musings on running, life, and everything in between

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When you fall out of love

With running


The usual

It’s been a long hiatus. And to be honest, I’m not sure how often I’ll keep this updated either. It’s tenuous lately. My resurgence of interest in running and such. And the school year is starting, which for some parents is glorious, but for me means the startup of my regular work calendar again. So…here’s a stab.

The last couple of months have been rough. I’ve been pretty straightforward about my ongoing struggle with depression, but it reached a pretty bad low point a few months ago. I think what further compounded it was the fact that I felt like I was doing every possible thing I could to deal with it, but it wasn’t enough. It feels unfair that I have to be doing so much more to stay afloat or feel “normal” (whatever that is) than the average person. Is it a chemical imbalance, family trauma, psychic wounds, blah blah blah? I don’t know. But I cringe every time someone asks me if I exercise or sleep enough or whatever, because I want to scream, “All of it, I do all of it!”

And actually, the last couple of months, even the running has fallen by the wayside. Yes, I’ve been trying to get myself to grind out at least a run or two a week. I had been hating even that minimal amount, though, and was mostly doing it to stave off the creeping weight. I eat ALOT, and mostly run to eat. When you’re not marathon training, it begins to catch up with you. And while it really is probably just 3-5 pounds, it was enough to make me feel worse physically and emotionally. And I realize that nothing was giving me pleasure. I wasn’t interested in anything. Maybe sleep. More B horror movies. Escape. Not life, not my kids, not my writing. Definitely not my running. Nothing that required me to engage.

So I’m trying some new meds and starting to feel better. I’ve even begun ramping back up my running. I’m actually watching the Olympics track and field events. Hitting double digit long runs. Thinking about races. But it’s still a struggle. The new meds make me tired, so early runs have been difficult. I’ve had to play around with dosage and timing to figure out what doesn’t make me feel like I need a 3 hour nap at 10:30 am or that I’m treading mud at 3 pm. Which means running alone and in the awful heat and humidity. I’ll say that running while playing Pokemon Go has helped motivate and distract me (and give me excuses for stopping).

I’m not 100% sure if I’ll stick with these meds or need to get back on that merry-go-round, but for the first time, I’m being pretty open about my struggles with folks. Even the fact that I know a couple of my students read this blog, and I’m talking about this is something. My less-than-perfect behavior has probably been most indicative of my struggles. I’ve had alot of impatience, crankiness, and general snarl near and far. My ability to have any emotional reserve in response to life has been about nil. I’m sane and grounded enough to know (mostly) when I need to make amends for that behavior, but it’s still not fun. It would be better if I just didn’t do it to begin with. And I’m still leaning towards isolation. My general belief of, “If I don’t interact with people, then I won’t have to act out and apologize later” isn’t really a great one.

On the road back from this cycle of depression, I’d realized that I had slowly been socially isolating myself. Other than kid-oriented activities or running with friends, I was engaging in almost no social activities. A friend took me out for dinner in the city, and I realized it had been literal years since I had done that. Years. How did that happen?

So I’m not saying I’m cured, but I felt the impulse to write today. So that’s something. But one could say it’s something for any of us to show up in life today and engage. To do what you can. To try your best. Even watching the Olympics, I thought about all the athletes at the back of the pack. The ones with no chance to win a medal. How do they motivate themselves? How do they push to keep going? How do any of us? But we do. Onwards and upwards friends.

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Monday Catch-Up Madness 

Last week was rough. I was really, really not feeling training. Like really. And then, my Lauren Fleshman “Believe” training journal serendipitously hit the right spot when I turned the page to the “Hit Reset” photo. Perfect timing. The next couple of pages were all about recovering and taking time to relax. MUCH NEEDED reminder. I actually went to yoga class (bottom left pic) the next day that left me a totally sweat-drenched, stretched out recovering and relaxing runner.

The week was also busy. We celebrated the lovely Patty’s birthday Thursday night. Instead of taking a picture of us, I took a picture of the dessert. Patty decided it was an edible flower and ate it. It probably was an edible flower, but the stem/pistil section of it seemed awfully hard and fibrous compared to the edible pansies I’ve seen so I declined. I’m pretty sure training calls for chocolate 🙂

It was also a little tricky getting in all of my runs since the ankle biters were home on spring break. I have a hard time sitting at home with them, so we made TWO excursions to the Museum of Science and Industry–one of which involved the Lego Exhibit, Brick by Brick. That was pretty cool. I realized I have no imagination for Lego-building though. Pathetic. still, my kids really liked it and there were interactive sections where you got to build and play with Legos. They were probably more excited by that than by any of the actual awesome Lego sculptures.

