RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: February 2012

14 The Easy Way: Crossing a Line

I’m just going to be all nonchalant about the fact that I ran 14 miles yesterday.

If you read my last blog than you may recall that my intention was to run my 14-mile run tomorrow (Sunday) In fact, I’d been signed up, even before this big, crazy Prague marathon idea lodged itself in my craw, to run in an indoor 5K race at McCormick Place tomorrow, and my plan was to run the 5K race, and then run the additional 12 miles from McCormick Place to my gym directly afterwords. Which really sounds like of nutty, doesn’t it?


However, the weather forecast was in favor if it (predicted to be 45 degrees and sunny — in late February(!)). And I had to do the run.

What changed? I woke up yesterday and thought, what the heck. I’d just knock out my long run and then be able to enjoy tomorrow’s race without it being complicated by having to continue to run another 12 miles directly afterwards. Also, it seemed weird to split up my long run like that. So, I just mapped out a run that took me from my house on the NW side of Chicago, to the lakefront, south on the lakefront for about four miles, and then back. 


Here comes the big butt.

Contrary to my pledge of only a few days ago to practice a discipline in my personal activites more suitable to an athlete and less befitting Elvis,

on the night previous to my run, we’d had a small dinner party to celebrate the arrival of a good friend who we hadn’t seen in several months. Nothing too out of hand, but enough wine was poured that I felt it the next morning.

And the weather… wasn’t exactly welcoming. Tottering on the brink of freezing, it was sleety/snowy outside and the sky was a “stay-in-and-watch-period-dramas” variety of gutter-slush gray.

So what got into me? I don’t know. But I do know a couple of things. One is that, in general, when I’ve had a big run hanging over me, my inclination is to just get it out of the way and be done with it. The other thing has to do with my wife, Nikki. When I suggested that maybe I would suit up and go out in the snow and do my long run, she said that doing so would demonstrate that I’d “crossed a line.” Now, that line could have been one of sanity to insanity, but I prefer to think she meant that I would cross the line into serious bad-assery. And something about the idea of that appealed to me enormously. Fuck yeah!

So, I loaded up my IPod, laced up, and headed out.

The outside world was a lot slushier than I realized. Even with my best efforts to avoid puddles, within a mile of my run my feet were completely soaked. Adding to the peril was the fact that ice shards were dropping from the trees. Just past the first mile, I was ready to turn around. The conditions were ridiculous to run in. I would be totally justified.


Wait for it...

I was already out running. And, I had to do my weekly long run. And, I didn’t really want to do it after the indoor 5K — I thought that plan was kind of weird. And, yes, more than anything else, I wanted to cross that line.

I pushed forward.

Although pushing isn’t really the right word. During my run, I stayed focused on landing light on my feet. I concentrated of propelling myself with the strength of my hamstrings as opposed to my calves. Even though the residential street was stop and start with traffic signs and people and sidewalk-long slush lakes, it actually seems like I cleared the 3.5 miles to the lakefront in no time. Once I turned onto the running path, things became a real breeze because there was no traffic and far fewer people to navigate around and the track was mostly clean and dry. And also, (and this is admittedly corny), just as I was digging into the running path I crossed paths with an older lady out for a walk who grinned at me and gave me a double thumb’s up.

Yay! I love you, thumbs up lady!

 I tell you, this boosted my mood and put extra pep in my step for at least the next two miles.

It seemed like I’d made it down from Wilson (4600 north) to Fullerton (24oo north) in no time, and then it was time to turn around and head back. I was halfway done.

At Belmont (3200 north) I detoured to a convenience store to buy a bottle of water, rehydrated, and then shuffled off again with about 5 miles left to go. And then four. And then three. By the time I was two miles out from home, I was starting to get tired and my slog became a little bit more laborious. I was feeling it. But I pushed on (secretly grateful for the occasional red light at an intersection, although they always made starting up again harder). I don’t know the exact time because I didn’t mark the time I left, and didn’t remember to check the time right upon my return, but I calculated it at roughly 2.5 hours.

