Thursday, May 30, 2013


I feel like I've kicked ass in epic battle this week. First, to maintain my sanity; then, to avoid food. Not all food, just the nasty kind.

I firmly believe that if food has the potential to be passed to me through a car window, I should not eat it. (Exception: St. Arbucks.) My summer work schedule has me working 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, with Fridays off ... which is awesome except for the food part. I usually arrive at work hungry, and spend most of the day that way. It is really hard to stay within my calories. And, when I am finally on my way home, I pass a Taco Bell.

I know! It's horrible food. It's not even really food, but sometimes a girl needs a crispy potato soft taco. Or a chicken burrito. Or both. Which just makes no sense at all, when you're on your way to the gym. On Monday, the siren's call was strong, and I almost succumbed to it. But I did not. Instead, I drove the 30 miles toward home, stopped at the gym, and ran. And then I swam. (Then I went home and ate a pulled pork sandwich, which was a far better choice so for chrissakes stop judging me!)

That was Tuesday. Yesterday, a mere 24 hours later, I felt much more in control. I did not even consider stopping on my way home for some tasty awful treat. Last night's workout, by the way, almost killed me. I biked for about 45 minutes, and then I had to run some nasty intervals. Training for a tri, I'm doing brick workouts ... and pretty felt like a ton of bricks during the run part. All I can say is, oy.

But my point ... I am hungry, but I'm making the best choices I can during a long day that tends to include first and second breakfast, plus first and second lunch. It's not a perfect scenario, but I am doing my best. Today, my "best" included eating my sandwich at 11 - technically third breakfast instead of first lunch, but whatever.

Like I said, I'm hungry.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Okay, I'm not neglecting you. Or myself. I'm just really really busy. My work hours in the summer require me to work Monday-Thursday from 7 until 5:30. Which means I leave the house at 6, and I'm back in the area around 6:30. When my workout is done, I stroll into the house around 8:30 or 9.

Which leaves me little time to write.

I am off on Fridays, but, life being what it is, I don't have a lot of time to devote to writing. Several personal projects are on the back burner for a bit ... but they will bubble back up to the top before too long, I am sure. I just need to get my bearings. The new schedule started last week, and then there was the holiday weekend, and I'm just now starting to adjust, really.

So that's that. More in the not-too-distant future.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Personal Record; also, the worst

Saturday, May 11 was Race to Wrigley - the 5K through the Wrigley Field neighborhood. I ran it for the second time. 

In 2012, this became my 5K PR race. A year ago, I ran it in 40:44, for a 13:09 minute mile. This was the race that got me thinking, hey, maybe I could run a sub-40 5K. For most runners, this is a given. For me, it has been a struggle. Race to Wrigley last year was the closest I'd ever gotten.

We had a swell group of people running this year, although I sure did miss my sister Kathie and nephew Alex. (In true Cubs fashion ... wait 'til next year!) Shelly, Kristen, Linda, Pam and I met up with Diane and Justin at Wrigley. 
Clockwise from 1:00 - Diane, Kristen, Shelly, Pam, Linda, Me, Justin. I think.
Before we headed out, Kristen's friends Michelle and Tracy joined us, too, along with Tracy's kids. Soon, it was time to get started!
Me at the start, surrounded by a bunch of people.
Yes, I realize how much I look like my brother.
I love this race. Going in, I knew it would be a fast one for me; after last year, I had a feeling for how it would go. It's relatively flat, very few turns, and relatively open. I was looking forward to a great run, and I was not disappointed. 

We ran through the area, and lots of residents came out to offer us more cowbell or just cheer us on from their front porches. I felt like I was giving a good effort, and there were a few times I wanted to stop and walk, but I wouldn't let myself. It is not supposed to be easy! It should feel like effort, I kept telling myself; it should be a challenge. I took a short walk break to drink some water, and then it was right back to it.

