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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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Terra Sans Pave 8k -- a race report

Over the last year or so, I have not been doing races like I used to. 

I have had a great run -- pun intentional -- in recent years, coming back from having babies and becoming stronger and faster and hitting some PRs on the way.

In 2012 and 2013, I was all about PRs and trying to break two hours in half marathons and trying to get near 4:30 in a full marathon.

I came close in the half:
Drake Relays 2013 -- 2:03 (current PR) 

The full marathon, not so much. Blew up at both of these:
Omaha 2013 -- 4:57
Chicago 2012 -- 4:46 (current PR)

I felt physically horrible after both marathons, including throwing up after Omaha last year. I also felt horrible after the Des Moines half.

I kind of decided that I was sick of road races and sick of trying to be fast.

I'm not fast. 

Sure I could work at it.

But I'm just not into it.

That feeling hasn't quit since Omaha last year, which is what led me to my first trail race earlier this year, the Palezoic 25k, where I slogged through mud and ice for 3.75 hours with some wonderful friends. 

And that's what's led me to this fall's goal race, the Palezoic 50K - Devonian Fall, which will be wooded, hilly and challenging.

You can't go fast there. There's no cowbells, no mile markers, and -- in my head anyway -- no pressure to go "fast".

It's been tough to work in hilly trails into my weekly training, however, considering I live in a flat, urban jungle.

Also challenging is that it's now dark until 6:30 a.m. With two little kids at home, I can't just leisurely start a 20-mile trail run 45 minutes away at daybreak and spend all morning there.

Sometimes I start my Saturday long runs at 4 am on the lakefront with friends who also want to get their 18 and 20-mile runs done early.

Sometimes I run the North Branch Trail, which is more convenient to where I live and is beautiful, but lacks hills.

I'm now contemplating trying to run 10 miles solo at 4:30 or so in the city, and then driving out to the hillier forest preserves in the burbs to finish the rest of my 20-milers in daylight.


With my recent marathons, I wanted to be well-trained to hit my race time goals. 

With this 50k trail race in November I want to be well-trained, too, but for a different reason.

I want it enjoy it.

I want to not feel sick. I don't want to bonk so hard I can't recover. Mini-bonks followed by mini-recoveries during the race, fine -- I can deal with that. I just experienced that with the 20-miler I did a week ago.

This is Week 3 of the Chicago Public School year. As I walked my babies to pre-k and kindergarten, I said to my sweet 3-year-old daughter "maybe today is the day you won't cry when I drop you off." 

Poor little bug has cried every morning for two weeks straight at dropoff.

She replied very chirpily: "We will see!"

Same with the November run, I figure! We will see...

This was a long windup to my actual race report for a new race, the Terra Sans Pave 4k/8k, that I ran last Saturday.

It was put on by the same wonderful race directors, a married couple, who do the Paleozoic series I am doing. 

Bill had emailed my friends Krista, Janelle and me about the new race, since we had done the March race he organized. 

His note was so nice and effusive, and the race discount he offered was the final nudge -- we decided, let's do this.

Janelle was going to see Garth Brooks the night before, so it was just Krista and me. We ran nearly 11 miles on the North Branch Trail, where I've done a few long runs this summer and where the race was being held. We needed to get a long run of 16 miles in for the day, so this would work out nicely. 

The weather had just gotten suddenly very chilly in Chicago a day or two before, which threw me off. I had to change to an entirely different season of running gear. I am always slow to adjust... And I deeply love my summers and like to hang on as long as possible.

Fortunately a light running fleece and capris were the perfect call for the morning. The first 11 miles were peaceful, just Krista and me, running through the woods and seeing a heck of a lot of deer. They looked at us curiously, ears twitching. Krista noted they seemed dog-like in their gaze. It was awesome.

We finished our run at the race start, a picnic shelter in the middle of Linne Woods, which after a rainy summer was lush and green under the sunny fall sky -- just perfect weather. The race would give us the rest of the distance we needed for the day.

Bill greeted us like we were old friends. His wife Michelle was equally warm and kind. It was like being welcomed at a family reunion where people are happy to see you. 

They are also badass ultra runners. Bill, we discovered, has done the prestigious Western States 100-mile ultra six times! Whoa! 