14 miles! More than a half-marathon! Little, lazy me! Huh.

Which brings us to the end of week 7 of my training. This week is my step-back week, so I only(!)  have to run 10 miles with my long run. I hope the weather is nice next weekend but I don’t care if it is or isn’t, because I am *not* doing that shit on a treadmill. ever. again.

Or will I???

Now, I have a couple of questions for any endurance runners who might be reading this. They are:

1. How do you manage hydration on long runs when drinking fountains are not available?

2. My knees are sore. Solutions?


In Which A Turning Point Is Reached

So, last week, I was ready to throw it all in the trash bin. After all, who did I think I was? My aspirations to run a marathon were a joke. My training was also a joke. Last week, when I ran ten miles on the treadmill, it was like a 2+ hour taste of my own personal hell.

So what changed? Nothing, really. Except that if I thought last weeks ten mile run on the treadmill was a short taste of my personal hell, this week’s 12-mile treadmill run was some Dante-esque ninth circle and the treachery I’d committed was against myself.

But why, you may be asking me, why did you run 12 miles on a treadmill? And that is an excellent question. It wasn’t my plan. In fact, I’d already mapped out a nice run from my gym up 6 miles and back along a Chicago river trail. The problem was, I was having issues. Issues that made me desire to stay within close proximately to a bathroom. I trust I don’t have to say more.

The weekend leading up to the run was rough. Friday evening a rugged bbq pitmaster who I know and love served up meat fest 2012, which I partook of thoroughly. Also, there was beer involved. Saturday, an event I am involved with threw a dance party that began with a nice dinner out at 5:30 and ended with a jalepeno pizza at 11:30. And there was beer. And wine.

It seemed like a good idea it the time.

And all of this resulted in me slogging away on the fucking treadmill like a demented hamster for 2 1/2 hours.

They shoot horses, don’t they?

But here is the thing. I did the 12 miles. And here is the other thing: my pain? I brought it on myself. That is when I have realized that I have come into a point in my training where I can not get away with the same level of mischief that I have managed thus far. When you are running 10+ mile runs, you actually do have to be conscious of what you eat and what you drink and whether or not you smoke (even if it’s just at parties) and how much sleep you get. Conditioning, alas, is not just about hitting the mileage numbers. Which brings me to a fork in the road.

Do I continue my life of pleasurable self-indulgence, or do I give that up so that I can complete my marathon training? Do I have it within me to actually practice discipline? Do I even want to? (To be fair to myself, I am not a total slacker. I actually manage to get a lot of things done in the general course of my life, and more or less competently as well).

By the way, I just realized that I have run more than 125 miles already in 2012. 125 miles! Check me out!

Which is why I am going to rise to the challenge to see this marathon thing through. Because, even with the struggles and doubts I’ve grappled with on a nearly daily basis, marathon training is giving me something totally awesome in return: the ability to feel a sense of real accomplishment and achievement as a result of my own tenacity. I mean, I came into this task with no aptitude for it whatsoever. Every week I am pushing the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of and what I thought my limits were.

They’ll be pushed again this weekend. I’m due to run 14 miles for my long run, but I was already signed up to run in an indoor 5K at McCormick place, and have an obligation to be at my gym in the early afternoon. So, how far is it from McCormick Place to my gym? 12 miles. Yep. I am running the indoor 5K and then, well, if you are a Chicagoan and you want a mental imagine, picture this: I will be running from McCormick Place to Foster, and then west on Foster to Francisco. A half marathon, baby. Which sounds great although there is that pesky part of me remembering that my ultimate goal is to run twice (!) that long.

In the meantime, my friend Unsoo recommended this book that she said was really inspirational and motivational for her as a runner. It’s apparently a bestseller, called “Born to Run,” which is about this culture of super elite runners who live in the mountains in Mexico. I’m reading it this week and I sure hope it puts some pep in my step.

