Monday, September 30, 2013

70 Miles To Go

Last Saturday, Jeff and I ran together in the last few miles of our 12 mile run.

This past weekend was the first weekend of our taper period before the Chicago Marathon.

We're enjoying the taper with some nerves as this will be first of two taper periods - We'll run the Marine Corps Marathon in DC two weeks after the Chicago Marathon.

We kept conversation going as we were both a bit sluggish and sore from a 20 mile run the weekend before.

One memorable conversation went like this -

Jeff: "From what I can figure, we only have about 70 miles to go."

Me: "70?"

Jeff: "Yeah, Chicago and Marine Corps are 52, 8 next weekend, 8 the weekend in between, then a four miler somewhere in there."

Me: "Sounds about right. The scary thing is we're doing this all in the next 28 days."

Jeff: "Yeah, but it's going to be fun."

Yes, Jeff. Yes it is.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bus Driver Cherio

Variety is the spice of life, and so, I create variety with how I travel to work.

My routine changes in waves, though I don't particularly relate it to traffic, the Cubs home game schedule or preference. 

When I feel like being an outgoing commuter, I ride my bike. Seriously, how cool is it that I can do that? Surprisingly, I can do it in about the same amount of time it takes people to drive the same route. I get exercise, didn't use gas and feel like a bad ass. 

Then there's the train. The train is solid. It also smells like piss sometimes. Though I appreciate the train for what it is, I think I've worked through any nostoglic connection to it after I hit a million rides on it. 

Finally, there's the bus. More specially, the 147 on weekday evenings. I routinely pick up the bus off of Michigan Avenue within a 20 minute window. More often than seems possible, I end up with a bus driver I'll just call Cherio.

He is awfully happy to be driving a bus which is a pleasant surprise. He takes his role seriously and acts as a cruise director while navigating the bus back up north. He uses the intercom system on the bus to provide traffic updates ("the drive looks like a mess. Get comfotable!"), call out stops (even though the CTA voice has been taking care of that function for 15 years) and gives rider reminders ("make sure you're not leaving anything on the bus!").

The last comment should go without saying, right? Who leaves stuff on the bus? Well, last week, that person was me. I left my backpack on the 147 bus. It had a variety of items in it including my running shoes. 

In what I can only call a stroke of luck or good karma, I was reunited with my backpack the next day. Not one item was missing from it. 

So Mr. Cherio Bus Driver, keep on with your announcements. You know better than I what we need on the commute home. Thank you for reaffirming that there are still good people out in the world. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Morning After [the 20 miler]

Sunday was CARA's Ready to Run 20 miler.

It was around the 10th or so time I've done a 20 mile training run over the last six years.

The run went well overall. The weather was reasonably cool with periods of cloud cover. Jeff and I maintained pace with our group through 15, then slightly behind them through the finish. All and all, it's a 20 miler I'll call a success. If it was a race, we might say I PR'd the 20 miler.

For the most part, I feel like someone should feel after a 20 - sore and stiff but with a sense of accomplishment. 

Going down stairs was a slower process than normal on Monday morning, but not as bad as years past. 

I took notice of curbs as I navigated public transit that first morning, but I did not feel they were getting the better of me with their uneven ways. 

I stopped at an Argo Tea in the loop before a meeting Monday morning. I placed my order and then looked over a wide selection of loose leaf tea while others picked up their orders. I looked out the window for a moment, then thought it would be nice to sit.

That's when I saw this:

Just when I'd thought I was managing pretty well the morning after the 20 miler, reality slaps me in the face with an available, yet not attainable chair hovering a foot off the ground.

Though I imagine they wouldn't be so easy to get in and out of on a regular day, either.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Athleta Love

One August evening a few summers ago, I sat in my Aunt's kitchen drinking wine and catching up on life. As we sat around her table, I thumbed through a catalog called Athleta. In it I found a swimsuit I thought was cute (a rarity for any woman - the wine must have helped) and ordered it without thinking twice about it. By the time we came back from our trip, my swimsuit had arrived. It fit so well that I ordered a second. 

This Athleta catalog was pretty amazing.

A few years later, I received an email from Gap Corporation (I heart Banana Republic) saying they had recently acquired Athleta. Not only could I now get points on Athleta purchases, but they were building brick and mortar stores.

A short while later, an Athleta store opened on Southport. I can't say there's one item I've purchased that I've been disappointed in. With their 'give it a workout' guarantee, it's impossible to go wrong. So instead of shopping for the next trendy shoes, I'm focused on varying lengths of Lycra with CoolMax technology -

For the runner:

And the part-time yogi:


...and I don't seem to be the only one. Sara and Jen have Athleta Love, too.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pre Race Hydration [Drinking 3]

A few Mondays ago, I was in a series of meetings that ate up most of my day. The highlight of the morning was when I received a text from Brian, with this image:

My mind immediately went to where his was when he sent it - drinking three. 

Though Brian lives in New York now, we still seem to be on the same page with our pre-race ritual: Drink three alcoholic drinks the night before a race and get a PR. 

The Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon (which is an amazing race) is talking about proper hydration - water, Gatorade, maybe some Nuuns. 

We're thinking of three craft beers. Or when running Napa to Sonoma last year, maybe a few bottles of wine followed by a very late night supermarket trip for Gatorade and snacks. 

It's all relative, right?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Costco Portion of Gatorade

What American doesn't love Costco?

Costco symbolizes some values that are true to the American core: large consumable portions, competitive prices, strategic marketing (yes, you came in for peanut butter but you may buy that smart TV, too) and fair company values that allow their employees to earn an above board living wage. 

You know what you rarely see at Costco? Someone walking out of the store without a cart. Why? Because if you buy more than two things, the sheer volume or weight of the goods prohibits you from carrying it out on your own will. 

It seems fitting then that Costco would be the home to this bad boy:

Make no mistake about it, that's 4 pounds of Lemon Lime flavored Gatorade Endurance formula in powdered form.

On a solo trip to Costco (which is a rarity), Dave came back with this monster sighting that it was a good purchase based on the amount of Gatorade I'd drink in the next year. Though I appreciated the thought, I didn't see how I could go through that much in three years. I drink Gatorade, but not that much (or so I thought).

The purchase was timely as I was packing up for Ragnar Relay. I opened up the vacuum sealed container, put some into a Tupperware container and packed it in my bag. 

Fifteen months later, the container is just about empty. I'll have to say that Dave made a good call buying Gatorade in bulk, even if we have found ways to use it that were not just for training. 

Fighting a cold? Hung over? Need a work pick me up? Your answer is Gatorade. 

And truthfully, why shouldn't it be?

So thank you, Costco. You knew just what we needed.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pushing Through

Long runs can take a long time. I like to think of them as journeys.

You can experience a variety of emotion, physical challenge and weather all on the same long run. 

September 7th's 18 miler was just that.

After a tune-up massage on Thursday night,  I foam rolled and crossed my fingers that my sore hip and quad would cooperate during Saturday morning's group training run.

That morning, I met Jeff and Carl, along with many others fellow marathoners-in-training, down at the Montrose site.

The weather was cooler than expected for what would be a hot day. Even still, it was humid.

The run started off ok. As we pulled into the first aid station at Diversey, I started to experience the lightheaded symptoms I had two weeks ago. I wonder where this is coming from. I've managed to train for five marathons and never have this.

I didn't want to give up 2.5 miles in to an 18 mile run, but at the same time, I didn't want to push too hard and pass out either. I decided to slow down the pace a bit and stay in the back of the group where I could trail off if needed.

I let Jeff know I wasn't feeling 100% and encouraged him to go on at the front of the group without me. He checked in with Carl, our group leader, and then came back to me. He said not to worry about it, he would run with me.

I have known Jeff since the summer of 2008 when I trained for my first marathon. With the exception of one year, he's been there with our group each year. Last year, Jeff and I ran the entire Chicago Marathon course together. Talk about stars aligning! This year, Jeff's training is going quite well. He seems stronger this year than in any other year I've known him. He could have easily continued with Carl at the front of the group, leading the way down to McCormick Place and back. Instead, he came to hang back with me. What a great friend!

We chased our group from a distance down to the turn around, then headed back north. Some miles I felt better (physically or mentally), others worse. The clouds parted to sun, back to clouds, to rain, to overcast again.

We talked about anything we could think of. Any topic could fly except to talk about running.

In the end, we finished where we started. 18 miles was complete.

A McDonald's fountain coke was purchased on the way home followed by a check mark placed next to the date where 18 miles was written.
The run wasn't pretty, but it was done.

[Thanks, Jeff]

Thursday, September 12, 2013


After a few hiccups, I started blogging on a regular basis in 2010.

The idea for the blog came out of a question I'm asked from time to time, "How's training going?" To which I reply, "It's going well." or some other one line or two line statement to summarize weeks and months into a schedule.

Depending on the person, we may get into a deeper discussion on training. Especially if the person is a distance runner, marathoner or Ironman. 

As I started creating posts a few years ago, I thought my Mom would be the only person to read them.

Thanks to sites like Chicago Running Bloggers, Facebook and Networked Blogs, my little training blog is being shared (and now, more people than just my Mom are reading).

Earlier this week the view counter hit 10,000.

So, thank you to all of you that are reading. I know many of you personally and others just through blogging communities. Thanks for taking a a few minutes out of your day a few times a week. I hope from time to time, my training journey can make you laugh and smile.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Running and Remembering

I left my place around 5am this morning to go on a run. It's a practice I've grown accustomed to over the last six years.

As I headed south, the city was dark and quiet. There was a nice breeze which I welcomed after a few days heat and humidity.

It wasn't until I turned around just south of the golf course that I saw the sun break the horizon. I chugged along until the path brought me closer to the shoreline. That's when I came face to face with the sunrise. It was a magnificent display of rays through a low hanging cloud. As I marveled in the beauty of the sunrise, I remembered that today is September 11th.

