Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fight those wintertime woes

Winter can sometimes be a drag.

You don't want to get out of bed in the morning because it is too cold. Mustering up the courage to face the bitter cold, ice and blustery winter conditions can become a long drawn out process that you know it will be worth it in the end...but even still the contemplation stage seems to linger on. The holiday season surrounds us with many high calorie treats that we know aren't as good for us as our normal foods, but we still find it irresistible to indulge. And at the end of the day all you want to do is sit on your couch in your snuggie staring at your Christmas tree as it slowly loses its life before your eyes with some warm hot cocoa.

Sure the wintertime can bring many seasonal woes to us all that we are not always prepared to face, but it can also bring some good times with some great people.

When you go out with your college friends on a Saturday night, sometimes it can be difficult to forget that those college years are over and we are the building blocks for many future successes in the world.

I'm not really sure what type of future me and my girlfriends are building, but it is defiantly one filled with lots and lots of excitement.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Looking ahead to 2011

2010 brought about a whirl-wind of adventures for me. I started out the year not knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and having a lot of questions about who I am. Throughout the year my husband and I successfully made it through many difficult challenges, and really begun to have a clear picture for our future for the first time. While I wouldn't say that we have the rest of our lives mapped out, we both found ourselves seeking comfort that greater things are ahead and that we are truly blessed to have one another.

For as many great moments I have experienced this year, there were equally as many moments where I found myself being challenged beyond what I thought that I could handle. I think that one of the greatest realizations that I have come to this year is that the moments of success and joy which we all experience in our lives are not what develops and shapes us into who we are. Rather, it is the difficult moments when we feel as if we have nothing left and simply cannot go on that mold us into unique individuals. My biggest challenge in life is to be grateful for every moment that I have, even the difficult moments. It has always been easy for me to feel overwhelmed in the heat of the moment and to forget that I am capable of anything that I desire. This year I have been able to allow myself to step back from a difficult situation and really take it for face value. I will not be the greatest at everything that I do, I will not have the correct answer for everything, my words will not always be filled with wisdom, nor will my heart be constantly be filled with love and kindness. I am an imperfect individual that is constantly growing and learning, just as long as I allow myself to do so. It is nearly impossible to achieve great successes at everything, furthermore if I was successful at everything that I would be dull, unchallenging, and lack any type of meaning.

I run because I enjoy it, not because I have to break records and achieve amazing feats. That being said, just because I enjoy the challenge does not mean that I will always attain great successes. This year I made my venture back into marathon racing. After many injuries an other odd impalement's which impaired my running in the past few years, this year I felt like my body was once again able to withstand the grueling demands of marathon training.

I spent basically the entire year in training mode for various races, all of which were leading up to the Chicago Marathon in October. I begun my race season with the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k, ran the Soldier Field 10 Mile in May, completed a few 5ks over the summer, had one successful and one not so successful half marathon, and spent January through October training for one complete the Chicago Marathon in 3:15.

Based on the above picture, I think that its fairly obvious how my plans turned out.

While we are busy planning and preparing ourselves for the future, life is busy teaching us otherwise. Overall my training was fairly successful. I was the fastest, strongest, and fittest I have ever been. Mentally I felt like I was prepared for anything. Turns out that I never felt so defeated in my life. The weather that day was particularly warm, I had been experiencing stomach aliments for several weeks leading up to the race with race day proving to be no different, and I had put so much pressure on myself that I had to achieve my goal that I begun to unravel a bit on race morning. All the time I spent logging countless miles in the summer heat, the late mornings spent in the gym lifting weights, the nights when I opted to go to bed early rather then spend an evening on the town with friends, all my preparations went out the window.

To be a successful at anything in life we have to understand that sometimes we will be beaten down, dragged through the mud, and left for dead before we can achieve greatness. I would be lying if I said that I was not severely disappointed with myself for my 3:38 finish for sometime. It took me several weeks to be able to look at what I did accomplish and really be proud. No I did not finish in the time that I wanted, but hell I finished a a time that is still quite fast for a majority of people. So what my stomach hurt like no other during the race, that it was "hotter then a fish fry" and I consumed way to much gatorade, and who cares that I ended up walking quite a bit in the second half. I finished what I started, and there is always room for improvement in the future.

