Category Archives: body stuff

finishing strong-ish

Feeling good about today’s 20 and change mile outing.

 looking towards horizon. near empty beach, sliver of serene water, blue gray sky
Loyola Beach was the halfway point.

My average pace during these long runs has remained about the same… 16:50 min miles. Today that included stops to take pictures, retie my shoes, and alternately curse and give thanks for long traffic lights. It did not include my stops for iced coffee and a pee break at around mile 8.5, sitting on a bench at Loyala Beach to marvel at the lake at mile 10, or fueling up at about mile 13 (an orange and a hazelnut/chocolate croissant….the problem with being so pokey is that I am out for many hours which means I was getting a little woozy. I had snarfed my power bar pretty early on.)

retro (50's eta?) restaurant sign advertising Honeybear Pancake House. Sign is hanging off building.
Tasty iced coffee!

Since I paused my running app during those stops, I guess my real pace was much slower but that’s OK. Was a great day. Hot and sunny. The route I choose to head north has no tree cover (downside of running along a railroad embankment) so I ended up walking, massaging my feet, checking out gardens, and sipping iced coffee between miles 6 and 9.

My primary goal was to maintain a walk/run pattern for the last ten miles. I have walked the last mile or so of my last two long runs which is not what I want during the marathon. It’s more fun to finish strong.

looking at a river from a bridge. trees on right side of river bank. concrete arch level with river? old infrastructure? sewer related?
Took the shadier North Branch Trail part of the way home. Pleasant surroundings for suffering. Plus plenty of water fountains.

It was hard. By mile 15, my hips were hurting and the bottom of my heels were tingling. My bus card was at the ready in case of anything resembling a blister. By mile 18, I was a zombie. After each quarter mile walk, I had to imagine someone lifting up my knees by marianette strings to switch gears into a jog.

Wanting to avoid being in a world of hurt tomorrow, I asked the internet if a cold or a hot soak would be better. I was pretty sure I knew the answer but held on to hope. I hate being cold.

Alas. So I texted Michael to see if he would grab a bag of ice from across the street and start filling the tub with cold water.

mostly off white. picture of water in a white tub. ice cube barely discernable
Hard to tell, but there’s ice in there.

Easing into that frigid water may have been the hardest part of the day. I started in a kneel (good quad stretch?), thought about straightening my legs, realized I could not move my body, and simply expressed gratitude for a deep tub.

I am currently debating if I should sleep in my office to avoid the stairs to the bedroom.

I am a smidge disappointed that I’m not as strong as I hoped to be by now but I’m also enjoying the physical and mental challenge. We are all running our own race. Cheesy but true and my fried brain cells are OK with being hackneyed.

Oh and in case anyone reading this can spare anything for a donation the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, here’s my fundraising link. Thanks for considering!

reaping inactivity

pic looking down at a leg resting on a counter. light complexion. turquoise and pink sock
Pried myself off the sunroom chair to write while standing at the counter.* This is a nice glute stretch.

Tried running again today and legs felt like lead. I ended up walking. Total distance maybe 2.5 miles if I’m rounding up.

This is a potential problem.

I have been taking a cavalier approach to training  because I have managed to complete marathons  in the past despite undertraining.

Until the pandemic, I was active without thinking about it. When I taught, I twirled around the room. When I wrote, I stood at my desk. When we had people over, I bustled around the house. And when I had to get somewhere, I walked or biked.

I have written about this before but it’s hitting hard today.  Because I was part of the “help out by staying at home” crowd, the pandemic ground my body to a halt.

Instead of sweeping around the classroom, I taught from a chair. (I sway and fidget a lot  when standing. Then sitting became a habit.). No more biking to work.  Shopping needs were basic and easily handled via delivery.

In a backwards kind of way, I think I’ve been getting a taste of what it might be like to have a car and a desk job. There is no snark or judgment in this comment. Just recognition that it’s challenging to engineer movement into our days. I never had to make time for the gym because active transportation has always helped me maintain a baseline level of fitness.

