Photons Be Free (and take the snowflakes with you!)

5 03 2014

In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the holographic doctor wrote a novel called “Photons Be Free” which was a parody of the actual crew and consisted of some rather dramatic antics that he thought would be entertaining.  Of course, it caused a major stir among the protagonists when they found out about what Captain Janeway called “extracurricular subroutines” and each sought to alter the way their character was portrayed.


Photo credit to Memory Alpha:

That’s pretty much how I feel about winter every year  —  that I’d like to rewrite the way it unfolds  —   but this year especially.  Snow, snow and more snow with almost each dramatic swell followed by an Arctic blast of cold has a way of dampening anybody’s good mood.  I don’t even need to mention what it does to a person’s hopes of running outdoors.

This year I decided to break the season into weeks and find something to like about each one.  I called it my campaign to Unhate Winter.  I had no idea it would be as big a challenge as it’s been.  Seeing spring on the horizon now, even as yet another snowstorm roils outside at this very moment, I can release my findings from the log I’ve been keeping since December:


Week 1 – 12/21:  Trip to a cabin in the woods to start winter on a good note and my birthday 12/21; it was very nice

Week 2 – 12/28:  produced videos of marathons I downloaded from YouTube and added good music soundtracks so as to enjoy the Treadmill

Week 3 – 1/4/14: bought and tried out a new TM workout then ran sometimes twice a day

Week 4 – 1/11/14: did some of the Polar Dash race in downtown Chicago, even though I bailed early due to conditions being too treacherous

Week 5 – 1/18/14:  ran on the treadmill until my shins were sore so started back to cardio DVDs

Week 6 – 1/25/14:  Frozen Half Marathon too frozen; skipped it and saw The Hobbit movie instead

Week 7 – 2/1/14: Planned, shopped and packed for my next two trips…..but barely hanging on now.  Desperately cold & dreary!

Week 8 – 2/8 :Trip to Florida which was WONDERFUL for 4 days, 70 degrees and a chance to run or walk outdoors every day

Week 9 – 2/15:  Basked in the joys of a couple of 40 degree days back at home and even got outside once for a few hours.  But still stressed and not enjoying winter.

Week 10 – 2/22:  Winter sports weekend in Wisconsin brought the JOY back to my life!  Dogsledding and snowshoeing reminded me there is something to like about snow.

Week 11 – 3/1/14: Planned Trip to NC and did some new TM workouts to train for the first half marathon of the season

Week 12 – 3/8: North Carolina Half Marathon week

Week 13 – 3/15 is the LAST WEEK OF WINTER!

Even though it isn’t over yet, I will call it a success in that I hated the season less than I usually do.  Old Man Winter is really pushing his luck this year but I think I’ll make it.  The end is in sight.  And despite not being able to rewrite the story, I’ll see it through to the end.

NEXT UP:  Race report from North Carolina, first half marathon of the season, which will be Sunday, March 9, 2014.

Greetings from Rura Penthe! Wish you were here.

6 01 2014

Just kidding.  I’m not at the Klingon penal colony.  It only looks like it outdoors, thanks to Winter Storm Ion.



My poor husband who had to shovel

We’re in the middle of what the Weather Channel has called an Arctic Blast.  First it snowed about a foot, then the winds kicked up to maybe 30 mph or so and finally the temperature dropped to minus-17 degrees last night.  I’d call that the perfect weather to think about 2014′s races (since the only running I’ll be doing for a few days will be on the dreadmill).

It’s got to be just about laughable at this point that I’ve signed up for a full marathon every year since 2011 and haven’t managed to actually do one yet.  The first time, what I call the “Berlin Boondoggle”, went awry because I hadn’t factored in 7 hours of jet lag and no sleep on the flight to Germany.  I ended up running but not finishing.  In 2012, I registered for the full and later dropped to the half at Kiawah Island, SC, due to work obligations interfering with training.  And in 2013, it was an injury that caused me to lose 2 months during training and drop from the full to the half in Meridian, MS.  Being the stubborn kind who doesn’t take “no you can’t” for an answer, I’m going to try again this year.  I just can’t rest until I’ve conquered 26.2.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because it seems so impossible.