This year I have defiantly learned that while I do want to be constantly improving as a runner, it will not happen every race. It has taken me many years to finally feel okay with the fact that PR's don't happen every time I race. With all the hard work and dedication that is put into preparing for a race it is easy to get caught up in what one is actually trying to achieve. A PR is a really special thing that comes by every once in awhile, it is a magical thing that we are rewarded with when all of the stars are perfectly aligned on race day. There are so many uncontrollable circumstances in life, and sometimes our efforts may fall short of our expectations, but that does not mean that we are a failure.

My major life lesson this year is that I am grateful for all of my opportunities. There may be times when I may fall flat on my face and feel as if my efforts were a disappointment, but thats not the important part. Its more important how we deal with the setbacks and upsets then how many successes we have in life. As long as I have the opportunity to experience life and new things, I will be eternally grateful for all triumphs and short-comings. I will always have the opportunity to embark on new challenges, and I for the first time in my life feel extremely anxious about seeing what the future holds.

I look forward to more moments of silliness with my dogs.

I look forward to building more memories with my husband, and experiencing new things together on our adventure.

I also look forward to experiencing more moments of pure bliss, where I feel completely loved and fulfilled by all the greatness that I have in my life.

2011 will be a year of great changes for me. I have boatloads of things that I want to experience with a new career path ahead of me. I am looking forward to putting 2010 behind me and closing this crazy chapter of my life and starting a new one. Who knows what next year will hold for me, but I am to experience it all.


On Sunday afternoon my husband and I decided to kick off the Christmas season by making a visit to Chicagos Chriskindlemart. It was a blustery day, but we decided to make a visit anyways.

We spent most of our time sitting in a heated tent listening to a German band play Christmas music while sipping hot cocoa. It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the man I love.

Chicago is a great city that has a lot of fun activities year round, sometimes you just have to be fearless and ignore the hasty weather.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Favorite Running Memory...or not?

Today I feel puzzled as I am presented with the question, "what is my favorite running memory?".

This is a fairly basic question that I am sure is an easy answer for most people. Not for me. I have been running now for 13+ years and have a lifetime of great memories. Trying to pick out the greatest of all of those is extremly difficult.

Do I choose the day that I ran my first marathon and the overwhelming feelings of warmth that the crowd projected which still gives me goosebumps to this day? Is it the Cross Country Challenge that I ran in 2002 with some of my high school cross country members where we found ourselves running an 8k through waist high mud and lakes in the middle of December? Maybe it's the time that I was ran the Rock N Roll Half Marathon Chicago in 2009 where I 'ran' into a old running pal in the early stages of the race, and we continued to challenge and push one another like the olden days. Or maybe it's the very first race that I ran and beat my husband in 2006.

Those aren't even necessarily the top memories that I have, those are just the top few that come to mind at this particular moment.

How does a runner who has had so many great memories choose one?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The tank is full

Lately I've been trying something new. I have been attempting to train myself to run about two hours after eating breakfast. It actually has been going rather well for the most part.

In the past I had always been a morning runner. First thing in the am hours I would head out for my workout on an empty stomach. While training for the marathon this past summer, I realized what a crazy and illogical idea this was. Why would I expect my body to be able to have high performance levels when it is low on fuel? Logic tells me that you cant get a car to make a long-distance trip on an empty tank of gas so why would the human body then be able to physically keep its self going with no input of energy?

The logic of this completely basic concept took me years to figure out. It is amazing to feel the difference of doing physical work when the body is properly fueled.

The difference of this wasn't even completely apparent to me until this morning. Today is cold, just like every other December day in Chicago. I woke up early to go out for an easy 8 miler before heading off to a hair appointment. From the time I rose to the time I found myself in the cold pounding the pavement was no more then 15 minutes. My body felt stiff and rigid. My legs felt as if they were filled with led, and no matter how hard I tried to push myself, my entire run required more energy then usual. I did not have a drop of water before I left, nor did I consume anything to ignite the fire in my body.

It is amazing how we have the ability to manipulate situations so that we can have the best return of our investments. Without trying to make generalizations about crazy things that may go far beyond my level of education and knowledge...I do believe that it is safe to say that before expelling any type of energy, it is good to fuel our bodies. Whether it be a bowl of cereal, an apple, or a protein bar, some type of carb/protein intake before exercise is definitely helpful in boosting energy levels.