Bill pronounced us as experienced trail runners to the group. We laughed. We are decidedly urban runners who want to be trail runners, but we basked in the nice words anyway.

It was a tiny fields of runners, maybe 25. I loved the intimacy of it --  and the handful of preteen to young teen girls there to run and volunteer. Girl power!

Finally, it was time to start. Our course was two loops that started off in the woods we had just run and then veered into a stunning field of prairie grass and gorgeous black-eyed susan wildflowers that were as tall as we were. 

My heart was so happy running through there.

We then hit more woods before running past the picnic shelter and cheers from the group as we began the second loop.

Happy runners.

By this time, we were both tired but happy. Though it's a pretty flat area the prior week's rains had made the trail muddy and therefore footing kind of challenging. It was pretty tiring.

Near the end of that second loop, both Krista and I fell -- separately. She fell over a fallen tree along the path (when you're tired and trying to gauge running over an object in your path, it can be tough to marry your thinking and your footing!)

I managed to trip over nothing, as far as I could tell. I went flying and was reminded of something a friend had told me -- it's not really a trail run until you fall down. 

Mission accomplished!

I finished around 55 minutes, though I didnt give a crap about my time. I placed third among the female masters group. There may have only been three women over 40 in this category, but I was still a little giddy to place! My much younger friend won her age group. We'll take it!

After the race, Bill and Michelle had a feast going -- brats, snacks, cookies, and anything you could want to drink. I couldn't stay but they loaded me up with bagels, cookies and a couple of beers -- so generous!

The race was like a big bear hug -- can't wait until November!

Week 7 50k ultra training (cutback week)

Monday 9/8 20 min yoga DVD

Tuesday 9/9 5.2 miles

Wednesday 9/10 4.1 miles -- 8-miler cut short by heavy rain

Thursday 9/11 4.4 miles -- 6-miler cut short by Sirens (a TV show? #Iliveunderarock) filming setup in usual early morning meeting spot (This is confusing at 4 am!!) + 90 minutes of yoga

Friday 9/12 rest day

Saturday 9/13 10.6 miles in North Branch Trail + 8k trail race

Sunday 9/14 Tired 7.3 miles. Sunday running is really challenging me.

Total weekly mileage: 36.0 miles
Total training mileage to date: 261.2 miles

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ultra wrong

I started running slowly and maybe 8-10 miles a week -- at most -- back in 2004, 2005. At that time, I was a features editor for the Chicago Sun-Times. 

It was a crazy-busy but fun job. I received a flood of emails and calls daily from PR people pitching stories on their products, and authors.

Since I was new to running, I was interested in running stories. And now I will tell an embarrassing running-related story. 

One day I received a call from Dean Karnazes' publicist. If you don't know who he is, he is a big-time ultra runner and marathoner. She was pitching something related to his running back to back marathons -- 50 marathons in 50 days. 

So what did this astute newspaper editor do? I told her I was not interested because he was not a normal runner -- and that what he did sounded dangerous and unhealthy.

Yes, I was quite the running expert at that point. Did I mention I still smoked then?

I thought of this as I was running a 20-miler last weekend as part of training for my first ultra, and cringed inwardly.

Good lord. Oops.

Yeah, he's crazy. But not as crazy as I thought...


Week 6 50K ultra marathon training:

Monday 9/1. 20 min. yoga DVD
Tuesday 9/2 (First day of kindergarten and pre-K for the kiddies!) 5.3 mi
Wednesday 9/3 7.4 miles
Thursday 9/4. 5.3 miles
Friday 9/5  15 min yoga DVD, some core exercises
Saturday 9/6 21.7 miles -- went slow and had a great run--no bonking! Woohoo!
Sunday 9/7. 5.4 mi + painful massage to loosen up hips

Total weekly mileage: 45.1 mi, tied for highest mileage week ever

Notes: Achy, stiff hips. Yoga is barely making a dent. Ugh. Hoping Week 7's cutback will provide a little relief.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy campers

Prior to having our 5- and 3-year-old, my husband and I used to camp all the time. After the babies came along, he'd bring it up every so often -- and bummer mom would veto it.

I wanted to wait until no one was nursing or bottle-feeding and wanted kids who could walk on their own and not poop themselves. Well, most of the time. 

