Thursday, October 13, 2016

2016 Chicago Marathon

Night before race!
My plan for running the marathon this past Sunday was to finish. Given my not so stellar training this summer, I wasn't expecting too much. I was going to run in the 10:20 -10:30 range for as long as I could. I knew that the chances of me running running a 4:30 or getting under last years time of 4:31:08 were pretty slim. So, like I said, I was just going to go out, run for as long as I could and slow down or walk if I needed to to finish.

Leading up to the race I didn't really feel like I was going to be running a marathon - it just seemed like another 'long run.' I didn't have that nervousness or doubt. Sure, I wasn't sure how well I was going to do, but I knew I could cover the distance. Saturday morning I did a two-mile shakeout run with the girls. I've never done a day before marathon shakeout run. It was fun and relaxing. Afterwards we hung out and had donuts and coffee and talked about all the stuff one talks about before a marathon: what we're wearing, what the weather is going to be like, where and at what time we were going to meet up. 

The rest of the day we just hung out. Baby H. and I watched 'Monsters vs. Aliens' and we went to Target - nothing too exciting. One of the running ladies hosted dinner and we had some great pasta and meatballs with everyone. After dropping Baby H. at my sister's house for the night, we headed home. Though I had been feeling fine, now the nerves started to kick in. My back was hurting and I was feeling really bloated. I retired to the couch with a heating pad hoping that it was temporary.
Making sure we're ready to run!

The morning started the usual way. We got up, ate, got dressed all that stuff you do before a race. I wasn't feeling bloated nor was my back hurting anymore so that was good. Since Mr. H. wasn't working the CARA VIP area before the race, we didn't have to rush to get downtown, which was nice. After many 4:30 a.m. alarms, having to get up at 5 and out the door by 6 really doesn't seem that bad. 

Once downtown we hung out at the CARA VIP area, and I met up with the other 10:30 group. There were a few first timers that were nervous, and a bunch of us that were at least pretending not to be nervous - or forgetting how hard this was going to be. It's weird, you think you'd remember that feeling of hitting mile 20, 21, 22 and the way your body just aches and longing to be done. But you don't. Even now I don't really remember it. It must be how I am able to do this every year. Anyway, we hung out until it was time to go, Mr. H. and I said goodbye to each other as he headed to corral B and we made our way to corral G.

Waiting for the race to start.
And then we stood around. We joked, we took pictures, we listened to Born to Run. Before we started, Laura said she was going to stick with me because I said I was going to run 10:30s. For the first 5k we stayed pretty much at that pace clocking a 10:27. A couple of our group had already lost us as they went off much faster than that. By 10k we had lost the group that was behind us. Our second 5k was at a 10:12 pace and the next 5k at a 10:11 pace. 

As usual, the first 10 ,miles seem to go by so quickly. Laura looked for friends through the Gold Coast. We saw a running buddy at the turn around at Addison and then I saw several groups of friends as we made our way back up Broadway and Clark. 

The distance on both of our watches was off because being downtown always messes with the GPS, and I of course forgot to turn off the auto lap on my watch. So each mile we looked at the time on our watches, calculated what time it should be if we ran a 10:30 and tried to keep ourselves on pace. Realizing we had a few fast miles, we slowed down a bit and ran the next 5k at a 10:21.

Somewhere around mile 12 I think I noticed I was chaffing under my arms. I asked Laura to remind me to get some Vaseline the next aid station. As luck would have it, a woman was bringing out a fresh batch of Vaseline (if you'v never seen how they hand out Vaseline during a race it's pretty weird. They have pieces of cardboard with big globs of it that you can just scoop up. Sometimes there are tongue depressors stuck to the boards for applying it. Apparently some people aren't familiar with what it is and I've heard stories of people trying to eat it - ugh). Anyway, I grabbed a glob, spread some under my left arm pit, tried to get a little bit under my right one (which really wasn't bothering me at the time but I figured better safe than sorry) and went on my way.

At the half way point I was feeling pretty good, and happy that we had been able to keep an average pace of 10:17 - on pace to hit a 4:30. But I wasn't letting myself think about that. I know that the real race doesn't start until mile 20 and that's what I was telling myself - I just needed to get to mile 20 and then I could asses how I felt. Meanwhile Laura and I continued to have fun, dance to the music as we went through the charity block party and laugh at the great posters. As we headed East on Jackson Blvd. a runner came up yelling "I'm loving Chicago" to the crowds. We asked where he was from, Tennessee maybe (totally can't remember), and told us that Chicago had the best crowd support. I couldn't agree more.

Between miles 15 and 19 we sped up again, averaging a 10:11 pace btween 25k-30k. I blame how boring Ashland and 18th street are at that point. We made it to mile 20 and the aid station that directly follows it. Up until this point, Laura and I had been discussing what we were going to do at each aid station - if we were going to gu or get water or Gatorade. This was a gu station (most likely the last) and I didn't think I could handle anymore Gatorade. We had been only walking as much as we needed to to get water. I started to take my gu, but I couldn't really stomach it so only got a bit down. I grabbed one of the bananas, took a bite, had a couple sips of water and started off again. Because I had walked more than I had been, I lost Laura. I probably could have caught up to her - I saw her colorful capris ahead of me - but it was time to let her go.

I feel silly saying this, but I knew Laura could run a sub 4:30 and I didn't want her to miss that by staying with me. I had told her earlier that if she needed to speed up then she could, and she kindly said the same thing to me. We agreed we were happy at a 10:30 pace, but clearly we had been going faster than that, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep it up. So I didn't work to catch up knowing that I needed to slow down and she most likely didn't. The next six miles were pretty much running from aid station to aid station. From kilometers 30-35 I slowed down to a 10:30 pace on the nose. I allowed myself to walk a little bit longer through the water before starting off again. But as I rounded 35th and turned onto Michigan, those walks got longer and longer. The next 5 kilometers I had slowed to a 10:59 pace. 

At mile 24 I had looked at my watch and, if my math is right, which if you know how difficult it is to do math while running long distances you'll know that's a big if, I was still within striking distance of a 4:30. I just needed to run the last two miles at a 10 min pace. Was this within the realm of possibility? Who knows. Probably not. But for a few seconds at least I was going sub 10. But yeah, my body and mind was like, nope, that's not going to happen, and so I tried to figure out if I could still PR. There's a whole minute and eight seconds after 4:30 that would mean a PR. I didn't let myself stop for the second to last water station while I was trying to figure all this out knowing that if I came close I'd be mad at myself for giving up without at least trying. But as I hit mile 26 and the final aid station, I knew it was not to be. And I was actually relieved. I would still run, but I wasn't going to kill myself for a time that I wasn't going to hit.

In the end I finished at an overall pace of 10:23 - better than the 10:30 I said I was going to run and way better than the finish I expected. Happily, Laura did just as I suspected and finished in 4:28:11.

All of our group had pretty good runs, and several, Laura included, had whopping PRs and went under 4:30.