Without any places to go, I atrophied in more ways than one. It’s a bit arrogant? foolhardy?* to think I can draw from a well I’ve let dry up.

My problem isn’t training for the marathon. It’s finding reasons to stay moving throughout the day. Right now that’s much more daunting than 26.2 miles.

chart of an 18 week marathon plan showing different mileage goals
Finally settled down to pick a training program. My ego asked me to level up from novice 1. But I am not going to try for 9 miles tomorrow. Six will be a huge stretch. Yeah, maybe i need to level down…

*Re foot on counter… that might gross some folks out. Be assured, this isn’t the food prep area and the kitchen surfaces are well wiped down. (The rest of the house may fall into a chaos but I hold on to the counters.)

**re foolhardy… looked this up bc what does hardy have to do with being a fool. Looks like hardy in this sense means bold. https://www.etymonline.com/word/foolhardy

daring to try

a graph showing running split times
First half of yesterday’s “run” was with our dog. Lots of sniff breaks. I’ve got 5 weeks to shave 18 minutes off this 5k time.

It’s been two months since I dusted off the treadmill and it’s been collecting dust since. Oops. So much for running a sub 2 hour half marathon by 50.

As the weeks ticked by, I considered lowering the bar to a 10k, but was not finding training plans to get me under an hour in six weeks.

Before I go any further, I should be clear that I am not fast nor have I ever stuck with a training plan. Those moderate time goals were a reach even when I was in decent shape. After two years of sitting and gaining 20 pounds? I’m sure I could survive those distances, but not with any speed.

I have a lot of experience with gutting out races on minimal training. Sort of a maladaptive tangle of hubris and self-sabotage. But I’m tired of being proud of a 5 hour marathon (one year my longest training run was 14 miles) when I know I could do a lot better with just a little more discipline.

So, I signed up for a 5k that falls on my birthday. As I confirmed yesterday and two months ago, I can already run/walk/jog that distance. The goal is under 30 minutes. I think I was close many moons ago. Not a blazing time, but a major stretch for me right now. But I’m pretty sure it’s achievable if I dare to try.

functional fitness

no where near to being done but that’s OK

Accidentally did two HIIT workouts today. Or maybe just HIT. Chasing trains was high intensity, but spacing the sprints a few hours apart doesn’t really count as interval training.

Definitions of physical health are varied, personal, and situational (want to be mindful about ableism). The bus test is one of mine. If I can run after a bus, maintaining balance (if not dignity) as my bulky purse bounces around, I figure I’m doing OK, at least in a functional sense.

Being corporeal… OK there are so many words and ideas and questions fireworking and I can’t grab them. Easier to chase a train than a thought.

Back to today. There are two entrances to the Logan Square subway stop, both about a mile from our house. About is an important word. My transit math is granular, maybe because I tend to cut things close.

The Spaulding entrance is close to Kimball, which is great when we take the bus. However, it deposits us at the far end of the platform, about half? a quarter? of a block away from where the train actually stops. It’s kind of a fake out.

At the main entrance on Kedzie, if you feel the tunnel tremors while swiping the fare card, you can breathe a sigh of relief. At Spaulding, it means channeling your inner Jackie Joyner-Kersee and hoping noone is moving slowly on the stairs in front of you.

Lately, I have been taking my child to a day long program downtown. I usually come home between drop off and pick up. I’m enjoying being out and about, but the commute takes a big chunk of the day-45 to 60 minutes door to door, 4 times.

blah blah blah where I want to get with this… all the little variables and decisions. We are about a mile away from the logan square and California stations. The fastest and most pleasant way to get on the downtown bound train is to bike to California. Although the distance is about the same, , the stop is after LS, effectively adding two minutes to the window of opportunity to grab the train. The distance from street to platform is also shorter. but, the train is more crowded by the time it gets to California so if getting a seat is important then Logan Square is better.

taking the bus to Spaulding might be a little faster than biking but that advantage disappears when the next bus is in 15 minutes….

blargh I need to break from this. should make a visual.

