Race Report: Waddling With The Penguin 3/28/2015

22 10 2015

I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet my personal hero of running, John “The Penguin” Bingham, at the 10th Annual Penguin in the Park 5k at Millikin University in Decatur, IL.  Yes it was March 28 and I am just now writing about it almost 7 months later.  Hey, I’ve been busy!  OK?  Anyway, here’s the rundown.

It was a bright but chilly 21 degree morning when we started out.

It was a bright but chilly 21 degree morning when we started out.

I found myself slightly questioning my own sanity when I looked at the weather on that fine freezing spring morning but I figured “what the heck, I drove 3 hours to get here last night so I might as well just get out there with all the other crazies.”  I even tweeted about it that day as you can see from the photo below.


But honestly, how can you be a Penguin if you can’t stand the cold?!

So it was cold.  Yeah.  It warms up when you start running so as long as I have a hat and some gloves, I generally don’t care.  I had been doing a lot of treadmill training over the winter because I wanted to become faster than I had been in the past.  It was my goal for 2015 to run my fastest 5k ever and to perhaps finally break the “under 3 hour” mark in a half marathon.  I had spent a lot of time on the treadmill doing intervals but did not expect to try and break any speed records on this day.  My goal setting out was simply:  (1) meet the Penguin, and (2) have some fun.

The course is touted as “a rolling bicycle path” in Decatur’s Fairview Park —  which in plain English means “hills”; maybe gentle, maybe steep, but definitely not flat.  However, it is a beautiful and scenic spot even in the dead of winter and the 810 runners were in for a nice treat.  Since John the Penguin himself planned to come in last, nobody even needed to worry about their pace.  After hearing that, I tried out a new rhythm of 4 minutes running and 1 minute walking to see where it would take me.

finish line

How can you go wrong when you are guaranteed not to come in last?

Eventually I found the finish line.

a fine meal

Blueberry muffins and chili: breakfast of champeens.

Afterwards we were served a very nice post-race breakfast of muffins and chili (which I must say was some of the best chili I’ve had in a long time) from Ray’s Chilli which is a local outfit in Decatur.  A packet of their chili seasoning was included in the goody bag, and I have now ordered a full pound of the stuff as it has become part of my standard recipe, along with a few of my own secret ingredients.

It was around Mile 2 when I noticed my time was faster than usual, possibly even faster than ever, so I picked up the pace just to see what I could do.  And it did turn out to be my fastest 5k ever.  Not fast by anyone else’s standards, just mine.  So I ended up with a few outstanding moments that day.  A good race.  A new chili recipe.  A chance to finally meet in person the guy whose written words got me started and kept me going long before they inspired me to get a penguin tattooed on my leg.

It was a wonderful day and a great way to kick off the spring running season.


It was a great day—-set a new personal record, meet a longtime personal hero—-a very fine day indeed.

The Galaxy’s Worst Blogger Returns

18 10 2015

Once again, I haven’t been much of a blogger.  I actually haven’t been much of a runner this year either.  But I am still on track to race in 5 more states by the end of 2015.  I will come back within the week and report more fully on each race, some of which are noted below from Athlinks.com.

2015 races

Pi Day, celebrating the number (not the Romulan starship)

14 03 2015

blog griffIn the mid 24th Century, the Romulan starship Pi, a Griffin class scout ship, crash landed on the planet Galorndon Core during a covert mission after sending out a distress signal from the Neutral Zone which was answered by Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise (TNG: “The Enemy“).  What followed on that occasion was the usual drama, interspecies conflict, life-or-death struggles and moral quandary one has come to know and love from Star Trek, none of which is being celebrated today.  This is merely a bit of Trekkie trivia I could not ignore when posting on 3/14/15, known in 21st Century culture as “Pi Day” and heralded by race directors everywhere as a chance to hold a 3.1415k race.

blog shirt

The local middle school near my home had just such a race this morning and despite the fact that I have a cold, there was no way I was going to miss it.  Not only is it my first outdoor race in Illinois of the 2015 season but it is also the first race ever which was so close to my home that I could walk there.

Pi the number is a mathematical constant which represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and is estimated to be over 13.3 trillion digits when spelled out completely.  However, geeks worldwide are today at exactly 9:26:53 AM celebrating the first ten:  3.141592653.

