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:

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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