Athlete’s Log: Star Date 2012.0575

21 01 2012

My first race of 2012 has been done.  Chicago’s inaugural Polar Dash was held today along the lakefront on a blustery day filled with lake effect snow.  I completed the 10k portion of the race, and it was a blast!

I signed up for it on a whim a few weeks ago, thinking something like:  “what the hell…’s been a mild winter and I’ve never done a lakefront race before….I won’t be properly trained to run the whole distance, but I know I can walk 6.1 miles….so why not”.  Crazy as it sounds, this is pretty familiar thought process for me.

The race was actually supposed to be held a week ago on January 14 until a blizzard rolled into town and the Police Department made them postpone for a week.  Another storm came along yesterday but the 7 inches of snowfall ended before midnight, and the race was not a casualty this weekend.

The events today were a half-marathon, a 10k and a 5k — all starting just northwest of Soldier Field at around 9:30 a.m.  I’m not sure how many people signed up but it must have been between 1000-2000 people because everyone’s racing bibs held numbers between 3000 and 5000.  I didn’t see anyone wearing number 1 or 100, or anything like that.  Expecting people to be slower than usual, the time limits were 2 hours for the 10k and 3:30 for the half.

Lining up near the Start line, I could see people of all ages, shapes and sizes bobbing up and down, shifting from foot to foot and doing whatever they could to generate a little extra heat in the 19 degree temperature.  Everyone seemed cheerful and expansive with people asking strangers to take photos of them or chatting about other races.  There was an interesting camaderie among all these folks just crazy enough to run a long distance on a cold day together, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

Standing there in what was for me a surprisingly relaxed setting, I reflected back on my last two major events of 2011 — the Rock & Roll Seattle half and the Berlin Marathon — with their multi-thousands of participants and decided that I enjoy smaller races better and should participate in more of them.   While I used to cringe at the possibility of finishing last in a smaller race, I decided right then not to worry about it anymore.  Suddenly having left both Garmin watch and timing chip at home no longer had any significance.

Although I never heard it, eventually the gun went off  and we shuffled through the starting gates.  Veering to the left, we made our way to northbound Lake Shore Drive where we were greeted by honking horns from drivers expressing encouragement (or incredulousness, I’m still not sure).  I trotted at an easy clip as the crowd thinned out and the speedier runners charged ahead.   Puffy snowflakes riding sideways on the wind landed on my face and dissolved, bringing a feeling of refreshment to skin quickly warmed by the effort.   It was exhilarating.

As I jogged along, considering this being 2012’s first race for me and all the options for the year ahead, I realized something momentous.  Twenty years ago in January of 1992, my 56-year-old mother began the last year of her life — overweight, depressed and with a heart ravaged by years of poorly-managed diabetes.  On this day I was 56 years old and ecstatic to be running in a 10k to kick off the year, whatever shape I happen to be in.  I dedicated the race to her as my eyes filled with tears of joy, and hoped there really was a heaven with my mother up there cheering.

We rounded another corner and the course continued along the lake shore.  An old man in front of me turned as I passed him and commented on the weather.  I shouted, “Isn’t it beautiful?!” and we both laughed.  Forging onward, the miles moved beneath my feet and the snow continued to pelt my body, no longer melting but sticking.  Mile 2 came along and I marveled at how cold I wasn’t.  By Mile 3, I was glad to be sweating even as I slowed down, tired of pushing into the wind.  At one point it seemed like Mile 4 was farther away than I expected but then there it was.  What a relief.

The 10k turnaround was not far beyond the Mile 4 marker and I happily reversed direction, letting the snow and wind batter the back of my head instead of the front.  “Two-thirds done,” I thought with no small measure of relief.  Runners came from behind and began to overtake and pass me, but I didn’t mind.  I was truly cold and growing more tired by the minute but still having fun.