Mr. H. and me goofing off after finishing the marathon!
So all-in-all a much better run than I had anticipated. It's easy to second guess myself - could I have gone faster? Should I have pushed myself more? But in the end, I did what I did and I'm proud of that. I have been much sorer than in previous years and I'm taking that as a sign that I pushed myself as hard as I could. Of course, there are lessons to learn from this training season, and I have lots of time to think about that. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop running so much. I enjoy it, I enjoy the camaraderie and racing, but it takes up a lot of time. Something to think about.

For now, I'm happy that it's over. A bunch of us are running the Country Sole Half Marathon on October 22. It's a long story about how I ended up running this race which I'll save for another day.

Oh, finally, one other piece of news - Mr. H. had a GREAT marathon. Not only did he PR, but he qualified for Boston by several minutes with a finishing time of 3:08! I'm so happy and proud of him and can't wait to go to Boston in 2018.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Marathon Training 2016

I wanted to cry on Sunday. Actually, I did cry on Sunday. First, I ran on Sunday instead of Saturday because we were unable to find someone to stay with the boy on Saturday morning. The good news is one of the other Saturday runners turned up on Sunday, so at least I had someone to talk to for the 18 mile run. I’ve been better this last week about getting my mid week runs in and doing my stretching and strength exercises - and when I say better that means that I’ve been doing them occasionally rather than not at all. So the good news is my piriformis, which had been hurting, felt pretty good all week. 

The first half of the run was OK. I was feeling a little winded or sluggish or something. In addition to not getting as many mid-week miles as I should have, I think one of the reasons I have been having bad long runs is that I’m not fueling enough. So I made sure to take a Gu before the run, and then at 5 miles and then at 10ish miles. But that third Gu didn’t give me the burst of energy that I wanted and by the time we got to mile 12/13 I was done. We were back at North Ave. and I told my running partner to go ahead without me. She had been slowing down with me, even walking when I wanted to walk, and giving me encouragement. It helped, and it was sweet, but at this point I was feeling defeated and just wanted to be alone. I told her I might take a cab back so she didn’t worry and went into the bathroom.

After making sure the group left, I called Mr. H. to let him know that it was going to be a while before I got home. He offered to hop into a cab and come get me, but I said no. I was going to sit for a while and then run walk back to Montrose. I’d make it, it would just take some time. This is where the tears came in. I told him I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. The last several weeks I have been off, and I keep waiting to have that one good run to make me feel better. Since I don’t run with my phone, I had borrowed the hydration station worker’s phone, and she was nice enough to ask if I was ok and reminded me that some days your body just doesn’t want to do what you want it to do. I get it, I just seem to be having a lot of those days.

So I walked down to the water, took my shoes and socks off, and waded out into the lake. It was nice to cool off and just relax for a bit. Sitting there in the water I ran through all the things that have been going on - being sick, having an injury, stress of work and buying a house and the million other things that come up and thought that maybe marathon training is too much. Maybe it's time to give up this pastime. Eventually I started walking back to Montrose. I walked for a mile or so and then finally decided I could run. I don't know what pace I was going those last couple of miles, I didn't bother looking at my watch. When I made it home, I was tired and defeated.

Now that it's a few days later I'm still tired and defeated, but I managed to get through a five mile run today. We'll see how tomorrow's nine mile goes. I haven't given up yet - not totally anyway - but I'm not predicting a PR this year. At this point I just want to finish marathon training and finish the marathon. 

So that’s where I am. Not where I want to be, but as they say, life is a marathon, not a sprint. And nothing is more of a marathon than marathon training. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My little earthquake

This morning I felt the earthquake. Did you know there was an earthquake this morning? There was. It was in Pawnee, Oklahoma, which is north of Oklahoma City. It happened a few minutes after 7 a.m. I felt my bed shake, and I thought it was a truck, but then the bed didn't stop shaking, and I didn’t hear the rumbling of a truck. Then it did stop, and I didn't really think anything else about it, until I got on to Facebook a minute or two later and there was my aunt who lives just outside Oklahoma City saying that she was just woken up by an earthquake, and I thought ‘woah, seriously, did I actually feel that?’ 

I kept waiting for people to start reporting that they felt it in Chicago, but no, no one was doing that, and so I made a joke on my aunt’s post about how I either felt the earthquake in Chicago or I am so in tune with my family in Oklahoma I feel it when they are shaking. 

I didn’t really think that I had just imagined it and it was pretty coincidental for me to feel shaking at pretty much the same time that there is an earthquake in Oklahoma, and so I searched for other people saying they felt it in Chicago. Did you know there are website that you can go to that lists out all the earthquakes (over 1.5) all over the world? I mean, of course there is. And so yes, the Pawnee earthquake showed up, right about the time I felt it, but I already knew that. Then reports started coming in that people felt it in North Dakota, which is pretty far north, but also much further west than Chicago. And my friends on Facebook began to question if I really felt it, asking if maybe it wasn't a garbage truck or perhaps a disturbance in the force (both viable options). 

By this point it was after 8 and I needed coffee. So I bribed the child with a donut and got him out to Starbucks. I wanted to ask everyone I passed on the street “did you feel the earthquake?” When I went into Starbucks I was a little let down that one of the usual Saturday morning baristas wasn't there because I could have asked him, he at least kinda knows me. Anyone else would probably just think I was a weirdo - I am a weirdo, but still. I saw a neighbor - but we’re waving neighbors, not cross the street to say hi neighbors - and plus he had his headphones in, so I didn’t ask him.
 
Oddly, my sister is in San Francisco. So while there’s a good chance she will feel an earthquake, she wouldn’t have felt this one. My husband is out running along with a good portion of my friends, so I have few people to ask if they too felt it. Returning home, my downstairs neighbor was in the yard and I asked her if she felt it. Nope, she was up, but didn’t feel anything. 

Maybe it was a truck, or I was asleep and I dreamt it. How could I be the only person in Chicago to have felt that? But finally, finally, there were reports of other people in Chicago saying they felt it. And maybe we all felt the same garbage truck, but at least I know I wasn't imagining things. 

