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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.

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!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Palezoic 50K "Finish or fossilize": Race report

This weekend I finished my first ultramarathon, the 50K Palezoic Devonian Fall trail run in 7 hours, 11 minutes and 55.8 seconds.

It was so, so hard, and so, so incredible. It was a day filled with hope, hard work and love -- awesome!

The day before, a Friday, I was a bundle of nerves. I had that doubt most people get when they taper for a long race, that since I had cut my mileage way down in the weeks leading up to the race (which is what you're supposed to do to get your body ready), that I wouldn't be able to run 31 miles. I was most nervous about "bonking", however. Every single marathon I've hit a wall at some point and ended the marathon in a death march, feeling sick and unhappy with my performance.

Logic told me otherwise -- I trained smart and as my former editor Dan often tells me, "trust the training". He also tells me to tie my shoes a lot.

A work colleague Friday afternoon asked me to join a small group for a drink after work. I declined, telling him about my race the next morning. His reaction: "An ultramarathon? That sounds dangerous!" I'd use a lot of adjectives, but not that one! It made me laugh.

Friday night's plan to hit the store for a healthy dinner of salmon fillet, potato and veggie was waylaid by who-can-remember-why-now so take-out Thai it was -- chicken and broccoli, yum. I laid out my camelbak, running clothes, food and other essentials the night before. I fell asleep easily around 9:30 -- typical night for me.

M-man woke me up at 3, coughing. I got him some water and kiddie cough syrup, and settled him back into bed. At that point I thought, hoo boy, I'm doing a race today! I was sure I wouldn't fall back asleep but I must have, because my alarm woke me up at 5:30. I have never, ever before had to be awakened by my alarm on race day!

I was strangely calm. In my still-dark, quiet house I washed dishes before getting all of my cold weather running gear on. My iPhone said it was 19 degrees out, our coldest morning yet this fall. I hoped I would be warm enough for the six-plus hours I would be outside, running.

My trip to the burbs was uneventful. I arrived at Pioneer Woods shortly before 8 for an 8:30 race start. It was cold, but wonderfully sunny. I looked for other Flatlanders -- the Facebook group I've latched on to for advice and stories. I wound up meeting a few of them before the start -- Ed, Nikki and Amanda. Everyone was super nice and encouraging. One of the race directors, Bill, greeted me like an old friend with a big hug. I'd run two of the races he and his wife have held before, and think both they and their races are just awesome.

Finally, it was time to start! Most of the pack was ahead of me from the beginning, which was OK. I forced myself to go slow. It would be my focus throughout the race -- slow and steady means a great race.

I was lucky to run alongside two other ultra newbies, Celia and Liz. They were so nice in letting me tag along with them and chat, which made the first few miles tick by in no time. Near the third mile we were distracted by this enormous gathering of geese next to a small lake that we began to run off course, only barely. Oops, pay attention! My shoes also became untied, which always seems to happen during races. D'oh!

The course was an out and back, and the 50K folks do two loops of that (there was also a one-loop 25k option). That meant an unmanned water station at the 3.5-mile mark and a turnaround at about 7.7 miles. We got to each with no incident, and turned around. It was getting a bit warmer, and I contemplated changing into a windbreaker I had brought and left at the start line.

On the way back from the turnaround, Liz began to struggle a bit. Celia and I hung in there, encouraging each other. I had definitely settled into the run and wasn't struggling, but I was mindful to stay slow and steady so I'd have plenty in the tank for the second loop. I was also hungry -- I don't really eat in the morning before runs, ever, though I had had some yogurt-covered raisins pre-start. Celia was like, yeah, that's why you're hungry. I ate my second kiddie pureed "Buddy Fruits" and felt better.

As we approached the unmanned aid station, a woman in a long, black puffy parka with long brown hair flowing ran toward us. I was like, is that Terri??? It was!

Terri, a running friend and how I wound up adopting the awesome Reckless the cat last year, had texted me she was coming to the race (which is far away for her and it was freezing to boot) but I guess I forgot for awhile. It was awesome to see her and get a great big hug. 

She brought all sorts of snacks, including the lemon Oreos I had hinted for. (They are so damn good, and she had supplied them to a bunch of us during a wee-hour 20-miler earlier this summer, God bless her).

Fired up, I continued on with Celia, chattering about Terri and my cat and lemon Oreos. If I was annoying Celia with all of my stories, she didn't seem to mind.

Finally we approached the start line to complete the first loop. Yay! I crossed the mat that reads the electronic chip around my ankle and texted my friends Krista, Kylene and Janelle I was there. All three were keeping warm in Krista's car and would be running the second loop with me.

I love my running buddies, including these women. I've logged many miles with them, especially during this training season. They're all quite a bit younger than me and have wonderful energy and enthusiasm and great attitudes. They're not jaded yet and they're smart and thoughtful. I just love them to pieces. I was so happy to see them!

