Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Four Seasons of Running

Over the weekend, I took my run to the bike path where I did so much training this past year. I won't sugarcoat it, it was cold. The thermometer read -2F when I headed out. The sun was shining and the winds were light. When you live in the midwest, you get to experience extremes in weather. A runner's life is planned around the weather. Heck, there's even an app that tells you if it's going to be a good day for a run! But even a bad weather day could still be a good run day. I've been doing it long enough to know how to dress for it if I want to get out there. And I do. There's beauty in every season. Which is why I like to run outside all year around. I've been giving this a lot of thought. I do my best thinking on those long runs. And I thought a lot about running on this path through the seasons.

Winter is that time of year that makes it tough to be a runner, at least where I live. The weather is notoriously fickle. Actually, the weather is pretty fickle here all year round but winter brings the most intolerable running conditions. The past week was full of below zero temperatures and even lower wind chills. Schools were closed--some for three days--although that was subject to debate. Even though I live 25 miles from Lake Michigan, we still feel the effects of that big body of water. I check the wind direction when I'm heading out for a run, so I know what to expect. An easterly wind blowing over the lake feels colder than one from the west traveling over dry land. That same wind, aka the hawk (I wrote about this last spring), bracingly cold, can also be the cause of some heavy snowfall--although people who live on the east side of the lake, in Michigan and Indiana, get way more snow due to the lake effect than we do. In the winter, we get snow...and sometimes ice... and not a lot of sun. I will admit that there is pretty much nothing better than running when it is snowing. It feels so peaceful and calm. I do my best to get outside as much as possible in the winter. The fresh air and natural light does my psyche a lot of good and goes a long way towards preventing seasonal depression. So do vitamin D supplements....


Ah.....spring in ChicagoFor runners, spring is our reward after enduring runs in the cold and on the treadmill. The temperatures start to rise and the snow starts to melt. Spring weather can also be fickle, and we get teased with a day or two of warm, sunny days followed by a blizzard. Spring can really mess with your head. But spring is also a season of beauty and hope. After being socked in by clouds, cold, and gray days; after staring at dirty, brown, melting snow and salt stained cars, that first peek of green grass, a tulip poking through the dirt (or snow), or blossoms on the trees; hearing the birds singing--all this can melt even the coldest heart, and remind you that better days are coming. We can take solace in the fact that any snow that falls in spring will quickly melt under the sun's stronger rays. I just love getting outside in the spring and breathing in the freshness that seems to be in the air. Puddle jumping is kind of fun too! Spring is the time of new beginnings. 
Summer (at the retention pond)
And as extreme as winter seems, summers in Chicago are at the opposite extreme. Sometimes I compare the weather here to South Florida, and in July and August, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference! It can be blisteringly hot and so humid that just stepping outside makes you break a sweat.  No matter, I'll take summer over winter anytime. In the summer, I love to get up before the sun comes up and head out for a long run. Early morning runs bring the treat of watching the sunrise. Nights are nice too. Running in the summer rain--as long as it isn't a stormy downpour--is an unexpected pleasure. There comes with the warm weather the hazard of insects, though. Stop for a selfie and the mosquitos are at the ready for a snack. Occasionally clouds, and I mean clouds of gnats fly around and if you run through them, they stick to your sweaty skin. I breathe with my mouth open when I run and yes, I've swallowed my share of gnats. Protein, right? One run, I was stung in the eye by a yellow jacket. He flew right into me. I couldn't help but think what if he flew into my mouth? Scary! I've tried running with my mouth closed and that just doesn't work. A topic for another blog post. Besides the bugs, summer is race training season for me and there is no better feeling than sweating it out on a long run. And let's face it, getting dressed to go out for a run in the summer is a win. One layer, done.

Out of all the seasons, and there is something to love about all of them, fall is my favorite. Nature puts on a big show for us in the fall, changing the colors of the leaves on the trees. I love the sound of dried leaves crunching under my feet as I run on the bike path. The air in the daytime is still warm, even with the hint of crispness and the promise of cold weather ahead. Cooler mornings make for some speedy miles. And no bugs! There are a lot of dry, sunny days in the fall, and that means a lot of outdoor runs and races. All the prep that I've done over the summer comes to fruition as I head to the starting line of whatever big race I've committed to. But as always, the weather can be unpredictable, and that October marathon starting temp could be 30F or it could be 75F, as it was in 2011 when I ran my first marathon. You do your best to be prepared, because living in the midwest, you never know what you're going to get.