It’s a funny thing to be waiting for someone else to confirm that no you are not crazy and yes we believe you. It was like it didn’t happen if I couldn’t share the experience with anyone else. Of course, if literally no one else in Chicago said they felt it, then I probably didn’t feel the earthquake and it was a silent slow, but shaky truck. But others did feel it. No one I know, which is kinda disappointing for some reason. I want that sense of a shared experience of knowing that we both went through the same thing. And unfortunately (though of course, very fortunately for me), the experience my family members went through isn’t the same. Because mine is much less exciting and traumatic - though thankfully all of my family is okay. My aunt and cousins and other family in Oklahoma, they know they went through an earthquake. They had no doubts. My little bed-shake was probably what Regan first experienced when she was initially possessed. A minor shake, a truck going by, nothing to worry about. Certainly not a demon possessing my soul - and definitely not an earthquake.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ravenswood 5k

I do love this run. It's my neighborhood run. I love living in a neighborhood that has a run. It's so much fun to just walk to the start line, see my neighbors and other running friends, take a jog around the hood and then watch my son in the kid's dash before heading back home for breakfast and a Prince dance party.*

For the first time, since I've been doing the run at least, Ravenswood had a t-shirt rather than a technical tee. Now that t-shirts have become these ultra soft, fitted pieces of clothes, I find myself wearing them a whole lot more. There was a time when i think I had two t-shirts in my drawer. Now I have so many I have two piles - plain ones and ones with stuff on the front of them. I regularly make decisions about what shirt I want to wear. Is it a Monkees kind of day or is it a CARA Six Series kind of day? Do I want a plain shirt because maybe I want to look a little nicer or is it after work and I'm just changing into something more comfortable that I may or may not end up sleeping in? This is why it's not a good idea to have too many t-shirts; you have to make decisions. And now I have another one to add to the rotation. Good thing it's cute.

Packet pick up was easy as always and I liked the inclusion of our names on the bibs. My son was also happy that he had a much higher number on his bib than either of his parents. These things are important to a 5 year old.

The morning of the race we walked over with my mom, who would be watching S while we ran, and my sister, who would also be running with her daughter, and headed to the CARA tent. On the way there I did a few warm up blocks and realized that my left hamstring was still sore from the Saturday 12 mile long run with the half marathon training group even though I am not actually training for a half marathon. Sore enough that I made sure to roll it out and ice it when I got home on Saturday, which helped, but apparently didn't solve the problem.

Staci, me, CJ - Photo courtesy of Staci.
Once at the tent I met up with Staci, my sister's daughter showed up, I said hi to a bunch of people and then we headed over to the start. We were able to find CJ close to the 9 min mile marker and so snapped a few pre-race selfies. I knew Sara was around, but due to logistics, we missed each other, so for the first time in several years, we didn't run this race together.

I looked at my splits from this race last year, and my first mile was 9:30ish, mostly due probably to having to weave through people at the start. I also looked at my 5k PR which was not from Ravenswood but from last year's Good Life 5k. I ran that race in 27:44 last year. So if I wanted to PR, I would need to keep my splits under 8:56. Staci and I were both noncommittal on how fast we were going to run, but I think we were both pretty much on board with an 8:50ish pace.

We spent minimal time weaving at the beginning, and we got into a rhythm fairly soon. We weren't chatting too much, but we were on the lookout for the Mayor since he lives along the race route. Apparently he ran the race (supposedly, there doesn't seem to be any record of him in the results) so he wasn't on his usual corner or Berteau and Ravenswood waving. Though my leg was hurting a bit, I was OK with it for the time being. First mile: 8:49.

When I looked at the first mile split, I thought, woah, I feel like I'm going too fast, which might be because we sped up a bit after that. The first quarter of mile 2, we were doing about 8:30. But then I started to slow down, and by 1.5 had gone back down to a 8:50. I walked through the water stop (which had Nuun instead of Gatorade, an interesting choice, and apparently the hydration of choice for all Fleet Feet/RAM races going forward) and with Staci gone, I decided that my leg had had enough. Second mile: 9:26.

Now I had never fully mentally committed to PRing in this race. But every race is a chance to PR - or at least try, otherwise I wouldn't push myself at all. And there is part of me that thinks maybe I could have run through the pain since it actually hurt more the slower I went. But once I made the decision to slow down, there really wasn't anything to make me speed back up. Mile three: 9:43. Final time: 29:08; 60/222 age group; 438/1647 gender; 1200/2984. Well off my 5k PR, but over my finishing in the top half of my age group and gender general goal.

My leg was pretty sore the rest of the day, but seeing S win his 50 yard dash took my mind off of it. He was super happy and kept telling everyone how he won his race. Also, Mr. H. did PR, and my sister beat her daughter (in the race, which isn't always a given when you're running against an 11 year old) so all in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning. Now for a few rest days to see if I can work out my hamstring and not let it derail my marathon training.

---
*Prince dance party not an annual tradition, but may become one from now on.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Partying like it's 1999 - not 2016

There's this thing called impostor syndrome. Basically, you downplay your accomplishments as being just luck, or not real, anything other than what they actually are, the result of hard work and perseverance. Unless you are an impostor; then it's the result of you understanding that you cheated your way to the top. One hopes that at some point Donald Trump will come to terms with his own imposter syndrome and drop out of the presidential race, but that's besides the point.

And the point certainly isn't that Prince was in way an impostor. No, he was the real deal. A true artist in every sense of the word and our world will be a little less funky without him in it anymore.

No, I am the one feeling like an impostor. I have felt like an impostor in many ways at various times during my life. I know I have written about how I often don't feel like a 'runner' because I'm not the type of runner that one thinks of when they think of a runner. This is something that several of my other 'runner' friends and I have discussed. We don't run fast, or at least not as fast as the people who run faster than us. I think if you run faster than me, then that makes you a 'real' runner. Of course, I don't feel like the people who run slower than me aren't runners. And so one would think I could figure out that if slower than me runners are real runners, then I must be just as much of a real runner as they. But no, I apparently hold myself to a different standard. In reality, I have run three marathons and a whole bunch of other races and I can call myself a runner if I want to and if there is someone out there that thinks I'm not a runner because I'm not fast enough then they probably aren't a runner because runners aren't like that.

I could go on the same way about writing. If I'm not writing enough, producing enough words, well then I shouldn't be able to call myself a writer. There are things that I feel you must achieve a certain amount of success at before one can be that thing. I'm not sure how true it is. It's not like I'm trying to pass myself off as the answer to this nation's problems and get elected to the highest office in the country or anything. If I were doing that, without having any real reason for people to believe that I would be able to handle, say, an international crisis or a natural disaster because my background is primarily being rich and going bankrupt a few times and saying things that people seem to want to hear because I'm 'telling it like it is', well then maybe I was just being honest with myself when I felt like an impostor - but you know, that's not me.

But I am questioning if it is OK for me to be sad that Prince has died; that another light has gone out. It's not like I was the biggest Prince fan in the world. I have listened to, and loved, and sang and danced to much of his music. Though I'll admit that after Diamonds and Pearls and (Love Symbol Album) I haven't really listened to much of his newer music. And a quick search through my iTunes reveals not one Prince song in my library. However, I do know that down in the basement are at least two Prince CDs (I know I have Purple Rain and Batman down there somewhere). And I do know that I had at least one, Purple Rain, maybe 1999, album when I was a kid. I remember Purple Rain coming out at the movie theater and making a pact with my friend Becky that we would go to see it together. She went and saw it without me and that is why to this day I no longer speak to Becky (that and we went to different schools after 6th grade and never saw each other again). But is that enough? Is it enough that Prince was one of those artists that shaped my childhood? That his death is a reminder of my own mortality. The artists that I grew up listening to are suddenly not only old, but sometimes even dying. Maybe I just haven't shown enough devotion to him to actually be sad.

