Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lonely Too Long

For a long time, I've really preferred to run alone. That's still true - the solitude and silence can be absolutely great. But at the same time, I really want to get more involved in my local running community. I want to know my fellow runners and be able to chat with people I see at races - that was one of my 2009 goals. So, when the opportunity to join a training group for the Quad Cities Distance Classic half marathon trisko, I decided to go for it.

Turns out, running with a group is fun... and doesn't cramp my style at all. There are cool people to hang out and talk with before we hit the trails. I usually end up running by myself, but I can join someone else if I want to.

So, when the opportunity presented itself through my running club to train for fall races, I jumped on it. For fifty bucks, I get supported group runs every week, coaching, access to weekly track workouts, a discount for the Quad Cities Marathon or trisko, a pasta party, and a t-shirt. Sold!

The group has been wildly popular. There are 120 people signed up right now to train for fall marathons and triskos. Last Tuesday, I went to my first group track workout and saw that about a hundred people showed up. One hundred people, willing to do speedwork on a sweltering hot Tuesday night! I am so proud of my running club.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Jack likes to play a game in the car in which his various stuffed animals call him on the phone. Emmy will call to make sure he's not doing anything dangerous (which is a problem because Emmy tends to think just about everything is dangerous), or Roary will call to say he misses him and to ask when he's coming home.

One day, Jack mixed it up by getting a phone call from "Tremmy." We told Tremmy she had the wrong number, but she kept on calling back, Jack laughing progressively harder every time. Tremmy started calling us more and more often. The phone calls would go like this...

Jack: Ring, ring!
Me: Oh, no. That's going to be Tremmy.
Jack: (giggling)
Me: Hello?
Tremmy (aka Jack): Tremmy!
Me: Hi, Tremmy.
Tremmy: I am just calling to say that I have a big bag of mice.
Me: Oh, no. Tremmy, what could you possibly be doing with all of those mice?
Tremmy: I'm going to throw them at every light in the city!

Steve and I started to wonder more about Tremmy, so when she called, we asked her what kind of animal she was. Jack/Tremmy told us that she was a bird. That sounded about right to us, some kind of crazy looking bird.

So, imagine our surprise when we were at the mall and saw this crazy-looking bird:

It could only be Tremmy.

Tremmy lives with us now, but that doesn't stop her from calling us with crazy news, such as that she smeared all of the toothpaste on the windows and was throwing mice at it to see if they'd stick (Tremmy says they do not).

I am really proud of Jack's amazing imagination and sense of humor. Only Jack could invent a crazy bird who spends too much time on the phone and does weird things to mice.

What else is Jack doing? Oh, being a kid. See?

Like, eating only the middle of his Oreos.

And running through the sprinklers.

It's good to be a kid.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Running in an Oven

I have spent the time since 13.1 Chicago feeling like a bit of a slacker. Maybe that's not fair; the race was on a Sunday. I was travelling in the middle of the week, but got up early Wednesday morning to run a Gentleman's Three. And then on Saturday, I ran Race for the Cure with Steve (yes, I owe you a race report). So, it's not like I haven't been running, but the intensity hasn't been there since that last half marathon trisko.

Today presented a golden opportunity: The Bix at Six.

The Bix 7 is one of my favorite races, it being a challenging seven mile course that attracts elite runners. It's pretty cool when your hometown race is popular to the extent that there are statues of Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson, no? And the Bix at Six is a series of training runs, open to the public, that are on the race course.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again: it is so damned cool to have a local race that is such a draw that hundreds of people show up for a training run, the streets are blocked off, and there are water stops.

I left the office after work and hurried home to grab a quick sandwich and to change clothes. As soon as I opened the door to go outside, I knew it was going to be a tough night: it was blazing hot and humid to the point where I felt like I was inside an oven.


This summer, so far, has been blessedly mild, so this was the first really hot weather run I'd done. And having that start out with seven miles worth of hills, after not running a whole lot was a recipe for disaster... baked in the oven I was running in.

So, I made a promise to myself to take it easy and have this run be my first one in getting acclimated to the heat. I dressed in a tank top and running skirt, strapped on the Batman utility belt filled with Gatorade. I was sweating before I even started running. I slowed my pace way down, cut the course to about 5 miles, and took frequent walk breaks. I also make the delightful discovery that my makeup, which has an SPF in it, immediately melts into horrifying pools of poison when I sweat.

Was this the most fun run ever? No, it was not. But it could have been a lot worse. I am going to tough it out through my next couple of oven runs until the heat doesn't seem like such a big deal after all. And I will sing the praises of the glorious volunteers, who actually had ice water.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Race Report: 13.1 Chicago

When we last left off, I had a bag of frozen peas tied to my ankle and was trying not to freak out about an injury that could make running 13.1 miles tricky to say the least. I am happy to report that the peas and their ally the Advil did their job: by Saturday morning, my ankle was no longer bothering me.

Steve, Jack, and I left Saturday morning for Chicago. It was a lot of fun taking Jack to a big city for the first time. He found absolutely everything fascinating: the tall buildings, the pigeons, and all of the people. He also noted, "Chicago is noisy," which was especially true since we were near El tracks most of the time. There were also several firsts for Jack - his first ride in a taxi - with no car seat - and his first ride on a Ferris wheel. He seemed to find them equally thrilling.

