RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


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Blergh

It’s been a bit, right? There are some things going on in life that are taking a lot of energy out of me. It leaves little room or desire to write about running. Part of this might be combined with the fact that I turned my ankle two weekends ago on the trail.

I was about 4 miles into an 8-11 mile run with some friends at Bull Frog in Palos. Ironically, I had stopped to re-tie a shoe tighter because it felt like it wasn’t support enough. As I got up to start running, I hit a big rock in the path and turned my ankle. I wasn’t in horrible pain, but I felt a momentary flash of panic. Ok, maybe not momentary. Just panic. The worst part was that we were just before the turnaround point. And this is trail. Which means, short of getting back to a road and waiting for someone else to run back and get the car, I’d have to run back. It wasn’t great, but I found I could bear weight on it without screaming in pain. So I ran back 3 miles–Kelly was able to configure a slightly shorter route back. Gorgeous picture of the lake from the BEGINNING of the run. Sigh.

I saw Craig that day and had him work on it. He actually didn’t think it was too bad, and I babied the heck out of it, wrapping it tight and wearing an ankle brace. I think that all helped. I can run on it, but 50k on it is a different thing…The amount of mental self-abuse I’ve been doing is outrageous. I just checked the cutoff time, though, and I’ll have almost 10 hours to finish the 50k. Hopefully I won’t need all that.

It just continues to remind me, on multiple levels, that our weaknesses–physical and otherwise–need constant monitoring and intervention. I had stopped doing my one-legged squats while brushing teeth awhile back, filled with false confidence in my ankles. And this is what happened. It reminds me of the same character defects I have, my willfulness, anger, etc. also need to constantly be worked on as well. They never really go away, just wait for an opportune moment. Seems exhausting thinking about it. But that is how we become stronger.

And one thing I’ve learned over the years is when I get stuck in self-pity, get outside yourself and go do something for someone else. So I did. A slew of my girls were running the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha, including Jenny’s first comeback race after over a year of injury. It didn’t occur to me, until really late in the game, that it would be great to go cheer for them. I found out two other friends–Jen H and Doreen–who also came to Boston were heading up, so I hitched a ride.

Andrea, Emily, Michelle, Jenny, Michelle

I am SO glad I went. The course was windy as HECK. It ran alongside the lakefront, which sounds great, until the wind picks up sand and scours you with it. The temperature was perfect, and it was somewhat cloudy at moments, but the wind was probably upwards of 30mph at times. The course was also really desolate. There were almost no spectators, and even the most “crowded” sections had just over a dozen. And they were QUIET. There was almost no cheering. So this made the 3 of us cheer even louder and act even nuttier. Two women even came up to us after the race to thank us for cheering. It was also weird because there were parts of the course that weren’t really closed off so people were driving ON BOTH SIDES of the road. Someone even pulled a boat down the middle of the course. I think based on the crowd support (or lack thereof) and the weird course stuff, I would not run this marathon. Jenny did say, though, that it was well run and the aid stations were great.

The girls had a really hard time, but the Michelle’s stuck together for most of it. Although Michelle R (left) pulled a Jen and finished about 20 second ahead of Michelle N. Ha.

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Despite all these brutal conditions, most of them finished ahead of my Boston time. Sigh. It was awesome, though, to go root for someone and not just be on the receiving end. I swear my “cheering high” carried me all day through rooting for my oldest’s tball game. Haha.

Andrea, Jenny, Emily

Whitecaps!!

Alright, that’s all for now. I’m gearing up for the 50k. It feels really weird because I’ve essentially been in a 6 week taper now. I’ve been actually weightlifting to try and do some less impact stuff that should help me with the hills and such.


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Boston

I hear a lot of people talking about feeling humbled by others’ praises. So often it strikes false. The humble brag of, “I’m so undeserving of this really competitive amazing thing, and I just can’t believe people think I’m so amazing (like I think, ha).” And it’s probably the cynic in me for thinking this. However, I truly was humbled by the outpouring of support from my friends. I was actually embarrassed that people were paying attention to me and thought I was doing something awesome. I mean, Boston IS awesome, but I am very uncomfortable receiving compliments or accepting support or acknowledgment from others (*cough, crazy family, cough*).

