Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's all about the shirts...

This morning was the Trick or Treat Trot 5k. Seems almost silly after finishing a marathon but I like the races. And I LOVE the shirts! It was chilly down by the lakefront and my fingers didn't get the feeling back until after mile 1. But the sun was shining and many runners were in costume so it was a great day overall. I was doing well until I saw the mile 3 sign and then suddenly I felt like I had to toss my cookies. It was bizarre! I couldn't run across the finish line because I was too worried about throwing up. That's never happened before. To be honest, I didn't eat breakfast but I did drink some Gatorade. And at the finish were the usual... water, Gatorade, bagels and bananas. And in honor of it being a Halloween run, CANDY! Huge plastic cauldrons of candy!

Today I am going to sloth around and watch some horror movies until the boy is done with work. And then we are off on a long walk with the dogs. Which is good because I wanted to do that. I'm getting the hang of walking two dogs at once but it is slow going. Handling two leashes is awkward for me. I used to walk them one at a time but since the boy purchased those prongy collars the pups stopped pulling and I don't have to worry about being jerked around. Boxers are STRONG! I am not fond of the idea of pronged collars but they sure do make walks easier. Our oldest pup is 3 years old and we never could break her of the habit of pulling at the leash. We've tried Gentle Leaders and chest harnesses and wrapping the leash around her waist like the dog trainer showed us but nothing worked. Nothing until the pronged collar.

I keep forgetting to mention how cool my neighbors and relatives are! After the marathon two weeks ago, we got home and our neighbors had tied balloons to our railing along the steps. It was such a wonderful thing to see when I got home. My neighbors on both sides are incredible. We really got lucky. And also, the boy's cousin J sent me a Team in Training 26.2 sticker. He, his sister A and their dad B (too many year online, I don't like to use a whole lot of personal info which is fucking hilarious since I'll blog for HOURS about my GI problems when running) are all marathoners. It means a lot to get support from them since they know exactly what's involved. Now I only hope I can get as fast as they are!

But I rambled on, and what I was getting at was cousin J who has sent me letters of encouragement ever since I started this nonsense. Same with the boy's brother S. He would send emails of support and encouragement and none of them ever laughed when I failed. I know I am not athletic, I never have been athletic, so this is a big deal for me. And I know my family will support me because they are my family. But it's something a bit more when your in-law relations do it. And I got lucky with my in-laws.

So anyway... George is whinging and my green tea latte is gone. I need to brew some more tea and go cuddle on the couch with the pups while some spooky goodness plays on my television. October is going by too fast. I haven't had my fill of horror flicks!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Something about this intrigues me. I found the application while browsing through a quilting blog. It is begging me to become an art quilt. I've been edgy lately because the Chicago marathon is over and there are six months until the Cleveland marathon. Yep, I selected the Cleveland marathon in May 2009 as my next challenge. Mostly because it is in Ohio and then I can go visit my family and co-workers. I miss the people in my office!

So I really want to be sewing right now. I am tempted to drop my class. The subject matter is interesting but the actual class is dull. Last week was 3 hours of looking at graphs. Now, the graphs gave me a great quilting theme idea but looking at them for 3 hours? Dull. I really want to like this class but I can't get into it. I have a week to decide but I'll make my decision by the weekend. It's sad because there are only 5 students in the class, including me.

I just want to sew. Can it be time to sew now?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Planning... planning... planning...

I've decided to do the Chicago marathon again next year. It really was a great race, no matter how slow I was. And I am trying to decide on another race in the spring. So far I am considering the Flying Pig in Cincinnati on May 3rd, the Madison Marathon* on May 25th, the Cleveland marathon on May 17th and the Illinois marathon on April 11th. The Flying Pig has a great medal and a 3 mile, almost 400 foot elevation. That just looks scary! The Illinois marathon will be the inaugural run which could be scary. Madison is beautiful and Cleveland, well Cleveland would be near my family. So it's all a toss-up. But Chicago is a definite.

Yesterday the boy, the pups and I went hiking in Palos/Sag Valley Forest Preserve. It was so pretty out there with the bright sunlight and the trees in their fall colors. I love the fall. I love the chill in the air and the smell of the leaves and apples and apple cider! Fall is an excuse to shuffle my feet through all the leaves on the sidewalk. Unfortunately the fall also signals the constant pain I will feel in my fingers and toes due to that damned Raynaud's (I have primary Raynaud's). And yes, my fingers do look like the photos on that page. Even air conditioning in the summer can trigger an attack. Anyway... the hike was amazing and very hilly which I am so not used to. Months of running but on totally flat terrain. One hill was so steep and soooo high that I had to stop mid-way. I wish the park were closer (it's about an hour drive with traffic) because it would be a great training path. I may still go there although the snow may make it too slippery to run on.

