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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.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Champagne and pink Crocs

Man, are we in the late winter doldrums. Not even Valentine's Day or Nordstrom Rack clearance sales can save February in the Midwest.

Everyone is cranky. The snow from the Groundhog's Day blizzard is gray. I'm even starting to agree with crap I read on Twitter. (Noooo!)

I'm also just about at my third week with a broken toe, my back has hated me the last month and oh yeah, no running.

Not quite the apocalypse, but desperate times call for, what else, a run-like-a-mama-late-February-sun-deprived/injured/winter-loathing survival kit.

Which includes:

Stationary bike in my basement. I asked my husband or this bike in 2003, when I got pretty fat. before I was a runner That bike helped me dump a bunch of weight and it's faithfully waited for me after I ignored it for 12 years. I've been riding it like a sweaty fiend and watching "Girls" episodes. Considering the weather, stationary bike has looked *pretty* good lately.
Didn't miss running that day.

Red wine every night. Don't judge.

Physical therapy (for the muscle spasms and pinched nerves in my back), laser treatments (encourages toe healing by reducing swelling and increasing circulation) and yoga (for everything else that's wrong with me). Breaking the toe has led to even more imbalance in my posture and hips than usual. Yay, old lady back.

Snow boots and running shoes. Only things I can comfortably wear. (I'm not complaining.)

Bike ride through the Champagne-Ardenne region of France!! OK, this is probably super geeky, but I discovered today at my gym that exercise bikes have come a long way. I biked to a video that simulated a ride on la Route Touristique du Champagne.  It was oddly deeply calming and engrossing to cycle through countryside and French towns like Oger and Avize. I didn't want to leave the bike and head back outside to this:
Go away, dirty snow.

OK, I'm overstating everything, sort of. 

My back is feeling better this weekend. Still pinchy and achy, but better. Which cheers me up.

I finished the laser treatments for the toe, supposed to aid healing, and will get X-rays on March 10 to (hopefully) find out I'm healed and back running. Fingers and toes gently crossed.

And to hopefully avoid ever stubbing my toe into a baseboard or furniture in my house again?

Yeah, I ordered these babies today, my first Crocs

And I promise: I will never, ever, ever wear them to France.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mending mama

We hosted yesterday six kids under the age of 6, including four giggly girls intermittently wearing Snow White, Elsa, Anna and Strawberry Shortcake gowns.

While everyone was well-behaved, the girls announced to me a few times that they do not like boys, and my little M-man at least once tearfully denounced girls.

My poor, out-numbered little dude was plenty relieved when his buddy showed up a few minutes ago and immediately got ninja'ed-up.

That left the girls to tattle on each other, gowns and hair and sass everywhere. One of the girls announced all of the other kids are "turkey turkeys."

I sat with my bum foot propped up, totally remembering being so annoyed with boys and so indignant with them. It's kind of adorable to watch. The playdate wrapped up with a freeform dance/electronic keyboard/Doc McMcStuffins-microphone performance by the Giggly Four.

It's been one week since I busted one of my toes. One week down, (hopefully) five to go until I can run again. Toes carefully crossed.

A visit to a podiatrist last week taught me that Lululemon makes clothing for guys (he was in a fitted Lulu shirt that was pretty nice); I could try laser treatments to speed healing; and I was OK to do stationary bike and continue the gentle yoga I'd already tried with some success. 

Oh, and keep my kids and the commuting public from tramping on my fragile appendage.

So far, so good. 20-mile weeks were replaced this past week with a 3-mile-run (two hours before I broke my toe), 22 miles on the stationary bike (bonus: Blues Brothers was on cable yesteray) and a few short yoga DVD sessions.

I'll give the laser treatments a try, and start working with a physical therapist for my perennially effed-up back.

So far, I'm hopeful and not crazy. Yet...

And next time, I want to dance with the Giggly Four!

Monday, February 2, 2015

How to ruin a runner's day

I have never broken a bone.