Everyones body is different, and we all just have to find out what works best for ourselves.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Braving the weather

Running during the winter season can be a challenge for people who live in Chicago. With the mix of snow, wind, and often times the icy sidewalks and roads, the safety of a runner can often times be jeopardized. Most runners in Chicago retire indoors to other activities during these brutal winter months.

I like to think of the winter as a challenge. Not only is it a time to try out new things as my training has slowed, but it is also a time to challenge myself to learn to run in extreme winter conditions. Often times as I venture out for a long run on a cold January Saturday morning where the winds are coming off of the lake and the lakefront path has thick sporadic ice patches, I can generally count the runners I see on one hand(not that there is anything wrong with taking training indoors during the harsh weather). I wouldn't say that I particularly enjoy ice pelting my face, or when the winds are so strong that I seem to be running in place, or even when the snow melts into gray mushy puddles that make my feet wet and numb.

The best part of those seemingly crazy runs is the feeling thereafter. When my building comes into sight and my run suddenly comes to a close, thinking about the brutality that I just overcame which brings a warmth to my soul that I wouldn't be able to achieve on a treadmill.

Allowing oneself to be challenged on a daily basis is what keeps the mind sharp, the frigid air seeping into your body and awakening it is just an added bonus. In my mind every day that I go out for a run, no matter how long or short it may be, brings me one millimeter closer to my goals and makes me just that much stronger for whatever the future may hold.

Tomorrow morning when the projected high is a brisk 22 degrees, I will be out for a nice 10 miler. Maybe the part of me that loves the feeling of being uncaged and free blocks the brutality of the weather, but I can honestly say that I look forward to my afternoon date with my city lakefront path and my running shoes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Green grass

I heard a quote the other day that "the grass is always greener when you water it".

While this is a play on one of the most commonly known quotes, it did make me stop and think the other day.

While the grass always does seem to be greener on my opposing side , I never thought that maybe the grass on my side of the fence would be greener if I take the time to water it.

So that being said, it's time to take out the hose and fertilizer and tend to the needs of my grass to let it flourish and grow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A lot to be Thankful for

With Thanksgiving behind us now, and the winter season now in full force, it's a good moment to reflect back upon what I have to be thankful for in my life. Thanksgiving kind of came and went for me, and actually was just another day. I had to work for the holiday, and my husband went on without me to celebrate the holiday with his family.

Holidays can be a difficult time in my household. It is a common occurrence for me to have to work the late afternoons into the late hours of the evening. Often times my husband is forced to go on without me to celebrate the holidays which leaves us both feel like we are missing out on a lot in our marriage. Thanksgiving 2010 was no different for us.

While it made sense for me as the holiday was happening to feel down and gloomy, I do have a lot to be very thankful for in my life. Doug and I celebrated our Kelly family Thanksgiving last night with our dogs. The four of us dined on turkey, green beans, au gratin potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy, and a ugly looking but very tasty pumpkin pie. It was wonderful.

Often times I find myself being caught up in the moment of craziness and not being able to reflect on all the great blessing which I have in my life.

I am thankful for my husband and his wonderful ability to put up with me and love me in my moments of insanity. I am thankful for my family and the humor hey add to my life. My dogs have been one of the greatest blessings in my life. They have taught me patience and love, and are the best little cuddle buddies ever. I am thankful to have a job and an income that exceeds all my basic needs in life, even if my career does not provide the challenges that I feel I need in life it is amazing to have paycheck through uncertain economic times.

Often times we can have something in our life that we experience on almost a daily basis and have allowed it to become such fixture in our life, that we take it for granted. For me this is my ability to be able to run. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with the strength and ability to be able to move my body in a way that some can only dream of. Running has provided me not only with physical strength in my life but has also taught me how to budget my time, challenge myself in vulnerable moments, to clear my mind of toxic thoughts, and has allowed me to experience the city of Chicago in a way that a lot of people have not.

