musings on running, life, and everything in between


Taper Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was her the previous evening.


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

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

Onward and upward, friends!

Leave a comment

Hump Day Hill Repeats

Yesterday was rough. I crashed out at 7:30. After sleeping for 10+ hours, I still feel like I could sleep more. There wasn’t anything spectacularly bad, just sheer tiredness. The kind where you want to go to bed and not get out until the next decade. Or at least the next presidential election cycle, right? Sigh.

After dropping off pretty princess at preschool yesterday, I headed to campus and worked most of the day on all the various sundry and unglamorous aspects of professor life. STARTED thinking about some of my writing projects, but only managed to look at my notes and print a few things to get ready. That might need to happen tomorrow as today is filled with a million meetings and a cram session for a faculty book discussion I’m supposed to help lead.

Since I’ve been struggling so much with the speed, I decide to at least do something else different with training to get stronger. I took advantage of being out by Waterfall Glen and decided to go with hill repeats. Sadly, those hills felt/looked much bigger in real life than they do on the elevation map of my Garmin.


I was going to do all of Big Bertha, but for the sake of time and efficiency, I just decided to do a big hill. Or what I thought was a big hill. Dubious now…Big Bertha is somewhere between miles 4 and 5. It’s about a half mile stretch, I think I got the bottom quarter of it. I didn’t want to spend half a mile doing the downhills because a) it bothered my left Achilles/ankle (I really gotta figure out what’s going on with that) and b) it seemed like too much rest/recovery time doing the downhills.

One of the nice things about the hill was a little overlook at the top so there was some reward for the work.


Today’s a rest day. Ideally I would squeeze in a yoga workout, but I think I’m going to have to settle for bringing some of my recovery tools to work (travel stick and foot massage ball) and doing it in between meetings. If I get home before 10, I might do a 10-15 minute yoga stretch routine. Otherwise, it’s too much.

That brings up something I’ve been curious about with ultra running. I stretch myself time-wise to fit in marathon training, and while the 50k seems somewhat more manageable time-wise, everything beyond seems really difficult. I’ve noticed that the bulk of folks who are most active on my trail/ultra running Facebook group are single and/or childless. I’m curious how working moms juggle training for ultras and still parent, work, and not go crazy. I might put it out there. That is definitely one thing that’s prohibitive about training. The other is the amount of traveling that seems involved with getting to races, especially in the Midwest. We only have so much open trail and ultra road races are fairly unpopular it seems. I’m new to all this, so feel free to pipe in with experiences, thoughts, etc. In the meanwhile, I might post on the Flatlanders group for a roll call about working mom ultra runners and how they manage.

Leave a comment

Belated Weekend Write-Up

Ugh, not sure what’s up…maybe the grey? The fickle early spring weather? I’m dragging and this blog-writing has been dragging too. Sigh. My son threw a tantrum yesterday morning that he was tired and just wanted to sleep all day and NOT go to school. #allthefeels He went to school.

The weekend’s run was…ok. 13 miles of trails out at Palos averaging around 10 min miles (with one flight of Swallow stairs). It was great company, but we did 1.5 loops, and that second .5 loop was tiring. The hills felt hillier, the mud muddier. I was just glad Kelly was doing it with me (the others only did about 1 loop). Still, we had a nice little crew out, and it was my first run with Deanna (I think) since the Hateya Trail Race in December (that’s her, third from the left)! And I think my first run with Katie in a year (second from right). Geez, people get busy. Katie’s busy training for a half iron distance triathlon in the fall. Sigh, I still haven’t made it back into the pool since that one time earlier this year…

One of the things I like about trail running is that no one makes you feel like a loser when you walk the hills 🙂

Most of the path was decently dry, but there were definitely some patches that were still bogged down. 

It was nice getting the group together, especially since Laura, Kelly, and I will all be at Ice Age (Laura is doing the half). I was sad to see most of the group break off, leaving me and Kelly to suffer through another 5 miles. I’m not sure if it was the 6 miles I did the day before that left me tired or if I’m just TIRED lately…either way, it’s not doing much for the old self-confidence for Boston. I’m also doing stupid things like looking at my mileage and comparing it to previous training cycles and then berating myself for not running enough.