Oh, Sh*t!

My Prague Marathon bib number is F1640.

Yep, I am now all registered and official. And so, naturally, I am completely freaking out.

1. Why did I ever think I would be able to run a marathon? Really? It’s idiotic, when you think about it. At the beginning of this year, I’d never ran longer than 3.10 miles.


Total idiot.


2. Marathons are really hard. That’s why so few people run them.

3. What if it’s really (hot/cold/rainy/windy/zombie apocolypse)  outside on marathon day?

4. I will not be able to finish.

5. Whoa! That course is really long!

6. Who do I think I am, anyway? I’m no athlete. I have a really hard time doing push-ups and those things where you lift your legs and your upper torso and rock back and forth on your back.

7. Who am I trying to kid?

8. Why on earth would I even want to run a marathon? They’re hurty.

9. I run too slow.

10. My training is too lazy and I will not be prepared.

To that last one, I keep praying that the rain that is forcast for this afternoon will materialize. It’s past 5:00 p.m. and it has not yet, thanks for nothing, Mother Nature! It was supposed to be my justification for not going on my 6 mile run today. Not only did it not rain, but it got up to 45 degrees — totally seize the moment flukish global warming perfect-for-running outside February weather.

Luckily, I remembered that my track pants that I wear when running outside are dirty; in fact, they are being laundered at this very moment.

And now, well, it’s just too late in the day to lace up and head out. Ignore my mental recollections of all of the runners I see outside running in the evenings, even on colder and wetter days than today. Coveniently forget how much I secretly admire them and my assessment that they represent the type of commitment I am going to need for my marathon training.

Seriously, what have I gotten myself into, with my big mouth and my big ideas?

Oh, good. The weather just reported freezing rain and snow for this evening — there is no way I am taking a chance of getting caught in that!

Hmm. An hour later and still no rain.



Ten the Hard Way

First, some news:  

1. My wife Nikki just bought a plane ticket to Prague and she is going to train and run in the Prague marathon with me! Woo-hoo!

I doubt Nikki and me running in a marthon together is what Filene's Basement had in mind.

2. I just purchased weight lifting gloves! Okay, this is not quite as super exciting as my first bit o’ news but I am excited about it because in my HIIT-it (High Intensity Interval Training) class, our trainer has us lifting and doing barbell work, which I think is bad-assed. A funny thing though — most of the women’s lifting gloved I came across had some pink and girly detailing.

Just in case I forget I'm a lady!

I’m don’t have anything against pink girliness but come on! I found some black and gray ones, though, so I don’t feel my bad-assedness has been comprimised.

3. Within a day after my last blog, the Chicago Marathon sold out. Now, the only way I can run it this year is if I join through some charity organization, which will require me to fundraise a bunch of money in order to participate. I’m currently weighing my options and the various organizations, trying to decide if I should just suck it up and become a needling fund-raising friend for the rest of the summer,

Please, mum, just a tuppance so I can run in the marathon.

or if one marathon is enough for me this year. Right now I am inclined to go for it, bacause I will be in peak training from Prague. So… anyone want to make a pitch for your favorite marathon charity? I welcome your persuasive suggestions.

So, it’s the end of week 6. The theme of this week has been “ten the hard way”

aka “keeping a training schedule when life gets in the way.”

I kicked off the week with a very laborious ten-mile run on Superbowl Sunday. The reason it was laborious was in part because it was 10-miles, in part because it was all on a treadmill, and in part (and this is the big part) because we had a spontaneous dinner party the night before with a few of our muckraking friends, and well, if you’re opening a bottle of champagne at midnight, the rest of the night kind of writes itself, doesn’t it?

The next thing you know, drunk Lindsey Lohan is ringing your doorbell.

But we (Nikki and me, that is) toughed it out and did what had to be done, and I guess I feel pretty good about that. But I am telling you, running those ten miles really sucked. And the 1,000 calories I burned in the process? Two words: superbowl party.

