Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Revenge of the Foam Roller

The foam roller and I were seeing each other for awhile last summer.

Then we broke up.

I didn't miss the foam roller.

Dating a foam roller isn't all that exciting.

While you're dating, it's like, I guess the foam roller does something for me.

After you've been dating for awhile, you think you can do without the foam roller.

But he always shows you in the end.

A first date with a foam roller after you've been on a break is like asking for continuous charlie horses given at unbearable pressure.

The foam roller [almost] makes you scream and cry due to the shear amount of pain it brings to your over-exercised IT band.

Damn you, IT band.

And we thought we could live without the foam roller?

He showed us, didn't he?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Airport Encounter

Last Friday, I was waiting in terminal three's baggage claim at O'Hare airport. While scrolling through emails on my Blackberry, I overheard a man asking if he could borrow a baggage cart from American Airlines. The man said he was helping a group of wounded warriors that we just coming back home from overseas.

My heart stopped. I looked up to see a group of young men. Some had Army gear. All were on crutches, in a wheelchair, or had an arm in a sling.

The man who asked for the cart said hello and we began talking.

Soon thereafter, I was talking to a group of young men.

They were returning home. Some of them still had a bus ride head of them from the airport.

I never mentioned my brother being in the Army. I was too busy wondering how the group in front of me could be so upbeat. They were a true inspiration.

Their closing remarks to me were 'thank you,' essentially, just for taking a few minutes to b.s. with them.

I managed only to say 'No, thank you' before I felt tears coming on.

They smiled.

I smiled.

And we went our separate ways.

I'm taking this encounter as a sign that I should run raise money for Team Salute again this year while I train for the Marathon.

Salute is an Illinois-based charity that supports active military members, veterans, and their families.

Monday, March 14, 2011

3-Day Breast Cancer Walk

Five years ago, I wasn't a marathoner.

Or a half marathoner.

I didn't consider myself much of a distance runner.

But in 2006, my friend Katie and I participated in one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life - The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day.

Today I met with a woman who wants to do the walk this year. I happened to mention I was a past participant, and, that I thought the third day of the walk was harder than running a marathon.

She said I must be mistaken - a marathon must more difficult than a walk. Now don't get me wrong, a marathon is though. Everyone gets to a point where they don't think they have anything left to give physically, but that's where your mental toughness gets you through.

A few years ago, marathoner and Olympian Ryan Hall came to a CARA (Chicago Area Runner's Association) Saturday morning long run. He spoke with us for a few minutes before we set off. Ryan made a statement that day that took me back - it went something along the lines of this - 'It must be hard to be running for so long.' Hall has a handful of sub 2:08 marathons.

Most of us are just reaching the hard part of a marathon, or others are just nearing halfway, when he's finishing. By the time some of us were crossing the finish line, Hall's been stretched out, ate his recovery meal, showered, and is sleeping.

I know Ryan wasn't trying to be rude. He was trying to drive home the point that most of us are on our feet for a lot longer than he is during a marathon, which is why I see the 3-Day as being such a challenging event.

Our 3-Day wasn't composed of three, 20 mile days.

The first day, we were up before the sun came up. Walking on and off for ten hours. We walked a marathon. Once we reached camp, we pitched our tent, had some dinner and took a shower.

On day two, we repeated day one, for 22 miles. By the end of day two, my body ached and I was exhausted. But I wasn't done yet. We still had 12 miles to go. Day one was a warm day. Day two was an overcast day. Day three it rained - the entire day.

Day three was by far the toughest, but it was also the most rewarding. Throughout the walk, we were supported by volunteers and breast cancer survivors that continued to inspire us.

In the last few miles, my friend Bill met us with his parents. His mother had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. We stopped and spoke with them for a few minutes. If we hadn't been touched by the event yet, this encounter certainly did it.

It wasn't until I ran for Team Salute last year that I felt a true sense of purpose when running as I did on the 3-Day. The finishing line brings the cause home as all the participants unite. It is a rewarding experience which provides an amazing feeling of accomplishment when completed (not to mention all the fund raising!).

