Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rats! [Part 2]

Life was good in late November. The Thanksgiving holiday added a few extra days onto the weekend. The rodents were gone going on ten days now. My plan of attack of Critter Ridder & Moth Balls had worked.

All was good until that Sunday morning.  Earlier in the morning, I had run some errands. I came back to shower and prepare to meet some friends for brunch. We walked out to my car around 11.

I started up the car as Nick put some items in the trunk. Then I heard and felt a thud from the front of the car. Puzzled, I looked in my rear view mirror where I could see Nick's face. Nick had a look of shock on his face. He then yelled for me. I rolled down the window so I could hear him. "It was a rat, this big..." he said, distancing the palms of his hands more than a foot apart.

I screamed and then turned off the car. We stood at the hood of the car and discussed what to do. We needed to open the hood. We knew that's what we need to do, but didn't know what to expect once we opened it. I grabbed two pair of gloves, a Jewel bag, a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner (to clean up or stun a rat, potentially) and a stick.

We regrouped at the car and planned our strategy. I popped the hood and then chickened out. I looked to Nick to unlatch the hood and open it. As he opened the hood, we saw something similar to what we'd seen online -

A rat was trying to make it's forever home in my car. Again.

We cleared the nest the rat had created from the hood liner of my car to see damage (once again) to my engine wires.

Luckily, we had caught the rat in the act and scared it away before it caused any serious damage. As we continued to assess the damage, I began crying. Why does this happen? Why was this happening to my car?

More internet research followed. We now knew what we could only guess before - the culprit was, in fact, a rat. We had thought it was a rat from seeing them in my alley, but others had suggested a squirrel or mouse could be responsible.

I read up on rats nesting habits and it sounded like I was in trouble. Until the rat(s) who found comfort under my hood died, they were likely to come back to my car, again and again. Like other animals, rats leave their scent where ever they go, and so, my car had been marked.

I started parking my car out on a the street and few blocks away from my condo (and hopefully out of range of the rats who lived in my alley).

I went back to Home Depot and purchased two more rodent deterrent products - amonia and Repels-All. Repels-All main ingredient is '"animal blood" and man, does it stink. This seemed like a reasonable thing to buy as a few friends had suggested other animal liquids to keep the rats away.

Not throughly convinced my new rodent deterrent products would work with zero error, I decided to keep parking my car on the street, rotating it's location each day.

I called 311 again. I emailed 311. I asked all my neighbors to email 311. I emailed my alderman. I couldn't help but tell everyone about the rat who was eating my car.

I waited and hoped someone, anyone could help.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Rats! [Part 1]

Normally, I write about running, training or yoga.

Lately, my focus has changed over to the official animal of the City of Chicago and everyone's enemy, the rat.

Why would I talk about rats? Rats are gross.


A few weeks ago, I was driving my relatively-new, barely-driven car. I noticed it was running rough. I dismissed the hard idle to the cold temperatures that morning. Later that day, I drove my car to yoga. That's when my check engine light went on and the car's issues became more pronounced.

I called roadside and had the car towed to a nearby dealership. Puzzled, I called my Dad and told him what was going on. He thought the car's on-board computer might be on the fritz.

The next day, the service department called me with an update on my car. "The good news is, we know what's wrong with your car." The service man said. "The bad news is, it's not covered under warranty."

The service man then went on to explain that some sort of rodent - a squirrel, mouse or rat, had chewed through three of the four fuel injector lines. It could be fixed, but parts and labor would be $400. I authorized him to perform the work.

Shortly after, I began googling rodents in car engine and saw images like this -

What the....? This happens to people? Why are they choosing my car? What can I do to prevent it?

I continue reading sites and ask my Facebook friends for advice.

On the day that I picked my car up from the dealership, I immediately head to Home Depot. I talk to an employee who refers me to the rodent control section of the store. I purchase moth balls and Critter Ridder.

I drive home and park in my parking space and grab a pair of surgical gloves from the kitchen.

I distribute the Critter Ridder power along the parameter of my parking spot, creating a first line of defense.

I then cut down an old box and use duct tape construction for a moth ball tray to slide underneath my car.

Satisfied with my Google education and Home Depot purchases, I begin to feel more at ease knowing I've taken measures to prevent future attacks.

Even if my car now smelled like moth balls and pepper.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gone Country

Let's go back to Christmas Day, 1992.

My brother and I sat next to the tree in my parent's house, anxiously opening presents. 

I was 13 and had recently purchased the home's RCA all-in-one sound system with CD player.

As we pulled wrapped gifts out from under the tree, it was easy to decipher CD boxes' tall and thin shape. 

One such gift was addressed to my brother. 

I looked on as he opened it. I hadn't known my brother to be into music, at least, not like I thought I was. He smiled and cheered when he unwrapped the box. 

He received Garth Brooks, The Chase -

"Country? Really? He likes country? Who listens to that? We don't live in Oklahoma. We live in Chicago...kinda." I thought. It turns out that Dan had been exposed to Garth and other country artists during time at a friend's house. 

In a one CD player household, compromises needed to be made to after school's hip-hop party and allow for a few tracks from Garth.

Little did I know that my brother's love of country was beginning to rub off on me.

In high school, I would meet two friends, one being my best friend to this day, who listened to country. In between breaks from long playlists of Dave Matthews, B96 mix masters, BoyzIIMen and the like, a few country songs stuck. Enough of them that when Garth released his first "Best of" album in the late '90's, I knew just about every song.

College exposed me to a world of music. Pink Floyd played in studio art classes. Puff Daddy played at house parties. Dave Matthews played as I worked late night in the graphic design lab. Moby played in my apartment. Musically I was all over the place. All but country.

I thought I had all but kicked country to the curb until 2003. Until one day, I received a hand-written letter from somewhere in Iraq. In the letter was a request, "Please send some music. Stuff you listen to and some country, like Toby Keith." 

Toby Keith? Who is that? Well, whoever he was, I was about to find out. I went to Best Buy and bought all the Toby Keith I could find along with a spindle of CD-R's. I spent the next few days copying CDs and putting them in sleeves with handwritten track listings. My boyfriend at the time donated an old discman he had laying around. We bought a brick of AA batteries at IKEA and we created a musical care package. Next stop, Iraq.

That first deployment was a tough one. He couldn't call much. No internet. Mainly we talked through letters. I wrote him a letter every day of that deployment. In many of the exchanges we talked about music. Toby was a big hit with his group.

Toby found his way into my car along with Garth and a few others. A year later, I subscribed to Sirius - any music I wanted commercial free. Over the years since, I've enjoyed jumping from the '80s station to the '90s. From progressive house to chill out and today's hits to country.

I started running while in college. I trained for my first 5K two years out of college and progressed in distance from there. Country has never made it in a run playlist of mine. However, I've run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville twice and enjoyed country coming at me from all sides.

But the last four months have been unofficially the summer and fall of not running (or hardly running in comparison to other years). And in this not-running time, I've found myself from time to time enjoying some slower, laid back music from today's country artists.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Choosing a Side of the Fence [Part 2]

Two summers ago, I wrote a post about Choosing a Side of the Fence.