This summer, we decided it was time. Daddy, who is an eagle scout and who is the best camper in the world, dug out all of our old camping gear. 

Daddy hard at work
Meanwhile, the kids and I talked camping. They pretended to camp. We got "camp coloring books", which was how I hoped to entertain them during what is an awful lot of down time when you're camping. We packed our "camping" clothes. We talked about bug spray.

We headed to "Scony", or Wisconsin, as others call it, to Kettle Moraine North, a wonderful state park. It was so great to go back after so many years. One of my husband's best friends from college came up with his daughter for awhile, and mercifully helped my husband pitch the 10-man tent. I didn't know how we were going to do that tent and watch the kids at the same time.

Despite mosquitos, despite a morning rainstorm that left us hiding under a picnic shelter for three hours, despite a quickie trip to Wal-Mart for last-minute pants for me and C-girl, it was a fantastic trip.


The kids entertained themselves better than I could have dreamed, playing in the "woods", an airy patch of tall pines behind our campsite, or played in the tent for hours, including when I went for an hour run one morning. They colored. They burned marshmellows. They threw kindling into the fire. M-man didn't understand why he couldn't chop wood, too, like Daddy was. Sometimes that kid does not know he is only 5 years old.

They're still asking me to play "Forest Monster Mommy", which as it sounds, consists of me pretending to be a forest monster in the woods. That was my ace if they were bored and nothing else was working. ROARRRRR!

We hated to come home after so much fun. 

End-of-summer sunrise, Lake Michigan by Lincoln Park. Stunning.

Week 5, 50K ultra training:

Monday: Camping! Rest day.
Tuesday: 4.5-mile run while camping. Gentle rolling hills, partially on trail. Forgot bug spray, yikes.
Wednesday: 8.1 urban miles. Back in the city.
Thursday: 5.3 miles
Friday: Group Centergy class.
Saturday: 18.3 miles on the Prairie Path in the western burbs with a friend I don't see often -- fun! By the time I finished this run, my hips felt like they were trapped in a steel girdle. Sooooo stiff.
Sunday: 5.6 stiff, stiff miles.
Total: 41.8 miles. First time I have cracked 40 miles in a long time...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Getting ready for kindergarten, not college

The Chicago Public Schools year begins very soon, and we are getting ready for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten in our house.

Uniforms are ordered and delivered, new athletic shoes on their way (Frozen's Elsa for the girl, Despicable Me for the boy. New backpacks, too.). Teachers' names and room numbers, check. School supplies, gotta get on that. Last-ditch vacation/family time, planned.

Princesses, naturally.
Like any parent sending their kid off to kindergarten, I'm excited and anxious for my little M-man. His last two years with Chicago Public Schools, we have been so lucky to have patient, wonderful teachers who worked with him and his behavioral challenges in group settings. I pray his new teacher is just as great, and look forward to meeting her at orientation.

Last week, our neighbors sent off their youngest to college. The truck was parked in front of our house, loaded up. The college-bound girl was beautiful in a maxi dress, a mini-me of her equally beautiful, ageless mother. 

It reminded me of three years ago, when my oldest left for the University of Iowa. I cried for days and my chest ached for weeks. 

Seeing my neighbors saying good-bye made me suddenly so grateful -- no matter how kindergarten goes this year, my babies won't leave home for a long, long time.

And my oldest guy? He still visits. And occasionally responds to my texts. :-)


Week 4, 50K ultramarathon training (25% done!!!!):

Monday: rest day
Tuesday, 5.2 miles + core strength exercises
Wednesday, 8 miles
Thursday, 20 min. hill training on treadmill + 20 min yoga DVD
Friday, 18 steamy miles before work. UGH. I felt hungover all morning.
Saturday, 5.3 recovery miles
Sunday, 20 min. yoga/rest day

Total mileage for the week: 38.4 miles
Total training miles to date: 138.3 miles

Monday, August 18, 2014

Magnificent miles

This past Saturday I had an AWESOME trail run. It was the kind of run I'll be doing this fall, when I do my first 50K race.

Lily pads and loveliness
I attempted to meet with some Flatlanders Ultrarunners, a not-unsizable running group with roots in suburban Chicago that I found through Facebook.