March 14, which coincidentally is also Albert Einstein’s birthday, has been celebrated as Pi Day since established as a holiday in 1988 by a San Francisco physicist named Larry Shaw, also known as the Prince of Pi (not to be confused with the Larry Shaw who directed an episode of the TNG series).  I’m sure the prince must be a Star Trek fan as are good geeks everywhere.   But I digress….

It was a beautiful springlike morning of 40 something Fahrenheit with just enough of a chill to mandate a cheapie pair of gloves and some long sleeves when we all lined up at the local middle school.  In a parking lot amidst a few lingering mounds of dirty snow beneath a homemade sign an estimated 480 of us gathered together to celebrate Pi in the only way runners know how (by blocking traffic and pissing off drivers as we stride several abreast in one long parade oblivious to all else but our feet and our MP3 players).

blog start

The sky was blue and the crowd simmered with excitement as the air horn sounded and off we went: parents, kids, stroller moms, old people, fat people, speedsters, walkers and me.  Like I said, I have a cold.  I didn’t expect to rack up impressive numbers and I most certainly didn’t.  After the first half mile, I started to cough and thus ended up taking it pretty easy.  I’d jog a while, walk a while and even tried a few little sprints but my lungs weren’t up to the task.  It was still fun though and the 3.1415 miles went pretty fast.   At the end we were rewarded with Hostess fruit pies and slices of pizza pie, just to stretch the pi(e) theme a little further.blog garmin

So the first local race of the season is done and, given the one mile walk to and from the race, I’ve already logged well over 5 miles on my pedometer with much of the day ahead of me yet.  And now it’s on to all the other cool stuff one can do on a temperate Saturday such as this.  I even made up a little poem in my head while I was walking back from the race:

The snow is melted; the bitter chill is gone.
This is my happy morning song.
The sun is shining and I’ve had a 5k run.
I can play in the garden while the day is still young.
What a contented old runner am I
As happy as a fat kid eating pie.

(OK, I’ll keep my day job.  LOL)



Two months, two races, one winter: done

10 03 2015

vwIn the Star Trek original series there is an episode called The Savage Curtain in which Kirk and Spock are manipulated into fighting a “good vs. evil” battle so this interesting creature named Yarnek could observe and thus understand what seemed to be a purely human concept.  When the good guys won, Yarnek concluded that “evil runs off when forcibly confronted.”

As an arthritic runner, I have long regarded winter as more evil than good (although the gardener in me deems it a necessary evil) and I’ve eagerly anticipated its retreat when forcibly confronted by spring.  I used to stop running entirely during the coldest months, venturing out only during the occasional warm-up when temps might climb near 40, but always felt my fitness level suffered too much from the lull.  One year ago with plans for a spring marathon, I ran all winter long going as far as 10 miles on the treadmill but ended up overtraining myself into an injury that nixed the marathon plans.  So this year, I decided to concentrate on shorter distances, flat terrain and a 50-50 split between running/cardio and weight training over the winter in hopes of emerging fit and ready to run injury-free through the next 9 months.

At the end of January, I attended a business conference in San Diego and ran The Super Run 5k in South Shores Park near Sea World.  Leaving behind mounds of snow and biting winds to run amidst these beautiful floral vistas was pure pleasure.

Even though the day was overcast, it was a beautiful outing.

Even though the day was overcast, it was a beautiful outing.

What a great way to escape the evil clutches of winter!

Surrounded by flowers and warm breezes, I took it slow and jogged along happily.

Surrounded by flowers and warm breezes, I took it slow and jogged along happily.









Shirt, bib and medal.

Shirt, bib and medal.

And then I got on the last flight out of town before a blizzard cancelled all travel into Chicago. What can I say?  This is the reason I don’t run outdoors around my house in the winter.



So my next race was a virtual 5k called the Puppy Love Run which I did on a hotel treadmill during a weekend trip to a nearby town.  The run, which was held during Valentine’s Day week,  raised money for an animal protection society.   A virtual race is the only kind you’ll find me doing in Illinois in February.  Some of the local crazies do the Frosty 5 Miler each year but I’m not planning to join them any time too soon.