It stemmed from a discussion I'd had about my future in marathoning. Back in early 2012, I'd debated registering for Chicago again. I'd completed four marathons. Did I need to do another?

At the finish line later that year, I was sure happy I had. To date, the 2012 Chicago Marathon remains my standing PR. Mother Nature provided ideal race conditions that day allowing for Jeff and I to knock 12 and 20 minutes off our standing PR's.

This year I was in for a change.

Late spring I was hopeful that after a few weeks in the PT clinic, I would be able to jump back into training. But as weeks turned into months, I had to come to the realization that a marathon wasn't in the cards for 2014.

That's when frustration really started to set in. So much so, that a few weeks ago I had a complete melt down in the PT clinic.

So for the first time in many years, I found myself on the opposite side of the fence on Sunday. Instead of being a participant, I was a spectator.

I thought about that scenario in the weeks leading up to the race. How would I react to not running the race? Would I be sad? Relieved? Even more frustrated?

As race day approached, I found I was in better spirits than I expected. I was looking forward to watching Jeff and some other friends. I hoped that I could replicate my Mom's to-the-minute spectator guide and see my friends at various points through the city.

Friday night, instead of carb loading, I made Jeff a sign -

It was fitting since Jeff and Ann had turned me on to Untappd while we were in California. I enjoyed creating a handmade sign. It made me remember the last time I'd taken the time to draw a sign by hand - my brother's homecoming from Afghanistan.

It was after the sign was complete that I started to become excited about watching the race. I couldn't wait to put on an old pair of running shoes, grab my Ventra card and hit the streets with the Untappd sign.

When Sunday morning came, we did just that.

Seeing Jeff for the first time on Addison was a rush. It's funny to say that as a spectator. While Jeff ran the race course, we tried to hop trains down to see him through downtown. Jeff was moving at a good clip and we missed him around the 12 mile mark. We then headed down to the south side.

Somewhere in between the miles through Little Italy or Pilsen, a marathoner's best laid plans can unravel. We waited just past the 21 mile marker on Archer for awhile, carefully scanning the crowd for red shirts. Then we saw him.

I could tell by the look on his face that he was happy to see us but also that he was in the toughest part of the race. The wall. But he had a goal and was determined. There was no doubting that. As the body begins to give up in the marathon, it's your mind that keeps one foot in front of the other. But you don't have to tell that to someone who's running marathon 10. Instead, you jump in with a few jokes. A story from earlier in the day. Or just to be by their side for a few blocks. Saying nothing. Saying nothing and wondering if he was listening to "Call Me Maybe" yet.

After I ran over to the side to get out of the race path, I watched him chug along down Wentworth. He looked strong. He was going to do it. He was going to smash his PR. Now it was just a question of by how much.

As I headed on the red line back to the north side, I received a text alert. Jeff had finished. Not only had he finished, but he had absolutely crushed his previous PR.

I smiled as I read the alert again.

Being on this side of the fence is pretty awesome too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Things We've Learned About Running Shoes

This afternoon, while I was icing in the physical therapy clinic, I read an article about buying running shoes at a specialty running shoe store.

The article came from a tried-and-true mega-source for runners everywhere, Runner's World.

I smiled reading the story (as I'm sure most experienced runners will), remembering the my humble beginnings of running. Truthfully, I think most of us start out that way.

You all know what I'm talking about.

That first pair of "running" shoes you had.

Maybe it was the Reebok Pump. The Adidas Samba? How about Nike Shoxs or Frees?

It's ok, we all did it.

We all took our fifty or seventy bucks and went to a suburban big box store and purchased the "best" running shoe we could find.

And we rocked that shit.

We wore them to school/work, out on the town, walking AND running. They were just that good.

So it was to our surprise, of course, when the best running shoes failed us.

Our feet hurt. Our arches throbbed. Shin splints.

Our shoes were badass, so they couldn't be the problem.

Our problem, we so decided in our weeks of running experience, is that we were not built to be a runner.

So we quit running.

Sound familiar?

If I hadn't just had the specialty running shoe store conversation with my Mom over the weekend, I may have not been so quick to find a relatable tie to the blog. My Mom explained she's been to several stores trying to find the right pair of comfortable every day walking shoes. She isn't looking to be stylish. She just wants her feet to not hurt. She's visited a short list of places - DSW, Kohl's, Dick's Sporting Goods. None of which have produced anything close to what she wants or needs. She's frustrated. She's frustrated and her feet hurt.

After hearing the route she's taken so far, I recommended that she visit a speciality running store. (You know, the ones that we all shop at now. Now that we've learned.)

I'm sure the staff can hear her concerns, weigh and test shoe options and send her home with a shoe that won't hurt.

Monday, October 06, 2014


I'll keep this one short.

Honestly, who wants to read about my running blog?

Apparently, many more people than I thought.

More people than just my Mom (which was my original and only reader).

Over time, my lonely running blog has found a community.

Not just in Chicago, but abroad.

I never in a million years thought such a wide spread of people would follow my words.

So in a short burst of it - Thank you.

Thank you for continuing to read.

You make me want to keep on.

For making one visit ten to twenty through the years.

For making this more than about my day to day.

Doesn't it have to be?

Friday, September 05, 2014


Isn't it incredible that at any given time, we could be on the verge of a breakthrough?

A new solution. A better route. A goal.

For the last 12 weeks, I've been waiting for mine. 

Progress has been slow and in stages at the physical therapy clinic. 

Step one, determine the issue. Trickier than it sounds, surprisingly. The underlying issue was I'd torn my piriformis muscle. Do you know where that is and what it does?

I was cautioned from the beginning that recovery would be slow with this type of injury. The sort of caution which prepared me for what was the envitible - I would most likely not be running a marathon in October. 

The road to recovery has been slow and sometimes at a standstill. I wondered - Are the whimpy exercises, heat and ice doing anything week in and week out? I needed something, some sort of sign, to show progress. 

At first, there wasn't much progress to be had (or so it seemed). I couldn't run. I couldn't do yoga. Sitting hurt. I was taking pain killers to sleep. 

But looking back now, over the last three months, I know we were on the right track. My pain level decreased and has nearly disappeared. I graduated through levels of exercises in the PT clinic. After a month of doing nothing, I was cleared to go back to yoga. Just a few weeks ago, I started running again. 

This last week though has been by far my breakthrough week. I've ran twice (at a rather slow pace) for 30 minutes without pain. Wednesday night, I attended two yoga classes at The Lab where I made huge gains in a few poses, including a start to balancing in handstand without the wall. 


They're amazing.

We all need to feel and see them. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Newer, Faster Jeff

Most days, I'm an optimist. 

The glass is half full.

What will be will be.

Everything happens for a reason. 

But when a dark cloud is cast over your training program early in the season, it's a fight to stay positive. 

The ever-so-dark injury cloud. 

For the number of times I've fallen, sprained my ankle or worse, I guess I should have known I was bound to have to throw in the towel for a big race at least once. As luck would have it, that happened to be this year.

Not running IS weird. 

Though I find I miss running a bit in general, I miss running with my running partner more.

