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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, March 11, 2015

Back to running day!

Yesterday's X-ray brought good news: my toe has healed to the point I can run again. Yay!

I immediately fantasized about running away from work, hair down and blowing in the wind, galloping effortlessly down the lakefront. (I went back to work instead.)

But I ran this morning! First run in five weeks and two days. Yay!

At the doctor's recommendation, I'm following a back-to-running plan for a few weeks, starting with 30 minute runs three times a week (with some walking built in there, which I did a little of this morning and felt fine).

I've had to build back up to running after pregnancies, so this is nothing new, plus it's only been five weeks this time.

Yet I felt nervous this morning putting on my running clothes, like I forgot how to run. So weird.

However, just as I sang along with Madonna's "Like a Prayer" in spinning class yesterday -- because I know every.single.word -- I didn't forget how to run and ran just fine. The toe ached a bit, I felt clunky and slow -- but I ran.

Happy back-to-running day to me!

Now, for some old school Madonna. Remember how shocking this video was in 1989 and how Pepsi dropped her and its ad?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Blogging about swimming... good grief, I can't wait to run again!

"It's been five weeks since I broke my toe" may be the most boring way to start a blog post.

Even I'm bored of my toe.

I've been exercising, fortunately, riding the stationary bike and taking a lot of spinning and yoga classes.

I've also been all talk, telling myself -- and one of my friends who is an awesome swimmer and very encouraging -- that I'm going to get back in the pool and swim.

I took some lessons in high school and again in my 30s, so I can get across a pool without drowning.

But me, a swimmer? That's a stretch.

Swimming is scary. And exhausting, considering my flailing and how I wrench my neck out of the water to breathe while trying to crawl. And trying to remember to kick from my hips, not my knees.

One of the many reasons I prefer running is because I *probably* won't die while doing it. And I don't have to think as much. Running is lazy in that way.

Despite all of my swimming angst, I love pools otherwise, all warm and chlorine-y. These past couple of wintry months, we began hitting some of the family swims at our gym.

Our kids, just shy of their 4th and 6th birthdays, LOVE this.

We went again last Friday night. And something cool happened.

After an estimated 1,000 swim lessons, my kids have been getting in the pool pretty fearlessly. On Friday, they grabbed swim noodles and began swimming. Without us holding them.

My hub and I were thrilled to see our kids so comfortable in the water, but it felt strange, too. After nearly nearly six years of holding children in the water, our arms were empty.

Last night was another first: M-man's first sleepover at his best friend's house. We love their family, so I was totally at ease. My oldest son, now 22, loved sleepovers.

My hub was nervous. Sometimes I forget that this stuff  is all brand new to him -- M-man is his first kid. (I feel like we still have a million years to go before he's in high school. That's when parenting gets really tough and scary... so a sleepover felt easy breezy to me...)

When he got home this morning, there were hugs all around. And extra hugs from his daddy.

I love this side of my husband.

During Friday's swim, as my kids were noodling around effortlessly and happily, I took advantage of the freedom, gliding through the water in a half-swim, and running in place.

And I realized my toe did not hurt while doing either.

Which means two things: Time to start pool-running. And time to try swimming again.

Yesterday I hit the smaller of our gym's two pools (20 yards). It was mostly empty, save for a few little kids getting private swim lessons.

I had just enough time to run 80 lengths of the pool, or 0.9 miles. It was boring as running in a parking garage.

But it was so great! I was running! And sweating!

I then grabbed my goggles I bought awhile ago, took them out of their packaging (ahem), and put 'em on.

And then I swam 10 lengths, alternating clunky, clumsy versions of the breast stroke and crawl.

Lord, I am a lousy swimmer.

But every time I went underwater, I was reminded of something I had forgotten: the cool, peaceful silence that awaits swimmers underwater.

After a harried week, it was pretty cool.

Swimming those few laps was exhausting. And probably kind of embarrassing that it was so tiring.

And also a little embarrassing that at least one kid in the next lane was beating me.

Oh well.

All that said, I'm super impatient to run again. I will always love running more than swimming.

My toe feels pretty good, not perfect, but pretty good. I'll get an X-ray at the podiatrist this week, as Chicago emerges from a deep freeze to temps in the 40s and 50s. (Which is not helping my impatience...)

I hope I can run soon.

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.