musings on running, life, and everything in between

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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.



Breathing into the tight spots

It’s past midnight and I’m writing this. I just finished the first season of Sense8 on Netflix. I will have to say, AWESOME. It’s got something for everyone–I mean seriously diverse cast. It’s international, got feminism, GLBT stuff, inter-racial/cultural stuff, martial arts, science fiction-y stuff, love. It’s by the Wachowskis and so it highlights a good bit of Chicago as well. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

I am regretting (a little bit) this late-night venture, though, as I haven’t been sleeping well. For whatever reason, my high school reunion this upcoming Saturday has been factoring into a great number of my dreams. I’m not even going to the bar/evening thing (just the school tour and picnic), but I’ve dreamt multiple times about the event. And I can’t remember specifics, but I keep wake up feeling disturbed. The fact that one of the organizers has been soliciting pictures/remembrances of those classmates who’ve passed away since graduation hasn’t been helping with the weirdness. I just spent way too much time Googling those people, and it’s super-depressing. Please get help if you are struggling.


I love Wil Wheaton, and I follow him on social media. He’s funny and honest. He recently did a video about his struggles with mental illness.

Which makes a good segue maybe into today’s deep thought. BREATHE through it. I recently got a massage as my legs are super-tight and feeling like they’re not fully recovering in between runs. As I mentioned previously, I do feel like the massages make a huge difference in that whole prehab/rehab kind of way and are an important part of my training. Things get all wonky from all that mileage, and you tend to get imbalanced and compensate in odd ways (for example, my right quad and foot are super tight and weird, yet my left ankle is achy. Perhaps related is the fact I’ve noticed I tend to strike heavier on my left heel).

Anyhow, because my legs were so tight and the massage therapist knew his trigger points, there were some really uncomfortable moments where the massage was painful and I had to suppress my initial impulse to tense up and try to squirm or shift out of that spot. And to be honest, I yelped at one point. Most of the time, though, I really tried to focus on not tensing up, kicking him to stop, or yelling. I coached myself to breathe through it–something I hear often in yoga. When you’re holding a pose, particularly if it’s a difficult one, you should breathe through the discomfort of that pose. Breathe into that point of tension and release it. It helped.

And that’s such a good lesson for the rest of life. So often when things are weird or hard, we want to squirm away and shift to deflect or avoid that pressure. When Mr. UnRunner was asking about what was motivating me to run Ragnar Great Rivers (because the list of cons was longer than the pros), he was surprised when I said that I thought it would be fun to meet new people and try something different. I am not one to jump easily into situations where I don’t know alot of people, and getting into a van with strangers for 48+ hours is definitely a challenge. I felt like I was in a rut, though, and that this would be good for me. And that I would enjoy it! Definitely not my usual self here, people. And hopefully, it will be a glorious experience to reward me for taking such a daring, adventurous attitude. If not, I’ll never try anything new again. HA.

Seriously, though, if we all took tight situations in stride and breathed into them, we would emerge so much stronger and grow from those experiences. I have NOT read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, but I imagine there are some elements of this idea in that book. If we are constantly working to get out of uncomfortable situations, we may be closing opportunities to be more. Obviously, there’s a balance in all of that! Feel free to comment if you’ve read the book and your own thoughts about the matter. I know it’s a bit of a controversial one.

Today’s run was a perfect example of breathing and working through a tough spot. Mr. UnRunner had a short business trip and left super-early in the morning, which meant I had to do my 12 mile run later in the morning when I had childcare. In the heat. I was spinning in circles trying to figure out what the most bearable route would be. It involved algorithms calculating difficulty of water vs no water, hills vs concrete, shade vs. exposure, and drive vs out-the-door. I woke up to a text message from my friend Anna asking if I’d run yet and would I like company if I hadn’t. Anna is younger and faster than me (she BQ’ed earlier this spring), so I hesitated. The thought of running 12 miles alone in the heat made me reconsider, though, and she promised we could run as slow as I wanted. We opted for the Prairie Path since it had some tiny hills, some shaded parts, crushed limestone, AND, most importantly, a. We actually did a great run for how awful it was–9:07 average pace.

The last two miles were slower, and I confess, we took a few water/walk breaks. I could not have done it without Anna encouraging me to keep moving. A couple of times she made me slow down because she could tell from my difficulty breathing and talking at the same time, that I was probably pushing too hard. Seriously, if you are running in the 80s/90s and high humidity like we were, you definitely want to make sure you have access to alot of water and at least shade for some parts of it. I still feel dehydrated!

It was definitely hot, and I further contributed to my ridiculous runner’s tan marks. Sigh. Maybe I should just start running in this get up to not deal with the tan lines. She is OBSESSED with that umbrella lately.