I paused for a moment to gather my thoughts, then continued on the route home.  How could I have started today not realizing what the date was?

It brought me back to where I was then. I was a senior in college, finishing my last semester at Illinois State. I had the TV on and was getting ready for work. Back then, I worked on Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings for the Illinois State Representative of the area. Truthfully, I don't know that my 21 year old mind could even process what I saw. I'd never been to New York or knew much about the World Trade Center, but in the next few days, I would learn a lot.

I drove to work just to find out that the office would be closed that day. Illinois State emailed it's students later that morning saying the university would be closed. I was near the gym I belonged to, so I headed there. I got on the treadmill and started in on a mile or two run. As I watched news coverage on surrounding TVs, it started to sink in.

It was standing on that treadmill that I started to think of how the world could change. One of my first thoughts was for my brother, then in basic training with the US Army in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. Would my brother's dreams of traveling to Europe as my Grandfather had during WWII still happen? Would he be sent somewhere as soon as he graduated from basic? What if we do go to war. Will the government re-institute the draft? Could I be drafted?

I headed back home and met up with my friend Mary Beth on the quad. Illinois State held a remembrance service which we had learned of through word of mouth. As we walked up to the quad, my phone rang. My uncle had been on business in Springfield. Springfield was, in essence, shut down. At the same time, people were fleeing the city, which is where he needed to head to get home. We met up for lunch and he killed some time before heading back.

That evening, after watching nearly a solid day of news, I needed to get out of the apartment. I headed back to the gym. Going to the gym twice in a day is not something I did back then (or do now, really). My mind was racing. What was going to happen now?

Last fall, I went to New York for the first time. My Mom and I visited many sights, including the 9/11 Memorial. During that visit, I took a few photos, including this one:

This morning, I took the few miles I had on the route back to reflect on a few things. To remember what happened. Honor those who are no longer with us because of this day. To thank those who have been sent to conflicts within and outside our borders in the name of terrorism and Homeland Security. Before I knew it, I was at my front door.

12 years is a long time, though sometimes it seems like yesterday.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SOSing the Massage Therapist

There comes a point in training where things that were once way down on the to-do list go right to the top.

Case in point last week - A desperate need for a massage. 

I'd run four miles on Tuesday morning with the same dull ache in my hip I've had for a few weeks. Weather was cool with low humidity. I felt pretty good. 

On Wednesday, I went out to run five at lunch. About two miles in, the run turned into a run/walk. Then with breaks to stretch. My right quad and IT were getting tight. 

I stretched as best as I could and rested that evening, hoping the phantom pain would disappear. 

Thursday morning the exact opposite thing happened. The muscle tightness caused me to reach for my phone and text my massage therapist at 6am. In an act of true desperation, I hoped that he had some time to fit me in that evening. 

Luckily, he did.

That evening, he checked my alignment and discovered something was off. My left hip was higher than my right and in turn, made my left leg shorter. This is not something he had ever noticed before, including when I was in to see him five weeks ago. 

After an hour of stretching and massage, I was sore but hopeful. I have to remind myself this is the hardest period of training. These things happen. But how did this happen? Did I push myself too hard in yoga? Am I sitting in a bad position at my desk? I'm searching for an answer. 

In the meantime, I've traded my desk chair in for an oversized exercise ball and rekindled my romance with the foam roller.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Tale of Endurance Runner Food Cravings

There's a running joke in my family about my Dad (Mike). When he becomes hungry - there's no negotiation - he just has to As my brother and I have become adults, we have slowly taken on this trait.

Now imagine that on speed and you have August and September of marathon training.

I've heard the peak of endurance athlete training compared to that of a pregnant woman. I don't know if I'd go that far, but there are out-of-the blue cravings. For example, this morning, I left my place shortly after 5am to run 9 miles. About halfway in to my run, I started thinking about Flavor-ice. Cherry Flavor-ice. Luckily there was one waiting for me in the freezer when I got home around 7am.

Who eats Flavor-ice at 7am?

Probably the same type of person who calls her intention in yoga to a Jimmy John's Beach Club. Yeah, it's happened.

On a Saturday morning long run, the group's conversation often goes to what we'll have for brunch. Some people have elaborate plans post run. My most common response is a large fountain Coke from McDonald's. It's probably the last thing on earth I should have post run. Truth be told, when I do go through the motion of purchasing just one large Coke in the McDonald's drive thru early on a Saturday, I can't finish it. But during the run, my craving was so incredibly strong that I just had to follow through to appease my inner Mike.

One year, I've craved the Hombre Burger from Revolution Brewing.  Needless to say we traveled at a lot to Logan Square that summer.

Another summer, I wrote a story about the perfect sandwich I ate post run from Whole Foods. 

Today I may have hit rock bottom. By a weird stroke of luck, a skid (yes, it was delivered to a loading dock) of Hostess Donettes arrived at work today. Each employee was given a few bags to take home. By the end of the day, I was light one bag.

Who eats 1100 calories in Hostess Donettes? This girl. I'll blame it on the distance running.