About Me

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After years of sloth, I am now a mama who runs and practices yoga. I write about exercise; parenting a grownup child as well as two little kids; and whatever is annoying me at the moment.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Good-bye, 2016, the year of crap running. Hello, 2017!

A few days after Christmas, I had planned to run eight miles with a couple of regular running buddies.

But my hip ached -- again -- so I bailed, reluctantly. An MRI in November revealed a hip labral tear -- basically, the cartilage in the hip socket is torn and there is a bone spur or something like that.

The good news is I can still run a little, though nowhere near my usual mileage. This is good news for my family, too, since they have to live with me and a few miles is better than no miles.

I've made up the difference as best as I could with weekly weight-lifting classes and tons more biking and spin classes.

Like other runners, I love to track my mileage. I use Strava, an online app that makes it easy.

So as the year end approached, my ego piped up. I wondered what my mileage would look like for 2016, considering I've been injured basically all year, including during my worst marathon race/time ever last spring.

As of 12/30, I was at 992 miles.

Dang it. I could have hit 1,000 if I hadn't blown off my run earlier in the week.

Sometimes I'm smart and sometimes I'm a bonehead. So to get my miles up past the millennial milestone, I ran just over eight miles on New Year's Eve in Southwestern Michigan, discovering during my run the Wau-Ke-Na nature preserve trails.

Sure, the run felt like crap from the waist down, so I focused on how pretty the countryside was. It *kind of* worked, like eating fat-free ice cream and pretending it tastes amazing.

The Wau-Ke-Na nature preserve near Fennville, Mich. 
Thanks to that run, I finished 2016 with 1,001 miles, a nice big number accomplishment for a rough year of running.

And I biked 911 miles for the year, way more than I've biked in recent years and a function of being forced to do something besides run all the time.

My sports doc tells me that it can take two years on average to diagnose a labral tear because so many other things have to be ruled out as the root cause, like the hamstring tendon tear last summer.

We tried a steroid injection after Thanksgiving, but it didn't stick.

She says it's common in women runners who have had kids. Indeed, since having my daughter five years ago, the connection between my hip and hamstring has felt "stuck" and I've been in and out of physical therapy since then -- sometimes for hip stuff, sometimes back issues.

I really like running and kids. Bummer. But I wouldn't change the last several years -- I love being a mom and I love running.

Next stop is surgery. I meet with the surgeon this week. He's recommended by both my doc and by the ultrarunning community, so I'm feeling hopeful and optimistic about this next step.

And, eventually, I'll be back to full-fat ice cream.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Soy una mujer

We were blabbing away, happily on an early morning run. Early runs with my running besties set the tone for the day, I truly believe.

A car crept up to the left of us.

It was dark, save for the streetlights along the roadway. And it was loud -- we were venturing on to an overpass over Interstate 90, which connects downtown Chicago to O'Hare, suburbs and eventually, Wisconsin  and on to Seattle.

Even at 5 a.m., the expressway roars.

We could make out the shape of a guy at the wheel. His car slowed to a crawl, and he was looking at us and trying to say something. The din of the freeway noise drowned him out. We picked up our step, instinctively.

No woman wants to talk to a strange guy crawling by her in his car. It's happened before. He's not there to say good morning.

He had to stop a bit in front of us for a stoplight. Shit, we thought, slow down until the light turns green and he has no choice but to keep going.

The light turned, and he waited. We had caught up with him again, unfortunately. And he sat there with his passenger window still down, leaning toward us and trying to say something. My heart was pounding. Keep going, we said to each other. Fortunately, the car behind him honked and forced him to move -- presumably, go home for the night, we thought.

We quickly detoured to side streets. We still run side streets now.

About a year ago, walking to my train station, a distraught woman called out to me and asked me if she could walk with me.

Confused, I said "sure". She quickly explained that the dude on the bike on the street had been following her and trying to talk to her. Seeing both of us glaring at him, he went away.

These instances are by far exceptions in life. I am blessed to be surrounded by good, loving men -- my loyal, do-the-right-thing husband. My 24- and 7-year-old sons. My wonderful bosses, so many amazing guy friends and colleagues who are bright, funny, and so supportive of women.

