Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Missed [Running] Opportunities

Do you ever have one of those days where you just can't get your sh-t together?

Yesterday was one of them for me:

I woke up and checked my weather app. It read 60 degrees. In Chicago. In January. Amazing. A run must happen today!

I went through my get-ready-for-work routine and left the house for the bus stop. As I walked down to the bus stop, I recalled my backpack being quite light. I had left my running shoes at home. And not just any running shoes. A brand new pair of shoes that I planned on breaking in today. A brand new pair is heaven after running in a pair towards the end of their useable life.

The thought crossed my mind to go back home and grab the shoes. How negatively could my commute be effected if I left ten minutes later?

I looked down at my phone and saw a text from my mom. It read 'Lunch?' and that was it. I kept walking to the bus stop and didn't turn around. A few things happened in a matter of minutes that sidelined my lunchtime run plans.

As I looked up to cross the street to the bus stop, a fast runner passed me with a bright pair of compression socks on. This only made my situation worse. He was out there, getting his with his bad ass compression socks and I was waiting for the damn bus. Fail.

I boarded a crowded bus and stared longingly out the window and we traveled down Sheridan and on to Lake Shore. I saw more of them. Men and women. Wearing shorts. Smiling. I was on the wrong side of the road right now and couldn't help but beat myself up about it. 

I tried to console myself by saying I'd run when I got home. It would still be in the high 40's then and incredibly warm for a January evening. As my workday progressed, I watched the weather outside my window change to rain and dark.

I walked back to the bus stop as a light rain began. A little rain is nothing. I'll run through rain I thought. Then the skies opened up and it poured buckets. Around 20 of us waited for the bus with only the cover of our somewhat useless umbrellas. Our feet became wet followed by our pants and then our backs. Eventually the bus arrived and all the wet dogs piled on the bus with the other wet animals.

I tried to take myself to a happy place while in this situation and imagined if I'd gotten up early and run like the guy in the compression socks.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The F^3 Lake Half Marathon

On Saturday, I'm doing something many would think is crazy. I'm running a half Marathon. In Chicago. On the lakefront.

Around 10am on Saturday, approximately 1500 runners and a hundred or so volunteers will gather at Montrose Harbor for the 4th annual F^3 Lake Half Marathon.

What's F^3 you may ask? The F'n Freezing Frozen. Appropriately named considering the weather forecast for Saturday wouldn't you say?

This race is the brainchild of my friend Kim S. She gathered a group of her friends together a few years ago to celebrate winter training with a 13.1 fun run. I didn't get a chance to participate that year. I was rehabbing a sore knee and weak hip. But shortly thereafter that first race, Kim knew she had a unique event to bring to the Chicago running community.

It's been fun and truly amazing to watch Kim grow the race since that first year. She has connected a subculture in the Chicago running community. Some may call us crazy. Others could say hardcore. Truthfully, I think a lot of us share the same disdain for treadmills.

(Fast forward a few days to today, the day after the race. I didn't manage to wrap this one up before the race like I hoped).

Brian and I got together on Friday night to keep to our ritual of drinking three the night before a race. Dinner was followed by laying out race gear (a more intricate task in the winter season) and going to bed. Dave and I headed to the race around 8 ( Dave volunteered), but not before I had to turn around together my bib off the refrigerator. (I'd forgotten the critical step of pinning my bib onto my shirt the night before).

The temperature that morning was what most would call freezing. The light snow the day border made a white blanket over the landscape. Perfect for photos. The wind was light and sun was out.

Dave took a great shot of the start area.

Brian, Jeff and I ran together for most of the race. That is, until Jeff left us in the dust around mile 10. We saw a few friends along the way and marveled at all the faces we didn't know. How quickly Kim's race has grown. We had a few quick walk breaks to alleviate a cramp or to take down fluids, but other than that, we're pretty happy with our performance. Especially with the lack of training we'd both done.

Shortly after the finish, we all met at the after party. It was great to see it so well attended and the crowd excitement for the race. For a short period, a large mass of the crazy winter runners were gathered in one place. We talked, laughed and had a few drinks. Then left each other's company saying we'd see each other soon - whether it be out on the path next week or this summer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Channeling My Inner Gymnast

I fondly remember watching the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. The air or re-air time was such that I could watch some of the gymnastics coverage while eating breakfast. I recall tumbling in the living room imagining I was there, even though I had no idea where Korea was.