Sigh. I’m trying to just be in it and just accept where I am, but it’s a bit much right now. For a variety of reasons, I feel pretty checked out from training, work, parenting, life…and I keep dredging the reserves to keep moving and keep doing what I need to, but it’s not great. A friendly recently called me out on some of that behavior and it hurt, but it was also much needed. I can’t keep using excuses of “I’m busy” or “It’s too much” to NOT show up for other people in my life and think I’m “getting away” with it. There does need to be some accountability. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I think I need to find a way to both recharge and re-connect with what I need to do. This is the point where I flash back to those, “Calgon, take me away” commercials of my youth. Ha. A few years ago, I was really working on mindfulness and simplifying. Instead of running around so much like a chicken with its head cut off, I think I need to really slow down and reconsider what I need to do…

We had a pretty open weekend for the first time in a bit, so we decided to go downtown and check out the Field Museum. It was crazy busy, but we got in to see the terra cotta warriors from China exhibit. It was pretty amazing to think that there were thousands of these buried. I was slightly disappointed to see that there were less than a dozen figures on display, but it makes sense. They are over 2000 years old, so I’m sure it’s quite a production just to transport these. I was fascinated to see that they weren’t all the same. Meaning, it’s not like they were stuck in a mold and cranked out. Each figure was different with different facial features, positions, and clothing. Amazing.

They had a mock-up of what they thought these warriors looked like back in the day PAINTED. They weren’t just the raw terra cotta color, but they were painted to look more life-like. I guess there were enough bits of paint for them to reconstruct the appearance. The almost cartoonish brightness of the colors reminded me of the Sistine Chapel when they started restoring the panels. People had assumed for a long time that the somber, dark colors were what they were painted like. When they started restoring them, though, they were startled by how shockingly bright they were. It’s funny to think that the sepia-toned images of history we have get translated into us thinking that’s the color people lived in 🙂

Gotta say, you can’t beat Chicago’s skyline on a blue day.

I was really excited to get Japanese food afterwards at a joint within walking distance. The ramen, sadly, wasn’t as good as it looked in this picture. The broth was super-yummy and flavorful, but the noodles were on the dry side. Still, we don’t often get a chance to eat Japanese since the kids don’t do sushi, so it was a fantastic end to a pretty good day.

The boy also really enjoyed the ramen broth. I tried to convince him to either hold the bowl and drink it (the more Chinese-way) or stoop over the bowl and quickly spoon the broth into his mouth (the more Korean-way…I think, anyway, I could totally be wrong). He decided to go with a completely different method, the straw.

Anyhow, how do you try to juggle things in your life, be present and show up? But also not fry out completely? How do you keep your training fresh? Or at least grounded?

Leave a comment

End of Week Wrap-Up 

How gorgeous are these ladies? Another photo from last week’s gathering.

I’ve been a Saucony gal for the last several years, ever since a bad Brooks Ghost update drove me to look for another shoe. I liked the Brooks PureFlow, but I’ve read the updates have gotten narrower. And after reading Born to Run, I was curious about Saucony. I found the Kinvaras and loved them. The Kinvara 6, though, was narrower in the toe box, which was an issue for me and my wide feet. So I bought another pair of Kinvara 5, and then I tried another Saucony shoe, the Triumph. I liked the idea of a little more cushioning. However, after trying them for almost two months, I realized that they were too narrow as well–as in, I lost some sensation in my toes and/or had tingling. This was despite pulling all my creative shoe-lacing techniques. Thanks to Roadrunner Sports’ generous return policy for VIP members, I was able to return them after two months of use. I DID try on the Saucony 7, but they didn’t feel tremendously different from the 6 in the upper. Sigh.

I had tried the Nike RN Distance the last time I was in the store, at Bill’s urging. I tried them again and liked them. I was a little nervous about it. I, like every other person who ran track in high school 20 years ago, ran in the Nike Pegasus. I haven’t run in a pair of Nike’s since then. There was that whole Nike boycott in the late 90’s/early 00’s, and they just didn’t scream distance running shoes. Anyhow, they were some of the forebears to the minimal trend with their Nike Free. And I have trended more towards that, and these are super-flexible. I had to laugh, though, because even just visually they are very different from my other shoes (hello, black?).

I took them out on a short run earlier this week, and they are definitely more minimal. The jury’s still out on them, as they were less cushioned than I had realized. However, I appreciated their flexibility in encouraging more midfoot strike and better form. I’m going to take them out for another spin today and report back.

Earlier in the week was also Pi Day. My friend made me a WHOLE oreo pie (with a side container of homemade whipped cream). How great a friend is she? Seriously?! The rest of you slackers need to step it up. I have to confess that I ate the vast majority of it…I might have shared some of it with the spawn. Some.