Very Peri

(Warning–this is very much a TMI post related to my travails of being a middle aged woman. Proceed with caution if you are squeamish about how bodies, er, function/disfunction.)

George Cheers

Got my period this morning and I felt like George Bailey. Made me realize that It’s a Wonderful Life is not a story of crushed dreams, drunk uncles, blustering speeches, and the horrors of high density neighborhoods with neon saturated main streets.* No, it’s an allegory for perimenopause.

In addition to over-sharing about my symptoms on social media, I have been writing haiku about this stage of life. Most of these are from yesterday. Today’s hormone-induced glee and energy inspired me to bring this cycle to a close.*

Sixty plus days
PMS purgatory
Desperate to bleed

george yearning

This was the longest stretch between periods I’ve had so far. While that might seem like a positive, for me it just means more time trapped in crabbiness and bloat. Kinda like George being stuck in Bedford Falls?

Missed cycles, more pounds
Peeing on a stick, all clear!
Relieved. Just pudgy.

george big family

Remember George’s panic when he found out another baby was on the way? It’s so weird to be pushing 50 and heading to the disproportionately pink section of Walgreens to grab pregnancy tests.

Distracted by work
Weak bladder, emerging-pee
Yikes! Pee-mergency

GeorgeBailey-drunkcrash

OK, the movie doesn’t say whether George experienced middle aged incontinence, but I bet the director’s cut includes him peeing on the tree he crashed into after his bender.*

Hark! Sore boobs and zits!
The period advance guard
Symptoms I now cheer.

zuzus petals

Yesterday morning, when I told Michael about the stabbing pain in my right breast, he expressed concern. I replied: “No, this is good news! Maybe this means my period is coming!” I felt my chin and my smile broadened, though somewhat painfully. I can’t believe I am now delighted when my cystic acne flares. Just like when George realizes his face isn’t cut anymore, but the other way around, I guess.

Lost my shit last night
Barked at the whole family
I blame the hormones


For the most part, I am patient and conflict averse–for better and worse. But I was a bear yesterday. Spent dinner apologizing to my family, including Brandon’s girlfriend who is one of the most kind and polite people I have ever met. This reminded me of some of George’s temper tantrums. Here he is yelling at the kids after yelling at the teacher and then apologizing to the family and then yelling again when they are frozen in shock at his behavior. Well, at least I didn’t kick anything last night. It’s funny how It’s a Wonderful Life is considered such a feel good movie. There are other scenes where George is a real ass. But, if we look at his behavior through a menstrual cycle lens. . . hmmm.

Perimenopause
I despair and shake my fist
Evolution, why??

george at bar

I love watching Jimmy Stewart in action. He clearly knows how low estrogen feels.

New day. Is that the sun?
Dash to the bathroom with hope.
Yes! Hallelujah.

periodtrack021420

My blues/rage/zit/bloat/give me all the chocolate stage used to peak (or valley?) on the 21st day of my cycle. Sobbing at a commercial? Day 21. Squeezing out the last drops of face spackle because I am such a picker? Day 21. Journaling about what a wretched person I am? I wonder what day it is. Ah, of course. Over time I became attuned to other shifts. Mood plummets after ovulation and surges at the start of a cycle. Then I am energized but also cold. Towards the end, my breasts hurt, my stomach gurgles, and my bowels? I’m glad we have bathroom fans and a steady supply of toilet paper. Maybe this is TMI but I wish I had better understood these permutations when I was younger. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, “The Change” hit. Now I can’t predict anything. Oh well. But I take amused solace that this week the signs were loud and clear. Onward!

*Some problematic messages aside, I am still a sucker for this movie. Cry every time.
*I was also inspired by my favorite writer’s return to blogging. Do you know what all those buttons on your microwave are for? We have missed you, Clare!
*Worry not, I am definitely not spending time in the Depends section of Walgreens either. I just tend to pee-crastinate.

