RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


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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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Been too long

Ok, so it’s been the LONGEST time since I last posted. I’m not gonna lie. I’m in a funk. Between feeling burnt out crispy with running, teaching 3 nights a week back to back (for 4+ hours), and the winter, it’s been tough. Just to give you a sense of what that means, here’s an exchange I had with Jen last night. I guess she and Jenny had a discussion about me during yesterday’s long run. I was in DC for the weekend so I did my long run earlier in the week (more on that in a bit).

Do you like how her offer of “taking me out” gets meet with immediate suspicion? Although, on the flipside, do you like how Jen downgraded the “taking you out” part to just all going out? Gotta love my friends, right? But seriously, it’s nice to know that people care enough to make sure I don’t go off the deep end.

I’m in DC for the weekend, really 36 hours for some English teacher conference planning (neeeeeerds, I know). Anyhow, I had the opportunity to meet Tracey last year at the same planning meeting and she was pregnant at the time, but we got to talking about running. We ACTUALLY got to run together this time since baby has since exited the womb and she’s back running. She just did a half marathon last month! Admittedly, she tried to duck me about running early Sunday morning, but I convinced her 🙂 AND, this makes her officially my first running buddy from traveling on the blog. Woohoo! So here we are at the mall. You may remember a similar (solo) picture from this run/trip last year.

And of course, we had to stop by and see the Obama’s. They had coffee ready for us.

And to top it all off for fabulousness, I got a free extra drink after the run! I was asking about the “flat white” drink at Starbucks (not my preferred caffeinated beverage vendor, but the only thing open in our neck of the woods). I’m not sure if they were being very generous or just confused, but I got both my almond milk cap and flat white! Extra caffeine is never a bad thing. Also, I tend to get “fancy” drinks only after a run. I’m all about the black coffee otherwise.

EDITED TO INCLUDE: Ha. I forgot. During our run I saw a black squirrel, and I commented to Tracey that we don’t see those in Illinois, and did they have them in Arizona. “Uh, is that like a groundhog?” So, no, they don’t have squirrels everywhere like the midwest. Furthermore, Tracey said “I run by javelinas and coyotes, is that like the same thing?” Um, no. Differences in running around the country!

Because I didn’t feel like finagling a 12+ mile run out of town when our time was so booked, I decided to do my long run Thursday. To try and shake things up, I decided to head out to the hills and trails of Waterfall Glen. There was a threatened fierce blizzard Wednesday night, but that didn’t really manifest. There WAS snow on the ground, though. You can see some of the path was less travelled than others. It was gorgeous and quiet. Really beautiful, and the sun started to come out. I’ve also been realizing that running in snow might help your form, but that’s another post.

The snow was powdery enough, and the trail was probably clear before the “storm,” so I decided against the Yak Trax and went with my trail shoes. I wish they were more water-resistant as my feet did get wet, but I definitely didn’t find myself missing the Trax. With the exception of some squishing around from the soft snow, I didn’t have much issue running in it. Of course, I also visited one of my favorite port-a-potties. Right around the halfway point 🙂

I also realized that I haven’t run much at Waterfall Glen in the winter. I’ve run it in the fall and early spring, but with all of the snow we’ve gotten the last couple of winters it’s been tricky trying to get any decent running there in February. With all of the foliage gone, though, I stopped around mile 5 because I noticed the foundations of an old building. I think usually there are at least some leaves covering easy viewing of it, even though it’s just a few feet from the path. I think it might be the remains of the Old Lincoln Park Nursery on this map? I did see another building ruin a bit further later on the run as well, so I’m not sure. Still, it was cool to see something that I’ve run by so many times before. Forcing myself to do hill work at Big Bertha? Not cool. But I was channeling my inner Patty Herrera (who’s obsessing about Boston’s hills) to get out there and do it.


I really did need that long run as a break from the routine, and my run with Tracey this morning. This face just about sums up how I’ve been feeling lately, both about running and life in general.

I thought about doing some very bloggery “Top 10 Things to Do to Shake Up Your Run,” but I’m a lazy blogger. So here’s a couple things, 1) Take a break. Cut yourself some slack and go do something else. 2) Try running somewhere new or WITH someone new. If you feel like you’re in a rut or routine, do something to shake it up.

There. I know. Life changing. But get out there and do something. Nobody’s making you run, so if it’s not fun, do something else. Just keep moving.