Yesterday’s run was gorgeous, albeit a bit wet. I randomly texted my friend Amy to see if she was available to try out the Des Plaines trail. She runs it more often than I do, and she thought it would be manageable. She did text me before I got there, “Are you ready to go swimming?” Case in point. That’s the trailhead.

She did say that it was like that last time. The trailhead is a small pond for some reason, but the rest of the trail is better. There were ALOT of downed trees, though, which made us wonder if we should start signing up for some obstacle races.

We also encountered two individual paw prints in the mud that freak us out a bit. There are coyotes in the area, but I don’t think of them as being that big. Amy muttered words like “cougar” and “mountain lion.” I will preface that Amy is a dog owner; I am not. She did not mention dog prints at all. However, upon polling Facebook, and checking some sources here and here, it was decided that either they are a) coyote prints or b) large dog (same family obviously).

I have to say, though, that I’m only like 95% convinced. They are BIG.

By the end of the run, Amy was tired of tip-toeing around the puddles so she decided to just go full in. She did regret that as the water was pretty cold.

If you couldn’t tell, the trail was a mud fest. When I showered later at home, I realized that I had scratched up my ankles as well. I really hate discovering new chafing/abrasions showering after a run.

To wrap up, this week wasn’t a huge mileage week. I’m only doing 13’ish tomorrow, and probably doing a 4-5 miler today. I ran 7 on Monday, 5 on Tuesday (in the new Nike’s), and 5.6 on the trail yesterday. I was shooting for 6, and I had us turn around at mile 3 on the Garmin. Somehow it wasn’t the same coming back. Sigh.

Finally, to top off the week, I decided to take some length off my hair. I recently saw a picture of myself and didn’t love how long and blah my hair looked. I have all these grand fantasies of doing more braids or styling my hair in more interesting ways. Honestly, it doesn’t happen. So I chopped probably 5 inches off, and since I never style my hair, I took the opportunity to do a selfie with the new cut. I love the beachy waves Michael did. It’s not going to be replicated any time soon so I thought I should document it. It’s also not the most flattering angle, but I hate taking selfies in public.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s run as a small group of us are hoping to tackle some more single-track trails. We’ll see how trail conditions look. Happy running, friends!


When your long run sucks

This weekend was the first 20 miler of this training cycle. Because this cycle has been so off, I’ve been dreading this run. Patty and Jen also had not been looking forward to it, and the run took quite a bit of finagling since one of us had childcare issues. All of Patty’s talk about hill training and my final examination of Boston’s elevation map convinced us to head out to Waterfall Glen.

We got a little crew going for our Saturday morning. Ayesha (first from left) only did one loop with us. She’s training with Every Mother Counts for the Big Sur Marathon Relay, so she needed some hills as well. Kelly, second from left, did an earlier loop and ran her second loop with us on our first. She’s also doing the Ice Age 50k.

Here’s a less posed shot, where we look much more excited than we actually felt. Poor Jen got cut off.

The big joke starting out was that nobody had their watch on them (well, none of us that ran the two loops together. Ironically, Kelly and Ayesha did.). I had my Garmin, but for some reason the battery was almost dead. It didn’t really matter as we had a rough sense of the distance, just over 9.5 miles for a loop, but we all know it doesn’t count if it’s not on the Garmin.

The first loop was ok. I was grateful for Kelly’s Garmin as I could tell we were above pace for most of it. I love Jenny, but she can’t pace herself at all and she’s inclined towards speed. She led the group, so I was constantly hollering to pull it back. The Garmin helped validate my sense of pace. We decided to head out on the trail clockwise first, which meant we headed into Big Berth (a 125 foot climb over a half mile, between mile markers 4 and 5) uphill. I’ve found it helps to reverse the route for a second loop to keep things fresh. Knowing that Big Bertha is more uphill clockwise, I opted to have us head into it on our first loop when our legs were fresher. I can not say it helped us tremendously. Sigh. It never felt easy. I never hit a groove with the run. It was just straight plodding. The funniest quote from the run, though, “What the heck is that? It sounds like a fire alarm.” “Frogs.” City kids. The frogs were definitely in a dither heralding in spring for us. It broke up the monotony of the brown woods a bit.

