Thursday, August 30, 2012

Suburban Running

This is breathtaking...

but it's easy to take something that you really appreciate and love for granted when you think you've got unlimited time together.

I don't know if I really truly appreciated Chicago lakefront running until I knew that one day we were going to part ways and move on separately with our lives. It just became a part of my routine and my only safe place to get in my miles without dodging taxis that think stop signs are optional and drivers that swear they've master texting while driving. I didn't think twice about my route and instead laced up and would do a mini variation of the workout I did the day before. I became a terrible creature of habit that found blissful contentment with the same old route with the same old view that never seemed to get old to me. 

In the 12 days that I've been out of the city, I've had 9 very different runs that haven't mirrored one another yet. I've stumbled on some equally as gorgeous trails out here, some of which have majorly kicked my booty. My legs aren't used to inclines or surfaces other than asphalt as they've been running the same route over and over for almost the past decade.

These inclines don't look like much, but to someone who never ever runs on anything other that flat surfaces these short seemingly steep grades amidst a speed workout really get the heart pumping.

The first few days I was out here I did some trail running in a forest preserve near my home that I used to run cross country meets in as a middle and high schooler 10+ years ago.

The area has changed quite a bit since I last lived here where the miles of trails have increased and the area seems to cater a bit more to those who are looking to sweat it out with nature. Funny that I hadn't thought much about the long stretches of desolate pathways which swerve in and out of tree canopies making a person feeling like they are a million miles from no where before I arrived here, yet here they've been all along.

Indian Summer seems to be slowly creeping it's way in

It's weird when you go from being on a tiny over crowded path where you often have to fight for space and no one acknowledges your presence to open uninhibited spaces that seem to be never ending. People wave, (what's up with that by the I supposed to wave to EVERYONE that passes by asking them how they're doing greeting them with good morning/afternoon/evening?) and while it bothers me, I'm starting to get a small sense of what it's like to live like a civilized human once again...and quite embarrassed that I've somehow forgotten this. 

With my goal half now just 10 days away, I'm feeling as ready as I'll ever be. I've gotten some fairly decent workouts in within the past few weeks, but it is starting to seem like that aggressively insane sub 1:25 goal may be slightly out of my reach at this current time. It's been rough trying to get back on track after I basically threw myself violently off of a building earlier this year that I've been attempting to slowly piece back together. Realistically I would put myself somewhere in the low 1:26's right now, which I will gladly take with a smile.

In the past week I've had:

1 threshold workout of 2x15 minutes @ HMGP (6:30) with splits of 6:22 & 6:23

A 4 mile tempo run that was sub par with crazy splits of 6:38, 6:27, 6:20, 6:25

And what should have been 3x2 mile repeats @ -5 to-10 under HMGP but the sun cooked my brain and I instead ended up with 2x2 mile repeats and one lonely 1 miler with splits of  12:55, 12:40, and that solitary 6:30 mile

Tomorrow will be either a 4-6 mile tempo or an 8-10 mile steady run and Sunday will host the hubby's 1st 20 miler of his marathon training, than it's a week full of taper where 2012's racing will most likely come to a close at the Chicago Half Marathon on 9/9. No fall racing plans other than the marathon fun run with the hubby on 10/7, which most likely won't change. At this time I do have my eyes on a local 5k Turkey Trot, but post marathon recovery will determine that.

Basically this week will be my last big week of focused training for 2012! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Garmin SOS, again

This whole watch thing is really starting to grind my gears. 

For most of this year I've ditched the GPS, or any watch for that matter, for about 90% of my workouts. Simply put, in my 28 years of life I've determined that watches are stupid and don't teach a runner how to train better or get any faster. All they do is spew out data that makes you feel pressure to hit a certain pace, which isn't always the best training option and can lead to injury, over training, and never ending plateaus.

But those few times I do strap on my Garmin Forerunner 110 it's for a steady purpose. Consistent tempo runs, timed fartleks, and a basic idea for long run distance. Call me crazy, but I expect the watch to work those 1-2 days per week I sport it.

Lately I've been having nothing but problems with my now 2 year old watch. Sometimes the watch acquires the satellite signal before I start the stopwatch where it than disappears after about 15 seconds of movement. At first I thought that it the signal was just fading in and out, but it never comes back and won't upload to my computer. After contacting Garmin about this months ago, they let me know that it was because my watch was full and I needed to delete the data. So I deleted the files off of the watch itself, and it still was encountering issues.

