Monday, October 21, 2013


First, a confession.

I've been sick for an entire week, and I am sick of being sick. The worst part is, I weighed in this morning and the scale basically looked at me and said, "lady, you've taken that whole 'feed a cold' thing waaaaay too literally. Ease up, will ya?" So, I've got some work to do. Clean eating and sticking to the plan are the name of the game ... at least for the next few weeks. Now, on to the meat of this post.

There is no way you can witness an ultra marathon and not be inspired in some way.

Linda and I spent Saturday volunteering at the Des Plaines River Trail Run. It includes races in three distances - half marathon, marathon and 50 mile ultra marathon. The half, I can relate to. Marathon, even. But 50 miles? What fresh hell is this?

Our friends Pete and Dave were running it, so it was really the least we could do to show up and support them. We were assigned to Aid Station 5, which was at the half-marathon turnaround point. The marathon runners turned around at that point and head back to the start. The ultra runners, however, kept running; they would run almost an entire marathon before they returned to our aid station on the out-and-back course.


These men and women are truly amazing athletes. But what surprised me the most was that they were genuinely appreciative. Don't get me wrong - runners are the nicest people in the world. Elite and pro athletes alike have always been very kind to me when our paths have crossed (and I've not given in to geeking out all over them). But this caliber of athlete - people who willingly run 50 miles at a stretch - is something quite different, so I didn't quite know what to expect. I shouldn't have been surprised, because my experience at IronMan was quite similar. And yet, once again, I learned that, by and large, athletes become great athletes by training hard, and being nice to people.

And they sure were nice to us.

On the way out - after running about 14 miles - most runners were happy to see us but content to keep running on. But on the way back - at about the 38-mile mark - they were desperate. Some couldn't string a group of words together to form a sentence. They could barely point to what they wanted. And we supplied it all! Electrolyte drink and water, plus pretzels, chips, Doritos, M & Ms, bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, goldfish crackers, Coke and other sodas, candy corn, plus the usual energy gels. Pretty much anything a runner could want, be it sweet, salty or liquid, we had it. And they ate it, with great appreciation.

It felt weird to tell people they were almost done, when they had 12 miles to go, but it was the truth. Out of 50 miles, having only 12 left meant they were on the downhill slope. And it really got me to thinking.

No matter what my goal race is, there is always someone out there pushing farther.

I guess that's the curious and inspirational part of being a runner; we don't stop reaching. We either keep working at the distances we know, trying to run them faster, or we push beyond. 13.1 becomes 26.2.

26.2 becomes 50.

And, God love 'em, for some people (like one of my aid station compadres, Carrie T.) ... 50 becomes 100.

I don't understand ultra runners, but man do I admire them. I am grateful for the example they provide, for the inspiration they unwittingly share, and for the way they treat their fellow runners.

Run on, you crazy athletes.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Or, just crabby

I started feeling sick on Sunday night.

I ran briefly on Monday, and have been basically sedentary ever since.

So now, I'm crabby. I am determined to get a short run in tonight, no matter what. But for the moment, I just wanted to whine.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Best Tuesday in about two years

Intentionally moving my body - some might call it "exercise" - has been part of my routine now for about six years. Over that time, I've gone from struggling to finish 20 minutes on an elliptical trainer to gradually adding more and different activities. An aqua aerobics class led to a dance class, which led to strength training and spin class and (eventually) running, swimming and biking. But when I really need to feed my spirit, I head to Salsa/Funk class to dance my troubles - and my jiggling thighs - away.

It's a cardio class in the truest sense of the word, because it is intensely good for my heart. Moving with the music, surrounded by friends, sweating like a fiend and absolutely working every part of the routines is just indescribable. It leaves me exhausted and exhilarated, untethered and untamed. It taps into the part of me that transcends the physical. Yes, my body follows the steps, but it's the soul that dances. And 583 calories later, it doesn't feel like you've worked out, but you've earned the donut.

Last night brought my friend Donna, the originator of Salsa/Funk back to Lifetime Fitness in Schaumburg. After two years in different clubs around the area, the Funkstress herself came home. There's no denying the distinct pleasure we felt dancing to Thriller, and Applause, and Jai Ho, and every other song she chose for the playlist. We got an hour of groove on and left just overflowing with joy.

The last time I danced with Donna in Schaumburg, I was healing from injury. Let's face it - I've been recovering a lot over the past few years. So doing some of the dances last night felt different in my legs. I was able to jump, and leap, and feel supported by my own muscles. It was amazing; I felt strong and in control, capable and frankly fantastic.