For the record, not one person is questioning my veracity in being sad that Prince died. No one is saying - Hey Melanie, you weren't really a Prince fan, take down that silly Facebook post. I mean, maybe someone is, but they haven't said it to my face, or to my FB page. But there is part of me that thinks maybe I don't have the right to be upset. To the point that I've found it necessary to sit down and write about it on the internet. How self indulgent can I be?

Of course, if there was anyone who appreciated self indulgence, it had to be Prince. And while I'm sure he had his human foibles just like the rest of us, I like to imagine him waking up each day and saying - fuck it - I'm going to do me and everyone else can just deal. And if that meant that people thought he didn't have the right to do this or that, then he just didn't care, because he believed in himself (please don't ask me to bring this back to how DT clearly doesn't care if people believe he has the right to do what he wants to do and how that is somehow different - I can't right now, but just believe me it is - let's just say: Prince = good, DT = not good).

So I'm going to keep on doing me. And that means when Lin Bhremer plays Let's Go Crazy and tells us all to turn up the volume and sing and dance, then I'm going to, and S and I are going to listen and dance and sing to a great musician and be happy he was able to make music while he was here on this earth.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring Break

If you live in the city of Chicago and you send your kids to CPS, you know that this week is spring break. Even if you don't live in the city of Chicago and don't send your kids to CPS, but spend any amount of time in the city, you might well know this because hey, there are a bunch of fricking kids walking around the city not in school - what the hell.

Anyway, my son is out of school for his very first spring break, which he has been really looking forward to. Maybe he's seen too many shows on MTV (not) or maybe it's because so many of his friends have actual trips planned to places like Disney (likely) that he has an unrealistic view of what spring break should be like. Unfortunately for him, I do not subscribe to that style of spring break. No, our spring breaks consist of him continuing to go somewhere during the day because his parents need to go to work. However, I actually don't have to go to work, I took the week off. So technically I could be planing adventures for us around the city. Monday we go to Maggie Daley Park, Tuesday we go to the Field etc. But nope, that's not happening either. Instead I signed him up for camp at Lillstreet Art Center. This, in my mind, is the best of both worlds. 

First, he gets to go do something totally different than what he normally does. And there isn't any 'work' like at school. It's all art. Second, his day is shorter, as drop off isn't until 9 and pick up is at 3:30 (which is technically when he gets out of school, but we don't normally pick him up until 5:30 because you know, work, so he spends time doing after school stuff during the week). And third, and this is the best part, I still have time to myself and also with him. We get to have slightly more relaxed mornings; I drop him off; and then I get to go do whatever it is I want to do; then I pick him up and we still have a few hours of play time to go to the park.

What am I going to do during that six and a half hours of free time? Well, I'm glad you asked. Usually I plan my days off with a million things to do and then I don't get through all of them and then I feel bad like something terrible is going to happen because I didn't get through my completely unattainable list. But of course, nothing terrible happens. No one notices that the refrigerator isn't clean or that I didn't dust the base boards or wipe down that one wall that's always dirty. No one except me of course. 

Rather than make a list of all the things I think I need to do before I can do the stuff I want to do, I'm going to do it the other way around. First I'm going to do the stuff I want to do. I'm going to do yoga or run and write and read. And then, if I have time leftover, then I'm going to clean or organize or something, do one of the things on my to do list. And that way I get the stuff for me done first, and I'm not always putting it off. It's a novel approach, and not something I've really tried before. I'll let you know how it goes. 


So far today I have run (which I did at the usual before everyone gets up time so it didn't eat any extra time out of my day). Then I threw in a couple of loads of laundry while I made the reservations and sent the invites to S's birthday party. I know that doesn't fall into the category of 'things I want to do for myself' but it needed to be done and I've also learned (let's be honest, am learning) how to be flexible. Now I'm sitting outside, watching the birds play in the birdbath, eating some lunch, and writing (this blog you're reading - this is the fruit of my writing labor for today). Now that I'm done with this, I may move on to some reading for a bit, then yoga and then we'll see how it goes. I still have more than three hours to do stuff. And it's just day one!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chi-Town Half Marathon or Skating 13.1 miles on the lakefront path

As I mentioned at the end of my post about the Shamrock Shuffle, I signed up for the Chi-Town Half Marathon mostly out of peer pressure. In all honesty, there was little to no pressure actually applied. I told my friends that I had an event on Saturday night (a charity auction for my son's school, where parents who pay taxes for public schools give money to the school because we don't value education enough in this country to fully fund our public schools...but that's a blog post for another day). Anyway, when I told my running gals that, they were all - yeah, makes sense, I can see why you wouldn't want to do the half that morning. And then I went and signed up for it anyway because I figured I'd be sad if they all ran it and I didn't. Little did I know.

Since I signed up last minute, the price of the race was a little high, but, you know, that's what I get for waiting. I really like the long-sleeve technical shirt and it came in a reusable (not plastic) handle bag with the bib and one other give away which meant I didn't have to throw away a bunch of stuff. Going to bed on Friday night, I knew it was going to be cold the next morning so I laid out my winter tights, a long sleeve insulated shirt, gloves, and ear warmers. I woke to 25 degrees (on April 10!) but I've run in colder - way colder. No big deal.

On my way down to the lake, I stopped to pick up a runner who was standing at a bus stop. I asked if she was headed to the race, she was, so I offered her a ride. Usually I don't pick up strangers, but you know, she's a runner, it's freezing outside, runners stick together. While it was pretty crowded once we get to the lake, I easily found a parking spot on Montrose off of Simmonds Dr. I texted my friends to let them know. They said they were by the start and I figured it should be easy to find five people. Nope, wrong. I walked around for a bit, ran back to my car to text again (I hate running with my phone) and then went back to the start, and still couldn't find them. 

By this time, people are jammed into one of the three corrals that are set up. No one seemed to know what the other two are for. The corrals were next to each other, parallel to the start line, so naturally everyone went into the one closest to the start. But then, the announcer (who had a love of the words 'whoop' and 'whoop') tells us that the first one is for green bibs, second is for red and third is for blue. OK, so I had a red bib on and that kinda sucks that I snaked my way toward the 10-minute pace flag thinking that's where my friends would be (annoying the shit out of all the people that I was going around because I know how much it annoys me when people do that to me), but whatever, I moved over to the next corral. Amazingly I saw Aliza, who told me that the rest of the gals are going to run 10:40s because of the ice. I told Aliza I can start with her, but I wasn't about to run a 2-hour half, which I knew she wanted to do. We stood around for an extra 15 minutes after the scheduled start time for unknown reasons, during which time Mr. Whoop Whoop reminded us of which colors go in which corrals. Except he started mixing it up. He told us that the first corral is for the red bibs, second green, third blue; or was it first green, second blue, third red? He said different things, seemingly unaware he was being inconsistent, and that he was pissing off a bunch of runners until finally, without much fanfare, they started the race.