What's it like where you live? Do you get to experience the changes of the seasons? What's your favorite season?

Monday, January 12, 2015

So many races, so little time....

I'm linking up today with MCM mama, Run the Great Wide Somewhere, and My No-Guilt Life to mull over the races I'm thinking about for this year.

Tuesdays on the Run

In my post on Chicago, I alluded to races I've run in the city I love. I also talked about why I haven't committed to much of anything yet...I want to see how I feel as the year moves forward. Last year, because I had a foot fracture, I had to DNS a race I paid for and that didn't make me happy at all. Most races don't sell out and so I feel like I have a little wiggle room. I also am thinking about backup races, in case the ones I want to run do sell out. 

One race I did commit to early on is the Sarasota Half Marathon on March 15. As early as last March, I was considering a go at this race. The timing of this race was a problem, since my boys don't have spring break until the last week of March. I needed to see if my parents would host me for 2 weeks, and if my work would grant me the time off. Luckily, everything fell into place and I was able to sign up. This is a race that sells out and I wanted to make sure I got in. I'm so excited to run this one. The race runs from Sarasota across the John Ringling Causeway to St Armands Circle and back to Sarasota. And if you like bling, this medal is a keeper, with a large dolphin on it. This will be my third Florida half marathon (and 11th overall). To say I'm excited is an understatement!

I've also committed to the Great Western Half Marathon. This is a trail half marathon, held on May 3, run on the Great Western Trail in Kane County. Because it is a trail run, the entries cap at 1200, which keeps it small and safe. The race is relatively inexpensive ($55) and has a nifty train engine medal. I'm looking forward to running this one. My friend Karen, from Trading in My Heels is leading a training group for this race, and I'm excited to do a race with her! I'm trying to rope in a few other friends as well. 

I'm also planning on running the Chicago Marathon again this year. Last year I won my entry, but this year I'm planning on jumping into the lottery. Some of my friends are moving on to a different marathon, but I do love this one and am looking forward to running it again. My first go at this beast wasn't pleasant, but I got my head around that and trained smart and had a fantastic time. I'd love to best my time last year, but even if I don't, I'll be ok with that. As long as it still is fun, that is. Stay tuned. I do have a couple of marathons in mind as a backup plan, but I'm not going to even think like that at this point!

I haven't yet committed to the CARA Lakefront 10 miler on April 18, but most likely I will run that one. The 10 mile distance is one of my favorites and it will serve as a "long run" while I continue ramping up my miles for Great Western in May. I've talked about this race before. It is a "runners' race" and is always fast and fun. Even if the weather is bad.

What else am I considering? I'm still looking at a late summer/early fall half. I have to consider my marathon training plan and the timing of 13.1 miles. A lot of halfs are held here around the same time as the marathon. 

 A couple Chicago races that I might consider includes RnR Chicago, which is on July 19. I've never run an RnR. Could be hot. And the expo is a pain, at McCormick Place, which is a giant convention center south of downtown. No race day packet pickup, which means I'd have to head down to the city two days in a row. The Chicago Half Marathon, which I've run before, is this year on September 27. This is 2 weeks before the Chicago Marathon and I'd have to run it as a taper run. I'm not so sure about that.

I've always wanted to do the North Face Endurance Challenge, which is held in Wisconsin September 14.  But would a trail run mess with my marathon training? What about the Madison Mini Marathon, which I've run before? On August 22, the only issue with that is it is my son's 18th birthday and maybe he wouldn't want to go out of town for the weekend. And do I dare leave him home alone? Um, no. That could mess with my head, anyways... 

While looking for a fall half marathon, I came upon this Lake Michigan trail half/full/50k on September 6, in Cudahy Wisconsin, which is just south of Milwaukee. This looks intriguing! BTW, the full is a Boston qualifier for anyone looking for an alternative to Chicago. This one is moving high up on the possibility list. Another trail marathon that came up is the Nearly Sane Trail Half Marathon which is held on August 23. Considering how hot it can be here that time of year, a trail race does have a certain appeal to it! This one is held in a Forest Preserve about 15 miles from my house. Hmmm....

Depending on how the marathon goes, I would even consider a late fall half. But that's a long way away....

There is also a relay that I'm planning on. The Fall 50, held in beautiful Door County Wisconsin in late October, is either an ultra or a relay. Door County is a peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, and the race runs from the northern tip down to the end of the peninsula where lies the town of Sturgeon Bay. My parents have a home in Door County and I have been going up there since I was a little girl. Door County has a special place in my heart, not only for the memories it holds, but because it is a place of beauty and peace. I would love to run this relay. Several of my friends have expressed an interest, and I'm hoping to have this firmed up by April, when registration opens. 