I am amazed by the way running has taught me to appreciate the late fall sun setting and casting long golden shadows on leaf laden grass, and the crisp breeze touching my skin. It is an amazing thing to be able to run, and it's an even more amazing thing when I can stop and remind myself that I do not run to be the fastest or to be the best. Rather I run to be able to feel and experience life in a way that is untouchable by the toxicity in this world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Leap of Faith

So I decide to take a "hiatus" from blogging for the summer, and what has now become the fall, and and decided with winter looming ahead that it's time to gather my thoughts. After an oddly inspirational moment last night with my husband over the movie "Julie & Julia", I realized that I too like the main character seemed to always have great intentions on starting these things that seemed great in my mind, and then slowly loose their luster and fade in the development stages.

While many pages have turned in my life since my last posting, I'm allowing myself to start out fresh in my latest endeavour. I have officially begun the process of becoming a Certified Personal Trainer. I have spent the past several months drowning myself with information about anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, training methods, nutrition, and everything and anything which provides wellness information. Taking on this new world of undiscovered information, and learning why our bodies have the movements that they do has been enlightening.

Years ago when I went off to culinary school, on a whim and a prayer, I found myself more overwhelmed by the information I was given then excited and curious like a college student should be. It was then that I first vocalized my desire to work in the fitness industry. At moments when I felt like I wasn't enjoying myself and that there was no logical reason for me to be chopping 50 lbs. of onions or de-veining 200 shrimp, I would say that I was dropping out of college to become and aerobics instructor. While those around me would find humor in my satirical moments, there was always a piece inside me that really wanted to pursue an adventure in the fitness world.

I am ecstatic to say that after many wasted years of my precious time on this earth, I am finally pursuing what has always seemed like the impossible and impractical for me. I find myself wanting to pour every piece of my mind and body into an industry that focusing on the well-being of an individual. The promotion of self-awareness and the building of character that starts within an individual is a powerful thing, and something that many people struggle with. I am ready to jump head first into this who new world of greatness and share my thoughts and knowledge with the fitness world.

But first, I must pass my certification. So that means studying, studying, and yes much more studying.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Prefontaine Classic

Tomorrow will be the annual Prefontaine Classic held at the infamous Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

While this meet always has many exciting moments and races packed with plenty of talent, the Bowerman Mile is shaping up to be a rather exhilerating race. With greats like Bernard Legat, Lopez Lomong, Leo Manzano, Youssef Kamel, Andrew Wheating and others I am rather excited to be viewing this race even on T.V.

NBC has promised to air a portion of the meet, check local listings for confirmation.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chicago Marathon Elites

While I am in countdown and preparation mode for this falls Chicago Marathon, it has just been announced the elite womens field that I will be joining on 10/10/10. The most recent press release from the organizers Chicago Marathon had some great news with the elite field including American greats such as Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, Colleen De Reuck, Tera Moody and Desiree Davila.

With such a deeply competitive American field in a year that many female distance runners are opting out of many races, I'm STOKED that these amazing women will be in my company on race day.

With 15 weeks until the big day, I'm feeling very anxious.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A steamy lesson learned

Yesterday was my first speed training day of my 16 week marathon training program. While I was excited for it, I was also excited about allowing myself to sleep in. By the time I trekked out for my run, the sun was already blazing down with relatively high humidities.

While it wasn't the best workout that I've ever had, I made it through. I managed to run a 4 mile tempo at 7:10 pace in the heat and humidity, and also taught myself a lesson. Lesson learned: during the summertime, it may be best to fight the desire to sleep in and instead get up early and treat yourself to a nap.

Usually my body adapts well to all types of weather, but yesterday did not fall into to normalcy for me. I rarely ever find myself running to the point of making myself sick, until yesterday.

Tomorrow will be the first long distance run for me with a 14-miler. I plan to head out early, and defiantly treat myself to some R&R in the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lightening can ruin your day

Monday was day one of my Chicago Marathon training. That would make today day three, and the day of my first tempo run.

Last night I went to bed at 11:30 and set my alarm for 6:45 with high hopes of being able to get up early. I am not an early riser, nor am I a morning person. I typically rise around 8, and sometimes I sleep as late as 9. Basically I do not like to be rushed out of bed. I enjoy the slow process of waking and laying in bed until my body feels ready to tackle the day. With the intentions of getting up early to beat the predicted thunderstorms, I jet off to bed.