Anyway, this is the plan so far:
January = two races in Chicago (Polar Dash 10k  1/11/14 and Frozen F*cking Freezing Half Marathon 1/25/14)
February = no racing but I’m going up to Wisconsin for a winter sports weekend to try out cross country skiing, dog sledding and ice-fishing which I’ve never done before
March = Charlotte NC Half Marathon 3/8/14
April = Springfield IL  -  Abe Lincoln Half Marathon 4/5/14
May = Green Bay Marathon 5/18/14
June = Valentine NE  -  Sandhills Half Marathon 6/8/14
November = Savannah GA  -  Rock n Roll Half Marathon 11/8/14
December = Memphis TN  -  St. Jude’s Half Marathon 12/6/14

2014′s overall goal is to arrive uninjured at the start line in Green Bay by doing 2:1 run/walk intervals according to Jeff Galloway’s training plan, and then work on speed over the summer with shorter races.  I purposely chose a race with a generous time limit so I wouldn’t have to worry so much about pace.  As always, improving my fitness via weight control, cross-training and flexibility work will be keys to that as well so I’m taking measures to ensure those factors don’t fall through the cracks (as they too often do).

A secondary goal is to become less of a solitary runner by becoming more engaged in the local running community.  To that end I have joined a nearby running club which has circuit races in my area and a Facebook group where I can get acquainted with people I may eventually meet in person.  I also did something else just for fun: I joined a group called the Moon Joggers who sponsor a competition to commit to a goal which, taken cumulatively among all of us by year’s end, will equal the number of miles it takes to get to Venus.  I pledged 1000 miles for the year, and had to submit a photo with my name and goal.   It inspired me to download a fre trial of Photoshop and learn it.  Fun!

moonjoggers venusSo that’s it thus far.  I’m sure there will be plenty of smaller races and maybe even one more half marathon in the fall but those are the goals with which I start 2014.  Like all sports bloggers, I’ll be back with every moment of trial and tribulation to share with my fellow athletes.  I am going to make this a good year and finish those 26.2 standing up.

Live long and prosper.

2013: The Year of Seven Races

31 12 2013

It started off badly:  too much work at the new weekend jobs and a winter that wouldn’t leave.  Then there was the summer injury that took months to recover from, but finally things got back to normal in the fall.  So 2013 was The Year of Seven Races.  I remember each one fondly and all have their tale to tell.  They were just too damned few.  Oh well, 2014 will be a new year and I am not complaining.

20131231_210436February brought the Seabees 5k for which I travelled to beautiful sunny Hawaii.

In early June there was the Hatfield McCoy Half Marathon where I went possibly slower than ever but had the most fun at a 13.1 miler.

Late June held the Disco Dash, a 5k in Chicago that I ran with my cousins, and got to see the Village People in concert afterward (along with some really cool people in costume) once the rains cleared up.
213Then in July came the Achilles injury flare-up and I ended up doing pretty much nothing until September when I began gingerly training for the three half-marathons I had signed up for earlier in the year.  So it was October before I raced again.

October 20 was the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon which was extremely cold but a thrilling chance to run from the U.S. to Canada and back.

November 3 was the Red Eye 8k, a local race in town, which I’d never run before but will certainly do again.

November 16 the LEO Run to Remember Half Marathon in Meridian MS was the hilliest hellfest ever but I still did enjoy it.

Thanksgiving Day, another new race for me, the Poultry and Pie Predictor here in Joliet, whose entry fee was less than $10.00 (how unbelievably low is that?!)  —   in which I didn’t even try to “predict” because I didn’t really get the whole thing about predicting your pace then running without a watch so you could win a turkey   —   but had great fun anyway.

And that was it!  I had registered for the St. Jude’s Marathon Weekend to run the half (if I could raise $500 which I couldn’t) and then for the 5k but ended up running n-o-t-h-i-n-g because the whole thing got cancelled due to an ice storm.

The closest I got was the banners on Beale Street the next afternoon during lunch after driving for 12 hours and not even getting as far as Tennessee the night before because traffic slowed to 20 mph on the dangerously icy roads:

.st judes

But it was all good.  St. Jude’s made some money from my efforts so they can continue their excellent care of kids with cancer, and I’ll get a chance to register before everyone else in 2014.  I’ve already reserved my hotel for December 6 and I’m ready to run.

2013 was The Year of Seven Races but I won’t remember it as a bad one.  I got a slow start and then overcame an injury.  2014 will be better.  I already have some spectacular plans.  I’m going to run farther and maybe even faster but no matter what, I am definitely going to have fun.

As 2013 ambles off over the hill, I bid it farewell and look forward to the future.

More later….