Until today.

An ER doctor just told me that I had fractured my toe. I thought she was kidding.
I fractured my "ring" toe, the second one from the top. Wah.

Chicago yesterday had its worst blizzard in five years. I was pretty determined to run no matter what, so I ran on the lakefront with friends as snow pelted our faces sideways. 

It was tough, but we laughed through it and mocked New Yorkers for freaking about about their supposed blizzard the week prior. 

Mother Nature, we thumb our noses at you!

During my run my work phone rang four times (I'm in government PR and I was on call for the week). I even did a live radio interview from my car, hopped out of the car and continued on for a bit longer. My running buddies were like, we are done. I felt great when we got done. I felt pretty, pretty good about my juggling ability. Storm be damned!

Last night was the Super Bowl. I saw very little of it, juggling work/blizzard stuff and nursing my pissed-off back, which I seem  to have wrenched days ago. 

This morning I was again up early to do more interviews (phoners with TV stations, while sipping coffee in my PJs!) while my husband hit the gym and I iced my back some more. When he came home, I blissfully was able to slip over to the gym track for a quick three miles.

My back ached but my legs felt good. As always, it was nice to run, physically and mentally. Even on a track that is 12 laps to a mile.

My husband went to work and I ran around cleaning up, answering work email, etc until our babysitter could get to our house. 

C-girl was running a fever for a second morning and clingy, while M-man happily played with his Kindle.

As I apparently walked at what must have been a speed-walking pace from my kitchen to the dining room, my left foot slammed into a piece of baseboard that juts out in the doorway that separates the two rooms.

I went down to the floor in pain, and surprised myself by crying really hard. It hurt so much.

Of course, as a runner, I was immediately think oh crap, ice ice ice!

My kids couldn't resist the chaos. C-girl, the lover that she always is, kept patting my ice pack and saying things like "mommy, you're going to be all better" and "it's OK, mommy". 

My ever-curious M-man was full of questions. Mommy, what happened? Why are you crying? Because it hurts? Is it broken? (He loved the photo of my X-ray when I got home from the ER and immediately asked if he could take it to school. Of course, buddy!)

The kids' sitter arrived and I hit the ER, which wasluckily only a couple of hobbly, super snowy blocks from my house. When we bought our house a dozen years ago, I remember thinking we'd be glad to be close to a hospital.

I got the news. 

I cried. Right there in front of the ER doc. 

Kind of mortifying, considering she sees people with REAL problems.

But she was super nice anyway as I sniffled I was sorry to be just crying about running, and that it wasn't like she just told me I had cancer or something.

I now have a flat, open-toe boot I can wear. Unfortunately with a 3/4-mile walk to my L stop and 18 inches of snow on the ground, this will be a challenge. 

I'm far more distressed about not being able to run for at least six weeks. 

SIX WEEKS??? Are you kidding me?

So, as I contemplated the furniture saving parking spots on the street in front of my house, I called and left a message for a sports podiatrist to get this party started.

And I'll try swimming tomorrow if I can find some goggles in our house. I bet I haven't swam  in easily five years.

A girl's gotta try, right?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mommy, you're so ___________

My kids are smart. Almost 4 and 6 now, they're getting pretty, pretty good at lots of things.

Including buttering up mommy when she's mad.

This morning, after a nice, slow and sleety run with friends, I came home very hungry. I made the kids and myself eggs and beans and tortillas.

It's all my fault -- maybe it's those years I worked in restaurants -- but I find myself constantly fetching things for them as their demands rolled in one after another.

Mommy, can I have more eggs and tortilla? Mommy, I don't have a drink. Mommy, the beans are falling out of my tortilla. Mommy, the eggs are too hot. Mommy, I burped. Mommy, the cartoon stopped working!

(Yes, shamebag on my head.  I let them watch cartoons on the computer during breakfast. It buys peace, people.)

Hungry and annoyed that I was not getting to eat, I barked at them that this was not a restaurant, yadda yadda blah blah blah.