For the rest of the week, my training was a little off. I did my usual bootcamp class on Tuesday, but had to cut my post-bootcamp run short because of work stuff.  Wednesday, I accompanied Nikki to the hospital for an outpatient surgery (she’s fine), that required us to be there at 5:30 a.m. and that interrupted my program for the day. Then Thursday I taught in the morning and had meetings the rest of the day and didn’t get home until almost 9:00 p.m., which left me with Friday. Friday I ran 5 miles on the treadmill (it was a cold and snowy and blowy day). I am happy to report that I did run those 5 miles pretty fast (for me), which is to say, I averaged about 11.5 minute/mile.

Tomorrow is this week’s “long” run, which is actually only 7 miles, because this is a step-back week, which occurs every third week in the training program I am following. Next week, however, my long run will be my furthest yet — 12 miles!

Dear Mother Nature,

Please let it be nice enough outside next weekend that I can run outside. I know it’s the middle of February and all, but can’t you just sprinkle some of that global warming magic down on us? Thanks! You’re tops!

Your Pal, Kathie


Oh, and wait — did I say “only 7 miles”? And isn’t that actually double the most I had ever run as recently as only six weeks ago? That’s cool.

But to get back to the idea of keeping a training schedule when life gets in the way (as exemplified by this week). The way I see it is, sometimes things happen that you have no control over (outpatient surgery, day full o’ meetings), and you shouldn’t be so rigid that your life can’t accomodate those times. But also things happen that you have complete control over (opening a bottle of champagne at midnight), and I think a good life also needs to have room for those things, too.

I hate this woman.

The challenge, in training, in life, is to not let these twists in the road derail you. That’s why we had to do that ten mile run on Sunday even though it sucked so very badly. With this training schedule there is a certain amount of flexibility about the exact order of things, with one important qualification. In order to be prepared to finish a marathon in 18 weeks, you must run the weekly long runs, no matter what else has to get shuffled. That is the absolute minimum standard for success. That is the one requirment that can’t be renegotiated.

Also absolute: my desire to posess these shoes.

So, you weigh your decisions and pay the consequences for your choices. You’ll find, of course, that if you make good choices, life will be easier for you. But if you make bad or questionable choices, that does not have to be the end of the line. You do not have to pack your bags and head back to the couch.

Mmm. Chips.

You are allowed to regroup and push forward, where life will continue to give you many opportunities to make good and bad choices, each one, in some way, bringing your closer to or further from your goals. You are in charge, and you have 100% responsibility for your success or failure. A set back is just that — a set-back. You push through it.

Listen to Billy Ocean.

I don’t know why I am talking all direct address “you!” and all bossy, soap-boxy, self-helpy because honestly, I don’t know anything. I screw up all the time. I am, after all, both lazy and self-indugent. I, myself, am learning all of this stuff about focus and determination and discipline and goal-orientation. And I’m just kind of figuring it out as I go along, and even then I am probably only half right. So don’t listen to me.

This has been week six. Twelve more weeks to go!

The High Cost of Being Fit.

Posted on

Registration for the Chicago Marathon opened within the past few days, and more than 20,000 people have already registered for it. The marathon I am currently training for is Prague, which is May 13. Chicago, which is considered one  if the top 5 marathons in the world, is October 7.

Naturally, if I am running the Prague marathon in May, I’d also want to run in the Chicago marathon in October (oh my God, who is this speaking???). Now, realistically, I realize that this is putting the cart before the horse — I am, after all, only 5 weeks into training for my very first marathon, and I am already wanting to register for my second? When I haven’t even successfully completed the first?

And I’d agree with myself there except that Chicago is my home turf AND one of the top marathons in the world, plus there is a perfect amount of time between the two for me to recover and begin training again.  So, fine. I continue my training and finish Prague (insert Newt Gingrich: “In my second term as president, I’ll…” Blech. I got a bad taste in my mouth even humorously channelling him),

I continue my training and finish Prague and then I sign up for Chicago, right? As they say in Madison, easy peasy beersy cheesy.

