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After years of sloth, I am now a mama who runs and practices yoga. I write about exercise; parenting a grownup child as well as two little kids; and whatever is annoying me at the moment.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The 606 and the Kal-Haven: Fun places to run

The theme here is cool running trails on old railroad lines.

Chicago's 606 trail: New trail
Recently I ran the new 606 trail in Chicago, a former freight railroad that runs through several old neighborhoods on the city's Near Northwest Side. (For non-Chicagoans, 606 is the prefix for our city's zip codes).

The history behind this trail is so interesting. After the Chicago fire in 1871, the City Council approved building the rail line (at grade level at the time) to spur development in the devastated city. Years later, after apparently too many incidents with trains and pedestrians, the line was elevated. 

In the 1990s, railroad service stopped and the Bloomingdale trail, as it was known, stood, with plants and trees growing. I'd heard that parts of it were runnable, though I never went over there. I've never been to the High Line in Brooklyn, but am told that the 606 is similar.

A few days after the June 6 opening (get it, it opened on 6-06), a couple of running buddies and I hit the trail for a 5 a.m. weekday run. Naturally, at that hour we had the trail to ourselves for the first part of our run. (Though we were glad to see a police officer patrolling it).

Opening day, on the western side of the trail. Photo courtesy of the 606.
The 2.7-mile trail is smoothly paved and has a very polished and unspoiled feeling. It's a little bit like the Crate and Barrel of trails. It's slightly rolling in parts, which was a nice little surprise, considering you don't expect of an old railroad bed. It was lined with young trees and shrubbery, though some of  the landscaping hadn't been done yet. 

We began our run near Kedzie and headed west through old, quiet neighborhoods and industrial buildings on the far western end. We then circled back east, eager for a water fountain on the warm morning. There are two, in the center part of the trail, rather close together. As we ran east, the neighborhood gets noticably more affluent, with more new construction and fancy rooftop patios.

The trail is getting some more improvements, including more landscaping and emergency call boxes.

Running something so cool in the middle of the city was a really cool gift. I hope to be able to run there once a week. 

Kal -Haven State Park trail: New to me!
We just spent a week in southwest Michigan, our third year of vacationing there. So fun.

Each time we've gone, we always plot out fun family stuff of course. But I always have to plot my runs, too, naturally. That is a normal part of vacation planning.

Right?

Kal-Haven is a lovely, mostly unpaved trail linking Kalamazoo and South Haven. The map I picked up at the South Haven trailhead stated the trail was 33 miles. Just a smidge more than 50K, hmmm. Looks like there's an ultra race there. Hmmm.

Covered bridge less than a mile onto the Kal-Haven

The trail runs pretty much due east from South Haven through lush forests, farmland and country roads. The morning I ran it, I could count on one hand the number of humans I encountered. The solitude was soothing.

And despite the ridiculous amount of rain the Midwest has received this spring, the trail was in great condition with very little mud.

Like the 606, the Kal-Haven is also built on an old railroad line. It runs through what used to be small towns, as you can see on this map.


I turned around near Kibbie, at the four mile mark. Kibbie is just a few homes and a church with a sign in front that says "Jesus matters above all." Back in the 1800s, it apparently had a pickle factory, a post office and store and was connected to the New York Central Telegraph network. I pictured an old-timey prospector, even though that made no sense.

I wished I'd had more time and energy to keep going. There are other "towns" and historic spots no longer along the route with fun history, like the peppermint farm that used to supply more than half of the world's,  mint oil for candy and medicines. There were at one point stockyards, lumber mills, hotels and dance halls.

The railroad operated for a century until 1970, and the trail opened in 1991. Such a great place. Definitely run, walk or bike it if you can.


I also checked out the 14-mile Van Buren trail running south out of South Haven. It's runnable, though well-suited for mountain bikes. Also pretty deserted, it runs south through a light industrial area, so at one point you'll be running alongside wild flowers and high piles of concrete blocks. It's also a nice run, though Kal-Haven is my favorite.

Note: I found a lot of the background info on these trails from the 606 web site and the Trust for Public Land, one of the entities behind the 606, and the Friends of the Kal-Haven Trail, both 501(c)3 organizations. Each welcomes donations.





Thursday, June 11, 2015

The forever dog... and cat...

Recently the family hit Kansas City for the weekend for a dear friend's wedding.

It worked out to be about a 10-hour car trip one-way with a 4 and 6-year-old, who we decided it was a good idea to take to a wedding.

We spent the evening at the reception asking each other, "Have you seen ______?" "Wait, I see one of them over there... you know, that blur over there..." "Do NOT touch that wedding cake. I said DON'T TOUCH."

