Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Troop Beverly Hills

Several weeks ago - months ago now - one of my running buddies loaned me Troop Beverly Hills because at some point during marathon training I mentioned my whole Iconic 80s Movie list and that this was one of the movies on the list I had never seen. Gasps arose from the under 40 crowd as how could I never had seen this movie.

Well I'll tell you. Troop Beverly Hills came out in 1989 - when I was a senior in high school. That same year movies like Sex, Lies and Videotape, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Dead Poets Society, Ghostbusters II, When Harry Met Sally, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure came out and I went to see them (and probably a whole host of others as I actually worked at a movie theater). Much as I loved Shelley Long in Cheers - and longed to have a place where everyone knew my name - I wasn't really about seeing her or a bunch of kids in Troop Beverly Hills.

So yesterday, as I sat and continued to work on the pair of socks that I'm knitting my husband for Christmas (yes, I know it's late, it's almost done) I finally popped this movie in and got to watching.

The first thing I notice is woah - did people really wear huge shoulder pads in the 80s? Was that really a thing? OK, I know it was, but if this movie (and Ruthless People and probably a whole host of other movies) was any indication, the women living in Southern California could double as line backers for the Bears on the weekends - which may be an upgrade to the Bears' current line up amiright? In addition to the crazy outfits sported by Ms. Long, the other stand out thing was how many of the girls in her troop looked vaguely familiar.

After a quick search on IMBD, I find out that yes, that is that kid from Punky Brewster (not Soleil, but Ami). Yep, that's Carla of Watchman fame.  Kellie from Life Goes On (when was the last time you thought about that show, huh?) and another blast from the past, Emily from Small Wonder both have parts. And yes, that's Jenny Lewis who was most recently in A Very Murray Christmas which is why I spent the entire time watching that wondering where I knew her from. It also features a scene with Tori Spelling, who despite her small part, got top billing. Wonder why that was?

So after figuring out why all these kids looked familiar and reading how the majority of them didn't go on to tv and film fame but are now leading basic lives like the rest of us (and maybe because of this everyone seemed to still be alive, not in jail and not a recovering drug or alcohol addict), I settled in to a tale of a shallow woman getting a divorce, has a 'what am I going to do with my life' moment, leads a bunch of girls on a soul searching mission where they figure out that, while they may not be like 'normal' kids, they still are little girls who have feelings and want to better themselves. In the process the parents become a little more involved, bullies (both adult and child) get their comeuppance and everyone lives happily ever after (except for the bullies one presumes).

Not an entirely bad way to spend a vacation day while knitting (and a crazy storm ravaged outside - this is what happens when we have a mild winter - winter comes back and slaps us on the face with little pellets of pain).

So one more off my list. At this rate, I'll only be 50 before I've checked them all off.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

1,000 Miles

I set myself a goal of running 1,000 miles this year - thanks a lot Aliza. Last year my aforementioned enemy friend mentioned she had a goal of running 1,000 miles and then so I was all like "i can do that" and now I'm at the last two months of the year and I have a little under 300 (281 to be exact) miles to go so that means about 35 miles per week. However I'm not so sure I can do that. During peak marathon training I ran 36 miles in a week and that was with a 20 mile run. I can't be doing 20 mile runs every weekend. I mean I could, and I could end up in really great shape. But I also could end up injured. So I'm trying to figure out if there is a doable schedule for me to get those miles in.

Any ideas? If your answer is, get up every morning seven days a week and run five miles, thanks. I'll take it under advisement.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Detroit Marathon

Right before the finish, focusing on being able to stop.
In what is a really long and probably boring story that I'll spare you from, I ran the Detroit Marathon instead of the Chicago Marathon this year. (Short version of the story is my sister ran Chicago for the first time and I was along the sidelines to cheer her on instead of running behind her as she's faster than I am ... or so we thought ... ominous foreshadowing music).

As the Detroit Marathon is the week following Chicago, I had a 19-week training schedule, so three weeks of taper, which seriously freaked me and my body out. There were days at work that I would get up and walk around the office aimlessly to work off nervous energy (this is different than my usual aimless walking around at work because that's me just getting away from my desk for a few minutes). Add to that the fact that I had to travel to Detroit to run a course I don't know anything about and I had to go over a big bridge into Canada and worry if the border patrol was going to decide I looked like a terrorist, well let's just say, I pretty much went into this race full of nerves.

We drove in to Detroit on Friday afternoon and hit up the exp. It was your usual expo other than the fact that I had to show my passport to pick up my bib and then be told that if I had any x-rays recently they would need to scan me to make sure I wouldn't set off some sensor at the border. I asked if my recent mammogram counted, and they didn't know. So I had to go to another area to let other officials know that I indeed have had my boobs squashed recently to learn that no, mammograms are not a cause for concern, but thanks for asking.

Friday night we had a crappy dinner at a local place by the hotel out by the airport where we were staying and went to bed as early as possible as Mr. H. and Baby H. had races in the morning. Saturday morning we procured a late checkout and proceeded back into downtown Detroit for the 5k and kid's run. Mr. H., ran his first real 'race' since his hip injury during the Wisconsin Marathon. He ran a 21:01, finishing 18th overall and 3rd in his age group. It wasn't a PR, but I think he felt pretty good about the results. Baby H. ran the .83 mile kid's race. Mr. H. ran with him, and while I'm not sure of his exact placing, he proudly told me and anyone else who would listen that he ran the whole time and didn't stop even though he was getting tired. After the races, we went back to the expo for more punishment - I mean a shirt that I wanted to buy on Friday but didn't. We then high tailed it back to our hotel to check out, and then came back to the city to eat and wait for my sister to get into town so we could check into the awesome suite that she and her Hilton Honors Double Diamond holding boyfriend were able to secure for us that was RIGHT NEXT TO THE START LINE!

A little side note, I really wish I had been able to do more sight seeing of Detroit than the little bit we did. We did go to a really cool bookstore, John King Used & Rare Books, that was a block away from the hotel. And we walked a bit around the expo center and to dinner on Saturday night. Detroit feels very similar to Cleveland and it's a shame the troubles that the city is having. But it does look like there are a lot of efforts to build up the city again, and it really was a pleasure to run their marathon.

I was tempted to wear capris,
but glad I stuck with my
original outfit.
Marathon morning I woke up not too early since I had to literally go across the street to get to the start line. I applied my 4:30 pace tattoo, my 'A' plan. I met up with Sue from my CARA training group in the hotel lobby and we waited with the 100+ other runners that had taken over the lobby. It was pretty cold outside, low 30s, but I stuck with my pre-arranged clothing. I knew I wouldn't be too cold once I started, and I didn't want to have a long-sleeve shirt on in case it warmed up later. Of course I had a throw away hoodie as well as a heat sheet to keep me warm. With about 5 minutes before the first corral went off, Sue and I made it over to corral I to see if we could find the 4:30 pacer.

Ok, so waiting that long to find the pacer was probably a bad idea, but honestly, it wasn't an issue. Sue and I got into the corral and as each corral was let off in waves every minute, we didn't have to wait too long, and passed the start line about 7:17 a.m.

Miles 1-3

The first three miles were spent headed west toward the Ambassador Bridge that takes you into Canada. Sue and I had a quick first mile (9:51) and an on target second mile (10:20), but we slowed down leading up to the bridge (11:12) as the road narrowed. I'm still pretty nervous this whole time. I try deep breaths to get the butterflies to go away, but they seem to want to hang around.

Miles 4-8: Canada

Just after mile 3 we started heading up the bridge. As we went through the immigration checkpoints, there are officers making sure we all have bibs on. If you have something covering up your bib, they point a light at you and if you don't have a bib you'll get arrested. I am assuming that's what happened to the guy we saw being taken away in handcuffs. I'm not sure if he thought he'd be able to just jump into the race and make it into Canada or if something else was going on. Other than that, it was smooth sailing through immigration and we make our way up the bridge. Mile 4 was still slower than desired pace (10:53), but once we crested the bridge and go down, we made up some time: 10:14, 9:55 and 10:06. We ran along the road that hugs the river to the tunnel that took us back to Detroit. It warmed up considerably in the tunnel, but since it's so cold outside, it's no where near as bad as I had been prepared for (apparently it can be quite humid).