Ellison Bay Bluff

The curvy road which yes, you might get to run on if this is on your leg of the race!

Oh, the sunsets over Green Bay!

I think once I know I'm in the lottery for Chicago, I can move forward and commit to a fall half. Until then...I'll keep considering the possibilities. And I'll keep running and training! So many little time (and money!)

I always say, have you ever seen Wonder Woman and me in the same room? I think not...

How do you decide on races? Are you a planner or do you wing it, taking it as it comes? How many races do you run in a year?

And local peeps, have you made your plans for 2015? Are you running any of the same races as me? And what about the options I'm considering for the fall? Have you run any of them? Any insight?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Coming in from the cold

That's fine, Elsa! I did enjoy my run.
Today I took my run outside in the frigid subzero cold that we are currently experiencing. Twice this week I ran on my treadmill, and the thought of one more indoor run was more than I could fathom. Plus, my cleaning lady buried my treadmill in underneath all my family's shoes. Yes, the struggle is real. The other thing that happened is that my friend Sara aka Cheesy Runner Mom challenged Karen aka Trading in My Heels and me to run outside today. Never one to let a friend down, I checked the forecast, saw that the sun would be shining, and committed to an outdoor run.

Does this happen at your house?
When I got up this morning it was -2 degrees, but the sun was indeed shining. The trees weren't moving, and even though the weather forecasters were predicting doom and gloom aka bitter cold wind chills, I decided to honor my commitment and prepared for a cold run. After all, the garbage men were picking up garbage this week, right? I saw my mailman delivering the mail, sans gloves. And those poor schoolchildren had to brave the cold and go to school.  In my day, we had to walk 2 miles to school, uphill both ways...

I decided to take it to the bike path because it would be close to 6 miles round trip and I wanted to avoid running on the roads as much as possible, for safety reasons. I started preparing myself to run outside. For Christmas I received a North Face Thermoball jacket, which is supposed to keep you warm. I loved the color! But I was a little skeptical when I held it up. The thing weighs nothing! Actually it weighs 285 gm. But it feels like tissue paper, it's so thin. But the insulation is called Primaloft and it is designed to hold in your body heat. The jacket is also water resistant. Today would be the test. I put on a long bra top, a long sleeve base top over that, and the jacket. I wore my windproof Athleta tights with Smartwool knee highs. The ensemble was complete with a neoprene face mask and my Saucony gloves with mitten covers. I headed to the bike path.

Me and my new favorite jacket!
The path was snow packed, but traction was not an issue, even without my YakTrax. One of the first things I noticed was that even though there was a light wind, I didn't feel it at all. I started to warm up right away. Because it was so cold, I knew my iPhone wasn't going to work after a while, so I stopped on the way to snap my runfie. I stop at this little pond quite often, and it's always pretty in the background. I was shocked to see the icicles forming on my face mask and eyelashes so early in the run. I was so toasty in my jacket, I guess I didn't realize how cold it was! With the wind at my back, my behind (nalgas for you Spanish speakers) was a little chilled. And I was right about the iPhone because it stopped working at mile 2. I continued my run without music.

Clearly, this was not the issue today. But this was the screen I got.
At the turnaround, I checked my Garmin. Thankfully it was still working. I put my iPhone in my pants pocket, hoping to warm it back up. I decided to run the rest of the way without my music. I wanted to pick up the pace a little bit. The path slopes slightly downhill and the wind was at my back, so I knew I could push it a bit. There were a few slick spots but overall, I felt steady. I was also getting sweaty, believe it or not! I pulled the mitten covers back and ran with just gloves. When I turned into the wind, I was still amazed that I couldn't feel it through my jacket!

I got home and my phone was recovered enough to take some frozen selfies. I was still warm, and as I discovered once I got inside, very sweaty. Who knew?

In past winters, I had a shell from Mountain Hardwear that I used to run in. It wasn't insulated but it kept the wind out. But I still got cold when I ran in it. In comparison, his new coat is amazing. I was reluctant to run in what looked like a ski jacket, but it is so light, you don't even feel it. I am thrilled with it, and now I have absolutely no excuse to run outside in the winter. If North Face wants me to endorse the jacket, I'll do it. If I was Oprah, I'd name the Thermoball one of my favorite things and give one to everyone I know.

