musings on running, life, and everything in between


Taper Time

Holy smokes, folks (you like that? I’m a poet), it’s Taper Time (a side of alliteration with my rhyme please). This weekend’s run was the final 20 miler before the slow wind down to the BIG DAY. And it was a doozy.

Because Jen had things like a family vacation to deal with (the nerve, right?!), we moved up the long run to Friday. Let’s just say that encountering a long line of people marching carrying a large wooden cross the final miles of our 20 gives some indication what the run felt like. No, I am not comparing the run to the pain of Christ hanging on a cross and dying for our sins. But Jesus also never ran a marathon. Just sayin’…Now that I’ve offended my readers, the details.

We decided to go with the Prairie Path in Elmhurst and head west. The idea of pounding pavement for 20 miles–even if it was Salt Creek–or replicating that hideous Waterfall Glen run seemed awful. While I did appreciate the somewhat softer crushed limestone, the ruts in the path from bikers (*shakes fist in fury) for 3+ hours did a number on my ankles. Many of the regular port-a-potties that are on the path weren’t there. There were no unseemly accidents, but there were some moments of irritation for sure.

Normally, path running is great and helps the time go by faster. However, the lack of visual markers of distance passing (like blocks or different houses) has made recent path/trail runs feel excruciatingly long. I forgot my Garmin for the run and had to rely on Jen (what is with me and my forgetting the watch lately?!). We all groaned when we hadn’t even gotten to 3 miles, and you know it’s bad when you have to use Gu stops to help break up the run. We never hit a groove and were working the whole time, moaning and groaning. Constantly asking Jen the mileage (ok, that was just me). We all complained how we had had so much anxiety about the run before and had secretly hoped we’d be relieved it wasn’t that hard. WRONG. It sucked. AND, we even debated cutting the run short. Patty pointed out, though, that all that time and energy worrying about the 20 would have been wasted if we didn’t actually do the 20. I know, it’s not exactly logical yet it makes perfect sense. So we did the stupid 20.

The upside is that we had alot of time to talk about some things going on in our lives, and we were all miserable. I think I would have tripped Patty or Jen if one of them was having a great run. But we were in sync with it being just a bad run.

We did get some delicious coffee at Eliajh’s, which is right by where we started. Let’s just say, though, it took several attempts and not until after coffee, that we got a picture of us smiling.

Elijah’s is a cute local coffee shop, and they feature local artists. This was an exhibit featuring work from a local art school using coffee as a medium. Clever. I will make sure to say that it’s art when I hand back my students’ papers with coffee on it in the future.

It’s rough having such a crap run, but we got through it. And we got through it together. We talked a lot about not having time goals for Boston, which really helps knock off some of the pressure. Reinforcing the idea of having a good time and just enjoying our time there is helpful. I honestly don’t know that I’ve had such a huge chunk of my training be so hard before. I feel like if this were a better blog, I’d list a top 10 list of things to do when training is not going great. Alas, this is just my blog. So THIS is what I do…

Homemade drumstick cone made with custard from the local shop. Drown misery in sugar. Life lessons learned the hard way. And it’s the best way, ha. Seriously, I was so excited to see that the local custard shop was already open for the season. Hole in the Wall Custard Shoppe. MMMMM. The tots were pretty pumped about it as well.

The rest of the weekend was filled with family time. It was pretty sunny and nice for most of it, so we took the kite out.

And this munchkin even dressed up for Easter (just for the record, we don’t even really celebrate Easter and the dress is a hand-me-down). We felt like we had a mix-up, cuz she does not clean up like that ever. Especially the ponytail!

This was her the previous evening.


After much anxiety, I finally also got my Boston Marathon passport and registration stuff. I had seen a couple other bloggers post pics of their materials online before I got mine. Even though I know I’m in and I will be getting the stuff, it made me nervous to not get it the same day as some other folks. It’s pretty awesome. Seriously, it’s getting real folks!

I am relieved that we are finally rounding the last bend on this journey. I think I have to remember to try and enjoy it as much as I can. I worked so hard the last couple of years to reach this point. And even if my training hasn’t been everything I’ve wanted, it will be enough. I will finish Boston, hopefully with my friends. I just need to trust the training and trust myself. And revel in the taper 🙂

Onward and upward, friends!