Miles 9 - 13

Now that we had done the bridge and Canadian portion of the race I started to calm down. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to keep the first Gu I took around mile 5 down, but the second one around 9.5 was easier on the stomach. One of the things I'd been preparing for was making sure I ate enough during the race so I didn't bonk at the end. I wasn't going to let nerves derail my plan. After the tunnel we headed west of downtown for a bit and then circle back in. The course came dangerously close to the finish at mile 13 for those running the half marathon. I had steeled myself for this because I've always said I didn't want to run a marathon with a half as I wasn't sure I could motivate myself to keep going. I shouldn't have worried, I was actually a little glad to have so many people leave the course and have some room at the half way point. My family was supposed to be at the half to cheer me on, but they missed me by mere seconds, so they say. Miles 9 and 10 were a little slow about about 10:50, but then we hit two fast miles with a 9:59 and a 10:09, before having a slow 13 mile at 10:57. However, that last mile was a little long, because I didn't lap my watch in time. For some reason I had a hard time picking out the huge blue mile marker banners even though each mile really was clearly marked.

Miles 14-19

After downtown, we headed out to the east side of the city. While several of the miles (14-16) are straight down one road, we went through some cute neighborhoods with nice crowd support. Sue and I admire the cute older houses that would cost a pretty penny in Chicago. All but one of these miles were at or below our goal pace, two being sub 10s; I check my pace tattoo and we were pretty on the money for a 4:30. At mile 18, someone had put up a wall that you could run through, which Sue did. However, that's also right around where I pulled out a bit in front of her. She caught up to me at a water stop around mile 19 and asked where the hell the island was, but that was the last I saw of her until the end.

Miles 19-26.2: Belle Isle and the Finish

Sue and me at the finish!
As Sue noted, once we had run around Belle Isle we were pretty much done. There was a bit of an incline over the bridge, but it was nothing like Ambassador Bridge. I heard someone running the other direction make a comment about the head wind, so I knew I had that to look forward too. We did a loop around part of the island and then went back over the bridge, where there was indeed a headwind. I kept a fairly even pace until the running into the head wind part. Mile 23 was slow, almost 12 minutes, and I took a longer walk through the water stop than normal. I took my final Gu and steeled myself for the final 3.2 miles. I didn't so much want to stop as I wanted it to be over. I made one final check of my pace tattoo, and honestly I thought I'd be about 5 minutes behind. I actually was a little upset I was right on pace only because that meant I had to keep pushing because making a 4:30 was going to be possible. Running on the river path was nice, if not a little windey, and I kept passing people so that was making me feel good. There was a little bit of a hill at mile 24ish that made me think of Mount Roosevelt, so at least I had that experience (ironic smiley winky face). The "last turn" really wasn't the last turn, but then I did get to the last turn at 26, could see the finish line. I looked at my watch, and even though I knew I wouldn't make my 4:30 goal as I had only 30 seconds left, I sprinted as much as I could and finished with a 4:31:09. The best part was hearing my name being called and the cheers of my family as I crossed the finish line. Oh and the gloating I get to do now that I have run a marathon faster than my sister (her time was 4:36) - though I'm pretty sure that won't stand too long since she's already talking about signing up for another marathon later this year.

Of course, hindsight being 20/20 and all that, if I hadn't walked during mile 23, maybe I would have made that 4:30 goal. But then again, maybe I needed that rest to stay on pace for the last three miles. Who knows. Sue was about 3 minutes behind me, which is a PR for her and under her goal time of 4:40. I'm so lucky to have had someone with me most of the race. And I'm so lucky to have had family there to cheer me on and support me throughout what it takes to train for a marathon. Leading up to and through yesterday I had been thinking that would be my last one. Of course, now that a whole 24 plus hours has gone by since I've finished, and the pain in my legs is starting to diminish, so is the memory of the anxiety and pain. So who knows. Do I have what it takes to run a 4:30? Do I want to find out?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Super Bears Shuffle 5K

I signed up for this 5k not because I'm all gung-ho about the Bears 2015-16 season. No it's because it was another chance to get to see our favorite festival band, Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press (I'm sure you've heard of them).

However, I'm in the middle, or the tail end anyway, of marathon training, and after a not-so-stellar 20 mile run on Saturday, and a pretty good 9-mile run on Wednesday, I'm tired. My plan wasn't to race - just run. On top of it, Mr. H. has a cold, so he wasn't feeling up to racing either, and stayed with me the whole way.

As we'd made no effort to pick up our packets pre-race, once we arrived at Solider Field, we made our way to packet pickup. They had run out of my size t-shirt, which is what I get for waiting to get my packet, otherwise quick and easy. Most people were wearing the t-shirt so Mr. H. and I decided to change into ours. I also donned one of the orange sweatbands they were handing out. We made our way to the corrals, squeezing ourselves through the bars so we could line up between the 9:30-10 minute pace signs. There were three start waves, us being in the second. Before each wave they played a video from a Bear's player thanking us for coming out to kick off football season, a few fireworks went off and then we started, running through the big inflatable bears tunnel.

The race started on the south side of the stadium and we headed south down a street that as I look at a map is called Museum Campus Drive which then turned into Fort Dearborn Drive. That led us through the West Tunnel of McCormick Place in which we hit our first mile - 9:12 I believe Mr. H. said - oh, did I mention I left my watch at home? I ran entirely on how I felt. Upon hearing our time, I slowed down because I didn't want to be running that fast, nor did I think I could keep it up. While it certainly wasn't as hot and humid as it has been the past two weeks, it was still hot, and since I couldn't stand the sweatband being around my head, sweat was now dripping down my face.

The turn around took us from Fort Dearborn Dr. on to the lake front path headed back north. As promised there were a few football style obstacles off to the side of the path, there was even a spot to stop and take a selfie with big posters of some of the players. I passed up my chance to get a shot with Forte and soldiered on. Somewhere around this mile I walked for a bit. I should have taken the chance to get water and just walk through the water stop, but I didn't and then I regretted it. Mile two closer to 10 minutes.

Once I started running again I determined to just get the damned thing over. As we neared the stadium, we passed the "whoop whoop" lady course marshal. She had been whoop whooping as we went past her on the way out and Mr. H. and I both wondered how long she could keep it up. Well apparently for at least 20+ minutes, because she was still at it as we passed her on our way in. Mr. H. told me we had half a mile left and to let loose. I told him to check in with me in a quarter mile. When we reached a little less than a quarter mile I started to speed up, passing most of the people who passed me while I walked. I held on to the finish line hearing the announcer called out both our names! Finish time: 29:06.

Me, Rod and Dick.
After grabbing some water and chips we headed out of the chute to receive our Bears medal. I think medals for a 5k are kinda silly - it's just three miles. But for some people "just" three miles is a lot and besides, it is a pretty cool medal. We said hello to some friends, collected our bag from gear check (again, quick, easy, great volunteers). Even though there was lots to do and eat after the run, we didn't stick around. Since Mr. H. has a cold, and even though we signed up for this race with the sole intent of seeing RT&TBP, we decided to call it a night. I did however go over to the stage and snag a quick pic.

All-in-all it was a fun race. I probably would have liked it better if it hadn't been the week after a 20 mile long run. As always, even when I'm not in the mood to "race" even if it is just against myself, I always end up pushing myself some. It hard not to. And for that, I had a pretty good finish. I was 26/216 in my age group, well above my top half goal.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

80s Movies - Teen Witch

After watching Back to School, I had a couple more hours to kill, so I used it watching Teen Witch. So here's the thing, this movie sucks. Seriously so many of the movies on this list don't seem to be worth watching once much less multiple enough times to be called "iconic." But I would imagine this is one of those movies that was shown over and over on TV so everyone saw it (except me apparently).