"You're the beautifulest, mommy!" C-girl, my 3-year-old daughter, chirped. M-man, not to be outdone, said "Mommy, you're so beautiful!"


But it works. Little monkeybutts. Maybe one of them will hold political office someday.

In a funny, unrelated story: Before breakfast, my son burst into the bathroom as I was turning on the shower. "Mommy, C-girl pushed me and said a bad word!" he said, tears running down his cheeks.

"Should we sell her to another family and never see her again?" I asked in a serious tone.

He solemnly nodded his head yes.

"Dude, we're never going to sell your sister," I told him. He was like "eh" and scampered off.

Getting back to my kids' kind adjective -- I don't know if other people think like this, but sometimes I like to define things in the world by parts of grammar -- sometimes nouns, sometimes adjectives.

Maybe it's because I freakishly LOVED diagramming sentences in 7th grade English.

We lived in Germany then, and I had a humorless, 150-year-old teacher named Miss Latham. She was ancient and didn't like anyone.

I was scared of her, like I was pretty much scared of everything at that age.

But she taught us the art of diagramming a sentence. And it made sense, weird, but it made English understandable in a mathematic kind of way. And she asked me to eat lunch with her one day, which I remember being oddly thrilled about.

(I have a hangup of trying to win people over who I don't think like me. It's somewhat of a character flaw. I'm better about it the older I get. I think.)

So maybe that's where my proclivity to think in terms of one component of grammar or another. I'm a woman, mom, daughter, sister, runner, flack (slang for PR professional -- it's just too pretentious-sounding to say "PR professional"). Nouns are easy.

But get to the adjectives? That's harder. Because that's where I secretly worry that maybe I have no idea how others regard me and I'm terribly not self-aware. I like to think I'm certain kinds of adjectives, good, strong, adjectives. (But what if I'm wrong? Eep.)

So if my kids want to give me an easy, softball adjective? I'll take it.

As adjectives apply to running, I've been feeling, well, lazy lately.

I have no desire to run long distances right now.

I can't get jonesed up to sign up for another 50K. Though I will.

Just a couple of months ago, seeing some folks on Facebook complete the 100-mile #worldslongestturkeytrot trek from Milwaukee to Chicago, I was getting kooky ideas in my head about 100-mile races. It sounds so appealing.

But now, nothing. I haven't run more than 8 miles at once in weeks.

What's the adjective for that?

Some of it is related to a big fat ache in my hip. After my November race, my hips and back were tight. OK, they're always tight.

By Christmas, my lower back ached chronically. A massage and getting back to some kind of yoga once a week only provided temporary relief.

I dropped in on my physical therapist (yes, runners say things like "my physical therapist". We see them far more often than our regular physician and we know that they just moved to a new apartment in Evanston, went to their sister's wedding and got a dog.)

She poked around. Though my right hip is what has ached for a month or more, my left SI joint wasn't moving. She did some stuff to it, and for about six hours my hips felt like they were on a fun vacation.

Then back to the reality of stiffness.

A friend recommended a chiro who wouldn't try to hustle me like an Amway salesman. I've seen him twice. and he's great.

Within the first 20 minutes he told me he was a multi-time Ironman. (Ironman types always tell you they are Ironmen. They can't help themselves. I guess if I were an Ironman and had done 140 miles of swimming, biking and running, I might do the same.)

He did some ART (Active Release Technique) on my hip and a new pinching sensation in my back. ART is a scientific term for "now you are really gonna feel pain!". I haven't yelped like that since I was last in labor.

During today's run my hip felt better. And maybe I will feel less "lazy" and more "motivated" as the hip feels better.

Maybe I will just try to turn off the adjective part of my brain and stick to nouns.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Frozen Gnome: The minus-4-degrees, slightly-more-than-10K race report

Years ago, my husband and I went to the Boundary Waters to go camping. It was my first trip, but he'd been there a few times before. It was amazing.