I took pictures of two random things on my walk today to share with you. This gorgeous flower. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a flower like it before. The stamen (?) pistils (?) were super tall and bunched together like a little crown.   And this old-school fire truck. I’m not sure where it was from or where it was going. I missed the front of it, which definitely looked different from today’s trucks. It was more rounded like a VW bus rather than the sharp corners of modern trucks. Still, it was fun to see. Sorry the picture doesn’t do it justice.
And since I started this post on such a heavy note, I feel like I need to end it with a silly one. I was perusing the random wares on Groupon (looking for headphones for the kids actually), when I came across this gem. Really? Someone needed to invent and make this? And 100+ people have bought it? It really is end times, isn’t it?

Anyhow, beautiful people. Have a glorious day! Feel free to chime in about any of the bricolage of things in this post 🙂

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That point when you start to hate training

Well, it’s happened…

I’m at the point in my training cycle where I hate it. Where it’s not feeling good, I’m tired, and I wonder why I’m doing this. Kind of like how you feel around mile 20 of the marathon. Which is apropos, since I’m coming up on my 20 soon…

I haven’t had it happen the last couple marathon cycles. Maybe because I was training with more people for more of my runs, but it was more tired of training than actual hating it. I have to admit, I kind of hate it right now. This Advanced Marathoning training plan is ALOT of longer runs. This week was 12 on Tuesday, 9 today with 4 at half marathon pace, 5 tomorrow, and then 16 Saturday. I actually had made a crazy spreadsheet comparing my various marathon plans (last year’s plan from Bill, this year’s plan from Liz, and AM’s). If you heard weeping last night, that was me. Total weekly mileage, it’s not a huge difference between Liz’s and AM’s. It’s how the runs are broken up over the week. AM’s training plan switches up running 4-5x a week and the various speed workouts. In other words, I’m screwed one way or another. Sigh.

I feel like I’ve been struggling more with recovering in between. I might even *gasp* skip tomorrow’s run. Tuesday’s 12-miler ended up being only 10.5 and being AWFUL. Part of it was I couldn’t get myself up and started to do it early in the morning, so I didn’t start my run until after teaching. Which mean’t I started running 12 miles at 8 p.m. I had also sliced myself with a stupid garden tool on the outside of foot, right under my pinky toe, which meant my running shoe was pushing right on it. And because I hadn’t run at night since Ragnar, I forgot how dark it gets and I didn’t run with lights on. And I ran through a construction zone. And I hadn’t really eaten dinner. All perfect ingredients for a crap run.

Today’s run was incrementally better. Shoe was still pushing on my foot wound. And it was humid. And I had an emergency potty break at the 7-11 (It IS TMI Thursday after all). AND, most unfortunately, I discovered what happens when deer can’t jump over a pointy fence. Ugh. I ran by a deer carcass that looked like she had gouged herself trying to get over it. I also had 4 half marathon race pace miles I was to do. I cut it down to 3. Oh, and I ran in cotton. Because the kids were sleeping and I couldn’t creep back up to get a different shirt–they have a sixth sense about when I’m getting ready to leave the house.
I have half-heartedly been attempting some glycogen depletion training (you can read more here), in hopes of teaching my body to be more efficient in processing fat and glycogen and ultimately prevent me from struggling so much at the end of the marathon. I also was hoping that it might help with my GI stuff. Today was a run on an empty stomach and that didn’t happen. I was afraid I’d be hungry during/after the run, but I wasn’t at all. I did force myself to drink this lovely black recovery drink–the red from the cherries and the green from the kale don’t make a pretty color.   I have to remind myself that I’m not the only one that struggles with this, as evinced by this popular shirt.

running-tee-lgAnd isn’t it the Bible that says, “And this too shall pass”? Ha. I have to remind myself that training for a marathon is a privilege and luxury that some people can’t afford or can’t even physically tackle. I know that this is something temporary and I’ll get through it. That all this hard work, both physical and mental, will pay off. Right? Can I get an “Amen!”?

In good news, our veggie boxes are starting to produce, so we harvested our peas! Now that we’ve gotten about a pound of peas out of them (I’ve never shelled peas before!), they look like they’re drying out and done. I’m not sure how peas work as I haven’t grown them before, and whether they really are done or if they’ll grow more. Stay tuned 🙂
Part of why I might be struggling so much with being tired is that my kids have been sneaking into bed. All night. Multiple times a night. Last night, when my husband came to bed, he kicked the youngest one out. Then around 1 a.m. I realized my older one was stifling me with his body heat, so I kicked him out. And then this morning he was back. At least the rugrats are cute. Any advice on keeping them out would be helpful.   Finally, my daughter cracks me up. She was actually a bit offended yesterday when I was laughing at her. But seriously…look at her. Dark glasses, egg on her face (literally), and very serious. My sister said that my daughter’s her spirit animal. Ha.