We also went to the Mexican Museum of Fine Art, an amazing and FREE museum in Chicago. I think my favorite piece was this huge, super-intricate beadwork. I could have stayed staring at it for hours. I was super-mom and even thought ahead to bring paper and colored pencils for the kids to try and copy some of it.

Finally, as my activist-training action for the kids, I took them down to the massive Day of Action on April 1, spearheaded by the Chicago Teachers Union. As a former Chicago Public School teacher, a teacher educator, and having multiple friends impacted both on the K-12 and university level by Illinois budget issues, I felt it was important to go show support. The picture makes it look like it was a great adventure. Alas, t’would be a lie, there was so much whining, complaining, and general irritation. The youngest, who is also a wanderer, also managed to escape into the crowd, was picked up by a cop, and I was called to the stage to get her. Mother of the year. This would be her second time getting lost in a large public space–this happened at the Field Museum a couple weeks prior–and being helped by security to locate her parents. I swear parents would be so much happier if we could chip our children.

Speaking of education, one of my students was demonstrating a reading strategy the other day and she handed out these write-ups. Mine, not sure if it was happenstance or purposeful, was with the word “run.” Love it.

Finally, last long run as a group before Boston weekend. Jen and I are out of town next week and Boston is, insanely, 2 weeks out, so it’s the final group run for our trio (until whatever shakeout run we’ll do in Boston). We decided to go with the hills of the Arboretum. We posed by our favorite sculpture (and those pants I’m wearing are really unflattering, snarf).

Jen and I were also making fun of each other a ton, and I threatened to cut her out of the blog. So instead of tripping each other, we did ridiculous poses showing how we are the best of friends. Ha. We are such great friends that we are going to apply as the two-person “Chasers” for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s weird reality show game, “The Runner.” Because I don’t want to increase the number of people applying, I will make it less easy for you to find the information and not link it. If you’re a runner, though, and have been paying attention at all, you’ve probably seen multiple posts about it already. And if you haven’t, you can use the powers of Google. Hey, how are an academic and a social worker going to make any money otherwise?! We got 6 kids between us to support.

Alas, Patty did not make it into the picture since she was taking it. Kelly (far right), though, who just did an impromptu 50k last weekend, is looking strong! That run was tough, though. We were pelted by hard little bits of snow and a good deal of wind through the whole run. In fact, there was a wind advisory starting right after we finished. Chicago weather has been crazy. It jumped over 30 degrees within 24 hours (and vice versa).

I finally did the math and looked at the actual climb for Boston’s Heartbreak Hill and the climbs from our local runs. Heartbreak Hill is about 95-100 feet climb over a half mile. I’m not sure what the actual math is on the Arboretum hills, but I do know that Big Bertha at Waterfall Glen is about 125 feet of climb over a half mile, so I’m feeling ok about it. Obviously, that’s not been coming at mile 21 of our runs, but still…it’s not quite as insurmountable as thought. See, sometimes the anticipation of something is so much worse than the reality of it.

Anyhow, hope everyone survived spring break if you’ve had it. And good luck if you haven’t yet 🙂 What do you do to recover, relax, and stay in the right frame of mind?


Where My Body Falls Apart and I Grow Up

I woke up yesterday with a swollen LEFT ankle and stiffness–almost like it was a few days into recovering from a sprain. This is NOT the ankle/foot/leg I’ve been having issues with. What gives?! After running 8 marathons under 2 years with no injury? This reminds me of a theory that Mr. UnRunner (he’s back to not running, ha) has about massage. He refuses to get one because he believes that the tension is what keeps him together. Knock out one knot or muscle contraction and the whole thing tumbles like a Jenga puzzle. Perhaps all this enforced time off has forced my body to realize it’s time to collapse…

Let me back up, though. I saw Magical Craig twice this week. And he highly suggested I NOT race this weekend the F3 Half Marathon I’d signed up for months ago. He knows I’m prone to not listening to him when it comes to things like backing off on running, but I’m going to be a grown up and DO THE RIGHT THING. Which means, NOT run it–just in case you weren’t sure. Here’s why. Craig suggested I skip the cardio stuff this week, or the cardio stuff that would have impact. I tried a barre class on Wednesday thinking it was going to be low-impact. Wrong. It was an odd cardio version and there was a lot of jumping. My foot started bothering me during the class (more on the class in a bit). If just jumping jacks and dynamic lunges were bothering it, hauling out a half marathon would not be great. Craig did say I could finally try running on it Saturday to test it out, but I had to stop if it hurt. An out and back loop in a race doesn’t really fit well for that. I think I’d rather have a DNS (did not start) than a DNF (did not finish)…at least if it’s for an injury. I also know that I probably won’t accept the idea of not finishing and further set myself back. If I really want all this time off to count for something, I need to make sure I’m not continuing to draw out the injury. Growing up sucks. I’ve already scaled back for two weeks, I can’t take it much longer.

