Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stop. Drop. & Stretch.

One thing I have noticed while living in the city is that Chicagoan folk looooove to talk about the weather! And who can blame them since the weather here is always crazy unpredictable. The funny part is that I always end up running on the days that are the crummiest. So while Tuesday is my running day it will probably be 40 and raining but then Monday was probably 65 and sunny. But then I tell myself when you're running a race you don't get to pick what the weather is gonna be like. Glass half full right? Well that and honestly I like running in that chilly, slight drizzly, "Boston-esk" weather, I know I'm crazy I got that down.

Well so I went for a run yesterday on the lake path and I was really enthusiastic about it because the weather actually was really nice. Not too hot but sunny and inviting. It wasn't until I actually hit the path though that I realized I would be running the first half of the distance against the wind. Let me just tell you, NOT FUN! I was legit getting pissed off, at what? Yup, the wind! And of course because I laugh at my own jokes I thought to myself, "This brings new meaning to the phrase, 'Blow Me'". haha. But this isn't even the worst of it, oh no.

I get about 3 miles out on my 8 mile run and my butt muscle starts to cramp. No biggie, just run through it right? Yea well it got to be so debilitating that moving was actually hurting. I pulled off to the side and literally started rubbing my butt. Take a minute and start back up again. Well my butt wasn't having that so I laid down in the grass and started to stretch, I was not about to give up on this run. I had to sacrifice 2 miles on my run Saturday so I wasn't about to compromise 4 or 5 now. To ensure that I was doing things right I used a life line and called out to two of my friends who have some athletics training background. Both of them essentially told me to do the same stretch, so there I laid in the grass on the lake path as runners and bikers passed me with my leg stretch over my body desperately hoping this would fix my butt long enough to finish the run.

After a few minutes and increments of 10 second stretches I got back up and tried to feel out how I that possible? haha. Well I started to jog on it and I didn't have a sharp pain in my butt so I figured I was good to go and just took off. It hurt a little as I finished my miles but not to a point that I felt like I needed to stop. And I didn't stop when I got off the path, I ended up running to the gym so I could use the cylinder thing to roll out.

I wasn't actually worried about my butt cramp....maybe I should be using the term "glut" I think that's the P.C. version right? Eh, anyways I wasn't worried about it until today when I was doing strength training and was having a hard time doing my side planks and obliques because my butt/glut was starting to hurt. I walked around a little sore today and the thing is it's only my left side. One of my friends was telling me that you're sore because you're gaining muscle. Well if that's the case then my left is gonna be bigger than my right.....haha. No but I am a little worried about this pain, especially since I have the Soldier Field 10 miler on Saturday. I was hoping to run it for time but now that I may be "nursing an injury" I may just have to run it just to finish. This is kind of disheartening. I'm thinking the best thing to do is to do my regularly scheduled run tomorrow and see how it goes. Rest Friday and then kick butt on Saturday :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Ah the sweet feeling of graduation! After four years of hard work, good times, and lots and lots of changes it's finally here!

To think, in 2007 I started somewhere completely different from where I am now. Elmhurst College was were I wanted to start my professional career. I couldn't have asked for a better first roommate, she was by far (and still is) one of my best friends and we clicked instantly! To the girls down the hall, Libby and Mara, you were the reason I loved freshmen year. Throw in a little B. Sapp and I couldn't imagine a more amazing group of friends. I spent a lot time working at the YMCA but hey, I was a damn good lifeguard and swim instructor. Classes were exciting, at the college level, and I got my GPA to a 3.5. Towards the end of the first year though I started to have second thoughts about the school. The truth was that I still had a love for social work and fully intended on pursuing it. The problem? I was a double major in psychology and sociology with only a minor in social work at Elmhurst. This didn't seem right to me, my roommate, an education major, had a program and my friends all pursuing business were in programs as well, what about me? I still had a desire to go to Loyola, which I decided not to pursue for the sake of my mom who didn't want me moving to the city. Well so what. I had a year of school under my belt and while I liked the school, it wasn't what I was looking for. So what did I do? I made all of the arrangements to transfer out because that is what I WANTED. Leaving meant saying goodbye to my friends though, not for good but it's still goodbye. It meant not having a job or a means to support myself and it meant giving up the chance I had just gotten to be on the Cross Country team at Elmhurst. But it was worth it, all in the name of social work.