Jeff and I meet, rather religiously, at Montrose Harbor shortly after 6am each Saturday morning between June and October to run side by side for six to twenty miles. We have done this for the last few years. We moved up a pace group two summers ago. After our PR success, we talked about getting quicker to make another pace group move this summer. 

Unfortunately, when the time came, Jeff had to make that decision on his own. 

But there is a silver lining in every cloud. Even the injury cloud. 

Jeff has moved up not one, but two pace groups. He's running a full minute per mile faster than he was this time last year. During the week, he is meeting up with another friend to do speed work. In addition, he's following his wife's advice and doing the proper physical therapy strengthening exercises. 

2014 is going to be Jeff's big, massive, PR year. 

I can't wait to cheer him on, followed by a celebration of his marathon retirement complete with craft beers.

One Decision

Oh, decisions. We make them every day.

Most are not memorable. But some have a lasting effect on your life. 

Last night I got to thinking about one decision I made in 2008. 

That one decision was the first step in a journey of millions of steps down a new path. 

That decision was to join CARA's marathon training program. 

Deciding to register for a marathon is a decision very few make, To train for a marathon is a monumental decision that prepares you to stand at the start line on race day. 

Looking back, I supose I could have trained on my own. Maybe I would have succeeded. But in the end, even after my achievement, I wouldn't have something - a whole new group of friends. 

I was 27 that summer. I had friends from childhood, family, grade school, high school and college.  If someone were to ask me that summer if I planned on becomng close with my training group, I likely would have said no. Maybe I would small talk with a person or two, like some of my recent grad school courses. But to meet people who would become my good friends? I didn't see it then. 

But maybe that's why it's so special now. 

Fast forward six years later. 

That summer, I made some great friendships. And the next summer, I made a few more. 

These friends aren't just people I run with. 

We brunch. We meet up for drinks. We barbeque. We talk about running (when we aren't running, of course). We make dinner and Netflix dates. We talk each other into running desitination races. We then travel with each other to said race destination. We console each other when one of us goes through a break up. We celebrate another's engagement. We are regulars at each other's birthday parties. We attend each other's weddings.

True friends. 

One decision paved the way. 

Pretty incredible, isn't it?

Friday, August 01, 2014

Festival Survival Guide

In the spirit of Lollapalooza weekend, I'm going to take a break from the normal topics of running and yoga and instead talk about another subject I know a lot about - music festivals.

Over the years, I've been to a lot of the big ones and some smaller, local ones too.

In the end, regardless of location or climate, I pack the same items in my festival bag each time (and shared this information with some co-worker festival newbies who are venturing off to Lolla today):

A small drawstring bag or backpack The lighter, the better - you'll be wearing it most of the day. You'll need to pack some stuff in it, but nothing you care too much about.

A water bottle (if allowed) Check the event's website to see if it needs to be factory sealed or empty. Water is expensive in festivals. Refilling water saves more money for beer.

ID, Cash and one credit card  Ditch the wallet and put these items into a zip top ziplock bag. Less weight and easy to see. Take a credit card over your debit card. That way, you have some protections if you lose the credit card.

One Key Hotel key card, car key, house key...whatever it may be. Think only of the process to get "home" for the night. You don't need to bring your entire keyring. It's heavy and you could lose it. It's not like you're not going to be stopping off at work or going to your storage locker after the festival. Put it in the ziplock bag with your ID.

• Cell Phone, Pocket Charger & Cord Put them into a small zip lock bag. Leave for the festival having your phone fully charged. Pull your phone out of your bag sparingly -You are at a music festival with a bunch of your friends. Very few things are cooler than that. Work and Facebook can wait. Plus, the less you pull it out of your bag, the less likely you are to lose it. If you've kept to this rule, your phone won't be dead at the end of the night. But just in case you couldn't resist filling your IG feed with cool festival photos, you've come prepared with a pocket charger and cord. Set your phone up to charge inside your bag.

• FOR THE LADIES: Small flashlight, TP and hand sanitizer Put these items in a small, zip top ziploc bag. Festivals are fun places. They also have extremely disgusting porta-potties. As the day carries on into the night, the ports-potties will run out of toilet paper. Don't be that girl begging for TP in the bathroom line. Show up prepared. The small flashlight will be your savior to survey the ports-potties condition before stepping foot into it. Don't use your phone for this. Keep it in your bag where it can't end up on the floor or in the port-potty. Don't lose your phone to the port-potty. That would be no fun.

Cheap Sunglasses Preferably purchased at a gas station or the like, you have zero attachment to this pair of shades. So when they fall of your head or you somehow crush them in your bag, you're not going to care. However, they do provide protection from the sun and cost $250 less than your pair that's safely at home.

A travel sized portion of sunscreen lotion Some festivals ban the aerosol sunscreens, so bring lotion. Cover yourself in it before you leave for the festival, then a small travel sized portion to go will be perfect. You'll need just enough for one or two more applications before the sun will go down for the evening.

Garbage Bag or sheet of plastic This can be used to sit on or cover you from the rain. Your choice depending on weather conditions. Or, maybe you'll find you need a garbage bag at the end of the night. Who knows. If you're fancy, you can bring an old bed sheet to put over the plastic for something to sit on. But remember, you are at a festival. Nobody cares what you're sitting on, and neither should you. In the end, you're more likely to throw this stuff away then lug it home with you.

• Ear Plugs I get it. You love loud music. Ear plugs are for whips. Fine. You're going to be listening to music for 7-12 hours today. Bring them with just in case. Better to be safe and have hearing when you're 60.

A lightweight, long sleeve shirt Assuming it's summer and you've left for the fest with a t-shirt and shorts, you might be chilly when the temperature drops 7 hours from now. Roll up a long sleeve shirt and put it in the bottom of your bag. It may be your salvation this evening.

Gum Ya got any gum? Gum is a key festival item. It's a conversation starter, a lifesaver and has been curbing stinky beer breath for hundreds of years. Just pack it. At some point in the night, someone (if not you) will be really happy your brought it.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back at It [The Lab]

Towards the end of last week, I found myself back at the physical therapy clinic after a week long vacation.

I was closing in on a month of doing nothing in the world of exercise. I found myself wondering if and when I'd ever taken such a long break before. 

After going through the paces of heat, warm up, deep tissue massage, excercises and ice, I asked my physical therapist a question -

Can I go back to yoga?

To which he nodded his head yes. 

After doing a whole lot of nothing as only a blob on the couch can, I could finally do something. 

The next day, I walked back into The Lab. The instructors were surprised to see me and asked where I had been. It felt good to be back in the studio.

I grabbed my mat and prepped for class. As I sat on my mat (which I leave at the studio), I realized just how much it smelled. I know I sweat a lot on it, but holy sh-t. I'm surprised the instructors stop by to adjust me with that smell radiating off my mat.

Mental Note: Take mat home and wash it.

I reminded myself that I may have lost some of the strength and flexibility I'd built up before my injury. I asked myself to not be frustrated by this. Injuries happen. People can recover from injuries to become bigger, better athletes.

Not that I need to be any bigger/taller, but you get the point. 

Then class began. I had missed the pace of the class. The warmup. The music. Stretching and strengthening both sides of the body. Then the peak pose. I wondered if I would be able to do it today.