So, what does “recovery” look like when you can’t do cardio with impact or that involves alot of ankle (he also banned the ellipticals this week)? Well, you can swim (barf, but also more on that in a bit) maybe, or I forced Craig to let me at least cycle. Seriously, what else is there?? Here’s what the week looked like.

Monday: Botched 2. 5 miles

Tuesday: Yoga

Wednesday: Cardio barre class

Thursday: 50 minutes of cycling

Friday: Nothing right now…maybe some yoga or strength training.

It hurts me to look at that. I swear I’ve gained weight in the last two weeks. Depressing. I know it’s better to work all this out now, then, rather than potentially not running or finishing Boston. Still.

Here’s the scoop on some things I’ve been trying in the meanwhile.

1) I really like yoga, and doing a partial supported headstand against the wall is safer. I go to the studio when I can, but I also like to do some different yoga apps and YouTube videos.

2) After my second attempt at barre, I’m pretty sure I don’t like it. This class reminded me of a mom’s 80’s aerobics class. Except my mom didn’t do aerobics. So maybe YOUR mom’s aerobics class. I totally spaced and thought the class was almost over when I saw it was 9:55. When it was 10:04 and didn’t seem to be ending, I realized that we were only halfway through (the class started at 9:30). I almost wept in disappointment. You see, the reason I run is because I AM NOT COORDINATED. Following a variety of dynamic movements with garbled-sounding microphone directions, especially when I’m afraid of jumping on my right foot, was a nightmare. I still have one class left on my 3-class Groupon, though…so I’ll be back to torture myself (I’m also cheap about getting my money’s worth).

3) I really hate cycling inside. It feels indeterminately long. Give me a bike ride outside any day. Oh wait, I left the garage door open months ago and someone stole my bike. Sigh.

4) I need to learn how to cross train differently. i.e., swimming. Swimming is like the arch-nemesis of my athletic-ness. Well, after aerobics. So maybe it’s just a nemesis… Anyhow, I had a scary drowning-ish moment in a pool when I was a kid (think of getting fished out by the lifeguard but no resuscitation but lots of spitting out of water and maybe some vomit) so I tend to get panicky if I feel like I am getting too much water in my nose, or I don’t have control. To try and get over that years ago, I took private swim lessons and signed up for a super-sprint triathlon. I knew how to swim, but I wanted to learn how to feel comfortable in the water and work on my stroke, etc. The swimming portion of the triathlon got canceled because of too much bacteria in the water (I know, gross) so I never got to have my moment of triumph. And I’m still uncomfortable in deep water. So I’m considering signing up for a triathlon again to force myself to cross-train in the pool more. “Just” swimming for exercise sounds awful. I need something to hold me accountable and motivate me. Oh, and I’ll still need to buy a bike. And because I am friends with crazy people, someone’s already trying to egg me on to do a half iron distance triathlon in the fall. CRAZY.

It’s Friday. I’ll try and do a run tomorrow. And take stock from there. It’s hard recognizing that you have limits, and you need to take time to recover. I know I write about that alot, but it’s still hard to swallow. I need to listen to my body and take the time to do things right. Good luck to anyone racing this weekend and high fives to all those doing rehab/recovery work–in any sense.


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Family Fitness and Reconsidering Marathon Plans

A friend asked me recently if I do the whole protein shake recovery thing after long/hard runs. I do usually. To be honest, I haven’t experimented a whole lot with different powders, but alot of people had recommended the Vega Recovery ones. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit grainy and not like a real shake, ha. However, I’ve found that if you mix it with almond milk (versus water) and keep it cold (by blending with things like frozen berries) and something a tad sweet (like a banana), it’s not bad. I have a Vitamix, which helps alot. I also threw some kale in there the other day for good measure. I feel like I need to read up on the whole green smoothie thing and get on that, but … there are so many other things that call to my attention (like my recent obsession with the Netflix series Sense8. SO GOOD). Feel free to share good green smoothie recipes with me and save me the effort 🙂