2013′s last halves: Detroit Free Press (October 19) and Meridian Mississippi Leo Run to Remember (November 16)

26 12 2013

The injury that started with a too-long and too-fast 10-miler in July dragged on for well over two months.  I took it easy the first month and hoped it would get better.  When it did not, I pulled out all the stops and began treatment with first rest, then rehab exercises, night splinting and home ultrasound.  By early October, I was able to walk a mile without pain.  I started from scratch back to running, slowly adding 10% per week of distance and stretching like someone was paying me for it.  I had already registered for three half-marathons in the fall and did not intend to miss them, even if I had to walk instead of run.

By October 19, when it was time to drive north for the Detroit Free Press International Half, I was up to 3 miles of running.  I figured I’d run 3 and walk 10  —  anything, just to be doing the race  —  no matter how many hours it took, as long as I finished.

detroit freep lineup at start It was a surprisingly cold day with a strong wind when I lined up in the dark with approximately 23,000 of my closest friends and running companions.  I didn’t bring enough clothing and my teeth were literally chattering.  Any runner who has ever been injured knows the thrill of finally being “back”.   But even the excitement of the first race after 3 months off couldn’t cut through that weather.  We started out and soon the really quick people were casting off clothing.  I saw a girl in front of me pick up a pair of gloves from the ground and so I did the same thing.  A couple of blocks later, I donned a discarded  windbreaker too.  I needed them.  Honestly, I was so conscious of the cold and of every little twinge possibly coming from my Achilles tendon, I don’t remember much else about the race.

detroit bridgeBy the the time we hit the International Bridge and ran into Canada there was no longer anything blocking the wind, and it was a bitch.   I’d never run from one country to another before so it was pretty exciting and the day was beginning to warm a bit. We spent a few miles on the Canadian side and it was a very pleasant little jaunt.  We came back below ground through the underwater tunnel which marked another “first” for me.  I’d never run underwater before!  In contrast to the chill on the surface, it was really hot  and humid down in the tunnel.

detroit freep half coursemapI ran most of the 3 miles to Canada, did a lot of run/walk intervals the next 3 miles in Canada and then walked pretty much all of the final 7 back on the Detroit side.  Even with the cold weather and my constant vigilance about the injury, I did enjoy the race and would recommend it to anyone seeking a unique experience running to another country and back on a fairly flat, well-appointed course with a lot of amenities.  Yes, it was a “big city race” with crowds and parking issues, congestion and blocked streets, all the typical complaints Chicago people have about races in our hometown, but it was quite a bit of fun and a great way to convince myself I was indeed healed from my latest bout with rotten old Achilles tendonitis.  It is a race I would definitely consider doing again (once all 50 states are off my bucket list).

A month later, I flew down to Meridian, Mississippi, for the second annual Leo Run to Remember Marathon and Half which benefited the Alzheimer’s Association and was sponsored by the Leo branch of the Lions Club.  That race was pretty much the polar opposite of Detroit:  small, poorly-supported and hillier than I’ve ever seen, but the weather was nice and I enjoyed the overcoming the challenge of the course elevation.  In a brief race report I wrote the day afterward on the Facebook page for one of my running groups, I said:

  •  “A nice “little” race, the second annual, put on by an enthusiastic group of people for the Alzheimer’s Association. The 1/2-M course started at a softball field and wound along a state highway and through some neighborhoods. It was a very hilly course and some were unbelievably brutal (a fact I wish I’d known ahead) but otherwise the scenery was gorgeous. The course as well marked and there were adequate water stops about every 2 miles. Porta-potties were only at Miles 2 and 8.5 of the half. I saw runners using local businesses to “do their business” and I went into an urgent care center to do mine when I couldn’t hold it any more by Mile 6 or so. Nice tech shirts and medals were provided but there was no refreshment at the finish line (not even water nevermind the bagels or bananas). The weather down here is nice in mid-November, misty and 70ish, so it is a good choice for a late fall race. It is Meridian’s only marathon and brand new. I think the amenities will be better as they continue doing races and figure out what runners expect/need. For 50-staters or people who like to travel to do tough courses, I’d recommend this one. For people who like a well-appointed race or a flat course, keep looking. If I’d known ahead what it was like, I’d probably have chosen otherwise myself but I’m glad I did it. Being pushed and challenged but finishing with a smile is what makes us all better runners. Choosing the easy course keeps us rooted where we are.”

By that race, I’d gotten my running up to 5 miles straight and so I ran the first 5 and did run/walk intervals (with a lot of walking) for the final eight.  Like I said in my little review above, the course is TOUGH.  Even the races’s own Facebook page states the hills of Meridian are brutal and I couldn’t agree more.  But each one showed me how gutsy and strong I am and I AM glad I did it.

me in a raceA photographer on the course caught me unawares and took a photo that showed up in the proofs package which inspired me to make my very own meme.   LOL

I do believe they will add more amenities as they go along and in future years there will be enough porta potties, free bananas at the finish, and many of the other staples we runners have come to expect as a given.  I like smaller races and earnest people, so I hope they do succeed in Meridian.