Shortly past the Mile 5 marker I struck up a conversation with a young woman from Indiana whose story is quite a bit like my own.  A runner whose friends don’t care about sports, she travels solo to races on mini-vacations and unapologetically finishes somewhere near the bottom, not caring about being slow, simply pleased to finish.  We laughed and chatted along the last mile to the Mile 6 signpost then sprinted the last tenth to the finish line and high-fived for the small crowd gathered there to cheer our arrival.

And thus ended the first of many races for 2012.  It was a nice outing on a fairly decent winter morning that ended with hot cocoa and a happy heart.  What a wonderful day!

Not as bad as the Phage but….

20 01 2012

…..the common cold is still a bitch.

Star Trek lore holds that the common cold was cured sometime in the 24th Century, and I am so looking forward to that day!  However here on Terra in the early 21st Century, it can still kick your unfortunate ass — as I very well know at this moment.  Despite hand-washing on a scale that would make Howard Hughes jealous, I have managed to catch whatever it is that the patients are bringing into my office by the dozens.  I woke up yesterday with a uvula that felt (and looked) like a punching bag and it went downhill from there.  I’ve gotten over the body aches and queasy stomach a bit today but am still not back to 100%.

Fortunately, this week is a “recovery week” on my training schedule and I am not expecting myself to do much.  After having spent the last month building workouts in both length and intensity, the unwelcome arrival of this virus reinforces the plan to do more relaxing than pushing.   But it still pisses me off because I really hate being sick!

I guess I can take heart in the fact that I don’t look like this (a victim of the Vidiian Phage  —-  See Star Trek Voyager “Phage” episode):


Training since the last post:

January 11 – “Yogilates” DVD (a combo of yoga and Pilates) — because my “fun” 5.5 miles of speed intervals the previous day left me able to do little else  🙂

January 12 – 2 miles of speed intervals

January 13 – Cathe Friedrich’s “High Step Circuit” DVD which circuit training of aerobics interspersed with weights and corework

January 14 – 55 minute MotionTraxx podcast “Treadmill Coach“, an extremely intense workout consisting of hills, then speed, then speed uphill which kicked my ass in the most delicious way possible

January 15 – Off (start of “Recovery Week”)

January 16 – 20 minutes of intervals on the treadmill

January 17 – Off

January 18 – 20 minutes of light weight work

January 19 – 35 minutes of 30 second sprint intervals on the treadmill (with a 5 minute warm up and cool down on each end)

January 20 – Today is an off day

The next phase begins on Sunday.  More later…..

Reconnecting with the Trill symbiont

10 01 2012

Trill is an M-class planet located in the Alpha Quadrant of the Milky Way galaxy.  It is home to two species of inhabitants:  the humanoid Trill and the non humanoid Trill Symbionts.  The Symbiont is a sentient vermiform creature which lives inside the body of the humanoid Trill host.  Being blessed with a longer lifespan, the Symbiont is transferred  from host to host as each life comes to a close.  Humans have been used as Symbiont hosts but may only do so temporarily because the species do not mesh well and the experience causes the human great physical harm.  Upon joining with a Symbiont, the new Trill host gains all the memories of every lifetime of the Symbiont.   Jadzia Dax from the Star Trek series Deep Space 9 was a Trill who carried the Dax Symbiont.  

I sometimes think of my “inner athlete” as somewhat of a Trill Symbiont:   an alien creature who dwells inside my body but is not actually me.  It is a being which may at times influence me but is just as likely to be suppressed and overruled by me.  Nontheless we depend upon one another for our mutual existence and will be conjoined for the rest of my earthly years.

2011 was a year in which I searched for guidance from without.  I worked with a personal trainer, attended sessions with a nutritionist, joined a marathon training group — all in an attempt to become a better athlete.  While each of these efforts enriched me and helped shape my athletic persona, they were not the miracle I was seeking and sometimes created as much confusion as improvement.  And they cost me a boatload of money at the same time.