After my connection with gymnastics and Korea over those few weeks, I asked my parents if I could take gymnastics. The following summer, I found myself in the gym of what would one day be my high school, learning the basics of gymnastics. I loved it.

Tumbling was fun. You could flip and turn, land on the floor spring board and pop right back up. You could pretend you were competing in the Olympics with your hair in a high pony tail and a glittery outfit. You could watch others complete a move then try yourself without fear of failure. I vividly remember practicing vaults over and over again while the radio (does anyone remember the radio station Z95?) played Rick Astley and other great artist of the late '80's. Keep in mind I was 8.

When the summer session ended, I went to Gym Kena in...wait for it... Mokena. Truthfully, I can't remember how long I continued to train. Maybe a year.

At this point in my life, I was already the tallest girl in my class and going through another growth spurt. At 9, I was easily an inch or two over 5' and wearing a size 9 shoe. Right around this time is when I started getting asked if I played basketball and/or volleyball. Little did I know those questions would never end. I remember a male and female instructor at the gym. I was as tall as the woman already.

Towards the end of the last class of the session, I remember one of them pulling me to the side and telling me in a very nice way that I was not cut out for gymnastics. I'm sure there was some sort of basketball mention made as a way to segway the conversation into what could be assumed was my athletic future.

Fast forward to last winter when I picked up yoga again at the first studio. I'd practiced yoga at my gym in the mid 2000's, but now I was practicing with some advanced instructors and students. Inversions were not an if, but a when in each session. Imagine my delight when the wheel pose was mentioned towards the end of class. Why yes, I remember doing this in gymnastics, and in fact, I could still do it. Yoga breakthrough.

Since then, I've been trying to channel my inner gymnast. Some poses I recall doing when I was younger. Can I still do them? Just like when I was a kid, I should feel free to attempt in yoga practice without judgement/fear of failure.

When I can get in this mindset, I find I can push through any preconceived notions of what I should or shouldn't be able to do. It was through this thinking that I was able to do a headstand recently in practice. I'd had a stressful day at work, but in that moment, I was 8 again, listening to Rick Astley and loving life.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

North Shore Runners

There aren't many Saturdays in January that reach 50 degrees. When you get one, you have to capitalize on it. With the F^3 Lake Half Marathon just two weeks away, I had a good distance planned for this weekend. This morning I ran 10 miles through the communities of Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka and Glencoe.

Running through the North Shore is so different than running in the City. First you have the obvious differences. The streetlights are fewer and further apart. The sidewalks are wider. There's fewer high rises and more lawns.

Bikes and cars mix here and with no honking or yelling. Drivers seem to be more aware of runners. They yield to runners in cross walks. They look for us as they pull up to an intersection and let us cross in front of them. Sometimes they even back up to allow you the right of way before crossing the street. This behavior is mind blowing when you're used to playing frogger further south on Sheridan Road.

The thing that throws me any time I run here is what I'd like to all the runner's code of the North Shore. In the city, you may smile or nod at a fellow runner, especially if it's at a time or off season. But you wouldn't do this to every runner or any person you pass by. You wouldn't feel compelled to extend your contact with a greeting like "Good morning" or "How are you?"

But this morning, on my run, I heard this type of chatter. It's nice. Which made me wonder, why is it we don't do this in the City? Is it because we're too busy or don't want to be friendly? Maybe it's because we're scared. Maybe we're trying not to stand out.

Over the years as my contacts in the Chicago running community has grown, I do see us out there. On Friday I ran into George down around the Chicago Yacht Club. We were both a good five miles or more from home. I see George often. Which makes me wonder, how many times had I saw George before I met him?

Maybe if we had been greeting each other all along, we would have remembered each other's faces and started talking sooner. But we wouldn't want to seem creepy doing that in the City, would we?

Friday, January 11, 2013

The First Few Steps...

It's on rainy, dark days like this week that I truly appreciate Pinterest. From time to time, the social networking site which focuses on million dollar room remodels, outlandish vacations and all-too-perfect deserts has sucked me in. But within this time I've built a pretty awesome "Fitness and Motivation" Board.

The images I've included here are part of the build. They focus on the getting a move on to start a run and the sense of accomplishment at the end.