And that’s pretty much it for half-marathons in 2013.  I had signed up to run at the St. Jude’s Memphis Marathon Weekend but the entire weekend was cancelled due to an ice storm and I ended up concluding the year’s running with a couple of small local races right around Thanksgiving.

And injury rehab continues.

Catching up: Hatfield-McCoy Half Marathon Race Report

30 11 2013

Summer’s Grand Entrance for 2013, which started with a relaxing Memorial Day weekend followed by a Star Trek convention weekend, ended with the year’s first half-marathon.

The Hatfield-McCoy Marathon is an annual event which takes place on the Kentucky/West Virginia border as part of the annual Reunion Festival for the feuding families.  It is a well-attended and well-appointed race with no time limit that winds through much of the territory made famous by the notorious feud which occurred from 1863-1891.  It was a race for which I have never been less prepared but during which I probably had the most fun ever.

The race began in Kentucky in a supermarket parking lot where a modern-day Devil Anse and Ole Ran’l pair posed for photos with us runners before the start.

hatfield mc

The official website for the race describes the route quite well so I will copy some of  their words here:
 “The course takes the runner south on US 119 to Toler, Kentucky   …   From Toler the course will take the runner through the coal camps of Hardy   ...  Once through the Hardy area the course begins to travel through the heart of Feud Country; taking the runner past Randolph McCoy home place site and the graveyard where Tolber, Bud and Pharmer McCoy are buried along with sister Alifair and brother Calvin. Tolbert, Bud and Pharmer were tied to pawpaw trees and shot by the Hatfield’s for the Election Day stabbing and eventual death of Devil Anse Hatfield’s brother Ellison.  Alifair and Calvin were killed during the New Year’s Eve raid on the McCoy home. After passing these historic sites, the course continues a gradual incline until the foot of Blackberry Mountain. It’s a one mile climb to the top, but it’s downhill from there. At the foot of Blackberry Mountain the course passes Rev. Anderson Hatfield’s home site. It was at his residence the Hog Trial was held in 1878. This site is also very close to where the Election Day stabbing took place. Also at the foot of Blackberry Mountain the course turns left on route 1056, which runs along Blackberry Creek till it meets the Tug River at Buskirk, KY where the three McCoy’s were tied to the pawpaw bushes and shot. Runners will cross the bridge at Buskirk, KY into Historic Matewan, West Virginia site of the 1920 Matewan Massacre. A gunfight between miners and Baldwin-Felts agents brought in by coal companies to prevent union organization. Matewan is the finish line for the Half Marathon.”

The scenery was beautiful and, being so laden with feud history, it was breathtaking on many levels.  It was beyond wonderful to run and walk past all those locations while reflecting upon what took place there.  I had seen the movie on television and read about the families many years prior as well, so it was a very profound experience.

The course elevation was memorable too.  Elevationmap-948x446That enormous ascent up Blackberry Mountain between miles 6 and 7 was a definite character-builder.  Even though I hadn’t really trained well, I took it slow and didn’t suffer much from all the climbing.  I fell in step with another runner who turned out to be the sister of a former coworker and we chatted most of the way and took our time.  I also ran into a Hawaiian guy from the Marathon Maniacs who remembered me from the Pearl Harbor 5k in February.  What a small world!

The families who lived along the route were very welcoming and generous.  There were people who had their own refreshment tables out in addition to those that were official to the race.  We were offered watermelon and orange slices at one spot.  Another had miniature horses that runners could pet and photograph.  It was the most casual, friendly and enjoyable half-marathon I have done.  

By about Mile 10, my lack of training began to assert itself in the form of some fairly achy hips and the walk/run sprints I’d been employing up to that point turned to “mostly walking”.  But soon enough we crossed the border into Matewan, West Virginia and the race was done.  hatfield swagIt was an absolute pleasure, a half (or maybe even the full) I would most certainly do again someday if given the chance, and one I highly recommend to any runner — 50 stater or not.

And they had the BEST swag ever!  A moonshine jar, a towel, a bag, a tech shirt AND a medal?  You can’t ask for better.  The food at the reunion festival was pretty good too.