When we turned off of Waveland and into the concourse of the stadium, I knew I was going to be close to earning my PR. I pushed it as hard as I could, while maintaining my breath and ... ya know ... not dying. Honestly, it felt good! I crossed the finish line, smiling. Soon I ran into Kristen, and she asked if I'd gotten my PR, and I said I thought so! The clock said 41 minutes, so unless I crossed the start line right at 8 a.m., I was going to be close. Lucky for me, they had a kiosk set up so you could look up your results. I put in my bib number, and this is what I saw:
Yup, that's what my PR looks like.
I could not believe it. Not only did I get my PR, but I beat the crap out of it! I was more than two minutes faster than last year's race! Unreal. I am still on cloud nine.

On a similar yet not sort of note, Jenn and I did a 5K on Sunday, too. It was the Aurora Fox River Trail 5K, done in conjunction with a half marathon by the same company. It sucked. It was actually almost four miles, which is no big deal except it sure does screw up your clock time, and it was poorly organized. Thankfully, it was a gorgeous day and the company was good.

So there you have it; one weekend, two races. One a personal best, the other an organizational worst. For me, the thing that is most striking about all of this is the way I am able to bounce back. In the past, a 5k would wipe me out, and I'd wake up sore as hell the next day. Lately, it's just become something I do without a whole lot of drama. So there's progress all around! Woot!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Of bagpipes and the best of friends

Sunday morning dawned clear and warm. The training was done, and it was all down to this. This morning, this moment, this race.

It was GO TIME.

Early raceday morning, I got a text from my sister Kathie: "Have a safe and healthy run. You rock!" Yup, she said it. In writing. It was time to go and prove her right. As I drove to St. Charles, I bit back nerves the entire time. From here, anything could happen ... good and bad.

So why is it that we focus on what could go wrong instead of what could go right? I found myself tied up in metaphoric knots right up until the airhorn started us off. Seriously! What the heck is THAT about? What if I was too slow and they didn't allow me to finish? What if I was literally the last person and I got embarrassed?

Well, so what? That's the worst-case scenario? I'll take it.

There are people - lots and lots of people - for whom running isn't an option. There are others who physically could, and would like to, but something keeps them from trying. I can. So what if the "what-ifs" get me down? I approached the start area.

And almost immediately found a friend - Carrie, one of my first encouragers and an amazing woman. Carrie is an IronMan and an incredible all-around athlete. I love her.
The incredible IronCarrie Mills and me, pre-race.
With a few words of wisdom from Carrie, I was ready. Just one more check of my phone, and another text from Kathie: "Focus. Be strong. Run healthy. You can do whatever you were meant to do."


And I began to run. The first mile was horrible! My legs were tired, and the pack immediately began pulling away from me. But I had the world's best playlist, and I knew it would help. I ran this race as a fundraiser for the MS Society, and I asked those who donated to my run to give me song suggestions and prayer requests to bear in mind during the run. The songs - except for the ones suggested by Mike Rice - reminded me of why I was running. Mike's suggestions pretty much just reminded me to laugh. The music helped - a lot!

Once I got through that first mile, I settled into a rhythm and a run/walk interval that felt good. I kept telling myself, "You planned and prepared; execute the plan". I kept passing the same people, and they me, so there was a sort of "back of the pack" camaraderie; it was nice! A mile or two before the turnaround, the "real" runners started coming toward me. It was incredible to see these amazing athletes running toward the finish. Seeing people I know - Carrie, her friend Pat, their friend Jay and my old friend Laura - did a lot to help me keep my head in the game. So much support. And once I got halfway, well ... to turn back at this point is pretty much to finish. 

This is where I met Denise. She settled into a pace alongside me, and we ran/walked the rest of the race together. I think we saved each other! We chatted on and off as we made our way the six or so miles we had until we made it to the finish. She told me about her kids and her career, and her journey as an athlete, and I shared my reasons for running. I explained that I was running as a fundraiser, and that the finish line might be a bit of a spectacle because my friend Rich Bird was planning to be there.

With bagpipes. 