They all greeted me with big hugs and exclamations that I looked great. I wouldn't say I was feeling "great" because I was a little tired, but I realized yeah, I'm doing OK. I invited Celia to hang with us, since Liz stayed at the start line and I wasn't sure if she would do a second loop or not. And we were off!

I forgot to change into my windbreaker, which turned out to be a good thing later on.

I can divide this race into Loop 1 and Loop 2. Loop 2 was so fun to have my friends there. It was also more challenging. The weather changed, too, with a chilly breeze and the sky clouding over, hinting at the snow we would be getting later that night. I was glad I kept my fleece-lined jacket on and wound up putting my gloves back on for awhile.

The hills I ran gently the first go-around were tougher the second time. Every time Celia and I decided to walk a steep up or downhill, my friends automatically followed suit. I joked in my head, this must be what having an entourage is like! It was great.

We reached the unmanned aid station again. Terri was still there (!) and she and the table were flocked by runners. I joked she should have gotten some guys' phone numbers! She was pretty popular and the lemon Oreos were disappearing rapidly.

She asked me how I was feeling and I told her I kept eating my purees but that I felt shaky. One little hole in my training plan is that I didn't know how to incorporate protein in addition to food with carbs during a race. At the full turnaround, there was a full spread of chips and soda and peanut butter sandwiches, but I've hated peanut butter as long as I can remember.

Terri said hey, here's some walnuts and almonds. I swear, that woman was a battlefield nurse in a previous life. I like almonds and eagerly ate some. A couple of miles later, I felt better! I had discovered a new race food! Krista tucked a few in her pocket for me for later.

It was slow going after we left the unmanned station and headed for the turnaround. I definitely felt tired, but OK. I pushed aside the thoughts that crept into my head about hitting the wall. Celia noted when we had hit mile 20 (yay, two thirds done!) and I thought OK, dammit, this race is not going to be the same as my marathons, where at some point around this mileage I didn't just hit a wall, I slammed into it.

Hitting a wall feels like someone has just emptied your gas tank. Your muscles just want to stop, which is also what your head screams at you. The last miles are torture. During the Omaha marathon last year, I didn't just want to stop running, I wanted to lay down on the pavement. Once you're there -- at the wall I mean -- there's no going back. Your glycogen is depleted, and it's a death march until you can stop for good.

I asked my friends to tell stories. And they tell great stories. Krista and Kylene are teachers and always have great stories about their kids. Janelle is wicked funny and usually has funny stories to tell. They always hear stories about my kids. As they chattered, it helped settle me. I was so relieved I was not running alone. I don't know how someone mentally gets through 50K alone!

At the turnaround, we grabbed some food and hung out for several minutes. Liz caught up to Celia there, crying. We hugged her and told her she was doing great. Celia wound up running the rest with her -- I was happy to see they would have each other the rest of the race.

I was tired, but elated to know there were just 7.7 miles left to cover. I was so close to being an ultramarathoner! I thought about my kids. They're 3 and 5 and knew I was doing a race today, though too little to know or care that it was a big race. I couldn't wait to finish and go home to my family.

The last leg of the run was slow but OK. Many hills, even gentle ones, were walked. I didn't care. I kept telling myself that I wanted to finish strong and with a smile. It was still within reach. My glutes, hamstrings and calves ached, but nothing serious. At one stop, I squatted to stretch my tight hips and as I looked down, my eyes began to do something funky -- not quite seeing black dots, but the gravel beneath my feet seemed to move a little. Krista said something about blood sugar so I ate some jelly beans stuffed in my pocket.

I also kept thinking to myself about my friends who were there. I felt almost a little embarrassed that they were all making this effort for me. Like anyone, I love attention, and then when I get a lot of it, I'm half thrilled and half thinking I don't deserve this. Just part of my neurotic self, I guess. The race just felt like one big, long, extended hug from friends. Runners are really kind, generous people.

The miles ticked by slowly. Around the point where we had two miles left, a man I had met that morning, Ed, came running toward us. I knew by following him on Strava, the app a lot of runners use to track each other, that he would have been long done with his race. He is an incredibly fast runner and does ultras and marathons a lot, including New York two weeks prior. I wondered if he was adding another loop for fun (?!)

I said "hey!" and he turned around with us, telling us "I love to run first-time ultra runners in." OMG, I could have cried there. That was so sweet! Some of my friends ran ahead, because they wanted to get my photo at the finish line. (Again, how awesome is everyone???) Ed slowed for me and told me about all of the races he'd done. I was still hanging in there, but not dying to talk, so it was great to just listen to him.

Down the final stretch of trail, I could see my girlfriends in front of me. What appeared to be a dog ran around them. But I wondered if it was really a dog, since there didn't seem to be a dog owner with him.