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Spending time on self care

Women can be bad at self care (yes, I know it’s an overgeneralization). Moms are even worse. Running moms the worst. One way I know this is even the targeted health advertisements I see for women to get mammograms or other screenings, and the advertisement is spun as a “You take care of everyone else, but you also need to take care of yourself in order to do that.” As a mom, you put your own needs and sometimes health behind others (ask any mom what happens when they are “sick”). As runners, we’re even more prone to ignore aches and pains until it’s too late. I get the extra awesomeness of being Korean and having grown up with self-employed parents–read: having minimal insurance/access to doctors–so I don’t go to the doctor when I’m sick or for much in general. Just to give you an idea, my dad slipped/fractured a disk in his neck and ended up having major surgery, wearing a halo brace, and being out of work for a year. And he didn’t go to the hospital, in fact SLEPT on the injury, until the next day.

So yeah, learning to ignore pain and what my body wants or needs runs pretty deep. Recently, Craig (my myofascial guy) gave me a long lecture about how I really needed to work on self care to keep myself injury-free. I couldn’t just ignore stretching, etc. And he may have muttered a thing or two about aging…

And the fact of the matter is that I’m not 25 and gutting out my first marathon through excruciating pain and thinking it’ll all go back the way it’s supposed to in the morning…or in 3-4 months since I refused to run for awhile after that first marathon.

Whereas before, I used to not understand what people meant by this “warming up” before running they would do, and I had no idea what a foam roller was until my second marathon. Oh, and I started training for my first marathon in cotton. A lot has changed. I still don’t warm up, but I do sometimes stick my legs (meaning I use “the stick” or “tiger tail” to massage my legs a bit) and do some dynamic pre-emptive stretching before a run. I wear compression religiously to ward off “something” much like garlic for vampires. I spend more intimate time with my foam roller than I do with my husband. And I’ve always been good at stretching afterwards, but it was only for at most 5 minutes. Craig was talking about spending some serious time getting into the tightness, maybe backing off the mileage, and doing more yoga and other activities.

The brat in me wants to stomp my foot and go, “REALLY?! You want me to do MORE STUFF to be able to keep doing the stuff I’ve always been doing?” Um, yes. As much as I hate to admit it, my body has changed. And my threshold for discomfort has lowered. Don’t get me wrong, I can take pain like no one’s business (hello, two natural child births), but I’ve begun to realize more and more that I don’t HAVE to. And maybe I SHOULDN’T (yes, this post is all about caps). Maybe that’s wisdom. Or just being an adult.  

14 miles in 2 degrees. i can take pain.


I see this in other areas of my life. The other night, I crashed hard at 7:30. After a brutally cold 14 miles starting at 6:15 am, my body was done for the day early. I demanded a lot from it, and it wanted a lot in return. I actually debated forcing myself to stay up. Watch bad shows. Read. Putz on the interwebs. As if some “cool patrol” was watching me and assessing my dork factor for going to bed on a Saturday night so early. But no one was watching. I was the only one who had to face the consequences of my actions. So I went to bed. I slept a solid 11 hours.

I have begun to realize more and more that if I don’t take care of myself, I will be one miserable runner, mom, wife, and educator. And I will make the lives of those around me miserable. And that doesn’t have to happen.

So I go to bed early. I call people when I’m struggling with my depression. I go to yoga. And… I drop down running plans. Boom.

Yup, I decided to move from the 5 day/week running plan to the 4 day/week. My body isn’t happy with what I’m doing or have been doing. Something needs to change. And for some insane reason, it freaks me out to admit it to myself and change the plan, and admit it to others. Even though no one is judging me for it, and most of my running friends would encourage me to be healthy and do what my body needs. But there’s a sick little devil on my shoulder that tells me that I’m not a REAL runner if I’m not cranking out 50+ miles a week. If I’m not running 5-6 days a week. If I’m not running a sub 8:00/mile on the daily. If I don’t make the top X percent. So you push and “dig deep” until your well is empty and you are spiritually or physically broken.

No thanks.

I’ve been there and done that. And I don’t need to go back.

But that’s taken me a long long time to learn. And it’s definitely progress, not perfection. It’s the long view. Boston was once a bucket list for me. And now that it’s on the horizon, I want to make sure that I can actually run it. I don’t know if I’ll run it more than once, so I want to make sure all my crazy work the last two years actually means something. I take it back, it DOES mean something whether I get to run Boston or not (as of right now, btw, there’s nothing to stop me but myself). That I can work hard, attain my goals, and bust my guts doing it. And regardless of what happens at Boston, I’ll know I did good and I’ll be with friends. *cue soaring, inspirational music* But that only happens if I’m healthy and strong enough to get to the starting line. And that only happens if I listen to my body and take care of myself.