  • I do not in anyway understand the purple leotard, cheerleader, locker room dance/singing sequence. A big haired blond girl says something like "here's our next cheer" and then proceeds to sing "I Like Boys" and all the girls perform a clearly choreographed number while the main character, Louise, looks on in frustration because she obviously isn't a cheerleader and didn't get to learn the dance number. But since the lyrics to the song are so easy (I like boys over and over again), you'd think she'd be able to at least sing along.
  • Zelda Rubinstein, of Poltergeist fame, is in the movie. She doesn't squeak when she walks, but she does play a medium who helps Louise discover her magical talents.
  • Robyn Lively, Blake Lively's much older sister, plays Louise. Her birthday is February 7, 1972, so that makes her 10 days older than me. If only I'd been born 10 days earlier I could have been a dumpy teenager with latent magical blood. 
  • When she first finds out she's a witch, she takes the book Madame Serena gives her to an old carousel to learn about her powers. It's unclear where this movie takes place, but an old carousel definitely lends credibility to the supernatural events that will undoubtedly follow. 
  • The basic plot of this movie is recently 16-year old unpopular girl with bizarre younger brother likes super popular guy; whines about life to equally unpopular friend; goes to school dance just to be near popular boy and has to deal with ultra geeky boy; magic ensues; life lessons are learned; popular boy and unpopular girl end up together. With the exception of the magic part - this is the same plot of 16 Candles, a far superior movie.
  • In real life, the unpopular friend (Lisa Fuller) ends up with the popular boy (Dan Gauthier). They've been married since 1990. Just proving that, in the end, boys don't want the girls who dance around in purple leotards in the locker room. They just want to watch the girls in purple leotards dance around.

Friday, August 7, 2015

80s Movie Marathon - Back to School

I have wasted a 2-week vacation not watching my 80s movies. To be honest, I almost completely forgot about my little quest to watch these movies. But for some reason, people like to check out my blog and see what 80s movies are considered iconic by Buzz Feed. So I'm about to watch Back to School. I'll keep you updated on my progress over the next 97 minutes.  - 9:35 a.m.

Update 2 (9:50 a.m.): So according to my meager research (Google and Wikipedia) Rodney did not attend college. I did find out that he has a daughter named Melanie, so clearly you don't need a college education to give your daughter a wonderful name. 

Update 3 (10 a.m.): Since it's a 80s comedy, it only takes about 15 minutes into the movies before Rodney opens a shower curtain on a woman and we get a flash of boobs. If you're fast forwarding to just the gratuitous breast shots, it's at 15:27.

Update 4 (10:20 a.m.): It's registration time and people are standing in line to sign up for classes. I'm sure kids watching this movie today would have no idea what they are doing. I remember doing this my first couple of years of school. Then we moved on to the oh so advanced method of signing up via phone. Some days I wonder how we lived before the internet.

Update 5 (10:38): Is "Twist and Shout" a requirement 80s movie music scene? What's nice about this movie is the obligatory music scene is followed by the obligatory fight between the bullies and the misfits scene. So you get both of those out of the way in one quick only slightly painful swoop.

Update 6 (10:59): You learn something new everyday: Danny Elfman was in Oingo Boingo and they make an appearance in this movie in a second (but shorter) music scene. 

Update 7 (11:20):  Final thoughts on Back to School: Rodney Dangerfield looks a lot younger and in better shape when he's diving. I looked up Kieth Gordon (also in Christine) to see what he's up to these days. It seems he's given up acting for directing and producing. Of course, the break out star of this movie is Robert Downey Jr. This movie was made in 1986, so I'm pretty sure he just brought his wardrobe from Weird Science . I'm so glad the 80s fully committed to their look or we might still be stuck with big hair and shoulder pads.

So another movie off the list. Up next, Teen Witch

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rock 'n' Role Half Marathon - Hydration Station #4

In the midst of setting up. Water tanker filling the last of the water buckets
Yesterday morning I got up bright and early and worked a hydration station for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. This is one of those half marathons that always seems like it would be fun to run. They boast bands along the course and sometimes big name headliners at the finish. They host races in multiple cities even offering tour passes with discounted rates. Apparently Meb runs the races and was rumored to be pacing yesterday - but I failed to see him.

In fact, I failed to see anyone I knew running the race. Because, as I said, it seems like a race that would be fun to run, but it's always in July in Chicago and no matter how mild, or downright chilly our spring/summer has been, this race is always a scorcher and yesterday was no exception. So while I was certainly cheering on all the runners, I was too busy handing out cups of water and making sure there were cups of water to be handed out to be on the lookout for any specific runner.

Obviously I won't be able to tell you about the race from a runner's perspective (other than I'm sure it was hot). But manning an aide station does offer interesting insight.

The day starts early as the volunteers are charged with setting up, manning and tearing down everything. At 5 a.m. a truck full of supplies - tables, cups, Gatorade mix, gloves, t-shirts, hoses, pitchers, garbage cans, garbage bags etc. - pulls up and we start unloading. If you've ever run a race, you know what the stations look like. We put a bunch of tables on both sides of the street and then we start putting out cups and filling them up - Gatorade first, water second. We couldn't start filling them up right away because apparently the water truck was running behind causing some mild panic. Eventually, a big tanker and another truck pulls up, set up six water stations (basically big buckets on pedestals). Then all the volunteers (there were about 40 of us) start filling cups. Once all the tables have a layer of filled cups, we stacked pieces of cardboard on top and add another layer of cups.

We all had our systems for getting water into cups. Some of us used provided pitchers. Others used the hoses and spray nozzles to put water directly into the cups. This second method was faster, but had the downside of not reaching all the cups and making your hand cramp up. By about 7 a.m. we had everything set and ready to go. The race started at 6:30 and I'd say we had about 10 minutes between the time we finished setting up and the first runner went through.

As the first runners went through with their choice of outstretched hands holding cups of water, many of them plucked the cup from my hand (I think because I was near the end and they figured it was now or wait til the next stop). It was a bit funny how many runners picked me rather than the five other people on my side of the street handing out water. I think they started to get jealous. Eventually of course there were so many runners that ceased to be an issue.

Handing out water to runners who are doing a 10 minute pace is pretty easy. Handing out water to runners going by at a 6 minute pace, a little different. I quickly learned I needed to move my hand back as they took the cup lest I wanted my arm taken off with it (or it just went flying). I also learned that the beginning of the pack runners (a) will often look at you or signal to confirm they are about to take your water, this is nice and allows you to prepare (b) when it's creeping toward 80, they just want the water thrown in their faces, this is weird, but to each his own. As the not as fast runners come through you're basically just holding your hand out until someone plucks the water from it and replacing it with another cup as quickly as you can.

Other things I learned at the water stop:

  • You will get wet. My choice to be back at the water area rather than by the Gatorade was just happenstance. However, once runners started coming through and I started getting water on my legs, I was glad of that.
  • Despite all good intentions, you will screw up handing water to a person and feel really bad.
  • You will start picking up five cups of water at one time to save time.
  • Even though you started out with roughly 2,000 cups of water preset, you still have times toward the end where you are rushing to fill more cups of water.
  • You feel a little sense of pride when you hear runners tell you that your water stop is "the best one so far." We heard this from several runners. I learned later that some of the other stops didn't have quite enough volunteers and so weren't able to hand the water out quickly enough. 
  • You will hear "thank you" a lot. I try to say thanks to the volunteers when I race, and now I have a reminder of how great it is that people decide to give up a part of their day to stand alongside a road and hand out water to runners.  
All-in-all it was a fun morning. It seemed like RnR could have used a few more volunteers. Even though I think we were doing pretty well, we were supposed to have about 75 people. And other than the water not showing up until late (and us getting pretty darn close to running out of water), it seemed like the stop was well run. Of course, it helped that my husband was the lead volunteer as there were many CARA volunteers. I even managed to talk three of my co-workers to joining in who I am hoping won't hold this against me the next time I need something from them. 

I don't have any races coming up, so maybe I'll volunteer for another race next month.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Downer's Grove 5 Miler

Yesterday I  ran the Downer's Grove 5 Miler. I will just say right up front there are no hills in Chicago and we are therefore wimps when it comes to hills. Downer's Grove has what they like to call rolling hills. I feel like I'm exaggerating when I say it was hilly, because in all honesty, it wasn't like there was some mammoth hill like Cricket Hill1 which I had just run up the day before at the end of my long run. No, these hills weren't too bad. There were just a lot of them. Each time you thought it was going to even out, nope, more hills. By the end, going down hill wasn't helping me make up any speed lost on the uphill and so I just gave in and slowed down.

That's not to say I didn't have a good time on this race. It was well run, packet pick up was easy, the course wasn't crowded, support was good and the course was scenic2.