Then they let me know that it is most likely due to the fact that my watch needs a system update. They sent me the link with step by step directions that all seemed to be smooth sailing until the last few steps.

The Web Updater did let me know that my software was dated, so I proceeded just as the directions stated only to find that the update will not finish.

What the heck do I do now? How is the device full, I've deleted all of the files?

Garmin support doesn't seem to be in a rush to help a gal out here and I'm about 2 seconds away from throwing this dumb watch down my garbage disposal. And this is only the start of the issues I've been having with this watch, it also like to randomly turn itself on and off when sitting quietly alone on my bookshelf or counter top. It really seems to have a mind of it's own and likes to mess with me.

Anyone else have the Garmin Forerunner 110 and experience this issue? If so, how did you fix it?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sometimes life is filled with mayhem

The last 8 days or so have been quite a whirlwind in this neck of the woods. We haven't had internet since August 17th and have finally been reunited with the WWW once again. At first I thought I missed it, but in reality there really hasn't been much time to sit wrapped up in my snuggie at my desk farting around on the computer. A little detachment from the reins of technology every now and than is actually quite lovely.

In the past 8 days...

We closed on our first home which is located in the suburbs. Not sure how the hubby exactly convinced me to leave, but I'm still very close to a Trader Joe's and have plenty of running trail options now so hopefully suburban life won't suck the life out of my normal scrappy self that I've grown quite partial to.

Then we got in a car accident in our last few hours of packing and scrambling around the city tying up all the loose ends we procrastinated on for weeks. While we were okay physically, getting rear ended while at a red light by an idiot who clearly wasn't paying attention was just enough to make this crazy girl flip her lid. There was some yelling, quite a few vulgar words spewing out of my mouth that I don't normally use, and then I was told to sit in the car. Not always a lady I suppose.

"Benny", as I like to call our wheels, is okay now but in his short 6 year life has sported 3 different bumpers.
I don't know what it is but for some reason people like to rear end me while my car is at a complete stop.

After the accident the police refused to come out to the scene and we ended up getting in a fight with this police officer that was refusing to help. Chicago Police are very classy where it apparently is normal protocol to degrade those who are coming to you for help and ignore them while texting on your iPhone as you're on the clock and tell them that you aren't a priority to them. 

Saturday the 18th after the accident that caused massive chaos to our day, we switched into maniac packing mode to get everything ready for our move the next day. That night was our 5 year wedding anniversary and last night as Chicago residents that we celebrated at an underground speakeasy which was super cute and really made me sad to have to leave these kinds of kitschy places behind. By the end of the night we were feeling a bit ragged around the edges after multiple nights of little to no sleep as we slept on the floor, had our entire life packed away in boxes, and practically no food in the house left. It would be safe to say I was feeling a bit hairy by the time moving day rolled around.

Sunday the 19th was my last morning in Chitown and I had a tempo run planned that didn't happen. Legs felt like crud at 5 am and my energy level was well into the negatives. For months I dreaded those last few miles and knew that it would be tough for my soul to say sayonara to the city that made such a huge impact on who I've become in the past 10 years. But goodbyes aren't forever and I'll be back soon.

Since Sunday we've been unpacking, installing new floors, unpacking, stealing free internet from Starbucks, unpacking, trying to figure out how to run a house, unpacking, and quite a bit of yard work to no longer make our house the eye sore of the block. Moving from a 1 bedroom 600 sq ft apartment to a 4 bedroom 1800 sq ft house has been interesting and exhausting. 

Our first full day in the house we felt like idiots after trying to figure out how to get hot water and having to call my parents to the rescue. Apparently hot water heaters don't work unless a pilot light is lit, who knew??? Still trying to adjust to the suburban life and home ownership as it is quite different from the big city. 

People feel like they can knock on your doors here for anything:

steak salesmen selling meat out of the back of a minivan that are only $5 a piece with a minimum purchase of 23 steaks that go back into their 1980 Chevy Astro after you pass and pee in a water bottle which they pour out in the street in front of your house...

internet and cable providers just ringing your bell at 8:30 pm trying to get you to sign up for their service right then and now because you checked out their rates online...

evangelists who want to know how you feel about violence...

I'm going to make a sign for my home that very clearly states "NO SOLICITATION" but will have one clause...

"Girl Scouts selling cookies will always be welcome"

The good news is that there are lots of trails here with plenty of variety in terrain within a mile or so from my home. After being a creature of habit for so many years running the same trail on the lakefront nearly everyday it'll be nice to have routes and a change of scenery for every run.