When my alarm went off at 6:45, and I reset it for 8. When the alarm went off again at 8 I got up, let the dogs out, and got ready to go to the gym to lift weights and set off on my tempo run. As I was out walking the dogs, it begun to rain with lightening soon to follow.

I try to keep myself optimistic when it rains and get out for my run anyways. I enjoy the feeling of the cool rain on my skin, and the soothing sound of the rain dancing on the pavement. But when you throw the lightening bolts that are large and close in sight, it makes me second guess about my safety. So this morning I opted to not to go out for my run, and instead I'm currently sitting on my couch.

Sometimes our plans cannot be set in stone and we have to be flexible. When safety can be compromised, it at times may be best to say tata for now to your running shoes.

Hopefully tomorrow will be lightening free!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Soldier Field 10 Mile

Memorial Day weekend has been the host of the Chicago Soldier Field 10 Mile for the past 7 years. This 10 mile race follows the scenic route of Chicago's lakefront, and finishes along the 50 yard line of Soldier Field.

This past year was my 3rd year competing in the race, and hosted 8,345 finishers. Among the finishers was Katie Mcgregor who was the top female who set a new course record of 55:51.

With all of the new technology that has come out in the past few years for new timing methods, this years race opted to use the B Timing system. This new timing technology has a sensor which is connected to the back of the runners bib. I think this is a great idea and I'm enthused about how it allows the runner one less thing to worry about because the bib and chip are married as one. While it is a great idea, for me personally I feel some flaws with this system. Firstly the bib cannot be bent or folded in any way, if so the chip warns that the device may become deactivated. Secondly, I do not feel that the bib allows for the most accurate timing possible.

With a race that is host to almost 10,000 people, it becomes natural for the starting line to become rather crowded. On race morning there was 3 different start corrals. I found myself seated in the first corral which became very compact. I placed myself far enough back to allow all of the faster runners to get out ahead of me as well as for all of the runners who feel the need to sprint like they are on fire out of the gate. When I crossed the starting line, I found myself 25 seconds behind the clock. This remained consistent throughout the 10 miles as I checked my pace with the clocks.

I crossed the 50 yard line at 1:11:55. While I felt that I hadn't run the best race of my life, I also felt that finishing in a 1:11:30 was an achievement. A few days later when I checked the results online, my finishing time proved to say otherwise. My clock time and finish time seemed to be the same. While I know that this is impossible from my placing at the starting line, the timing chip provided other information which becomes indisputable.

While I am well aware that 25 seconds doesn't make much of a difference in the span of a lifetime, I have been rather bothered by this for the past week. My race went rather smoothly and I felt fairly strong and relaxed, I finished 48th out of 4,641 women, and finished 330th out of the 8,345 total runners. But that 25 seconds means a lot to me, and I'll never get them back.

Sometimes its a shame when technology fails us. I'll get over my 25 second error eventually.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's National Running Day

Happy National Running Day!

Celebrate today by going for a run and enjoying the depth of your breath, the freedom of your stride, and the feeling of your foot and the earth becoming one each time your foot reaches the ground.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An inspirational moment

It can sometimes be difficult to continue on after a bad race, but that's what separates the great runner from the average runner. The ability to continue to pursue something challenging after a failure is what brings great successes.

A few words for me to think about as I prepare for my 10-miler.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Free Time

With the Soldier Field 10 Mile three days away, I'm in full taper mode this week. This is the time that I most look forward to during my training, yet it often times leaves me feeling more tired then usual. Strange how this works that when mileage is suddenly cut back, my body begins to feel completely exhausted from a five miler. Lactic acid builds up in my legs leaving them with a lingering feeling of tightness and an unusual heaviness.

There are many benefits of tapering besides the obvious. While its a wonderful thing to step back from the weeks, or maybe even months, of training to think about all the hard work done to get to the current time period and fitness also leaves me with down time. Cutting my mileage nearly in half this week has provided me with more free time then usual. It can sometimes be a scary thought to me to think that I have to take it easy and relax, but this week has been wonderful.