But this shit does happen to women. And worse. Like just about every woman I know, I've been grabbed in places I shouldn't be, called horrible names and had men push themselves on to me. I was once told I was hired because my boss liked my legs, and once almost didn't get a job because I wore a pantsuit instead of a dress. (And the editor who almost didn't hire me because of that was a woman!)

This crap happens less now that I'm older, but occasionally I still find myself in uncomfortable or scary positions, and it pisses me off.

The great thing about being older is that I'm less afraid to be a bitch if I need to -- even when they scream obscenities at you for standing up for yourself. (Go ahead, dude, you think I haven't been called that before?) Though yeah, I'm still scared, I'll admit.

With the guy in the car, I wondered what went through his head -- if it occurred to him that he might be freaking the shit out of women running in the dark by pulling up to us like that.

I'll never know, though I can pretend he went home, put on his jammies and went to bed, and later woke up and had a feminist epiphany and decided he should help women and not scare the crap out of them. Or maybe he just woke up with a headache.

After the election events of this week, I've been thinking about a lot of this stuff. There is so much hate and rage and bullying and shit out there I want to pull the cover over my head and hide. It's so bad for our kids and for people less able or unable to defend themselves. Someone opened up the box of human depravity and left it open. I feel sick, over and over.

And it's not like I'm remotely perfect. I am a deeply flawed person. Just ask some of my relatives. I don't do enough for the world, or my friends, or my family. I try, but I know I fail a little every day.

Hillary failed, too. I first got to see her in action covering a health care event she did in 1993 in Des Moines. I was impressed. I've watched her for 20-plus years, as she got older, I grew up. In my 20s, I could not figure out why people were so freaked out by her. I remained impressed with her through the years. I've watched her get skewered over the years, and watched her fail, too, and spectacularly so this week.

When this photo of Hillary went viral this week, it made me smile.

She dusted herself off and was still smiling, if tiredly. God bless you. If you can do it, we can do it.

Sure, sometimes we're scared. But we can keep going.

Working on my part in that now -- how can I better support women around me, and women I haven't yet met. I have friends going through divorces, betrayal, job losses, miserable bosses and not being paid what they're worth, infertility, cancer, loneliness -- and want to help and support beyond what I normally do. Kids, too -- the little ones who go to school and get called the n-word or beat up because they're Muslim. It's a knife in my chest. For the love of god, we have to protect our kids!!

Figuring out what and where I can be most helpful. I know I will fall short, but I have to do more.

Soy una mujer. Soy una mama. Soy una estudiante en espanol. Soy una hermana, una hija y una amiga, una esposa, we learned this week in the conversational Spanish class I'm taking. Those aren't just descriptions -- they mean something.

And are reminders that we should fight for those who need us to fight for them -- even if my heart is racing and someone is telling me I'm a bitch or a whiny city liberal.

I saw this quote attributed to Lucille Ball this morning -- "I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't."

Yep. Let's go, ladies. It's a new day.

And thanks, Hillary. <3

Monday, September 19, 2016

The silver lining

This has been the summer of biking in our house.

We've worked hard with our "littles" to teach them how to ride bikes. It's paying off.

Little M-man, my 7-year-old, is now able to pedal in short spurts. A little dude who struggles with confidence sometimes, he was beaming Saturday as he worked with his big brother and was actually biking on his own.

His 5-year-old sister C is tearing around on her tiny pink bike, demanding to go farther than the sidewalks near our house. She wants to bike with mommy, whose nagging running injury has prompted her to bike more.

I love that girl's spunk.

Sometimes I wonder if the world is getting crabbier, or if as I age I am viewing the world through a different lense. It seems so many people are unhappy or angry sometimes, and grumbling is a reflex. I'm certainly guilty of it.

I was recently walking on Michigan Avenue, which teemed with people on a warm September afternoon. I wondered how many of them were crabby. I pictured them as cute babies instead, to see if my lense of humanity would be kinder. I decided to picture them as five-year-olds instead. Kids that age are the bomb.

Some stuff you can't fix. Some stuff you can, if you try.

Long before I became a runner, I biked. My introduction to biking as a kid was far from remarkable.

I had a pink bike with a pink striped banana seat (I LOVED that bike). Back then, we didn't wear bike helmets. My dad will still laugh about how many times I crashed into garbage cans trying to learn. It seemed to take forever. (God, it took forever...)