There are, of course, lots of things to see and do in Chicago, but we decided to keep it simple. We went to Navy Pier to ride the aforementioned Ferris wheel, then went to the Chicago Children's Museum. The museum was a lot of fun, with many the opportunity for Jack to put on costumes, play music, and so on. The best part was a huge net that he climbed way up and around, like a pirate's ship. Jack pretty much did that over and over again until the museum closed. Jack spotted a pirate show on a stage nearby, so we watched that, then had pasta for dinner. On the way back to the hotel, we took a quick detour to the toy department at the old Marshall Field's store (which I hate to acknowledge as a Macy's), where he selected a cat. Jack introduced Kitty Kit to Vincent, the doorman at the hotel, then we headed to bed at the ripe old hour of 8:30.

Naturally, it was onlhy too soon that my alarm went off at 5:00. I had my clothes laid out in the bathroom so I was able to quickly get dressed and head out. I ignored sage advice and wore a new outfit for the race: a bright pink Asics singlet with a black and grey Race Ready skirt. I highly recommend the Race Ready skirt. All along the small of my back were mesh pockets, with elastic holdin git in almost bungee style. I was able to easily carry my iPod, phone, a couple packs of Biofreeze (I was still worried about my ankle), emergency cash, and two packs of sport beans. It was also really easy to get things in and out of the pockets. I'll definitely be buying the skirt in more colors.

Chicago at 5:00 in the morning on a Sunday is virtually desserted. I walked out of the hotel and didn't see another person for a few minutes. Then, I saw groups of runners all headed towards Millenium Park, ready to catch the shuttle buses to the start. The bus service was smooth and easy - very well organized.

We arrived at the South Shore Cultural Center, a lovely building where the Obamas had their wedding reception (Steve noted that it probably didn't smell like sweat that day). It was then that I discovered a crisis: there was no coffee anywhere near by. The Starbucks near my hotel was not open yet, and there was absolutely nothing near the starting line. No caffiene is not a good thing for me. My coffee addiction is a bit like heroin addiction in that the first hit isn't so much to make me feel good as it is to keep me from feeling bad. I ate my second emergency pack of sport beans, figuring at least that would get some caffiene in my system.

The energy at the starting line was terrific. Rob Powers did the announcing, the White Sox mascot was wandering around, as were actors playing the Blues Brothers. The start was organized in waves, which was a first for me. Each wave got its own pomp (music that introduced the Blues Brothers in the movie), and there was ample space between each wave so that the paths were never crowded. It was terrific, and more races should do this.

The course itself was spectacular. It was an absolute thrill to run alongside Lake Michigan with a view of the Chicago skyline. Support was impressive, with water and Gatorade available approximately every mile. I also saw lots of Brightroom photographers, so here's hoping that there will be some good pictures of me.

And how'd I do? Well, for the first 11 miles, I felt awesome. Then I started to fade. I'm not sure why. I'd like to blame the lack of coffee, but it may just be that I wasn't quite as focused and mentally strong as I was when I ran the Quad Cities Distance Classic. Nevertheless, I kicked it up a notch, waved to Steve and Jack, and finished strong with a final time of 2:00:56.

The finisher's medal is the most gigantic thing you ever saw. It's a 13.1 (with the decimal point actually spin-able), easily twice as big as any of my other medals, and in gold. I feel like a rapper in it.

It was a spectacular way to end my spring Trisko Festival. When it was all said and done, I ran three half marathons triskos in just under a month - and had a blast doing it.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Give Peas a Chance

Bad news, Internet: I am writing to you with a bag of frozen peas tied to my ankle.

Non-runners may think that this is a curious fashion statement, but runners will immediately know that this means that I have somehow injured my Achilles tendon. And since I have a half marathon trisko on Sunday (13.1 Chicago), this is a very bad development.

I felt a teeny bit of discomfort after my 10 miler on Sunday, but nothing to write home about. Then yesterday I set out to run a fast 3 and it started to really bother me.

The plan, between now and Sunday, is to baby it. I'm going to tie on the peas (not a euphemism) three or so times a day, take Advil every 4 hours, avoid high heels, and rest up.

Everybody think healing thoughts for me!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy Birthday, Roary!

Another year has passed since Roary went from being a random cat/tiger sitting on our coffee table to becoming Jack's steadfast companion. Things have changed a little bit for Roary since his last birthday. The biggest change is that he now has an entire family of tigers living with us - Emmy, Garfield, Nicey, and Cutie. Roary shares Jack's affections with all of them, and an extended family of "stuffed guys." Jack's divided attention hasn't meant less love for Roary, though. Jack loves all of his animals, but Roary remains the king, the one Jack always comes to when he most needs comfort. If anything, Jack's love has grown bigger.

When Jack is sad or hurt, he looks to Roary for a tail rub (and in fact inspects most other stuffed animals for tail rubbing possibilities before buying them). And if Jack sees that someone else needs comfort, Roary offers tail rubs to them, too.

I know that many people will think I'm a little nutty for celebrating a stuffed animal's birthday, but Roary is truly a valuable part of our team. I know that the two of them crack each other up. I know that I can count on Roary to entertain Jack during long car rides. I know that the two of them even argue sometimes, as evidenced by Jack putting Roary in "time out" outside his room because "Roary would not stop talking and I needed to go to sleep." I know that when Jack needs extra love, Roary is there for him. Every time I go away on a work trip, I give Roary extra kisses before I leave. I know that they'll get to Jack when he needs them.

Happy birthday, Roary, the best tiger a kid ever had.