Follow the Water Fountains

I have an impressively poor sense of direction.  One of the many reasons I don’t drive is that it’s just not feasible to pause every block or so to wonder if I’m on track and to pull a U-turn all the times I realize I’m not. Biking, walking, and running are much more forgiving of these lapses. Thank goodness Chicago’s streets are mostly a grid with a very logical numbering system.

It’s curious that I have worked on so many bike maps as part of my professional life considering how much I struggle to use them. Heading south? Unless I can quickly turn the map upside down, forget about it. Left and right is confusing enough when facing forward. But for all my spatial bumblings, I do have solid skills for planning pleasant routes for self-propelled travels. The problem is just remembering them.

080319_waterfountainrun_legend

Yesterday, I turned a dreaded run into a fun exercise in map making (the time spent planning may or may not have also been a form of procrastination). I’m overdue for getting in some distance and decided to aim for 6-8 miles. As much as I adore the heat, it seemed prudent to avoid the elevated, unshaded Bloomingdale Trail on an 85 degree, sunny, and likely quite crowded day. I considered taking the bus to the lakefront and running on the path and then home. But the lake has no shade either, it would take more time, and the trip back would involve highway and river crossings on major streets.

Sticking with local, tree-rich, residential streets made the most sense. But I needed a route, or else there was a high likelihood of losing steam and sneaking home too soon. So I pulled up Map My Run and created an 8 mile loop that managed to avoid major infrastructure crossings and minimize time running into the westering sun.  I incorporated Drake and Avondale, some of my fave mellow biking routes.* It was a treat not to have to worry about one ways. Oh wait, oops. What about water fountains? A few tweaks looped in some parks and I was good to go. . . with a route I would never be able to remember. Thanks to modern technology, I sent it to my phone. And since I am in no shape to run 8 miles, I was glad for the built-in excuse of frequent stops to check directions.

Here’s some running commentary (see what I did there) and pics. I will definitely do this loop again. Hopefully with stronger legs and less need to look at my phone every few blocks.

drake-going-north-e1564948088482.jpg

A. Oh yeah, feeling strong. Hey, there’s the tween daughter of one of my running friends. Hi five! I’m heading out for 8 miles. Think I can do it? Thanks! Wait, why did I do that? I’m such a dork. And a big talker. Now I really have to finish this.

B. Ugh, I haven’t even gone a mile and am so over this. Oops, meant head over to Drake here. Is the app recording my deviations from the map?

C. Much walking (yay, a break!) while studying the Drake crossing of Milwaukee.

D. Water stop inside the Avondale Park Building. Should have checked if there is an outside fountain for early morning runs.

E. Avondale Ave! I love biking on this low-traffic diagonal hugging the Metra tracks. Major intersections are tricky, but otherwise you can go full throttle. Just be sure to veer off at Central Park unless you feel like hitting the highway. Time to take a bunch of pictures and catch my breath.

Inkedavondaleandhighway_LI
If you are barreling down Avondale and just follow the cars, you will end up on the highway. The turn off to Central Park is easy to miss. Exciting!

F. Avondale Ave! Have I mentioned how much I love this street? On this year’s Father’s Day ride, Kevin alerted us to a magical little spot with vegetation arching the sidewalk.

img_20190803_154340571.jpg

G. Is this the turn? Yes. (Also: Must. Stop. To. Catch Breathe.)

H. Is this the turn? No. One more block. (Also: Must. Stop. To. Catch Breathe.)

I. Private property?? What’s up with this map? Have these fancy folks blocked off the north end of the park? I misread the map. The scrappy park with its old school water fountain was right in front of me.