Loyola accepted me and in August 2008 I moved into Coffey Hall, which was honestly one of the worst dorms I have ever really seen but I didn't care, I was a Loyola student! That first year I became well accustomed the CTA, Water Tower campus and many of the other transfer students who lived down the hall from me. I'd be lying if I said that I felt right at home, in fact there was this one bitch....well we won't go there. But by the end of the year I was so happy with my decision to change schools and my passion for social work grew out of the volunteer opportunities I pursued (Big Brothers Big Sisters, and GirlPOWER!). Aaaaand in August I signed a lease for my first ever apartment with four other girls I lived with in the dorm. Things were great and I was really excited for my junior year.

That summer when I went home I had to face one of the biggest obstacles of my entire life: the loss of my mom. I was completely devastated, gone was the woman who loved and supported me and part of the reason why I was doing social work in the first place. I can honestly say though, not once did it cross my mind to drop out of school. Giving up on pursuing my dream would have felt like giving up on her and so I pressed on, always keeping her in the back of my mind.

Junior year was filled with great times, girls nights out, bad decisions that we laughed at later and lots of dancing up and down the apartment. I have to say, this year was really hard for me as I tried to figure out who I was without my mom and if it weren't for my roommates I probably wouldn't be as strong as I am now. It was great to come home to the girls when I had had a bad day and know that they would hug me, listen to me or even just sit with me. And for that, and many other reasons, I love them to death. I continued on with social work and did a 30 hour internship at a agency called "LIFT" in which I was a case worker for individuals who faced poverty in the Uptown neighborhood. I learned a lot in this position but the most important lesson: I never want to be a caseworker :)

The end of junior year I subletted my room to my friend Dani and moved back home to work as a camp counselor and run my swim lesson program. Life was a bit different as I transition into living back at home. To keep things interesting I signed up for my first Half Marathon. The excitement of training would fizzle out at times though, what with it being summer, and everyone wanting to go out now that we were all 21. I managed to push through most of my....well some of my runs. I think the highest mileage I got up to though was either 7 or 8 but I can honestly say that I wouldn't take it back, I enjoyed all those times I wasn't running, except maybe that one time I was hung over until 6pm but we just won't count that one. haha.

That summer Pete and I decided we were ready to move in together after almost 5 years of being together. I did a lot of research and found this really nice 2 bedroom apartment that was priced as a one bedroom. I honestly was really excited for this, but making this move meant moving my entire life down to Hyde Park. Don't get me wrong, I felt comfortable down there and there was potential for a job at the gym where he worked and heck we lived one block away from the lake path so I could always go out for a run. And to top it off I wouldn't have to travel back up to Roger's Park, all my classes would be at Water Tower because I would be a grad student. I told myself making this move meant I would need to try harder to see my friends, who offered me a bedroom with them in Lincoln Park but I turned it down.

The day before I started my fall semester I came back from my trip to the Cape and believe you me, if I could, I would have given up my life out here and just stayed in Massachusetts. But I couldn't. Maybe when I finish my degree I'll move out there, plenty of social work positions available so I've seen :) Fall semester was a rollar coaster, what with an internship that fell through and adjusting to a life with a significant other. But somehow, somehow I pulled off a 4.0 GPA. The start of the new year was refreshing for me and I had a new sense of motivation. I had been working in a new internship in two different schools and was running a group all on my own. During this time I also decided to become a "resolutioner" and began joining the many who drag themselves into the gym everyday to try and get back into shape after the holiday season. The only difference is that I'm still working out as opposed to those who quit after 2 weeks. Fighting off the crowds for a treadmill or an elliptical had its benefits though because it encouraged me to push harder and work longer until I decided I wanted to take on the marathon this year.