So far with my new found freedom from the pavement I have spent my time catching up on sleep, doing laundry, straightening up my home, and finally cleaning out my email inbox after months of neglect. With the commitment that running 60+ miles a week takes on my schedule, I often times find myself rushing around to take care of basic tasks. This week I've made a commitment to myself to enjoy my free time, take a yoga class, read the articles in Runners World that I've been needing to get to, and maybe even bake some cookies for my husband.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One last tempo

Summer is just around the corner, and I'm excited! I've been anticipating this moment since the passing of the Indian Summer.

There is something about running when its warm and sunny out that just makes it so much more enjoyable. Yesterday I let the summer fever get the best of me. Wednesdays are typically my speed training day of the week, and yesterday was no different with a 5 mile tempo at a 6:59 pace. I started out with a 15 minute warm up, and then was off. Speed work is always somewhat difficult for me, and requires a fairly serious warm-up. With the sun shining brightly and providing a comforting warmth, my muscles seemed to loosen up fairly quickly.

I felt strong and was keeping pace through the workout. It can be difficult for me to keep my mind focused during the last few minutes of a tempo run. In the last five minutes I could feel the burning in my legs, but kept telling myself to press on. In the last maybe two minutes or so, I found myself pressing so hard that I thought that I was going to lose my breakfast.

Nonetheless I made it through yesterday feeling strong and powerful. With only nine days until the Soldier Field 10 Mile, I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for the challenge ahead.

Happy almost summer!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Illinois Marathon

On May 1st, my husband, our two dogs and myself all packed up our car and drove down to Champaign-Urbana for the Illinois Marathon. This was the second year for this event and it drew over 10,000 runners competing in the 5k, half marathon as well as the full marathon. I competed in the half marathon and the race provided a fairly competitive field this year as compared to last year.

In the inaugural year for this event it lack organization as well as some well thought out faux paus for a race. With a better organizational system this year, as well as I'm sure many considered suggestions by participants, I would say that this race was an overwhelming success. This year they offered a large area with Port-o-Potties that were separated away from the starting line, compared to last year when the toilets were facing directly into the racers at the starting line. At the aid stations along the course, they eliminated the bottled water that they were offering last year and stuck with the paper cups which in my opinion is a much safer and environmentally friendly choice. The post celebration party, or the 27th mile as it was referred to, was a nice addition to the perks of the race.

While the race was a great event and I'm grateful for being able to participate, my poor performance has left me with a bittersweet memory of this race.

For this particular race, I begun training in January and spent a total of 16 intense weeks focused on my physical progress. As I mentioned in my previous post, the stars all seemed to align for me creating a perfect storm of catastrophe. While I did feel this about four weeks before the race, I continued on still holding faith in myself and my ability to perform and run a great race.

The day before the race was awful for me, and not how I would typically spend my pre-race preparations. We had a long drive from Chicago with two dogs, checked into a stinky and somewhat dingy hotel room, our dogs had a meltdown as we attempted to leave the hotel to go to the expo so I ended up attending by myself where I endured traffic that left me feeling anxious and stressed, had a pre-race dinner from Panera that was less then scrumptious, couldn't sleep in the uncomfortable bed and feared that I was going to contract some type of virus if my skin touched the sheets, and I woke up about every hour or so either because I thought that I was going to oversleep or the dogs were bouncing around the room making all kinds of long story short i woke feeling as stressed and anxious as the day before.

When we got to the race I had a million things going through my mind. I found it difficult to focus on what my purpose for that morning was, and I kept thinking about how all of my joints and muscles felt some what tired and achy. Nonetheless, I started the race feeling alright for the first three miles. The weather was odd that morning. When I woke it was humid, but breezy and quite overcast. By the time mile three hit, it became warm and sunny with the lingering humidity that made my skin sticky and added extra perspiration.

By mile six I was ready to call it quits. I had completely checked out mentally and begun wondering what the hell I was doing. There was a battle going on inside my mind of the discomfort and how poorly I was running. I gave up on myself. I walked on several different occasions where I contemplated pulling out of the race entirely. After slowing my mile pace way down and walking every so often, I had allowed myself to fall so off pace that I just wanted it all to be over.

This was a new feeling for me. I've run many races in my life, and I had never felt so defeated. While I know that I'm in control of myself and my reactions to challenges, I felt as though there was nothing left inside of my spirit to finish the race. But I somehow gathered myself and crossed the finish line in 1:39:02. A whooping 9+minutes off of my race plan.