I also realize that some of this, particularly in regards to athletic accomplishments, is particular to women. I remember from my first Ragnar Relay, we were literally one of the first teams in the entire field and a bunch of us were marathoners and a guy from another said, “Wow, so you guys are pretty serious runners, huh?” We all hemmed and hawed like, “Oh, no.” We couldn’t accept the label that we WERE awesome and we WERE serious. I think back on that, and how I have to learn to accept support and acknowledgment gracefully. And, while I don’t want to get a big head, I can also admit that I’m doing something pretty amazing and it’s ok for people to say that. With that said, I will say that I did choose to NOT wear my marathon jacket and medal on the air plane ride home. Baby steps, people.

My awesome running group brought (to my kid’s preschool musical performance no less) balloons and a care package for the trip. Highlight of the bag? Trashy magazine! I also got a yard sign!

My good friend, Misty, also gave me Wonder Woman knee high socks and chocolate. Don’t worry, I didn’t run in them. 🙂

I escaped Chicago’s airport with little trouble. I felt a little guilty leaving the kids for the second time within two weeks, but it’s the last bit of traveling for a long while so they’ll survive. I stayed for most of the trip with my dear friend, Swati, who just defended her dissertation! She’s officially joined the ranks of Dr.’s that can not medically help you. We got to go out solo (she’s also a newish mom to Asha, who’s about to turn one year old) for dinner and ice cream. Like tourists, I made her take a picture with me and the cow at the famous J.P. Licks.

I have some other photos and stuff about my time in Boston, but I’m going to stick to marathon stuff for this one to help keep it from being a tome.

Saturday morning, Jen, Patty, and I decided to meet at the expo. Actually, Patty’s in-laws were awesome and picked me up so we rode together to the convention center. It was massive. You get almost 30,000 runners and their families and it’s going to be crazy. To be honest, I actually wondered about fire code because some of the exhibit lanes were narrow and tended to bottle neck up…Total mom mode, right? Anyhow, we took the requisite cheesy photos at the five million various photo op possibilities. Because the packet pick up and expo were on different floors, there really were a crazy number of opportunities to take photos. One of my favorite ones was the huge wall of names of every single runner. We each got free posters of it. Mine, sadly, got left behind in Boston at Swati’s house, but she promises to mail it to me.

Because this is the big mama of marathons, there were quite a few celebrity sightings at the expo. So…like total creeps, we took photos of these unsuspecting individuals. On the left is Shalane Flanagan promoting her new cooking book; top right is the back of Katherine Switzer (white jacket), first woman to officially run the marathon, and bottom right is a cardboard cutout of Meb. Ha. He was in town, but we didn’t see him live.

Patty and I did the bus tour of the whole marathon route. I was surprised to see that there were tents with souvenirs and food and things at the start already. For those unfamiliar with Boston, it’s a point to point course, which means you take a bus out to the start ~25 miles west of the city to Hopkinton and run your way back to Boston proper.

I took the obligatory start line photo. Some people were taking photos kissing the ground. Um, unless it’s like the foot of Jesus (and I’m not even religious), I’m not kissing it.

Riding the route, I was simultaneously nervous AND calmed. There were way more hills than I had thought, but they also seemed somewhat flatter than I had imagined. The tour guide, who was formerly a competitive runner, stressed the importance of really taking it easy the first half of the race, which has a net downhill. Most people take it too fast and trash their legs before the hills of Newton.

The night before was “dinner” at 4:30 at Vinny’s in Somerville. Good food, and we were glad to have time to hang out and lounge instead of eating and then going straight to bed. Jen and I were staying at friends, but we shacked up with Patty in her hotel room for the night before the marathon. Jen ended up using a great deal of her waking hours trying on the same two tank tops over and over, trying to determine which one would or would not chafe. We also went back and forth because the weather was supposed to be in the upper 60’s when we started. Trust me, Patty aka “Radar” was giving me minute-by-minute updates on every degree change in temperature and wind.

The rest of the night, we ended up buying a movie, How to Be Single, to watch in the hotel room. It was predictable and a bit young for us, but Rebel Wilson was funny and it was perfect for a group of women looking for a distraction. Patty fell asleep during it and had no trouble sleeping. I tossed and turned for over an hour, but eventually fell asleep and slept solid. Jen woke up throughout the night several times, so I guess it’s good we went to bed early!

Because there are so many stages to getting to the actual start line, we all got up around 6 am. We were going to take our hotel’s shuttle to Boston Commons to take the marathon shuttle to Hopkinton (which was supposed to leave at 8:15 for our wave). When we got outside the hotel, though, the line was like 30 people deep for a 14-person van. One of the door guys suggested we pay $5/person for a private shuttle. We thought it was a little shady, but we were also getting nervous about having to wait for several loadings of the shuttle so we did. Well, actually I had no cash and Jen only had $10 so we haggled that for the 3 of us.