Sometimes when the blues come calling - and they do, more often than I'd like to admit - I force myself to get out and move, whether on the bike or on foot or in the pool or, when the timing works out, in a dance class. It is amazing to me how just working up a sweat and pushing my body a little bit can set everything right. And the best way I know to do that is with an hour of this class. It's a reminder that our bodies are miraculous and perfect, that we should be grateful for the ability to move. It's an opportunity to loosen our grip on reality for 60 minutes and just be a dancer.

And I'm reminded of the closing scene in the movie "My Best Friend's Wedding," when Rupert Everett assures Julia Roberts that there may not be marriage. There may not even be sex. But by God ... there will be dancing.

There will, indeed.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Holy Crap

One month from today, we land in Florida. Di, Shelly, Linda and I take on our second Disney half marathon this year - the Wine & Dine Half.

Training is on target-ish. Yesterday I ran a slow 10, with the first seven going pretty well. Fatigue set in then, and my legs felt super heavy. I interspersed liberal walk breaks on the return trip, and it worked out okay.

Am I nervous? Maybe a little. I have goals, and I know what I want to do out there. I know that nighttime races are pretty much my wheelhouse. And I know that anything is possible, but you have to put in the work to reap the rewards.

I've put in the work. I've hustled my tail up hills and across bridges and through mud. I've hoisted weights to make my legs (and the rest of me) stronger. And yes, I've gotten my rest.

I have one more month to take off a few more pounds, work in a few more long runs, and get it done. In the end, there will be another Disney finish line.

This time, with a cold beer and Dole Whip at the end.

But not together. That would be gross.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Where'd September go?

Lawsy me, September has flown by! And a busy month it was. Between volunteering, time with friends and a few truly fun races, my birthday month began the slow skid into October.

Which means fall running, which makes me happy. (Not fall itself, mind you; no, that cruel season reminds me of death and boredom. But running in 40 to 60 degree temps is pretty stellar, thankyouverymuch.)

So what did we do this month? Well, the whole thing kicked off with Labor Day weekend - also known as my opportunity to lay by the pool and eat ice cream, which did nothing for my fitness goals. But then there was Ironman weekend, during which I was completely entranced by some incredible athletes - three of whom are my friends! You can't witness something like Ironman and remain unchanged. Just yesterday, I took an hour-long dance class and then headed out for an eight-mile run, and that sounded kind of difficult to me. Until I remembered two miles in the water, followed by 112 on the bike and a marathon. Nah ... eight miles is nothin'. 

Personally, I had some great races this month. On the 16th I went to the Blackhawks training camp festival with my sisters Pat and Jenn, and Jenn and I did the "Mad Dash to Madison" 5K. It was my second-best 5K ever, and just 38 off my PR for this distance. I ran it in 39:06, with a 12:37 minute mile - an excellent race for me! Plus, it was just a ton of fun.

Less than a week later, I did the Women Rock 10K, and it's my new 10K PR! WOOT! I finished in 1:23:09, running an average 13:23/mile. Not fast, by anyone's standards, but still better than I've done before. Really happy with it.

Then, just last Saturday, I rounded out my month of races with the Eat Dirt Mud Run ... which, frankly, ate dirt. Not good, really. Kinda borning, not a lot of dirt or mud, not many obstacles. But I did it, and it was fun with the folks I was with (my sister Jenn, friend Angelicque and her friend Jen.) 

At any rate, that's a month with three events! Crazy, I know. And now that it's drawing to a close, I'm realizing I have just six weeks to train for Wine & Dine. Nutso. Soon I'll be in Disney World, ready to run my fourth and final half marathon of the year. I will be ready. I will have fun. And hopefully, by the time it's here, I will be even stronger and healthier, and ready to run.

Next week, I promise a weigh in. But this week, I'll share the workout plan:

  • Monday - Rest day
  • Tuesday - Three miles, easy
  • Wednesday - Seven miles, tempo 
  • Thursday - Two miles, easy
  • Friday - Yoga (or 10-mile long run, to get it out of the way)
  • Saturday - Strength training, swim and maybe a bike ride (if I do my long run on Friday)
  • Sunday - Rest day 
Not gonna lie; the rest days are my favorite. 

Some weeks, it seems, the prescribed runs are harder than others. Last night's three miles almost killed me, and I can't really begin to understand why. I should be able to run three with ZERO issues, right? Wrong. Every run is it's own thing. Taking them as they come is part of why they can be so healing. 

Ever forward.