These are a few of my favorite things.

WRONG!!!! (tuh-dum!)

Everyone who knows anything has been warning me that registration for Chicago usually fills within a month. With more than 20,000 registered within the first few days, and capping off at 45,000 participants, it’s already well on its way to capacity. So, I better hurry up, right? Like, what am I even doing online right now yammering away, and not on the Chicago Marathon registration page?

It costs $150 to register for the Chicago Marathon. Yup, one hundred and fifty clams that I’d have to cough up assoonasimmediatelypossiblehurryupitsgoingtoselloutgogogogodoit!

The Prague marathon will cost about $100 to participate in. There are the various other races I’m running between now and then: McCormick Place Indoor 5K, Shamrock Shuffle, Ravenswood Run, the Chitown Half Marathon… They all cost money. Plus, I need new running shoes. Money. Running, or at least racing (although I am only racing myself. Anyway…) Racing, it turns out, costs a lot of money. Just like so many other fitness activities.

Practically speaking, of course, anyone could work out, anyone could run. Isn’t that the great thing about running? All you need is a pair of track shoes and away you go! Who needs a stair climber when the world is full of actual stairs? No free weights? Try bottles of laundry detergent, phone books, bricks, etc. Sure, anyone can work out, if they really want to.

Weighs 7.4 pounds!

Except, if it was up to me to do those all those things on my own and entirely self-motivated, I would not do them. Now, admittedly, I am lazy and self-indulgent. There is not a single time that I am getting ready to go to boot camp where, if the opportunity presented itself, I wouldn’t choose, instead, to sleep in and then do some shopping and have a nice lunch out, maybe a glass of wine.

This is what I'd rather be doing.

This is where organized (and expensive) fitness comes in. It motivates you. It makes you accountable. It offers immediate, obtainable short-term goals that, over time, help you reach your more lofty, long-term goals.

Okay, so a few years ago, Nikki and I joined our gym. It’s a pretty nice gym and kind of expensive. But I only went when I was motivated, and my motivation came and went in fits and starts (does this sound familiar to you?). Then, with Nikki’s encouragment, I registered for a 5K race. She’d already run a few. I hated running because I found it too bouncy.

The race gave me something to train for. It motivated me to go to the gym and to push my mileage up so that I could complete the challenge. That first race, I still ended up walking at least as much as I ran. But we signed up for another race, and in that one I did a little better. And so on. But all those races cost money and if I did not have them in my future as a reason to train, I would not have trained. Word.

Jump ahead a year or so. We belong to the same gym, but our fitness has kind-of plateaued. We aren’t really seeing results and that is discouraging. Plus, there’s work and deadlines and we’re tired and there are so many other things competing for our time. This is when our friend Marian encourages us to try her bootcamp class. In bootcamp, under the guidance of two kick-ass (figuratively in both ways, as in: they rock, and they kick our asses) trainers, and with the built in motivating dynamic of a group, we began pushing ourselves further and harder than we ever had before. In boot camp, we became part of a community of like-minded friends who motivated us, inspired us, and made us feel accountable.

The fact that we also paid for the bootcamp classes, in addition to our already expensive gym membership, also made us feel accountable.  Paying for something is very motivating. Paying a lot for something is even more motivating.

Gym memberships, challenge goals, group fitness, personal trainers. All of these are important keys that help assure a stable and productive fitness lifestyle. And all of them cost a pretty significant amount of money. Add in the luxury of time, and a semi-flexible schedule… The ability to obtain and maintain fitness is weighted against poor or working class people. Not to get all political, but it’s true. Yes, it’s easy to glibly say that anyone can lace up their shoes and run out the door, but if you’ve been working all day in a demeaning job, if you have kids that need to be corralled and fed, if you are continually exhausted from the daily high-wire act

it takes simply to provide for your basic life necessities then, yes, sure, you can just lace up your shoes and run out the door (assuming you live in a neighborhood where it is safe to do so), but doing so is a heroic and exceptional act of personal will and determination.