A friend of ours, Mike, went with us (and the remaining five people who promised to go bailed, making things pretty interesting...). One of the long-running jokes from those three days was the question we asked multiple times a day of whoever happened to jump in a lake first: "How's the water?"

"It's cold, but it feels great!"

I was reminded of that Saturday, when I did the Frozen Gnome 10K/50K race in Crystal Lake.

When I signed up for the race, it seemed like a great idea. Bonus: the race promised a butt slide hill on the course! Sold!

Last week, though, my enthusiasm waned as we hit the coldest temps of the winter so far, with highs struggling to break the zero-degree mark. I've always run when it's at least a single digit out. This would be the coldest run I'd ever undertaken. We also had decent snow on the ground for the first time this season.

By Friday night I was kind of dreading the race internally, though I was trying to keep a good outward attitude about it as I and my running pals talked about whether we were still going to do this.

I texted my Sioux Falls friend, from whom I've gotten so much great running advice over the years. Since she tends to answer my texts and she runs in any kind of weather, I ran by her my wardrobe plan: smartwool socks and knee socks over them; tights; Icebreaker base layer, fleece, winter running jacket, balaclava, hat, gloves. Was I missing anything? She told me to add a pair of windpants and a tanktop underneath.

I felt a bit better about this. South Dakotans do not mess around.

My friend Krista picked me up at 5:15. My weather app on my phone said it was 0 degrees. I scurried into her car and we grunted our good mornings. Then we laughed, as she'd just texted me a few minutes prior to let me know someone just biked past her car as she was warming it up. Yes, biked!! Perspective!

We picked up more friends, Janelle in the city and Lindsay in the burbs along the way. A fun group of women always makes a race great.

I had no idea Crystal Lake was not a real Chicago suburb, and in fact was somewhere close to East Jesus. It was clear the heck out there.

I was nervous about making the 11:45 a.m. hair appointment I'd scheduled back in the city. Uh oh. My husband tells me I have a tendency to overschedule. It tooked like he was right this time.

When we got to the race, it was -4. The sky was lightening, at least. We braced ourselves and scampered out of her Corolla to the packet pickup.

Scampered as in, holy crap, it was so damn cold. My hands hurt immediately. I was shaking in my down parka, which I did not plan on running in. We trudged through six inches of fresh snow just to get there and back.

Oh man, what had we gotten ourselves into.

We hid in the car until 7:38. That's nice about small races -- you can hide in the car practically until it's time to start. You could never do that crap in city races.

Finally, it was 7:45 and time to go. I saw my co-worker Bill, also a newbie ultrarunner. He was attempting the 50K. (Whoa. And he got it done, amazing!) The race director gave a few directors and said
the start line is that second big tree over there. We laughed. I love small races!

Finally, we were off! Single file, through fresh snow and a rising sun. So, so pretty.

I warmed up quickly. And so did the course -- immediately we had hills. What makes hills harder? Fresh snow! It had been awhile since I'd run on snow, but it was so breath-takingly pretty out there, I didn't care. I panted, but it felt great!

About a mile and a half in, something was wrong. To my left, a group of runners in front of me had stopped and congregated atop a small hill. To my right, down the hill, was another group of runners.

My buddy Janelle, who shares my habit of colorful language, was "what the f?" "what the f is going on?" Everyone was asking that.

We'd all gotten off course.

I had no idea of where I even was. So much for two years of Brownie Scouts and that one year of Girl Scouts. Huh.

C'mon, experienced trail runners, lead us out of this before we freeze, I thought.

I took a picture at that point, after which my iPhone let me know it was too damn cold and died.
Oops, my glove snuck into this photo. Full disclosure: I'm an ex-Sun-Times reporter. And everyone knows reporters are crap photographers.

Groupthink won out and we all started following each other like lemmings. Fortunately, it was the right lemmings and we were back on the course.