Race day had me up a little after 5 a.m. as we had to drive to Downer's Grove (henceforth known as DG) and the race started at 7:30 and we had to pick up our packets before 7. My sister and I contemplated driving to DG the night before and staying in a hotel, but frugality won out and we just got up early. She picked me up and we headed on out of the city. Traffic was light and we made it there with more than enough time to spare. DG was having a fair downtown and so there were lots of street closures, but we just followed the detour signs and the guy in front of us who looked like he was a runner3. We found (free!) parking and then followed the other people who looked like runners to the lot next to the DG park district building to collect our packets.

After donning our bibs, stashing our gear at the CARA tent and putting on some sunscreen, we made a quick trip to the porta-potties, for which there was a short line4, and we were ready to go. Being a small field, there were no pace signs, so we found a spot that looked good, listened to the recorded version of the Star Spangled Banner and, once the air horn sounded, we took off.

I had asked my sister what pace she was planning on running and she said between 9's and 9:30's. So I asked her if she'd be willing to pace me at 9:20s for the first 3 miles. I feel like I got an affirmative response, but we ended up clocking our first two miles at 8:58 and 8:59 - a bit faster than I had wanted to go. She assured me that I could keep up this pace, but my body (and probably my brain) wasn't having it. Third mile I slowed down to around a 9:30 and then the fourth mile came and even though I remember it as being flat, I had an even slower mile of 9:50. I came back for the final mile clocking a 9:30 something and kicking it a bit at the end, I finished in 47:14 / 9:27 overall pace. Only somewhat slower than planned. I blame the hills, and my pacer.

Finishing stats: 13/31 in my age group5, and 261/453 overall. I didn't quite make my top half overall finish, but you know, hills.

Overall, I liked this race. What it lacked in flatness and closeness to home, it made up for in being different. We discussed even going out to the burbs for runs so we could maybe eventually benefit from hill training. After the race we hung out, got some chocolate milk from the Nestle people that seem to be everywhere lately (not complaining) and fresh fruit from a local grocery. After stretching, chatting with CARA people and doing a tour of downtown DG to find the Starbucks that we could have easily gotten to if half the streets downtown weren't closed, we headed back to the asphalt jungle of the city content that at least once this month I left the city limits6.


  1. I realize Cricket Hill is in no way mammoth. But when you live in Chicago mammoth becomes a relative term.
  2. Again, this is relative. When you run the same routes all the time, even if it is by the gorgeous lake front, a change of scenery is always welcome.
  3. You know the look, running cap, running watch, running shirt, probably running shorts but we couldn't see that far into his car, possibly a 26.2 sticker on the back of the car.
  4. My sister was actually a bit disappointed there was only one line instead of multiple lines. She has a strategy that goes something like: pick the line not necessarily the shortest, but the one that seems to be servicing the most porta-potties. This way turn over in said line is quicker. I for one think the one line, though potentially unwieldy, is much more equitable.
  5. Good for 3 more points in the CARA Circuit standings
  6. This is hyperbole. I left the city limits when I went to that run in Roselle on the 7th. Oh, and we recently bought a new car that took us all the way to Countryside a little over a week ago. And I left the city all together when I went to NY for work at the beginning of the month. Sheesh, it's like I barely even live here.
  7. So I'm reading Infinite Jest and you know how DFW is with the end-notes. I thought I'd try them on for size. It's an interesting way of writing. You get to say so much more without having to pare down your thoughts to stuff that makes sense. Is it genius or is it the lazy writer's way of (not) dealing with a rambling mind?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


People often say that my sister and I look like twins. Even though I am two and a half years older than she is, she often is mistaken for the older one. And that has nothing to do with how she looks, but more to do with the dynamic of our relationship and our personalities. She tends to be the outspoken, attention seeking one; she kinda acts like she's in charge. And for some reason people attribute that behavior to the older child.

I've always been of two minds about this phenomenon. On one level I hate it. I feel like it takes away my birthright, to be recognized as the eldest. I'm not entirely sure what that "birthright" is. Just recognition that I came first. On the other hand, it's nice to have someone who can do all the things that scare you or push you to do those things. If I had a sister who was more timid than I, there would be all kinds of things I would have never tried.

And this caring about people recognizing me as the older one ceased as I got older. It became amusing to both of us that people thought we were twins. Years ago, we had a job where we went into a store and tried to get guys to try on some new Docker pants. One of us stood at the entrance to the store and the other was in the men's area with the pants. Having been given the same thing to wear, we looked even more alike. So much so that one gentleman thought that my sister had managed to make it from the entrance to the back of the store before him. Because we sound similar too, we've both answered the other's phone and not made it clear who was answering the phone. It usually only takes a couple of full sentences before the caller figures out, but we always get a chuckle out of it.

As I've gotten older, I of course don't mind so much that people think I'm younger; though I don't think my sister appreciates it as much. And honestly, no one cares about age as much as you get older. It doesn't seem to matter as much as it does when your a kid.

What does matter is our relationship. I won't lie and say that my sister and I have this wonderful bond
All of our pictures together these days seem to be running
photos, one of the things that she got me to start.
that produces rainbows and unicorns or some such thing. We do have a bond. A unique and special bond. But part of that bond is getting on each other's nerves and then working it out. Part of that bond is not understanding each other and then finding a way. I would have never put as much effort into a friendship. As difficult as my sister can sometimes be (with the acknowledgement that I can certainly be difficult too), her depth of caring and loyalty to me and my family, the ways she has shown love and friendship to me, is something that I can only share with her. 

She is the only person who knows what my childhood was like. She is the only person with the shared experiences of new schools and leaving friends and a longing to put down roots. And as much as she says she hates Chicago sometimes, she is the only person that understands the sense of home we have here. 

Today my sister is 41 years old. Forty one years ago, I am told, I was super excited to have her entering the world. Forty one years later, I'm super excited that she's still in my world.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Stitch and Pitch

Last night the knitting group went to a Cubs game instead of Kopi. We always talk about having outings and we never quite get around to doing them. I think part of the problem is we always want to find a time that everyone can make it but there is never a time that everyone can make it so we end up doing nothing. This time we picked a couple of dates, voted on which ones we liked the most, and those that wanted to go went.

We got group rate tickets and were way up top along the third base line. At first that didn't seem too bad since we actually had a pretty good view and could even see the lake over the east side of the field. Quick side note, when we got up to our level, we asked an usher for some guidance on our seats. He started to show us, but then turned around and took us to other seats and said we could sit in a section that is normally reserved. It was pretty much behind home plate, though still on the upper level. It was very nice, and when had to tell him we were meeting other people, he said "I only do something nice once a day..." Oh well, he tried.

See that bit of blue between the buildings at the top of the
photo? That's the lake.
Despite it being June, it was windy and cold, and there were lots of jokes about us knitting scarves and hats and blankets (some of us were actually knitting those things). Not me, I'm working on a bookmark. But regardless of the cold, it was a lot of fun.

To make it even more exciting, the Stanley Cup was at the game and Toews threw out the first pitch. We actually didn't see that because we met at the bar formerly known as the Ginergerman. But it was still exciting. We left after the 7th inning stretch hoping the Blackhawks would sing - but no luck.

Now maybe we can schedule that retreat we've always talked about.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Watching #hawks while facebooking. #blog

via Instagram http://ift.tt/1J04dwc

Marathon training - week one

This is exactly how I plan to look when finishing
the marathon this year. Exactly like this.
copyright cteconsulting
So a few things are different this year. First, it basically was a foregone conclusion that I was going to train for the marathon again this year. Apparently this is now a thing I do. There are still times that I think it should not be a thing I do, but it gets me out of the house and having an 18-week schedule is motivation.

Second, I am not actually running the Chicago Marathon this year. My sister has signed up for Chicago and this will be her first marathon. I promised her I would watch along the sidelines and cheer just as she has done the last two times I ran. With the aid of her boyfriend who is an expert at tracking runners and getting to viewing spots just before they show up, I plan to see her three or four times along the course. Several people have asked me why I don't just run the marathon with her. To which I answer, I would, but she's faster than me. So this year I think I'm going to run the Naperville Marathon (a suburb of Chicago for those of you not from around these parts). It's a few weeks after Chicago so, other than getting myself out to Naperville, all I need to do is adjust my taper. 

