • My next-door neighbor at the bus stop, waiting for her bus - she doesn't seem to recognize me out of context either or maybe her coffee just hasn't kicked in yet.

Then there are others who I may or may not have seen before but we recognize each other as fellow early morning denizens - waiting for the bus, or on their way to school or work.

There are a few other runners out there that early. The mixed-gender pairs will usually greet me. There's an older gentleman I see closer to sunrise, a very serious runner, who gives me a tight nod. Women in pairs are usually talking to each other and the young women on their own are usually very serious with their gaze fixed firmly ahead, whether or not they wear headphones (and too many of them wear headphones).

Then there are the people at work already. Bus drivers and trash collectors - I wave at them as we pass by. The construction workers for the new Aldi going up. The bakery on the other side of our block is already open, light spilling out into the street and people driving up to grab their coffee and breakfast. There are a few gyms and a dance studio on my longer route and depending on when I pass they may be open, all glass and mirrors and determination. Islands of light at the gas station corners and 7-11s. And the food carts as I head back into Albany Park, on my last blocks before home.

A whole secret world out there in the morning, still and hushed.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Keeping Safe In The Wee Hours

I am careful heading out into the dark streets, morning after morning. The dangers are different than those I faced running at night on dark country roads, twenty years ago in Western Massachusetts. There my main fear was getting hit by a car, since I was running on the shoulder of the road (no sidewalks). I still protect against that with shoe lights, and all my running gear has some kind of reflective surface as well, but most of the streets I run on are well lit, even at night, and I make sure to cross at crosswalks. So here it's mostly about protecting myself against other people.

I do all the usual sensible stuff. I don't wear headphones. I don't run in parks when it's dark. I stay where it's well lit, I run on streets that have some traffic passing by and preferably a bus route as well. I avoid areas with too many vacant buildings. I carry my phone. In case of an "in case", I wear an ID wristband.

And I say close attention to my "Spidey-sense". If a stretch doesn't feel right - even if it's a stretch I'm familiar with and run at other times - I don't go there. It's amazing how different a section of street can feel at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday, rather than on a weekday, when it's already starting to wake up with people by that time. The weekend streets have a very different feel until the sun is closer to rising.

Daylight savings is in a couple of weeks and for once I'm looking forward to it. It's already dark now when we pick up the kids so what does it matter if it's dark an hour earlier - but it will make a difference to me in the morning.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scary Movie Month 2016 - #1

Regardless of whatever else I might want to post about, I would be remiss if I didn't report on this year's Scary Movie Month.

It's been a bit of a slow month this year. Playoff games have gotten in the way (Go Cubs!) and other days we've just been tired. The kids have gotten into it this year, though, so all of their movies have been "scary".

Movies seen:

"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (original movie 1992 - Joss Whedon)
     A great way to start off the month. There's so much to love about this as long as you keep in mind that it should not be compared with the TV series - they are completely different beasts. One of my favorite details - she knows the vampires are around because she gets wicked cramps.

"Cooties" (2015 - Jonathan Millot)
     Gross. Blood-thirsty zombie children terrorize their teachers. Hard to get excited about children (even zombie children) being killed in gross ways. Peter Jackson got away with this in "Dead Alive" because the zombie babies were so clearly just puppets (I'm not even sure that they died, either.)

"A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (1987 - Chuck Russell)
     Okay, I actually liked this. The children of the people who killed Freddy Krueger are being haunted (and killed) by him through their dreams. Creepy and disturbing, but as much for how the children are treated/believed by the adults around them as for the actual haunting. A good horror movie should always make you think about more than just the story being presented, and this one did.

Dawn of the Dead (2004 - Zack Snyder)
     Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, so scary. And so good. I've seen the original and liked it but I thought this one was much more serious and immediate.

"House" (1977 - Nobuhiko Obayashi)
     This was apparently a cult hit in Japan at the time. Schoolgirls go to visit an long-estranged relative and get eaten by the house. Visually there was a lot of interesting stuff going on, so I enjoyed that. Overall it didn't seem to cohere as a story, though I'm sure I lost a lot in translation.