I cannot believe the year is almost over. I've already done some holiday shopping so I don't have much more to go. And I need to send out an email with my holiday gift idea since there is only one thing I want. Only I hate doing that because gifts are not a requirement for the holidays, they are special. Only I am trying to whittle down my belongings because I don't need so many things in my life tying me down. Except books. And while I get embarassed receiving gifts, I hate getting things I do not need. If I need something I purchase it for myself. And I've become VERY finicky about things lately. I remember moving from my first apartment and everything I own fit into my Chevy Cavalier. I can't do that now and that is kind of sad. So anyway, I am trying to tell myself it is okay to say "hey, this is what I want" in order to not have to deal with things I do not want or need.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Now what?

Well, it's been days now and all I keep thinking about is "now what?" I don't have Saturday group runs to get up for and no long races to train for. I have two small races, a 5k and an 8k but those do not need weeks of training. I feel sort of lost.

I found out last night in class that two of my classmates also ran and finished the marathon. There are only 5 people, including myself, in the class. So for there to be 3 finishers is amusing. Two of the students were talking about the race but I did not join in and announce that I was there also. I still feel intimidated. Especially since I am so slow and do mostly walking. I hope to be faster one day. Maybe by the next Chicago marathon. Can I get to a 10 minute mile in a year, or at least a 12 minute mile? Can I get my GI problem under control?

My environmental literacy class should be more interesting than it is. The professor seems to only focus on the math... converting from metric to the more inelegant U.S. measuring system. We do have a field trip planned for the Chicago Center for Green Technology since the professor will not be able to attend one class due to a work trip. I think that should be interesting.

My final project is running shoes from cradle to grave. Runner's World had a fabulous article about just that in this month's issue. I want to find some video about the making of running shoes and also about some 6000 Nike shoes floating around in the ocean. Lots of video so I do not have to speak in class! *shudder* Even with 4 other students in class, public speaking frightens me. I have 5 more weeks to prepare.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To my surprise and amazement, I finished 26.2!!

I am now the proud owner of a Chicago Marathon medal. There were many times during the marathon I believed right down to my core I would not make it. Hell, many times I wished they'd sweep me out and have done with it!

I got to Grant Park around 6:30am and went to hang out with Team in Training in the Charity Village. I did not know there were so many charities running! Charity Village was perfect since each charity tent had like 15-20+ port-o-lets behind their tent so there were no long lines of people waiting to use them. Such a relief!

At 7:20am the TNT members all walked over to the starting line. So many people! I was getting pushed around while I stood in my pace group but I managed to stand my ground and not get shoved to the back. I needed to start out ahead to give me some extra time away from the back of the pack. There was a Mexican woman who started out with me. Her two sons were running also but they were in one of the starting corrals and not in the open corral with her. She stuck with me for quite a while and asked me questions. I only lost her at mile 4 when I stopped for the dreaded port-o-lets.

I didn't even hear the gun go off, I only knew the race started because the crowds of runners began pushing me towards the start line. I did my 1 run/4walk and the Mexican woman stuck right with me. She had her iPod and was singing and waving her arms to some salsa music. She was pretty happy to be out and waved and cheered to everyone on the sidelines. I was just focusing on my pace and trying to listen for my watch beeping my for running and walking. It was difficult because the crowds were so loud! It was amazing!

Now, Disney had lots of cheering crowds and all but I gotta tell ya, I really believe Chicago was the better of the two. There were cheering groups along EVERY section of the course, not just designated areas. I'm usually not one for the cheering because in the beginning it kind of annoys me. Especially when I am constantly thinking I do not deserve the cheering. But once I reached mile 8 in Boystown... DAMN! Running through Boystown is like running through the Magic Kingdom in Disney. Only better! Those residents know how to have a good time. Festivals are always more fun there. I cheered for the rifle guard because they were splendid and the folks in the hula girl gear with the silver platform go-go boots were lovely. My favorite sign of the entire race was the one with Mr. Slave that said "Run like a Bear is chasing you!" I wish I could have just stopped running and hung out there.