Things started to get busy, my internship was more demanding and I was slowly giving up on classes with the frustration of not learning anything new from what has been taught to me for the past three years. But in all of the chaos I gained a new focus, a new insight, into my goals and the person I want to be. A growing sense of independence and a new feel of pride in who I was....I hadn't felt this way in years. It goes without saying, however, what goes up must come down. The consequences that come with the actions are pretty steep and there are honestly some days that I just sit back and ask myself, "Did I make the right decision?" But then I think to my Aunt, who told me these words, "When you make your decision, don't look back, just keep going". And so I am. And so I will.

I couldn't be more thankful for all of the love and support I've gotten this far from my family and friends because without them, I don't know where I'd be.

Saturday May 14th. 6:30pm. Graduation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Running Yourself Into the Ground

I have a love-hate relationship with concrete. For one I should say that there is nothing like hitting it hard and letting all of the days frustrations and anxieties crunch under my stride. But after doing this over and over again there's more to me that's being worn down--like my hip and my knees! I went out for a run the Thursday after I completed my 13 mile run anticipating a nice 8 to 10 miles. I had gotten out to my 4 mile halfway-ish point and was in a lot of pain. My hip-slash-glut was throbbing and I figured it was from the impact on the pavement. On the way back I tried to run on as much of the grass as possible but I have to admit I ended up walking for some time too and was somewhat disappointed because it was the first run I've had to stop and walk in since I started running outside. The good news is that I made it back to the gym (which was my starting point) without severely hurting myself. But I was in quite a bit of pain as I asked my manager to bag me up some ice and laid down on one of the bleachers to "ice my front bum" to the entertainment of one some of my friends. (Get Over It reference for anyone who caught that:

Well I guess I broke my butt. But that wasn't going to stop me. Well, it did for that day but Sunday was right around the corner and I was determined to rest it so I could try again for a 10 miler. When Sunday did come around I didn't end up going out until later in the day, but my determination didn't wain. I told myself that I wouldn't push but I would go for as long as I was comfortable and I would do it by running the entire time in the grass. Well that worked well enough because I got my 10 miles in! Woo Hoo! See the thing is that Sunday runs set the scene for the weeks runs to come. Finish them and you feel accomplished. Don't do them or not finish and it plays with me psychologically.

I've had some hip and knee pain this past week but I just won't let it get me down. More than anything I keep hearing, "You're gonna get sick" or "You need to slow down" and my personal favorite, "You're crazy". Well my friends let me just tell you I don't think I'm crazy, but rather I am just a highly motivated and ambitious individual who takes joy engaging in highly rigorous activities that most would view as undesirable. Take that! haha......Well I ate those words a bit yesterday.

So Sunday was my long run day and I had set a mental goal of 15 miles....the longest I had gone. Ideally I would have loved to have run before work but since I started at 7:45am there was no way I would hit the trail at 4am, that's a little too ambitious even for me. Sitting at work though thinking about the run is hard mentally. You have to continually remind yourself that you are running, no exceptions (Rule number 76: No excuses play like a champion (Wedding Crashers! No excuses means just because it's freezing outside and the wind could literally blow me away, you're still running. Even if I wanted to run outside I couldn't because I didn't pack anything more than a t-shirt and shorts (pneumonia is a no-go). What's left? The treadmill! Yup, that's right I did a 15 mile run...on the treadmill!

This is definitely something I am really proud of because it's an art that takes a lot of discipline to master.....haha. Or rather after an hour the treadmill will turn off on you and so if you don't want to go flying over the front of it you need to time it right to turn it off and start it over again. Shouldn't be a problem since there is a clock on the treadmill, right? Yea well let me tell you something buddy, have you ever tried to do a long run on a treadmill? Those numbers, if you stare at them long enough, will eat you alive. You feel like you should be farther than you really are and so you speed up but you're not really going anywhere and the whole self-defeating cycle starts over again until finally you're conscious convinces you to get off. No excuses though, remember. The solution? Throw a towel over it...kind of like in Big Daddy when he...well you can youtube it :)

