musings on running, life, and everything in between

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea, Emily, Michelle, Jenny, Michelle

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

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


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

Andrea, Jenny, Emily


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


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!


Keep on keepin on; T minus 4 days

So…it’s race week. This is what I’ve been training for all summer. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ve been all over the board in terms of nerves, excitement, dread, fear, and anticipation. I was all crazy about trying to prevent anyone from coming initially, but I’m trying to just accept whatever support people want to give. I don’t take compliments very well, and people willing to give up their Saturday mornings to watch me run around a big circle 8 times is a pretty big freakin’ compliment. Thankfully, only a couple runner friends are planning on coming, and I think I want to keep that way. Whether I succeed or fail, I will inevitably cry and I’d like to keep the audience to a minimum. Excepting the 300 random strangers, course officials, and spectators that will be there also. Obvs.

I feel like I need to Google the things I’m supposed to do the week of the marathon. Even though this will be my tenth, I feel weirdly nervous and unsure about it. I’m going to try and eat pretty bland this week (something my friend Kirstin does marathon week) and avoid anything too fiber-dense a few days before to try and minimize the GI issues. I’m working on getting at least 40 ounces of fluid everyday, although I generally drink way more than that. I’ve watched the course video. Printed the pace band. I plan on foam rolling the heck out of myself, and probably trying to squeeze in a chiro/massage appointment.

I don’t have a race outfit. Suppose I can think about that some more. And I’m still back and forth about which SPECIFIC pair of Saucony Kinvara 5’s I should wear. Total loser I am. I know.

In the meanwhile, my friends Patty and Jen (of “running with Jen”) have been weather tracking like it’s their business. I had to yell at Patty at Champaign to stop looking at the radar on her phone when we were in bed the night before the marathon. They have already assured me that the conditions will be prime. I feel like all my nasty hot, humid training the past few weeks would have prepared me for heat, though. Or so I think… Track workouts are pretty brutal when the humidity is at 80%. 

Because I’m a pseudo-researcher and a nerd, I liked that the marathon organizers put up the breakdown of participants and the qualifying times they will need. I’m in the most popular pace group it would seem. I hope the wave of people running will help carry me to victory…

I think I read on the site that it’ll be about 40 people in that group. I guess ladies in my age group (or older men) either have a hard time hitting the time in other marathons OR we are one of the biggest demographics for runners??

I got to meet up with an old college friend, who was visiting from Seattle. In preparation for race carbo loading, Shelley and I split three breakfasts. I like that kind of friend and that kind of math. We both wanted savory AND sweet, and there were no breakfast combos. Thus, frittata, bulgur bowl, and amazing pancakes. My friend Yolanda will forever be the person who introduced that 3 breakfasts/2 people idea to me. She was also my first marathon partner, so I will take this epic breakfast as a good sign for marathon week.  Because I’m on my taper and the marathon ladies had their first 20 miler Saturday, I got to run with the lovely Corey (and Julianne, but I was a bum and forgot to take a picture with her too) for most of my 12ish miles. I think we were deliriously happy to be done. I don’t enjoy wearing drenched running gear on long runs.
 In other news…school has started for everyone in the house. It’s been a bit of a juggle as there have been changes in child care and schools and schedules. We are still working on it.

This was my almost 6 y.o. at his first day of school. He refused to cooperate with any picture-taking. It also sums up my feeling about marathon-training lately.

I know I’ve been writing less recently. I think I spend so much time thinking about running that I’m fried. I just want to watch some more bad horror films and not spend more free time on running. I’m pretty sure that’s another sign of being overtrained. And it’s not that I find running a time suck or a burden like I did a few weeks ago. I am just ready for this marathon cycle to be done.

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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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Halleleujah, last 20 miler done and it’s time for the taper!