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Another exciting Friday night in the kingdom of nerd

This is me staring at some research I’m supposed to be presenting on Sunday. The third of four presentations I’m involved with for a major conference that’s in town. It’s been a grueling week, and my coffee intake has assumed epic proportions. I calculate that I’m consuming 60+ oz of coffee a day most days this week. The withdrawal will probably be ugly.

I actually had a presentation on campus the other day as well, and i was so jacked up on coffee that I was rambling to two cornered freshmen afterwards. I literally couldn’t stop talking, and it was a ridiculous strung-out, semi-crazed conversation I was basically having with myself. I’m sorry, kids.


For the life of me, I can’t get this graphic to show right, so here’s a link to the original source. Anyhow, it’s the taper. It’s actually been the taper for over a week. Normally I’m going crazy with the taper. I want to run more. But, this week has been so awful that I actually cut a mile off the speed workout Tuesday, and ditched the 4 miles today. To ask me to run less is hard enough, but for me to voluntarily cut back even more is insanity. I’ve not had enough sleep, energy, or time to do the full workouts though. So any irritability, craziness, fitful sleep has been more a product of things this week rather than taper madness.

My kids have been super tuned-in to my stress level as there have been constant demands for “cuddling” 24/7. Kids coming in the early morning hours, late at night, all while I’m serenaded by shrieks of “cuddle!!!” It’s awesome. Really. Demands for cuddles while whining in one’s highest, nerve-grating voice, makes me want to melt into a pile of warm gooeyness. The work-life juggle has been hard, though. I missed out on some networking opportunities and face-time with other nerds–i mean colleagues/academics–to attend my kids’ preschool art/music show. Still, they were pretty cute. They clean up ok. 🙂

Ok, so we are 7 days out from the marathon. 7. days. That is within throwing distance of an accurate weather report. And I just made the mistake of checking the 10 day forecast.


I can and will run in rain. But almost 4 hours of running in rain while shooting for an ambitious time goal makes me want to cry, vomit, or scream. Either way, that forecast had better clear up. To be honest, even the 3 day forecasts lately have been spotty, so maybe I can just pray to the running gods.

Jen has, however, been freaking out. She’s only run one marathon so maybe that’s it, whereas I am so much more experienced and advanced as a runner (haha) that I’m not worried. But maybe it’s also because I’m busy that I haven’t allowed myself to think that far ahead. I DO need to start getting my head in the race, though. I have a plan. To tie myself to Jen and have her pull me along.

No, actually, I do have a real plan. I’m (we) using and using it to print pace bands for a conservative start and even effort. I’ve read some reviews online, so I know that people are a bit surprised by the few hills that pop up. I think it’s that when you’re used to seeing so much complete flatness, any hill is an unwelcome surprise and feels very difficult. One friend (thanks Mary!) also suggested using Google Maps’ satellite imagery to do a fly through of the marathon route. I feel like I have a decent handle of what to expect scenery-wise (having gone to school there), but I know U of IL has changed alot since I’ve graduated so it probably wouldn’t hurt. While the idea of using mantras in the mirror makes me want to roll my eyes, I’m wondering about at least getting a couple in practice under my belt for use during the race.

I also need to start working on my sleep (not until after Sunday) and hydration this week. I’ve seen some stuff about also eating mostly simple carbs the week before, but that seems extreme to me. However, I’ve also been struggling with a more sensitive stomach lately so maybe it’s not the worst idea in the world. Anyhow, work and my bed still await, so have a great long run Saturday (just 8 for me, assuming I can squeeze it in)!

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Marathon training is like locking yourself into a personalized prison cell

Today was the first 20 miler of the season.

It was hard.

I’m not entirely sure why it was so hard. It was surprisingly hard. While it’s not like I want to run 20 miles every weekend, most of last year’s were surprisingly doable. They didn’t feel like an immense struggle for big chunks of it. Today’s was a different story. The last 8 miles were torturous, and I found myself having to talk myself through it much like I would the last 6 miles of the marathon. I went to a dark, lonely place. My two friends were similarly locked in their own individual prisons as all conversation shut down, though I think at one point I jeered, “You’re almost there” to Jen. We even stopped running as a group but strung out single file. It was grueling. Granted, it was 32 degrees and a 12mph headwind the whole way back. And we had already run the toughest week of training, with almost 40 miles for the week before the long run. Oh, and Jen’s kid had barfed all over his room right before she was ready to leave. Like barf on the ceiling and on furniture. Hm, maybe I’m starting to understand…

There was a hill right before an overpass around mile 18.5. There was alot of cursing. This picture makes it look like nothing. That’s Jen in front of me in our little line of runners. She was very intent on finishing as soon as possible although I kept hollering at her to not push the pace too much.