While this race was awful and I feel like I'd rather forget it then dwell upon it, today I told myself that it's important to take sometime to think about what happened. Learn from it. Move on.

It's important to remind myself that successes would lack any substantial meaning if they came easily. Worthy achievements do not just happen, they are earned from an honest days work.

Daily Challenges

Every runner feels the constant desire for improvement, and I would not consider myself exempt to this yearning to be stronger and faster.

I've been refusing to allow myself to reflect back upon my most recent race and the sequence of events that led up to the race in the weeks before. While I had my aspirations high, and spent many days out in the cold Chicago winter battling the wind and ice, I let myself down.

While it is a very vague thing to say that I did not meet my own expectations, there is much truth to this. Every race poses a challenge to each of its competitors. The whole principle of a race is to get from point A to point B in the quickest time possible while battling ones own demons. I've never been much of what I like to refer to as a "head-case", meaning the little voice inside of us that feels the pain and discomfort slowly eat away at the focus and self-awareness needed to successfully push us to challenge our self. Yet lately I have been finding myself in a runners rut where I am preventing myself from achieving the successes which I am capable of.

Yes I am preventing myself from success. Period.

I have put in the work, I have done the mileage, I have eaten all of the right foods, and I have spent many hours of my day going over mile paces and splits in my head. Yet it all has become a waste.

The month or so before my most recent race was a difficult one for me. I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled, where two were severely impacted and led to a very difficult recovery. In my attempts to keep myself rested, I found myself restless despite being exhausted from working extremely strange and inconsistent hours at my job with long stretches between the occasional day off here and there. I skipped many of my weight lifting and yoga dates thinking that this would leave me feeling rested, instead it left me feeling weak and excessively tight. And I allowed my head to be filled with the stresses of my daily life, leaving my head feeling constantly cloudy with exhaustion of the over processing of my thoughts.

While I am well award of the ability of my self destructive ways, running has always been my release from that. Seeing myself give up on something that I have spent so much time pining towards is a difficult reflection for me. So, has to be told that I have turned myself into a "head-case" case. The avoidance of this is no longer within my abilities, and the truth that I am a runner and I constantly battle the good and bad in my mind must be dealt with.

Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start where the previous days stressors needn't be overly indulged or processed in my mind. So onto tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Big news has hit the Chicago running circuit today, Olympic runner Ryan Hall will be joining the elite field of runners on 10/10/10 for the Chicago Marathon. This is great news for running fans who are participating in this years race, and even more exciting for those who are planning to support the 45,000 runners along the course. Ryan will of course be tackling the Boston Marathon on April 19, with big hopes to bring a first place finish to America.

While registration for this years marathon had closed in a record 51 days, the elite field is just beginning to unfold. Can't wait to see who else will be joining the field.

Friday, April 2, 2010

2010 Chicago Shamrock Shuffle

Here in Chicago the first official large race every year is the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k. This race is traditionally held on the first Sunday of Spring, and brings a large crowd of runners who have been in hibernation during the harsh Chicago winters. I found myself there again this year along with over 25,000 of my fellows runners. While the racing conditions were cool, wet and windy; the field of competitors was the largest ever. While I'm in the tail end of half marathon training, and found my legs feeling heavy and unrested on race morning, I did manage to achieve a 3 second PR.

Crossing the line in a 33:15 I at first found myself a bit bummed out with my performance. As most racers I generally hold myself to high expectations, and sometimes manage to crack under the pressures that I try to burden myself with during a race. My splits were great, and negative. I clocked the first mile at 6:43 feeling great, the second at 6:41 still feeling rather great, the third mile at a 6:39, fourth mile is where I really begun to feel the banana I ate for breakfast and clocked a 6:36, and the last .97 was rather difficult for me and took about 6:39.

While I did successfully have the PR that I wanted, I did seem to lose it in the last mile. My orginal goal was to break 33:00, which was not achievable that morning. I made the best adjustments that I could during the race, going out slow for the first mile. I am still proud of my race, yet I've spent quite a bit of time lately rehashing the last mile. While it can be torture to continually relive a race that did not go as expected, I've been finding it oddly productive. To be a successful runner and achieve the times that I desire, it's important for me to sit and think about where I may have cranked it out or where I let myself fall apart in a race.