I stayed away from some of the poses that I remember being painful before I started PT - standing splits, warrior three. When you're hanging out in downward dog waiting for the next cue, sometimes these now-impossible poses seem to last forever.

"Just be happy you're here." I remind myself. Don't get frustrated.

Class then moved out of the peak pose (and deep hip pose which I babied) and over to the once-dreaded, but now much-beloved wall. Ah yes, it's inversion time. One of my favorite parts of class. But after not doing an inversion for a month, I wondered what I could still do. I did just a few, taking my time to not pull too much on my right hip. They were not my straightest, lightest or longest-balancing forearm balances, but they were a place to start.

It's ok, I'm happy with that today.

Working my way back to the strength I had here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Early Morning Run [Inspired by Social Media]

Training changes a normal person into a strange, somewhat complusive, maniac.

Regardless of social engagements, vacations or weather conditions - long runs must happen.

Somehow, somewhere, your few mile jog after work went away, and you welcomed long runs into your life. Long runs are big time commitments. They are a multi-front (and not to mention a well coordinated) effort.

In the time some of your friends watch their favorite movie (or find themselves pulled into the magnetic force of a four-hour replay of Shawshank Redemption on TNT - admit it, it's happened to all of us), you're doing one thing - running.

But you're not dreading it. You're planning it. 'Cause this sh-t's gonna happen.

Camille is my cousin. She is training for her second Chicago Marathon. And nothing - I mean nothing - is standing in her way. She recently posted this on Facebook, to which a few of her runner friends and myself replied.

To us, this is completely normal (and I'll admit it - I miss it):

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Orthopedic Visit

Early Tuesday morning last week, I headed over to my appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.

After going through a month of PT and an inconclusive assessment from my GP, it seemed like time to take that next step. 

Walking into the facility reminded me a bit of a high end DMV. Lots of chairs. Every walk of life. A good amount of people standing in line or filling out paperwork. These people are all hurt (or were) and are seeking a recovery plan. 

I am quickly moved from waiting room to exam room where I'm asked all the usual questions. The assistant leaves and I'm left to sit for quite awhile. I find my mind wandering as I entertain myself with my phone -

What if what I have is a serious injury? What if this is the end of my running career? 

The doctor comes in. He seems like a nice enough guy and knowledgable. He takes a look at my hip and asks some questions, then sends me along for a x-ray. 

I return a few minutes later for more waiting. The doctor seemed to think it wasn't anything serious in the initial review.

Ok, good...I wonder if I can just go back to working out soon then? I hope he knows exactly what the problem is when he comes in so I can stop looking up hip pain on webmd and scaring the crap out of myself. 

Soon thereafter, but not soon enough for my wandering mind, the doctor returns. His assessment is similar to my GP and PT - a muscle strain. It could take some time (months even) to heal. He advises me to "take it easy."

But I've already been taking it easy. I'm a blob on the couch. 

He confirms no running or yoga for a few weeks. Oh, and that walking thing - I should do less of it and walk slower.

I can hardly believe this. Walk slower? 

I didn't think it was possible to do less, but somehow, that's what I'm supposed to do. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Repeat After Me: NO Running!

July 3rd was a great day.

I sort of ran. As in, I did more than walk.

That was a great 30 minutes.

After a long holiday weekend and a 11+ hour round trip car ride, I came home Monday sore and tight again. Going backwards in rehab isn't fun.

Wednesday I came home from work restless and decided to give the old track routine a try again. I was being optimistic I could build on my last session's success.

July 9 was pretty much a workout fail. Frustrated and slightly embarrassed, I finished the last 5/8 of the workout walking.

I headed to my PT the next morning. As I laid on the table with a heating pad on my hip, the therapist asked how I was feeling. I didn't have much good to report.

I told him about my workout fail, to which he replied "I think we need to cease all running for three weeks." He must have sensed my opposition, because as I started to explain further, he said "Repeat after me - NO running for three weeks."

"Ok, ok.." I said as I repeated what he said. Somehow, PT has made me feel like an elderly person and a grade school student all in one.

A few minutes later, I mentioned how I was scheduled to run the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon in a week and a half. The PT just smirked at me. He knows I can't let it go.

But I'm going to have to sit the race out in wine country. It's going to be a hard one to miss. I had the opportunity to run it in 2012 with my friend Brian. It's one of the most memorable races of my life. At the same time, I have to listen to the professionals (no matter how hard it is).

For the last few years, the Chicago Marathon has sold out at a capacity of 45,000 runners. Following the race, statistics are shared in the media as to how many runners started the race and how many completed. I've always been surprised by the huge disparity in runners who started the race (usually around 34,000-ish) vs. the 45,000 registered runners. How are 10,000 people not showing up to the starting line each year?

Now I'm getting a glimpse of where some of them may have landed - limbo PT land.

Tuesday I'm off to see an orthopedic surgeon to get his assessment. He's a team doctor with the Bears, so hopefully he's familiar with whatever it is that's going on with my hip!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Irresistible New Shoes

Two weeks ago, June turned into July. How is it July already?

I entered into my third week of physical therapy.

I could have guessed I would be impatient when it I heard the advice "take it easy and let your body heal." "Take it easy" isn't welcomed advice when you're already a few weeks behind on your training schedule. My PT advised I could run or do yoga if I could "do so without pain," but after dealing with this injury for a month going full steam, I knew I would need to tread lightly on that advise. 

So for over two weeks, I didn't work out.

Within a few days, I felt like this -

Going from 6-7 workouts a week to zero is a shock to the system. I find I'm not sleeping as well and have a harder time focusing as I continue on a hybrid of the marathon to couch program. 

Right before I started PT, I'd stopped in Universal Sole to grab a new pair of shoes. They were out of my size that day, so I gave my information to be called when a shipment came in. A week later, my shoes had arrived, but I wasn't ready to pick them up. I knew once I had them I would want to run. So I waited. 

That Thursday, I felt relatively good following therapy sessions earlier in the week. It was a beautiful morning and I'd taken the day off work. I just couldn't resist the new shoes sitting on my bench. 

I laid out an easy workout. I would walk over to the track a few blocks from my house and try our really slow running. If it bothered my hip, I would stop and just walk for awhile. 

As I walked over to the track in my new shoes, I was excited to try out the experiment but at the same time tried to prepare myself for the worst. I could go there and not be able to run ONE lap. If that happens, I can't be mad about it. Being mad doesn't help the injury heal. And if that happens, I can't cry about it because other people will see you and that will just be embarrassing. 

So I found a good song on my iPod and I started at a slow running pace, just above a fast walk. It felt good to be moving. I ran for 12 minutes and then walked for 2. I focused in on my hip. Was it more sore now? Was I in pain? I seemed ok, so I ran for another 8 minutes, then another break. Second check in - still seeming ok. Then finished off with a five minute run. 

Under normal circumstances, this is barely a work out. But on that sunny Thursday, it was the closest thing I'd had to normalcy in awhile. And it felt good.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Taking a Break

We all have our routines.

Our get ready for work routine.

A wind down for bed routine.

And likely, a workout routine.

Over the years, my workout routine has changed. From early evening tennis practice in high school to late evening runs in college, then on to trips to Lifetime Fitness in Orland for lifting, yoga, spin and/or a date with the elliptical. 