As we got near, the animal darted into the woods but not very far. That was no dog -- it was at least part coyote. It was much bigger than the skinny coyotes we see occasionally on the lakefront in the wee morning hours. I figured there must be some good eating in the forest preserve. He peered at us from a nearby tree, just watching. He was beautiful. I was so relieved I was not alone!

Finally, I could see the finish line! I got excited. At the end, you have to run a giant circle around the park shelter before you can cross the finish line, so it was a little maddening, but I didn't care. I was going to be an ultramarathoner!

As I approached the finish line, I got butterflies in my stomach again. My friends were cheering and I sped up. I crossed the finish line, having completed in every way the race I had hoped and trained for. I cried, all tears of happiness. I was dazed and deliriously thrilled as everyone hugged me. Official time: 7 hours, 11 minutes, 55 seconds.

Janelle, Krista, Kylene and me, with geese friends in the background.

Someone pointed me to a heated tent an Janelle got me a bowl of the most amazing white bean chili. It was 4 pm by the time I was done, and the first "meal" I had had all day. I devoured it and it reminded me of a camping trip to the Boundary Waters my husband and I did in 2001 -- after three days of camping and canoeing in the wilderness, real food and a Coke taste AMAZING. I hope we can do that camping trip again.
Oh happy day! And before dark, too, yay!

The race directors congratulated me and Bill gave me a pint glass that had the name of the race on it and "my first ultra" also printed on the glass. It was awesome! We vowed to be back in March for his 25k race.

My phone battery had died and I stupidly didn't think about texting my husband until I was in the car. Janelle, sitting shotgun, texted him we were on our way. He was like, did she finish? Sometimes I am a crap wife -- who doesn't text her husband after finishing her first ultra? Me. I'm lucky he puts up with me.

By the time I had dropped Janelle off it was getting dark. It was so weird to have spent the entire day at a race and I tried to imagine how people do 50-milers and 100-mile races. 50k is plenty for now.

As soon as I got home, my husband took off to get his hair cut -- he's been trying to get it done, unsuccessfully, all week. 

I kissed my kids and headed for the bathtub -- I was so sore and stiff already and knew a really cold, quick bath would bring down the inflammation. I sat in the tub, clothed and chattering, as my kids ran in and out of the bathroom, chasing each other. As I switched to the wonderful hot shower, C-girl, my 3-year-old, shrieked that she had to go poopy and she wanted me to help her. 

Shower cut short, we finished up and I made dinner for the kids. I was worn out but happy, just happy to be done, basking in my little glow and listening to my little monkeys chatter. 

My husband came home and ordered beef kabobs and beef schwarma (yum) for dinner. I dozed off watchig a dvr'd Colbert Report.

The next day the ice bath paid off. I was sore all over but pretty mobile. I cooked and baked and we hosted play dates for the kids. My husband asked me about my next race and I told him I really didn't know... And it's kind of nice to just "be" right now. I'm an ultramarathoner and I'm just going to roll with that happy thought for awhile.

Adding my final training mileage:

Monday 11/10 Rest
Tuesday 11/11 Unscheduled day off -- M-man up and down all night
Wednesday 11/12 5.2 miles
Thursday 11/13 3.2 miles
Friday 11/14 Rest
Saturday 11/15 RACE DAY! 31 miles
Sunday Rest

Total weekly mileage: 39.4
Total training mileage: 634.5

Friday, November 14, 2014

How am I supposed to concentrate on anything today?

Tomorrow is the big day: My first 50 K. First ultramarathon. First time I'm running anything longer than a marathon.

Is it irrational that I have wanted to say all week "Hey, people, yeah, that "pubic"-instead-of"public-typo-you-found-in-the-annual-report/CVS trip to buy red and pink paint (for unicorns, naturally)/cat poop-on-the-floor is important and all, but I AM RUNNING 31 MILES on Saturday so could we just talk about that, please?"

31.06855961185 miles, to be exact.

I have butterflies leaping up my throat. 

It's not because I don't think I can do this. It's just five more miles than a marathon. I've finished a few of those.

My training went great this year -- 600 miles.

It will be all on trails, which makes my knees, ankles and heart happy.

The race should be nausea-free. Unlike the spring and fall marathons I've run, which usually ended up being hot or warm enough for me to barf (or want to barf), the temps *might* just reach freezing tomorrow. 

Underrated runner food, I swear.
I've also stopped taking any kind of running gel, shot blox, etc, which have actually made me throw up, and trained eating those little-kid pureed fruit squeezy pouches for kids four months and older, as well as raisins and pretzels. I am 5 years old again. And my stomach likes it.

And yet I'm nervous anyway. 

I will be running in the woods for 6-plus hours and I just hope it's kind of fun. 

Googling "butterflies in the stomach" resulted in explanations like "fight or flight" feelings. 

I think I'm just kind of nuts right now, moreso than usual.