Looking ahead to The Illinois Half Marathon on May 1st, it's now important for me to focus on the back end of my race. By keeping it in my mind that the last few miles can be the most difficult as I train, it will remind me to push through the discomfort and finish as strong as I start. Keeping the focus on consistency and strength both mentally and physically is my goal in the next four weeks.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The healing process

Recently I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed. Two of the four were impacted, with one that was severely impacted into the nerve endings to my lip. It has been a full four days now since the procedure, and the healing process has been awfully slow. With the usual swelling and bruising that come along with any surgery, I've also had limited movement in my mouth and quite a bit of nausea. This has made it very difficult to eat, and has left me feeling weak and tired.

For the average person, the recovery process would include much rest and relaxation. While I would love nothing more then lying in bed for 7 days and eating ice cream, this is also one of my greatest fears. I am an active person, and that would be putting it lightly. My usual training schedule has me spending at least an hour a day on the lake front trail running, hitting the gym three times a week for weight training, and trying to fit in an hour long yoga class two to three times a week. That puts me anywhere between one to three hours a day working out, six days a week.

Rest is the best way to let our bodies go through the necessary heeling process after any type of injury, but it can also be the most frightening part of any type of recovery. It has been difficult for me to admit to myself that I need to take my time allowing myself to get back to the training that I want to be doing. With only taking two full days off, I went for my first run post surgery yesterday which was only three full days after going under the knife. While it was nice to get out of the house, it was quite possibly the worst run that I have ever been on. I decided to take a slow seven mile run at a 9:00 mile pace, which is about a full minute slower then my usual pace.

I'm proud to say that I did make it through the pain, but it was a very difficult challenge. For me the reasoning of why I took to the road so soon after is that I've trained myself mentally to think that for every extra day that I give myself off, that is one day behind my competitors that I put myself. In the larger picture I'm confident in saying that this is a successful way of making a commitment to something that you want to achieve, but while our bodies are recovering from injury or surgery this can be a crippling notion.

While todays 8 miler at an 8:00 pace was easier then yesterday, I know that my body is still not at 100%. So my lesson learned today is that sometimes its necessary to admit to ourselves that it is okay to take it easy and allow ourselves to rest. Baby steps are necessary while in recovery, even if we do not want to admit to ourselves that we are human and can have moments of weakness.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Starting Line

Running has been a large part of my life for some years now. It has been a way for me to challenge myself, stay in shape, and relieve some of the stressors in my life. I begun my running adventures as a teenager, and joined the Track & Field team as a youngster that really wanted to be part of a team but lacked the physical ability and coordination to make any teams that required previous skills.

In my earlier days, running provided the social outlet that I needed. It gave me an instant circle of friends to hang out with after school and on the weekends who understood the physical and mental challenges that being a runner entailed. The instant bond that I was able to form with my teammates encouraged me to become a confident young woman who knew that I would always have an unbreakable bond and never ending support system of friends through my teammates.

It wasn't until I graduated from high school and went of to college, and out on my own for the first time, that I really begun to appreciate the foundation that running helped me establish in my life. It taught me to become a problem solver, how to best utilize my time, to be a fighter for my desires, and to always be looking ahead to the new challenges that lay ahead. Being at a college where I felt alone for the first time, where my entire education was centered around the culinary world, I made the decision that wellness and balance would be the foundation of life.

As I have grown, I've been slowly learning to make the best lifestyle choices for myself. Being an adult in the most overweight nation in the world can often times be difficult and lonely, and finding comfort in food is common. We are all faced with the option to take our lives down the path less traveled and create the most balanced life for ourselves, or allow ourselves to fall into the rut and temptations that are constantly following us.

For myself I've chosen the road that leads me to wellness and balance in my life. The best way for me to do this is to continue to challenge myself on a daily basis physically, mentally, and emotionally.

With this said, I invite you to travel along with me as I make my best efforts to achieve the goals that I have laid out for myself this year. This is the year of changes and challenges as I run though the streets of Chicago to become stronger, faster, and more confident in my life then I have ever been before.