We got to the Boston Commons and met up with Kelly, a colleague’s wife who was also running. Coincidentally, she was in the same wave and corral as Jen. I was actually in the wave before Jen, but I had decided to drop back so we could run together. Sadly, Patty was in the wave after us, almost 20 minutes later. We all got on the school buses and headed out to Hopkinton. We arrived at the high school and the athlete’s village was out on the fields. It was a huge area with tents (for shelter), free bagels, Gatorade, water, and coffee. We had over 2 hours to kill, which we spent mostly going to the bathroom and people-watching. We were surprised to see that some people still had their gear check bags, as gear check happened in Boston by the finish lines. I’m not sure what they ended up doing with them.

Finally it was time for us (sans Patty) to start moving towards the entry point. We gathered together in the parking lot before heading down the chute, which was probably over a quarter mile through the streets of Hopkinton. Before we started moving, I noticed what looked like sharp shooters on top of the high school. While I appreciated the safety concerns, their presence actually made me more nervous.

Along the way, right before people headed into the corrals, there was an area designated with the last port-a-potties (which they call port-a-johns out there). This was like two concentric circles of over 100 potties–a human waste Stonehenge of sorts. With all the waiting in between, we ended up doing another last ditch effort. Despite that, I still saw a woman squatting next to a light pole. Once we got into the corral, Jen did her obsessive shoe-tying shuffle. First it was too loose, then too tight, then the other one was weird. All while trying to keep moving along with the crowd.

We were off, and I got nervous right away. Between the heat and downhills, the run felt like a struggle right away. And I would struggle with hitting a rhythm for a good deal of it. I perked up a bit when I saw a runner up ahead wearing an Every Mother Counts shirt. My friend, Ayesha, is an ambassador for them and our Ragnar team ran miles for them last year. (Side note: Ayesha is running the Big Sur Marathon as a relay for them this weekend). It’s a charity that works to make pregnancy and childbearing safe for women. I had remembered reading that Christy Turlington, its founder and former supermodel, had qualified and was running Boston to raise funds. This could be Christy up ahead, and next to her was a tall, curly-haired man with a bandana–perhaps Scott Jurek? I couldn’t be sure, though, and when I mentioned it to Jen, she suggested we speed up to check. I couldn’t fathom pulling up any speed, though, and shrugged off such crazy talk. I would actually end up leapfrogging with them throughout most of the race and did end up chatting with them a couple times. Also, like a total creep, I took a running selfie with them. Marathon of creepy celebrity photos. Ha. At one point, Jen also said that her goal was to beat a supermodel. Spoiler: That dream didn’t happen. Christy beat us by 2 minutes.

This is me at mile 13. You can see I look pretty tired. I was beyond grateful to see Mr. UnRunner (he’s been demoted recently). I was mentally really struggling with the idea that I was going to be doing this for hours. HOURS, people. I just wanted to lay down and go home. I was really struggling with the heat and the downhills. Seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place was amazing.

I really had to suppress my urge to punch him, though, when he told me to “go catch Jen.” By this point, Jen had left me behind. She had spent a good deal of the first several miles a few yards in front of me, constantly checking over her shoulder that I was still there. I told her that I did not want to watch her doing that for the next several hours so go ahead. Deja vu to Chicago.

The Wellesley girls were out and screaming, but the way the literature described it, I thought it was going to be like Beatles-style screaming hordes of hysterical coeds. They were out and yelling and had the “kiss me…” signs, but, shh, I gotta say I wasn’t THAT impressed. I don’t know that I would call them legendary. I did see two girls who appeared to be naked under their posters, which read, “If you run fast enough, I’ll drop my poster.” My favorite sign along the course, though, was “You’re running better than our government.” This is particularly true in Illinois.

Another welcome break was seeing these girls around mile 17. These are the super fans that came from Chicago to cheer for us (mostly Jen, but also me and Patty): Dorene, Michelle, Michelle, and Jen. They are all runners and the two Michelle’s are training for a May marathon. Michelle (with sunglasses) ran Boston years ago in her youth and hopes to return again one day.

I got some very welcome hugs from the girls, although someone totally rammed their shoulder into my throat at one point, which was AWESOME. Choking and running. Good combo.

At some point between miles 17 and 19, Jen and I hooked up together again. She decided running alone sucked (again, deja vu to Chicago) and waited for me. We did conquer Heartbreak Hill together (next pic is us at the top). I have to say that Heartbreak hill wasn’t all that bad. I mean, it sucked, but I think the million OTHER hills were what were quietly crushing my soul. By that point, Jen and I just wanted to be done. We joked about rolling each other down the hill. Joked. Not really.

