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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, October 28, 2014

Taper time, and Judd Nelson is alive!

One of my 80s crushes. Swoon.

It's not true, whew! Judd Nelson is alive and aging like the rest of us.

This past week marked a few firsts/bests for me. My highest weekly mileage ever, 57.1 miles. My highest mileage for a weekend of running, 39.5 miles.

And my first run in the pitch-black woods at Bullfrog Lake -- not something this city girl is used to.

This past weekend was the last big push in terms of logging in training miles. My goal was to run back to back 20-milers -- on Saturday on hilly wooded trails, since that's what my 50K race will be on, and Sunday in the city, since my 3 and 5-year-old were registered for the Evanston Trick or Trot race. More on that later.

The Palos Forest Preserve, where Bullfrog Lake is located, really is this lovely. In the dark, it is kind of spooky!

Fortunately, I had friends with headlamps. I once again brought my dorklight, er, household flashlight.

Hey! Want to meet in the woods at 5 a.m. and run in the dark with me? My awesome pals Shaun and Krista, far right, amazingly said "Sure!"
We ran the hilly Bullfrog trail in the dark for the first hour and a half. Picture a carpet of bright yellow leaves and dark trees all around you and that's what the run was until the sky began to lighten.

Once we settled in, my nerves quieted and I began to really, really enjoy the peace. And my friends' enthusiasm was awesome. Shaun said several times "I love this!" alternately with comparing our run to the Blair Witch Project, haha.

By daylight, it was like a whole different run. Another friend joined us for the second loop of our run. The late October date meant brilliant fall colors. I forgot to take pictures, but soaked it all in.
Our little runners before the race.

I wound up getting 17.6 miles in and ran out of time to do the full 20, because it was time to get back to the city and hit our neighborhood's trick or treating at local businesses.

For Sunday I asked a friend if she would start with me at 4 a.m. Amazingly, she said yes. (I have some really fantastic running friends. Seriously.)

We ran 12 along the lakefront nice and easy from 4 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., and I tacked on another 2 miles before heading to the grocery store and home.

We made it to the trick or trot just in time, and the kids had a blast. I think they liked the bouncy house better than the race -- who can blame them? M-man ran a quarter mile, the distance for 5-6 year olds, and C-girl ran 100 meters for the 3-4 year old crowd. They were adorable.

M-man (left)  is flying.
After the race, I help my husband get the kids in the car and then began my run home. I figured it was about 6 miles, though of course I did not bother to map it out.

It was a brilliantly sunny day, and I began to get very warm as I went home. I was also quite tired.

When I knew I was less than two miles from my house, I glanced at my Strava app and saw that I had already hit the 20-mile mark for the day... shoot. I wound up running 22.1 miles, more than I thought.

I feel very tired and sore. But I'm elated. I did it! Bring on the taper!

Week 13 50K training

Monday 10/20 Rest day/core work and stretching
Tuesday 10/21 5.2 miles
Wednesday 10/22 7.5 miles
Thursday 10/23 4.8 miles
Friday 10/24 Group Centergy class.
Saturday 10/25 17.6 hilly trail miles at Bullfrog Lake
Sunday 10/26 22.1 miles (14.1 pre-dawn miles and 8.0 late morning miles)

Total weekly mileage: 57.1 miles
Total training mileage: 541.2 miles

Monday, October 20, 2014

And here we are again...

My kindergarten guy, little M-man, is doing pretty awesomely so far this year, academically. 

If you ask him what 3+3+4 is, he casually replies "10".

He is reading basic words.

He "reads" books to us, colorfully improvising the storylines. It's fantastic.

He can scamper to the top of the playground monkey bars like no one's business. And I swear, he could probably run a 6 minute mile with ease, he is so lightening fast. 

Okay, the last things I just mentioned are not academic, but they still impress me.

Unfortunately, the downside of starting each new school year is that we're starting over. 

M-man has his IEP, which is supposed to be a road map that his teacher, case worker, social worker and special ed teacher can use in helping him succeed in the class group setting. We chose our neighborhood school this year and hope that was a good decision.

However, continuing the auto metaphor, the wheels are already becoming loose.

His well-intentioned, sweet teacher has no idea how to handle him. And my very smart boy knows it. He is pushing her buttons and being quite the turd.

The case worker is addled and pretty unresponsive.

Allegedly the special ed teacher and social worker are involved. 

But my feedback from school so far is the naughty things M-man is pulling. And the young teacher asking me for "strategies." Is anyone helping her do her job? I am at a huge disadvantage to manage anything that happens in the classroom.

We have gone through this scenario before, when he was 3 and at a private preschool, and before we even knew what an IEP was. As I have written before, that was a disaster.

I am not happy, not one bit. I will call the principal today to again ask for the team meeting I've previously requested, and which was ignored.

I'm not saying it's the school's fault. My little guy has struggled each year in class settings.

But if he is losing his shit in class, yelling horrible things and throwing stuff -- to me, it says he is trying to tell us something. Something is stressing him out and he can't/won't tell us what in a "normal" way.

If we don't fight for our kids, who will?


Week 12 50K training

Monday 10/13 Rest day/core work and stretching
Tuesday 10/14 5.3 miles
Wednesday 10/15 USDO. Late Tuesday night; early Wednesday morning work stuff.
Thursday 10/16 9.9 miles.
Friday 10/17 Group Centergy class.
Saturday 10/18 16.2 miles
Sunday 10/19 13.0 miles

Total weekly mileage: 44.3 miles
Total training mileage: 484.1 miles

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
Sunday 10/12 12.4 miles

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


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.


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