We headed north the first couple of miles on the path that hugs the lake. It was covered with crunchy snow/ice that wasn't great to run on, but better than the sheets of ice we encountered when we transitioned to concrete. Most everyone moved up to the grass turning the race into a semi trail run. As we made it up to Hollywood, we went back and forth between icy, crunchy snow and just plain ice. A lot of us ran in the grass so we weren't slipping. But that meant it turned into mud. The sun was out, but nothing had melted much, which was a good thing because you could see where the ice was and avoid it. Heading back south, I began a regime of running from water stop to water stop. I got to the water stop, drank some water or Gatorade (I like to go back and forth) walked through the stop a bit, and then started running again with the mantra, just get to the next water stop. I also kept reminding myself to concentrate on the moment and not think about my pace too much. To not worry about the finish or if I'm going to PR or fall on my ass. Just be where I am. This got me pretty much through mile 8ish. Up until this point, I had been keeping a pretty even sub-10 pace - I had a 9:38 mile and a couple of 9:40s and three miles in the 9:50s. My slowest mile in this stretch was mile 3, due to lots of ice on the path; I ran a 10:32. I'm pretty sure that's the mile where the first of the two runners I personally witnessed, went down on a huge patch of ice. Luckily he was able to get right back up and seemed okay.

The course took us south on the west side of the Diversey Harbor Lagoon and then through Lincoln Park. As we went under Lake Shore Drive at LaSalle, there was, thankfully, a person from the race at the bottom of the ramp letting us know it was icy and to be careful. I have to wonder how many people fell there before they put someone there. Maybe she was there the entire time. It's hard to know. But unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot of support out on the course. But more on that later. 

Turning back north, I knew we'd run into wind, and pretty much from North Ave to Belmont was a wall of wind, coupled with a sheet of ice. Thus I entered my "I hate this, why do I do this to myself, I'm going to walk the rest of the way" phase. Somewhere in mile 9 or 10 I did actually walk and figured I'd just walk until my friends who were behind me caught up. I slowed down considerably, miles 9 and 10 being 11 min miles. And, even though the sun had started to melt the ice, and we had moments of running on actual pavement, it was pretty much impossible to see the black ice so every fifth step was a mini slide and the feeling of having just enough control to not fall on your ass. The problem with running this way, in addition to slowing you down, is that it's hard. I probably expended twice as much energy just keeping myself upright. My whole body was tense and I was getting pretty fricking tired of slipping on ice. Despite that, I soldiered through and as I got to mile 11, I found a little bit more strength to finish the race. I ran 11 and 12 in about 10:25 minutes each. By mile 12, I knew that while my goal pace of 10 minute miles was gone, I was well within reaching my PR. The last mile I tucked in behind to wonderful women, told them I was going to follow them in, and we sped to the finish. My last mile, 9:34. As I crossed the finish line, my watch said 2:13 official results were 2:12:57, besting my PR by almost 4 minutes. 

Aliza was at the finish, she managed to PR as well, hitting her goal of running a sub 2. Not all the rest of the ladies were behind me though. Unfortunately we had one casualty; Adrienne fell around mile three and she and Laura made their way back to the start line in an epically ridiculous fashion (their story to tell, so I won't rehash it here, let's just say they found very little support on the course and had a really hard time finding any medical assistance). Being cold and fairly annoyed, I headed back to my car. I was going to go straight home to start all the other stuff I needed to get done, but before that I met everyone for coffee, was glad to see that Adrienne was OK, and then headed home.

So yeah, I PR'd. My official stats are: 34/114 age group; 577/1433 gender; 1223/2426 overall. But there's more...

It's hard to say this, because I did PR, but I don't really think the course should have been opened. At least not without All Community Events having done something to make the path better. As far as I could tell they did nothing to salt or clear the path. I've run races in winter before. I've run races in colder temperatures with ice and snow. And the race directors for those races, they got out the night before, in the middle of the night, and the early morning of the race and did everything they could do to clear the ice, to salt, to ensure the path was safe. As I mentioned, there was little presence of support outside the water stops on this course. It took Adrienne an hour to have someone look at her to make sure she was okay. I can't imagine what would have happened had she been hurt worse. Obviously Laura or someone else would have actually called an ambulance if it really was an emergency, but there should be race support there for that as well. From the very beginning it seems All Community Events had problems with this race. 

I'm not entirely sure why the course was changed, but it's bad form to advertise a specific course and then have to change it because you didn't get the permit. To be fair to them, they did at least provide shuttle buses from the original start to the new start. The start corrals were a joke. They weren't labeled. There wasn't anyone there telling people why there were three different corrals. And when they did finally tell us, they said different things at different times. Everyone was confused. I had pace group leaders, people holding signs, pass me well into the race that were pacing 9 minute groups, 9:30 groups. I didn't start (or intend to start) so far up front that I should have been in front of those groups. And I'm sure they didn't intend to start so far back. I don't fault them for the weather. But you have to know if the weather doesn't cooperate, and you can't provide runners with a safe course, then you call the race. It's not like they would have had to pay us back the money. We all signed something that said the race wasn't liable in case they needed to cancel. 

When I first made it down to the lake, I saw a pickup truck on the path at Montrose and figured that it was a course truck going over the path making sure it was salted. When we started 15 minutes late, I assumed we were waiting because they wanted to get an all clear that the path was safe. The only place I saw any salt on the course was at North Ave. and I doubt All Community Events put that there. 

I'm willing to give race directors the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to put on a race. There are a lot of moving parts (figuratively and literally). But All Community Events is a company that is in the business of putting on races. And if I'm going to pay $80 for a race, I want it to be a well run race, even if that means they have to make the tough decision to delay the race or even cancel due to course conditions. Maybe this was a one off. Aliza said she had run the race before and it was fine. I've run the Turkey Trot and liked it. Regardless, I hope they take this experience and learn from it. Until then I'll be hesitant to sign up for another of their races.

Next up, Ravenswood 5k.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Shamrock Shuffle


Mary and me waiting for the start.
I was trying to remember why I signed up for this race and I'm not really sure. I guess because I did it last year, because several of my friends ran it and because it's a CARA Circuit race so why not (not that I would get points from this race, but at least it counts towards participation*).

So there I was, yesterday morning, putting on my running clothes like the other 23 thousand runners in Chicago. I skipped the expo this year, opting to have my husband pick up my bib for me. I'm still bitter that my son lost last year's neck gator doohicky give away, and I don't really need a pair of green sunglasses, but I think the shirt is cute. Other giveaways in the goody bag included some cold medicine and those gummy vitamins we seem to get from all the races. I do question why there were so many items in the goody bag when there is an online version. I thought the online version was so we didn't waste paper. I guess not. Apparently it is so different prices can be charged to be included in the physical goody bag versus the virtual goody bag.