Even the elite runners do this. Deanna Kastor pulled out of the Olympic Trials pretty last minute, and Kara Goucher said she “left it all out there,” but it wasn’t enough to make the Olympic Team (although since she was 4th, she’ll be the official alternate). Even Desi Linden, who pulled an amazing second half of the marathon, said she had to trust her plan and not punch it in the first half to keep up with Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan (and that plan is what got her to pass Shalane just within the last mile or so and nab second). Amazing. So even the elites have to listen to what their bodies and spirits need.

Sorry if this post was all over the place, but I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to figure out what I need and how to keep myself healthy on lots of fronts. I didn’t have a great foundation for those things growing up, so it’s new terrain. Anyhow, hope you all had a great run this weekend, whatever your plan was.

 


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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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7 Things I learned from the Chicago Marathon

In no particular order

  1. It’s awesome running with a purpose and running for a charity. I ran for Team in Training through the “Your Way” option. I was already registered for the marathon so all proceeds went directly to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. IMG_2087As I’ve talked about, my running group Best Foot Forward, lost one of its members this summer to complications from leukemia and another member’s 5 year old daughter has been fighting it since her diagnosis earlier this year. In just 3 weeks, folks stepped up and $800 was raised!
  2. I’ve read alot about runners running by feel and not relying so much on their watch (what some people call “running naked”). I was too afraid to actually do this before. However, using the pacers at the Last Chance Marathon and then approaching the Chicago Marathon as fun, I didn’t use my watch (well, that and the watched went bonkers so it wasn’t even an option in Chicago). Also, when I got lost recently in the Wisconsin woods and ran probably 13 miles instead of the 6.5 my watch said and didn’t realize it right away…I’m thinking I rely too much on technology. Interestingly enough, I also just read an interview with Deena Kastor, who just set a new women’s Master’s record for the marathon at Chicago. She did it with just a regular watch, and she calculated the splits. She wasn’t wearing a GPS watch that was ticking off each mile. And that seemed to work for her. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be wearing my watch for just logging miles and such, but it’s good to rethink what I’m trading off or gaining by wearing it or not wearing it.
  3. Wait for it… Running can be FUN. I know. GASP! It’s not just a “race” against the clock. Or beating someone else (well, it can still be that…ha). I technically approached Chicago with that mindset, but I was still not 100% sold on it the first 6 miles. Then I realized that I was going to hate it if I didn’t pull back and just take it easy. And then seeing Jen at mile 20 or whenever it was, and finishing the race together was awesome. AND, there is photographic proof that you can run and have fun. Us at the finish line. Snip20151014_1Don’t worry. I’ll be buying the picture. And maybe putting it on a t-shirt for Jen to wear everywhere. Or a coffee mug. Or a tote bag. Or all of the above.
  4. The marathon is always such a mental thing. There is definitely the physical part of it. Most people (because there are always a few anomalies) can’t just go out and run a marathon without training at least partly for it. However, all the training in the world isn’t enough if you’re not mentally ready to do it. There’s alot of psychological chatter you have to do to keep yourself moving, to tell yourself that the pain is worth it, that all your hard work WILL pay off. Like I wrote about yesterday, I used the memory of Lauren to keep myself moving. That was more meaningful than just running for my own personal achievement.
  5. You have to run your own race. I had a friend who was trying to qualify, and it was getting in my head that I should try also. And like I said, I thought I was going to the first few miles in. But then I realized that I was tired and that this would be my third marathon this year, the second within a month. I wasn’t feeling great, and it would be dumb to push myself. A year ago, I wouldn’t have made that choice. I would have kept pushing myself and had a horrible time. Maybe hurt myself. The beauty of running (for me) is that it is a individually-located sport. Meaning, every goal, race, whatever, is about what you want/need. At my level, I am not winning races, so why am I out there? What do I want from this? I even read a piece a while back about having 3 goals for a race: 1) your ultimate, ecstatic, pie-in-the-sky goal, 2) your happy with it goal, and 3) your low-hanging fruit, assured goal. By having these 3 goals in mind, you’ll always accomplish it. My first marathon, my goal was to just finish, which was probably 2 and 3. This time, it was BQ, finish under 4, and just finish. It was good to be able to slide from one goal to another without feeling like a failure.
  6. The other day, someone was telling me about a book called You Win or You Lose Learn (I guess the cover actually has the word crossed out like that). I don’t know this book, but I guess it’s big in business. I like that idea for the marathon (or any race) as well. Each race is a learning process. Whether it’s about pacing strategy, fueling, hydration, sleep. I feel like that’s the allure of running multiple marathons. It’s such a huge endeavor with so many moving parts that you learn something new each time. And, for me, I want to get right back out there and try something different to see how it plays out. I think for several of us this time around, the learning process was alot about learning to listen to your body and understanding when you can push beyond discomfort (because running a marathon is not about comfort, ha) and when you’re pushing towards injury.
  7. Finally, I am totally blessed with some crazy-ass, amazing women in my life. From the folks who donated to TNT to the golden sparkle cheer sign emblazoned with “WWJD: What would Jung do?” on my lawn to the 22 pound bag of ice personally delivered to my front stoop. I do not feel worthy of the love and support of all these women. I got so many text message from BFF members the night before and morning of both the Last Chance Marathon and the Boston Marathon–some from women I haven’t seen or talked to in months. I had a friend order a BQ/Boston Qualifier necklace charm the minute I qualified and sneak-drop it off my house later that week. Even seeing random women from the group along the course–like Andrea who totally scared me by jumping in for a second and screaming my name–was amazing. When I first joined the group 2.5 years ago, I wasn’t sure about it. I am not a joiner and definitely not great in spaces where I don’t know alot of people. But I stuck it out, and it’s been one of the absolute best decisions of my life. But like all humans, sometimes I forget to be grateful and to remember to say thanks. So to all my crazy ladies, I love you.