Movies partially seen:

"Scanners" (1981 - David Cronenberg)
     Significant to The Dude because there's a scene where someone's head explodes (from psychic waves) that has been referenced in numerous ways. Once we saw this part, though, it failed to keep our interest, mostly because none of the characters were particularly sympathetic or interesting.

"Monolith Monsters" (1957 - John Sherwood)
     This was a Svengoolie movie. To be honest, I don't know the last time I saw a Svengoolie movie all the way through. The commercials and endless schtick wear me out, and then most of the time The Dude wants to see the opening monologue for Saturday Night Live so we end up switching over then if not just turning it off before. I think I'd be a lot more likely to see these if I could just watch them straight through.

Movies seen with the kids:

"Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993 - David Selick, Tim Burton)
     A perennial favorite. And now the music is stuck in all of our heads.

"ParaNorman" (2012 - Chris Butler)
    A Laika production (they also produced this summer's "Kubo and the Two Strings" which was magnificant). Some great little tributes to classic horror movies which are nice to catch. But mostly, this is a really moving movie. I can't not cry.

"Pirates of the Caribbean" (2003 - Gore Verbinski)
     Surprisingly good, given that the core concept is an amusement park ride. Long, though, and after a while I stopped trying to keep track of what was going on. The kids loved it (except for the one kiss - ewwww!)

"Corpse Bride" (2005 - Tim Burton)
     I liked this (especially the musical/dance numbers), but it's a bit slow to start, and I had to keep pausing to explain certain things to the kids.

"E.T. The Extra-Terrestial" (1982 - Steven Spielberg)
     The kids claimed this was not scary but their behavior belied this. Just as good as the last time I saw it... and the time before...

So how have we been making up for our lack of movies? Buffy! The TV series, that is. We meant to watch our "missing season" (Season 3 - missing because I mostly watched this on  my own during late night colic sessions when D was an infant). But it's been so long since we've seen this that we decided to go ahead and start again from the beginning. It's perfect for those nights when we want to watch something "scary" but don't want to stay up as late or split a movie in half. And well, it's just Buffy. What can I say?

I've also been reading some stuff fitting to the season but I'll write about those another time.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 13, 2016


It was a rough summer.

It was a rough summer, and it's only recently that I feel we've gotten through it, though some things linger on...

Some of it was the usual craziness of scheduling with two kids - and next year we plan to do less of it - and some of it was family drama (not mine) - and that goes on. And other stuff as well.

Oh, and police shootings and coastal floodings and immigrant/Muslim/refugee bashing and heat waves beyond what has been recorded before. Zika in Brazil - no, now Puerto Rico, now Miami. (Oh, and now Haiti is being hit with cholera - yet again.) My head was swimming a lot of the time.

I find it hard to write about the things I sorrow over, or struggle with, or haven't managed to come to a conclusion on, along with all the random scraps of interesting, exciting, curious, even joyous things that come my way. My head is a very busy place, much of the time, and I am always seeking out still more.

At one point in the summer I made a gratitude list, so I would have something to post about. (Except as you know, I didn't.) I reviewed it recently, and while much seems outdated (I did a lot of writing in coffee shops this summer, for example, so there are a number of items related to that), some things remain constant. I thought I might share some of them in the days ahead.

I do want to learn how to write (here, not just in poems) about the things that trouble me, or puzzle me, and some of the connections that I find as I range around the world, via other people's words.

But for right now, I want to share with you one of the things that lifts up my heart, day after day: running in the early morning. To see the sky turn from a clear star-dotted black to a soft velvet deep deep blue (I swear the texture of the sky changes in these moments) and then as it goes through various changes as the sun rises, dependent on cloud cover and where I'm headed... it never fails to astonish and enchant me, invigorate and strengthen me. And I get to experience this over and over again. For this I am grateful.

With a deep love for the world and all that is in it,