I spent the week dealing with a little physical, uh, distress. There was a surprise urinary tract infection last week, digestive distress from the antibiotics to cure the UTI and the probiotics I took so the antibiotics would not result in a yeast infection.

I suddenly started to worry I would be really cold out there, so lucked out and found a bargain-price fleece-lined Nike running jacket at Nordstrom Rack (less than $40!).

I took cranberry pills and multi-vitamins to stay healthy, as my snuggly little 3-year-old daughter openly coughed in my face 50 times a day.

I studied the race course map 10 times a day.

I drank water obsessively. My desk at work, littered with empty and half-full water bottles, looks like I must be hungover a lot.

I felt guilty that I would probably not get home from the race tomorrow until like, 4 p.m., leaving my husband and kids basically for the day. Am I a selfish, bad mom? No, and maybe a little bit yes.

It will be all fine. By tomorrow night  these junky little feelings will have faded. I hope to be exhausted and happy.

Today, however, is another story... My co-workers are going to just have to listen to it today. Heh heh.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Texting, laughing and a little trail race report

First, the race report: 

Universal Sole's monthly trail race series, which is new to me, looked pretty awesome when a friend sent around a registration link to the November race. For $20 and free chili and beer, I said sure and signed up immediately. 

Later, I discovered that the race started at 10 a.m. As someone who habitually starts runs at 5 a.m., this was confounding to me! I made sure to buy the hub extra good beer to make up for my parenting absence...

Starting line looks weird in the woods!
A group of us crammed into our friend Krista's Toyota for the race yesterday and we headed to Swallow Cliff, about where some of did a challenging 25K last March, our first trail race. Fortunately, our race was on a dry November free of the mud and ice that made the March race, so, uh, special. And we laughed our heads off on the way down to the southwest burbs and back, making for a really fun time. Love my running buddies!

Maybe 200 people ran an out-and-back that measured 4.2 miles total by Strava, the app I use to track runs. It was short, mostly flat crushed gravel and just beautiful, the last fall colors and leaves clinging to the trees and shrubs. 

It was great to be with good friends, plus running into (and with) an old running mentor and former boot camp instructor. He gave me great advice back then, including the time years ago when I was nervous about running an 8K race when I'd never run more than 3 miles before: "if you can run three, you can run five!" he said. I didn't believe him at the time, but he was right!

It felt so lazy to "just" run that short of a distance after a few months of Saturdays with 18, 19, and 20-milers. But my ultramarathon is now just six days from today, so I took it easy and told myself to enjoy the short distance after high-mileage weeks.

4.2 miles, 43:24. :-) Just right.


Beyond running, this past week was fine, though with some challenges and disappointments that *could* have bummed me out... but...

As I rode the train home Friday night, I thumbed on my phone, as I habitually do.

I began rereading a bunch of separate text threads Friday between me and some girlfriends: running friend texts, old friend texts and newish friend texts. And OMG did they make me laugh.

Never underestimate the power of girlfriends! Some samples:

Old friend:
Me: I'm bummed about blah blah blah.
OF: You're awesome.
Me: More wah wah.
OF. Shut up.
Me: You shut up.
OF: Haha. I love you.
Me: You're a turd.
OF: You're a turd, too. And I could call you worse!
Me: Great, let's get lunch!

Newish, cheerful friend and occasional running partner who ran a marathon this weekend:
New, cheerful friend: How's your taper?
Me: Good. How's your taper?
NCF: Good! Just everything else is nuts as usual. Kids, work, etc.
Me: Nuts. Kids, work, etc.
NCF: Your race is so close!
Me: Your race is so close! And yes, this shit is starting to feel real! (My race is in a week, hers is this weekend)
NCF: Why do we have to worry about so much crap (work, kids, bills, etc) when we just want to waste time thinking about races?
Me: I love you. (I only think this, as I am from Nebraska and don't want to be too demonstrative, haha)
NCF: You're going to be great! You are so awesome!
Me: Damn your texts are making me all cheery!
NCF: That made me laugh! Let's go kick ass!

Awesome mama friend (not to be confused with New Cheerful Friend, who is also an awesome mama friend):
AMF: Are you going to _____ (event I don't want to go)
Me: I have to pay how much to go to that? And so-and-so is going to be there? BWAHAHAHAHA.
AMF: Agreed. I don't want to go either. We need a friendly spy in the room to report back.
Me: Let's send a drone.


Monday 11/3 Stretching, core and back exercises.
Tuesday 11/4 5.2 miles + voting -- Election day.
Wednesday 11/5 5.1 miles
Thursday 11/6 3.6 miles
Friday 11/7 Group Centergy class. 
Saturday 11/8 4.2-mile trail race at Swallow Cliff
Sunday 11/9 5.1 miles

Total weekly mileage: 23.1 miles
Total training miles: 595.1 miles