Our deal was that if I raised $800, he'd "pipe me in" at the finish line. Well, I raised $1170, so as Denice and I approached the finish line area, we saw this guy:
My friend Rich Bird is the coolest person ever. For serious.
And he began to play. And I began to cry. And then I told my self to knock that shit off, because there was no way I'd finish if I were crying! 

It was so cool; best finish line ever - and that's goin' some. The finish line at a Disney race is pretty stellar, but this one was special. In a lot of ways, it was the culmination of months of planning on my part. It was my friends, though, that made it awesome. They - 26 of them in all - had donated to a cause that's important to me, and I felt their support with me along the run. I was running (walking, stumbling) for them. It mattered.
I wasn't kidding about the bagpipes, or the kilt, or the awesomeness of my friends.
I crossed the finish line hand in hand with my new friend Denise, and Linda (who had volunteered for the race) put my medal around my neck. I had done it! I won a half marathon! (And by "won" I mean "finished in the upright position".) My friends Millie and Eric were there to cheer me on, and Kristen (another Runner of the Round Table, our unofficial running club) had come all the way down from Schaumburg to see me finish.

That's what running is, for me. It's something I do by myself, with a large group of people. Many of them are strangers, a few are good friends. Some of them, like Denise, aren't strangers for long. It doesn't matter if you run or not; you can still be part of the race. Runners, especially the Pokey Joes like me, couldn't do it without the volunteers and the spectators and the other runners. That's where we get the motivation to keep going. We run, because we know you believe in us.

Finishing the race and celebrating with my friends ...  that's life, at its best. Those who were with me got hugs and tears, but those who weren't - my Walk MS team, my family, Carrie (who had to go to her son's ballgame) and the rest of the Runners of the Round Table - were there in my heart, for sure.
Someone you know was very very tired on Sunday night.
It was as magical a day as you can have, outside of Disney World.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Half marathon, all crazy

So I made a few bargains while asking for donations for the half marathon, benefitting the MS Society. The coolest was that if I reached $800, my friend Rich Bird would come to the finish line to "pipe me in" on the bagpipes. SO NEAT.

But there were other "incentives", too, that allow donors to be part of the experience. First, I asked everyone for a thought, hope or prayer that I would keep in the center of my mind throughout a portion of the race. With the number of donors I have, each person will have roughly a half mile dedicated to their request. 

I also asked for people to suggest songs for my running playlist, which I'll use to keep me moving forward on Sunday. So I thought I'd share with you what I've received, both prayers and songs. I will update as more come in. 

I'll be thinking of and praying for ...
  • a dear friend's sister who is battling MS.
  • the children. Think of the children. (There's a jokester in the bunch.)
  • those who are battling MS combined with depression, and how hard it is to deal with both.
  • health and happiness for all those we love. 
  • family.
  • everyone fighting MS.
  • that we can leave a better world for our children.
  • all my friends to have happiness, however they define it.
  • a woman named Barb who was admired and appreciated by her co-workers, and has moved on to a different job.
I'll be listening to ...
  • I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
  • Big Panty Woman by Barefoot Man
  • Tubthumping by Chumbawamba
  • The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston (at which point I will probably have to step off the trail and vomit)
  • Silent Running by Mike & the Mechanics
  • Texas Twister by Little Feat (I'll probably listen to Dixie Chicken, too)
  • Not Dead Yet by Bad Examples
  • Kryptonite (Live) by 3 Doors Down
  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (who else?)
  • Viva la Vida by Coldplay
  • Something Pitbull (haven't decided what!)
  • Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen
  • God's Great Dance Floor by Chris Tomlin
  • Raise Your Glass by P!nk
  • Chelsea DAgger by The Fratellis
  • Jump by Van Halen
  • The Olympic Theme by John Williams
  • Carry On by Fun
I am still reeling with the generosity of my friends and family. The donations continue to come in, and I am so grateful that so many have chosen to support my run by giving to an organization I believe in. I absolutely trust that, in time, one of the dollars we raise will be the one that wipes out MS. And that's the real gift.