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It takes a village to qualify for Boston–my love letter for BFF

I am breathing the rarified air of Boston Qualifiers, and I am dumbfounded. This was hands-down the best marathon experience of my life. I ran solid, never took walk breaks (except once through an aid station), and had a big kick at the end. I’m not even as sore as I usually am the day after.

And it’s because of this group. [Note: I’ll do a real race recap later]

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Despite all my threats and grumbles about people showing up to watch me potentially fail, they showed up anyway, and I DIDN’T fail because…surprise…support helps you. I know. Shocker. Trust me, I’m still trying to puzzle that one out.

I knew these two crazies, Jen (as in my partner in crime this spring) and Patty, both already qualified this year, were going to be there early.

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Early, as in early and dark. When the sun was just starting to think about rolling out of bed.

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I knew they were coming and saw them at the end of my first lap. But then imagine my surprise when I saw these guys further down.

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Stephanie Harri left after the race to get ready to play TWO weddings (she’s a violinist…AND a chiropractor). Crazy!


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Swati Saxena, REALTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE, is the lovely lady in green who owns her own personal megaphone. 

She also baked me several vegan treats. AND drive me home in my own car to save my legs.

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Julianne, on the left, is from Massachusetts and was secretly working to coordinate the ambush of love.

And just in case you think we’re a classy bunch of ladies, here’s a sign to disprove it.

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My dear Jenny, standing tall in the middle with her ever-present blonde ponytail, ran with Jen for my last loop. I don’t think I would have kept up my pace without them that loop. She actually ran her first 13 miles since this winter. Jenny also realized that I had lost a hair band halfway through the race (which is why I went from two French braids to a single pony tail half French-braided) and tried calling some of the girls on their way to see if they had an extra!

And, finally, on the second-to-last loop, or maybe it was the last loop (it was hard keeping track), I saw my family. And seeing my husband and kids cheering me on (well, Wyeth was kind of crying and trying to grab me, but I’m sure he was cheering on the inside…) helped push me through. I abandon them in the early mornings to go run these distances, smoothed over with sugary promises of donuts. But sometimes they still cry when I leave the house. So I ran to make it worthwhile.

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And then there were people who were supporting me from afar, sending texts and messages, and even ladies that weren’t there race day but helped make the signs (Aimee, Erin F), and I still used some of Coach Lizs speed workouts. I have never felt so awash in love and support. Like EVER. These people have endured my countless rants, obsessions, early mornings, late nights, annoying FB posts, and anxieties about running and about this race. Seriously, I am humbled beyond words, and feel that I am not worthy of this. Really. I mean, I think I’m funny and mildly amusing, but I will admit that I really am not such a sparkling personality to warrant such an outpouring of affection (I’m awkward and can seem standoffish, I’ll admit it. I’m also prone to handshakes and sideways hugs vs full-frontal hugs.). It goes to show you how much we all need one another, and how much more can be accomplished with the love and support of others. IF you just let them in at least a teeny, tiny bit. So to all the amazing women of BFF and my awesome family, this time was for you.

P.S. One funny note. Someone asked the group how many people they knew in the race. They said one. HA.