But now that it is March, the snow is melting and single digit temps have followed Old Man Winter over the hill.  With the usual unbridled glee, I will in fact this weekend return to the roads and leave the treadmill behind.puppy love bib

I’m really looking forward to that.

Winter leaves when forcibly confronted by Spring but I am the one who runs off.  Off down the road I go.

I’m ready.

Next up:
A 3.1415 miler on Pi Day 3/14/15.
Penguin in the Park 5k on 3/28/15.
And an old favorite:  The Rockdale Rambling 10k on 4/11/15.
Then the year’s first half marathon.

I’m so ready!

To the Genesis Planet we send him

28 02 2015


with heavy hearts and much love.

2015 = 282.95 days on the Klingon calendar

20 01 2015

klingonFrom Strauchius at http://atavachron.wikidot.com/calendars:klingon-calendar:

“The Klingon day “jaj” lasts 1.29 Earth days, or 30 hours, 57 minutes and 36 seconds.
A Klingon year “DIS” lasts 440.125 Klingon days, or 567.76 Earth days.”

I cannot imagine a 30 hour day!  Geesh.  My jobs would surely have me working even longer.  But maybe with 30 hours in a day, somewhere I might find a marathon with a long-enough time limit that I could finish it even if I walked.   LOL   However there will be no marathon for me this year on any calendar, Terran or Klingon.  I’m not even going to consider it.  I am calling 2015 my “year to get stuff out of the way” lifewise and “back to basics” athleticwise, neither of which includes running 26.2 miles.

Lifewise, the first thing to jettison out the hatch is a boards recertification exam.  Family doctors who want to be board-certified (translation: “any one who wants a decent job”) have to take the medical board exams every 10 years, and I’m doing that in April (which means studying instead of training for events in my spare time).  Since you are required to know all sorts of minutiae about things you may never see in your daily practice, cracking the books like a medical student is what you have to do.  But the good news is: this will be the last board exam I ever take.  When it comes due again in 2025, I will be 69 years old and probably only working part-time someplace that doesn’t care if I’m board-certified or not.

“Back to Basics” in my athletic life means tabling the Ahab-like obsession with distance and working toward greater all-around fitness in an effort to avoid injuries.  I realized last fall (while rehabbing yet another repetitive strain Achilles issue) that I had given up all else in favor of running, and that was surely what contributed to the physical faltering. Since it’s never healthy to be unidimensional, I returned to serious strength training and aerobic conditioning along with eating a higher protein diet.  Oddly enough, my endurance didn’t suffer and I even lost some weight in the process.  So the new year will include shorter races but more biking, lifting, aerobics and the dreaded stretching after each workout.  I will see where that takes me before I try again to slay the white whale labeled

2015’s preliminary plans include the following as of this writing:

January  —  Super Run 5k (in San Diego during a board review conference I am attending)
February  —  Puppy Love Virtual 5k (a fundraiser for animals)
March  —  Penguin in the Park 5k (another chance to hobnob with John the Penguin Bingham)
April  —  MORE Fitness Women’s Half Marathon (in New York City to celebrate completing the board exam)
May  —  Soldier Field 10 Miler (this year’s “race with the cousins” in Chicago)
June  —  at least one 5 or 10k somewhere with my running club and maybe more
Fall/winter  —  possibly a multi-state outing in the fall with the gang from MainlyMarathons.com but definitely a December half on the gulf coast within driving distance of New Orleans (tentatively The Holiday Half Marathon in Point Clear, Alabama)

MoonJoggers 2015I will post reports and most likely photos from all of them as each one occurs, and will seriously try not to let months go by before that happens.  I’m really a pretty rotten blogger when it comes to consistency but I do try.

I also signed on with the Moon Joggers again this year and have thus earned my first bib and medal already without even having put foot to pavement yet (although I have done many many treadmill miles).

So that’s it for now.  I’ll holler back later with a report on the San Diego 5k.

In the meantime as they say on Qo’noS:  “qet pagh Hegh” (run or die)!.