We split up again. See a pattern? Fortunately, I saw Mr. UnRunner and my friend Swati around mile 21 at the Boston College gates. (on a side note, the race goes through THREE college campuses, Wellesley, Boston College, and Boston University AND it’s a state holiday so the crow support along the route is crazy). Again, I was really excited for a reason to stop and see happy, familiar faces. Mentally, knowing I was more than half done, I was doing a lot better than the first half even though it was physically more challenging. Knowing I had a dozen marathons under my belt helped me push through. At one point on the course, I do recall chanting mentally, “I know I can” to get me over a hill.

The physical demands of the downhill and the heat took its toll on runners. I saw A LOT of runners down at medical tents along the way, on the side of the road, and even a runner in the middle of the course with medics towards mile 21. Two of the running bloggers I follow had to stop and receive some medical aid before being able to finish the course. I think they still beat my time. Sigh. I even saw one runner just completely stop and stand in the middle of the road, teetering. I stopped and asked him if he was ok or needed help. He said he was fine, even though he kept standing there teetering. I decided his male ego would be bruised by a chick helping him and we were only a few yards from a medical tent so I figured he’d be ok.

Jen and I did hook back up around mile 21 I think in time to see the super fans one more time. She was really struggling mentally and pulled ahead again a couple miles later. I could tell she just really wanted it to be over, though, and wasn’t going to be stopping again for me. She finished about 30 second ahead of me.

You can see I didn’t do a great job with the tangents, running .3 over. Thanks for the BLM bracelet, Bill! The personal is political!

The finish line was akin to the starting line, a long chute stretching out over a couple blocks to get your medal, water, bag of food (nice stuff!), banana, thermal blanket, gear check, and then finally heading out to the family reunion section. Jen and I got massages while waiting for everyone to meet at the designated spot. We were pretty out of it, but it helped getting to lay down and worked on a bit. The massages were inside and there were probably like 40 tables in the room, with massage therapists from all over. The guy working on me was from 2 hours away, and it was his fifth year in a row volunteering at the marathon.

Patty finished (on the clock, since she started later) only about 15 minutes behind us. She said she had a GREAT race, which just shows who’s the best runner in our crew. We got to take one big group photo before everyone head their different ways. The super fans were heading home, Jen was going to meet back up with her friend, and Patty and I were going to dinner together with her family.


Patty, our spouses, and I went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and hang out before having dinner with Patty’s family at Morton’s steak house. The dinner was AWESOME, hot shower was divine, and the company was stupendous. Morton’s even had the menus printed with our names on it (gotta find the pic I took). By the end of the night, I was dead on my feet and looking forward to bed.

The next day was uneventful, with a chill lunch with Swati, and an early departure for the airport. It was funny seeing the sea of stiff-legged runners in their aqua?/teal? marathon jackets tottering towards the gates. I didn’t wear my jacket cuz I’m weird like that.

I came home to this loveliness. Cuz nothing says I love you like toilet paper strew on your lawn. Ha.

Even though I’m not in this photo–actually it’s only the super fans and none of the actual Boston runners–I love it and wanted to end the post with it. I’m still processing my emotions from the race, but I couldn’t help but love the connectedness of the ladies. I did not get to Boston on my own, and I couldn’t have finished Boston on my own. I am blown away (again) by these women and (and men) that have encouraged me, supported me, and praised me. All of the texts, Facebook messages, calls, and well wishes. I don’t feel worthy of any of it, truly. It was such a communal effort and can only offer my warmest thanks and love for everyone that’s been part of this. Patty is already concocting what to do for next year. Good luck with that, I’ll be supporting you from home, haha. I’ll follow up this post with some of the other things I did in Boston, but for now, signing off.


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Happy new year!

Happy new year, friends! There is no day so full of hope and promise as New Year’s Day (unless you’re nursing a hangover, in which case, I’m sorry). I generally don’t “do” New Year’s resolutions, but I do like the contemplative aspect of the global turning of the calendar page. 2015 was an interesting one, filled with the amazing reaching of some goals (hello, BQ, and running 2015 miles with a friend) and the ongoing battle with some struggles (balance, depression).

The ending of 2015 was filled with friends and family.

And also some snowy running in Wisconsin.


  
I really love the quiet of running in Door County. The woods always evoke lines of Robert Frost poetry.

