Monday, October 15, 2012

I Am a Try-Athlete!

Holy crap! 2012 is racing toward the finish line, and I have been slacker-blogger.  Let’s just say this year started out with a frozen half marathon. Sure, running a half marathon along the lakefront in January seemed like a great idea--it wasn’t.   If you’re not familiar with the Chicago lakefront in the winter, imagine running against an incessant a face-ripping wind that, no matter how many gallons of ice melt is used, turns the path to a slick glassy surface.  Oh, except in this case, right before the finish line, where the ice melt actually worked and created enormous, freezing cold puddles that soaked your feet (which, in turn, turned into ice blocks, thanks to aforementioned wind).  Many times when I’m finished running a particularly challenging race, the masochist in me is like, “That was fun!  Let’s do another!”  That was not the case here.  Then I was scheduled to run a full marathon in April.  Two weeks prior, I was sideswiped with “borderline pneumonia.”  I began to wise up and thought, “Nah, let’s not run 26.2 miles without any lungs.”  See?  I can be smart.
So that brings me to the summer.  I decide to try my first tri (that’s triathlon, to you).  A few friends and I pick a “good one” in the early half of the summer.  As I had mentioned earlier, I tend to be a masochist when it comes to races, but also wisdom eludes me on occasion.  Instead of trying my first tri with the “sprint” distance, I figure, let’s go for the “Olympic” distance!  It ends with a 10k---heck, I can poop a 10K!  The biking is a mere 25 miles—I mean, how hard is a sport where you are sitting down the whole time?!?  And the swim?!? Well, I’m an excellent swimmer, so the almost-mile swim didn’t seem so bad.  But I make sure that  I train, too.  I am a little smart. I hit the local YMCA to get my swimming and biking in during the winter.  I soon get my swimming rhythm back (I am a Pisces, you know) and can swim a mile in 20 minutes.  Piece of cake.   I do, however, fall victim of “the slapper” at the Y pool.  This gentleman apparently has the swim stroke equivalent of a mixed martial arts boxer's roundhouse kick.  So, when you are sharing a lane with him, if your stokes are not in synch, you will be slapped.  Oh, I was slapped.  Hard.  At least he was very apologetic about it, but I knew to keep my distance in the future.  I figured it was good training for being slapped and kicked during the triathlon.  See, no problem!  The biking, like I said, is sitting down, so that’s no biggie.  I thought that during the race, if I get tired, I’ll just pull over and rest during the water stations.  Well, here’s what really happened:
I’m in the water, wetsuit on, ready to go.  I’m looking out over the water at my turn around marker---F! That’s far!!! A half-mile in laps is nothing, but when you seen it stretched out before you over water, it’s a little intimidating, I must say.  But I’m ready.  I’m psyched. I still think I’m gonna jam out this swim.  I’m the last wave of the triathlon because I’m an old lady, so they make us go at the end.  And I’m off!  Here I go. Slap!  Kick! Hey, no problem, I’m prepared for that. I just keep my distance.  I’m off again!  Swimming.  I’m swimming.  The water is brown and murky.  Every time I put my face in the water I start to panic.  I can’t see!  Soon I’m in deep.  I can’t touch!! Soon I’m in full panic mode. I can’t swim!!!  I hold onto a rescue kayak to catch my breath.  I’m panicking and crying.  I tell myself, “You can do this! It’s just swimming!  Go! Swim!”  So I’m off again.  As soon as my face hits the murky water, it’s panic time again!  Hold on again.  “You can do this! Stop freaking out.  Just swim!”  I’m off again!  Panic! Panic! I hold on again.  “You are not a quitter! You are not a quitter!! Just swim!!!” I try to swim with my face out of the water. It takes me forever.  I look at all the people swimming and think, “How the hell are they doing this without freaking out?!?”  In my mind, it was impossible.  After several more failed attempts to make progress, and being one of the few people still left in the lake, I decide I’ve had enough.  I am pulled from the water in utter humiliation. Tears of defeat.  It was not a pretty sight.  But I figure, I don’t care if I’m disqualified, I will still do the biking and running.  Like I said, it’s 25 miles of sitting and a 10K (poop!). 
So I get onshore and head toward the bike transition area.  I’m the last person. “Where do I go? Where do the bikes start?!”  I get pointed to the start. I get on my bike and start peddling.  Hard.  I have a lot of time to make up here.  Did I mention that I am LAST!?!  There will be no resting at the water stops.  Oh, wait, yeah, I soon learn that there ARE NO WATER STOPS!!!!  It is like 90 degrees out here!! I’m pushing with everything I have to try to catch up to someone.  Anyone.  No such luck.  And, yes, I am LAST!  Argh.  But I keep it up.  I ride as hard as I can (I do something disgusting, which probably saved my life, but we won’t mention it here--did I mention there were NO WATER STOPS?!).  I roll into the finish line and begin the run.  Just a 10K, right.  I’m hot and exhausted.  My legs are numb.  No, really, I cannot feel them at all.  In hind sight, I blame those damn biking shorts squeezing my legs to death.   Anyway, I try to put on a brave face and have some fun with the 10K.  I actually pass some people, even though I don’t feel my legs moving.  In the end, I am not disqualified, but am given a finishing time. I’m not proud, but I’m exhausted. Such is my story of how I became a try-athlete. And, no, I will not be doing that again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh, the Dairy Air!