We kept running through what I can describe with the "winter wonderland" cliche. It was like a postcard. There were low hanging trees and narrow paths that required us to run single-file. Snow draped every tree and carpeted the ground. It felt like I was in Wisconsin (or maybe it was the several runners wearing Packer hats. Rub it in, guys, rub it in. That Dallas receiver ref call was crap. And I hate the Cowboys.)


I figured we must have gone way off course because it felt like it took forever to get to the water stop around the 4-mile mark. It was super snowy and super hilly.

Before the water stop, though, we stopped, lined up on a steep, snowy hill, as if we were all at a water park and in line for the tallest slide.

Butt slide hill!!

At the top, we had two options: Walk down a steep hill with a rope, or slide down a steep, slightly icy hill that people were sliding down super fast. I was nervous!

I opted to slide down, and OMG. It was so fast and so fun. I screamed all the way down and was terrified I was going to slam into the guy in front of me. I bet he was grateful for my hollering because he bolted out of my way in time. Whew. Good thing I have a loud mom yell thing going.

We euphorically trudged on. Then, not so euphorically.

At this point I had to have a little chat in my head with myself. Because I was tired, I was beating myself up in my head. How could I have run an ultra just two months ago and now be so tired just doing a 10k, I kept thinking.

I told myself I was being so dumb about this and to stop being an idiot. This was a really hilly course and I had not run on snow for a longgggg time. It was hard. Don't fight it, just accept it.

Past the water stop, it was slow going. I was tired and kept telling myself that was OK. I had no idea where we were or how much further, and could not possibly imagine doing this 10K loop another four times, as the 50K runners would.

But I was still so happy to be out there, and relieved I wasn't cold at all. My eyelashes had ice on them, and so did the hair hanging out of my hat. My friends and I kept pointing out to each other where ice had formed on our heads. It was so cool and freaky.

Finally, we saw the finish line/aid station. Yay! I finished at 1:48. I'm normally able to run a 10K in under an hour, so that was a looonnnggg 10K. And my coldest run/race ever was done.

 felt tired, but elated. I did it!

I wound up missing my hair appointment. My hair will continue to be a wild, woolly and silver-tinged mess for a little longer. Oh well.

A huge thank you to the McHenry County Ultra Running Dudes and Dudettes (MUDD) for a fantastic race! It was cold but it felt great!

However, I will probably stick to your 10K if I come back...

P.S. Someone told us we wound up running 6.59 miles. Which is really only slightly more than 6.2 miles. Haha. I was so convinced we'd run a mile extra or more. Dork.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

1,459 miles. Happy New Year!

If you had told me in high school that I would become a runner, I would have thought you must be an idiot. Because I hated running.

Glad I was wrong! At least about the running part. 

I ran 1,456 miles in 2014 beating the previous year's record 1,246 miles. Woohoo!

I think I may have deleted at least that many My Little Pony and Christmas tree photos off my 3-year-old's Kindle, so I know it's a large number.

Because I was busy mommying, working and running and training for my first ultra, I realized that I missed some stuff in 2014. I am not sure I know a Taylor Swift song or why "1989" is significant enough to name an album that.

If you tell me that is when she was born, I can tell you I was definitely not running that year. But I *may* have been wearing high-waisted, pleated jeans and ginormous glasses. Hey, it was stylish then.

I did see Frozen last year, but that's because I have a little daughter. It would be child neglect to not see that movie. At least 20 times.

I never had time to figure out why celebrities posed in nekkid photos and then were mad that they got out (hello, age of social media and clicks) or why Democrats forgot to vote in the 2014 mid-term elections. (I did, for the record.)

But I did discover a really great love of trail running. It's not easy to get to trails when you live in Chicago, but I did it as often as I could drag someone out with me.

One challenge of a new year is embracing winter running. A wintry mix scared off my running pals this morning, but I thumbed my nose at Mother Nature and headed out for an easy 10 miles.

Chicago lakefront, Jan. 3 6:10 a.m. Peaceful.