But then biking became fun, super fun. It meant big-kid freedom to wander. Sometimes, as I got older, it meant peace, a chance to collect jumbled thoughts, whether it was my bewildered eighth grade self on military base housing streets in Omaha or my troubled new mom self, back when my oldest son was born, on a little used trail east of Des Moines.

I vowed that this year would be the summer that my kids would learn to ride -- and hopefully, learn to love biking as I did. And that has been so great to work with them.

It's also been great to re-discover biking for myself and remember why I loved it so much.

Yesterday morning, I had planned to do another of a series of rides I've been doing on the weekends lately along the North Channel Trail, which runs thru a chunk of the North Side of Chicago into a bunch of suburbs, eventually reaching the Green Bay Trail that starts in the tony suburbs of Wilmette, Kenilworth and Winnetka (which, at ~20 miles round trip from my house, is as far as I've gotten). 

But M-man was up in the middle of the night. He is usually a great sleeper, but he was barking-coughing and crying. Poor kid was miserable. I stayed with him until he could sleep again, so I didn't get up as early as I would have liked to get 25 miles in (that was my goal).

So, by the time I got up and fed the kids, I had an hour or so to squeeze in a ride before a kids' birthday party. I decided to bike west from my house, along some more bike-friendly streets, to the North Branch trail, where I've done plenty of runs.

Given the time constraint, I knew that just as I reached the Caldwell Woods, where the awesome paved bike trails began and wound north that I would have to turn around.

But hey, a ride's a ride. And it was a beautiful fall day.

And then I discovered something awesome.

The biking path has been extended south of Caldwell Woods to Cicero and Forest Glen roads, easily accessible from bike-friendly Bryn Mawr Road.

I was elated.

The construction/do not enter signs were still up, promising $500 fines for trespassers, but the path had plenty of scofflaw bikers and walkers already.

I joined them. A new path is just irresistible.

I giddily biked up to Caldwell Woods, my turnaround. I wanted to split myself in two -- send one mom back to do all the mom stuff at my house, and the other part of me keep biking, wind in my hair.

The rest of the day, I thought about that ride. I got grouchy about stupid stuff at a few points in the day, which I feel silly about, and reminded myself to think about the things that make us happy. If I'm grouchy, even if I can't go for a bike ride that second, maybe just thinking about that feeling can help pave over the grouchy moment.

Yeah, it doesn't always work. But sometimes it helps.

I so cannot wait to take the "littles" up to that path for a ride!


Biking has been the silver lining to what's happening with my favorite physical activity, running. Unforunately, my hamstring tendon/hip issues are still there, a good seven-plus months and counting. I can run a few times a week, but my hamstring feels stuck.

Back to the sports doctor this week. Never give up, right?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

My non-triumphant return

I was pretty zen and even a little smug a week ago, when I wrote about not really missing running for the last six weeks to heal from an injury.

Then I was clear to run. I ran four miles with a friend, and it went, well, OK, but...

I realized that hamstring tendon issue, though better, was still there. Post-run, throughout the workday, I ached.

Dang it. Too much too soon.

Two days later, I thought, hey, I'll just warm up better and just do three miles.

Welp, that didn't work so well, either. Then, at combo of spin class and core exercise class yesterday, my IT band and knee let me know that they were not happy with me.

This is what I'm *supposed* to be doing, according to my sports doc.

So, I could just cry about it, or shut up and move forward.  I'm headed back to the sports doc this week to see if we can do anything else.

I've also started the walk/run, with no issues or pain. Only thing that's hurting today is my pride. That's OK with me.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why I haven't missed running

Nine years ago, I trained for my first marathon, the Chicago marathon, after never having run more than six miles in my life.

During the 20-mile long run that year -- the final run before a three-week taper to the race -- I was doubled over in pain. Popliteal (behind the knee) tendonitis.

I was the biggest friggin' baby about it. I cried, moaned, whined about it to whoever would listen. (I feel really silly about that now.)

Running was new, exciting and man, this former smoker and plump chick was so close to running a marathon. I felt special, like I was actually accomplishing something meaningful.

(Editor's note: I ran/walked the 2007 Chicago marathon until it was canceled mid-race because it was hotter than hell. A humbling final chapter.)