A few of them were starting at Bullfrog Lake at 6:30, though most seem to begin at 8 -- too late of a start for me. I talked my running buddy Andie into coming with me. Good thing, because the Flatlanders were, um, fast. They got us to the start of the trail -- but after that, we were on our own.

The run was glorious and hard. It was hilly and rugged, and also popular with mountain bikers. (Single friends, this is where the guys are!) As I ran, I was giddy. Sweating, struggling at points, but so happy to be out of the city and in woods, on trails, in near-solitude. I kept thinking of that Illinois tourism slogan "mile after magnificent mile." Yup.

 Two days later, I am still so wicked, wicked sore. But still smiling!

Week three, 50K training:

Monday: Rest day/core exercises
Tuesday: 5.3 miles -- super rainy run
Wednesday: 7.6 miles
Thursday: 30-minute spin class + stretch class (in lieu of hill training. I need to stop blowing off hill training)
Friday: Yoga/core exercises
Saturday: 14.4 miles -- trail run!
Sunday: 5.6 dragass miles

Total mileage: 32.9 miles

Friday, August 15, 2014

My sweet Tory: Life has an Act II. And an Act III and IV...

This week I hit a work anniversary, which I discovered by the number of people congratulating me on LinkedIn. That LinkedIn, so thoughtful!

One former Sun-Times colleague, who has gone on to write books and do other fabulous things, sent a nice note congratulating me on my "second act", referring to our mutual departure for journalism for other pastures. (My "greener pasture" is communications/public relations. Insert smartass comment.

This same week, my oldest son, who is 21, had a pretty big setback. He found out he has to leave college because he doesn't have enough money. It's been a challenging year for him, personally and professionally.

You could not pay me to be 21 again.

He's bummed out, naturally. And moving back to his dad's.

I am filled with helpful suggestions, naturally. That's what moms do.

But what makes me a little sad is not that he's had this setback or that he won't bounce back. He is an incredibly kind, smart, wonderful guy. Always has been.

What makes me ache for him is that I'm not sure he sees that he's going to have a second act, a third act, and more. When you get knocked on your butt, hopefully you get back up and really take a look at the opportunities around you.

I know he'll find his way. But I really, really, really am trying to just be supportive and guiding, and not overbearing in telling him what to do.

I may have to sit on my hands and not touch my phone.

I have lost count how many "acts" I've had already.

50K ultramarathon training, week two (last week):

Monday -- 20 min yoga DVD
Tuesday -- 45-min spin class (rainy day, skipped run)
Wednesday -- 5.3 miles
Thursday -- 7.2 miles
Friday -- "group centergy" class (core, yoga, Pilates fusion)
Saturday -- 12.3 miles
Sunday -- 5.4 miles 
Total weekly mileage: 30.2

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Princesses of the park

My 3-year-old daughter a week ago figured out how to pedal her tiny pink Disney princess bike. And now she wants to ride it all.the.time.

"Mommy. I want to ride my bike. Mommy, can I ride my bike? When can I ride my bike? I can ride fast now. I want to ride my bike all the way to the beach. (We are a few miles from Lake Michigan). I am going to ride fast! I am going to beat my brother!" (They love beating each other. A lot.)

This weekend she was able to get herself pedaling from a stopped position, no longer needing the little push she requires last weekend. She was indignant when I tried to help.

It's awesome.

Little artists at work
At the park the other day, she was suddenly keeping up with her super-fast climber monkey of a brother. No playground equipment was too high to scamper up, and there was nothing her brother could do that she couldn't so either. 

As she was doing all I this, she chattered away. "I can climb high! I can do anything!" I am strong!"

And, "Mommy, we're princesses of the park!" High praise, considering princesses are the best thing ever in her world.

If only I could freeze the confidence she has. I'd save it  in an ice cube tray  that I could pull out of the fridge as needed when, later in life, she developers doubts. Or someone puts doubts in her head. God.


Speaking of confidence and strong girls, last week was my first "official" of 16 weeks of ultra training.

Monday Yoga DVD
Tuesday 5.3 miles + core work
Wednesday Hill workout -- 4.7 miles running back & forth over Cricket Hill with friends
Thursday 8.2 miles + core work/physical therapy
Friday   Rest day
Saturday  13 miles -- trail run
Sunday  5.6 miles
Week one total mileage: 36.8 miles