Anyhow, on that significantly lighter note, I hope everyone’s getting through their day, runs, whatever, with some patience and gentleness. We all have rough days/weeks, and we’ll get through! Happy running!

What do you do to get through tough points? 

Do your kids sneak into bed?

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Countdown to Champaign, and Patriot’s Day (aka Boston Marathon) is here

The last few days have been intense. I’ve had 5 academic presentations in 4 days in 2 locations (at a conference and on campus), 2 kids’ birthday parties, a graduate school open house, last long run before marathon, and the usual overload of work. I was essentially turned away from the second kids’ birthday party and ordered to get more coffee. The words “frumpy face” may have been used to describe my look. Or it could be my regular resting b*tch face. Still, I savored the opportunity to have some silence and seek solace in the bottom of an iced coffee before entering the madness of cupcakes and bouncy house.

It’s finally here, the week of the marathon. I’m working on getting a mental game plan for the race. While I’ve not stood in front of the mirror and chanted positive mantras to myself, I’m beginning to think about visualization of the race and strategy. Do you like all of my qualifiers and refusal to commit? Beginning to think about. Geez.

I did print out a map of the course, and I’m planning on comparing my pace band estimated times, locations, and using the Google fly-through. it’s harder to visualize crossing the finishing line holding Jen’s hand (as threatened/promised) without wanting to collapse in giggles, or wondering what it will feel like to curse and cry in front of another person at mile 22, but we’ll see. I’m holding off on race day outfit planning as of yet, as the weather is being unpredictable.

I saw a friend at the conference I hadn’t seen in awhile. Sadly, she told me she felt like she was coming down with something. I still hugged her good-bye, but I did double-think it for a moment. I should probably go buy the vitamin C and Airborne she was talking about getting for herself, ha. We are never promised tomorrow, though, and I would feel horrible if my last contact with her was an air high-five. I’m morbid, I know.

Random things, I realized during the conference: I’m awkward, and feel even more nerdy/awkward when I’m around other academics, which seems paradoxical; I drink way too much coffee and felt unable to stop talking a couple times; There are some people who live within a few miles of me I still only see at conferences, whether in town or out of town; Sometimes i wish I could find a way to close my eyes and sleep in public acceptably; Eating birthday cake twice in one day is too much cake; While I can’t describe it, I feel like academics have a certain look that makes them easily identifiable. I haven’t determined yet if I have this look.

i’m going to keep this post brief as I need to work on playing sleep catch up for the week. Boston is finally here. It’s been fun following some of my favorite run bloggers doing their bib pick up and getting excited about running. It makes me want it even more. While I know I have to prepare myself with the possibility of not qualifying (or not making the registration cut off with a speedy-enough time buffer), I can’t help but think I’ll be crushed if I don’t.

Love that logo

The upside of the spring marathon (which, I feel has few upsides) is that you can recover and train well for another marathon in the fall. And since Jenny is missing out on Boston this year, I’ll run another to get her qualified in the fall for Boston 2016. I guess one thing about pursuing a bucket goal is that you can keep reaching for it till you kick the bucket–hm, I’m not sure if that sounds more hopeful or morbid. Again, morbid.

One final thing. On my drive earlier, I almost hit a guy running. At night. In the rain. In all black. With no reflective gear/lights. People, don’t be stupid. If you’re going to run outside at night in the rain, make sure people can see you. At the minimum, wear clothing with some reflective strips. But preferably, wear a reflective vest, blinking lights, and/or a headlamp.


Me at Ragnar last year with vest, light-colored clothing, and headlight.

Thanks to running Ragnar (6-12 person relay covering ~200 miles nonstop) two years in a row, I now own all these things (you are required to have several of these items for the team and everyone has to have a reflective vest).


Part of my team from Ragnar 2013. Those are some sexy outfits, huh?

P.S. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not much of a “photo person,” meaning I’m not the person that’s always taking pictures of my life. This blog seems to reinforce my general lack of awareness in doing this. I have huge swathes of my life that have gone undocumented because no one in my family was a big photo taker. I realized in getting ready to write this blog entry that I did not take a single picture of my friends this weekend. Oh, I did take one conference-related photo. My friend Susan and I have started a tradition of purchasing make-up at a conference together. I’m not sure why, it just happened. Anyhow, the timing was so hard this trip, that I had to purchase some after she left–in homage. Ha.

Does anyone else have any weird rituals/traditions they do with friends? 

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

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

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

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

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

2015-03-18 06.24.13

It was dark but pretty!

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


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

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

Anyhow, friends, keep movin’ and groovin.

Do you tend to compartmentalize yourself?

Would you buy a coffee IV kit?