Sunday, September 7, 2014

Long Lost Frienemy

After running the Rock & Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon last year, I not only let myself off the hook from such a disciplined regimen of training, but I cut out training all together. I still ran every now and then and even did a couple of races in the following months, but my running was sporadic at best. About three months ago, I just stopped running or doing anything really physical at all. While everyone else on Facebook and Twitter was doing Run Streaks, I was doing my own non-running streak for no real reason other than with work being even busier than it has been and the usual menagerie of events taking place every weekend of the summer, I just didn’t make time or have the energy left to get out and run.

My girlfriend finds it relaxing to cook interesting recipes when she gets home from work and frequently she will surprise me with something tasty when I stop by after getting home from work, which is typically far later than one should eat dinner when they are planning to go to bed in the next hour or three. With the total lack of exorcise, working late and so eating dinner late and then going to sleep on a pillow of calories, plus sitting on busses and trains both ways for a one and a half hour commute each way, I have put on forty pounds in the past three months! Yup. 145 to 185 in just a few months of slacking off. I would like to simply blame my metabolism for retiring when I turned thirty this year, but I have quite a few friends that age and older who are in far better shape than I, while working just as much, drinking and eating just as much if not more, but who still make the time to work out or go running on a much more regular basis.

I got a FitBit a few weeks ago to help encourage me to at least get up from my Cube more often instead of staying chained to my desk all day, frequently working through lunch (which made me pig
out more at dinner since I was starving by that point). It ended up making me aware of how little I actually walk (especially since I hadn’t been running for the past couple months), even though I walk to several buses and several trains every day just to get to and from the office. At the office I hardly moved at all. Weekends I would use as an excuse to be lazy or I would try to catch a bus to a train rather than just walking a few blocks to the CTA Red Line during my daily commute. Having the FitBit has helped me to at least focus on getting a bare minimum of steps in each day and to drink more water (as you can track that manually in the app as well, along with calories, sleep patterns, etc.). It also helped me to establish a baseline for what I walk on average each day (a little over 7,000 steps on a workday when I started, now closer to 9,000 steps a day, though the default goal is still 10,000 steps a day). Slow progress, but at least it is a starting point.

Before Sunset - Frankfort, MI August 2014

Over the holiday weekend last week, we went up to the cottage my girlfriend’s family has in
Sunset - Frankfort, MI - May 2014
Northern Michigan. It was a long overdue vacation and it allowed me time enough where I would have no excuses as to why I would not get back out on that dusty trail with some Vibrams strapped to my feet. My brother went out running every day we were there, save for the last, as he was keeping up a run streak he had been on that month. I joined him on the second day and it was one of the most difficult 2.09 miles of my life. Not only had I not run in quite a while, but I have never run while being this overweight before. It was harder on my body than the first time in my adult life that I got out and ran my first few miles, several years ago, having never run before (other than in gym class twice a year for ‘The Mile’ run in middle/high school?). I ran slowly, my legs felt heavy, and my lungs were on fire. I knew if I pushed through then the next run would get easier and so would the one after that, just as they had before. This particular run however, was more of a wakeup call that I could no longer just sit by and maintain my previous lifestyle of the past couple months of simply being too tired or busy when I got home from work or whatever exciting thing was going on that weekend.

The day following that difficult run, I was surprisingly not sore. I figured I would get a brief reprieve as the second day soreness would not set in until the following day and I decided to make it worth the suffering and go out for a ten mile bike ride that day. A bike ride has never been more enjoyable. My legs had been thoroughly stretched and strengthened by the previous day’s run and the weather had cooled down significantly from the prior day’s heat. I rode a little short of five miles out and five miles back, though I would have gladly gone farther, but sadly had to cut it short as we were trying to make it out to Lake Michigan to watch the sunset again that evening. I rode along the shore of Crystal Lake for about three miles before cutting inland through a fantastic, and fortunately for my now weakened legs, flat, wooded trail before turning around and heading back to the cottage.

After being back in Chicago and back to the daily grind now for a week, I wanted to make sure I didn’t go back on what I had learned while I had been on retreat in Michigan. I started doing lunges and crunches again when I didn’t feel like going out for an actual run, then today I actually figured that since it was such a gorgeous day, I would go for a short run instead of watching the Bears game with my friends. Totally worth it. It was a slow and difficult run, but I felt much better afterwards than I did after that first two miles the week before which ended my brief hiatus from running. Hopefully this is a new beginning to my beautiful love/hate relationship with running.