Oh summer, how I remember you with your warmth and 12+ hours of sunlight. Waking up early to run before work was easy. Now in the dark depths of winter, I need a little motivation to keep on moving.

I ran a 10 mile training run for the F^3 Lake Half Marathon last Sunday. I waited until later in the afternoon when the day's temperature was at it's peak (feels like 26 is what my weather app said as I left the house).

I'd put on my gear a good hour before I left. I had to really work to talk myself into doing this run. I had a few good excuses going like 'I've been sick' and 'I don't really have to do 10 miles today.'

Finally I left the house. The first few blocks around Loyola aren't my favorite. Truthfully, the first mile usually isn't great. But by the time I'm closing in on two miles, my body has warmed up and I feel good. 2 mile Laura is happy to be out and in this run for the long haul. Whatever the assignment may be today. But man, 2 block Laura or even 2 step Laura for that matter, was not sharing in the 2 mile presence of mind.

Amazing how a few thousand steps can change your outlook.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Finding The [Right Yoga] Mat

I reintroduced yoga into my weekly life about a year ago. 

I picked up my yoga mat, a towel and water bottle and headed to practice. Practice was a challenge, and with the challenge, came sweat. Sweat produced sliding and waterpark noises in the studio.

 It didn't take many practices before I realized I needed to up my gear. 

When I started running, I bought a pair of shoes at Kohl's and hit the road. It wasn't too long after that I was advised to try a specialty running store for real running shoes. Once I went through the shoe fitting process and loved the product, I was sold. Why would anyone not purchase running shoes this way?

After a few practices I visited my friends Google and Amazon. Surely a new yoga mat, being a simple piece of rubber, could be purchased through these sources, right? As I read I discovered there was so much I didn't know about yoga mats. I read testimonials from men and women swearing by one product over the other. Long mats, super cushioned mats. $10 mats, $100 mats.

After enough research to make my head spin, I decided to visit a Lululemon. We walked in and were helped immediately. I explained my predicament. The girl helping me was great. She thought The Mat would be perfect for me.

I checked out with The Mat in a cute bag and went along my way.

I'd read that The Mat had a horrible smell that took time to air out. I was prepared for it to smell like a tire factory - not that bad. The level of cushioning is supreme compared to any other mat I've used. Though with this superior cushioning comes weight, so weaklings may not want to tote it around.

Now onto the first practice with The Mat. A nice, warm vinyasa flow class. Sweat was eminent within the first five minutes and would continue for a solid hour. As advised, The Mat wicked sweat away from the surface. It provided a thicker cushion for my knees in poses where I would have doubled up my old mat. I found it comfortable to lay on during final relaxation pose.

I do wish The Mat was slightly longer. I'm over 6' and sometimes find myself adjusting poses to keep all points of contact on the mat.

But overall, I think it's a great product and recommend it to the big yoga sweaters out there.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Making Fuel with Fire

In order to train, we need to eat. In order to eat, sometimes we need to cook.

Though my last name may mean Cook in German, It couldn't be further from my culinary abilities.

To say it simply, I can't cook.

When I left for college, I could make one hot meal. Kraft Mac & Cheese. This meal, though low in nutritional value, was a staple in my diet for years.

My friends and family seemed to think that once I was out on my own I would learn to cook. That didn't happen. I had a college roommate who loved cooking and hated cleaning. We made a deal. And with that deal, I was never hungry. That is, until he graduated.

I graduated and moved back in with my parents. My mom cooked some evenings. Other evenings we went out.

Then I moved out. On my own. Maybe then I'd finally venture into cooking. In the last six or so years, I have tried my hand at a few things - lasagna, dips for parties, lemon chicken. But never caught the cooking bug.

Then Dave moved in. Not only is Dave good at cooking, but he finds it relaxing. He makes dishes without measurements or recipes. He says he enjoys 'winging it.' Whereas i prefer the timetables and precise measurements of baking.

While I was taking wood shop and drafting in high school, Dave was taking foods class. I think this explains a lot.

So it was to great surprise that I came home from work last week and decided to make dinner. Now let's use the dinner term loosely here. I thought of pizza bagels. So I asked Siri (cause as you can now tell, I need help) and together, we made something that looked edible.

Maybe there is hope. Though I'm not ready just yet to say 2013 will be the year of cooking.