img_20190803_160426289.jpg

J. Woo hoo! The app had suggested a Metra crossing I was skeptical of, but hopeful for because it  dodges a tricky, detouring intersection. It was an easy scamper up a relatively short set of stairs and a short crossing of two tracks. However I was waylaid by a couple confused by the confusing signage. Hooray for an excuse to be helpful. . . and take a break.

img_20190803_161548451_burst000_cover_top

K. Great, another water fountain! Oh, that person is washing their clothes in it. I’ll pass.

L. Love these little stretches of parkways. (I hadn’t been on Kolmar before.)

M. Ok, enough dawdling. There’s no way to get turned around now. One mile south. A mile and change east. Pick up your damn feet. Zip up the phone pocket. This is supposed to be a *run* not a stroll.

N-P. The final stretch. Time to start ticking off the building numbers. . . .Need to remember to look up why we have this section of streets that start with K. . . . Tripp Street? Hahaha that “trips” up the K pattern. Uh-oh. Getting loopy.

Q-T.  I hate this. Why am I doing this. . . .Oh good. Pulaski is up ahead. Maybe I will hit a red light. . . .Damnit, just a stop sign and everyone is yielding to me. Keep chugging. . . . Oooo, I love these old rusty train overpasses. That’s why I do this.

U. Hark! Mozart Park. I could just take a little water break. Really, Kilgore?!! You are less than ten minutes from home.

V-W. Avers. Running friend mom of aforementioned tween used to live here. Remember those days of regular runs with friends–many of whom don’t run anymore due to injuries and/or realizing they don’t actually like running. Hmmm, maybe they are on to something. . . .No, you are *not* going to walk the rest of the way home in the spirit of “injury prevention.”

X-Y. Just pretend you are close to the marathon finish line. Oh egads, no need to be so dramatic. . ..Just stop thinking.

Z. Home! Phew! No, don’t just plop into the house. That calf stretcher is by the door for a reason.

img_20190803_171709874.jpg

*Ever since I helped John Greenfield with this Mellow Chicago Bike Map, I have been taking the extra time to plan out bike commutes to avoid the “Oh crap, I’m stuck on Damen again!” phenomenon. For example, I am trying to sear into memory the Drake zig zag to minimize time on Kimball when crossing the highway. https://chi.streetsblog.org/2018/06/25/why-direct-biking-streets-arent-always-the-safest-or-most-enjoyable-option/

 

 

All Clear

Here’s the TL/DR version: Check your boobies ( . ) ( . )
(and anything else that needs checking)

img_20190611_102918953

When I scheduled my mammogram for June 11, the receptionist faltered. “Are you sure you want to come in on your birthday?” But it was the first available and after last year’s mini-scare I had vowed to never fall behind on screenings again.

As the daughter, granddaughter, and great niece of breast cancer survivors*, I’m in a high risk category. Doesn’t help that I’ve never been pregnant. I was advised to start annual screenings at age 35 because baseline images are key for noticing changes over time. In the beginning, I averaged about every 2-3 years. As I eased into my 40’s, closer to the age my mom was diagnosed, I was supposed to be more on top of it.

But for the last few years, dealing with my brain and some other significant issues has been the priority. My capacity for wrangling with the health care system was strained. I’d get referrals from my PCP and they would expire and ugh now I have to call and ask again? I know that’s a feeble excuse. We do our best in our stumbling ways.

When I finally managed to haul myself to an appointment last May, it had been awhile since my dense boobs had been contorted and squeezed into the x-ray clamps. (If your first mammogram is on the horizon, read up or talk to others about what to expect. Maybe the technology will improve one of these days.)

Because I am in the higher risk pool, my screenings include ultrasounds. I remember feeling a sense of dread when the technician kept sweeping the wand over an area on my right breast. Just being thorough I figured. When she completed her survey of the left side much more quickly, my worry deepened.

The bike ride home was a little shaky. I wasn’t so much afraid that something was wrong.** The heart pounding was about feeling like once again I had screwed up. How could I have let something so important slide? What if my inaction had jeopardized chances of early detection? How could I face my family? Mom and Michael had been reminding every few months. If I was sick, it was my fault. Failure, failure, failure. As always.