Ok so here's how it works. I get up to the treadmill, number 14 looked pretty good, and I signed up for a 3 hour time slot...jeeeesh! At this point I needed to talk myself up a bit, convince myself it was only 15 miles, go slow and you'd be done in no time. Turn on the machine, crank up the pace to a nice easy 10:31 and start the timer on my watch (this was key because as I was approaching an hour I would check to see where my mileage was so I could stop on a whole number and start the machine over.) After 5 miles I was starting to feel good. I picked up my pace a bit and before you know it I had another 5 down. That leaves one more hour and 5 more miles but believe it or not, those were the hardest. I started to feel pain by mile 12 and I was literally in my head yelling at myself not to stop. It's probably a good thing that people couldn't hear my thoughts :) So I was at the end of mile 14 when I cramped and boy did it hurt! I paused the treadmill and stretched out my calves. "You're getting back on that treadmill and finishing that last mile" I kept repeating to myself. I had 30 seconds before the machine would erase the miles I had put in so I sipped away at my water and prepared to finish this run.

The last mile was good. I ran faster than before in the first half of it and by the second half I was sprinting. Just finish, just finish! I was up to a 7 minute mile the last .20 of the mile and it was exhilarating!!!!

15 miles. DONE! What an accomplishment. But, oh wait, note to self, when running for almost 3 hours you need to consume carbs and protein otherwise your blood sugar levels will deteriorate which could lead to one passing out.....I didn't pass out but hot damn I was feeling woooozy! I ran downstairs and bought an orange juice and just put it down because I needed the sugar like whoa! I felt better after a while and managed to get a good stretch in before I headed home. I had wanted to get in a few sets of weights but I just couldn't do any more. I went out to dinner with my family that night to the Olive Garden to celebrate my graduation. I found it somewhat ironic though...I felt like eating all of those carbs should have come before the run rather than after but oh well.

Monday morning was not pleasant. It's the one day a week I don't have to get up at 4:30am but I still like to be up by 6 to start my day but today I just couldn't, it hurt so bad! I didn't end up getting up until 8 and even then I was slow moving. After getting through some chores I shuffled myself off to work, fully intending to get some kind of workout in after my shift. I had to force myself to workout though because I wanted to get my muscles moving a bit so I did some bis/tris and a 30 min swim for cross training. I went home exhausted and spent the whole night on the couch, which actually was really nice.

Today I still feel a little a little sore and so I decided to hold off my run until Thursday. I did weights, abs, cardio (bike & stair master) and a quick swim instead. I was writing out my actual training for my marathon in my notebook and it has me running a lot more than I am now so I figured maybe I would slow it just a little bit. Official training starts June 6th...til then :)

Setting a P.R. (5/8/2011)

There's nothing like Sunday long runs. There's just a certain something about them that make me want to hop out of bed and throw on my running shoes and hit the trail. Add an early morning wake up to that and you'll get a bonus of getting to watch the sun rise up over the lake. And while these things are all well and good there's something more to my Sunday runs that has me pushing out the door and that's the hike in mileage. I've been pushing for the past few months to increase my mileage and I've been pretty successful up to this point. A month back and I had just accomplished a 10 mile run and couldn't have been more proud! But it was about time to push past that for myself both physically and psychologically. Running has become a bit of an addiction because of how competitive it gets. Right so obviously I'm not referring to the kind of competition that comes with playing a sport like football or basketball but the kind that is internally evoked and suddenly there's just this drive to want to go farther and faster than the last time.

So this week in particular I had my mind made up: I'd take on the 13 mile challenge. I hadn't run 13 miles since last September when I participated in my first Half Marathon. Despite waking up 6 minutes before the start of the race, not getting to eat, stretch or even wash yesterdays makeup off my face before I was hustled to the start line, I finished in 2 hours and 53 minutes. I knew before I even went out that I could beat this time but by how much? This was a challenge I knew I wanted to take on.

Lucky for me it was a nice day, you know the one where it's warm but not too warm, I think the word is comfortable :) So I threw on my zip-up, and threw a pack of "honey stingers" in my pocket. I bought these when I got my new shoes figuring I would need them for long runs and I wasn't as enthused about the "gooo packs" (even though I bought one anyways haha). I also picked up another trick...well actually it's not anything special and I don't know how I didn't think of this before BUT if you tie your apartment keys in with your shoe laces you don't have to put them in your pocket and risk loosing them. DUH SAM! haha.