On a side note, I thought the chocolate flavor would be be better, but I actually have found the vanilla one to be easier to drink.We’ve been continuing the whole family fitness thing this week. Yesterday was a yoga/stretch day. We did my Jillian Michaels Yoga burn DVD, which the kids found too difficult (crow isn’t the easiest position to get into for a 3 year old, ha). So, we traded off and I found a kids yoga video series on YouTube, which they LOVED. As in, they asked to do 3 in a row. It’s called Cosmic Kids Yoga, involves elaborate storytelling and some visuals, uses real yoga moves, and is only about 20 minutes. I can’t decide if I think it’s brilliant, creepy, or annoying. Maybe all 3.
My 5 y.o. has also been requesting to ride his bike along one of my shorter runs. He’s a pretty good bike rider, and I had made a passing comment this weekend that maybe he could ride alongside. He’s been at me for days about it so I actually built in a short 3 mile run yesterday just for that purpose. All my runs are super long this week, which I’ll talk about in more detail later, so I just added yesterday as a running day. That was fine, though, since I had to cut part of my run Tuesday short because I didn’t get up early enough to get the whole 10 miles in.

He did great! I carried my handheld so he had water for stops, which mostly happened at intersections. He kept up pretty well. We even did a couple interval bursts–he’s also been demanding to see me run as fast as possible. He was very proud of himself, AND he ate like a champ the rest of the day. Win-win. My 3 y.o. is up and riding on her two-wheeler, but she’s not agile enough with it yet, nor is she able to start herself off yet. But soooooon, you’ll see me and my posse rolling at you on runs! Finally, this week has been hard. I was sore for a couple days after Saturday’s race. That really surprised me. Was it the hills? Speed? I’m not sure. I also realized belatedly that I should have done a short recovery run Sunday or Monday, but I didn’t. Because it wasn’t on the plan. Bleh, need to reconsider my fierce obsession with following the plan. Anyhow, this made Tuesday’s run, 10 miles of which 5 were to be at 15k or half marathon race pace (uh, yeah), unpleasant and unmanageable. I half-heartedly tried to do them, but it just felt awful so I just did my regular pace.

I have 11 miles on the docket today. I am dreading it. I am exhausted and feeling tight. Part of this might be the fact I’m teaching two nights this week, and I realize how all that standing is killing my legs and back after all the running. Part of it might just be all the ramping up of miles. But I’m tired. So I’m reconsidering whether I want to keep following the Advanced Marathoning plan or switch back to Liz’s spring marathon plan. I need to compare the plans again to see where I am. Maybe I could create a hybrid, I don’t know. Ugh. Maybe I’ll just get through this week’s plan, which ends with a 17 miler Saturday, and then re-evaluate. Maybe I should just take a nap…

Anyhow, friends, have a great day and happy(-ish) running!

P.S. Did folks see all the body-critiquing stuff that was going on with Serena Williams?! Geez, even elite athletes’ bodies aren’t “good enough” for public consumption. Grr.

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Ragnar, the doldrums of post-semester/post-race, and making plans

We had our planning meeting for Ragnar Chicago last night. I was captaining two teams, i.e., 24 women, so we were solidifying last minute runner swap-outs, discussing logistics, and figuring out what we needed to do in the next 4 weeks. This will be my third Ragnar Relay–all Chicago. For those not familiar with Ragnar Relay‘s, it’s a relay race from point to point over the span of 1-2 days. They are national and there are road races and trail versions. Teams vary in size from 6-12, and for those most brave/insane, teams of 2 (people do it!). Ragnar Chicago is from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL and covers 200 miles June 12-13. I’ve captained a team the last two years. This year, the response from my running group was so immense that we had enough women to have two whole teams of 12. We decided to do a “competitive” team and a “relaxed” team. You see, the last two years, my team has placed third (though I think we got cheated, ha) and second. We’re going for the gold this time! Both groups of women are AWESOME, and my only sadness is that I can’t actually be in the same van with all of them.


Ragnar 2014: We ran as “runaway brides/maids,” hence the bizarro costuming!

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Ragnar 2013: Superhero/supermoms

It’s been kind of crazy captaining two teams, though, as we’ve “lost” two runners to babies/pregnancy and several to injury. I’ve done the crazy-early registration in August–so we are teams 26 and 27 (out of about 400)–so alot of folks commit early without knowing what will happen in the winter/spring. It’s been a little bit of a scramble plugging everyone in, and a bit heartbreaking losing some of the runners, but there’s always next year….or Ragnar Tennessee, which was a dream last year that didn’t happen. This year, though…we’ll see 🙂

My most recent sad moment was replacing Jenny. With barely 4 weeks left, she still hadn’t been cleared for running and is still have some niggling in her ankle (btw, ankles seem to be a very mysterious, complicated area of the body). I know that she can mentally do it, but I was afraid she would hurt herself further trying to push herself. Seriously, though, how can you not love/miss a girl who will tag other people’s vans like this during the race?