When I got the call to return for more testing, I was a wreck. The appointment was initially for the following week, but when I reached out with some questions, they sensed my panic and invited me to swing by the next day if I didn’t mind waiting to be seen. I showed up bright and early.

They wanted to look more closely at my right breast. The lump was probably just a cyst–nothing to worry about. There were also two grainy areas. Calcification? Carry on. Ductal carcinoma in situ? Hmm, that’s what my mom had. Early stage, highly treatable, and she has been clear for 20 years. Probably no need to freak out.

But when they mentioned the two enlarged lymph nodes, my eyes popped. I was quickly assured this was probably nothing, especially given their symmetry–one on each side, same position and size. They asked about other health issues. I wondered if all my brain pills could be a factor. Not likely. They countered: Rheumatoid arthritis? Thyroid disorders? A recent cold? Nope. Allergies? Yes! Maybe it was just some low-key inflammation. I’m a baseline itchy, sniffly person, even with my allergy medication. And it was peak tree pollen season.

Given my family history, they suggested genetic testing and an MRI to get a better baseline. The genetic testing was clear and the MRI didn’t sound any alarms.

Come back in six months. Which I did. No changes.
Come back in six months. That was yesterday’s appointment. I still have the cyst, spots, and swollen nodes. But, they haven’t changed.
Come back in 12 months. A new birthday tradition.

I took myself to the nearby Ann Sather’s for brunch to reflect and start writing this post. I indulged in warm, dense, sugar-shellacked cinnamon rolls–a special departure from my “healthy June” goals. My waitress was statuesque, a little older and grayer, with a sharp, short hairstyle. Noticing the yellow “next steps” sheet in my hand, she gently said: “Looks like you have been to the doctor.” I explained I was celebrating because I had just graduated back to an annual mammogram schedule. She paused. “I’m six months out from treatment and just got my all clear for now” results.

I stammered out awkward pablum about how I was sorry and how is she doing, oh goodness do you mind if I am asking you questions. She was happy to talk. She’s doing well. Chemo had been rough. She lost all her hair. When I mentioned I had been admiring her cut, she laughed and patted her head. “I always keep it short anyway.” On the receipt, I wrote: “Hope to see you next year.”

On the way home, I ran into two friends, fellow Goethe moms. When I cheerfully shared my news followed by a tentative question about whether they are current with screenings, one paused. She is having surgery next week. Early detection. Her words said not too worried. I am worried about what her heart says. But we moved on to chatting about our kids.

One of my best friends from growing up was diagnosed in her late 30’s. When I called last year with questions, I realized I had not been tuned into her ongoing pain about the experience. There are many people, including my mom, who I have not listened to well enough. I will do better.

Last summer, another dear friend got the “come back for more tests” call the same week I did. Biopsies. Surgery. Chemo and radiation. Medication that pummeled her mental health. She marched through the school year serving kids as a school social worker with a smile and humor. She also keeps reminding people: Check your boobies ( . ) ( . )

I am keenly aware of my good fortune to have great health insurance and the scheduling flexibility to make appointments. Even with these advantages, I still dropped the ball. Who wants to go to the doctor, especially when you’re not sick??? Plus, the guidelines around screenings are ever shifting.

Even so, if you have been avoiding that colonoscopy, mole mapping (eek, that’s next on my list), cholesterol test, breast pancaking, or other routine check-ins, today is as good a time as any to pull out your calendar and make some phone calls.

*My mom likes to remind me that all the women in her family got breast cancer, but didn’t die of it. Her mom and aunt were diagnosed in their 30’s, both had dual mastectomies and lived on for decades.
** Per above, I’ve always figured the odds were high I would follow suit, that the question has been more when than if.

June Rules

womanlogoverview
I use WomanLog Pro to track my weight and period. The consistent irregularity of my period suggests I have entered perimenopause. Ah, ages and stages!