Well...there is this...

I will be running inside 2 days/week as part of my half marathon training this winter. Because of unpredictable path conditions, my speedwork will be done on the treadmill. I will also be doing a paced run for an hour one day/week, to help me with heat conditioning. It's going to be hard to prepare for that Florida humidity, but I'm hoping that running inside, without a fan blowing on me, will help me acclimate somewhat!

And finally, if you're feeling cold, just listen to some Bob Marley and feel the chill just melt away. I heard this song on the radio yesterday and it was just perfect!

***I'm linking up with Tara at ReadingNRunning for the Weekend Update!!!***

Friday, January 9, 2015

My kind of town...

As I sit inside, under a heap of blankets, snow and wind whipping outside, my mind wanders ahead to the upcoming race season. With the exception of the Sarasota Half Marathon (Florida), I haven't firmed up my race plans for this year. People who know me well know that I'm not a big planner when it comes to choosing races. Last year, I planned ahead and I had my first DNS due to injury. That did not make me happy. It was a streak of sorts, really! Plus, I don't like to eat the high cost of races. So I kind of like to wait and see how I'm feeling. But one thing I know for sure is that the majority of my races this year will be run in my hometown, Chicago. Today I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta aka EatPrayRunDC, You Signed up for What?, and Mar on the Run to talk about my 5 favorite races I've run in Chicago!

North Avenue Beach, with the Chicago skyline in the background. This is the "preview" day for the Air and Water Show. We used to go with a bunch of neighbors every year! 
I grew up in a really small town about 60 miles northwest of the city, but my grandparents lived in Chicago and we spent a lot of time visiting them. They actually lived right across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo! My sisters and I visited them a lot and my grandparents took us all over the city, fueling my love for Chicago. After I graduated from college, I got a job in one of the big hospitals on the near West side and moved to a Rogers Park, on the north side. Eventually I took a job as a home health nurse and traveled all over the city to see patients. I got to learn a lot about the city and neighborhoods. A few years later, my husband and I moved to Edison Park, which is located on the far northwest side of Chicago. I loved that neighborhood, but when I had my first son, we decided to move to the suburbs to raise our kids. Believe it or not, I had never lived in the suburbs and it was a bigger adjustment than I expected. To this day, I still love to go to the city and I still get a thrill when I'm heading in on the expressway and see that beautiful skyline. Some mornings as I'm driving to work, I can spy the Willis (aka Sears) Tower in the distance. Amazing, really, because it is about 25 miles southwest of where I live now.

The boys and me, 2 years ago, playing tourist on the skydeck of the Willis Tower
This is why I will be running the Chicago marathon again this year--provided I get in the lottery! I love the Chicago marathon. The race meanders throughout a large portion of the city, and runners really get a flavor of the various neighborhoods. Since I had all that experience traveling the city in my home health days, it's really like coming home for me. I'm happy when I run in the city. Chicago is a great city for runners. The people come out in droves to cheer on the runners and it is an amazing experience.

One of the biggest assets the city has to offer is its lakefront. Chicago's lakefront is loaded with beaches, parks, golf courses, and of course, the lakefront path. A lot of Chicago's races are run on the lakefront path. One of my favorite races, the CARA Lakefront 10 miler, which is considered a "kick off" to the race season, is run along the lakefront. The race also takes you through the harbors, which are somewhat empty this time of year. Since this race is in April, the weather can be unpredictable. But that's all part of the fun of living and running in Chicago. 

Broken foot and all...the weather was perfect for a PR!
Another race, the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, is run on the Lakefront Path as well, but runs south to Burnham Harbor. Technically, I didn't actually run this race but if I had, it would be a favorite and so I've included it. This was the race I couldn't run, due to my broken foot. I did go down there to spectate and cheer my friends on, and I'm glad I did. I had never run a race on that end of the Lakefront path, and it was really beautiful. I was able to experience a race on that part of the path later in the summer when I ran Zooma Chicago. I also learned what a**holes some cyclists can be, as they raced by us while we ran. It was really dangerous. 

Chicago Half Marathon running on Lake Shore Drive
Several years ago, I ran the Chicago Half Marathon. This fall race starts in Hyde Park, which is the home of President Barack Obama. Hyde Park is also the home of the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry. This part of Chicago was developed during the Columbian Exposition/Worlds Fair in 1893 (there is a great book, Devil in the White City, that takes place in this era). The parks in this part of the city are hidden gems, truly. Besides running through this area, part of the race is run on Lake Shore Drive, which is closed to traffic. I thought that was very cool and I loved this race but I didn't love the logistics, as getting there and finding parking was a challenge. Still, given the chance, I'd run it again.