Nikki and I are not poor, not like that, not by a long shot. But neither are we wealthy. Nikki is self-employed in a notoriously volatile industry and I am an adjunct (aka part-time) college instructor. Due to the slings and arrows of spring enrollment, I am only teaching one four-hour class this term. Which is great for my training, but pretty sad for my checkbook.

Mitt is not concerned about the state of my checkbook.

So, I have this idea. You know how the Catholic Church used to have that thing called “indulgences” where the aristocracy were able to purchase absolution for their sins? Remember that, and how it was one of the inciting causes of the Protestant Reformation? Well… From here on now I am granting indulgences for sloth to anyone with the money to pony up. You give me money, and I will perform fitness, so you don’t have to. YOU are absolved of guilt! Whatever you want to do — eat a whole pepperoni pizza, a pint of ice cream (or two!), drink a six-pack of beer… Everytime you drive to the Seven Eleven around the corner? I absolve you, as long as you pay up.

Okay, I am just kidding about that (kind of). After all, what authority do I have to absolve you? It’s not like I am the Catholic Church.

 Joking aside, though, I do have something truly worthwhile for you to sink what I will assume is your dubiously procured money into. In February, I am participating in a treadmill marathon to raise money for the American Cancer Society. My goal is to raise at least $300 to help research cures and treatments for cancer, and to help provide support services for people struggling with cancer. Many people in my life have been affected by cancer. I have lost my grandmother, two aunts, and a half-sister to cancer. Right now, I have friends who are struggling through cancer treatment and recovery. Anything you can donate will help, and any donation will grant you one indulgence. Donate $5? Have a donut! Donate $50? Drive somewhere within walking distance. Donate $100? Order a large pizza and lay on your couch all day, in your pajamas, watching a Wife Swap marathon. You can purchase your indulgences right here on the link to my fundraising page.

Three of the women in the photo have died from cancer.

Oh, and if anyone wants to sponsor me for the Chicago Marathon, that would be great, too!

Week Five Update

Posted on

Wow! I just noticed that as of this very moment that I am writing this post, that this blog has been viewed 500 times! Neat! Thanks to everyone who is following my training saga. Keeping up with this blog definitely makes me feel more accountable to my training, so in that sense, everyone who reads this is helping me. You rock!

So, it’s week five. From last Sunday through today, I’ve run 20.4 miles, broken up like so:

Sunday 10 miles, Tuesday 3.4 miles, Thursday 6 miles, and today 1 mile. I know one mile might seem pretty lame, but it was after my HIIT-IT class, so I’d already done, like, 45 pull-ups, 45 squat thrusts, 30 dead lifts, 30 bench presses, rowed 2400 meters at full effort, ran some sprints, did 90 crunches, etc., etc., etc. You get the point. And before you get the impression that the theme of this blog is misleading and that I am some kind-of super fitness freak,

 let me just assure you that nobody is more dumbfounded than I am that I managed to pull that off.

And, full disclosure, this week I’ve also consumed about 6 beers,  a bottle of champagne, 6 cigarettes and, today, directly after leaving the gym, I chowed down a cup of clam chowder and a cheeseburger and french fries (which are still sitting unhappily in my stomach 5 hours later). And tomorrow is my rest day so you can bet your sweet ass I am not even getting out of my pajamas. I might not even brush my teeth. Don’t judge.

Up for week six:

Sunday (*Go Giants!): run 10 miles

Monday: rest day.

Tuesday: bootcamp plus 3 miles

Wednesday: run 5 miles

Thursday: 3 miles

Friday: HIIT-it class

Saturday: rest day

That’s the plan, anyway.

*Giants chosen as lesser of two evils to root for because of my marriage license being issued in the state of New York.