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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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Running and joy

Fall colors at Waterfall Glen


A hodgepodge of the week and why running is joyful:

Running at the start and during the full lunar eclipse early Wednesday morning. Worth getting up early.

My fussy-eater five-year-old actually finding a veggie he would eat -- the "tree" part of cooked broccoli.

Discovering a amazon.com box in my living room late Friday that contained a camelbak, something trail runners and ultra marathoners use -- great for carrying food and liquids. It was a complete surprise gift from one of my running buddies. I was so touched and choked up at her thoughtfulness--she even got it in pink/purple, my colors!!



Not exactly my camelbak, but you get the idea. So cool!
Running the stunningly gorgeous Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve trail, which I had never run before, with a wonderful friend who lives in the burbs and who, with three kids, sees nothing wrong with meeting up at 5:30 in the morning to go run a trail in the dark that is unfamiliar to us. (Since neither of us have headlamps, I carried my household flashlight like a dork. We also found a nice ultrarunner guy with a headlamp who got us to the trailhead safely. I love runners.)

Thanks to a gracious running friend, finding my first-ever pair of trail shoes, Mizuno Wave Ascend  -- and for a great price.

Mizuno Wave Ascend -- in my high school colors to boot
While on a very tired an slow Sunday run, running by the six-mile mark of the Chicago marathon in time to see the elite leaders running by. A middle-of-the-pack runner like me only sees the elites on TV. It was so incredible. Then seeing a guide run alongside a blind marathon runner made me cry. Wow.






I was slogging through a tired run by the Chicago marathon course when we lucked out and caught the leaders -- some of the world's best runners. I missed getting a photo of the leaders at the Chicago marathon, but here's the second wave -- they moved like gazelles. Goosebumps, I tell ya.


Week 11 50K training

Monday 10/6 Rest day/core work and stretching
Tuesday 10/7 5.1 miles
Wednesday 10/8 6.3 miles. Supposed to be 8, but I kept stopping to look at the lunar eclipse. How could I not?
Thursday 10/9 Took a day off. Achy ankle. Ice and tiger balm helped a lot. Also self-corrected rotated hips, which happens occasionally after having my third child, my 3-year-old daughter.
Friday 10/10 Group Centergy class.
Saturday 10/11 Awesome, awesome, awesome trail run at the amazing Waterfall Glen forest preserve

Total weekly mileage: 43.2 miles
Total training mileage: 439.8

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Little monsters race and a good week

This week, I signed up for what will be the best race of this year -- a Halloween-themed "trick or trot" for the kiddies. 

My girl, at 3, will compete in the 4-and-under 100-meter dash. Last year she won her age group among females -- so naturally, she's a contender. In an Elsa ("Frozen") costume.

And my little M-man is now old enough to bump up to the 5-10-year-old quarter-mile race. He will be a minion from "Despicable Me".

Don't underestimate him, big-shot third graders. This kid is lightening fast. 

The race is the same weekend as my first-ever 20/20, meaning back-to-back 20 milers prior to tapering for my race.

I just ran my third 20-miler of the season this weekend. It went great, and I had gas left in the tank when I was done. I also did my first-ever 50-mile week. I feel pretty good.


Week 10 50k training 

Monday 9/29 Rest day.
Tuesday 9/30 5.2 miles
Wednesday 10/1 8.1 miles
Thursday 10/2 4.9 miles
Friday 10/3 Group Centergy class
Saturday 10/4 20.4 miles.
Sunday 10/5 11.2 miles

Total weekly mileage:49.8 miles (let's call it 50, shall we?)
Total training mileage: 396.6 miles

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Giddy

I decided this week -- okay, I decide this every week -- that it is crazy to try and take on training for my first ultramarathon with kids ages 3 and 5 and working full-time. 

It's a lot of mornings of getting up between 3:20 and 4:20 a.m. to get runs in. It's being ready to crash at 9 p.m., still glancing at my work BlackBerry, and my husband eyeballing me like an insane woman. I'm almost never fully rested.

And yet I wouldn't have it any other way.

Seriously. I am having a blast this year. 

I'm running trails as much as I can squeeze them in, which makes my heart (and 46-year-old knees and ankles) so, so, so happy. 

Yesterday I ran at Bullfrog Lake, which can be hilly in parts. I'm not a strong hill runner, since I mostly run in the flat, flat city, and yet I just loved the challenge -- the panting, the glute muscles firing on the way up the hill, and the quads on the way down.

Happy on the trails.


But the woods, the peace, the fresh smell of trees and grass. Oh my.

And the sheer physical feeling of pushing myself. 