I also got a chance to catch up on some podcasts in those runs, which included Another Mother Runner interview with Suzy Favor Hamilton–celebrated middle distance runner who gained notoriety when the Smoking Gun divulged she was working as a high end escort in Vegas (while married and a mom in Wisconsin). It turns out that her behavior was fueled by untreated bipolar disorder, an illness which took the life of her older brother. She explores her experiences in the book Fast Girl: Running from Madness.

The interview was such a teaser for her book that I promptly downloaded it when I finished my run. It’s intense and scandalous and powerful. I have friends who have been diagnosed as bipolar, but I hadn’t understood how intense and out of control the mania could be for some. One of the main points Suzy underscores in the book is her hope to destigmatize the illness and her desire to heal and help others.

This book intersected with an article I recently came across about a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania runner who killed herself last winter. The article I read (a different one is linked here) seemed particularly fixated on how her Instagram account was so highly curated to only show her life as fun and happy. No one had any idea she was struggling. Down to a post of twinkling holiday lights right before she killed herself. It is always heartbreaking to hear of someone so young and promising taking their lives.

These two stories remind me of why I talk about depression on this blog. I run and eat relatively healthy (I had to bite my tongue recently when someone suggested I exercise to help my mood), connect with others, take medication, and do a host of other things that should make me ebullient. But I’m not. I still struggle periodically with depression, and it’s ok. Many people struggle with it. And the more we talk and support one another, the healthier and happier we can all be.

So my best wishes for all of you. For a healthy, happy, and hopeful new year. May 2016 bring peace and love for all.


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Playing catch up, the solstice, and trying new things (including signing up for my first ultra)

Well, it’s been some time since the last post. And I still owe you a race recap of the Hateya Trail race. Sigh. I have to confess, though, that between the depression and the holidays, it’s been rough. I had assigned a ton of symbolic meaning to the winter solstice and my deep need for the light to return. I can’t recall the last time the solstice was so close to Christmas either. I had even planned a tiny solstice party with friends, which was to include my first attempt at an pineapple upside down cake. Both attempts were botched. The depression was at its zenith those few days, and I couldn’t get myself to rally the effort. This was what made me decide to change some things around medication, including quitting the birth control I had been on the last two months. I’ve had depressive reactions to the pill before, and while I was depressed before starting the pill, it did seem to get worse after starting. Considering I had started the pill to help stabilize hormones and emotions, it didn’t seem like it was doing its job.

The change up in meds has started to help make a difference.  Finally.

It’s interesting, I was out to dinner with some old friends and we talked about depression. My friend’s wife asked me what depression looked like for me, because she imagined it as someone who could not get out of bed or face the world. And here I was laughing and out with friends. There have been times years ago where my depression did look more like that, but with two small children, it’s virtually impossible to hide in bed. For me, it’s been a sense of irritation and frustration, as if I have no ability to deal with even the smallest difficulty or trouble. I go straight to anger. There is no emotional reserve to deal. It also feels as if everything takes a Herculean effort. I have to rally every bit of myself to get dressed, go to work (and stay there), make meals. Every ounce wants to scream, “I can’t.” I am unable to focus on anything. There is a deep sense of both restlessness and inertia. I can’t focus. It all feels too much. And all that has begun to lift. Speaking, writing, and being proactive about actions to address the inertia have all been helpful. So I encourage everyone dealing with anxiety and depression to try things to address it, and get help. Interestingly, a lot of the women I run with deal with anxiety more than depressing but that’s another post…

I HAVE been running through all this, although unable to follow the training plan we had selected. This far out, it’s all just base mileage so I’m just working on keeping my weekly mileage up. The idea of doing speed work and such when I feel so heavy emotionally is unbearable. Here I am pretending to be in thei holiday spirit.

My lovely ladies did a morning before Christmas Day run. I met up with Patty and Emily to run some miles before and it was great. We even had time for coffee after. It was so perfect to get some good face time with the awesome, strong women before the chaos of Christmas. I really do love my running group.

We found it amusing that all of us wore black and then such bright shoes. So here’s my first obligatory shoefie. I will admit it was not my idea.

I also got another chance to get out to Palos and run the Bullfrog loop. Sadly, I was the one leading the group…which meant there was some map reading and general orienteering. It also didn’t help that they had updated the trail map, so I was running with a map that didn’t even have some of the colors on there–like the purple trail wasn’t on the version for the map I had. Sigh.  So lesson learned. Make sure you have the most recent map before getting out there.