Photo Credits:
Klingon Emblem – http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Klingon_Empire?file=Klingon_Empire_logo.png
Moby Dick – From http://wallpapersinhq.com/images/big/moby_dick-195639.jpg
Moon Jogger stuff – Me


Better Late Than Never: Closing out 2014

11 01 2015

Like I said in my last post, the Achilles tendonitis reared its ugly head (as it is wont to do on an annual basis) and my fall plans got curtailed.  My original plan was that a trio of half marathons  —  Wichita Fire, Rock-n-Roll Savannah and Rock-n-Roll San Antonio  — would complete a half dozen half marathons for the year.  But I probably overextended myself doing the Wa Du Shuda in July which would have brought it to 7.  And I am now certain I didn’t stretch enough (as I am wont to do on an all-too-regular basis) and ended up limping instead.  Oddly enough, the pain began in September and there wasn’t any discrete event that started it.  I just noticed a soreness that worsened over time and took months to rehab again.  Feh!  And I now repeat my favorite lament:   It sucks to get old.  But it sure beats the alternative.  And since it’s way too late to have died young, I’ll continue to learn my lessons and keep going.

So here’s how my fall running season went:  I dumbed down from the 1/2 to the 5k in Wichita, did half of the 1/2 in Savannah ( slinking off the course as it fortuitously looped past my hotel during Mile Six) and did the whole 13.1 in San Antonio unfortunately walking most of it.  Rehab continues as of this writing but I’m getting there.  And hopefully, having finally mended my ways, I will stay recovered this time.

I don’t have much to say about Wichita.  I didn’t take any photos.  I was in severe pain the entire time and to this day I don’t know why I didn’t cancel the trip and save the money.  Obsessive 50-State Racer Syndrome?  Maybe.  I might have invented a new disease with that trip.

Savannah was much better.  The city reminded me of New Orleans (second home of my heart) in some locations and that gave me such a welcome feeling.  I also stopped by the studio of my most favorite ever fitness video trainer, Tracie Long, and took a cardio/weights class.  I’ve been doing her workouts since the days of The FIRM in the 1990s, and it was pure joy to do a workout live and in person with her.  Even though I didn’t run the entire half marathon, I had a wonderful weekend because of that experience alone.  And hopefully two days of good calorie burn offset some of the fried chicken, grits and cobbler that I could not help but enjoy while I was back IMG_0596in the South.

Then the Rock-n-Roll half in San Antonio put the smile back on my face.  Even though I decided to walk the entire thing to avoid reinjury, I did throw in a little running when I was just so overcome with energy that I couldn’t help it.  Sometimes a good song on my iPod makes me break out into a run and, caution or not, I can’t fight the feeling.

The San Anton weekend was memorable because it was John The Penguin’s last outing prior to retirement and there was a special goodbye session at the expo featuring a lot of big names in running.  At one point, I turned IMG_0637around to find Meb Keflezighi sitting behind me in the audience.  I about fainted!  My cell phone camera did not capture a very good image, but I did snap a pic of him onstage with John after presenting him a plaque which outlined all of the wonderful things John has done to bring running to the common person.  It was an emotional moment and I think the photo sums it up.

The race itself was a fun one.  It was the typical uber-crowded R-n-R event well stocked with amenities and live music at every mile.  The weather was a bit cool and overcast but in the low 50s, perfect weather for racing really.  Since I walked most of it instead of running, I was able to take a few photos here and there of people and things that struck my fancy.

cheering section

Best sideline cheering section!

Coolest sign.

Coolest sign.

So 2014 ended with my having done very few races once again because of the work schedule that continues to eat up two weekends a month.  I did run more half marathons in any one year than I have ever done before (five) and I pushed my number of “states raced in” to 24.  Other than the two injuries (foot tendonitis in May and Achilles in September), it was quite the enjoyable year and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I reported miles all year to the Moon Joggers and earned slightly under 600 for the Voyage to Venus mission which granted me the rank of Cadet.  My husband said we now have proof that I’m a Space Cadet.  LOL

The BEST THING about 2014’s running though was that I finally gained entry into that cadre of crazies that I’ve been trying to join for two years:  The Half Fanatics.  It’s a related organization to the Marathon Maniacs and you have to do a certain number of races within a specified (and somewhat short) length of time in order to get in.  My spring schedule qualified me and so I joined.  The running kind is the type of fanatic I am happy and proud to be!

2014 Medals and the Best Prize of All

2014 Medals and the Best Prize of All

2014’s racing bibs: once again too few but each a fond recollection.


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