How often in our comfortable, soft lives do we ever really push ourselves to be uncomfortable? I don't with most things. But I want to when I'm out on the trails.

My run was followed by a long but great day at a pumpkin farm with a ton of time on my feet. I felt so physically drained, even though I was happy otherwise.

I woke this morning at 5:30 to darkness and thick fog. And tiredness, deep tiredness. My M-man was up a couple of times with diarrhea and nightmares. My muscles ached. I could tell I never got that nap I craved Saturday.

I'm lucky a great friend, who is running the Twin Cities marathon next week, was willing to do half of my 10 miles with me. 

It wound up being a fine run. I then got my 3-year-old daughter to her buddy's (and her mom is my friend, so it's super fun) birthday party. It was more standing and I could have practically slept standing up. We managed to get to Trader Joe's for a  big shopping trip before heading home.

And finally, during the second half of the Bears Packers game this afternoon, when both kids were jumping on my husband, I snuck in that heavenly, blissful nap.

I am a new woman.

The next four weeks are going to be, for me, brutal. Highest mileage I've ever run in my life. Sleep will be precious. 

And because I had a nap today, I am feeling good about it all. Bring it.

***

Week 9 50k training (cutback week)

Monday 9/22 Rest day; did all of my old physical therapy/core strengthening work
Tuesday 9/23 5.3 miles
Wednesday 9/24 8.3 miles
Thursday 9/25 5.2 miles
Friday 9/26 Group Centergy class
Saturday 9/27 15 miles (6.9 miles in the city, 8.1 miles on trails at Bullfrog Lake)
Sunday 9/28 10.3 miles

Total weekly mileage: 44.1 miles
Total training mileage: 346.8 miles

Thursday, September 25, 2014

There's always a bright side

Earlier this week, I left work midday to take my 5-year-old to his pediatrician. Because, basically, he doesn't like pooping.

We struggle to get fruits and even harder, veggies in him. He struggles with constipation. We struggle to get him to drink juice with Miralax in it. He struggles to not go the the bathroom until he absolutely must.. And sometimes it's too late.

So the poor guy is sometimes pretty miserable. And pulling at his butt all day long.

His doctor a couple of weeks ago recommended a course of Miralax followed by a ped visit. I called right away and got an appointment for this past Tuesday.

II took the train to where I had parked the car. I picked up the car and drove home and parked, and then walked over to his school. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. 

His class was outside in the "learning garden", and was just lining up to go back inside when I arrived.

I smiled and waved, calling his name.

He actually smiled and waved back. I melted a little. It was sweet to get that kind of reaction from a little boy who is sometimes tough to read and isn't often demonstrative.

The better part came as we left school together. His friends were calling his name and waving good-bye.

And he kept yelling bye and waving back, and smiling.

It was just one of this awesome, awesome moments you have as a parent. You wade through the hard times, the times when you really don't know what the hell you're doing, to get to these moments that can make your heart burst with happiness in two seconds flat.

It also made up for what happened when we arrived at the doctors office, to be told our appointment was on Oct. 23, not Sept. 23.

Now I KNOW I was told Sept 23 because I was glad to get in so quickly, which is what the doctor suggested -- I even commented on that to the guy who scheduled the appointment.

So another month of trying to get my kid to poop and of him grabbing his butt. Sigh.

But it was so worth an annoying,wasted doctor's  office visit to see my little guy joyfully telling his buddies adieu.

He's come a long way.

***
This week I decided I was fed up with the chronic stiffness that has settled in my hips and lower back, despite yoga, stretching and heating pads. 

So I headed back to my physical therapist for advice. She rocks.

Surprise surprise, more core work to keep my hip flexors, etc from getting overworked. (You could probably bounce quarters off them right now, they are so tight....)

So I'm doing daily one leg bridge lifts in addition to single-leg squats, a ton of foam-rolling and some semblance of yoga each week.

The plus side? I feel good when I run. It's just when I stop I feel creaky and achy. 

But I'm not giving in to negative thoughts. Bridges every morning it is.

Wish I could say I looked this graceful when doing one-leg bridge lifts.


***

Week 8 50k training (50 percent of "official" training done!)

Monday 9/15 Rest day and heating pad time
Tuesday 9/16 5.4 miles
Wednesday 9/17 8.1 miles
Thursday 9/18 Skipped run - sick
Friday 9/19 Group Centergy class
Saturday 9/20 20.06 miles
Sunday 9/21 7.9 miles

Total weekly mileage: 41.5 miles
Total training mileage: 302.7


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.

(Ugh.)

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.

Swimming!
Hiking!

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...