We took a short break at the end of the first loop to send off Kelly and Ayesha, refuel, and take a bathroom break. It took a lot of self-talk, cajoling, and mutual harassment to get going again. For me, it kind of went downhill from there. The whole second loop was a struggle. I felt like I was constantly out of breath, the hills felt like mountains, and I went to a bad place mentally. I also almost had an emergency bathroom break in the woods, but a fellow runner told me we weren’t far from a port-a-potty when she saw me break into the woods. There is a port-a-potty midway along the loop, which we were still at least a mile from (and I couldn’t wait for), but this was one at one of the parking lots less than a half mile from where I stopped. I had high hopes for that bathroom break to renew my spirits. Alas, t’was not to be. After initial sense of relief, it was back to plodding.

I lagged behind the group for a good chunk of the run, and Patty held back with me. I have no idea what pace we were going, but Emily, Jen, and Jenny were pushing faster than I felt I wanted or could go. We were all having a rough time of it, evidenced by the minimal talking on the run (5-7 women on a run and silence? Unheard of!). That trio, though, believes more in the “end the misery faster” school of thought. Whereas, I tend to believe it will be worse if you try to push yourself faster through a tough run. Patty was with me, and we coached each other through walk breaks, hills, and the run overall. She even stopped to take a couple photos of me to break it up 🙂

THIS is where I started really wishing Boston was over. I wanted to walk so much more than I did, but marathoners (at least most of the ones I know) are firm believers in running the distance. Any walking is seen as a cop-out or not “really” counting. Ultra/trail runners seem to follow more of the “time on your feet” thinking, so whether you’re walking or running, you’re moving and covering the ground. I hated that whole battle of “I can do it” and “I want to lay down right now.” Really, without Patty, I think I would have walked the last 2 miles in. Which would have only prolonged the agony. And made me even more insecure and self-doubting, so thanks Patty!

In all honesty, I was having some trouble with the ankles/Achilles on the hills, particularly downhill, so I will be headed to see Craig this week.

I had to laugh, though, when we finally hauled it back in to the trailhead and this is what we saw.

Yup, 21st century folks. 3 individuals tired from a hard 20 milers documenting their tiredness for social media. Gotta love it. I was jealous they got to lay down. And for convoluted reasons, I had to drive Patty’s car home while everyone moaned about feeling nauseous and sharing photos. I drove in sullen depression. Quite a great run.

Most of us, I found out later, lay around the house for several hours in a general nauseated malaise. There were rumors that someone may have thrown up in their mouth during the run as well. God, running is so sexy. Despite all this trauma/drama, most of us were out at a mutual friend’s 40th birthday party. And just to show, I can clean myself up once in a blue moon (literally), here’s a nice shot of me and Jen not running or in sweaty workout clothes.


I also spent part of Sunday shoving my face full of these delicious dumplings. They’re called wahng mahndoo (that is my phonetic spelling), which translates into something like king dumplings and are sold from a little shack outside of Joong Boo Foods (Korean supermarket) in Chicago. $2 each and they were huge. Of course, I ate 2. The one on the left is black rice with sweet bean, and the one on the right is kimchi. They also had a pork one that was already eaten by one of the kids. So good. I texted my friend when I was at the store to see if she needed anything. She requested 4 dumplings and nothing else when she heard I was there. Ha.

Anyhow, so what do you do when you have a crap run?

a. Ignore it and pretend it never happened (my family’s go-to reaction to anything difficult)

b. Look in the mirror, practice a winner’s smile, and say out loud to yourself, “Gosh darn it, you work hard, you look strong, and people like you.”

c. Give up running altogether as you’ve realized it’s not right for you after all.

d. Moan, groan, and bellyache about it to anyone who will listen, and then move the f* on. It’s a run, not world hunger, or nuclear disarmament. You could even try some Vonnegut on it, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

You can try and guess what I should do. What would YOU do?

P.S. Can we talk for a minute about how daylight savings it the curse of all parents? Got up at 7:30 this morning with one kid missing the bus, so a frenzy of lunch-packing, clothes-changing, and general chaos. Sigh.


Hilly hump day …

Ok, so after much haranguing, harumphing, and general boohooing, I finally looked at an elevation map of the Boston Marathon. I was totally in that “ignorance is bliss” stage. Not SO ignorant that I didn’t know Boston was hilly nor unfamiliar with the dreaded “Heartbreak Hill.” However, when I finally decided to do some Googling and actually SEE what all the insanity was about, I wasn’t sure I made the right choice. Here’s the comparison between Chicago and Boston by the numbers.

