A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Friday, July 27, 2012




Or is it irony?  I admit, I’m not always clear on the definitions.

Regardless, here’s why it’s on my mind.

After reading lots of race reports and blogs about running and racing in the heat, I noticed a theme:  nausea.  Many runners report feeling nauseous when running in hot weather.

Ha! I thought.  That never happens to me!  Except at the finish line of races when I’m pushing it really hard. 

Well, I’m sure you know where this is going.

I ran on Monday night when it was in the mid-90s and incredibly humid.  Seriously, it felt totally disgusting outside.

I have no idea how fast we were running because my Garmin didn’t get a signal until a mile into our run and even then I’m a little suspect of its results.  I thought we were definitely running significantly under 10:00 minute miles although, perhaps in the heat, it just felt like it.

I managed 4 miles with my legs slowly feeling like lead.  And, strangely enough, even though I was sweating like crazy and taking sips of water from my water bottle, I still had to stop and pee at mile 4! 

The last 1.5 miles felt like a death march.  And we when had to stop at a red light at an intersection a quarter mile from the finish I had to double over and put my hands on my knees to calm down my stomach.

Yep, I felt nauseous.  I was so happy that run was over. 

I ran again on Thursday evening and just did 30 minutes around some nearby neighborhoods.  I explored some new streets and found a park with a statute of Christopher Columbus.


I ran through Little Italy and mile 18 of the Chicago Marathon.  I discovered a no-man’s land of empty lots and boarded up buildings somewhere in mile 2 which subsequently led to that mile being my fastest (sub 9:00!). 

I was dripping sweat and was hopeful that the sprinkle of rain would turn into a full-fledged downpour.  No such luck.  Instead I took a quick shower when I got home hoping to cool off.  It kind of worked. 

Last year I would have thought a 30 minute run wasn’t worth my time.  Now I know better.  All runs don’t need to be long to be useful. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vacation Exploring

This past week I was on vacation in South Haven, Michigan.  If you haven’t been to any of the towns in southwest Michigan along the lake you are definitely missing out.  Normally when we go there we stay a little further north near Grand Haven.  But this time we enjoyed a house on the water that was awesomely enough also near some fun trails!


The Van Buren Trail, a 14 mile long “unimproved” trail, was about 1 mile from where we were staying. And just what does unimproved mean?  Well, as you can see from the photos, it’s not paved or covered in crushed limestone.  Basically, they mow the grass.  There are some tracks from vehicles but basically you’re running on grass and dirt.  Considering I normally run on asphalt or crushed limestone, this was a fun experience for me! 

I only did about 2 miles on the trail itself.  Considering it was mid-morning, the sun was out, and the trail isn’t very shaded I thought I did pretty well running almost 5 miles total. 

Jason and I did a 2 mile run/walk together one day and explored the main road we were staying just off of.  It’s definitely a rural area but basically that means country roads with very little traffic.  Something I miss when it comes to running or biking in the city!

And speaking of biking, my mom and I rented bikes and explored another trail in South Haven, the Kal Haven Trail.  This trail is 33.5 miles long and runs from South Haven to Kalamzoo, Michigan.  It’s mostly crushed limestone and varies from wooded areas to open fields (at least on the parts we rode on).  Since it’s a rail-to-trail trail it’s also nice and flat ! 


We did about 6 miles on the trail and then rode around downtown South Haven for a bit. 

On my last full day of vacation I hit the Van Buren Trail one more time in the opposite direction.  I discovered a fork in the trail with a sign that indicated you could get to the Van Buren State Park.  I headed down that way but didn’t make it to the park.  And, now, looking at the map, this part of the trail isn’t even labeled. 


The highlighted route is the one I took

Regardless, even though it wasn’t a super long run (just under 4 miles) it was really fun to explore.  I took a slightly different route on the way back and ran some more country roads.



And when I wasn’t exploring?  I was laying on the beach, watching the sunset, or trying my hand at kayaking.  Oh, I also attempted stand-up paddleboarding (being demonstrated by my nephew in the photo below).  How did I do?  Well, I learned my sense of balance isn’t as good as I thought. 