Today was the moved-up final 20 miler. It was a long time coming, but the day finally came. Of course it was still dark. Jen picked me up, and we drove (with Michelle) to the start of the Salt Creek Trail. Alas, the parking lot was still closed off, although the sign said “open at sunrise” and the sun is clearly rising in the picture below. We did see a lone gentleman wearing a neon vest walking towards the blocked entrance, but then he turned around upon reaching it and started walking the other way. He was an odd figure as he first appeared to have only one arm, was walking very slowly, and was walking with a stick/cane. Upon closer inspection, he seemed to have one arm entirely inside his coat and pressed up straight against his body. When we realized he wasn’t going to open the entrance and was walking away, Michelle called out to him repeated. First with “excuse me,” then “sir,” “excuse me” again, “pardon me, sir,” finally “gentleman!” (Jen and I were dying with laughter over her various iterations), and he finally turned around. He made a gesture that Jen and I couldn’t figure out, but Michelle heard him say “I ain’t got no key.” We ended up parking in a neighborhood nearby, but it was an odd start to the morning.

Jen and I have run Salt Creek Trail quite a bit, but we’ve never run it past Bemis Woods. I knew it extended past, but it always looked unclear. Jen just assumed the trail ended there. It actually extends west and then north to Busse Woods–about 27 miles total. Still, it felt a bit like an adventure not knowing exactly what it was going to be like heading out and back. Much of the beginning of the run was spent talking about poop–something distance runners tend to spend alot of time talking about. This was particularly relevant, though, as a town in Illinois (Hampton? Not sure where it is) has posted signs asking runners not to poop on the bike path. I’m not sure what kind of town it is, but there must be a whole lot of runners with GI issues for the town to need to post a sign. Just for the record, there may have been some stops along our route, but there was no poop (that anyone would admit to anyway).


Here is a nicer image to counteract the ick factor of the previous one. This is the furthest any of us had ever run before. Lovely bridge and you can’t see it, but there were a pair of mallard duck mates floating along beneath the bridge. There was some quacking. That’s what was fun about running in the woods was hearing all the different sounds of nature. There were some froggy spots, some ducks, several unsighted woodpeckers, and a whole host of other birds. We saw some deer as well, although they didn’t make much noise. Another piece of sightseeing we did was through the town of Oakbrook. Eventually we left the woods and entered suburbs. We were dumbfounded by a row of houses on Canterbury Lane (although we didn’t realize at first what town we were in or what street we were on–we debated asking a morning walker, but thought it was too creepy). Anyhow, this was one that seemed especially over the top as it had a full basket ball court in the front (not a great photo admittedly. Actually, it’s horrible. Sorry).Jen actually googled the address when she got home. I am speechless. I will leave you to make up your own mind about it. 

There was also a “resting area” (as the plaque remarked) on the corner of this lot at the end of the block. We took a brief rest as suggested. Looking at it, the photo is totally creepy. The run back felt faster, as most return runs do…with the exception of the last couple miles. Jen and I had race pace miles 16-18, and we had not quite hit 10 at our turnaround, so we had to overshoot our start. That made for a never-endingly slow and tortuous ending. But we made it. Jen and I somehow were matching with our blue hats, blue Nuun water bottles post-race, and all 3 of us were wearing blue shoes. Full disclosure, I made Michelle take the selfie because my arms are shorter and it makes my big face look bigger. I need to work on my face positioning to make it look smaller in pictures (my siblings taught me that one, ha!).

Recovery food immediately upon returning home was eggs with sriracha and toast. Must have been the protein I was craving cuz I’m generally not an “ooooh, eggs” kind of gal. I wolfed it down and it was delicious enough that I considered making more. We were out of toast, though, and it seemed less charming with just eggs. 

This was followed a short while later with the man and an open buffet of Middle Eastern food. Deliciousness. The rest of the day was spent trying to nap and pretend I wasn’t napping. I’m not sure what it is, but this training cycle’s 20 milers have sapped me more than in the past. Must be all the glorious speed training. Sigh.

I got my new Runner’s World, which is exciting. I started reading it and was happy to see Desi Linden featured in it. I was more fangirl-ing when she said she left clothes behind in Kenya to bring back 10 pounds of coffee. *swoon* That is a runner after my own heart!

Anyhow, my friends, I hope you have a great long run this weekend! And may it bring you something new and adventurous!

P.S. Michelle laughed when I said the savory Gu’s were delicious. She finds them disgusting. Jen and I couldn’t decide if we were warped runners or if they are are really good. Thoughts?

Any exciting stories from exploratory long runs?

Best house you’ve run across in your adventures?