Chicago Half Marathon 2011
There is one other race that I used to love, but haven't run in years, and that is the Shamrock Shuffle. This is an 8k, which is another distance that I love. The race is run through downtown Chicago and ends in Grant Park. It usually sells out, reaching a max of 40,000 runners. I don't normally like to run such big races, but the Shuffle is organized by the same group that puts on the Marathon, and so it is a really well run race. I haven't run it in years because it usually is held in late March, and that is when we take a family vacation to Florida. Hmmm...Florida vs Chicago....

One of the reasons I love to run in Chicago so much is because I just love the city. We've talked about moving back to the city once the boys are grown. Besides all the great races and places to run and play, we have theater...great restaurants...culture....if only we could get a Cubs World Series...or another Lombardi trophy....well, at least we have the Hawks! 

Wrigley Field and the iconic scoreboard, 2013
As we say in Chicago, "there's always next year".
BTW, both these boys are taller than me now...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ode to my treadmill

Today, for the first time in 10 months, I fired up the treadmill. After 17 years of moderate use (less the last couple of years), I'm always surprised, amazed, and relieved when it starts up. My geriatric treadmill has seen thousands of miles and is on belt #2. I'm not shy about my dislike for running inside. But there are days when safety must come first. Today was one of those days. The temperature was -2F, there were 3 fresh inches of snow on the ground, and my run needed to be done by 730am. My biggest concern wasn't the cold or the snow, but my safety. I was worried about a car sliding into me while I was running. So I stayed inside. It was boring as usual, but I got it done.

I listen to music when I run on the 'mill, just like I do when I run outside. I've tried watching TV, but I had trouble concentrating on both activities. Plus, to me, I felt like I was cheating on my workout. I know a lot of people watch movies while they run inside, but one thing I like to do when I run is really focus on my workout and how I'm feeling. Today I felt bored. I also felt winded, running 9 minute miles. I read a couple of articles on comparing treadmill running to outdoor running and learned that there may a couple of reasons for this. #1: boredom. #2: my treadmill might not be calibrated correctly. #3: I'm using longer strides to run. I'm pretty sure it's #2.

This guy! Is 17 years old now. Sigh...
The treadmill was a gift to me from my mother-in-law after the birth of my oldest son. My birthday was a month after his birth, and she asked me what I'd like for my birthday. I joked that I'd love a treadmill, so I could keep running. Surprisingly, she gave me a wad of cash and told me to buy one. I went to Service Merchandise, which at the time was THE store where you could get anything. They had a ProForm treadmill. There wasn't much of an internet at the time and checking product reviews wasn't a thing back then. This baby was a fold up model and had a digital display. I bought it on the spot and we brought it home. I remember running on it, with my oldest son in his bouncy seat next to me. I'd sing to him to keep him entertained while I pounded out the miles. There were times when he let me know that he'd had enough and cried while I tried to eake out one more mile. I pleaded with him to let me finish. Poor kid. No wonder I'm having issues with him...scarred for life...

We got a hamster when my oldest was in second grade. His first grade teacher had a class pet, the hamster, and we watched him over the summer. Both of my boys loved him so much that they begged me for one of our own. Against my better judgement, we headed over to PetSmart to pick out a rodent hamster. The first one we brought home we named Scabbers, after the pet rat that Ron Weasely had in the Harry Potter books. Scabbers gave my son a lot of scabs--he liked to bite--and so back to the store he went. The next one we brought home was a screamer. He was white and we named him Stuart Little. After a few months with him, we realized we should have named him Houdini. He kept escaping from his cage. Even wrapping the cage in duct tape wouldn't stop him. At the time I was working evenings, and when I got home at midnight, quite often Stuart Little wouldn't be in his cage. Usually, I'd find him sitting in the middle of the family room, nibbling on crumbs. "Hellloooo", I imagined him saying. "How was your shift?". Then I'd have to pick him up and put him back in the cage. Ewwwww. One night he was no where to be found. I was so tired, I just went to bed. We searched the house but we couldn't find him. I figured he was gone and felt guilty to feel so relieved. About 2 weeks later, I needed to run on the treadmill. I pulled the bed down and stood on it, ready to push start. I heard a scratching sound coming from the motor. Oh no....I got my husband and when he took the cover off of the motor, yes, there was Stuart Little, covered with black grease. Next to him was a pile of dog food. Oh my.