When I moved to the city, I opted to live close to the lake. The lakefront path would become my gym that year. In the years that followed, thousands of miles have been run on that path in the early morning hours. 

Running along the lakefront has become synonymous with my city identity. Yet lately, I've been spending a lot less time on the path, and following mid-June's PT assessment, no time on it at all. 

At first, taking a break was something I had elected to do. I wanted to do challenge myself with a new workout routine (and to be honest, I wasn't the least bit interested in outdoor runs this past winter). But more recently, I had plans to get back into my good, old summer routine on the lakefront. I was finally getting the bug to run again. 

But with this hip flare up, I'm holding off on training, at least temporarily. 

Electively taking a break is different than an injury breaks. No one requests an injury break. But as June turns in to July I'm trying to stay optimistic about what the future holds and what the next steps are. In the meantime, it's awfully strange to be sleeping in past 5am on Saturday mornings.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Admitting Injury

For the last few weeks, I've been trying to deny the obvious... I'm injured.

As a distance runner, injuries can happen often. Over time, you become an "expert" at identifying and successfully treating the most common of injuries - start with the RICE method, add in some Advil and maybe a few slower runs on a cushy track surface. 

Just when you think you're at the top of your game, an injury can find a way to to introduce itself into your body. Your expert assessment skills decide that it's no big thing. Keep training and things will work their way out. 

Four weeks ago, that was my state of mind. As time has gone on, my prognosis has become worse instead of better, limiting the quality and time I could spend running. 

So late last week I did what just about any endurance athlete has done at some point in their lives...I went to see a physical therapist. 

Physical therapy is a humbling experience. You're broken, but you're not sure how. During the first appointment, the PT is able to tell you what's failing you - a question you've been contemplating for awhile. In time and with your cooperation, they will massage, heat, cool and exercise you back to normal operation.

In an hour's time, the PT was able to make an assessment and had me work through my first series of exercises. Conclusion? Well, to start with, I have a weak right hip. This always puzzles me - aren't hips a big bone that's strong? Regardless, there's a reason why I'm in marketing and not the medical field.

I have a short series of exercises to do at home now. None of them are difficult looking on paper. Yet somehow, it's easier for me to balance on my forearms than to perform "clamshells" on my right side.

Looks like I have a lot of progress to make. I just wonder what kind of timeline I'm on. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Are You Done Yet?

For a few years, I would open my email the day after Columbus Day to see an email from my uncle. "Congratulations," it would say. He'd read in the paper that I'd completed the Chicago Marathon. In his short-but-sweet email he would conclude with "Are you done yet?" as to ask the million dollar question - Have I decided to stop running marathons. 

My reply was usually less brief, but went on to say thank you for the email and I wasn't ready to quit just yet. After all, there was certainly something to take home from that weekend's race. Something that could make me a better/stronger/quicker runner. I wouldn't want to miss out on a chance to have next year be "my" year, would I?

I'm sure my post race thought process isn't all that different from the masses who run marathons these days. To run just one marathon is a life accomplishment. But to run another, well, now you have everything you learned from that first race at your disposal for what will probably be an even better race. Right? 

A few years ago, I thought long and hard about marathon retirement. I'd run five races. What else did I have left to prove? The question that was posed to me then was, "Are you prepared to be on the sidelines?" Well, I hadn't thought of it that way. I'll admit, it seemed quite foreign. 

Last year, Jeff and I ran two marathons two weeks apart. I finished Chicago within a few minutes of my PR and the Marine Corps Marathon was an experience I know I'll never forget. At the end of October last year I found myself wondering what, if anything, marathoning still had for me. There was one thing I did know - I needed a break. A six or eight week break turned into most of winter. Before I knew it, it was March and I'd barely ran since November. 

Eventually I did hit the road again. I gradually increased my mileage in the spring to prepare me for early June - the beginning of marathon training. 

During this time, I started experience a tightness in my hamstring and IT band. It would come and go, so I kept along with my running and yoga regimine. Until a few weeks ago when I felt a noticable difference while doing handstand kick ups in yoga. This was no longer business as usual. I've done my best to carry on as normal, hoping the injury (gasp) would mend on it's own. But this week I know that it's time for the physical therapist. 

I'm willing to bet, based on previous PT experience, that I'll be banned from running and yoga for a few weeks. This is the news I didn't want to hear and why I have gone up until this point carrying on training with an injury. I can't stand sitting around.

So what does this mean for the yoga studio and the two marathons I've signed up for this year? There's really no way to tell now. For the time being, I'll have some time to catch up on Netflix. As June turns into July or August, I'll need to make a judgement call. 

I may find myself telling my uncle that I am in fact done with marathoning after all. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

A New Meaning for June

June is a great month. Wouldn't you agree?

When I was a kid, June was the end of school and beginning of summer. A time of shorts, softball games, tennis camps, bike riding, listening to music and going to bed late.

Ok, as an adult, some of those things haven't changed. I traded in tennis camps for marathon training and along with it, early June became week one of my life until marathon race day in October. Over the years, I've looked forward to June and feared it.

But this year is different - I've run a lot less and practiced a lot of yoga. In the winter, it was easy to say I needed a break from running. That the brutal Chicago weather just wasn't condusive to any sort of outdoor running. But now it's June and my windows are open. I could be running, like...pretty much every day. Instead I'm running a bit and still practicing yoga at a good clip. I know I need to be running more as marathon training kicks off, but I'm not ready to turn down the yoga.

As this workout battle rages on in my head, The Lab introduces their first ever yoga challenge:

Now how can I saw no to that? Granted, there are many poses on here that I simply can't do and a few others I'm going to have to talk a trusting friend into being my yoga accomplice to complete. But regardless, the challenge makes me want to try the poses that seem impossible and improve on the ones that I can do. 

Much like a marathon training schedule, this challenge graphic gives me a day to day calendar to follow. Practicing a pose a day is a big leap from the girl who used to only practice yoga when injured. 

Today is day 5 of the challenge. So far, I'm enjoying participating and posting my photos as well as looking through the trend's feed to see what others are posting. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

[Most Disliked] Yoga Poses

I started this post awhile ago after one particularly challenging yoga practice. I tried to use Siri to transcribe my wandering thoughts. As you may have guessed, she wasn't much help.

So let's semi-restart this post with some overlaying thoughts I was able to get from Siri -

Some days you're on. And others you aren't.

Most days I can stay optimistic. The glass is half full. Life is good. But yesterday wasn't one of them - at least, not at the yoga studio. Nothing seemed to be going right last night.

To go along with last night's frustration, I was reminded of a post idea I'd thought of last week: My top disliked yoga poses.

I strongly dislike his side plank. I suppose it really isn't that hard, but it's something about the hip positioning drives me mad. Photo from

FLYING PIGEON (i.e. The close nose break position)
Then there is more challenging poses like flying pigeon. I'm starting to get the hang of making the connection between the folded "shelf" leg and the triceps, but flying the opposite leg is going to take some time. Oh, and there's the underlying fear of face planting...again. Photo from

Vertical splits but will probably never be my friend. It seems to irritate my hips more than any other position, even though we do it every class. Photo from

Crouching Tiger looks simple enough. That is, until your hamstrings and calves tell you differently. One side is reasonably easier to balance than the other. Why is that? Can't find a photo. Need to take one I guess..