Moving on. I did my long run on Saturday, 9 miles, so I wasn't really expecting much from this race (much like last year). But then again, my running group has been doing this distance pretty much every Wednesday morning (just so you know, from Montrose at the path to the CARA water trough and back is just under 5 miles) at a 9:30ish pace. My 8k PR is 47:56 which is a 9:38 pace. So there's that.

After Mr. H. and I dressed for the cold weather that began the day (not to be confused with the mid 60 degree weather that ended the day), we made our way downtown with all the other runners on the train. Whenever there is some big race downtown I always wonder what the people on the train who aren't runners are thinking. I assume it's either 'why are all these people wearing running clothes' or 'what is wrong with people who get up early and go run 5 miles in freezing cold weather for fun'. But it's probably more like 'Crap, I forgot the Shamrock Shuffle was today. Now I'm going to have to wait in a huge line at Starbucks with a bunch of stupid runners.'

Once downtown we make our way over the the Wave 1/Red gear check because Mr. H. was in the A corral. I made the mistake of (a) underestimating the pace I would be running and (b) not remembering how much it sucks to be at the back, so I was put way back in F corral. Since we took off more than half an hour after the race started, pretty sure Mr. H. made it to the finish line before I even started the race.

After Mr. H. checked his bag and made his way to the hoity toity** A corral, I made my way over the Wave 2/Blue gear check. After checking my gear, I met up with Mary and her son and we made our way to the F corral. Amazingly, Adrienne was able to find us in the corral and so all three of us were able to run together***. After standing around talking about whatever it is you talk about while standing around before a race, we were off.

The first mile was a little slow for us, mostly because there are 20 thousand other people and because we were trying to stay together. We wanted to make sure we were together at the second water stop so we could take a picture with CJ, who was dressed up as a big dog for PAWS. First mile 9:53.

Miles 2 and 3 were pretty much the same but we were able to pick up the pace a bit. One of the worries I had about this race was the wind. Last year it was windy as heck. But for the most part, the wind wasn't playing much of a factor, at least so far. We skipped the first water stop and finished the 5k with a 9:38 pace. Having turned off auto lap on my watch because it's useless downtown, but then not figuring out how to get it to lap manually, and missing the mile 1 mile marker, I stopped trying to use my watch to pace myself at mile 2. All my pace info comes from what the results are telling me.

Adrienne, CJ the Dog, Mary and me
When we turned south onto Franklin right before mile 3, I braced myself for the wind as this was the worst section last year. Happily, it wasn't bad. That is until we got toward the Sears (yes, I still call it Sears) Tower. Then all hell broke loose. Even though the flags on the side of the building were all waving due east, the wind on ground level was heading due North and we basically ran against a wall of wind for a couple of blocks. Once we made the turn on to Harrison, it calmed down. As we approached the next water stop, we started to look for a person dressed up like a big dog. You'd think this would be pretty easy. Until we realized that with water on both sides of the street, we weren't sure which way to look. But find CJ we did.

Right up until this point I had been telling myself to just get to this water stop. Once we were through it I gave myself permission to slow down if I wanted to. But after our 30 second or so stop and a quick swig of water, my legs actually felt pretty good. I finished mile 4 eager to make the turn on to Michigan and get this race over with.

So, because apparently Bank of America races have some requirement to run up Roosevelt, we make our way up "Mount Roosevelt" before the finish. Of course, running up this hill after 4+ miles is a whole lot different than after 25+ miles. Adrienne commented on as much, saying that she wasn't used to the lack of despair this hill normally induces. Finally, making the turn on to Columbus, we sprint as much as we can to the finish.

Look, we do other things besides run.
Finish time: 48:09, 348/1591 age; 3712/13521 gender; 9387/23448 overall. So you know, no placing medals for me, but still, a very respectable finish.

Unfortunately, our quick photo with CJ probably cost me a PR since I missed it by 13 seconds, but it was totally worth it! Mr. H., who did NOT stop for a photo op with CJ, did however manage to PR. But, that meant he had to wait all that much longer in the cold for me to finish.

Next up, oh yeah, I signed up for the Chi Town Half next weekend out of peer pressure. As Adrienne so aptly noted, these are the types of things we make each other do now. Getting up and running at 5 a.m. Running half marathons just because. But let's not forget, just two short weeks ago, we were playing beer pong at Staci's birthday party.

---

Footnote:
* I could do a whole long thing up there about CARA's circuit races, and how you earn points. But I figured most people don't really care. The short answer is, if you finish in the top 25 overall or in the top 15 in your age group, you get points. Since the Shamrock Shuffle is so huge, no chance that's going to happen. But there are also participation categories which depends on how many races in the circuit you run. So even if there is no way I'm going to get points, I still get participation points. All of this assumes that I do enough races to qualify. But it's early going and you never know.

** I am in no way implying that Mr. H. is hoity or toity. Just that the A corral itself is.

***I realize that 3 plus 1 is four, but Mary's son didn't want to run with us/wasn't actually in F corral, so it was 3 plus 1 minus 1, which is 3.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler

Saturday morning was a fine morning for a run up Cricket Hill, twice. At least that's what we told ourselves. This is my second year running this race and it was as much fun, if not more, than last year. But, this year's race was different in a couple of ways:
  1. As mentioned, we ran up Cricket Hill not once but twice - once at the beginning and once at the end. 
  2. Last year I ran the race while training for the Wisconsin Half Marathon. And my pace of just under a 10 min mile was right where I wanted to be (even if that didn't pan out during my half, but that's another story). This year I'm not really 'training' for anything. I might run the Cleveland Half Marathon. I didn't really have a goal pace, just to go out and run.
  3. Last year I ran with a friend from marathon training. This year I ran with multiple friends from marathon training.
  4. One of the said friends had just had a birthday, and we made a sign and posted it along the course. We missed it on the way out, but on the way back in we saw it and it was totally fun to go by and say happy birthday to her in the middle of a race.
  5. The second time up Cricket Hill, 9+ miles into a race isn't fun. It nearly killed me.
  6. Despite that, I took more than a minute off my 10 mile PR so YEAH for me.
 I did make a mistake of wearing my jacket on the run, so even though I had a short-sleeved shirt on underneath, I ended up being hot the last few miles. I won't bore you the details of each mile. We kept a pretty steady pace of around 9:45. We had a few faster miles and one 10 min. slow mile. Amazingly, even with the hill, my last mile was a 9 - so that makes me feel good. In the end, I ran a 1:37:05, 9:43 pace, which put me in 31/78 in my division; 328/652 women; and 809/1265 overall. Right there in the middle, just where I like to be.

But this means that (a) I should be able to run a 10 minute pace if not faster half marathon - but why can't I seem to do that? And (b) that I really should start doing more weight and speed training. I need a coach - even a virtual coach.

It was a fun race, I saw lots of friends, I earned another medal and shirt and spent a couple of hours outside on Saturday morning. What could be better?

