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

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.

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