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.