Third, I have moved up a pace group. I'm now running with the 10:30s. That's my goal pace, which will give me a 4:35 finish. The good news is I'm running with people I already know. The bad news is I've committed to doing the "intermediate" training plan which has me running an extra day during the week and a couple of extra miles on the long run. Luckily (sorta - I was half counting on there not being anyone running the intermediate schedule), there were six other people from my pace group that went the two extra miles on Saturday, so I wasn't alone.

Finally, I'm not raising any money for any charities this year. Was that a huge sigh of relief I just heard? So you are now free to find your other friend who is running the Chicago marathon and give to their charity.

My first week was a bit of a slow start . I missed two runs so only ran 15 miles of the 23 scheduled. Basically I did the novice mileage - which is actually fine since I haven't been as consistent with my running as I should be. But this week I want to try and get in all the runs and get myself onto a schedule for the rest of the summer so I can look like that illustration.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

End of writing class...beginning of writing (more)

Last night I attended my final Memoir(ish) class at Story Studio. I have to say I have mixed feelings about the class. On the one hand, it was great having some accountability to my writing and feedback. On the other hand, sometimes I felt like what I was saying was stupid and that the reaction to my writing was --- yawn ---. Now that's probably just me being insecure and I would imagine every other person in that class had some moment of feeling that way. Maybe. It's hard for me to believe that.

I wanted everyone to read my piece and clap and say how wonderful it was. No one did that. Of course they didn't. I know it's not realistic to expect that. But you know, you want that validation. It's so hard to come by and in the end, does it really mean anything?

Last night in class we read a piece in the Rumpus - #48: Write like a motherfucker. Basically, if you don't want to take the time to read it, it says that you write not for praise or fame you write because you need to write. Because "the prospect of not writing ... (is) more awful than the one of writing ... (something) that sucked." 

While we were discussing the piece in class, I started to think about running because everything relates to running - amiright? Anyway, there is a saying when you race you need to "run your own race." When I run a race, I know I am not going to win. I'm not going to come close to winning. I'm not even going to be close to winning my age group. Hell, apparently I'm not going to be close to beating my 10-year old niece. But that is not why I run. I don't run to win. I run because I like it. Because it feels good (basically - I mean it sucks A LOT but it also feels great a lot) and it makes me happy and healthy. When I run a race, I run my race. Not the races of the people passing me, not even the races of the people I am passing. 

And writing is like that to an extent. I need to run my own race. I need to write because I need to write. I know that I've come to this conclusion in other ways before. But I don't think I've ever thought about it in that way before. I need to focus on my writing - not on what I think I should be or that I don't have an MFA and that no one will ever take me seriously. That may be true, but that shouldn't stop me. I never did track or cross country as a kid and have no history in sports (unless you call dance a sport), but now I run and I've even been able to give advice to those who are just starting out running. I just gotta stay in my lane and not worry about anyone else.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Run for the Roses 5k

Today is the kick off of marathon training. I'm not quite sure when I'm going to get in my 3 miles for the day as work has been hectic and I have my last writing class this afternoon. The thought of leaving early to run has crossed my mind. But the other thought, the one that goes something like "I just ran a 5k yesterday, do I really need to run today or can I officially start marathon training tomorrow?" has also crossed my mind. I'm trying to squash that thought so as not to start off training on the wrong (or no) foot.

Over on the left is Roselle. I live over on the right,
where it says Chicago.
Yesterday I participated in the Roselle Run for the Roses 5k. As you can gather from the name, this race is in Roselle. Where is Roselle you ask? Beats me I say because I didn't drive and I try not to pay attention to anything that happens outside of city limits. But, by checking out Google Maps, I see that Roselle is due west of the city and takes about 50 minutes to get there with no traffic.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been running races that are in the CARA Circuit. Not expecting to win or place in anything, I'm basically going for participation. But that means that I'm going to have to get myself out of the city to run a few races if I'm going to run at least 10 of them. I missed the last two circuit races, Quarryman 10 Mile and the Soldier Field 10 Mile, so it was off to Roselle to run a 5k.

The race start and finish was at a local high school and we were able to easily park close to the school. Unfortunately, the room for packet pickup and race-day registration was small, so it was hard to get to the table to get our packet, which we had to do race day since there was no city (or nearer to city) packet pickup. I briefly became "mayor of the line" as I was directing people while holding the door waiting for enough room to fully get inside. Race day registration off to the left, first half of the alphabet in the middle, second half on the right. The couple behind me and I commiserated on different running/waiting in line/general confusion stuff as well as if it was fair that he got to compete in the Clydesdale category mostly by virtue of being tall.

Once we did get our packets, we were informed there were no more bags. Normally I don't really care, but since it looked like it was about to rain, a bag to store some stuff to keep dry in would have been nice. My niece, who was running her first 5k, snagged the last bag apparently, so we crammed everything in there. Nothing much of use in the bag other than the shirt. The basic cotton tee isn't usually something I'd want. But since the likelihood of us running in the rain was high, it would be nice to have something that was dry.

We had about 15 minutes to go when it started to rain. At first a drizzle then a full on downpour. Most people huddled up under a canopy by the doors or inside the vestibule to the high school hoping it would pass. But since all the weather apps said it wasn't going to pass, we were just waiting until the last possible minute to go line up simply delaying getting wet. With about three minutes to go, we jogged the short distance, heard the last of the national anthem and took off.

With a little over 700 people running the race, getting into pace was easy. My first mile was somewhere around 9 minutes. I honestly don't know because (a) I hit pause on my watch instead of lapping it and (b) the clock at mile one said 5 minutes something, clearly not the correct time.

Mile 2 was a little slower as the rain died down a bit and I was able to lift my head without too much rain dripping into my eyes (the one day I don't wear a hat). Once again I haven't been running as much as I should, so this was my first run of the week. Despite the weather, there were a fair few people cheering along the course under umbrellas. Just beyond a (in my mind) completely unnecessary water stop, there was a cheer station at the top of a small hill that at first I mistook for the finish line they were so loud. One of the police officers on a bike was milling around at an intersection and even he was cheering. It seems that people are rather impressed with people so dedicated to running that they'll do it in the rain.

Mile three came and went and I was starting to get tired. I looked at the clock but don't remember what it said and my watch was no longer accurate. I don't know why I bother anymore. I pushed to the end and finished in 28:56/9:19 pace. I know I can run faster than this, but I also know that I need to work on it, not just hope it happens.

At the end I met back up with the family and we searched for the results tent. Finding it we found out that my niece placed first in her age group (10 and under) (I placed 14th, sister 9th) so now we were sticking around for the awards ceremony. While we waited we went to the bathroom and dried off as well as we could - dry t-shirt for the win. Then we waited and waited and waited. While there were several vendors that came out (there was talk of pony rides), there wasn't really any rainy weather backup plan. All the awards (roses and glasses) had to be hauled inside in this small area outside of the school gym. Once they were ready to go, the repeated pleas for quiet, since there was now no AV, seemed to fall on deaf ears. I would go off on a rant on this, how people are so rude that the little kids who are being recognized for running the kid race could barely hear their names despite being asked multiple times to please be quiet, but can't actually manage to do so because whatever is being said isn't directly related to them (ie: their age group isn't being announced so what do they care). But why? It's not like any of those people are going to read this and realize, oh wow, it's pretty rude to talk through an award ceremony, I shouldn't do that ever again. In fact, I should probably publicly apologize for my rudeness. I'll post it all over facebook and twitter or something. I'm a real asshat. Since that's not going to happen, I'll just let it go.

My niece got her award and we headed home, slightly wet but happy.

My overall stats: 14/54 in my age group (high enough to earn me 2 points in the CARA Circuit individual competition), 119/378 women, 380/790 overall. Not too bad for a race I did nothing to train for.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge

My history with the Corporate Challenge:

The first time I participated was 2005 and I ran the (odd) distance of 3.5 miles in 36:24 - but I think that was before they chip timed the event and you self reported your time, so who knows how accurate that is. I know I ran several times between 2005 and 2011 - but for some reason none of my times are showing up on the Corporate Challenge website.