I've had to quit running a few times(and come back) since then. Two pregnancies. A broken toe last year.

And then this year, a small tear to a hamstring tendon, the year I had planned to attempt my first 50-mile run. The sports doc told me not to run for six weeks.

I moaned, though a lot less, the first day to my good running buddies.

When you're a mom who works full-time, running is pretty much your social life. I'm mainly OK with that. I was going to miss the comraderie.

And since then, a strange thing has happened.

I haven't missed running.

At all.

My Facebook feed is filled with people posting about their workouts. And it also has a few articles posted about people who post about their workouts being narcissists or insecure people.

For the record, I used to post shit like that a lot. Then I grew kind of, I don't know, embarrassed at times. I mean, who gives a crap about how many miles someone ran or what time they did it? I put the brakes on -- I didn't want to be an asshole anymore.

At least about my workouts, anyway. Ha.

(Though sometimes, I'm gonna post about it. There's just times a girl's gotta shout out.)

So, back to running. I've spent the last 5 1/2 weeks doing anything but running. Spinning, weights classes, bike riding, step classes, yoga and today, even a kickboxing class that is gonna hurt in the morning.

I actually feel pretty good -- my hip stuff that led to the hamstring tear still feels kind of there, so I don't know what to make of that. But my cardiovascular is really good and I feel strong.

Uh oh, did I just veered into narcissist territory again?

But I don't miss running at all.

And I'm not sure why.

I'll start back this week, just because, well, I can.

I won't run a marathon or more this fall.

But I might do some shorter races.


It's a little like when, earlier this year, I felt driven to take on a new job and challenge -- but discovered my existing professional gig was pretty awesome and suited me very well.

Sometimes I struggle to just stop and enjoy where I am. I have a hard time in stopping this simmering, near-constant feeling like I have to keep pushing harder and harder toward this ambiguous and amorphous goal in my mind that I need to work even harder, and do something remarkable.

Sometimes I don't even know why I'm doing it. It's like trying to find an endzone or a finish line in really thick fog. Who knows if it's even there.

Maybe instead of thinking about all of this stuff when I finally go for a run this week, I'll just tell my brain to shut up. I'll just put on my running shoes, put one foot in front of the other, and enjoy running again.

If you're interested in which it is, I'll be glad to let you know in (hopefully) the least narcissist way possible.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pookie comes home, and the MRI doesn't lie

When your babysitter for your kindergartner and second-grader tells you she's going on vacation for two weeks, you naturally go into full-on panic mode and scramble to line up backup sitters and wonderful friends to cover the staggered, multi-location summer camp dropoffs and pickups. 

And you take a few of those warm, summer days off of work to cover the gap. 

Oh darn, I guess I will have to take ANOTHER sunny day off.

That worked out fortuitously last week. As my little campers were marching off to their day camps Thursday, my 23-year-old son was coming home to Chicago.

For real.

When he was little, I called him "pookie bear" after Garfield's favorite stuffed animal. (Remember when Garfield was huge in the 90s?) 

This popped into my mind as I had just dropped my second camper, my daughter, that morning. I was heading to the Divvy station (my total new obsession -- bike-sharing is brilliant!) and my phone rang. He had driven all night (much to my motherly dismay) and was parked in front of my house, waiting for me to let him in. 

And to unload some of his possessions, because after five years in Iowa, he was returning home. 

I biked home as fast as I could, thinking, wow. This is really happening.

Pookie is coming home.

When I got home, we started moving the half dozen crates and tubs of possessions into the house. A box of trophies. (Heart melting a little. Loved his Welles Park sports days). Albums and CDs. Collection of frisbees. (laughing a little at this, such as 23-year-old.)

Five years ago this summer, I helped him pack up all this stuff to move out and head to Iowa for college, and closer to his father. I remembered how much and how hard I cried for days after that. OK, weeks.

Few things have been harder than watching my child move away for good.

I lost count of how many people who told me to watch out, your kids come back. And you're not done with parenting or helping them just because they're old enough to vote or legally drink.

That has turned out to be true.

We'll see how this goes -- it's a temporary stop, him living with us again, until he lands a job and can swing his own place.