The ladies I ran with were awesome about it, though, and just enjoyed being out there. They were good sports about stopping and checking maps and gps phones. It was Corinna and Jen’s first time out there, and Amy had run the Palos 50k this fall but didn’t remember all the parts either. It was muddy and fun, and Corinna’s longest run in a while so she appreciated all the stopping.

Amy is also the one that has gotten me to sign up for my first ultra, the Ice Age 50k in Wisconsin in May. I figure 4 months after Boston is good training overlap. We will see 🙂

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Anyhow friends, I hope you are running and staying sane. It just snowed like crazy last night so I might get to try out those micro spikes from Christmas after all!


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Trail Tuesday: Hateya Trail Race Recap

This race recap is pathetically overdue. I always have the best of intentions, but surprisingly, that’s not enough.

The race took place on December 5, a Saturday, in Kenosha, Wisconsin–a town I only knew through its outlet malls. It’s surprisingly pretty beyond that commercial mass. People had been posting different race options for December to help keep up motivation for the winter months. I can’t remember if it was me or my friend that found this race, but it was so cheap ($25 when I registered), relatively close (1-1.5 hours), a decent distance (6’ish miles), and a new (to us) trail that we couldn’t resist. I signed up with a couple different folks, of whom several ended up backing out for various reasons. The final crew ended up being me, Deanna (who I’d run with once over a year ago), and Holly, who I didn’t know. They are both in my running group, though, so obviously cool. Ha.

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The communications from the race director were good, if a a bit unnerving for a trail running newbie. For example, the night before the race he wrote that the course wouldn’t be finalized until the morning because of the rain we’ve been having. However it would be somewhere between 6-7 ish miles. I’ve been assured that this kind of thing is not uncommon for trail races. It was odd going into a race and not knowing exactly what was going to happen mileage or course wise.

The race didn’t start until 10 so we left around 8 to be on the safe side. There was little traffic heading up so we had plenty of time to spare. We decided to hit up one of the local cafes in nearby Racine, Wilson’s Coffee and Tea, which was super yummy, cute, and cheap. My almond milk latte was barely over $2 if I remember correctly. They also had some great coffee and tea accoutrement, which I couldn’t resist, and a large selection of chocolates. I bought a Bodum tea cup with a silicone infuser included for $10. There was also a local author setting up to do a book signing. Can’t get more local or community-based than that.

Anyhow, we headed back to the race and still had lots of time to get our packets, our free Bondi bands, and ornaments (in lieu of a medal). The parking lot was right next to the shelter where they were doing packet pick up.

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This was the most interesting start to a race I’ve been to. The director promised to not start until everyone was out of the port a potty (btw, the port a potty smelled amazing like a Christmas tree). And he kept his word. He also gave us a preview of the “optional” finish through the creek. I swore I wasn’t going to do it and Deanna called me a wimp. I would indeed end up IN the creek. Sigh. Because I am me, I fell in completely (as in soaked to the waist and scraped up my knee) trying to get across. I got a bottle of wine from the race director as consolation. Too bad I don’t drink! Don’t worry, we broke it out for a film viewing of Caballo Blanco a few weeks later.

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The course itself was nice, although I have to say it felt sometimes like we were going in circles. We did loop back a bunch, but we didn’t run over the same trail bits in more than one section I think. With all the brown landscape and multiple bridges, it felt like I would be lost in the woods forever. For the most part, it was well-marked, although there was a funky bit at the end where I almost got misdirected–there was a section that ran through the nearby golf course where I almost missed a turn (something that happened to more than one person). Definitely felt the hills coming from the flatness of the Chicago area.

It was interesting trying to figure out how to pace myself since I wasn’t sure what the final mileage would be, and I was relatively new to trail running. Everybody started out pretty clumped together, but as the miles ticked off, people began to spread out (hence the getting lost bit). I also felt like I needed to learn a bit of trail etiquette as some of it was single track–meaning the trail was only wide enough for one runner. I felt silly calling out “on your left” or “excuse me.” But trail running is so much more laid back that it wasn’t a big deal. One aspect I find interesting about trail running is which bits people walk and which bits people run (like up or down hills, bridges, mud). I definitely need to work on being lighter in my step. I always channel my friend, Bianca, who looks like a mountain goat on the trail, barely landing and bouncing from point to point.

The great part to the finish was the bonfire. I used it to slowly rotate myself like a rotisserie chicken and dry off. They also had delicious chili, both vegetarian and meat, cookies, and both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks (including microbrews and fancy sodas).

Another part of the race I found fascinating was how they did the timing. They called out finishing times as people crossed, and you handed them the bottom tag on your bib. It all went up on a giant whiteboard. Old school. I’m the tag hanging off at 35.