We love fast girls

Still, I really want her to get stronger and recover fully before making the demands of another long race on it. The one upside is that my friend Kelly, who ran Ragnar with us in 2013 but had a baby recently, will be replacing her. I told her she should just bring the baby, but don’t forget to NOT lock the baby in the van by herself (true story, a team did this in 2013…).

The semester has finally ended, grades are in, and now it’s just wrap up meetings, etc., and it’s a few days before the Schaumburg Marathon. I feel weirdly rudderless right now. I have Ragnar on the horizon, but no other major races. I don’t have a solid training plan still, and I’m just tired. The idea of potentially running another marathon in a few days horrifies me, and I’m glad I didn’t register. Still, I can’t help but feel like there’s something wrong with me or just shake my general sense of malaise. I think it’s always hard when you exert a great effort to accomplish something and afterwards you’re left with all this space. Part of me wants to be ok with just resting, getting stronger, and being quiet. But if you know me, you know that those things are not things I’m very good at. I know I can think about training hard for Ragnar, but I did a horrible speed workout on Tuesday (granted, it was windy), and ran a two-a-day yesterday of some short runs in my new shoes (I decided to give them a try) that was meh, and it’s not exactly getting me excited. Not like the excitement of building mileage and getting ready for a big race. If you’ve noticed, even Jen K. has been missing from the blog (she messaged me earlier if I was missing her, ha).

Anyhow, I would love any suggestions for revamping my excitement back up? Trying some new things? What do you do in between big races?

team win

Ragner 2013: One of my favorite all-time race photos. This, for me, shows how it’s about the journey!


On being a survivor and recovering as a runner

There are alot of reasons I run and an even wider panoply of reasons amongst my friends. One recurring theme, though, is about time–time away, time getting stronger, time being something other than mother, sister, wife, daughter, etc. Protected, insulated time. I’ve found running to be very meditative, one of the few times I can be solely in the moment. In other areas of my life, I struggle tremendously with just being in that one moment. My mind races from things to do, things not done, things forgotten, things looming on the horizon. I can’t just BE. During a run, I am only focused on the mile I am in, the steps I am getting through. Even with the marathon, you fake yourself out by coaxing yourself through “just this mile.” You can’t leap ahead to what the next 10, 20, 5 miles will feel like. This is why nothing creates more loathing in a distance runner’s heart than the cheery “You’re almost there!” tossed off by unknowing spectators towards the latter end of a run. Until I see the f*ing finish line, I am NOT almost there. And at mile 20? Almost done?! If I had the energy to slap you for that ridiculous comment, I would. But I don’t, so I just glare and plod on.


You can buy this awesome shirt! I don’t produce it, but I’ve seen it and it looks awesome.

You get through one mile-sized bite at a time. Maybe not even the full mile. Yes, you plan ahead and think about it, but you can’t run mile 24 when you’re at mile 4. So you just keep moving through the mile you are in.

And this makes me think about the hundreds of conversations I have had with other women on runs and in other spaces, about how many of us are survivors–and not just in the Destiny’s Child version of Survivor or the awful snarky reality television version of it–but in the deepest levels of meaning for that word. And how we are all moving, running, walking to recover from all that has assaulted us in life. So we not only survive through brute determination or force of spirit, but we also attempt to recover from all of it. To heal and grow and BE.

upside down

I think that’s why so many of us FREAK OUT when we are injured as runners. One of our greatest avenues to emotional/physical/spiritual health becomes derailed. We are left like turtles tipped over on our backs. Vulnerable, misplaced, and disoriented. Our goals suddenly seem unreachable, all our hard work pointless. My friend Jenny, who’s been my greatest running friend, has had something which is essentially a stress fracture in waiting. She qualified for Boston last summer (at her second marathon ever!) and she’s been training for this year’s Boston Marathon. She started having pain while running and saw someone right away. She’s been in a boot, had to take time off running, and just had her second MRI. I don’t know what will happen yet, but I’ve seen how she’s had to take a huge step back and listen to what her doctor says. And while it’s difficult, she also knows this is her longterm health–both as a runner and everyday person. I think the most frustrating point for her is the fact that it’s a pre-stress fracture, so she MIGHT be able to run or she MIGHT make it worse. I am so proud of her, though, for doing what she’s supposed to. It’s hard to do what’s better for us, to recover from what hurts us, and to take the time that we all need. To do the work of recovery even when it’s boring or ugly.

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So this post is for all us of who have survived, move to thrive, and continue to do the work of recovery. May we all continue to move, walk, and run towards greater beauty, health, and strength. And may we all support one another in doing it.

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