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I have no words of wisdom on how to talk yourself through those miles. Alot of it is just trying to find a groove to settle into so that you are on auto-pilot and your feet keep shuffling along. This autopilot can be a great thing on a strong run, and it can be a saving grace on a hard run. I like to think of it as perpetual motion or inertia. It’s easier to keep moving if you keep moving, harder if you stop.

When you get into that head space, though, it’s hard to talk yourself through. You have to constantly nudge, encourage, berate yourself to keep moving. You lie to yourself and say you “only” have x miles left, you can do this, etc. I actually was thinking about this line, “We make the road by walking.” I know it in relation to a book by Ira Shor and Paulo Freire (two critical education scholars), but I’m not sure if it originates with them. My baby attempts (Googling for 5 seconds) at finding the origin online brought me to a poem by Antonio Machado, a turn-of-the-century Spanish poet. Whether it begins with him or not, the poem is lovely and appropriate.

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing else;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
Walking makes the road,
and on glancing behind
one sees the path
that he will never trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road—
Just foam in the sea.

Our reward for this test of mental and physical strength? Strong, hot coffee. Mmmmmm. This is a fairly cute picture, but I have to be honest. I cropped part of it out, because my outer layer had a pouch that made me look pregnant and Michelle (in the middle) had a waist belt that hung in an–uh–“interesting” spot.You can still see my bad tired posture, though. And #nofilter

2015-03-22 09.57.06I will say that I am glad this week is finally over. While the training plan still has another 20 miler, since all the weekly mileage is less from here on out, I consider it taper! Woohoooo!!

So, friends, what do you use to get yourself through those tough miles?

Favorite post-run treat?


Spring has finally officially arrived!

And not just cuz the calendar told me. But because it was christened officially by the first bug inhalation of the season. Mmm, protein.

This week’s training cycle has been all weird. Since I can’t do my long run Saturday because of a work thing, we’re doing it Sunday instead. Jen (my training partner/friend) and I shifted everything over a day. Which means my fantastically busy and difficult week ended with a 10 mile tempo run. Yeeeaaahhhhhh…

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I told you my GPS watch was big! Although admittedly, I have freakishly small wrists.

It wasn’t a straight/simple tempo run, but a mix of marathon tempo and “real” tempo. I had to write it down on my hand cuz it was too much to remember. I spaced, though, and didn’t realize the last 2 tempo miles were at the faster pace, so I was quite unpleasantly surprised when I looked at my hand to see what was up. There may have been some loud cries of displeasure.

I saw two lovely birds on my run in the woods–a woodpecker and a blue-ish larger bird (I was too far away when it flew off. I think it might have been a heron, though). I tried to take pictures of both, but I was too slow. I also saw my friend Kat running on the trail. You know there are not enough Asian-American runners when the only Asian person you see on the path is someone you know! I blame (at least for the Korean segment of the Asian population) the fear of getting big legs (I’ll have to write about that another time though. There’s even a word for it in Korean!).

After such a rough week of work and training, my legs were tight and took awhile to loosen up into the run. The tempo miles were rough, and I’m not sure I hit or held all of them (I’m having trouble getting the data from the run for some reason). One thing I focused on, though, was trying to keep running even if I backed off the pace. I figured it was better to keep running and not stop, even if it was not exactly on-pace. Insert metaphor about life, struggle, etc. HA

As my post-run treat, I had this:

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Post-run recovery drink in COFFEE form. There IS a God 🙂 It was pretty good. Not Dunkin’ Donuts iced sugary goodness good, but not bad for a protein recovery drink. I tend to blend my protein recovery drinks with almond milk, bananas, and frozen berries to make it more palatable. This one, I just threw in my protein drink shaker with ice and water. You can definitely taste the espresso (in a good way) and it was sweetened, but I did miss the crazy sweetness of the DD. I got this sample through a monthly subscription box I get, so I didn’t buy it. I would consider buying it in the future if I saw it.

Speaking of DD, I got THIS by accident the other day. I ordered a large and they gave me an extra-large by accident. That thing is huge. I tried to convince myself to not finish it. Didn’t happen. Drank every last drop.