But I am so, so, so happy. My baby's home.


My running has kind of sucked this year. Something in my right hip hates me. It has felt stuck for ages, despite physical therapy. I ran my shittiest marathon in May because of this stuff. (Which I shouldn't have run, but I am ridiculously pig-headed.)

I finally went in for my first-ever MRI last Monday. Within a day, I had this response from my doc: 

"Dr. _______ would like you to rest from running for 6 weeks.  Your MRI showed some tendinopathy and a partial tendon tear.  There was also swelling in your iscial tuberosity, "Sits" bone where the tendon attaches under your glute.  There was also some incidental degenerative changed in your lumbar spine and pubic symphasis.  Please do not hesitate to call or email with any questions, comments, or concerns."

I'm a civilian, and that sounded scary. What?!

Fortunately, one of my college roommates and best friends is a doctor. I texted her: "Hey, Mary, want to read my MRI results and tell me how much I should freak out?"

Within 10 minutes, she had called me. "Hey, you tore your hamstring tendon!" Fortunately, it is a "very slight" tear. She said all of the other scary sounding stuff is just the body reacting to the injury.

She was firm: Rest. Don't run. Let this heal and you'll be fine.

So, that's a relief. Now I know why running has sucked, and why that marathon sucked.

I can do any other physical activity -- biking, weights, step class. None of those hurt. So I'm lucky, because if I couldn't do anything I would lose my mind. 

But I'm still really bummed. I love running. It's my social life. 

I had already given up on the idea of running my first 50-miler this October given the hip stuff, hoping for a marathon race instead. Not sure if that's going to happen.

I feel silly feeling this way, when people are really suffering from real maladies and problems. But it feels kind of lonely.

On the plus side, my house is now cleaner than normal and I'm more rested from not getting up at 4:30 a.m. daily.

37 days until August 24... :-)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cutting through the noise: My sister's kickass fitness story

"Noise" is how I have come to think of all of the stories, studies and opinions on losing weight and gaining fitness.


Think about all of the stories about "The Biggest Loser" lately and the critics who say it's all a sham because people regained their weight. 

Another story recently quoted a study that basically said heavy people who lose a lot of weight are often doomed to gain it back. 

Then there are all sorts of diets with names like Whole 30. (I cringed once at a kid's birthday party listening to this mom talk about the Whole 30 all of the food she had had to cut out and gradually add back. God, it sounded awful.I wanted to yell at her "you're going to gain that all back!")

It's just all so confusing. No wonder people get frustrated and give up or don't try. Who can blame them?

Which brings me to what I believe, based on my own experience and now the that of my sister Missey, whose amazing story she's letting me share here. Hard work, not gimmicks, are what will get you to your goals. It's work to stay fit and healthy, too. It's so, so hard. But it's doable.

My sister, who is two years younger than me, is AMAZING. She has lost 80 pounds in just a few years -- the slow, hard way. No gimmicks, no fads, no starving. She's gone from obese to being a fitness coach (who no doubt could kick my runner's ass) and finishing 5Ks and recently a 10K. 

My sister's story in her words:

I have been with my husband for 22 years (married for 20 1/2) and we have three wonderful sons: my step-son Dakota (who gave me the most adorable grandson last October, Ryker), my sons Ryan (19 and a freshman at University of Nebraska) and my youngest Breck (14, in the eighth grade).  They have brought a tremendous amount of joy to my life!  

I am a special ed paraprofessional at an elementary school, a job I have loved for six years. Prior to that, I was a branch manager for a large bank a dozen years -- a job I loved but that cut too deeply into time with my family. I also had to sit a lot and developed a bad habit of eating out, which caught up with me (along with two pregnancies!)

In March of 2014 I decided that a change needed to be made. 

I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life. Then 44, I had no ill effects from being overweight -- but I knew it was coming. I have two wonderful parents who both have an excessive amount of heath issues and I did not want to go down that path.  

My first step was getting a fitbit.  The first two weeks I had it I continued to eat as I had been (lots of fast food) and realized I was eating well over 3000 calories a day!  Eek! I was in such shock to see that this was a daily occurrence. No wonder I had hit my highest weight.

I realized that I could no longer blame the office job (I had been gone for more than three years) or baby weight (my youngest was 12 then). I really had to look hard at myself and decided that I was in control of what I put in my body.  

