Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Morning Run Motivation

August begins tomorrow. What comes with the month of August? The continuation of marathon training.

I gathered a few quotes from Pinterest to help keep training going on the right foot (or left perferably, in my case):

One for those early Saturday mornings:

For those August and September mid-week 8 and 10 milers:

To stay focused and dedicated:

 Running clears the mind:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I Love Group Training

Signing up for races is easy.

Training for a race is hard.

Which brings me to one of my favorite aspects of being a distance runner - group training.

Most people can train for a 5k or 10k or their own. Many can train for a half marathon on their own. But as someone once told me, the marathon is not twice as hard as a half marathon. It's four times as hard.

On the recommendation of Mark and a few others who completed 26.2, I joined the Chicago Area Runners association marathon training program at their Montrose Harbor location in 2008. Starting in mid-June, training officially starts and thus the weekend long run. Though the Saturday long runs is where I met many of my running friends -Sara, Jen, Kim, Jeff to name a few.

Getting used to the Saturday morning training runs took a few weeks. My body wasn't ready to run at 6:30. Nor was it used to getting up earlier to eat, get ready and drive to group training (or bike if I was really motivated that morning). But very quickly, I started to notice the benefits of group training. Which is why I recommend group training to any future marathoner.

Truthfully, now that I've trained for so long with a group, I can't imagine training without it. Granted, you don't need the group for every run. But there are those days where you're mind's giving you excuses to not run (It's too cold/hot, I'm too tired...or maybe, I'm hung over) and the accountability of running with a group helps. Over the years, we've created our own branches of the CARA system - The mileage may be a bit more. The start and end location may vary. And most likely you're starting earlier in the morning. But all and all, we're keeping with the same spirit of group training. Though sometimes the group may be just a pair.

With a group, you share a common goal. Though many members of the group may be training for the Chicago Marathon, some others are planning for races in other parts of the country or world.

Running with a group challenges the voice in your head. You know, that voice that says "It's ok. You can stop and walk." With the group,  you can tame that voice and instead conquer Cricket Hill, the big hill of the North Side.

Though my training experience continues to grow, I don't think I'll ever grow out of group training.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Big Hill of the North Side

Did you know there's a big hill on the North Side of Chicago?

Before I tell you about it, I'll need you to get into my frame of mind as I approach the bottom of the mountain (ok, maybe it's just a big hill?):

I'm in the last quarter mile of a run varying from 5 to 18 miles. It's likely warm and humid. My body and mind are probably not at 100%.

My terrain in the run so far (not including the North Avenue bridge) has been flat. I love Chicago for that.

I've spent anywhere from the last 50 minutes to 3 hours running. I'm probably ready to be done. I've consumed a relatively large quantity of water and Gatorade, not to mention Gu. A discussion has already happened about brunch (and I've decided what I'm having). A conversation on the topic of bodily fluids likely happened. On the smell meter, I'm somewhere between moderately offensive to homeless man on the El. 

I'm thinking of the big sigh I will let out as I lay in my bed an hour from now, freshly showered and full of post-run kibble. It will be glorious.

We turn off the main lakefront pathway and onto the spur that goes closer to the lakefront. The group gears up for Cricket Hill which comes into sight as we clear the viaduct. The group leaders yell something motivational about taking the hill so we don't wuss out.

Then we take on Cricket Hill. 

photo courtesy of

The rationale is that if you run up Cricket Hill at the end of each long run then you'll have no problem with Roosevelt Street Bridge at the end of the Chicago Marathon. 

The strategy's worked for me, so I guess I'll keep on truckin' up the hill.  

Sometimes the hill comes easy. But most of the time, at least in my experience, it owns me. I get to the top of it short of breath and out of gas. Why is it that I do this? Yet I continue to do it, group run after group run. If running it once a week between June and September isn't enough, sometimes I hit it on a Wednesday mid-week run or on the off season as it's covered in snow. 

The duel between Cricket Hill and I continues (and I'll try to forget there's hill's in D.C.).

Friday, July 12, 2013

3 Dresses in 72 Hours

Ok, I'll admit it - I'm a tomboy at heart.

I've always preferred sports to fashion.

I've cringed at the thought of modeling.

I don't really know much about make-up.

A pony tail is my favorite hair style.

(So, my true calling in life must have been to be a runner, don't you see?)

But a few weeks ago, I had to man-up to the call of being a woman and wear a dress. Three days in a row.
I don't know how I didn't see this coming weeks before - A black tie event on Thursday, rehearsal dinner on Friday and a wedding on Saturday.

You know what the problem is with being a true girl over being a tomboy? Maintenance. It's easy to maintain a tomboy life. A relatively comfortable range of clothes, ballet flats, no make-up, wash-and-go hair and a toothbrush. All your needs can fit in a backpack for an overnight trip.

But then there's those dress days. They require taking on the roll of being a true girl which requires nail polish, manicures, teeth whitening, mascara, bronzer, eyeliner, ipad (to watch videos on how to do hair and make-up of course), dry cleaning, earrings and more. Then there's the dainty purse to fit all your womanly crap in. It's all a game you can't win.

Men have it so easy. Suits, collared shirts and dress shoes with gym shoe comfort. While they stand around comfortably and look sharp, women are walking by with their feet jammed into shoes that were not meant to be worn.