On May 31st, I splurged on the top shelf red wine at Armitage Produce—10 vs 5 bucks. And as the evening waned, I pawed through the bag of “for my students” goodies for some Little Debbie Nutty Buddy Bars.* I even tried to savor instead of snarf them.

Per my therapist’s orders, during the month of June, I am going to. . . I want to say try, but ugh I need to be more ambitious. For the next 30 days, I am going to:

  • exercise a lot more
  • eat a lot better? less? more strategically?
  • write it all down

I have gained almost 25 pounds since last spring, after having lost almost that much in the previous two and a half years.  This 19% relatively rapid increase is a puzzle and is starting to become a concern because the chart keeps trending up. It’s a big shift for my 5′ 1″ inches.

Many variables might be at play. Perimenopause. Having been depressed. Being back on an anti-depressant. Working mostly from home.

And. . . perhaps. . .my dietary choices and activity levels. The truth is that I have been lazy with exercise and lax with portions, sweets, and wine. Last year, stabilizing my mood was the paramount health concern. Mission mostly accomplished, which is why we are reluctant to mess around with the medication. My annual physical is next week, so maybe that will yield more insights.

It’s aggravating to keep gaining weight even as I have eased back into running (but not enough to blame increased muscle on the scale–the waistbands don’t lie). Maybe what they say about age and metabolism is true and I simply need to adjust accordingly, not only in terms of behavior, but also outlook.  If I have to accept a new baseline weight and  build a new wardrobe, I can do that, though I am embarrassed to say it will be emotionally challenging. More on that another day. 

In the meantime, I am going to (not try to) focus on the variables that are very much in my control: what I eat and how much I move. I don’t do well with restrictive rules, so instead of cutting booze, I am cutting wine. Instead of avoiding all sweets, I will stick with anything homemade and maybe the occasional square of dark chocolate. I am not going to freak out about diet, but  am tracking via My Fitness Pal (under Velo_chicago). It’s amazing how quickly calories add up.  And with that, I guess I should go for a run. Wahhhhh!

*It was a three hour class, so I always brought power bars and sweet treats. Next semester, perhaps I should lean more towards fruit.

Wherever You Are, There You Are*

boston-qualify

“Woo! I am going to qualify for Boston next year!” This thought bubble was inspired by my friend from high school who just qualified. Since I will be in a new age bracket, I only need to shave 75 minutes from my marathon PR. (Yes, 75. Not 7.5)**

Sure, there are some differences between me and Julia. Most notably, she trains really hard and has many fleet races under her belt. She also used to be a competitive athlete; she’s got baked in grit. I hardly train, I ran no races this year, and have barely logged a hundred miles since last year’s Chicago marathon, below. My grit is patchy at best, sort of like the heat rash that sometimes flares on the back of my neck.

marathon_gah

However, I do have tenacity. I don’t mean this in a braggadocious way, but I can bust out top quartile results when I really put my mind to it. Sometimes at the last minute, and with appropriately reduced expectations, but still. I can get shit done–especially when I am not Super Depressed.

Unfortunately, despite the gift of a warm fall and the Cubs still playing in October (!!!!!), I have been struggling lately. No need to go into details, and I am fine enough. Thanks to big pharma, better habits of thought, an amazing family, and a solid foundation in Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,” my depressive episodes are now more akin to a slow grinding traffic jam than a siren inducing crash.

maslow-pyramid

Still, I’d like to find an exit ASAP. If I don’t start exercising again, things will only get worse for the next few months. Writing helps, too. That’s something else I haven’t done in months. Textbook symptoms and causes of depression.

I put on running clothes this morning. (Bonus! This means I also got out of my PJs.) Maybe I will jog the mile to pick Miguel up from school today. I am definitely going to sign up for the 2017 Chicago marathon via Girls on the Run again.

But first, I need a nap. I really, really, hate being in this traffic jam.