It was maddening, but funny in hindsight. Kids at a wedding! Hilarious idea!

(And I kind of don't blame them on the cake thing. This thing was like a museum piece, as you can see to the left.)

On the way home, my Iowa-born husband was happy to learn that it was only three more minutes of travel time to drive home via Des Moines and I-80 than take the downstate Illinois route via Springfield, which has to be one of the more dreadful drives of all time. (I don't know how our Chicago state lawmakers make the five-hour trip on a regular basis without going utterly mad... maybe there's a correlation to the state's financial mess in there?)

One stop was near Iowa City, where my hub has a kind, sweet relation who lives on a farm.

My kids were in heaven. Doting family, farm cats, farm dogs, carefully preserved toys that may be older than I am... it was magnificent.

I forget which kid announced they liked farms better than Chicago.

Iowa was a hit. Funny to think I couldn't move away fast enough 20 years ago.

One of the dogs was a gorgeous Irish setter whose name begins with a T, something like "Trainer". (Forgive me, I can't concentrate on adult conversations these days and remember jack squat). Carolyn, one of my hub's lovely relatives, told us her "forever dog" story, as in, her daughter (or daughter-in-law? Again, it's hard to remember anything with these wonderful, maddening, wiggly, chatty kids around!!) found the dog and called her from out of state to let her know that she'd found her "forever dog."

I've been mulling the "forever" thing in my head since.

I loved the forever story (my forgetfulness on details aside). It's incredibly sweet and innocent -- and pretty rare -- that we can still find someone or something that we can love forever. We're pretty lucky when we do.

So I've been thinking about what things are forever. In a way, we crave forever, even though we know not much really is actually around forever. It's why we get married. When we have kids, we think of them being around forever (and hope and pray that never changes) -- and then we're surprised how how fast they grow and change.

When a phone call comes and you find out someone important might not be around forever, it's also a reminder to appreciate forever.

When I moved to Chicago in my late 20s, I made some very fun friends that I hung with into my 30s. In a few cases, things got weird. Definitely partly me, definitely partly them, but we parted ways.

But plenty of others are still fun friends that are still so great when I get to spend time with them.

Like my college roommate. We were 18 when we met. We talk twice a year, on her birthday and on mine.

This year, one of our topics of discussion has been how on earth we're turning 47 this year. Neither of us feels old enough (and neither of us looks it, if we're openly vain about it.)

She's still so awesome.

Knowing nothing is really "forever", I find myself attempting to focus on the spirit of forever, as in, the things that make life rich. Like, when something sucks, I find myself thinking, is this a "forever" thing I should care about?

Usually not.

Forever things -- amazing kids and husband. Great friends. My parents and sibs and extended family. Running. The fun parts of my profession that allow me to provide for my family. Wine. (yay, wine).

Oh, and this guy, my forever cat. (I still want a forever dog, though, too!)

Reckless the kitty


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fall race goals!

This fall, I'm trying something a little new. And I'm super pumped.

I signed up for a fall marathon, DPRT, on Oct. 17, and a 50K on Nov. 14, Palezoic 50K - Permian Fall.

I ran my first 50K at Paleozoic last fall, and excited to do it again. It's such a great race with great people.

Both are trail races, which are much kinder to knees and hips.

Best part -- some wonderful friends have signed up for at least one of the races, and one of my running besties is doing both races, too -- her first 50K!

I typically have done a big fall race, but only one. So we put together our best guess at a training plan to cover both races. OK, my triathlete friend did -- note the swimming I will mostly like ignore, haha.


Week of…
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
6/15-21
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
8
3/bike
6/22-28
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
10
4/bike
6/29-7/5
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
12
4/bike
7/6-7/12
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
10
5/bike
7/13-7/19
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
12
5/bike
7/20-7/26
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
14
5/bike
7/27-8/2
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
10
6/bike
8/3-8/9
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
12
6/bike
8/10-8/16
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
14
6/bike
8/17-8/23
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
16
6/bike
8/24-8/30
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
18
6/bike
8/31-9/6
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
20
6/bike
9/7-9/13
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
16
8/bike
9/14-9/20
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
20
8/bike
9/21-9/27
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
16
Apple cider century
9/28-10/4
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
20
12
10/5-10/11
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
8
8
10/12-10/18
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
Marathon
rest
10/19-10/25
rest
rest
5
5
Yoga
13
8
10/26-11/1
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
12
12
11/2-11/8
Swim
5
8
5
Yoga
8
4
11/9-11/15
Swim
5
5
Yoga
Yoga
RACE
Party


I think every training plan should have "party" at the end!