When I joined my current company, I became the Corporate Challenge team lead, so I managed getting our tent and food and registering our company. That was in 2007, and I know I ran it that year. I'm pretty sure I ran it the next year too. I know I did not run it in 2010 because I had baby H. the Monday before the race. But 2011 I ran with a recorded time of 35:57. I skipped 2012. I ran in 2013 (35:52), but I skipped again last year because honestly I had begun to hate this race. But this year, after a debacle of having no one in our office sign up and then needing to find ways to get people to sign up, I signed up and ran in 35:07 - so at least I am getting faster - but I still hate this race.

Reasons I don't like the Corporate Challenge:

  1. After having to be the team lead for several years, I'm kinda just through with it.
  2. It used to be too hot, but then they moved it to the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend. But now the weather is so unpredictable it's still too hot, or it's freezing cold or it's raining. It seems like no matter what, there is some sort of extreme weather Memorial Day weekend.
  3. It's too crowded.

About 25,000 people sign up for this race; a good number of them walk it. I have no problem with walkers, and I understand why they want to start at the front just as much as someone who is going to run wants to start closer to the front. They don't want to be stuck behind so many people that it takes 30 minutes to even cross the start line. They'd like to be done walking as quickly as possible to get back to their company tent and enjoy the food. I get that. But that means walkers are going to be interspersed throughout the course. That means if you're running, you're weaving. And walkers are three and four people abreast because it's much easier to carry on a conversation when you're walking and not actively trying to pass people. I seeded myself correctly with my pace, and I spent the entire race weaving in and out of walkers. There was never a time where I wasn't passing someone who was walking except maybe the last half mile. It's frustrating to say the least. And running when you're frustrated isn't fun. Each year I try to go into this "race" with a zen attitude of just treat it like a run not a race. But you know how it's hard to not "race" when you're running a "race". Yeah, that. And so I want to "race" and then I get frustrated because even though I'm actually running a pretty good pace, there is a lot of stopping and starting, it's just not that much fun. So that's why I'm not a big fan of the Corporate Challenge. Do I think there is anything they can do to help? Well for some reason this year they only had two bibs - people running uber fast and the rest of us. So even though technically there were seeded corrals - you could get into any one you wanted. Going back to at least trying to have different pace corrals would help. Other than that, no, there probably isn't anything you can do except maybe let the walkers all start at 6 and then the race could start at 7 and we wouldn't be in each other's way.

This year's Corporate Challenge:

  1. I wasn't the "team lead" but was partially responsible for getting people to sign up - which no one wanted to because the company was no longer sponsoring the cost of registration. This changed when they had a whopping five people (me included) signed up. 
  2. The weather was actually good running weather.
  3. We had lots of food (too much as usual)
  4. We were able to listen to decent music courtesy of the Hyatt tent next to ours.
  5. In the end we had 50 people sign up for the race. However we had 25 people show up - a little disappointing. 
  6. I was the third girl in my company to finish - I tried to keep up with our intern, but just couldn't hold out at the end.

Now I don't have to think about it anymore - until next year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cleveland Marathon - 10k

BIL, SIL, me and nephew pre-race.
So last year, Mr. H. totally rocked this marathon and set an awesome PR in which he missed BQ'ing by 3 seconds. As you already know, he was trying to actually qualify for Boston during the Wisconsin marathon a few weeks ago, so he had no intentions of running the Cleveland Marathon . However, because of a sister-in-law's law school graduation, we had need to be in town, and because a different sister-in-law and her husband had recently taken up running (possibly getting swept up in the running fever watching Mr. H. last year), we signed up for the 10k held in conjunction with the marathon and half marathon.

Unfortunately, Mr. H. has not yet fully recovered from his marathon, so he bowed out of the race. He ended up making the smart move, because despite the fact that it is 40 degrees right now and was in the 40/50s the week before the race, race day it was in the mid 70s with 90% humidity. Yeah, we basically ran in soup.

This being Cleveland, even with three races at one time, the number of people running the race wasn't too bad (about 12,000 overall). Of course, it's all relative, because my relatives mentioned how much larger this race was than their last (and only) 5k. Corrals were self seeded, so we got into our mid-pack corral and waited. While standing around, there was a 2-3 minute downpour that I both wanted to continue and wanted to stop. I don't mind running in the race, especially when it's hot. But then again, I had my phone on me and had forgotten to put it in a plastic bag, so I didn't want to risk it getting wet.

We started downtown right next to the Q (where the Cavs - boo - play) and then wandered around the west side of Cleveland before heading back downtown. All three races were on the same course until mile threeish. My sister-in-law had a dream about not making the 10k turn and finding herself on the marathon course. I told her it would most likely be clearly marked. And it was. As we ascended a bridge, marathon/half marathon runners were directed toward the left, 10k runners on the right even though the bridge wasn't divided. There was another sign directing us to the correct path at the bottom of the bridge where the split actually happened. After the race she laughed and said the signs couldn't have been plainer. Of course, I've seen courses that aren't well marked, which is never fun.

At about mile 4.5 we went back up another hill - an entrance ramp to the Shoreway (kinda their Lake Shore drive, but more a highway than LSD). The last mile and a half mirrored the marathon and half marathon course. We had the marathon flags on our side, so it was kinda fun pretending that I had run 25, 26 miles when I actually actually run 5, 6 miles. With how hot it was, it felt like I'd run more. And I honestly have no idea how the marathon and half marathon runners did it. Last year it was cool at the beginning of the race, I remember having on a coat and gloves to watch Mr. H.

My finishing time was 1:01:47. I finished 30/176 in my age group, 351/1,520 gender, 808/2,478 overall. I'm happy with this time. I know I could have gone faster, but am glad I didn't push it.

So this is what I've learned from this race:
  • I really need to do some hill training if I'm going to run in other cities. Seriously, we have no hills in Chicago. 
  • It does not matter if the week leading up to a race has been 40 degrees and cloudy. If it is April, May, or maybe even June, on race day it will most likely be above 70 with some ungodly amount of humidity. There is nothing to do about this but get used to it. 
  • Marathon Photo does not like me. Pictures of the rest of my family. None of me - apparently not even the one that I am actually in with them because while they were tagged in the photo, I am not (yes, my bib is clearly showing).

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Wisconsin Half Marathon

I have a long list of excuses why I didn't meet my expectations for this half marathon. They are, in no particular order: the weather, the hills, over training, under training, exhaustion from a recent work trip to NY, swimming in the pool at the hotel, sitting in the hot tub at the hotel, being in Kenosha, being tripped (accidentally) by Mr. H. as we walked to the start line. I don't know what combination of or if any of these things played a part in how I felt on Saturday. Maybe it was just one of those days.

We drove up to Kenosha on Friday afternoon and enjoyed ourselves in the hotel pool. I didn't actually do any strenuous swimming; we mostly just stood around watching Baby H. swim across the pool. Afterwards we enjoyed a pasta dinner at a local restaurant, eating early enough so as not to have any digestive issues.

Saturday morning we woke at 5, had a normal pre-race breakfast with the exception of it being in a hotel lobby. We made our way into Kenosha, found a place to park and walked to the start line a few blocks away. It was warmer outside that we were hoping for, being already in the mid 50s when we woke so I went with the lightest option of clothing, shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Pre race was pretty normal. Mr. H. and I just barely got a porta-potty trip in before the start, but we managed it and other than me tripping, it was all good. The race was a couple thousand people total in both the half and full marathons, not too big, but enough people - at least in the half - to not be lonely.

Going out, the first couple of miles I had that heavy leg thing where you're getting warmed up, but I was managing to keep the 10 min pace I wanted. I actually had a few extra seconds to spare, and by the time I got around to mile six, I had about 30 extra seconds. But then this is where things started to get interesting. The course wasn't hilly in the true sense of the word, but I would call it hilly in the Chicago sense of the word. And the hills weren't that steep, but there were several rolling type hills. Added to that, the temperature kept going up. Again, I wouldn't actually call it hot, but certainly warmer than what we've been used to running in lately.

Around mile eight or nine we're out of these rolling hills and headed back into Kenosha. Though the course was flatter, my pace started slipping and I am eating into my cushion of maintaining an even 10 minute pace overall. As I got to mile 10, I can see the finish line across a small bay, which I considered swimming across just to be done. At this point I'm not trying to really meet my goal of 10 min splits, I just want to stay under my PR. I did have a few minutes of trying to figure out how to make my body believe I hadn't already run 10 miles and I was just out for a quick 5k. But my body's not dumb and the next couple of miles I see my hopes of even PRing disappear.

