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.