The Chicago lakefront still has a hold on me and I've been missing it like crazy these last 7 days, there really isn't anything better than running into the skyline lakeside. 

Suburban runners:

Do you run on the streets or stick to the sidewalks? Not sure what the protocol is for that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Taboo Trail Talk

The Chicago lakefront path...

20+ miles of mostly uninterrupted trail that hugs along the lakefront for the sole use of pedestrians, runners, and bikers. In the city this is one of the only trails for people to enjoy and what I once thought was the safest place to run because it avoids contact with cars, buses, and manic taxi drivers. But this summer I have felt more so than ever in the 10 years I've been using the path that safe has become a relative term.

This summer I've seen:

  • A runner that was knocked down by a cyclist where he was spread out on the pavement with blood gushing from his head.
  • A biker that was cruising like madman without a helmet fly over his handle bars after loosing control of his bike. By the time paramedics came to his rescue he wasn't moving.
  • Small children frantically darting across the path lacking any parental supervision or looking before they cross millimeters away from nailing a cyclist.
  • Runners and plenty of walkers on the incorrect side of the path on heavy traffic days.
  • Bikers off in lala land riding along merrily in the middle of the path weaving all over the place.
  • Runners and walkers in large crowds taking over the entire path not leaving space for oncoming traffic to safely pass.
  • A biker and a runner throwing punches at one another about who's fault it was when the biker clipped the runner with his handle bars.
  • Walkers swinging their arms all over the place smacking people in the face as they pass. Actually I enjoy seeing this, keep this coming.
  • People getting dive bombed by a very angry swooping bird.

Last week I was hit by a child that couldn't have been more than 7-8 years old as I was running with a plastic bat. He was walking on the incorrect side of the path swinging a blue bat, so I scooted over to avoid bumping into him. But as I passed he decided it would be funny to whack me with his bat to which I more than likely over reacted by calling him a "little s***" where his mother had no reaction whatsoever to the situation. I'm sure she would have had a reaction if I hit her son with that blue bat.

Then yesterday...oh gosh yesterday...

I thought it would be fun to bike all the way south to where the path ends, which is a 32 mile round trip from my home. Within the first 10 minutes as I was slowly crusing along on my fancy-schmancy Target Schwinn bicycle, I was slowly coming up on an older lady who was weaving from one side of the path to another. She almost looked like she was biking under the influence. I alerted her that I was approaching "on her left" to let her know that it would most likely be a good idea to bike in a straight line so we don't collide, where she than completely lost her mind. The woman somehow lost control of her wheels while spewing out every curse word from A-Z at me as she crashed to the ground. Thinking this woman was crazy, I continued on even though she spilled all over the pavement. Yes, I'm a model citizen.

At the south end of the lakefront path, 71st street 

Bend near the Shedd Aquarium

As I was on my way home, I seemed to have gotten into a little tiff with another older woman on a rental bike as I spoke up notifying her that I was approaching "on her left". She seemed to have gotten offended that people kept passing her letting her know that she cannot be riding in the middle of the path, especially in the congested area she was in. Apparently she was under the impression that the lakefront trail was a free for all where safety rules don't exist.

My point is this...

As a user of the lakefront trail (or any trail for that matter) it was always my understanding that there was an unspoken code of conduct that all trail users need to comply with: 

  • Always stay to your right, just like the road.
  • Notify persons when approaching from behind if you'd like to pass, and always pass on the left.
  • Don't stand in the middle of trail. Especially if you have a baby stroller.
  • Wear a damn helmet, even if it makes your hair look like a ratty mess.
  • If you are operating wheels, don't have headphones in.
  • Don't run in large clusters taking up the entire path.
  • When someone says "on your left" it's not meant to demand you slow your pace and move over, instead it just means take a bit of caution because there are others on the path.
  • Use common sense, you won't be the only one using the trail.
  • Pedestrians will always have the right of way. Always.

I know we all do it, I'm guilty of running in the middle of the path during the winter months when I'm the only one out there or spacing out at times not realizing how much of the path I'm taking up. But I never get angry when someone says on your left, and realize that it's just a cautionary warning to stop being an idiot and think about the safety of others that are using this same shared space with me and shove over. However, my feelings are that if you can't comply to these rules and feel like you need to run on the wrong side of traffic or that it is impossible for you to scoot over for passing traffic, than you should lose your rights to the public space. 