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Not the most enlightened or exhilarating post today, but we had another bout of sickness in the house and too many super-early mornings. I’m just glad everyone is alive, healthy again, and nobody did anything too horrible. Keepin’ the expectations low, my friends. Hope everyone had a great first day of spring and has a great weekend!

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3 bouts of coffee, some speed, and and an unexpected surprise

Hm, the title of this post sounds amazing already, doesn’t it? Like it’s going to be about some amazing, crazy night out on the town? Alas, t’is just a regular day in the maddening crowd.

I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning. Before the alarm. An hour before the alarm, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. The best sleep is sleep you think you’ve stolen by waking up and realizing you have another sweet hour before you actually have to wake up. Following that logic, the WORST is when you wake up long before your alarm and can’t go back to sleep. That was me. Writhing in denial for almost an hour before reconciling with the fact that sleep was for other people. Better people. Not me.

First bout of coffee. I always drink coffee before runs. Really, it’s the first thing I do, period. Before speaking to me, before eating, before looking at kids. Coffee. I swear if I could get coffee in an IV drip, I would. I get the feeling that might be a different kind of–illegal–drug. Anyhow, I drink the coffee, do the business, eat a little smackerel of something, and head out the door. Today I was in such a stupor, I missed the memo that I was supposed to be meeting my friends part of the way into the run, and they landed outside my front door texting me. Oops.

On the docket, 9 miles, which included 5x1000s at a blistering (for me) pace at the local high school, which is the wonkiest thing ever. I mean, who builds a track with turns that are more akin to right angles than any sort of curve?! Obviously, someone did. It was really dark, and I’m not just talking about my soul. And I may have dropped my giant GPS watch flailing around my first interval. And I may have had to run around the track one more time before I could find it.

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It was dark but pretty!

It’s no secret. I hate speed workouts. I suck at them. I started running distances because I reconciled I couldn’t run fast. But then I started thinking I should have time goals for running and that running marathons wasn’t punishment enough, but that I should start running them FASTER. So here I am. And I thought about my previous post as I ran. And I drew on my own communal knowledge of getting through the mile/lap that I was in and not over-anticipating what was to come. And I’ll be honest, there was alot of, “Just finish this straightaway…Now do the curve/angle…Ok, another straightaway.” I couldn’t go to the place of, “You have miles of this. MILES!” That would crush me. I got through one piece at a time. I didn’t make all my time goals, buuuuut I’m not even sure cuz–like I said–I might have dropped my laptop-on-a-wristband-that-poses-as-my-running-watch…and I might have not have enough oxygen for my brain to remember to hit my lap button after each interval. It is what it is. But I ran and pushed through each interval, so I definitely gave myself a little mental high-five. One of the reasons I love the track over the treadmill for speedwork is that you can see how much you have left. You can coax yourself to do the last lap or half lap. The treadmill is an endless quest of waiting for numbers to change as you go nowhere, waiting for an external force to tell you you’re done. *Shudder* Reminds me of the dissertation process.


Anyhow, the rest of the day was the usual carnival of craziness. One sick-faking kid who stayed home from school (which required a second early bout of coffee), then in-laws that came through town on their way home from a road trip, meetings and planning, and another night class (third bout of caffeinated sugar). I actually shared my blog with my students (the class is about teaching writing). Yikes, it’s always weird when you share parts of yourself that are not your “professional” parts (hm, that last bit sounds quite indiscrete) in those spaces. But this past year, I’ve been making more efforts to break down some of those barriers. So often we are categorized into certain boxes and allowed to be only fractions of ourselves. It’s stifling.

Which brings me to the unexpected surprise. When I wrote that previous post, I didn’t expect it to be picked up beyond my immediate circle, but it did. And even cross international time zones! Hooray for the interwebs! I need someone in Korea to read it, though, cuz, you know, I’m Korean and I need validation. But Koreans don’t run. Cuz it makes our legs big…well, that’s another post for another day.

Anyhow, friends, keep movin’ and groovin.

Do you tend to compartmentalize yourself?

Would you buy a coffee IV kit?