Chicago lakefront, 7:15 a.m. I have company!

It was a good run. I'm lousy at resolutions, but I'm vowing as an avid winter disliker to make myself get out there anyway.

And plot new trail and ultra races for 2015.

And then make the largest pot of coffee possible.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Motion = lotion

Recently, my foot began to hurt a bit. Right where a big, fat callous has taken permanent residence on my right heel. I began feeling it walking and running, bummer.

Since I never actually look at my feet, apparently, nor do I spend money often on pedicures because I am kind of cheap, I was surprised that, upon close inspection, it had cracked and even bled a little. Gross!

I have a running friend, Andie, who seems to know natural remedies for everything. (Though she, more wisely than me, gets regular pedicures). She suggested Bag Balm, which is this stinky Vermont concoction that is used on chapped cow udders.

After recently purchasing the frumpiest and most comfortable Merrell shoes ever, buying this has convinced me I am not only getting older, I am apparently catapulting into old ladydom. Sigh.
Smelly, but effective

So, over the weekend, as I lotioned my poor feet with this stuff, I voyeuristically followed the progress of a few people, one of whom I've met through Facebook, as they did what they called the #worldslongestturkeytrot.

As in, they ran 100 miles from Milwaukee to Chicago's famous "bean" sculpture downtown.

I know, what the hell, right?

They made it.

Chicago's Cloudgate, aka "the bean"

They're seasoned ultrarunners. With one ultra under my belt as of nearly three weeks ago, I'm still very much a wide-eyed newbie.

When I told my husband about what they had done, he asked me if I thought that sounded like something I would like to do.

I couldn't lie -- there *is* something appealing about doing it -- no fanfare, no support. Just running with someone who knows what they're doing, stopping every so often to eat, etc, and keep moving.

Yeah, I don't know why this stuff appeals to my brain.

Kind of like when I recently asked my 5-year-old, M-man, if he thought he could be good at school the next day. His response as he shrugged his tiny shoulders: "I don't know, you tell me."

I grew up a non-runner who had no intention of running unless I had to.

Though at times running, if briefly, fascinated me, like the 1980s movie Wildcats with Goldie Hawn. Struggling to gain to respect because she is a female football coach, she challenges her cocky high school guys to see who can last the longest running on the track (click here for clip of that scene). They whoop and holler and lap her at first, but at the end they drop an she keeps going, steady and sure -- eventually revealing that she had run the Boston marathon -- twice. Yeah, it's a silly movie. But I never forgot that scene. I was in awe that you could just keep running and not drop from exhaustion.

And I love bad 80s movies.

So, wow, these folks ran 100 miles. Two days later, I see in Strava one of the 100-mile runners posted a short run. I was like, whoa! How can you run just two days after that kind of pounding on your body?!

His response was "motion is lotion".

I knew what he meant.

After my ultra, I was sore but surprisingly not bad. I was pretty tired at first but have felt fine since. After 15 miles the first post-race week, I ran 35 miles last week, the second post-race week, and felt good. (We had a 50-degree day on Sunday -- how could I not run?)

It feels good to return to moving. There's a real risk of over-doing it -- I've seen others jump back into it too quickly and they're chronically injured. 

But there's something about moving again.

Which makes total sense. Babies in the womb are calm when their mamas are moving around. We wanted to be rocked and held as children. As teenagers and young adults, many of us want to go, go, go. 

After the birth of my kids, my goal was to walk normally again ASAP -- as in, I want to deliver the baby and then walk down the hall for a Diet Coke. (Doesn't quite work that way, but I was usually moving within hours). 

I have a printer in my office that works fine but I often print stuff on the printer on another side of the floor, just so I can get out of my chair and walk. Our office assistant recently told me the printer had been moved much closer to my office because of an office reorganization. I'm a little bummed and already miss my little walks.

The runner's comment on Strava reminded me how good we feel when we move, no matter how tired or beat up we are.

And happy!

P.S. My feet feel fabulous!