But then, here it is visually (I didn’t even bother attaching an elevation map of Chicago. It’s essentially a flat line…).

Click here for image source

It’s a NET decline…but you can see that there are pretty significant climbs. Now, when you consider climbs, you have to consider not just the amount of climb, but how quickly it happens. I’ve run many a path I thought it was flat on an out-and-back run, and realized that there was a slight decline on the way out, which feels mountainous on the way back. Also, the reason it’s called Heartbreak Hill is that it hits right at the point in the marathon where a lot of people bonk, doubt their sanity, or start crying for their moms. Right around/after mile 20. From the bit I’ve read, people will also trash their legs taking the downhill the first half of the marathon too hard. By the time you get to Heartbreak Hill, you don’t have much left.

That is why I’m glad I’ve gotten TWO, count them TWO, hill workouts in this week. Well, part of last week (Saturday’s long run) and Tuesday’s run. Here’s Kelly’s Gramin elevation breakdown from our Palos adventure.


It was also GLORIOUSLY warm on Tuesday, hot even, so I decided to be in nature and do the hills of Morton Arboretum. I’m not gonna lie, I was tired and took them too fast. I even did some form drills–overachiever, I know.

Here are some very professional-looking shots of my run… I know my hair looks crazy, but I feel silly enough taking selfies running. To spend time fixing myself to take the selfie when I’m a hot sweaty mess? Meh. As I said to someone last week, I like to keep expectations low so people are amazed when I can clean up 🙂

This picture was to show some of the elevation change at the Arboretum, but the 3-dimensional aspect isn’t quite capture, so it just looks like flat brown grass all the way to the water. I promise it looked hilly.

This “strength” bench is still one of my favorite bits.

You can see from my Garmin data, though…hardly impressive compared to BostonSnip20160309_2

I’m gonna have to get out to Palos more or do interval hill repeats at Big Bertha at Waterfall Glen. Ugh. This whole Boston training thing is draining. Really. Jen and I have been constant Negative Nellie’s about it. It’s not simply good enough to train for a marathon, but you have to do all this extra stuff you’re not used to running as a flatlander. Yes, yes, I know it’s “good for us.”

Boo, I don’t like things that are good for me. And, the insecurity complexes come out when I read about other run bloggers trying to PR at Boston and such. My training mileage is barely breaking 35 miles right now. This coming off of last fall’s training where I was running 55+ miles weekly BEFORE peaking. Patty, Jen, and I are trying to talk ourselves up about the FUN we are going to have at Boston and it probably (at least for me and Jen as of right now) is a “once in a lifetime” experience (although this year’s Boston jacket is so ugly, I feel like I will need to run it again to get a better one. Insanity, right?). Still, I can’t help but wonder if I will feel like a failure if I don’t reach some non-determined goal time. I told Jen last night that we should force ourselves to stop and take photos to “ruin” our end times and not think about the clock. We’ll see.

It IS hard, though, isn’t it? To not compare yourself to other people? Whether it is in regards to running, parenting, or general appearances. It’s a struggle to accept what is right FOR YOU and not for someone else. Long ago, I became a distance runner because I accepted that I wasn’t fast. Then I got a bit faster and started fixating on time and wanting to be “above average” (I’m pretty happy with race times if I’m above the midpoint time, ha). Then, when everyone started running marathons, I felt the need to be “above average” by qualifying for Boston (let’s ignore the fact that the average person does not run marathons, so that fact alone makes one above average…or at least NOT average). And now that I’m training for Boston, I feel a bit unsure I guess. I am NOT going to be above average there. And the more stable-minded, balanced folk reading this might ask, “What’s wrong with average?” Or maybe “average” is relative. I’m not even sure if this makes sense. The mind hamsters on their wheels are spinning and going nowhere, right?

It’s just that lately, even that pressure of getting out and doing the tempo runs or intervals is feeling burdensome, because there’s no clear goal. I am not going to be “above average” at Boston, so then I just want to go out and run now for fun. But I also have a hard time completely accepting that.

So I guess I’m at a crossroads of sorts in trying to figure out my feelings about running and racing (which are NOT synonymous, by the way). I still love running, but I’m trying to figure out what kind of training makes sense for me after Boston. Stay tuned! And feel free to pipe up with your thoughts on mixing things up and trying to figure out your own truth.