Friday, May 23, 2014


You mean to open up a Microsoft Word document and write about the incredible run you just experienced along the lakeshore trail or maybe you feel like venting after a particularly poorly organized race just concluded, but then it takes you a long time to get a bus or a cab back to your apartment and brunch and mimosa sound like a better idea; or the work day on top of the run took more out of you than you thought and so you open a beer instead of a text editor.

That’s the kind of mayhem which has been preventing more frequent postings for some time now and I figured my kind of run, as laid back and care free as it may be, could stand for a little more discipline when it comes to following up with a short, written account afterwards of some of what occurred.

This season, I decided to take part in fewer races. MUCH fewer races. While the past several racing seasons I have run countless races of varying distances, this season it seemed like a good time to take a step back and remember that my kind of run isn’t always about training for the next greatest or longest race I could try, but just because I like being outside running and being active. I like the sights and sounds of the city or trail around me, or the wind in my face and the smell of the lake or the food vendors wafting my way as I listen to last year’s Lolla bands or an audio book from my iPhone.
After the initial races I signed up for late last year and early this year for this season, I have signed up for no more so that I will not be pulled into some training regimen that will numb me to what I actually enjoy about running. While I enjoy being around a lot of people for races, mostly it is something I like to do alone to clear my head after a long day/week/month etc. Granted, Lake Shore Trail is not exactly desolate, but my preferred way to be alone more times than not, is to be alone around other people. The whole, ‘alone in a crowded room’ feeling is something I actually greatly enjoy.

While I am not signed up for many races this year, I have already done a couple. Here’s the quick recap:

Pi Day Pi K: Love this small, neighborhood race. Been doing it since the first year when registration was only $10. The price went up this year, but still a fun run. It is also close to me which is a big plus. They have food afterwards back at FleetFeet, but I skipped it and grabbed food elsewhere instead. And Pie.

Shamrock Shuffle: only my second time running this race since I missed out on it the year before when the race capped out and I waited too long to register. Also a fun race with A LOT of people, runners and supporters, out to enjoy the weather finally getting nicer. It is also a blast to run through the streets downtown. That last hill is a killer with its gradual incline, but if you keep a steady pace it isn’t really that bad. Make sure to run on the carpets over the bridges if you wear Vibrams so your toes don’t get caught in the mesh steel grates! Great race and great crowd.

Chicago Spring Half:
My brother also ran his first Half Marathon last week! The Chicago Spring half was the first race where I actually spectated instead of participating for the race itself! Strange that I have never actually watched a race, so I’m glad I managed to get out and see him come around the final turn before the finish line! Ended up meeting up with Eric and Jennifer after the race as well and we all went out for brunch. Good times. It was a bit difficult finding the finish line. I ran past it down to Millennium Park, then took a cab back north to where the map said it would be. I got out and walked around and didn’t see it. Eventually asked the first person I saw who was wearing a bib where it was and he pointed me to a small clearing down a long flight of stairs not far from where we were already standing. Ended up being a nice little park. This also turned out to be a great experience, as it made for a reason to strap on some running shoes and run down to Millennium Park from my apartment to get in a run five mile run while I waited for my brother to finish his half. It felt good to get out and run as a fun form of entertainment and travel rather than just a planned out course that was part of a training schedule. Plus it saved me a trip on the CTA.

Chase Corporate Challenge:
Yesterday I participated in my first JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. It turns out that it is difficult to make it downtown from working in the suburbs to change out of my work clothes and into running attire, choke down some food because I worked through lunch, and then hop on a brown line to Grant Park in time for a group photo with my company before the race. As it turns out, I wasn’t able to even find my company tent before the race started and it didn’t help that they started closing off sections of the park and the sidewalk as well as the streets and began filtering people ‘the long way around’ to the starting chorales in the opposite direction from where the signs pointed that the starting chorales actually were. Complete pandemonium turned into crowded herding of cattle as we shuffled along toward what we hopped was the direction of the starting line. I shuffled through the winding path they had created for the herd of people to get to their designated starting areas and eventually wandered around enough parts of Grant Park where I recalled experiences from past Lolla’s taking place that I found the ‘Yellow’ choral where I was to begin. It was full and overflowing. We waited outside the actual chorale until the faster ‘red choral’ runners took off and then filled the newly empty space and waited our turn to cross the start line.