Before and after Boystown I kept wondering why I was running. I was doing a very poor job of things since my pills for my GI problems were not working. I wanted to cry. I'd tried everything I could to fix the problem and nothing had helped. I could only run a minute at a time before I had the "urge". Many times I just wanted to be swept off the course because I didn't think I could keep it up for the whole race. My legs were fine, my breathing was fine but I kept having the "urge". But being pulled off meant that I would have failed again and I'd have to tell everyone who donated that I failed. That became a worse feeling for me. Having to admit I could not finish was worse than having to use a port-o-let every couple miles. So I kept moving. I don't even remember much before mile 13 other than Boystown. I hated what I was doing and kept thinking to myself that this is rediculous. I should NOT be trying to run marathons.

Around mile 14 I met up with my folks and the boy who was walking with our boxers. They stuck with me until mile 18. At mile 17 I'd hit what John "The Penguin" Bingham called "The Bite Me" mile. My mom had a cowbell with her and had been ringing it constantly. And even when she wasn't ringing it intentionally, it rang. I love my mom and I knew I could not say nicely "please quit ringing the bell". So I kept my mouth shut. It wasn't her fault and she didn't even know it was annoying me. It's really funny now though but at the time I wanted to scream!

I kind of took off after mile 18 and lost everyone. One of the coaches for the AIDS team did ride up to me to tell me he liked my dogs though which made me smile. It wasn't until mile 18 that I believed I really could finish the damned race. I kept telling myself that I only had 8 more miles to go. 8 miles wasn't a long time, only two hours. I could do two more hours.

Mile 19 was in Pilsen which was my other favorite section of the race. Just before I hit the party section of Pilsen I went through a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood street. A very nice man offered me a little powdered sugar donut but I declined. I didn't think I could swallow it. *laugh* But it was really nice to offer! A little further down the road I hit the stores and restaurants of Pilsen. Salsa music was being blared out of windows and on the streets and soooooo many families were out cheering on the runners. It wasn't flashy like Boystown but it was energetic and emotional. It seemed like everyone in the neighborhood was out cheering us on. And the food! I could smell the food from the restaurants and homes and I was so hungry. I passed a man with a huge bowl of pretzels who offered some to me. Those I took with a grateful thanks. I didn't think I could swallow those either but the salt sounded wonderful. And they were!

Mile 21 went through Chinatown but by the time I and my circle of runners reached there the party was over. I got to run near my favorite candy store and run past my favorite bakery (Maxim's) and Chinese restaurant (Won Kow). The police along the course from here on out were wonderful about letting us know what mile we were on.

Mile 23 took me down towards IIT and Comiskey Park which is where the White Sox play. I forgot to look for the stadium since I was more focused on finding a Gatoraid station. A swift bit on 35th Street and then we headed north on Michigan Avenue for the final stretch!

Around mile 24 there was a group of Elijah charity team cheerers who cheered me on and gave me an orange. It was the best tasting orange I'd ever had. Those Elijah team cheerers were amazing! They had cheer zones just about every mile and they really cheered EVERYONE on, not just those who were running for their charity.

Mile 25 had me running alongside a charity runner from Paws who told me this was his 8th marathon and he was running with Paws because he'd had to put down two of his pups this year, a Dalmatian and a rotty mix. We talked as we headed up the final stretch. One of the Team in Training coaches that was keeping pace on his bike and checking on all of us slow teammates kept checking in with me. I wish I knew what city team he was a coach for because he really helped me out and was very supportive. He would give me water and tell me my form was good and I was walking strong. Even when I felt like I was doing poorly, hearing that helped.

Just past mile 25 two of my coaches from my city team appeared. I probably surprised the one coach by not being swept off. I was the slowest person on our team so he regularly ended up running with me in order to speed me up. He and his wife run together and coach together. There were two other Team in Training members behind me so I wasn't the last purple runner out on the course. This did make me feel better. A third coach from another TNT team met up with us also. He had been running with me around mile 6 and he recognized me once my watch started beeping. That's when he told me I had to run the last bit of the race. And the last bit went up the largest incline on the course (on Roosevelt Road).

That last 0.2 miles... 4 coaches and 3 teammates, all of us heading towards the finish line. I ran the last 100 yards with the coaches and teammates. I won't even post my time but I did finish. I saw my folks and my husband and our cousin and my two pups cheering as I ran to the finish. I didn't believe I could do it, even with training. It was hot and I was slow and had to fight my own internal problems (physically and mentally). I wanted to drop out for most of the race and the only thing stopping me was letting down everyone who believed in me and donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. I knew that would hurt worse than any pain I felt after finishing.