A few years later, the belt started to fray. I headed to the internet and found that I could order a replacement belt for my ancient treadmill! I was so excited. And now, it became a quest. A quest to keep the 'mill going. My husband replaced the belt. At first, the belt would occasionally slip. I had to be on my guard at all times. Last winter, it started spitting out pieces of plastic at me. I don't know where they are coming from. But let me tell you how unnerving it is to have a piece of plastic shooting out from under you when you least expect it! The other thing that the mill does is randomly speed up and slow down. There is no warning. You just have to be prepared for it. Certainly helps with the boredom factor.

Today, though, the mill behaved. I set it to 6.6. I don't know what that means, in treadmill speak, but it usually translates to 9 mins/mile.  I listened to my music. A couple of songs were the perfect cadence for my pace and that was fun. I mean, as much fun as you can have running on a treadmill. I looked at the numbers on the panel. Oooh, 12.34 minutes! Oooh, I'm running 6.6, its been 16.6 minutes and 1.66 miles. Lots of 6s! The windows started to get steamy. And at the end of 36 minutes, 4 miles, I was done.

I hope the 'mill keeps going for me.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Staying positive in the winter

Let me just start this post by saying: I'm not, by nature, a positive person. I think that I'm genetically programmed to be negative. Seriously, if there is a negative personality gene, I'm a carrier. After all, I come from a long line of negative people, on my dad's side. I kid you not. Growing up, surrounded by negativity and self-pity, I thought that it was normal for people to complain about everything and feel sorry for themselves. As I got older, I learned that this negativity isn't really socially acceptable, nor is it appropriate. There are so many people who have it worse than me and still have a smile on their face. How do they do it? Awareness is the first step to fixing a problem, and my change in attitude is a continual work in progress. 

One thing I have going for me is that I have a sense of humor. I laugh at everything. Maybe too much! I work at a job where a lot of bad things happen to good people. Not funny, and it can kind of wear on you if you let it. But I also encounter a lot of funny and/or odd situations. When you work with the public, you walk away shaking your head a lot of the time. I'd say that you need a sense of humor to survive in the medical field. Also known as "gallows humor", humor that treats serious or grim subjects in a light or satirical way, it is common to professions that deal with difficult situations. Kind of a coping mechanism, if you think about it...

What are some other coping mechanisms that can be used to promote positivity? Especially in the dark days of winter? It's hard to stay positive when the skies are gray and the temperatures are below freezing. 

Take your run outside!

Winter is here, and that just seems to exacerbate my negativity. It's a lot easier to feel positive and happy when the sun is shining and the air is warm. Truth. A month ago, we had a streak of cloudy days that never seemed to end. As a matter of fact, December 2014 went down on the record books as the cloudiest December ever in Chicago. We saw only 16% sunshine. Sure, it was warmer. But is was gloomy. Lifelong Chicagoans will tell you that if you want to see the sun in the winter, you have deal with the cold. We did have a few sunny days around Christmas, and I could just feel my mood lift. It wasn't that cold either. Getting outside for a run on some of those sunny days really helped put me in a more positive frame of mind. This is one of the reasons I run outside all year long. There is something to be said for being outside in the natural light, even if the sun isn't shining. Actually, research backs me here (there are more studies listed on the page if you chase the link). Light therapy has been mentioned as a possible treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Studies comparing light therapy to outdoor light exposure show the benefits of natural, outdoor light to help lift one's mood. This is no surprise to me. I always feel better after a run outside, even in the snow or pouring rain. 

And then there's that...

Start having more positive thoughts!

Christine Felstead, whose yoga video, Yoga for Runners, Intermediate Program, I do on a regular basis, addresses the use of positivity when pushing through a tough pose. "It helps, "she says, "to have more positive thoughts". Think about it. If you are holding a pose for a long time, and you tell yourself how hard it is, yes, it feels hard. She also suggests focusing on breathing through the tough poses. What about those runs where you are having a tough time and you start feeling tired? Tell me you haven't started thinking about how tired you are, how hard this is...and you start to slow down. Maybe you even tell yourself that you can't do it. Maybe even stop. Berate yourself for being a wimp. Now turn that around. Instead of telling yourself how bad your run feels, remind yourself of another tough run that you pushed through or a race where you pulled it out for a PR. Remember that your body listens to what your brain is saying. Or you can do what Becky made me do last summer during marathon training. "For every negative thought you have or word that comes out of your mouth," she proposed, "you have to do 10 burpees." And she meant it. Everyone knows I hate burpees, with a passion. So this was a really good incentive for me. During my training runs, if I started to feel bad, I reminded myself about the punishment. And that reminder turned my thoughts around. Mile 23 during the Chicago marathon, when my hamstrings were yacking at me, I had a mental image of me getting down in the middle of Michigan Avenue and doing 10 burpees. That image made me laugh, and the rest is history.