Leave a comment

Trail Tuesday 

Because I can tend towards the self-destructive at times, I will ignore good advice and do what I want. There’s a part of me that believes that’s a sick part of being an endurance athlete…or at least the tension of negotiating what you WANT to do and what you SHOULD do. Recently on one of my running group pages, someone talked about having heart palpitations with their ultra running training and saw a doctor who questioned their extreme training. Briefly, there is a link between endurance sports and enlarged hearts. It’s believed, by some, that the strain of constantly pushing yourself to such limits damages your heart. I can’t get too much into the science of it, but you can find plenty of articles on it I’m sure. My brother-in-law’s father, who had run dozens of marathons, including one on every continent, was finally told he had to quit running altogether because it was too much of a strain on his heart. (That’s a nightmare of mine)

I was surprised by the number of people who chimed in with similar stories and different words of advice on how to handle it. Many suggested getting a different opinion, as well as work arounds for how they handled such a suggestion. The comment that stuck out to me, though, was one that questioned whether seeking a diagnosis from multiple doctors until you found one that said what you wanted to hear wasn’t akin to a junkie seeking out multiple doctors to get the drug scrip they wanted. Ouch. And all of this is to defend that I went trail running this weekend. Ha. Not EXACTLY the same as prescription drug abuse, but trust me there are plenty of multi-addicted folks out there running ha.

To be fair, this was a shorter long run (a “short” 12 miles) and it was just above freezing (hear the excuses?) so I thought this was my chance to do it. I’ve also been starting to worry about my lack of ultra/trail training. I’m concerned that my lack of training towards the Ice Age 50k will get me hurt racing…Although Patty and Jen would argue that this behavior might predispose me for getting hurt before. Pish posh! It was fine, although admittedly it was tougher than I thought it would be because of the snow and the above-freezing temperature. My pace felt faster than it was, which seems to be the case for trail running, and the snowed over ruts in the trail were a bit tricky at times (which raises a whole other thing about the responsibility of trail users to not go out on them when it’s soft because it’s destructive for them).

Let me back up a bit. I ran with Kelly, who I can only describe as a machine. This woman is a rock star and runs at like 3 am before she heads into work. She also just finished her first ultra event, the Chill Billy 8 hour event in a total mudfest. I mean, extreme, sucking mud. It took her that time to complete a marathon because it was such utterly slow going. She’s also signed up for her first 50k, the Ice Age, with me and Amy.

I hadn’t run with her in a long while, and hadn’t run alone with her in over a year! We vacillated back and forth about where to go–Bull Frog in Palos, Swallow Cliffs, or Waterfall Glen. Concerned about the trail conditions, we decided to try Swallow Cliffs, which has more multi-track and is more shaded (i.e., more likely to be frozen/snowed and not melted). We decided to go with Swallow Cliffs, my first time there! They are infamous for their crazy stairs, which we did one round of. I forgot to take a picture though.

Anyhow, we were surprised to see that we were the first ones on the trail. It was pristine that morning after the previous night’s snow. Well, pristine excepting the animal tracks. There were a whole mess of prints that we couldn’t identify (if you look at the two pictures on the right below). We decided based on the shape and size that maybe they were coyotes? Any trail trackers out there? I had thought coyotes weren’t ones inclined to travel in packs but I’m not sure.

The trail was mostly just snow-covered, although there were a couple of muddy, icy, or wet sections. This section was the worst, and Kelly and I both got a foot bath. Mud is good for the skin, right? For the shorter water crossings, my wool socks handled it fine, but the big dunking was enough to soak my socks and cause some chafing on my arch. Fortunately, it was only for the last 3 miles or so and not a huge issue. And yes, Kelly is wearing a running skirt! We did see several guys out there later wearing shorts so she wasn’t alone in her apparel choices 🙂

Lately, I’ve been forgetting my Garmin. Gasp, I know! I had to rely on Strava to track it, and it was WAY OFF. So Kelly was kind enough to forward me the data from her Garmin.


All in all, it was just over 12 miles and a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning. I’m not going to lie, my feet, Achilles, and calves were tight, but I don’t think I made a mistake going out there. If anything, it affirmed my need to continue to do some trail running so that I don’t hurt myself at the Ice Age or not meet the cutoff. I also need to start doing more ankle and footwork. I’m not going to lie, though, it all seems like a lot to fit in–the core work, strength training, drills/footwork, and running. It’s all going to the end of keeping me strong and healthy…and happy! So happy trails to you, my friends on this Tuesday!