Dragonfly. Here's an arm balance I've been drying to get since starting at The Lab. I can manage to balance with my left foot hugged on the back of my left tricep, but no luck what so ever on the right. Again, it's amazing the stark differences. Photo from

Over time, I'm making some progress, but still a long way to go. I want to say this pose is to a tall person's disadvantage, but then again, my arms are longer too, right? Photo from

Um yeah, splits... Photo from

Finally starting to get this, but there's a lot of mental prep work involved in order to keep the balance - reminding myself to tighten my core, slow down my breath, focus on something on the wall/ceiling. Photo from

There's no way around it, I have so much work to do before this one's going to be halfway good. It's one thing to get into a headstand, but another to have good headstand form. Proper form is to have barely any weight in the head. Photo from

An entry or exit method where the feet start or end in a wider-than-hips stance to get into forearm balance or handstand. I think this one can go into flying pigeon's "please don't let me break my nose" category. Need a photo here too. Don't think I'll be posting one any time soon of me doing it though...

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Good Run

Chicago's had a long, brutal winter. Some may argue we're still in winter as snowflakes flew in some suburbs earlier today.

Normally, spring is an open invitation to hit the pavement quite often - at lunch, before work or in the evening as the days get longer. But this year is different. Between the cooler than average temperatures and my new found joy of inversions and arm balances at The Lab, it's been easy to stay out of my running shoes.

I'd be lying to say it hasn't been a struggle some days to get out there. When you run less, your body is less conditioned for the activity, which in my case has lead to a load of crappy runs. Slow, labored runs. I find myself thinking:

Is this how it feels to start over? It must be. Feels like I never ran. Ever. And that person that ran two marathons last year...If you see her, can you remind her she needs to get my body back into shape? And by the way, where's this "muscle memory" I hear so much about? I used to enjoy doing this, right?

Yesterday I went on a late lunch hour run. I stood outside my office building waiting for my Garmin to locate satellites.  I'll admit, I can be an inpatient person, and the Garmin does test that. As it cycled through it's 4th attempt to find satellites, I'd come to realize how cool it was outside and regretted my outfit choice of a long sleeved shirt and shorts. Maybe I should just go back inside, I thought. This just wasn't meant to be.

But dammit, I was already outside. I'd worked past 95% of the obstacles that keep me from getting out on a run. Now I just had to move - literally.

I started pretty slow as in recent weeks I've found myself talking a few walk breaks mid run. As I warmed up, I felt pretty good. But I didn't want to get too excited too early. I did want to run for four miles. I headed south down to the Shedd Aquarium where I filled up my water bottle and adjusted my playlist.

On the way back, things started to connect. I felt good. Nothing was aching. I wasn't out of breath. I wasn't too hot. I had great music and plenty of water.

As I got back to work, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Ok, I can still run. Let's chalk today's effort up as a success and keep building on it.

After all, Ragnar Relay is just a few weeks away and I have three legs to run, not to mention many other races this summer and fall.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

26 Letters of Gratitude

A year and a half ago, I found myself counting down the weeks until Chicago Marathon 2012.

As the race quickly approached, I had an odd, empty feeling I was trying to figure out. Why did I feel so different this time around from other races? I realized I wasn't focused on a purpose for the race. A purpose outside myself.

For years, I have fundraised for Salute, Inc. Salute is an Illinois based non-for-profit founded by an Arlington Heights Naval Reservist and his wife. The company was founded after their family experienced some hardships after being called to duty following 9/11. Salute's goal is to raise funds to support military members and families in need. This is a cause that hits close to home and one that I think about often in training and race day.

With just a few weeks to go to race day, I decided to embark on a new project. One in which I'd thought about at a distance for some time.

Back in 2000, I interned over the summer for an integrated communications company. Our media buyer ran her first marathon a few months after I returned to school. When I talked to her post race, she explained her experience. She mentioned an idea that stuck with me; she wrote down a list of 26 people and thought about one of them each mile of the race.

It was from that idea that I started in on a "26 Letters of Gratitude" project. I made a list of 26 people from all facets of my life; my parents, my brother, my uncles, cousins and friends, a former personal trainer and a coworker. I left the list on my desk and gathered up stationary and stamps from home.

Writing letters is something I've always done. My Dad's Mother wrote a lot of letters. I can picture her handwriting now. To this day, any time I catch a glimpse of it, I hear her British accent. I started writing letters back to her when I was young and continued it to other family members. My parents encouraged me to create cards and art projects to send for holidays instead of purchasing them from the store.

So, I kicked off the 26 Letters Gratitude project. When the mood struck me to write something to one of the people, I'd do it. Some letters were longer than others. Some happened quickly and others took time. I created an insert to put in with each letter explaining the project.

I'd drop a letter off in the mailbox as I left work each night. I remember smiling as I dropped the envelope in the box. I hoped the person receiving the letter enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Here's a video a friend recently shared with me. I think it ties with today's post and my former Being Grateful post as well:

Friday, May 09, 2014

Handstand-ing [and other small victories]

About a year and a half ago, I did my first adult handstand. It was the first handstand I'd done in 20 or so years. I talked about that experience here.

Nearly a year and a half has gone by since then. In that time, I've had some successes and failures with learning the correct way to get into handstand in yoga practice. Whereas my previous handstand attempts stemmed from my young gymnastics experiences involving a body in motion, a yoga handstand is a still body using strength.

I've spent a good amount of time staring at the wall or floor, trying to reason with myself for handstand. I've done this before. What is there to be scared of? Even still, my mind races and I psych myself out in the kick up process. A few minutes later, a teacher would come by and say some encouraging things. Then suddenly I could muster the strength and courage to kick up. There's one teacher at The Lab who has given a lot of pointers in the last few months. She seems focused on my handstand success. I knew I needed to be too. So I set a goal and told her about it - I would kick up into a handstand by June 1st. Last night, the cards came together and I did it.

 photo borrowed from

On Wednesday night, the class focused on splits with titibasina being one of the peak poses. Though I've had some success getting into the pose from standing, a teacher who was set up next to me encouraged me to try it from the floor. She was compassionate and reasoned with me that I had the strength to do it. After a few tries with shaky arms, I was able to get up.

photo borrowed from

I love the small victories in yoga practice. First time figuring out a pose. Learning how to hold a pose. Refining the pose as you become stronger. It's really a testament that progress comes with time and patience.

But I'm not the only victorious yoga practitioner at The Lab. Each week, I watch my fellow yogis grow stronger, working themselves towards new challenges.

Two of them I know quite well. Last week was a great week for them both.

Sara managed her first unassisted scissors pose in class. She told me the story the next morning at work. She explained that the other members of the class watched as she held the pose. Great job, Sara. I knew you could do scissors!

Carmen stared her inversion fear down two Saturdays ago at The Lab. With help from The Lab's owner, she kicked up into her first ever handstand. Congrats, Carmen. It's #handstandparty time.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Being Grateful

I talk a lot about running (and sometimes yoga).