Wear bright colors.

Vogue magazine had a great article on wearing bright colors to lift your mood. Now that I've stunned all of you into thinking I read Vogue (I don't), let me just say that this article was preaching to the choir. It was fun to read because the author talked about what various colors do for your mood. For example, orange (hello sunshine!) helps with being social and helps bring you out of your shell. Orange is the best color for helping you adapt to change. As if I need any help getting out of my shell, according to the author, orange will do it for me. I love my orange running tops and instinctively pull them out on a gloomy day. Bringing my own sunshine, as I like to say. And what about my favorite of all colors, red? Red, she says, is energizing! Well, ok then! What better color to put on for a long run on a gloomy, cold day? Green is "balancing". Pink is "the color of love and kindness", and yellow is a "joy ray"! Thinking I need to get some yellow tops. What about black? While black can be "a security blanket", black has "a depressive quality" to it. Think about that the next time you are shopping for running clothes, especially for the winter! 

Bringing my own sunshine!

Listen to positive music

I'm guilty of being a fan of rock and roll to push me through my runs, especially songs with heavy guitar riffs. But have you ever listened to some of the lyrics? For example, a song that I like by Velvet Revolver, Fall to Pieces, has lyrics like this: "Every time I'm falling down, all alone, I fall to pieces". Not exactly inspiring! Or this one, from New Politics, Everywhere I Go, which is a gem to run to but also not exactly inspiring with lyrics like this: "Downtown hopping fences, I smashed a window on a Lexus, now 5-0s on my tail but they movin' like a snail, I got some shit to sell but everybody's gotta get by..." you get the drift. I take those songs with a grain of salt. But how about some positive songs to lift your mood? Like Pharrell's Happy? Doesn't it just make you want to clap while you're running? How about an oldie but a goodie, ELO's Don't Bring Me Down? You can't help but smile with that one and it's got a great beat to run to! Sunlight by The Magician is a new find for me, and another positive one! The video (click on the link) will put a smile on your face, too...

Hang out with positive people

This is easier said than done. But I noticed over the holidays that my family tried to zap my mojo. My dad is generally negative and when I talk to him, trying to turn the conversation around is an exercise in futility, although it does force me to be positive in my responses. It's just exhausting talking with him sometimes. My teenage sons had way too much free time on their hands and I had a few sleepless nights, although as far as I know, they stayed out of trouble. There were some tense moments with my younger sisters. I came home from the final family gathering and told my husband that I refuse to let them make me feel bad about myself.  On New Years' Day, I met my running friends for a planned run, and it did my heart good. 

I love these ladies!

Say it, forget it; write it, regret it

Before you hit send on a post, re-read what you wrote. Is it something you'd want to read in your feed? On a blog? I follow a lot of pages, and I've noticed that some people's posts are always negative. No matter what they've done for the day, they're complaining. I get it, it's hard to stay positive when you've had a bad run or you're injured (been there!) but I believe there is always something positive in every situation. One of the page admins I follow on Facebook has a broken ankle, but she's started a New Year's challenge and posts ab workouts and a different yoga pose for people to try every day. I know it can't be easy for her, but sometimes forcing yourself to present your thoughts in a positive way can turn it around for you too. In December, when I was feeling so overwhelmed by the holidays, work, and life, I tried really hard to keep my posts positive. It was a challenge, for sure, but it was almost therapeutic, trying to figure out a way to put it out there without turning people off. It's ok to have a bad day and vent about it, and we all do it, but don't make a habit of it. It will bring you down.

And those selfies I post on my Facebook page? They force me to put a smile on my face. And that always lifts my mood! You can't smile and be crabby at the same time, right? 

Red. Energizing for a snowy, blowy day!

Linking this post up with Jill Conyers The Fit Dish!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Come on man!

And this pretty much sums up the Bears season with Jay Cutler. They fired all the coaches and kept Cutler, the highest paid player in the NFL. Come on man!!
Any football fans here? There's a great pregame feature on ESPN called "Come on Man", where the commentators show boneheaded plays during the previous week and follow each clip with a resounding "Come on man!" Pretty funny, these clips provide fodder for some pretty interesting discussions regarding rules, behavior, and sportsmanship.