Thoughts of plantar fasciitis are running through my head - and more importantly - when will it be acceptable to ditch the heels for the flats I have squirreled under the table? Also, can I ditch the wine I'm drinking and get a beer now? Are we at that point in the night?

I may have had a dream or two or ten about my running shoes, shorts and a sleeveless tech tee in that three day time frame. I just might have. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fort2Base Fun Run

Marathon training is a long and oftentimes laborious process. A great way to break up the monotony is to run races during training. Next weekend, I'm running the Rock and Roll Half Marathon downtown. Rock and Roll is a nice and convenient race, but the summer training race that has my heart is Fort2Base.

I recently blogged about how I discovered Fort2Base. You can read about it here.

Why do I love Fort2Base? It's the perfect mix of things I love brought into a running event - military theme, running on a military base, point to point race format, North Shore location, Salute Inc. (my charity for the marathon) is a benefactor of race proceeds, post brunch at Pinstripes, etc.

I'd love to get all Rocky here and share inspiring stories of all my races, but truthfully, they don't happen often. My first Fort2Base run was an exception, and to date, probably the most inspiring run I've ever had. I credit this to my brother serving in Afghanistan at the time. You can read about that run here. 

Over the last few years, a handful of my friends have come along with for the journey up to Great Lakes to run Fort2Base. I learned at the conclusion of Fort2Base last year that the race seeks ambassadors to share information with their friends and network on the race. Sounded like a fun gig.

On Wednesday, July 31st, I'm hosting a Fort2Base fun run with the help of my friends at Universal Sole in downtown Chicago. 

Universal Sole recently opened a second location at 333 East Benton Place, which is located just behind the AON Center. The fun run starts at 6pm. Three and five mile distances can be run. If you're interested in hearing about the race, the run, or both, please meet me there.

Or, if you're interested in hearing more about the race and can't make it, please reach out to me. I'd love to have you in as part of the experience!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Running in Another Man's Shoes

As a senior in high school, I was a witness to an incredible event. My uncle ran a marathon. I remember it so well. He seemed to run effortlessly. He would pick my grandparents, my aunts and my mom out of the crowd of thousands lining the streets. We followed him with amazement.

He was the first person we knew to ever run a marathon.

He went on to run two marathons after that first in Chicago.

When I got into running, he became a great resource for any question I had.

Years later, we ran the Shamrock Shuffle together.

As life happens, sometimes we move away from one thing to pursue another. I don't think many people, at least not us middle of the pack runners, throw ourselves a running retirement party. Instead, something happens one day or year that changes our path - a new job, family, a baby, or maybe less inspirational, like an injury or new found boredom with the sport. Regardless of what the reasoning may be, a lot of us have been there or will go there one day.

So back to my uncle's story.

This past week, we traveled a long, long way south on quite possibly the most boring highway in the United States to see my Grandma. Illinois is a different world south of I-80, and it's a complete culture change as you approach Kentucky. Life is slower there. Cell phones barely work. There's no internet. For a few days, we spend time talking, sitting on the deck, eating and drinking. I find it relaxing on these trips to go on a shorter run on at least one of the mornings. I can run for four miles and see three cars. A big change from Sheridan Road.

One morning, I laced up my running shoes and headed out down a road which is named only by the material it's made out of and a number. I saw one farmer, seven cows, a deer, a fisherman, and two pick up trucks during my four mile run.

When I returned to the house, instead of rushing inside to change and get ready for work, I was able to spend some time stretching on the deck overlooking the lake. It was during this time that my uncle passed by me. He asked how my run was and how far I'd gone. I showered shortly thereafter and had a second breakfast.

A short while later, I was sitting outside with a small group including my uncle. He asked what size shoe I wore. I smiled. I knew where he was going with this. "My running shoes are an 11" I replied, which sparked a quick conversation about women's to men's sizing. Then I was asked if I had a pair of socks and maybe a pair of shorts? Lucky for him, I'm the build of the average man, so sizing was working out in his favor.

Shortly thereafter, he was suited up in my gear and off on the roads. He returned some time later saying that the shoes were a bit snug, but it felt good to get out there.

Welcome back to running, Mark.

Camille: Marathoner in Training

Camille is my cousin. We're pretty close in age. We enjoy laughing, making fun of things, drinking beer, and well, more recently, running.

Though our first three shared passions can be done just about anywhere (a family gathering in a backyard, a bar or even a parking lot), running brings us to new, unexplored places.

In the last few years, Camille has moved from the occasional jogger to an endurance runner. Last spring, she completed her first 10 mile run at the Soldier Field 10. In the fall, she completed her first half marathon. This spring, she ran the Soldier Field 10 again, smashing her previous time.

What I didn't mention in Camille's list of accomplishments is something she did in early February. She registered for the Chicago Marathon.

Anyone can register for the marathon, but it takes a special kind of person to fully commit to training for a marathon.  It takes a lot of time, determination and dedication.

Each week, I read updates on Camille's training. She shares funny running stories. She squeezes in a weekday run while her kids are at sports practice. She's putting in her time on the road.

In less than four months, Camille will complete her first marathon. I get chills just thinking of her going through this experience for the first time. But even more than that, I'm happy to have witnessed her transformation into who she is today. Someone who has fought through the challenges and in turn become a stronger runner -  with each run, through each month and year.

It is truly amazing what we can accomplish when we won't take no for an answer.