I share my experiences; my strengths, challenges, rewards and weaknesses.

What I haven't talked much about is the emotional side of training. More specifically, being grateful.

I think it's easy in today's day and age to get wrapped up in the negativity that can circle in social media. This weekend I found myself being grateful in two small instances, but they are ones that rewarded me ten fold in the following days.

I found myself at the The Lab on Saturday morning with a friend. The class was taught by the studio's owner. She's a yoga master and completely amazing.

As I walked out of class Saturday morning, paused for a moment and recognized how grateful I was. There's a lot of things to be grateful for, of course, but with yoga on the mind, I focused on it. I'm grateful to have found The Lab and had such an amazing, challenging and rewarding experience there. In the moment, I made a note that I should email The Lab's owner and tell her what the studio means to me.

I jumped in my car and headed up north to run errands. I parked my car and walked to the different businesses on Southport. The wind was a bit crisp as clouds moved in. I could use a warm vanilla latte, I thought. As I finished my errands, I decided that I could reward myself with a Starbucks vanilla latte if I stayed out of Athleta (where I no doubt would purchase some awesome clothes x10 the cost of a latte).

I walked in to Starbucks and pulled out my phone. The Starbucks app is a handy and dangerous piece of technology. However, after this nasty, never-ending winter, I have fallen more in love with vanilla lattes and thus, the need to build rewards through my Starbucks purchases. I placed my order and planned to hand over my phone to the barista so she could redeem my free drink credit. It was then that I noticed my credit had expired. I flipped over to payment screen and handed the phone to the barista instead.

The barista asked why I hadn't used the credit, so I mentioned it had expired so I'd just pay for it. She paused and handed my phone back. She said she "wanted me to have a great day" and that my drink was on her. I was surprised by her action and fumbled for some small bills to tip her. I only had twenties. I asked her if she could break a twenty so I could thank her for her nice gesture. She said that wasn't necessary, but to please enjoy my drink and my day.

As I walked back to my car, I was grateful for the nice Starbuck's barista. I wondered, does Starbucks know how nice and engaging she is? I should tell them.

When I arrived home, I practiced a few yoga poses and took some progress photos. I found myself still thinking about The Lab and that morning's Starbuck's barista. So I decided to do what I often do - write a letter.

First I emailed the owner of The Lab. I thanked her and her husband for creating the company. I explained how my stress related aches and pains had all but gone away and I ran two marathons last year injury free. I tried to convey my love for the studio and how it's something that's impacted my life in the last year. Thinking back to where I was when I started, I really have come a long way. I shared a photo I took that afternoon of an arm balance pose and pressed send on the email.

Then I emailed Starbuck's to tell them about their awesome barista at the Southport store.

As I closed down my computer, I was happy I had taken the moment to share how I felt. The Lab and the barista at Starbucks are awesome and they should know it.

Later that day, I received an email back from the owner of The Lab. She thanked me for my kind email. She said it really meant a lot to her and all the instructors to read something so encouraging. She then asked if she could use the photo I sent her on their growing Instagram page.

The following Monday, I heard back from Starbucks. They were happy to hear of my experience and sent along a free drink credit as a thank you for my feedback.

Being grateful is a reward within itself. But being able to share your gratefulness allows your emotion to fulfill others. That's an even larger, greater reward.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What if Everybody Ran?

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if everybody ran? 

Truthfully, I hadn't. But the ad folks over at Mizuno had. 

I love infographics. Maybe it's the designer in me or the feeling that I'm somehow gaining more information by reading less. Regardless, this small ad I pulled off of Pinterest today has me wondering if all the information could be held true if everybody ran.

Ok, maybe suggesting everyone should run is too lofty of a goal. Some people can't run. Or they really hate running. But what if everyone who could run did? Just a mile a few times a week for starters. It wouldn't have to be fast. They'd just have to complete it. I think we would find members of the group who would find joy in the sport and would increase their mile to two or three. Maybe they would find it relieved stress or made their dog happy. 

And for everyone else. Maybe they really hate running, or, for one reason or another can't. That's ok. "Running" can be transformed into other activities (walking, swimming) to fit everyone's abilities. 

What if everyone's "running" did transform their lives (or their dogs)? 

What if it made our overall quality of life better - What if there were less trips to the hospital, less smoking, and less weight? 

Wouldn't that be pretty amazing?

Monday, April 14, 2014

15 Things You Should Know Before Dating a Marathoner

In the age of Buzzfeed and other like sites, there seems to be a survey or list for just about everything.

It seems fitting then that the Rock and Roll Marathon would put together a list of "Things You Should Know Before Dating a Marathoner."

The list is a good start, but I figured there's a few that deserve revising. I've added my comments in blue. What comments would you add?

  1. Check your foot fetish at the door. Feet don’t look pretty after running 50+ km per week. (about 30 miles)  Not all feet are the same. Though we do talk about feet issues a lot (blisters, arch pain, toenails...) 
  2. Back, leg and feet massages are expected at least twice a week to relieve tired, sore, and aching muscles.  I wouldn't turn one down, but asking for massages 2x a week seems a bit high maintenance when training lasts 18-20 weeks. Plus, I have a great massage therapist. 
  3. Expect long naps on Sunday afternoons. Or for those who choose to get their long runs over on Saturday, Saturday afternoons.  
  4. Don’t be surprised when you get a hot, sweaty, salty hugs and kisses. Probably not. 
  5. Late nights and sleeping in on weekends doesn’t happen; getting up early on weekends to run is more important. Training doesn't have to ruin a fun night out - Long run Saturday morning, followed by a nap and a night out. 
  6. There’s no such thing as a diet and eating carbs is a good thing. Eat just about everything in sight.
  7. You’ll be expected to be at every race, holding signs and taking pictures along the race route and be at the finish line with warm clothes in hand. Gear check can hold my change of clothes. Spectating and signs are great for the marathon. Other races, not necessary.
  8. Gift giving is easy – pedicures, running shorts, running shoes, massages, or even a foam roller will all impress. I already have one foam roller. More than enough.
  9. You’ll be constantly asked to go for a run, even if you don’t run I might talk about running a lot, but I'm not going to force you do it.
10. There are some disgusting things that happen that aren’t always talked about. Toliet stories. Enough said.
11. Proposing at 32k (the wall aka almost 20 miles) during a marathon race could be the most romantic thing that could ever happen. (hint hint) To each their own. 
12. Pretend and show interest in topics that you know nothing about they can they talk about for hours, like running gels, hill training, or how great running on a cool morning with light rain on race day is. You may not know a lot now, but you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know. 
13. There will be a box or drawer full of race bibs, medals, maps and other miscellaneous race souvenirs. Well, yeah. Where else are you going to put them?
14. Sunday brunch will always happen after a long run. A brunch conversation helps get us through the Saturday morning long run. It's important to execute that discussion post run.
15. There is always a pile of spandex and technical shirts needing to be laundered. Spandex? What is this, 1991?

Find the link here

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Race That's Good For Life

Did you know there's a race that's good for life? Believe it or not, there is.

Where is this race you might ask? Well, it's out in Oak Park.