Dear Diary, It's been a while since I last wrote anything.  That's how I have started most of my journal entries throughout my life. It seems blogging is not much different.  :)  Okay, I promise to be better about writing. Really. No. Really.

Anyway, at the beginning of this month, I decided to take my urban-running self to the world of small-town trail marathons.  Yes, I ran the Rails to Trails Marathon in a little town called Norwalk, Wisconsin: population 638.  It was actually a lot of fun! From the spaghetti dinner the night before the race to the chicken dinner immediately following, the small-town atmosphere was so homey, I expected someone to come back to the hotel with us for a tuck-in service.  Race morning, I was able to sleep in a bit, and the starting area of the race wasn't a big chaotic scene.  In fact, it was more like a neighborhood picnic.  And being able to keep my warm clothes on until 10 minutes prior to the gun was also great, since it was November in Wisconsin. Brrr.  There were fewer than 250 runners, so I could just step into the starting area, not getting shoved and jostled, having to slink my way between runners to get a choice position.  But, little did I know, that choice position in this case was a little optimistic.  I mean, I didn't think I would PR because of my slackadasical training this time around, but I figured that since I was a seasoned marathoner and (for heaven's sake) I've run Boston! I would be in the front of the pack in this sleepy little race.  Wrong!  When the gun went off those runners took off like greyhounds chasing a rabbit made from snausages! And they didn't slow down.  Ever.  And here I am, running my little legs off, feeling great, not realizing just how fast I'm going.  I didn't see a mile marker until Mile 4 of the race, so I couldn't tell my pace.  I knew I was going fast, but didn't realize just how fast.  I kept trying to slow down, once I figured it all out, but, like I said, I was feeling great.  My arms and legs were moving so effortlessly throughout the first 11 miles that I stupidly thought, "Well, yes! I am amazing! Perhaps I will PR today after all."  Wrong again.  Right around mile 14 the reality started to sink in, and I was finally able to slow down.  And I kept slowing down. I slowed down a lot.  Around mile 18, it was pretty ridiculous.  There were some parts of the race where I was clodding through the woods without a runner in sight.  I thought, "Oh, great. I'm the last runner in this damn race."  But toward the last few miles, I started to see civilization again.  There were some other runners like me, not superheros, but ones that had gone out too fast and were now slowing too.  Some were even walking (*gasp!*).  I dug down with everything I had and passed them.  Gradually, I was able to pick up my pace in the last four miles, and, wouldn't you know it, I was back to traveling at a decent clip by the final three miles of the race.  I can't say I finished "strong,"  but I ran.  I was definitely running.  And when I crossed that finish line, my legs screamed out in agony.  No, I surely did not PR that day.  But, I soon learned, that I placed 2nd in my age division!  So, even though it wasn't my best time, and it wasn't the most prestigious marathon, I was ecstatic!  I had done something I never would've done at those big races like Chicago or Boston, I came home with two medals! I was so very proud.  I can't say this urban runner is ready to move out to the sticks, but running through the serenity of the country and the open dirt trails is certainly something I'll seek out again. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Significant Activities Report for September