Opening the forum for path etiquette discussion here. Am I just being an uptight snooty city snob, or do other trails have this same problem?

Do you think that rules should exist for trail use?

In case you're wondering, the city of Chicago does actually have rules in place for the trail. If you're curious as to what they are, you can check them out here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

just one little run

Sometimes all you need is one run...

One little run to tell you that you're on the right track and that your dreams and goals don't seem so far off. I've been waiting for that run for months now and it unexpectedly came last Saturday morning.

My training has been off all summer. Even with a 5k PR, I've had a really difficult time finding a tempo pace and holding it steady and it's been driving me nuts. When the wheels started slowly falling off the bus for me back in late April where I had to majorly back off my training, tempos were pretty much out of the question. Sustained efforts wreaked havoc on my knee so I had to shelf them for awhile. Trying to get back in the tempo game has been extremely frustrating and I've had quite a few misses.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling groggy. The weight of my up and coming move, the heartbreak of leaving my beautiful city, and the laundry list of tasks that need my attention have all been sucking the life out of me. But I headed out the door anyways as a time to escape the boxes which are safely guarding the contents of my life that have taken over my home. Bare walls and empty cupboards aren't exactly screaming inviting to me these days, and running has been the only thing keeping me sane. The pit in my stomach telling me life as I know it is about to see a drastic change in the matter of days stays with the clutter of boxes as I sweat out my suburban life anxieties on those precious last few Chitown runs.

This is what my home looks like right now 5 days out from our move
It's a scary disorganized mess
There was no watch and no expectation. Saturday should have been a recovery day for me after a pathetically failed attempt of speed work the day before into 20+ mph winds coming directly off the lake that left me feeling like I was running in place (this girl knows what I mean because we were the only two crazies out there). But the weather was perfect, my legs felt ready to go, my iPod seemed to be shuffling the songs just right for the day, and the path was enticing me.

It starts up North from Hollywood,
Water on the drivin' side.
Concrete mountains rearin' up
Throwin' shadows just about five.
Sometimes you can smell the green,
If your mind is feelin' fine.
There ain't no finer place to be,
Then runnin' Lake Shore Drive.
And there's no piece of mind or place, you see,
Ridin' on Lake Shore Drive.

I let myself get carried away one last time.

Photo taken last fall
This is my favorite secret little nook to swing through
No tourists and usually completely quiet
One of Chitown's best kept secrets

One last time to hammer it out on my favorite 12 mile route as the sun rose waking up the city where my legs powered me through like steam engines. Never in my life had I needed a steady progressive 12 miler in my own solace like I did that day, and it will go down as one for the record books for me coming at the perfect time.

One little run is all I needed to know that my sanity is still in tact and that my legs haven't forgotten how to churn a quick pace. I know that I'm pathetically nostalgic over my city, but how could I not be? This place has a decade of memories and growth on me. Chicago has shaped me into who I am affirming that it's okay to do my own thing while throwing caution into the wind and not giving a crap what anyone thinks.

This is how I'm always going to remember this city...

Ali Engin Photography
riding south on LSD heading into town. Just me and the lake path. Simple. Beautiful. Peaceful.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by relection."
Thomas Paine 
I'm an urban dweller where Chicago has not only become the city I live in but has somehow crept its way inside my soul and has become a huge part of who I am. The sound of el tracks and CTA buses buzzing by my home create a soothing hush of white noise that calms the chatter in my mind. Here is a place where a good cup of coffee goes well beyond Starbucks, chain restaurants and far and few between, hipsters are always welcomed, and the concrete jungle makes everything seem brilliantly and beautifully possible.

Chicago is my home, and has been for my entire adult life.

This is the city where I reluctantly toted off to college 10 years ago.
The city where my husband proposed to me on bended knee in a horse drawn carriage coasting along Michigan Avenue on a freezing cold night in December of 2005.
The city where I moved into my first solo apartment that was the size of a closet and had a view of an alley.
The city where I was married on a cold and rainy August evening.
The city where my husband and I bought our pups and started to form our little family.
The city where I fell head over heels in love with running and have run 10's of thousands of miles along the lakefront.

Here is where I've lost my way and found it again, learned to love myself for who I am, and developed a deeply rooted appreciation for urban architecture. I've cried on these streets, laughed on the rooftops, and freed my wayward soul on the lakefront.

I've always pictured my life here; settling down, raising a family, growing old along the shore, living out lives adventures with the Chicago skyline as my background. That simple and that beautiful with no fancy frills. 