I finally make my way to the lake path and my start mark has me at the 2.5 mile mark...which means in order to do a 13 mile run I need to get up to the 9 mile mark before I can turn around (2.5-9=6.5(2)=13...yea I can do math!) Lately I have gotten into the habit of running south and then running back up north only to turn around and go back south. It sounds complicated but really going south first chops off how far I have to go north by like 4 miles, but this run, this Sunday morning was too nice to complicate my route so I just went straight up north. So the last long run (10 miles) took me up behind McCormick Place and just within site of Soldier Field and Museum Campus. Well, the 9 mile marker is actually much farther than that, in fact it's right around Grant Park! So as I saw the 7 mile sign, and as I passed it a new excitement of running into new territory. If I can remember right I started to feel a bit of knee pain and my hip was hurting a little but I pushed it out. The hardest part about long runs is getting to the turn around point because getting past the psychological barriers of wanting to turn around takes discipline. But once you're there you have to go back so you might as well run right? At this point I reached the Shedd Aquarium and was running around the back of it only to come up to the site of the other Museums. Wow what a site for a Sunday morning! And what do you know, I was approaching my half way point.

There it was! My sign! I remember being filled with a sense of accomplishment as I whipped out my phone to snap a quick pic while still in running motion just so I had some kind of visual to commemorate to when I got back. There I was at Grant Park, and to think that was only 6.5 miles away from home. That doesn't seem like much but when you're running it you all of a sudden remember all of the little markers along the way that you have to get past in order to finish. Getting to the Shedd means reaching McCormick, means passing the skate park, and then coming out of the "woods" and along the beach until you get to the park, which signifies the 4.5 mile marker. Then there is this really big hill, some more of the lake and a nice sprint back along the point and your done. Not too bad right? Well I enjoyed that run back, although I do remember my body protesting a bit as I felt pain in my hip slightly. (This would come back to kick me in the butt later!)

If I remember anything clearly it was that last mile. I knew I had just enough left in me to push really hard. I had to so I could be proud of the time I came in at! So I turned on a more upbeat song and I puuuuuuushed! I was in my head and I had this. "Run, run, faster girl! You got this! Don'tchu crap out on me now!!!" I could see the finishing point and I bolted for it............FINISHED! Official time? 2 hours.....8 minutes! Not bad! Well not bad in the sense that it was 45 minutes faster than the time I had back in September...WOW! I felt good, no I felt great! I just set my first P.R. for a long run! The whole rest of the day went by pretty smoothly, I had enough energy to even go in a do some weights afterwards. Maybe that makes me slightly crazy but I guess the runners high will do that to you. :)

Race Pace--Updates from the past Month

This always happens to me--ALWAYS! So may exciting things happen to me that I want to write on and before you know it a month goes by! I wrote down at least three different titles for blogs that I wanted to write on in the stickies section on my desktop and each day under my "To-Do" list I write "update blog". Well now I'm here and I plan on taking the next two hours of my life to do 3-4 postings on some of the things that have been going on in my life so hold tight. I got a cup of coffee (decaf!), a mix of upbeat tunes and a whole hell of a lot of ambition to sit on the couch and type (because my legs hurt entirely too much to do much else). So I'm off, making that race pace through the last month of my life. Enjoy :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

[Running] Out of Time

Bad days tend to hit really hard, at least for me. I have a strict policy about letting people or things get to me, picked it up from a teacher my senior year in high school and goes something like: "You're responsible for your own feelings and reactions; no one can make you feel any which way and if you so choose to get angry or upset that is your choice and in doing so you are giving that person or thing a lot of power over you." This catches me up a lot. I tend to think about my reactions a little more before I pursue them these days but like I'm not perfect. I'm still vulnerable to bad days and bad decision which ultimately turn into, well to put it simply, a crappy mood.

Today was one of those days. A beautiful day outside, I couldn't have asked for a better running day....such a shame I had to be at work. Well let me back track just a moment, my alarm went off at 5:15 this morning on accident (I guess I turned it on along with my 6am one) and I considered getting up anyways and running before work. But my inner thoughts convinced me otherwise, mainly because I didn't want to end up still out on the trail as I needed to be at work. I would have been too anxious during the run and wouldn't have enjoyed it. Because all the runs I do are "My Runs" and I tell myself that when I get fatigued or when I can't decide how far I want to run, I mentally check in within myself and just say, "This is your run, make the most of it".