Next up - Shamrock Shuffle (?) Chi-Town Half (?) - Both questions marks because I have signed up for neither.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Back on My Feet Chicago’s Mardi Gras Chaser 5K/10K

Here I am at the beginning of the year trying to keep my running going. It's hard to get in 25-30 miles a week during the winter. And the funny thing is I think I'm probably doing better than I was last year - I am definitely faster. Or I feel faster. But I have been fighting a cold for so long and I somehow made it through the F3 Lake Half Marathon (which I never got around to writing about because (a) I had a crappy run and (b) what else can I say about a run that I've done for three years in a row other than it was fun.) I'm glad I did it because it keeps me running and I have a great support group of friends that even if it's a crappy run I have fun anyway. 

After that I tried to get back into a regular schedule for a couple of weeks, but couldn't. Then I took 11 days off . I didn't mean to take 11 days. I had thought about running several times but we had a really, really, really cold snap that kept pretty much everyone inside and even though I told myself I was going to run at my office gym a couple of times, by the time I was able to go to the gym, I didn't want to be in my office building anymore so I would leave. But, at least I got rid of whatever bug seemed to be floating around my system. Sometimes you need to take some time off.

On Saturday, Feb 20, instead of running with the marathon training group, which I had been doing with the thought I might do the Cleveland Marathon (to be decided), and doing 13 miles, I ran with the half marathon training group for its first run, which was just 4 miles. And then several of us, after a stop at Starbucks, ran Back on My Feet Chicago's Mardi Gras Chaser 5k/10k. Since I ran the 10k, I kinda got close to 13 miles.

During our training/warm up run, I joked that either we were going to run a really good race and PR or we were all going to crash and burn. Most of us did the former. I, somehow managed to do both. Technically I'm not sure I PR'd because none of us have the course going the full distance. All of our Garmin's said we were shy of the 6.2 miles by almost .2. But according to the race, we all ran that distance and at a pretty quick pace. And even if we didn't run the full 6.2, we still PR'd at 6 miles plus a tiny bit.

Now maybe a venti latte at Starbucks wasn't the best choice. But we had almost 2 hours between our training run and the race, and I'm so used to ordering a large coffee. After the Starbucks stop, we made our way to Montrose and stood in the pretty long, but fairly fast moving port-a-potty line. Despite emptying my bladder fully minutes before the race, I had to go pretty badly directly after the race.

All smiles on a sunny February day.
Once through the port-a-potty line, we got into the corral and took a selfie while waiting for the start signal. Our plan was to run 9:30s. That's what we run on Monday/Wednesday mornings for our almost 5 miles (I'm noticing a trend where we don't run quite even distances, I wonder what that is about), so we figured we could hack that for 6. 

Mile 1: 9:26 They split the 10k into two waves, I guess so 200 people didn't hit the lakefront path at the same time. Being in the second wave, we had to do a little weaving in and out of people. But overall, an easy mile, and we stayed together. The only hiccup was right at the start when my hat flew off.

Mile 2: 9:12 This is where we start to see a discrepancy in the distance as our watches all 'dinged' the lap about a tenth of a mile past the mile marker. Despite our intentions to hold a 9:30, clearly we sped up. Laura promised to stop pacing herself with the two women with flowers in their hair that were right in front of us as they didn't' seem to be in on the 9:30 pace thing. We decided to slow down a bit.

Mile 3: 9:10 Did I say slow down? I meant speed up a bit. At this point I believe one of our group had dropped back a bit, and despite my intentions of keeping with my friends, I wasn't going to be able to hold a sub 9:30 pace. This time, I actually slowed down. 

Mile 4: 9:33 I happily (sorta) let my friends go. I knew that there was a chance, given the size of this race and having looked at the results from last year, that we'd all finish pretty high in our age groups. I don't know if the knowledge made me push myself, or let me off the hook. My legs weren't feeling too bad,  but my lungs were starting to burn. Even though I was over my cold, I think I was still recovering. I walked through the water stop, giving myself a few seconds to cool down and set off with the intention of at least not letting my friends out of my sight.

Mile 5: 10:00 You really can't make on the fly decisions during a race. With my friends basically out of site, I considered quitting and walking the rest of the way. I have this thought pretty much every time I race. At what point do you stop questioning why you put yourself through this? Probably never, at least for me. Regardless, I didn't quit. And since I took an extended walk through the water stop and did that thing where you tell yourself you're just going to run to the next half mile marker, the next water stop, the next tree, I'm pretty impressed that I only clocked a 10 minute mile.

Mile 6: 9:33 One can always make oneself go faster that last mile - usually. Not only did I pick up the pace, but actually sprinted quite hard at the end. There was a lady behind me who was talking her friend through the end of the race with affirmations like "we got this" and "we're not stopping". We did, and we didn't.

Finishing pace 9:30 on the nose. See, even though three of my friends ran faster than our goal pace, true to my word, I finished with a 9:30 pace! I finished 6th in my age group out of 22; 56/168 for women; and 120/270 overall.

This race was a lot of fun. We got cute medals hung on Mardi Gras beads. There was lots of food and I hear the after party at Fat Cat was a pretty good time. But best of all, this race was for a good cause. There were lots of Back on My Feet clients running and walking the events, which is great to see.
Next up, the CARA Lakefront 10 Miler. But first, a 15 mile run this weekend. If all goes well, and I'm feeling good afterwards, I will sign up for the Cleveland Marathon (maybe). 

Monday, February 15, 2016

President's Day Activities

source
I know you're all wondering what it is that I do when I have a day off and it's snowed a couple of inches outside, and the temperature is 24 and it feels like 17 and the house is a bit of a mess and I have my son also has the day off of school because it's President's Day. I mean, who wouldn't want to know that right?

In an effort to be more interesting, write, get stuff done, kill multiple birds with a minimum of stones and whatnot, I decided to 'live blog' my day. Here goes:

9:13 a.m. - I have made the decision to live blog my day. Upon getting up and driving my husband to the train which meant a shouting matching with S to get him into snow boots and out the door, we have returned home where I have made him clean up his toys before he gets to watch TV. I am vowing to point out all the sass and back talk he gives to me and letting him know that this is what gets him in trouble at school. I am also vowing to let him know what a good job he did when he decided to just pick up his stuff. He is now watching the Magic School Bus which I didn't have to help him do because he now knows how to turn the TV on and get to Netflix by himself. If only he could make coffee. I am now going to clean my kitchen (which shouldn't be too bad since I did a lot of it yesterday), have some coffee and decide what else I want to do with my day.

9:22 - Hold the phone - the internet has gone out. I may not be doing any live blogging today, and S may or may not be watching TV.

9:28 - We're back on line.  A quick restart later and everything is up. This day is turning out to be more exciting than I thought already.