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Say No to Cotton Socks

Yesterday I did an easy 4 miler in the early afternoon. It was windy and cool, just as you'd expect at the beginning of March in Chicago.

Not many people were on the lakefront path, so I found myself paying particular attention to those who I did come across.

About a mile in to my run, I saw it. A runner in cotton tube socks.

The cut of the socks wasn't what caught my attention, it was the blend.

So I wondered, Who runs in cotton socks?

Someone who wants a blister.

There are all types of poly-blend socks on the market now that have Cool-Max or a similar technology in them which allows the sock to wick moisture away from the foot and in to the outer layer of the sock. They're light and breathable.

My favorite brand is Feetures. I like the arch support and reinforced toe box and heel. I've been using these socks exclusively for running in the last 7 years and I've never been disappointed.

I found a video on youtube which compares a cotton sock to a moisture wicking sock. Skip the first 1:15 to get to the comparison:

There might not be a lot of gear in running, but you need the right gear!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Long Runs in Winter

I'd planned to a 7 mile run early Saturday morning in preparation for Nashville, but a combination of wind, rain/snow and feeling a bit under the weather delayed the run until Sunday.

It had snowed Saturday afternoon, and then became rather cold.

Early Sunday morning, I heard my building's maintenance guy clearing the sidewalks and throwing down salt.

I waited few more hours for the temperatures to rise and set out around 10:30. There was very little wind and in the mid-30's.

Overall, I had a great run. Early in the run, it had crossed my mind how nice it is that I can count on sidewalks being cleared and salted within a few hours of snowfall. It's a benefit of living in the City - The City of Chicago can fine private residences $50 for not clearing their sidewalks. Businesses can be fined more.

As I ran south along Sheridan Road to the Lakefront Path, I hit a small section of uncleared sidewalk. It was in front of a City of Chicago Park District space, affectionately known only as Park #559. It's a new, small-ish park that sits between two high rises. For years, there was just a privacy fence around the lot, so I'm happy to see Park #559 with it's benches and lakefront view. I'm willing to overlook the City's miss on clearing the sidewalks.

This thought last for exactly one block. Until I hit Berger Park, and then, Lane Park, before reaching the cleared Lakefront Path. Every private residence and business had been cleared along the way, just not the Park's sidewalks.

I don't need real hazards. I create my own (like tripping over my own foot and spraining my ankle last year, two weeks before the marathon).

As I'm running along the Lakefront Path, I remember it's Sunday. Maybe with the City's budget crisis, they can't afford to pay someone on a Sunday to clear their park's sidewalks. It may be overtime pay, afterall.

I could have gone to a gym and avoided running in to the park's sidewalks. But who wants to do a 7 mile long run on a treadmill? Many do it, but not me.

This is the great challenge of training for a spring race and living in Chicago. The weather isn't all that cooperative. I've heard stories of runners being sprayed or knocked over by a wave along the Oak Street curve in the early spring. Which is far worse that the 100 meters of sidewalk I ran in to yesterday.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

8 Minute Abs

Remember the exercise video 8 Minute Abs?

Better yet, can you remember what workout wear looked like in the early '90's?

[Think spandex.]

If for nothing more than entertainment value, take a trip down memory lane and watch it:

After some talk of 8 minute abs by my uncle and cousins, I decided to check it out on youtube.

When the video was complete, I decided that there was no way I had done any quality work in 8 minutes, so I did it again. 16 minute abs.

The next day at work, I was surely sore. The 'program' (as the 8-minute abs guy in the unitard calls it) works or I have really weak abs. Maybe it's a little bit of both.

Since then, I've made a combination of 8 minute abs, followed by 8 minute arms, followed by a hard 15-20 minute ride on the bike trainer a stand-by, no-excuses at home work out.

And on days like today where I worked late and it's freezing outside, it's nice to know I can still do a little training.