Overall it was a lovely vacation and I got in a great mix of active and inactive outings.  I’m really looking forward to going back next year and exploring some more!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Well Balanced Week



I stopped writing my Weekly Workout Wround Up posts after the Las Vegas Marathon last December.  At the time I was in a little bit of a funk and probably a bit depressed.  Post-marathon blues and injury aggravations didn’t trend toward wanting to keep track of my (lack of) physical activity week to week.

But I feel like I need to document this past week.

Monday night I ran 5.5 miles with my running club.  It was slow and I walked some due to the heat, but I got out there. 

Tuesday I strength trained.

Wednesday I ran a race.

Thursday I did some more strength training.  I also did some Tabata intervals on the stationary bike and then did a mile on the treadmill in my minimalist shoes.  I didn’t do the whole mile straight, though.  I’d walk a quarter mile and then run a quarter mile.  My calves could really feel it during the run!

Friday I swam some laps. 

Saturday, though.  Oh, Saturday.  I went on possibly the most fun bike ride I’ve ever done.  Kim did an AWESOME write-up so I won’t reinvent the wheel and instead just tell you to go read her post.  Long story short:  we rode from Libertyville, IL to the Chicago Botanical Gardens, wandered around the gardens for 3 hours (I’d never been there before), and then rode back to Libertyville. 

Total distance?  41 miles.  This wasn’t a speed run.  It was a fun, exploration ride.  One of the things I love about the bike is that you don’t really care if you get a little lost.  Sometimes getting turned around leads you to some neat discoveries. 

Like this beautiful view of Lake Michigan.

And then on Sunday I met up with Emily for our first run together!  She showed me her usual 6ish mile route and we chatted while running past the United Center (home of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks), through UIC, and around our neighborhood.  It was a good time and I’m looking forward to running with her more.

So my week consisted of three runs, two strength training sessions, one bike ride, and one swimming workout.

Which means I worked out seven days in a row.  But, balanced workouts. 

One of my goals this year was to do something active every day that I can.  I think this past week definitely lived up to that goal! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Just Keep Swimming



For the past few Fridays I’ve been going to the gym to do 30 minutes of lap swimming.  I have a feeling only about 15 of that is actual swimming but as of last week I was resting less and moving more.  I only go on Fridays because I get off work at 3:00 PM and I’ve discovered that there are almost always empty lanes by the time I get in the pool around 4:00.

Prior to today I’ve been coming home from work, jumping on my bike, and riding to the gym.  I realized this was silly, though, because the gym is on the way home from work.  So, today I decided I would take the bus from my office to the gym and then from the gym home.   It’s a total of 3 miles.  1.5 from my office to the gym and 1.5 from the gym to my apartment.

So, I left work, walked to the bus stop, and waited.  I saw the bus I wanted coming so I got out my bus pass and stood at the curb.  The bus stopped a little further down the street than I was standing and let its passengers off, and closed the bus door.  I walked down the street, up to the bus door, and the driver totally ignored me.  Okay, I thought.  Maybe (s)he’s going to pull up closer to the actual stop.  I walked back up to the stop and the bus drove right on past.

Um. Okay.  I guess I’ll walk?

The 1.5 miles to the gym weren’t bad even though the air temperature is near 100.  Stay in the shade downtown and it’s tolerable. 

I got an empty lane in the pool and started my workout.

10 minutes with the kickboard to work on my breathing.  Still haven’t figured out how to exhale underwater and not get water bubbles up my nose or feel like I’m gasping for air when I turn my head for a breath. 

10 minutes with the pull buoy.  Or, at least, that’s what I usually do.  Today I felt weak and flailing after about 5 so I switched to the backstroke.

10 minutes of freestyle swimming.  Except I felt exhausted, bored, and frustrated after about 5 minutes so I called it quits.  I just can’t find my groove with swimming.   I know I won’t be great out of the gate, but it just feels so much more difficult than running or biking. 