(Solution for blogging at work: Make blog post resemble work.)
On September 11, 2011, while the nation remembered the grave incidents of 2001, Lynne sweated her balls off in the Chicago Half Marathon.  Despite the heat and extreme solemnity of the day, her patriotism catapulted her to the finish line.  Her last few ounces of energy were used to “kick it in” the last 20 feet or so.  Thankfully, the beginning of the race (jog-walking the ½ mile to the starting line and slipping into the start corral just before the gun) was no indication of how the day would end.  Outcomes: Not that she’s competitive or anything, but she beat everyone else she knew running the race, except Jim, who finished one minute ahead of her. Dammit, Jim!
September 18, 2011 - Newton (formerly CARA) Ready to Run 20 Miler: This fully supported 20-mile run along the lakefront brought joy and cramps to hundreds of Chicago runners.  Lynne finished strong and smiling, even after barely surviving a 22-mile bike ride pub crawl the day before through the hills of Lake Geneva.  She also gracefully avoided contracting pneumonia even though the weather report had said it would be 70 degrees and sunny by the end of the run, yet was actually 50 degrees and drizzling the entire time.  Achievement of the day: Exercising extreme restraint when encountering a girl with her bib number pinned to her back (see blog post from July 2011).
September 24, 2011: Saw a fox!!!!  A real one!  Not a hunky boy or Michael J. 
Take home message: Foxes are totally cute. And very shy.
During her rainy 14-mile run on September 25, 2011, Lynne spent the entire journey wondering how much wetter she could possibly become.  The answer: None-more wet.  It was a constant battle for the feisty (but modest) runner to keep her dri-weave shirt from sticking to her torso and revealing her navel to passersby.  The heavy squish of her shoes became a companion to this lonely runner and took her mind off the fact that the water had worn the body glide off of her and that her jog bra was now chafing a severe under-boob cut. Yow!  Action step: Throw out torturous jog bra!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Say What?! A Study in Greeting Etiquette

Since I moved my running routine from the Lakefront Path to the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River, I have noticed a difference in running etiquette.  Since the Channel path is a lot less crowded than the Lakefront, there is more opportunity for friendly greetings between runners.  This is not something I’m used to.  But when, during my first semi-long run along the Channel path I was greeted by “Looking good!” “Great job!” and “Good work!” from complete strangers,  I thought how wonderful that people are so open to giving each other  encouragement on the path!  Well, I thought I should pay it forward.  In my own way.  I thought that shouting out encouragement was a little much, so I decided to just greet everyone on my run with a smile and a “Good morning!” sometimes accompanied by a little wave.  Who wouldn’t love that, right?  Well, I soon discovered that not everyone is as receptive to a hearty greeting as others.  And because I moved to an area of the city full of diverse cultures, I began to notice a difference in the way certain people responded to my greeting.  It became a sort of experiment for me.  And it wasn’t just different cultures that I studied, but different types of runners/walkers/bikers, as well.
Here are the results of my very scientific study thus far.  Runners in a pack will almost always include one or two people to respond with a, “Good morning!”  back at me.  Single runners, if they are not wearing earphones, have given me about a 75 percent return on my greeting.  Runners in pairs almost never respond.  Elderly Asian women and men walkers (there are a lot along the path) stare directly into my face as I smile and greet them and give me the stoniest look you can imagine, then look away in silence.  What’s that about?!  Hispanic men and women have about a 60 percent return.  Teenagers (whatever the culture)---forget it.  I have actually passed a couple orthodox Jewish women running or speed walking in full body cover and long skirts---both returned my greeting with a smile and a likewise enthusiastic, “Good morning!”  The orthodox men in their suits are not quite as friendly.   Older bikers will usually return my greeting, but younger or “serious” bikers will speed by me so fast, it’s hard to tell.  But I’m pretty sure they are smiling inside their helmets.  The rooster said nothing.
Oh, and as I was thinking of this, it also got me thinking about the craziest things that people have said or shouted to me as I ran.  The most offensive was the guy in my last blog post (I refuse to say it again here, so you’ll have to go back to read it).  I’ve also gotten the very clever, “Run!” shouted at me many a times.  Really people?  One time, someone yelled from a passing vehicle, “You can stop running now. They’re not chasing you anymore!” Har dee har.  Once I was wearing pig tails in my hair and got, “Handle bars!” shouted at me.  The second most offensive, however, was not using words.  It was a gesture.  While running on a treadmill at the gym with the windows facing Lincoln Avenue, I was actually mooned by a vehicle stopped at the red light.  Why is that funny?  Oh,  and speaking of not funny, I get a lot of people who mock run next to me or in front of me.  Although I may laugh or smile, in my mind I am giving them the biggest elbow and sending them into a garbage can.  And I keep on running.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Solace of Running . . . and One Psycho.

This morning was my first run since my grandmother passed away.  And I felt as though Mother Nature was giving me a high five.  There was a break in the heat wave, a gentle breeze, and the clouds provided shelter from the scorching sun.  My stride seemed less of an effort than it had in weeks.  As I ran, I spotted some gorgeous animals, that I felt Mom Nature put out there to make my experience even better and give me a reminder that there is beauty in this world.  I spotted a black-crowned night heron and two great blue herons along the river.  Then, as I was rounding a bend, six gold finches flew up out of a bed of wildflowers.  It was frickin' magical.  I was right at my turnaround spot, when I spied a creepy dude lurking about. Sure enough, he shouted at me, "I like to eat pussy!"  At first I was a little annoyed and offended that this crude individual would spoil such a wonderful run.  I started thinking, okay, was that necessary to witness.  Where is the beauty in that?!  But then I got to thinking, well, what is so bad about what that lunatic said.  I mean, why shouldn't he shout it out, loud and proud.  He likes to eat pussy!  And that's a beautiful thing.