So here it is, 2 days later. I finished my first marathon. Would I do it again? I am planning on Disney when I turn 40. I am hoping that I can run a 10 mile minute within those next two years. I have to get the damned "urges" under control. That is what slows me down, still.

I'm not an athlete. I've never wanted to be an athlete. I started this because my sister wanted to run the Disney marathon when she was 35. I signed up without really thinking about the consequences. And my failure hurt. So while I didn't make some great time for Chicago, I did finish. And finishing was my goal. My only goal. At the end of it all I did enjoy it. I loved how the crowd just cheered everyone on. I wish Chicago had a race that just ran up and down Halsted in Boystown because that was my favorite neighborhood by far. I don't know if I would run next year (unless I can do that 10 minute mile by then) but I will be cheering in Boystown!

Thank you to friends and family who supported me! And thank you to everyone on the streets of Chicago who cheered and offered food and water and misting stations. And to the volunteers and police and medical teams! I am in awe of how many people were out there to support the runners! And who smiled and cheered the entire time. It was a hot day, maybe not as hot as last year but it was still toasty and there were so many people out for the race. And to the Team in Training coaches and other TNT individuals who helped me out with fundraising. TNT is a great charity to run with and the coaches are incredible! I know when I started and when I finished and that was many hours from beginning to end. So to everyone who stayed out and cheered us on from start to finish, THANK YOU!!!

Next up, Trick or Treat Trot 5k and the Turkey Trot 8k!

I am a marathoner!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Just a short update...

Tomorrow is the big day! In 24 hours and 30 minutes the starting gun will go off!

Yesterday my folks and I headed down to McCormick Center to go to the expo so I could pick up my race packet. And OMG... BEST GOODY BAG EVER!!! And VW was there with the old Beetle from the commercials and they were screenprinting free tees and they had goody bags also. And if you showed your VW key you got another free tee that the workers were wearing. I'll have to post a photo of the swag inside but it was so worth giving away my info to them. I have a 2000 New Beetle and I just love my car. There are some design flaws but the car is so freaking fun to drive that I mostly forget about the flaws.

We had to drive past Grant Park to get to the expo and I admit, seeing all those tents and Port-O-Lets made me queasy. I was starting to feel okay about things until I saw the start/finish area. Now I have nerves.

I want to blog more about the expo and my race thoughts but I don't think I can really get those down right now. I'm trying not to freak myself out. I am excited and VERY nervous. Incredibly nervous.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Weather and race ramblings...

I have been checking the weather report every day, many times a day, since Saturday. Sunday's report has gone from cool and sunny, to cool and rainy, to warm and now to sunny and moderately humid with a high of 76. I was hoping for the low 70's but at least the rain has disappeared.

I am flipping between confidence to downright fear. There are piles of gear all over the house. There are clothes on the dining room table and after-race food on the sideboard and my packed fuel belt and running hat on the entertainment center. And every once in a while, many times a day, I wander over to the different piles and arrange things. I pick up my fuel belt and try it on. I grab both running hats and try those on. My Disney marathon hat is a heavier weight fabric than the other and I can't decide which to wear. I want Disney to focus but if the weather is too hot then the lightweight hat would be better. Then I make sure I have lip balm and $20 in my wristpack.

Next is the clothing. Weather determines capris or shorts. No question on the shirt, I wear my purple Team in Training tee. Two pair of socks are sitting out on top of two sports bras. Do I wear a headband thingy to keep stray hair and sweat out of my eyes? I check the clothing, folding and refolding to make the pile look neater.

I'm lucky that the boy agrees to carry my backpack full of items instead of me having to check gear. And I'm lucky he goes with me and drives so I never have to worry about parking. He drops me off and finds a place and that way I am never late.

This week I've been trying to be mindful about hydration and food. I'm reading and rereading all my TNT emails and websites about race prep. I'm trying to to get down on myself over speed and just focusing on what I've trained to do. I know where my weaknesses lie. I know the problems I've had during my training and I'm aware of what I need to do to get past them.

I still need to find a running song since there are no MP3 players allowed. So far my mind won't let go of the Cure's "Fire in Cairo". Maybe I should pick something a little speedier like the White Stripe's "Icky Thump". I wonder what the BPM is for those songs... maybe an intense NIN song is what I need. For the half marathon I had the Dresden Dolls' "Girl Anachronism" but I think I need a new song for this race.