They waited to do the awards ceremony until everybody got in, which added to the hometown cuteness of the race. I did take that time to eat and change out of my wet pants! It was funny, some of the folks who podiumed declined their awards because they said they didn’t think they ran the full course. Considering the number of folks who have been revealed to have cheated in major races recently, it was refreshing to see people not take it so seriously and be honest in their finish times. There were lots of random prizes in addition to the winners, though, like prizes for folks who fell in, people who had birthdays recently, people who had run all the races in the series, best couple, and a host of other random reasons to celebrate. It felt very communal! The race director (in white t-shirt below) even got an award from the local Army recruitment office for all of his amazing work. The award was pretty outstanding, a huge metalwork bull or something (of course since this was race was almost a month ago, I can’t remember exactly, and the picture isn’t entirely clear below).

All in all, I loved my first trail race. It really underscored why I’ve been so drawn to that community. It just seems so much more supportive and less competitive than road racing. While I definitely like my moments of competition, I also enjoy how personal the challenge of trail running is and how enthusiastic folks are just to get out there. If my schedule allows, I am definitely going to be signing up for next year’s race, which is already posted! There are other races in the series (XC Thrillogy Trail Series), including an ultra so lots to offer for folks.


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Back to life, back to reality

One of the downsides of impending winter is the decreased light and the inability to effectively tell time by the amount of light in your bedroom. We all woke up at 7:30, which meant the oldest nugget missed his bus, which means Mr. Sometimes Runner had to drive him to school, which means he’ll be later picking him up from after-care, which makes the evening more hectic (since I’m teaching tonight). Of course the ankle-biters woke up between 5 and 6:30 AM every other day of vacation. Sigh. So it’s a bit of a stumbling return to the daily grind. Holiday hangover is real, friends (and that’s without drinking!).

It’s been a bit of time since the last post. As much as I thought about it, it just seemed more work to post amongst the flurry of activity with children home, in-laws visiting, cooking, and still trying to get my runs in. I hope everyone was able to survive!

The last remnants of snow melted earlier in the week. The final leaves of fall have also been taken down as well. The ginkgo trees in particular held on the longest and then let go all at once (the mass of yellow leaves in the picture below). Grossly, the berries are still smashed into the sidewalks stinking up everything. I would really like to know the evolutionary reasons for why those berries have to smell so foul.

It got warm right away, and I actually ran Thanksgiving Day in a t-shirt and shorts (I was a tiny bit cold as it was also sprinkling a bit). Still, I got to enjoy the last shreds of shorts weather we’ll probably see for a bit. I actually did this run as a tempo run (well, as tempo as I’ve been getting lately, ha). I was feeling the tiniest bit of speed and the cold made me want to finish faster, so it was nice to feel like I was getting some of my speed back.

Jen and I also ran the day after Thanksgiving to a steady drizzle. Like good little consumers, we incorporated a stop at our local women’s running store where Jen bought a Handful bra (which I then got suckered into running with in my pocket for 4 miles). Like the losers we are, we also managed to wear our matching Mother Runner hats. As you can see, it was cold enough that the misty rain on the hats froze over a bit. It was good to get out, and running in the rain (particularly cold rain) always makes me feel a bit hardcore. One thing I did look at in the store was breathable rain gear, but I realize I’m too cheap to invest in the good stuff. I own rain gear, but it’s either waterproof (and essentially akin to running in a plastic bag) or it’s water-resistant and lets in some moisture. One day, when I am a rich and famous blogger (hahahahahaha), someone will gift me better gear. In the meanwhile, you’ll see me with a clingy rain jacket sweating buckets or looking slightly angry at the chilled wetness.

It must have been the holiday of Jen because then we also decided to check out one of the local barre studios. We had bought a Groupon for 3 classes a couple of months ago, and of course we waited until the last day to redeem it. Typical. It was fun to see two other ladies from our running group, Jeanette and Jennifer (Jennifer also ran Ragnar the last two years with me) in the class. I guess you had to have a name start with J to be in the class 🙂 The instructor, Carmen, is also a BFF member!

This was the first barre class ever for Jen and me. It was hard!! Carmen had us do a bunch of glute stuff, which also totally ass-kicked our weak runner’s hips. We were grimacing for a good deal of the class.  I’m not as sore as I thought I would be today, but I can definitely feel the effects. We’ve been talking about incorporating more core and strength training into our training plan… I didn’t love it, as I tend to like more cardio-based workouts. However, for 50 minutes of pumping music and having someone else lead, it’s not bad. We bought a 3-pack, so we’ll go two more times. After that, we’ll see. It’s not cheap!