OMG - Your Race Bib Goes on the FRONT!!

I ran a 10k last Sunday (yes, in the heat) and, inevitably, I see those few individuals who insist on pinning their race bibs on the back of their shirts (or sometimes on their butts).  This is a pet peeve of mine.  I mean, not only are the HUNDREDS of runners surrounding you wearing their bibs on the front, but the race packet information clearly instructs runners to pin their numbers to the front of themselves to be clearly visible.  So, what is it?  Are you blind to what is going on around you? Are you a contrarian?  Or, as I suspect, are you just an idiot who somehow believes race numbers should be on the back---like the name of a ship or something.  Do not be surprised if, one of these days, you are wearing your number pinned to your ass and I come up to you and punch you in the head.  It may happen. 

So, the 10K was part of the Fleet Feet Women's Festival 5k/10k.  I have run this race several times now, and it is usually a good one.  I am not so sure, however, why women are so jazzed at celebrating being women. Together. Like it's special or something. We are approximately 50% of the population. That's not a minority.  And, you'd think since I have seven brothers and no sisters, I would think there is something ultra special about being a girl.  Nah.  Truthfully being a girl can be annoying sometimes, but I deal.  Just as we all deal.  Maybe the race should be re-publicized to be "Hey, let's all deal with being women together. Yayyyyy."

And, just one more thing about this women's race.  A few years ago Fleet Feet had a special speaker at the start of the race.  She was a world record holder for running (I forget which event now).  But, hey! That's really impressive!  But, when she got up to give her motivational talk, she said, "My greatest achievement was having my baby."  What?!  I call bullshit.  You mean, something that millions of women do every day is more impressive than winning a world record for running?  And what kind of message are you sending the hundreds of women runners you are addressing? That, okay, since you've had your babies, you've already achieved the best thing ever, so go ahead, rest on your laurels.  Don't try to achieve anything else---it's not like you're gonna win any world records or anything.  Thanks for the pep talk.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Fun Run and Then Some

One of our local running store chains, Fleet Feet, sponsors several free historic fun runs throughout various neighborhoods in Chicago.  Today's run happened to be all about my neighborhood, Albany Park!  So I said, "Heck!  Why not.  I always like to learn more about where I live.  And I can get my run in, too."  Well, the running part of the fun run is not very vigorous.  It's more of a slow jog with many, many, MANY stops, so that we can learn little historical tidbits.  I knew I wouldn't get much running in during the actual fun "run," so I chose to run there and back, as well.  The history lesson was actually pretty interesting, and we got to see a deer at Peterson Park, which was awesome!  A nice part of the "run" was learning that I have a wood-chip path along the Chicago river near my house, which only goes about a  1/4 mile, but nevertheless is a nice break from pavement.  And it's right along the water, so even better!

I decided to take this little path as part of my route home.  I saw a Canada goose family with some pre-adolescent goslings along the bank, being adorable.  Unfortunately, however, mama goose stood right in my path and hissed at me.  Geese are big and mean!  And protective mama geese are not to be reckoned with.  This path is not wide, mind you, so I had to stop in my tracks and slowly walk around her, saying, "Hey now! I'm not gonna touch your babies.  Just gotta get by now," and try not to get my eyes pecked out.  She decided to spare me, thankfully.  So, add Angry Goose to one of the perils now.

In my previous blog post I had mentioned some of my favorite things about running in the city, as well as some of the strangest things I've seen while running.  I had forgotten to mention one, which is even more strange, considering his recent fame in the news and the courtroom.  One Christmas day, a few years ago, I was running past Wrigley Field toward the lakefront.  It was a cold, crisp morning, and the streets were pretty empty.  Ahead I could see a figure running toward me.  At least it looked as though it was running.  But it also was making spastic movements that I didn't recognize right away.  It turned out to be our then-current governor, Rod Bagojevich, running toward me and air boxing.  It was pretty amusing to watch, so I just said, "Hi, Rod!" as I ran by.  He had a bodyguard on a bike next to him, and in a few minutes I saw a big black SUV drive by, presumably with more guards aboard.  These days, I'm sure, there'd be a camera crew in tow, as well.