In case anyone other than me is keeping count, I've participated in the following races this year:
  1. Disney Marathon - January 13
  2. St. Patty's Day5k - March 16
  3. Race to Wrigley 5k - April 13
  4. United Run for the Zoo 10k - June 1
  5. Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon - August 10
  6. Nike+ Human Race - August 31
Coming up next are the following:
  1. Chicago Marathon in 3 days and 20-some hours
  2. Trick or Treat Trot 5k - October 26
  3. Turkey Trot 8k - November 27
That all adds up to 8 wonderful technical tees (the St. Patty's Day tee was just a long-sleeve cotton tee)! I have quite the collection!

I have to keep signing up for races so I have a reason to continue running. I'm a pretty lazy person so I need those incentives. Especially when I am going to go back to Disney and finish that damned marathon!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Second quilt winner!!

I almost forgot to do the drawing yesterday because we partook of my favorite Sunday activity, Pancakes, Puppies and Parks! This means the boy and I go out somewhere I can get pancakes and then we take the pups and go hiking. Yesterday it started raining right before we arrived at the park but the boy stopped to buy a cheap raincoat from Walgreen's so he could loan me his jacket. It was pretty rainy the entire time but it was nice to be outside and hiking (even though I am so not fond of being in the rain).

Anyway, when we got home I printed out the names of those who donated to my Team in training fundraising (btw, I was $600 short of the TNT goal) and got to work cutting and folding everyone's names to put into the grab bowl. The boy got to be my name picker and the name he picked from the bowl is...

Tony and Jane Cugino!

Yep! My dad and his wife won the second quilt drawing. Congrats to the lucky couple and THANK YOU to everyone who donated money to my Team in Training fundraising. I am very grateful to everyone who sponsored me, especially during these crazy economic times.

Team in Training has been a great organization to train with and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society does such wonderful work towards finding a cure for blood cancers. I've read some harsh comments online about how TNT is dumbing down running by "elite runners" but those complaints don't add up for my team and what I've experienced. TNT runners are supportive of all runners, not just fellow runners in purple shirts and we were always reminded about proper course etiquette. I've seen just as much inconsiderate runners out on the path that were not TNT members so quite honestly, we're not always the guilty party. I've learned a lot about myself and running these past 5-6 months and that is all thanks to Team in Training. I may not be fast or able to run over a long period of time but that doesn't make me a bad runner. It just means I have a lot more training I need to do to become one of the fast people.

Not meaning to rant or anything... I went off on a tangent. *laugh* I did want to thank everyone for their support and congratulate my dad and Jane on winning the second quilt! Of course now I need to call them and let them know.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Doubting myself...

I went to my last Team in Training run today. It's the first time I've run in a while. My back felt fine while I ran but it's a little sore now. Nothing to terribly bad.

With a week to go, I am already starting to worry about finishing. I worry I won't be fast enough. I don't worry that I can't finish the 26.2 miles, only that I can't finish it within the time allowed. This has really been bothering me because I keep thinking I've had all these setbacks and I'm not trying to whine but GI problems have really slowed me down. I really wish I'd have seen my doctor sooner about the problem but everyone kept telling me the problem would eventually go away. It didn't. If I'd have gone sooner I could have gotten the help I needed. I could have been able to train faster.

Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.

Will I be fast enough to finish the marathon? I hope but I don't know. The only thing I am certain of is I will not be quitting. If I get swept it won't be for lack of effort. But you don't get a finishers medal unless you cross the finish line. And not crossing frightens me. So many people sponsored me through Team in Training. I hate the thought of letting anyone down. I don't want to disappoint anyone. Will that get me the speed I need? I have no idea.

I am working on my strategy. I am shortening my walk interval again. I'll make myself a splits chart so I know where I need to be at what time. I'll be preparing all next week so the GI problems won't be an issue, I know what I can eat and what to avoid at all costs. I'll be stretching even more so my back won't be an issue. I will be on top of hydration throughout the entire week and I'll make certain to get enough salt so cramping doesn't occur (I don't need another experience like I had with my 16 miler). I have clothing that doesn't chaff and shoes that are new enough to give me support and worn enough to not need to be broken in. I have gel with the electrolytes I need (and salt packets in case I need more). So the only thing I need to worry about on race day is my speed.

Please let me be fast enough to finish! Please let me finish and be excited about signing up for another marathon!