10:04 - Kitchen done. Counters wiped, dishes done, stove cleaned (oven in the process of being cleaned). My overriding issue is that I always want to get everything done. And there is always one more thing to do. One more counter to wipe down. Is the front of the dishwasher wiped off (sure stainless steel looks pretty, but only when it's spotless)? How about the baseboards, those could use a dusting. It's never done. I don't know how people with (a) more children (b) pets (c) bigger houses (d) any combination or all of the above get anything done at all. But right now the way it looks is good enough. Most people would probably say it looks pretty darn good. So I'm going to leave it at that. Now I'm off to the living room to see what the Magic School Bus is up to, fold some laundry and see what other stuff I want to do today. In my mind the next 12 hours is a chance to get everything done so the rest of the week goes so smoothly I can just be in autopilot - or enjoy every minute I have as free time because I'm not going to have to be cleaning, or putting something away or paying bills or planning or something. But I know that's not true. So I will fight that urge and try to have a day of balance.

11:13 - I have cleaned my bedroom (why is it that no matter how much you dust under your bed there are dust bunnies the size of Frank from Donnie Darko living under there?). A load of laundry is in the washer and I have made a totally unrealistic list of stuff to do. However, in the spirit of sharing, I have forwarded a few emails to Mr. H. - namely stuff having to so with S. and after school and summer camp. He can share in the pleasure of making these decisions :)

1:08 p.m. - Well I have now gone through my email, folded some more laundry, and put dinner in the crock pot. I also had a conversation with my sister. While I was doing that I had things I had wanted to mention, but I've forgotten. Oh right - I'm making chicken chili. First, I  only have two cans of white beans because even though I paid for 3 somehow only 2 made it in my bag at the grocery store. So I decided to put in the one can of red beans in because really is it going to make that big of a difference? So I'm doing that, but first I have to coax the red beans out of the can. I really appreciate Trader Joe's giving me the most beans for my money, but it's always near impossible to get them out without smushing them because they're packed in so tight. S and I had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and now we're going to play Legos. We were going to go outside and play in the snow, but he changed his mind. I made him get dressed because it's after noon. But he's wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt because he's five.

9:25 p.m. - Woah, where does the time go? S and I did a lot of Lego playing. Actually, he mostly did the playing. I have been sorting Legos because we have so many damned small pieces that I had to go out and buy a set of drawers like you use for beads because that's just the type of organizational issues I have. BUT - it was SOOOOO much easier building the dog house and house that he wanted to build because we could find all the tiny blocks. Of course, this organization will last all of 1 day because he will pull everything apart and dump out a drawer of 1x1 bricks to find that one he needs and I'll cry because no one likes things as neat as I do. Doing that took up until Mr. H. called and said he was on the 5:03 train. We drove to pick him up - S was quite amazed that I let him wear just his snow pants over his shorts (as was Mr. H.). I then wrote worked on some stuff I'm doing for S's school, ate the dinner I made earlier, cleaned the kid in the bath, did the dishes, read to S (have you read these Captain Underpants books? They're a hoot), had a smoothie and watched the Walking Dead while knitting.

Did I get everything accomplished I wanted to - no. Did I have a good day? Yes. My house looks pretty good. I played with my son (and organized Legos, which really is about as good as it gets for me). I'm off to brush my teeth and go to bed. Tomorrow, being a regular work day, won't be near as exciting. But you know, President's Day only comes once a year.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Crocodile Dundee

New Yorker's are commonly characterized as uncaring, rude and self involved. Yet time and again we see movies and television shows depicting a scene of cynical big apple inhabitants coming together to help total strangers, usually in a large, public setting. Thus emphasizing, that while New York City may be full of derisive individuals, when it comes down to it, they are really are the greatest human beings on Earth.

Maybe it's because I live in Chicago, the city with such a huge inferiority complex that we happily call ourselves the 'second city' and the 'third coast', but this whole New York is the greatest city, just gets on my nerves. In the end, it's a city just like any other city. It's a great city - it has a lot of wonderful stuff - but it has a lot of bad stuff too, just like any other city. And the people that live in the city, they are just like other people - sure maybe they are more worldly than people who live in 'fly over states', but they're not better people. 

Case in point, what woman goes out into the Australian outback wearing nothing but a thong unitard that's cut so low on the side and back it's impossible for her to wear a bra, and a pair of breezy, but in keeping with the wild theme, tropically printed pants? And if this woman assures her editor she'll be OK because she's a 'New Yorker', why would she take off the pants (thus revealing the thong) and drink from a pond in the middle of the outback which she knows is crawling with creatures including crocodiles?

The next movie on my 80s flashback festival, if you hadn't realized already, is Crocodile Dundee. Your basic Australian boy meets New York girl, loses New York girl, gets New York girl back story.

As part of a writing assignment, Ms. NYC goes to the outback in search of the story of how Mr. Dundee managed to escape a crocodile attack (apparently this makes for good news in NY). Of course, being a New Yorker, she's unprepared for life in the middle of no where, and when we left her, she was leaning over the idyllic, lily pad covered pond filling up her canteen when a huge crocodile snatches the canteen, which is unfortunately hung around her neck, and starts to pull her in. Luckily our hero had been spying on her, happy to get a glimpse of her backside, and saves her from said crocodile. Frankly, I think she deserved to be eaten.

What's even more interesting is there is at first an effort to show her as a strong NY woman. She tells her editor that she is going to stay in Australia until she covers this story despite his demands that she returns home. She goes out of her way to point out Mr. Dundee's sexism when he assumes she can not take care of herself. But of course, it's this show of strength that gets her into trouble. To drive the point home that she may be a New Yorker, but she's still a woman, it's imperative we get several shots of her scantily clad body so we can appreciate how sexy she is. To top it off, even though we at first assume she’s a good writer because her paper is happy to send her all over the world to write stories about men in Australia who survive crocodile attacks, we find out that actually, she’s dating the editor and the owner of the paper is her father.

I hate to be ‘one of those women’ that have to point out the sexism in everything, but really? And sure, men benefit from nepotism all the time, so on one hand, maybe she should be congratulated for playing the game the way any man would. Of course, most men don't need to sleep with the editor when their dad owns the paper. Besides, the chances of the editor being a woman are slim anyway.

Now that we've seen how a New Yorker fares in the outback, it's time to take Mr. Dundee out of his environment and drop him in New York city. He's clearly a yokel as he looks down in confusion at the moving stairs and he says g’day to everyone he meets because obviously New York is a friendly town, why else would so many people live in such a small space. Having never seen a transgender person before, he thinks the only acceptable way to suss out the situation is to grab the persons crotch to see what's up. It's a joke the movie relies on not once but twice, just in case we didn't get how funny it was the first time. At least the 80s were pretty out in the open with their sexism and homophobia. 

After we've had a good laugh at his expense, we are obliged to see that New Yorkers aren't really so cold. As the couple stand at opposite ends of a crowded train platform, good Samaritans relay their messages of love back and forth and clap when they realized they've done their good deed for the year. I hope that doesn't ruin the ending for you. You didn't think she'd end up with her editor did you?

Another movie off my 80s list. I'm beginning to think there are reasons I didn't see some of these so called iconic movies the first time around.

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