Anyway, I went back to the locker room, showered, changed, and decided to walk home.  I mean, I already walked there, I could certainly handle another 1.5 miles.

Except, since I have ZERO sense of direction, I walked the wrong way for who knows how long until I realized I was actually going east instead of west.  Dammit.

35 incredibly sunny and sweaty minutes later, I made it home. 

Some days just aren’t the day, you know?  But I’ll just keep swimming.  Both literally and metaphorically. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Four on the Fourth Race Report

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For the third year in a row I joined my running club at the Four on the Fourth four mile race in Elmhurst, IL.  This race has become an annual club event where we race and then pig out on goodies brought by the club members potluck-style.

Last year I ran this race after spending the evening in the E.R. and still managed to beat my time from 2010.

This year?  This year I had no real goals.  Wednesday morning, July 4th, dawned super hot and humid and ended up tying a 1911 temperature for the hottest Chicago area Fourth of July on record by the end of the day.  We hit 102oF Wednesday afternoon. 

So, really, my main goal was to survive!  I wanted to run the whole thing without walking (I decided to walk some during my 5.5 mile Monday night run which was also done in some crazy heat), try to average 9:00 minute miles, and hopefully have even or negative splits. 

Actually, my goal for this race is always to have negative splits, but since there’s some decent hills I don’t always manage to do it.

I wore my headphones, something I haven’t done in a race in a long time.  I don’t know if they helped or not but I didn’t mind trying to take my mind off the heat and the fact that I haven’t be training for racing at all.

Still, when the gun went off I settled into what felt like a nice pace.  I tried not to look at my Garmin and just run by feel.  Of course, I snuck a look here and there and it always showed me as hovering just around 9:00 minutes per mile.  Perfect.


The hill up to the finish line

The first two miles of this race aren’t bad.  More downhill, good distractions of seeing your friends and “teammates” running in the opposite direction on the out-and-back part of the course.  But once you turn around at mile 2 and start to head back, you’ve got to fight off the demons that tell you that all those hills you went down?  You have to go back up.  Those miles you just ran to get here?  You have to cover them again.

Mile four of this race may be my least favorite mile of all time,

I grabbed water at the aid station, drank some, splashed some on myself, and kept going.  The Garmin still showed I was on pace at around 9:00 so I decided not to push it.  Could I have dug deeper?  Sure.  But why? 

I saw my friend John near the finish line with his camera and made a beeline for him.  He joked later that I’m good and knowing when to get out from behind other runners so I can get my picture taken.  The benefits to not being as concerned about your time, right?

I crossed the finish line and immediately sweat began to roll down my bare skin.   Another club member who wasn’t running asked me, “Did you pour water on yourself?”

Um, no.  This is all natural sweat, thank you very much.

It was hot out.

This race has a table at the finish line where you can punch your bib number into a machine and it will print out your finish time for you.  You don’t even have to wait to get home to look it up online!  But I didn’t bother.  I knew it wouldn’t be my fastest time and I’d already met most of my goals.  Now it was time for watching the kid’s 1K run, stuffing my face with fruit and baked goods, chugging a Gatorade, and hanging out with my club members.

But, for posterity’s sake, I did look up my time online later.  Official finish time?  36:02.   My splits weren’t too bad according to my Garmin.  They were 8:56, 8:46, 8:59 and 9:09. 

See, I told you I hate that last mile. 

But I don’t hate this race.  I love hanging out with so many club members I don’t always get to see. I love the downhome feel of this race.  I love that it’s a great way to spend the first part of a holiday.  And I love that even if I’m not hitting a PR, I can still have a good time.

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P.S.  Thanks to John and Robert for the photos! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

L.A.T.E. Ride Report–Up All Night

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Have you heard of the Friends of the Park’s L.A.T.E. Ride? It’s been taking place in Chicago for almost 25 years. 