Last, but not least, we actually went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving, which made Thanksgiving Day relaxing. However, because I love Thanksgiving food so much, we also cooked a turkey breast and some sides on Friday. Mr. Sometimes Runner’s favorite part about that is the wishbone. Here, he wrestles the 6-year-old for domination (he lost).

Training is coming along. I actually had two runs last week that were paced under 9 minute miles. I’ve been feeling super slow and heavy lately (nothing to do all the eating, I’m sure) so I was happy to get some speed back that didn’t make me feel like I was dying. Just being under 9 is hardly “speed,” but lately I’ve been doing some runs at 9:45 so it’s speedy enough. Overall, though, I’m still not feeling like I’m really in training mode yet. Technically, I’m on a training plan but it’s just base mileage right now and I’m not following it all that closely. I have to be careful I’m not being too loosey-goosey about it, though, as I realized I didn’t even run 30 miles last week. My 10 mile long run Saturday felt hard–in the sense that I never hit my groove. I never got into the non-thinking auto-pilot you get with long runs. I was thinking about my mileage the whole time. Jen had the same struggle so we just complained about it for most of the run. Misery loves company.

Anyhow, friends, here’s to getting back on schedule and working through this training rut. The grey wet weather isn’t helping, but at least it’s not bitterly cold yet.

I also know that running is a way for me to deal with all the craziness in the world–both within my family and within my larger community. The chaos of what’s going on in Chicago between the video of Laquan MacDonald’s shooting and today’s closing of the University of Chicago campus because of a potential shooting makes me realize there are definitely larger issues impacting us. So I will use my run today to pray and meditate on hoping for peace. Hope everyone has a chance to do the same.


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Rocks, bathrooms, and chickpeas

Woohoo yesterday was my 100th post. Years ago (in the early 00’s) I tried to write a blog called “Lady of the House.” I think I wrote 3 posts over the same number of months.

I did the kids’ laundry the other day. When I transferred the wet clothes into the dryer, these lovely surprises were left behind at the bottom of the washer drum. Cuz you know. Rocks. I’m not sure which kid they belonged to, and I’m just grateful it wasn’t a melted tube of Chapstick.

I had long wanted our running group to post up signs in the windows of their homes to mark “this is a house you are welcome to make a pit stop at.” After 3 years, that dream came to fruition. We had our annual winter “how to dress for cold weather running” fashion show, and that is where we debuted the signs. We printed and laminated 20 signs with the BFF logo on them, and the 20 have already been claimed! I love that 20 people are willing to have potential strangers come to their house at odd hours to destroy their bathrooms. THAT is community, people. 🙂

Any runner with their salt will be able to share some horror story of a locked bathroom or not being near any facilities. As I started getting back into marathon training 3 years ago, I found myself utilizing full knowledge of where various BFF’ers lived to get some “relief.” There is always a post every couple months about others struggling with GI issues and emergency stops. And let’s just say that we are lucky that there is always so much construction going on in the area, because those port-a-potties come in handy when the park bathrooms close. HA.

Anyhow, yesterday’s run was devoted solely to dropping off some of the signs. It ended up only being 4 miles, but I stuck them in my race pack and enjoyed the run. It felt a bit like the Pony Express. Without the pony. Or old-school Greek messengers (by the way, why did they use foot messengers? Why not horses?). It was a gorgeous day, though, and I ran into two BFF friends walking their kids home from preschool. Mr. Sometimes Runner and I have talked about we love the density of our community and how we see people we know all the time…Although someone honked and waved furiously at me the other day, and I didn’t recognize the car and couldn’t see the driver very well. Black Nissan? Anyone anyone?

Finally, I’ve been experimenting with eating more vegetarian. I don’t want to claim to be going vegetarian because that is more commitment than I am ready for right now. However, yesterday was the second day in a row of being meatless. On the menu was chickpea croquettes/cakes (mostly ground up chickpeas, eggs, scallions, garam masala, and a shallot). They were pretty good, but the kids weren’t fans. I was also dismayed to realize after eating them that I had not connected wheat with the fact I had put breadcrumbs in them. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but I really hate cooking and it’s a bit of a disaster when I cook, so I wasn’t really thinking. Still, not huge amounts, but things to keep aware of.

Anyhow, it’s hump day. This week, honestly, already feels too long for me, so yay for getting to the midpoint! Hope everyone has a great day!

Would you put up bathroom signs for potential runner strangers to come to your house?