Oak Park is a place I often think of visiting but never seem to get to living and working on the lake. I spent time in undergrad learning of Oak Park through an extensive Frank Lloyd Wright study, but outside of that, Oak Park is a community relatively unknown.

The Race That's Good For Life 5K has been around for decades. It's a race that's won awards, including the Chicago Area Runner's Association's race of the year. 

It's been a good, long while since I'd run a 5K race. Six or seven years.

As we drove out to Oak Park Sunday morning, we took in the sights of old homes with big front yards and appreciated some of the finer things in suburban life - free and easy parking, low traffic, children riding bikes. It was on the drive that I realized I'd forgotten to look up my standing PR (though it's not much of one) for a 5k on

We parked and headed in to Oak Park River Forest High School to grab our packets and meet up with friends. I had an opportunity to meet some representatives from Liberty Mutual Insurance who sponsored the CARA Circuit Runner promotion as well. Seeing the gathering in the high school made me realize and appreciate the smaller race set up - We parked two blocks away. Restrooms and indoor heat was plentiful. The race started at a reasonable time (9:10 for the women's race).

The Race That's Good for Life's format has the women's race first, followed by the men. It was a unique opportunity to watch part of the men's race after we finished.

Kim and I headed to the start line together. We talked as we waited for the race to start. In mid sentence, the gun went off. We commented on how we could hear the gun (unlike in a big race where you might be many blocks back). Within a few seconds, we had crossed the start line. I realized I hadn't set my Garmin to "locate satellites." I quickly thumbed over the buttons and hit start.

The route took runners down wide streets lined with houses. Some residents smiled and cheered us on from their driveways and front lawns. The sun was out and temperature was mild. Oh spring, there you are!

I looked down at my watch to see I hadn't started a new run, but rather was adding to my Shamrock Shuffle time. I tried to start a new lap or reset it.

Thoughts going through my head:

I really should learn this watch properly...What runner messes up their Garmin like this? There's only four buttons.

Oh well, we're at mile 2 already. Guess I can spend some time with my watch post race. 

wonder how far I'm in two mile two now? Ah, the cross street is Augusta. The school is around Ontario. I'm thinking five blocks to go? But it might not be in a straight line...should have looked at course map.

Regardless it's less than ten minutes to run. Just go for it already and stop thinking about strategy since all systems are failing. 

We crested a small incline and saw the finish line ahead of us. Questions in my head answered.

I crossed the finish line and was handed a flower along with some post run nutrition. Nice touch!

I headed over to the car to grab a change of clothes before watching the men's race start. Following the end of the men's race, we met a bunch of our friends in the school cafeteria. We caught up for a minute on summer plans and racing before heading out to brunch.

By 10:30 we were brunching and drinking bloody marys.

Suburban racing is pretty good.

The Race that's Good for life is Great.

Friday, April 04, 2014

CARA Circuit Runner

If you're a runner in Chicago area, you've likely heard of the Chicago Area Runner Association. CARA is a non-for-profit organization devoted to expanding, motivating, supporting and celebrating the running community of Chicagoland.

I first heard of CARA when I began searching for 5Ks nearly ten years ago. The CARA website was a great resource of quality, community races. As my training journey evolved a few years later, I was reminded of CARA's marathon training program. Since 2008, I've handed over my summer Saturday mornings to the CARA marathon group at Montrose Harbor. It was in this group that I met some of my closest friends.

During the winter, CARA holds an awards banquet to recognize the previous year's milestones and shining stars. This past January was no different. As part of the banquet this year, all attendees were entered to win a great prize - Free entries to races in the 2014 CARA circuit. This Christmas-like gift was presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance.

A few weeks ago I received an email from CARA notifying me that I'd won the prize. I received the email while in a work meeting and couldn't help but get excited. I won! Awesome. And I didn't just win something random, but something I really wanted! Who doesn't love a free race entry (or a few)?

The only requirement is that I run at least seven races this season. It's a challenge I'm willing to take on (and hopefully succeed).

Now to make my selections and commit to training for spring and summer.

The Shamrock Shuffle (held last weekend) was the first race of the circuit.

The second race is coming up this weekend. Heading to Oak Park for The Race That's Good for Life!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Shamrock Shuffle 2014

If you're a runner in Chicago, you know of and have probably run the Shamrock Shuffle. 

It's the race that unofficially represents the "start" to racing season in Chicago. 

The Shamrock Shuffle is an 8K race that leads about 30,000 runners through the streets of downtown Chicago. For years, the first few miles of this race mirrored the Chicago Marathon (which is fitting, since the same organizers who put on the marathon also handle the shuffle). It's a large and very well run race. 

In 2005, I ran it for the first time with my friend Margo and Uncle Mark. Some things have remained the same in nine years, like the expo being held at Navy Pier (mighty convenient for some) and start line set up. 

Other things have changed, and I can say, definitely for the better. 

Some time ago, the race announced a wave start which introduced qualifying corrals. This helped the faster, more experienced runners be grouped together and removed from the slower, more casual runners. Overall, I think it created a better race experience for all. 

This year, the race announced a new course. The course no longer took a western jaunt out down Jackson. Instead, miles 3 and 4 of the race visited the financial district and River North before heading down Michigan Avenue into the South Loop. 

Margo and I started together in Corral F on Sunday. We couldn't have asked for better weather. 

I've waited in the start corral at the Shamrock Shuffle and experienced many emotions over the seven times I've run it. The first year, it was pure nerves. It was my first 8k race. Other years, when I maintained a strong winter training program, the Shuffle seemed like a piece of cake. 

On Sunday, it was a question mark. How would it go? I haven't been running much this winter season. Not like other years anyway. What type of performance would I be happy with? Keeping my Shamrock Shuffle PR in mind, I hoped I could get somewhere in that range. 

Parts of the race I felt great, while others I questioned how it is that I think I'll run a marathon again this year (especially when 5 miles seems, well, not easy as it should). In the end, I was happy to be out running on that beautiful spring day. It made me hopeful for summer in Chicago.

Guess it's time to get back on the roads. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Race Confirmation

Last year was a year of luck.

I was able to register for two highly desired races before they closed - the Chicago Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon.

Shortly after their 2013 close, both races announced that 2014 would be their first year of a lottery registration system.

So many questions surrounded the word "lottery." It's not a word that's ever been associated with Chicago's race. Then again, Chicago didn't used to be so big. Or so popular. I've heard stories from mid to late '90's participants who signed up for the race weeks before. It just goes to show you how the sport of marathoning has grown, and not to mention, how successfully the Chicago Marathon's management has worked to make it a truly premiere and world class race.

Earlier this year, the marathon announced a short list of guaranteed entry options alongside the much anticipated and all encompassing lottery.

Last week, those who met the parameters for one of the five guaranteed entry options - charity fundraising, legacy finisher, time qualifier, international tour partner or wheelchair athete - could register. Applicants at that time received an email following their submission letting them know their information would be reviewed. Confirmations would be emailed the following week.

A legacy finisher is someone who has completed five Chicago Marathons in the last ten years. I was lucky enough to have met the requirements and have confirmed my 2014 Chicago Marathon participation.

Wishing my friends and family the best of luck as they wait to hear lottery results.