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.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Since it is National Running Day (yes, apparently it’s a thing), I thought I should post something.  And, since I have been accused of only kvetching on this blog, I decided to write about some of my favorite things about running in the city.  So here you go:
Not much beats running along Lake Michigan on the Lakefront Path.  The lake breeze (in the summer that is, not the face-ripping wind in the winter) and the scenery can’t be beat.  My all-time favorite view of the Chicago skyline from the Lakefront Path is heading southbound, just to the south of North Avenue Beach.  You can see Navy Pier, the Ferris wheel, along with the Hancock Building and the rest of the skyline.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  The view of the skyline facing north at the Shedd Aquarium is probably my second favorite view.  Come to Chicago and check it out!
I also love running in Chicago because there is always something interesting going on, so the backdrop for your run is always changing.  Sometimes you may even catch a crazy character, like the Hi Guy, who adds a little zest to an otherwise long, exhausting run.  For those of you who don’t know the Hi Guy, he is a “character” in every sense of the word.  He's an older man who runs in sandals and a yellow t-shirt with “Hi” written in magic marker and a smilie face.  Sometimes he wears a beanie with a propeller.  He also rides a kooky bike, if he’s not on foot.  He will write in sidewalk chalk “Hi” and images of smilie faces.  Always say, “Hi” to Hi Guy because he will never fail to give you an enthusiastic “Hi!” right back.  I hear that you should not engage him in conversation, however, because he is a bit off his rocker.  So if you don’t have time for a long-winded conversation, just say “Hi, Guy!” as you run by and wave.  J
The craziest thing I have seen on one of my runs in Chicago is at a tie:  a person running while pushing a white poodle wearing pink goggles in a stroller vs. a chicken (well, technically a rooster).  ‘Nuff said.
Since I recently moved away from the lake, I now run along the Chicago River path.  It is actually quite lovely and not as crowded as the Lakefront Path can be with all the bikers, roller bladers, and tourists.  There is always a squirrel party going on along the riverfront park, and you may get lucky enough to see a great blue heron.  The other day I saw a whole gaggle of goslings swimming in formation.  I almost fell into the water from total cuteness overload!
Okay, happy running, everyone!  Now get out there and break a sweat!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Take a Picture; It Lasts Longer

Dear, Person Standing in the Middle of the Sidewalk, Blocking My Path, Staring Right at Me:

I know I look totally awesome as I run toward you with my sweaty salt-covered face jiggling with every jarring step, but could you kindly not stare.  I mean, I know you have probably never seen anyone so fast before.  It's called running.  You may have heard of it, but, judging by your sloth-like demeanor, perhaps you haven't.  You see me coming right toward you.  You know the sidewalk we are both using has limited space. Yet, you do not move over.  You continue to just stare.  What is it?  Even though I may look superhuman, I really am not.  I need room to run.  I cannot pass through solid objects.  And, if I must make a sudden movement to quickly dodge your cigarette/dog/child/drunk girlfriend, I may twist an ankle.  So please, step aside. 

Thank you,

P.S. I'm not afraid to throw an elbow.  :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Only Downside to the Smoking Ban

Okay, other than my extremely hightened sense of repulsion to cigarette smoke, the only real downside to the ban of smoking inside bars and restaurants in Chicago is that the gaggles of smokers congregate on the sidewalk!  This is perilous to the urban runner in many ways:

A) They're clogging the sidewalk! We live in a society, people!!
B) Um, your cigarette smoke is still offensive, especially when someone is trying to run by and is forced to take in a lung full of supposedly "fresh air."
C) The gesturing smoker is a burn threat.  Yes, this has happened to me.  I have been burned by a smoker gesturing with her cigarette.  Not fun.  Oh, and yes, I've been yelled at for putting out the cigarette---with the flesh of my arm! 

Did I mention that this is a society?  People!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tip: If You Are a Driver

If you are driving a motor vehicle and happen to see a runner waiting to cross the street, please abide by the following guidelines:

1) If you do not have a stop sign or red light, please do not stop traffic to let the runner go.  She most likely is an experienced street crosser and will wait for traffic to clear.  By stopping traffic, you are, not only pissing off the people behind you, but also putting the runner in danger. Most likely, the traffic on the other side of the street will not see the runner, so she will get hit by traffic going the other direction.  Or the people behind you, that you've stopped, will try to zoom around you, squashing said runner.  Just please drive on. Thank you.

2) If you are approaching a stop sign where a runner has already slowed down or stopped.  Please move through the intersection as quickly and safely as possible.  She has already adjusted her stride to accommodate you going through the intersection. So just go!

3)  If you think it may be a draw at the stop sign or the runner will be getting to the intersection just before you.  Please stop. Let her go.  She is calculating her pace so that she does not miss a stride.  Plus, it's a stop sign.  You're supposed to STOP! Dick.

4)  Always stop at a red light.  The runner will do the same.

Trucks Schmucks . . . There Are Bikes Out There!!

One of my most recent perilous running moments was as I was running home from the Lakefront Path, having survived 19 of the 20 miles of one of my last long runs before the Marine Corps Marathon.  I was preparing to cross an intersection at which the traffic had a stop sign.  These are usually good for runners, because most drivers will actually stop at these intersections and let you go. Well, there were a lot of cars courteously waiting at the intersection, including a very scary Mack truck.  The truck kept making that deep revving sound, as if he might start accelerating at any moment. So, I was so focused on not becoming a sweaty splotch on the pavement from getting hit by a truck that, as I entered the crosswalk, I did not see the bicycle about to slam into me!  Yes, that's right.  Some beyotch on her bike decided to ignore the rules of the road and use her powers of a-holish-ness to run right into me.  Thinking as quickly as I could, I grabbed onto her handlebars and flung myself over her front tire---hardly missing a stride.  I could not, however, think quickly enough to get the proper swear words out in time.  My cursing went something like this, "What the! . . . Holy! . . . Fuck! . . . Bitch!" As I ran across the street.  The dirty tread mark from her wheel up and down my leg was the only sign of my brush with death.  Imagine what kind of mark the Mack truck would've made.