You know you have a good running group when you can do emergency pit stops unannounced on a run

It’s inevitable. The long run. Bathroom emergencies. It happens to all of us, the best of us, and the rest of us. Running for long distances–or even short distances–tends to, ahem, help move thing along. I have honed my early morning pre-run ritual to a point where it’s usually not an issue. However, today’s run didn’t happen until late morning because of my friend’s childcare issues. [Aside: Annoying how things like kids and parental responsibilities get in the way of your long run. I mean, you gave birth to them, now you have to actually watch and care for them?!] Anyhow, long story short, I was running a long run at a time I usually don’t. So at about mile 12, things got serious. Looking over my splits, mile 12 was the fastest…

Anyhow, so we had two choices: 1) Sprint over the one vaguely hill-like piece of road within several square miles on the way to the nearest coffee shop or 2) Stop unannounced at a friend’s house around lunch time and hope they were home AND ok with their bathroom being used. Fortunately, this home also belonged to that of a runner so little explanation would be needed. Obviously, I chose the latter.

I rang the doorbell and cringed, as she has a baby and it was approaching nap-time and the dogs (forgot about the dogs!) went crazy hearing the bell. And then her husband (why didn’t I think about that?!) answered the door. “Uh, hi, can I use your bathroom? Um, is Julianne here?” Keepin’ it classy. Yup. He was very nice about it, as I bolted past him to the back bathroom, hollering hello to my friend in the kitchen. A very brief time later, with a refilled water bottle and a renewed sense of enjoyment of life, we were back on our way. I’ve told my running group that we should start putting our logos up in our front windows like the bat signal or safe houses. HA.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. My friend Jen and I were pretty excited to get some trail running in (though not really “trail,” it’s paved, but it goes through woods) and get off the concrete. We were nervous that not all of the snow had melted, but with the exception of a couple slushy spots, it was clear. This was good as we were doing tempo for 11 of the 14 miles. In nervous anticipation, we had both brought headphones but ended up being able to run and talk the whole time. Thank God for great running friends and great runs!

The only hiccup (besides the emergency pit stop) was that I had somehow routed us a couple miles short (I’m usually the “routemaster” on long runs), but we quickly figured out how to plug in the extra 2 miles before the end. I love how that becomes a runner’s local “superpower.” I’m sure it will come in handy one day in a more meaningful way…

Anyways, in celebration of a great and successful run, we ended with some coffee. However, Jen and I have very different understandings of what is an “appropriate” amount of post-run caffeine intake.

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I was even more horrified when she told me it was her first cup of the day. It was 1 in the afternoon. Be still my beating heart. The horror.

Finally, I just have to say how much I have loved the 50 degree weather we have been blessed with the last few days. And while this next picture was taken indoors at the swamp house of the zoo, it still is inspirational for reminding us of the hope of spring and its burgeoning bliss.

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What running superpowers do you have?

Do you have emergency pit stop locales? (I’ll refrain from asking for your worst pit stop emergency. We’ll save that one for a rainy day)

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Bring Me More Coffee!

2015-03-05 05.58.26 I had one of those yucky moments where I woke up at 5’ish, rolled around, realized I wasn’t going to be able to go back to sleep, and had to get up even though I was tired. *cue world’s smallest violins* Needless to say, a lovely cup of black coffee got my day started. I must point out (although the picture is awful) that my coffee was in a husband-made cup–he does pottery!

2015-03-05 08.39.162015-03-05 08.39.16A short while later, after preschool drop-off, I fed my daily habit and  discovered that my local Dunkin Donuts WAS out of styrofoam yesterday, as it was back in stock today. Mystery solved. Thank God I was on the case.

The hard thing now is that I’m tired again (mid-day slump anyone?) and making a third dose of coffee. The difficult part about teaching at night is you have to get jazzed up right around slump time, and then you’re all wound up afterwards. *cue more tragic violins*

And because bad things come in 3’s, my iPad died with less than a mile left of the easy 8 for today, RIGHT as I was getting to a good part of The Fall. #firstworldproblems, I know. I decided to treadmill it today, because it’s COLD and I’m SICK AND TIRED OF IT! I just can’t stomach another really cold run. I’ve done it in colder, windier days, but I’m at my end.

It was also supposed to be a tempo run today, but I had to shuffle my runs around. I’m doing my long run tomorrow since I’ll be super busy this weekend, and stacking the tempo run back-to-back with my long run seemed like a bad idea. So I’ll skip this weeks’ tempo run (*whew! I mean, too bad…I, uh, love speed training…)

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One thing I was heartened to see during/after my run (out the window in front of the treadmill) were the beginnings of tiny tiny buds on a very bare tree. The very first winks of spring are creeping out. Just as we are losing faith, something reminds us to hold on just a bit longer. With that gem, I leave you.

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