I have a few "Come on man!" moments for running this year. Without further ado, let's start with the cheaters. I have to do it, but let's get it out of the way. Apparently there are plenty of cheaters in the sport, but for this post, I'm going to call out the 2 women's Chicago marathon winners cheaters. That's my hometown race you're messin' with!

I called out Rita Jeptoo for alleged doping prior to his year's Chicago marathon. Looks like she's been doing it all along. And then there's Lilya Shobukhova, winner of the Chicago marathon 3 years in a row, 2009-2011, who last April was stripped of her titles. Ok, you won it once. Cheated, sure. But to come back and win it again? Why not, right? What does that feel like, knowing you took a banned substance and won? Went home with the big prize purse. Do you get to a certain point where you forget that doping is cheating? Is everyone doing it, so it seems ok? Maybe it's easier to accept as you get away with it. Help me to understand this.

Come on man!

Tabatha Hamilton at the Talladega half marathon earlier in the year

And what about that woman who ran that marathon in record time? Tabatha Hamilton? Who ran the Chickamauga marathon in 2:54? First half was 2:00 but the second half....54 minutes? I wrote a post on this last fall. I tried to find a follow up on the story but there was nothing, except that she was DQ'd and another winner, the real winner, was named. Lillian Gilmer, a Nashville attorney and marathon veteran, crossed the finish line in 3:21:33. She didn't recall ever seeing another runner, which made Hamilton's story all the more interesting. Did Hamilton really think she could get away with it? I can't help but feel sorry for her, because how do you save face after telling such a big whopper? I wonder what will happen to her now. How's she's feeling about all this? Will she run again?

Come on man!

HIgh heel drag queen race in Key West, FL
Road races may be a thing of the past in Lancaster, Ohio. As of January 1, the city passed an ordinance that states they will no longer approve race permits "nor provide support services to these events, citing increasing costs, lack of city resources, and multiple citizen complaints". The ordinance also states that "roads shall not be closed and/or blocked by non-law enforcement" personnel. This seems like an invitation to disaster. Think: running on sidewalks or running on roads alongside with cars. I won't deny that road racing has gotten a bit out of control. It isn't enough to just have to be sprayed with paint, foam, or run in high heels. Why not do what other cities are doing--restricting the number of races that can be held during the year? Or limit the number of participants in a particular race. Makes sense to me...

Come on man!
At 2 pounds 12 ounces, this thing will probably cause some neck strain for finishers!
Can I do another Come on man! to the race promoters who are providing over the top medals and bling? I wrote a post on this last March when the Little Rock Marathon revealed the finisher's medal. The thing was ridiculously huge. Interestingly, the race was cancelled halfway through because of severe weather. I wonder what they did with all those medals? Anyways, they've revealed the medal for the 2015 marathon. It isn't enough to have a finishers' medal, its' an "award winning medal". Runners' World wrote an article on this phenomenon as well. I blame Disney and their over the top medals. Now everyone has to do one better than Disney....

Come on man!

Yeah right. I still ran. Was the path really closed? Or was it made up?
On the local front, the woman who claimed to be stabbed by a random man while running in the Cook County Forest Preserve MADE THE WHOLE THING UP! The story was that she was running with a friend on the path when a man jumped out of the bushes, stabbed her in the abdomen, and then ran away. She ran to a nearby home where she called police. When I heard this story, I knew something was fishy. Not that you wouldn't be accosted at this forest preserve. I run there, and there are plenty of unsavory characters around. Sadly. I even wrote a post last spring about this. But the woman's story just sounded weird. Luckily, the police thought so too. 

Come on man!

Lululemon, which makes some pretty expensive awesome running and yoga gear, tried to revolutionize running fashion this year by coming out with the Runsie--aka a running onesie. A one piece romper designed for runners, apparently it "flew off the shelves" when it came out. BTW, the back is open, so you can feel the cooling breezes. Personally, a one piece garment would just not work for me, since I need to make potty stops when I'm out on a long run. Runner's World did a hilarious video product review which you can see here. Some cynics are speculating that Lululemon is circling the drain. In 2013, there was that see-through yoga pants debaucle and the CEO's response, in which he blamed certain sized women for the problem. BTW, a search of Ebay revealed quite a few Runsies for sale from $75-$150. Supply and demand, I guess....

Come on man!

Anything I missed? Can't we all just run?