My first step was to cut out fast food. I lost 10 pounds in two weeks from that alone. I tried to eat healthier, but I am not a veggie person so it was hard. But I reminded myself that I was making steps in the right direction. After years of trying all the fad diets, I realized that it really is a lifestyle choice, not a diet. I told myself that this was the right course and that it would take time to make the changes needed -- because it took years to put all that weight on.

Two months after I started making my changes, my dear friend Carmen wanted to focus on losing her baby weight and get back into running again.  She and another coworker decided to do a month-long challenge to eat healthy and start to exercise again. I joined in and stepped into a gym for the first time in my life!! It gave me extreme anxiety to do so, but I knew I really had no choice if I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle.  

It was hard at first. I could only walk for 10 minutes at a slow pace on the treadmill, but I did it!  We kept up with the walking and tried weight machines and some fitness classes. I started to overcome my anxiety of working out, especially in front of others.  

We were both so excited that we continued small challenges to keep each other motivated.  By March of 2015 -- one year later -- I had lost 60 pounds and 20-plus inches!  I felt amazing and couldn't believe how far I had come, although I knew I still had a way to go.  

Carmen and I continued to walk, go to the gym and started sharing meals.  Last summer, I had a few setbacks and gainedback a few pounds (too many bbqs and adult beverages).I was frustrated and attempted to refocus as best as I could, but felt I really needed something different to renew my passion for living a healthier life. 

Then a co-worker told Carmen and me about Farrell's, which offered a 10-week fitness program -- 45 minutes a day, six days a week.That same day, October 9, 2015 we both signed up! 

The team atmosphere, focus on both building strength and developing cardio fitness, and nutrition guidance was exactly what we needed to re-motivate ourselves!  

I learned so much about nutrition, including to no longer solely focus on counting calories and losing weight. I learned it was important to fuel your body with the proper amount of carbs and proteins.  

During that 10 weeks I lost 16 lbs, 13.75 inches and 3.5 percent body fat. Since that 10 weeks ended, I have lost another eight pounds and 12.5 inches. My clothes became much looser and I had never felt better!  By week five of my 10 weeks I was asking when I could sign up to be a FIT student.  :)

I have had people tell me that I need to lose more weight (which is true); however I am now healthier and stronger than I have ever been.  

Even then my early 20's when I was a size 3 and weighed 115 lbs, I may have been thin, but I wasn't healthy. I was just young.  

I walked/ran my first 10K in March of this year at the age of 46, I can easily go on 3-4 mile walks, play basketball with my son, keep up with all of the kids as school and now kickbox! I did not have the energy then that I do now 26 years later. I've learned that looks are definitely deceiving and that the number on the scale does not define the shape or health you are in!

Yep, this is me, 20 years old in 1990.  I may have been thin but I was not as healthy as I am now. I didn't exercise and my diet consisted on mostly fast food. (but don't you love the hair!) 

This is me on the left and Carmen in March of 2014.  Both of us started to realize that changes in our food choices and exercise needed to be a priorities in our lives.  As Carmen has told me and others, being a mom makes it hard, but if we don't take care of ourselves how will we take care of others?

Yes this is me at my heaviest in both of the above pictures (2013 and 2014) and me now (2016).  I be may older but I am so much healthier (I know I keep saying that but it is true)!  

I have dropped six pant sizes, four shirt sizes and even a shoe size!  I am now down 80 pounds and 40-plus inches.

Although a lot of my weight loss came before Farrell's, I have lost more inches in the six months at Farrell's then I did from the 1.5 years of cardio and weights I did on my own. To me, this speaks about how much this program works!  It really is 80% balanced nutrition and 20% exercise.  

The best thing to come out of this -- I am now honored to be a fitness coach at Farrell's and try to help others find their path to a healthier life.  

This story you've read is the story I now share with new clients. I hope my story helps them realize that no matter what your body size is, the health you are in, it is NEVER too late to change and live for you!  I encourage all of them to talk to us and ask questions, and remind them that we understand what they're going through and that we are here for them and want to do our best each day to support them through their journeys!!

Missey and Carmen at a recent 5K race: Looking fabulous!

Thank you for taking the time to read this