But life has made it clear in 2012 that those dreams I've spent the latter parts of my 28 years moonstruck over may not be what they seem. That beautiful brownstone walk up on a quiet street is well out of financial reach for most 20-somethings, the delicately gorgeous children that are half me and half him will never be able to have the amazing educational opportunities our parents graciously provided us with, and old age simply starts to sound grim when the thought of isolation from family just for a beautiful view plays out in my mind.

Sometimes your greatest fear in life becomes your inevitable doom, just awaiting your arrival on it's doorstep. For me that fear is an established life in the suburbs. Mini vans, carpools, Old Navy, Olive Garden date nights, keeping up with those damn Jones', none of which seem to suit me. The suburban life to me seems like a pair of expensive designer heels that looks great on the rack, but once you put them on they are uncomfortable and just don't wear right. They give you blisters, make you walk funky and the only thought your mind can handle is how many minutes left you have in them until you can unbuckle and cut loose to become yourself again.

We connect ourselves to things that are beautiful and liven our spirit, Chicago is that for me. It brings out my best when I'm at my worst letting me dream big with a wild heart. Between the late evening shadows where the suns rays glisten and peek through the buildings illuminating years and years of history, the Intelligentsia Coffee that tastes like a bit of heaven on my lips, and the beat of the Lake Michigan waves dauntlessly crashing against the shoreline, this city speaks my language. I feel so at home on these streets where it breaks my heart to know that we are in our final days together.

People say that the suburbs aren't as bad as they seem, but I'm not buying it. Chicago leaves big shoes to fill. Maybe the change will be the challenge my content soul needs, but I'm not there yet. Until then every time I close my eyes I'll be standing alone on the lakefront, breathing in the smog-filled air as honking horns from LSD and sirens echoing off of buildings bring my soul the peace it craves.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

about that marathon...

funny how the desires of ones heart can so drastically change in a 6 month time frame.

exactly 6 months ago i eagerly followed the lead of my husband pulling the trigger for the Chicago marathon 2012. maybe it was all the excitement from meeting abdi or the fact that MY HUBBY WAS RUNNING A MARATHON, either way i had no shame about spending that $150 on myself. until now.

truthfully i've never really liked the marathon. at first thought it always sounds like a great adventure to me, just me and the open road coasting along for hours. but as it becomes my reality, it somehow looses a bit of it's luster on me. not really sure why, but it has held an inevitable doom over me for mary's 2 through 6. two years ago i sent myself into a mental tizzy with the pressure i was putting on myself as i spent the thirty minutes pre race in tears. yikes, for sure a low point in my life. and than there's last year, i was a mentally charged powerhouse but my body begun to break down in the taper weeks before the race and completely derailed after mile 15. that really sucked.

but for some dang reason i keep signing up for this distance. never learn i suppose.

being realistic here, i think that the marathon and i need a bit of a break. nothing permanent, just a bit of space to figure things out and explore our options. i mean there are a lot of other races out there, and i think we would be both limiting ourselves if we focused solely on each other instead of prospecting other opportunities.

so yes, it's true big hairy CM12 goal...i'm calling it off. but it's not you, it's me.

that sub 3:10 finish (and then some) is still out there for me, just not this year. and maybe not next. or even the next one after that. but one day.

sometimes what is important to me in the moment isn't the same thing that is important to me weeks, months, or even years down the line. but such is life, constantly evolving so who am i to fight the change?

i'm still toeing the line this fall next to the love of my life as his own personal pacer and cheer squad all wrapped up in one, which i am ecstatic about. i've been running for so many years now where it has always been about me. 

passing up late night friday escapades because i have to get up early for a long run the next morning. 
early sunday morning races where support is needed and sometimes expected.
pairs upon pairs of shoes.
thousands and thousands of dollars on race entry fees.
always getting that last extra serving of dinner because i need extra fuel stores.

being at the side of my man as he races his first marathon in 6 years has recently seemed more important to me than that PR because there doesn't have to be an expiration date on that. it'll still be there waiting for me when my body is strong enough to handle it and my heart is eager enough to chase it down. so for now i'm going to stand aside and let him have his moment as i quietly fade into the background, God knows this man deserves it after years in the supportive role at countless races.

i'm taking that $150 guaranteed B corral spot and lining my tushy way in the back pack of runners of the open corral to enjoy those 26.2 miles alongside my best friend in the city i love.

no expecation. no hard feelings. no regrets.