Up to 9,000 cyclists meet up at Buckingham Fountain at midnight and ride 25 miles through the City of Chicago.  The goal?  Get back to Buckingham Fountain before dawn so you can watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan.

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I was able to convince Jason to join me since this was a leisure ride event and not a race.  Take it slow, I said.  Don’t worry about pace, I said.

So, we taped flashlights and headlamps to our bikes, strapped on our helmets and rode over to the Fountain.  A little after 1:15 AM we started on our ride.

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In addition to the ride there are best lit bike and best decorated helmet contests and this year there was a costume parade.  We didn’t get to the Fountain in time for those but we did get to see a lot of craziness out on the roads.

Photo from Facebook

Like the Blues Brothers.  And people with radios attached to their bikes.  And lots and lots of glow sticks, flashing LEDs, and even one woman who turned her helmet into a bird’s nest….complete with actual, live birds. 

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By the way, it’s really hard to take photos while riding your bike.  Especially when you’re biking in a crowd.  And that’s how you spend most of the ride.  In a crowd.  You also are expected to stop at right lights if the intersection isn’t being monitored by police.  This makes for some harrowing moments sometimes.  I got more comfortable riding in a crowd after awhile but for the first few miles I wasn’t particularly thrilled.

I was perfectly content to ride along at a leisurely pace and enjoy seeing parts of Chicago I’d never seen before.  We rode through Chinatown (which still smelled of Chinese food at 2:00 AM), we rode through Greektown and Logan Square and entertained all the drunks standing outside the bars.  We rode through Humboldt Park which, unbeknownst to me, is bordered by two sculptures of the Puerto Rican flag.



Jason, on the other hand, doesn’t have the bike butt callous that I do (nor does he own padded bike shorts) so he started to speed up and weave in and out of people in order to “get this thing over with.”

That made me sad. 

So, I let him go ahead and I puttered along.  We met back up at the rest stop at the halfway point where we chowed down on some bananas and Clif bars and remarked at how much the scene reminded us of Ragnar…just with more bikes.  Jason assured me he was having fun, but that he just wanted to ride faster.  No sense of adventure or exploration, that one.

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Anyway, we stuck together for a few miles after that but then Jason pulled ahead and I tried to keep up.  I was trying to ride a little more aggressively but we passed the aftermath of a scary scene involving a participant and a car and it shook me up a bit.  So, I only sped up when I could find a good, clear space among the bikes.

When we reached the lakefront path I was able to up my speed and enjoy riding without having to dodge pedestrians.  In fact, if I didn’t love sleep so much, I would come ride the lakefront path at night more often!  I was having a blast during this part!

In fact, I was enjoying myself so much that I didn’t realize I actually passed Jason who was waiting for me.  We stayed together for the last few miles. 

26 miles, just over 4 hours.   Our reward? 

And finished... 4:10 AM... 26 miles ridden in 3 hours for PANCAKES!!!


And watching the sun rise.

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Jason took a short nap while we waited for the sun

Post-sunrise we hopped back on our bikes, rode the 1.5 miles home, showered, and collapsed into bed a little after 6:00 AM.  We did it. We stayed up all night and rode almost 30 miles total.

I don’t think I’ve ever stayed up all night, including at Ragnar.  I knew I could ride the distance so the challenge for me was doing it on no sleep.

Amazingly, being surrounded by other people kept me going.  Well, that and I knew if I fell asleep I’d fall off my bike!

This event certainly was an adventure.  It was more crowded and more leisurely than I thought it would be (lots of people stop at 24 hour restaurants along the way) but it was definitely a unique way to see the city and feel like, as cyclists, we owned the road.

Would I do it again?  That’s a good question.  I think if I was with a group of people who had a more adventurous spirit it could make for quite the party atmosphere.  Lighting up our bikes, playing music, laughing, stopping to check out interesting things along the way. 

Still, I have a feeling there might be other events out there that are more my cup of tea.  But I’m glad I did this one and I would definitely recommend it as something you should try at least once!  At the very least, it gives you a reason to be standing on the lakeshore watching the sunrise. 

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