At mile 12, as the course finally turns back to the finish line, I look at my watch and figure out that if I pump out a 10 minute mile I could at least PR by maybe a few seconds. I actually got up to a 9:45ish pace for a while, but it was not to be. Finishing time 2:17:16. Off my PR by a little over a minute.

Mr. H. has a similarly disappointing marathon. One in which he had hoped to BQ, but ended up running 9 minutes slower than his PR.

Knowing that, and seeing so many people walk in, I do feel a little bit better knowing it was most likely the heat (and hills) that made this not the race for me to PR. It's disappointing, but it's also funny that I'm at a point that I can be disappointed with a 2:17 half. That is by no means anywhere near my slowest half marathon. In fact, it's my second fastest.

Would I run this race again? Probably since it's not a bad course overall and I could count as hill training. And since it's Kenosha, we were home by 1 pm. But then again, I suspect I will harbor resentment towards this race and will be happy enough never to go to Kenosha again. Oh well, there are other halfs out there. Plus - the medal has a bottle opener on it and we all know I have enough of those.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ravenswood 5k

Who needs a picture of me running when you can look at
this cutie finishing a 50 yard dash.
Last year, the day before this race I severely bruised one of my toes. I was worried it might be broken, so I didn't run the Ravenswood 5k. This year, instead of walking around my house with bare feet exposing my toes to stray toys Baby H. leaves lying around the house, I wore my slippers most of the time. I was taking no chances.

Because of these precautions, I awoke with 10 strong toes and a hankering to run around my neighborhood. I live basically next door to the Ravenswood neighborhood and can walk to the start line. An added benefit, my friend and morning running partner Sara always runs Ravenswood and she has the ability to push me to go just a bit faster.

I'm in taper for my half marathon coming up next week, so Saturday's mileage was an easy six. Only two people from the 10:30 pace group showed up, so we decided to run with the 10 min. pace group, who in turn, were running with the 10 min. pace group from marathon training (the only difference being they were going to run eight instead of six) - basically it was cold and rainy on Saturday and most of the people didn't come to the final Spring Marathon/Half Marathon training run.

Because I ran with the 10 min. group (and not because I didn't run at all during the week), my legs were a bit tired Sunday morning. Sara assured me this was OK with her because she had a couple more glasses of wine than planned the previous evening. I was determined this year to at least finish with her, not behind her. Now that she'd handicapped herself, maybe I had a fighting chance.

Our first mile was right at 9:30. Even though people actually seeded themselves pretty well and we didn't spend a lot of time passing walkers or those who were clearly going slower than the pace sign they were standing next too indicated, it was still a crowded race. Once the crowd thinned a bit, Sara and I were able to run slightly faster than 9s; our next two miles were 8:58 and 8:42. There were a few moments heading east on Lawrence in the last mile that I was thinking about giving in - the same place I gave in two years ago. But by focusing on the bike lane line and telling myself I just needed to make it to the turn onto Damen, and then the next and final turn onto Wilson, got me to the three-mile mark. The final dip under the el tracks at Ravenswood is always so deceiving. You get a nice down hill, but then there's that little bit of an incline before the finish line. Knowing this, I waited until we were just at the tracks to start as much of a sprint as I could. Sara and I crossed the finish line together...of course it was her name that was called out as we finished. (You realize this rivalry is completely in my head - Sara's the best running partner a girl could hope for.) Final time 28:11 (a full second in front of Sara!), 51/272 in my age group 1125/3171 overall.

But this race was never really about me. It was all about Baby H (BH) defending his win from last year in the kid's races. This year's distance of 50 yards was more than double the distance he ran last year. Watching little kids run is pretty much the best thing ever. They get so excited and really enjoy themselves, smiling the entire time. Of course, I'd enjoy myself a whole lot more if I was running 50 yards too.

BH didn't quite come in first - he finished just a hair behind two other little boys, securing third place. He was gaining on them pretty quickly at the end, and had he a few more feet, he may have passed them. Of course, he thinks he won the race. We keep telling him that winning doesn't really matter and that even though mommy and daddy never win their races, we still have a lot of fun. But apparently the only thing 4-year old boys care about is winning. He'll learn soon enough.

Next up: Wisconsin Half Marathon on Saturday. This is what I've been training for. The question is, can I keep a 10 minute pace for the entire race and set a PR? Check back next week to find out.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why I'm not a musician

I've been taking a writing class at Story Studio. It's called Memoir(ish). It's about writing memoirs, personal essays, true stuff. This is my latest assignment: write the smallest, most specific scene possible. Focus on the details and let us see the scene.

I am suddenly nervous. All day I had been excited, bragging about how cool this was. Talking about how much fun it was going to be and how good I was going to be. I put on a dress and probably knee socks and most likely my mom put my long blond hair into some sort of do. Something with curls and barretts. But now, walking into the auditorium - not even the auditorium, the corridor that leads to the auditorium, I am nervous.

I feel my heart start to race. Typical nervous stuff. But this time it's different. I can't breath. Or it feels like I can't breath. I stop. I don't walk forward anymore. My mom and my sister, not realizing I'm not there anymore keep going a few steps. Then they turn around and see me just standing there. What's wrong they ask. I can't move anymore. I can't go. I'm pretty sure my palms have begun to sweat. I set the violin case down.

I can hear all the instruments - kids taking their instruments out of their cases and tuning them. I can hear the excited voices of parents saying good luck to their kids, or people asking directions to their seats. I look around at all the people. There are so many people here. So many more than I thought there would be. Why didn't I realize there would be this many people?

I knew that it was going to be several elementary and high schools coming together for a recital. I knew that my elementary school string students, about 20 of us, were joining at least a dozen other elementary school students. We had all been practicing the same songs for these many weeks. We had all been doing the same drills and learning the same fingering. We were going to be playing the theme to Dallas - no that's not right. But something, something famous. I want to say the theme to Star Wars, but I know that's not right. I know that the high school students learned that and I was so jealous of them. I'm sure we didn't play anything that complicated.

We could have been playing mary had a little lamb for all I cared, it didn't matter, because I wasn't going in. I was going to turn around and walk out and leave and go home.

My mother walks over to me and asks what's wrong. I don't remember what I said but i'm sure it was something along the lines of - yeah, this isn't going to happen - except how a 10 year old says that. Maybe "I don't want to."  Now she's mad. I'm sure she tried to coax me for several seconds. But now she's mad, and yelling. Well, doing that quite intense and serious voice parents do when they're trying not to make a scene. I don't want to make a scene, that is the last thing I want. I don't want anyone looking at me, I just want to leave.

I figure no one will miss me. There are at least six girls at my school alone who play the violin. Multiple that by 12 and there are a lot of violins in the middle school orchestra. It will be one less little girl screeching her way through a song. But she won't let me back out. She keeps telling me I have to go. She keeps telling me that this is something I want to do and she says I have to do it. I don't know why. It's just a stupid recital. We have had other recitals at school. I don't know why this one is so important to her. She says she doesn't understand how I could be so excited during the day and now not want to do it.

I'm on the floor crying. Not like a little kid having a temper tantrum. But slunk down, refusing to move, crying, pleading, to leave. I think she tries pulling me to get me to stand up. But maybe that's just my faulty memory projecting how terrified I feel and how much I don't want to go and that it should take her dragging me to my seat to get me to go. She doesn't. She doesn't have to drag me to my seat. I don't know how, but somehow I get up the nerve, or she says the right thing or I realize there is no way out and I might as well go and join the rest of my classmates and get it over with. I can sit in my chair and pretend to play if I want. No one will ever know.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, but is probably all of five minutes, I get up. I wipe off the tears and my mom gives me a hug and says it's going to be OK, that I'm going to be good. I don't believe her, but I walk through the big auditorium doors and find my seat among the hundreds of other kids and wait for the recital to start.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Live Grit CARA Lakefront 10 Miler

Sister and me pre-race.
Instead of doing a long run on Saturday and then some race on Sunday, I decided to just do a race on Saturday. It made my Sunday a lot less tiring. And, since it was CARA's Lakefront 10 miler, it counted at a long run.