At the end of the half, buses took us back to the start area where cars were parked, and I headed back to Pikeville, KY where I spent another day.  My hips were fine by the following morning and I headed back home (a 9 hour drive) where life went back to “normal” in very short order.  Other than the Disco Dash on June 27, a 5k I did in Chicago with my cousins, this was pretty much my last outing of the summer.

Knowing I would be working almost every weekend, I had not planned a lot of racing but did intend to capitalize on the 13.1 mile effort as a training milestone.  A couple of weeks later I did a 9 mile run on a very hot day that went way too slow.  So on July 7, I sought to make up for that disappointment on a cooler morning with a 10 miler that I took way too fast.  The following day I could barely walk because of an Achilles tendonitis flare-up that was the worst I’d seen since the original injury eight years prior.

And so I limped until late September.  More later…

Has anyone ever used “I was trapped in an alternate reality” as an excuse?

17 11 2013


No?  They haven’t?

Then I won’t bother weaving this lively tale about how the Romulan mining vessel Narada was transported back in time after the destruction of Romulus and created an alternate reality into which I fell and have thus been absent from my blog for months.

I won’t tell them that at work the next time I don’t feel like coming in either.

The fact is, I’ve been too busy to write about what I’ve been doing (running, then getting injured and not running, then getting better and running again).  I’m about to remedy all that though and catch up on the races I’ve  done, even though there’ve been damned few of them.  Just give me a couple of days to get it all together.

I’ll be back soon.  I swear I will.

14 Days on the Pleasure Planet—Part 1

4 07 2013

My summer started in the most beautiful way this year.    After all the working and non-running I’ve been writing about, I took a two week break from the madness and indulged in my two most favorite things in life:  a Star Trek convention and a half marathon.  It was absolutely blissful and as close to a vacation on Risa as I’m ever gonna get.


The holiday weeks began with Memorial Day and a wonderful two days off just hanging around at home with my husband doing absolutely nothing.  We had gone to see the new movie Star Trek: Into Darkness the day it opened and both enjoyed it immensely.  That really set the mood for a wonderful time at the convention.

The Next Generation Reunion and 20th anniversary of Deep Space Nine were highlighted in Creation Entertainment’s annual event occurring, as always, at the Westin O’Hare near Chicago.  Our last attendance had been in 2006 for the 40th anniversary of the original series, so this was going to be a long-awaited weekend of fun for us.

We checked into the Westin Hotel for three days so that we could spend the maximum amount of time onsite.  And what a great time it was!  The dealers room was not as plentiful as I’d remembered from seven years ago but still held some interesting trinkets.  My husband bought some shot glasses and I got a sticker for car.  Fans in costume were roaming the halls aplenty and a nice showing turned out for the costume contest.


There were quite a number of interesting panel discussions as well.  A local college professor who is an authority on all things Star Trek did a couple of talks on the filming of the Wrath of Khan  movie as well as the original series episode from whence his character came, “The Space Seed.”  It was very thorough and extremely entertaining.  I wish my college professors had been as adept at presenting their subject matter!  The writer of the Next Gen episode “The Inner Light” also gave a presentation about that episode which we enjoyed a lot.  Trekkies love delving into every little bit of minutia about the series so things like this are a big deal for us.

Over the course of the weekend, we were treated to appearances by all of the major actors from The Next Generation separately as well as in a panel together on Saturday evening.  It was nice to see them all again, sort of like seeing an old friend who’d been away for many years.

……….half of the panel…………other half of the panel……….

One personal highlight from Saturday was having a photo taken with Patrick Stewart.  My knees were literally shaking at the time, I was so starstruck.  He said hello (with that deliciously deep voice and accent),  I blathered something senseless and then tried to smile for birdie before I made a complete fool of myself.  It was a moment I will never forget even though I remember very little of it because of being so nervous!

me and picard

avery n me

On Sunday, I also got my picture taken with Avery Brooks.  I had no idea he was so tall.  I was way more relaxed, and he was also very nice.  I’ve been a fan of his acting since his days on “Spencer For Hire” and thought he played the character of Captain Sisko with as much flair as he had done with Hawk.

Much too soon, the weekend was over and we headed back home to our normal lives.  Spending a weekend surrounded by fellow Trekkies while enjoying the reminiscences of former cast members is truly an escape to a pleasure planet.  I carried my smile with me throughout the next week and enjoyed the breath of fresh air that the trip had provided.

The following weekend I headed down to Kentucky for the Hatfield-McCoy Family Reunion half-marathon where I had another splendid experience.  I will write about that in Part 2 of this report, and you can hear all about how I didn’t train but enjoyed it anyway.

More later…..


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