*The phrase is supposed to be “Wherever you go, there you are.” That implies you’ve gone someplace. I’m having a hard enough time leaving the house!
**I am definitely not going to qualify for Boston, but–assuming I keep adding on the years–I will age into the qualifying time eventually.

It’s Not About Time

After Sunday’s pleasant 11.4 mile run, I’m finally on schedule with training for the Chicago Marathon. At least on paper. I should have entered week 5 of the 18 week plan with more base miles and fewer pounds, but so long as I can muster through the Long Slow Runs (LSRs), I’m not going to stress out.

This year’s aspirations are all about what happens before race day. Tackling the following long festering, pestering issues is more important than tackling a personal best on October 11.

    1. Breathing. You don’t know what you don’t know. The first time I used an inhaler, it felt like a performance enhancing drug. But I still struggle to consistently get a full gulp of air. Might pranayama before runs help?
    2. (NSF-PAT-DA-PAP)*Period Poops. Too many runs have been cut short by a sudden, knee buckling need to deliver a poop baby.  Inevitably, a few hours later, I get my  period. Since I get my period every three weeks, this really stinks. If I can’t eliminate this problem, can I better work around it?

      Losing 10 pounds suddenly seems very daunting.
    3. The Big Ten. It’s always a bummer when my doctor heartily agrees I should lose weight. “But I’m strong?” I whimpered as her finger climbed up the BMI graph, where I straddle the line between  healthy and overweight. Although she affirmed that BMI has limitations, she didn’t totally let me off the hook. Can I lose 10 pounds before mid-October while enjoying the late nights of summer?**
    4. Grit. Ah, the buzzword of education. Our kids need to toughen up! Tenacity wins the day! I’m not sure I am on board with sandpaper-based pedagogy for little ones (and too many little ones need grit just to get by outside of school), but I know I can up my brain game when it comes to physical exertion.
    5. Wooziness (unless collapsing is truly justified). Sometimes I almost pass out after running “hard.” At least two of my races have involved medical tents to get my bearings. Is it low blood sugar? Low blood pressure? Low grit? Should I strive to cross the line as a desiccated potato chip?***
    6. Preventative maintenance. I am ever grateful to start each day with no chronic pain or injuries, and I want to keep it that way.  How about trying all those “5 key moves to protect your knees” articles I’ve bookmarked?
    7. Noodles. Doing push-ups and crunches every other week is not enough to build the core and upper body  strength so critical to running form and carrying groceries.
    8. Gear. Running requires very little stuff. But I don’t have enough grit to run barefoot, or backwoods knowledge to dead reckon distance and pace. Will I ever get my Garmin to lock in to a GPS signal? Hack in an extender for my water belt? Three years after first writing about my belt, it still pops off when I bend. (See number 3.)wpid-CameraZOOM-20130904123352092.jpg
    9. Compliance.I need to refer to each week’s Training Plan for more than LSR distances. Refer back to this list to keep priorities in mind.  Follow some guidelines. Follow through! For better, and often quite worse, I’ve never had to worry about hobgoblins and foolish consistency.
    10. Blogging. I don’t care that these posts are tiny drops in an ocean of blogs about marathon training. They keep my inner writer warmed-up in case I ever tackle something bigger and harder. And I enjoy it.

*Not Suitable for People Averse to Discussions About Periods and Poop. Also, be grateful that I opted to avoid visuals. I would like to unsee the images called up when searching poop baby.
**I’m not bumming bout the bod. This is more about staying ahead of things before I hit menopause and sneaking a few seconds off my pace.
***The 1982 Marathon is famous for the Duel in the Sun between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. Great story. Here’s a quote from an article about it: “You pushed me harder than anybody’s ever pushed me in my life,’’ said Salazar, who had Beardsley join him on the award stand before he went to the medical tent, where six bags of saline fluids were pumped into a desiccated body that the attending physician likened to a potato chip.”