Saturday morning Mr. H. left the house sometime before 5 a.m. to set up down at Montrose. My alarm went off at 6, and as per usual, I laid there an thought about sleeping in. After about 20 minutes, I rolled out of bed and got ready. I am lucky enough to have a mom that lives close to me and who is willing to come by and watch Baby H. while I go run. As sister ran the race also, once mom and sister were at the house, we headed out, Ubered down to Montrose and began our pre-race preparations; basically gear checking, peeing and running into a bunch of people you know from summer marathon training.

I really enjoy going to races and seeing people I know from training. It makes the waiting that much more fun, and you have the possibility of finding someone to run with - as I did this time.

As I said last week, my goal was to keep a 10-minute pace to prove to myself that I can run a half marathon at 10s. I started out with several people from my training group and my sister. While it was crowded at the beginning, it spread out fairly quickly and our group separated. I informed one of my summer/winter/spring training buddies, Jen, that I planned to run 10s and she promised to stay with me as long as she could. Sister and one of the other women sped off, while the others were not far behind.

The first couple of miles came and went quickly. The course headed north on Simonds Dr., turning around Lawrence, making a quick detour over Cricket Hill then heading south on the lakefront path. Before we knew it, 5 miles had come and gone and we were both feeling really good. By the time we turned back north, at about 7 miles, we knew we had this race in the bag (and by 'knew' I mean we started to hope that we weren't going to hit some unseen wall).

I was pretty surprised we managed to chat throughout the race. For once, I was that person who seemed to be barely expending energy while running and actually able to keep up a conversation. We were actually the people who were passing people the last couple of miles (that's some real motivation I tell ya) Of course, this being Chicago, when we turned around we were running into the wind. I worried this would be the end of my 10-minute pace since the gusts were pretty strong, but Jen and I pushed through and we managed to negative split the last couple of miles. I had never felt so good and positive at the end of a race. I even had enough left in me to sprint to the finish. Finishing time: 1:38:3, pace 9:51, 29/82 in my age group (ever the show-off, sister finished 14th in our age group!).

I now feel fairly confident that I can run a 10-min pace (2:11) half marathon. If I do that, that's another 5 minutes off my PR. Of course, I don't want to get too hopeful, you never know what's going to happen, and I've never run in Kenosha before, so who knows what that course is like.

Of course, this race course was a complete known. The path was a little crowded in spots with all the extra runners, but honestly it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I had thought doing 10 miles on the path was going to be a little annoying. I mean I run that all the time. But maybe that's precisely why it was so much fun. I didn't have to concentrate on the course so much as just going out for a Saturday run.

Next up, the Ravenswood 5k.

UPDATE: Apparently two guys tried to weasel their way into my age group, so even though I didn't go any faster, I did move up two spots in the ranking. Also, I may have had the best ever race photo of me taken while running up Cricket Hill: http://endurancephoto.smugmug.com/Races/Live-Grit-Lakefront10-Miler-41/i-L4S5LHW/A

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Good Life Race


I went back and forth on whether or not I was going to run this race. It's the second race on the CARA Circuit and in Oak Park, so not too far away. On the other hand, I am still training for a half marathon, and it fell on the day after a 10-mile run. I hemmed and hawed so much that I missed on-line registration (and hence the CARA discount) and the kids races were closed. So I decided, nope, wasn't going to run. But then Sister J. decided that we were going to run, and despite the fact that she drove to Oak Park on Friday to sign us up in person but was turned away because they didn't take credit, we made the trip back to Oak Park on Saturday to sign up. Why we torture ourselves like this is beyond me.

With a 9:10 a.m. start, I didn't have to wake up too early to pick up my sister and get out to Oak Park. Because there is no traffic at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday, we made it there in no time and had about an hour to kill. This was pretty easy because I ran into several people I know including former and current CARA employees and people who live on my block. Because the race starts right by the high school, they had gear check and the sponsor booths inside. 

One of the interesting things about this race is they have a separate men's and women's start, with the women starting about 40 minutes before the men. With a smaller field than a co-ed race, sister and I were able to make our way past slower runners after the gun went off without too much effort despite the fact that we started toward the back. 

Much like when I ran the Shamrock Shuffle, I told myself I wasn't going to push myself too hard since I had just run 10 miles the day before. My plan was to stay around a 9:30 pace. Apparently this is what I need to tell myself before running a race because my splits were 8:48/9:05/8:54, finishing 27:41:2, 30/92 in my age group, 196/567 overall (women). This isn't a PR for me (if the 27:18 time is to be believed for the Run for Boston), but it feels pretty good to be running a sub 9 pace and not totally dying (though boy it was rough that last 10th of a mile). I'd like to get my 5k under 27 minutes, but of course that would entail me doing some speed work, which doesn't really sound like fun.

A lot of people said how much they really liked this race when I talked about signing up. It is really nice to run some other place than the lake front path, and the course is pretty flat. For some reason, it's a lot of fun running without men, especially when you get a flower at the end of the race. Plus, because the men went off after us, sister and I were able to head to the finish line and watch them come in. I always think it's cool to see the really speedy people finish. In the end, I'm glad I ran this race, even if it meant being pretty tired yesterday.

Next up on the calendar is the Lakefront 10. This is in lieu of our Saturday long run next week for half marathon training. Again, right now my plan is to go out and run a slightly faster training run, but not race - since it's 10 miles it's not like I'll be getting anywhere near 9 minute miles. On the other hand, I could use this as a test to see if I can keep up my goal race pace of 10 minute miles.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Shamrock Shuffle

The Shamrock Shuffle is one of the first races, maybe even the first race, that I ever ran - not counting of the mile race that I did in third (maybe fourth) grade that I was so sure I was going to win, but instead came in dead last finishing with tears streaming down my face - but that's a story for another day.

I have this notion that I may run the CARA circuit this year (ssshhh - don't tell anyone in case I change my mind). Since, the first race on the circuit is the Shamrock Shuffle and I've been training for a half, I'm all good to do an 8k.

But first, can we all agree the expo is weird. I mean I get it that it's a HUGE race. But do we really need an expo for packet pick up? And if we do, does it really need to be at McCormick Place? What a pain in the ass. The cab I took from work dropped me off at the West building and naturally the expo was in the East building, so I had a nice long walk.  And then I had to take a cab home - because there's no good way to take public transportation back from there unless it's a bus and no. But whatever, Mr. H. was there manning the CARA booth so I took off early on Friday, headed over, got my packet, browsed around reminding myself I didn't need any additional - insert all running related gear.

Race day I head downtown early with Mr. H. as he is working at the CARA compound in the Hilton where members can gear check and hang out inside before the race. Which is great, because it's cold outside, and windy. There were lots of people deciding on what layers to wear. I went with tights and a long sleeve shirt with a singlet underneath. I had the good fortune to qualify for the first wave with a time that eeked in just under the cutoff and was assigned corral D. I head on over about 10 minutes before the corral closes and stretch and try to stay warm. Then I stand around for the next 20 minutes waiting to get to the start line. (When I get to the finish line, corral H is about to go off, so yeah, getting into first wave a plus).

This is the part of this race I don't like. The standing around. Standing around for the marathon is one thing. It gives you time to back out if you want, and really, who's eager to start at 26.2 mile run? But an 8k. Can we just get this show on the road. Eventually we make it to the start and I go out.

I would give you a breakdown of my miles, however, I made a mistake and forgot that the Loop does not agree with satellite watches. My watched told me I had run the first mile in about 8:10 (a record for me) - but since I was no where near the first mile marker, I knew it was lying. So the rest of the run I had to do math each mile to figure out my pace. I believe my miles were something like 9:40ish, 9:30ish, 9:30ish, 10:15ish (very windy) and then back under 10. I finished with an overall pace of 9:43 per mile for a finishing time of 48:18.

My strategy for the Shuffle was to push myself a little, but not really race since I had run 9 the day before. Of course, that went out the window once I started running. Of course my legs were sore from the day before, so not having my watch tell me exactly what my pace was probably helped a little bit since I was always worried I was slowing down to a crawl. 

It was a good race, and a fun way to start of the season. I like the shirt (it's almost made up for the lack of design on last year's marathon shirt). The medal is OK. I mean I don't really need another bottle opener medal - I just don't open that many bottles. But I'll never turn down something that I can display to remind myself that I am not a slug and that I actually get out and run every once in a while.

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