Well I didn't get to have that run and as I walked to work at 7:25 I thought to myself, "I wish I could turn back time just a little bit so I could have run it" because I knew inside I would slowly lose motivation to hit the trail by the time I got off work because of other creeping this paper due tomorrow that I'm still not done with. I rounded up the motivation to push through more of the paper while at work and at 11am when my relief came I noticed the girl looked awful. She had been out the day before because she was really sick and there she was sitting in the chair looking like all she wanted/needed to do was go home and back to bed. I know that feeling. I know what it's like to feel like you've stretched outside your limits and just can't push I offered to cover her shift for her.

At this point my run was looking less and less possible. I took a moment and tried to reschedule my day. So I would be at work until about 1pm, which is when I was supposed to meet up with my lifting partner, I could always use this time to work more on the paper, lift and then run....that sounds awful! The mental decay was getting to me and I was loosing steam. I'd been bothered most of the morning by other stressors and at this point I desperately needed to run, for my own sanity. As 1:30 rolled around my partner showed up and I was tempted to tell him that I needed a break from lifting because if I didn't go for a run I might spontaneously combust. But he had brought his friend from out of town with him and had already talked me up about how I was such a great partner that really pushed him to work hard, how could I back down now. I fell to peer pressure, which, yes goes against my philosophy I am well aware.

I had only gotten into one of my sets when my partner asks me how I am doing, he noticed I was kind of off. We had a quick gripe session about some of the things going on in my life and I disclose to him that I hadn't gone for my run yet. He understands that running is like a regulator for me, so he shortens my workout and tells me to go run. At this point I want nothing more than to just get out of the gym, for once being there has me feeling anxious and unwelcome.

Let me just say I had every intention of running right out that door and hitting the trail....until I realized I forgot my water bottle and jacket at home. A 13 mile run would not be smart to pursue without some kind of hydration and suddenly it looked like it might rain (but actually that was probably just my negative attitude). So I hopped the bus and told myself I would just start my run from my apartment. It was no surprise that when I got home, dropped my bags and had already convinced myself I wasn't gonna go for a run. I was so upset with myself but since I had been doing weights for a while I was also really stinkin' hungry. I opted for some mac n cheese and an episode of the vampire diaries to try and soothe myself. It's been three days since my last run and I feel like crap, and no the mac n cheese as delicious as it was, did not help.

Still looking for a way to procrastinate and recharge I thought a short nap would help, seeing as when things are really bothering me if I can't run I'll knock out for a while. No such luck. So now it's 6pm and my paper is only just past a quarter way of being done. I need to jump on it. I set up camp in the kitchen, because last night when I spread out in bed I of course fell asleep. That's the other thing, just a small tangent, I love to do everything in my bed but I've read that doing that really messes up your sleeping....I believe that more and more these days as I've needed to get things done and just end up out cold with my computer on top of me, music playing.

Anyways, my academic environment is less than supportive these days so it's safe to say that I may be pulling an all-nighter to get this final done, which was due on Friday I might add. I feel kind of stuck and like I need something. It's times like these that I miss my mom the most. I miss those warm spring/summer nights when we would sit on the swing in the backyard and she would listen to me talk about all of the crazy things going on in my life that were important then but have little meaning to me now. I'd give just about anything to have another one of those nights and for her embrace me with one of the best hugs anyone could ask for. Flash back to now and I tell myself I really need to go for a run tomorrow. These feelings, even two years later are still really intense for me and running helps me process them. Remember that philosophy I was telling you about? Well with anything there are exceptions and this is one of them. As much as it hurts to let in feelings of loss sometimes it helps because it reminds me of the strength that I have obtained over the years from it.

I like to think about it in a sense like a tough run. When I feel like I can't go any more, my muscles are fatigued and everything in me just wants to quit, I remind myself that I've overcome worse. When I first started running I had no muscle and very little drive, but look at where you are now. You can push just a little more because you're strong enough to, because she would want you to, and because nothing is out of reach.