Shortly after the red group started, we began our run and off we went. The course wasn’t my favorite, but it was still a fun run. A significant portion took place in the shadow of the overpasses above us as we zig-zagged through covered streets and under bridges, but we started and ended the race in sunlight and it was a nice, cool day for a run. Eventually I found some people from my company and followed one of them with a headband camera back to our tent where Jimmy Johns was waiting for us. After I ate, I left pretty quickly and hopped in a cab back north. On the way back, my cab driver was wondering if the roads were closed for a race or because Obama was in town. It turned out to be because a little of both.

Am I glad I ran the race? Sure. Fun run, great weather, nice people, good food. Would I do it again? I guess we will see next year ;) It definitely seems like it is geared more as a company outing that happens to involve running rather than the other way around.

Journey To The End Of The Night is upon us again and takes place tomorrow!!! This year I will unfortunately be sitting out, as I have conflicting plans for a writing duel! Maybe I will do the lesser known version of Journey later in the year instead.

Since it is getting amazing outside again, The Girl and I have been doing more walking around town. Last weekend we spent Saturday walking along the lake towards downtown, stopped for some food and beverage once we made it, and then headed back up north. Along the way down we made a pit stop at the Booth School of Business downtown to stop in one of their quick stop shops for a couple of much needed bottles of water and another pit stop as we headed back north of the river at the Newberry Library for their bathrooms after guzzling down my bottle of water. Thank you people of the library for making the rest of my walk back that much more enjoyable. All and all, we put about ten miles behind us that day. From the looks of it, we are planning a similar venture tomorrow only heading north. More adventures on the way!

And even though I don’t foresee training for another distance race anytime soon, I am still planning another trip to Vegas at the same time as the Rock & Roll Half Marathon is going on again, so who knows what could happen…

Until next time dear readers.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Winter Wrap-Up

Today it finally hit fifty degrees in Chicago and I worked from home, so I figured it was time to dust off my Vibrams and get back out onto those flooded sidewalks. While I enjoy my three month hiatus every year to allow my body to recover from the abuse I put it through during the previous racing season, when winter rolls around, I always miss being out on the trails. Part of that is simply missing nice weather. The rest is missing the feeling of the wind on my face as it rolls in off of Lake Michigan while I trek down Lake Shore Trail, feeling the trail beneath my Vibrams, and the refreshing, well-earned beer after a run. Somehow they just taste better after you put a few miles behind you.

While I have been doing minimal lunges and squats during my yearly threeish months off running, I always forget that when I do finally get back out there, it is my lungs that typically take the longest to get back into the swing of things. I also need to remember to pick up some more almond milk next time I go to the store, as during the winter my calcium intake has been sorely lacking. I also need to stretch more during the winter and I am sure I will feel its absence next time I run (or tomorrow morning).

To catch you up quickly:

NaNoWriMo – yup, made my 50,000 words again! Yippie!! All that AND still managed to run the Vegas half during the same month.

Rock&Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon -  Good times. I didn’t train for that one (too busy writing and working) but still wanted to run the Strip at Night. I ran for about ten of the miles and ended up having to run/walk the last 3.1. Not as bad as I expected for not having trained, but I would certainly never want to run a half marathon without training again. I was sore for weeks. The course was good, better than previous years I heard from several other participants. There were a few dark patches, but they did a decent job keeping them as well lit as they could have without summoning the sun to rise. The entertainment was good and the crowd turnout was insane! So many people, both runners and spectators! The only two real drawbacks to the race were it being ridiculously expensive (even for a half), and the finishers chute was waaaaaaaaaay too long. Seriously. Way too long. Too forever to collect water and my medal. I didn’t even make it to the end, I had to squeeze through a fence (as were others) to get to the other side of the strip (which was still closed off so it made for a convenient walk part of the way back to my hotel. Other than that, no complaints. Would I do it again? If it was cheaper, maybe. Otherwise, it was a nice thing to have done once. Next time I go back it will just be to play around in Vegas.

My Next Race -  Pi Day Pi K this Friday! Love this race. Small cap, close to me, laid back. For Science!

My Brother is running his first Half Marathon This year! (The Chicago Spring Half Marathon) So excited for him! Not sure if I’m going to run any more half marathons this year, but who knows, I’ll see how the beginning of the season goes and maybe join him.

That’s all for now folks. Happy Spring and Jolly Running to you all!