This year, I am tapping back into the inner voice — the one which comes from my own virtual symbiont — and letting my inner athlete guide me the way it did before.  Having taken me from non-runner to half-marathon finisher within a 14-month span bestows credibility aplenty and makes it quite a worthy counsellor.  And it doesn’t look like a slimy overfed worm (nor charge an arm and a leg).

The first week into 2012’s athletic training went well.  After the post-marathon hiatus in the fall of 2011, it was nice to get back to a structured regimen in November.  I started out with mostly weight-lifting and stretching to regain the strength and flexibility that vanishes all-too-quickly after the age of 50 and would be needed for the snowshoe events I have pencilled in for January and February.

After Christmas, I wanted to resume running but found myself to have gotten slower than I would like to be and so I went back to basics:  namely the Couch to 5k program from which my life as a runner was begotten.  Instead of using it this go-round to learn to run, I have been applying it to regain my former speed.  Because it works on the treadmill as well as outdoors, it is quite suitable for the usual winter conditions one encounters here in Northern Illinois.  Simply being strong, flexible and able enough to do a snowshoe 5k is pretty much the goal of the present phase of training.

However in a very serendipitous turn of events, we have enjoyed quite a warm winter thus far and I’ve been able to stretch my legs a bit more than usual for the month of January.  In fact, I did 5 and 1/2 miles today of run/walk intervals under sunny skies in 51 degree air with just enough of a breeze to dry the sweat.  What a gift!

Workouts since the last post:

January 2 and 3   –   rested
January 4
  –   30 minutes of run/walk intervals
January 5   –   long yoga session
January 6   –   homemade “snowshoe training” which I pieced together from some workout videos I edited with a DVD ripper program:  warm-up, vigorous step aerobics, compound weight lifting, more step, a core segment and a long stretch
January 7   –   30 minutes of run/walk intervals
January 8   –   Cathe Friedrich “Power Hour” DVD:  a killer weights workout, followed by a 2 mile brisk walk with my dogs
January 9   –   40 minutes of 2 minutes running/2 minute walking
January 10   –   on this blessed beautiful springlike day:
5 and 1/2 miles of  mostly walking and but maybe 1/3 running with five 30-second intervals of “hauling ass at top speed” in the last half-mile ( a huge confidence builder).

Gosh, I just want to pull that Symbiont out and kiss it!

Onward to the next horizon

2 01 2012

As the last of the New Year’s celebration bottles goes into the trash, one of my favorite new traditions begins:  drawing up the training schedule for the year ahead.  There’s something about preparing for events beneath brighter skies in sunnier climes that gives me hope for a swift end to winter’s short, dark, chilly days.  And being travel junkie as well as runner (with a bucket list that contains the wish to race in all 50 states and on 7 continents by age 65), the chance to plan destination races run during weekend trips is a joy unto itself.

Registrations thus far:

Polar Dash 10k on Chicago’s Lakefront
Yes, truly a crazy notion as I have never run on that windy-ass lakefront in the dead of winter before.  But my friend Christian is running, so I might as well too.  This makes sense to a runner because to answer Mom’s old question:  “If So-and-So jumped in the lake, would you do it too?” many of us would say “yes”.

Iola Wisconsin Snowshoe 5k
This one really looks like fun because it’s a night race on a fully lighted course….another first for me.  And I even talked my husband into joining me.  His presence will make it a walk instead of a run for me but that’s okay—-there’s still another month of snowshoe season ahead.

St. Paddy’s Day 8k in Washington DC
My first destination race of the year and a chance to use a free mileage ticket on Southwest before it expires.
Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago
I know, I know….I hate crowded races and I hate trying to park in Chicago.  But I’ve never done this one so I thought I’d give it a try and see what all the fuss is about.

Rockdale Ramblin Run 10k
Touted to be “the toughest 10k in the Midwest” I found it actually not all that tough—just hilly as a motherf*cker—and I enjoyed the challenge of it last year, even thought I came in third to last.  Plus, it’s practically in my backyard since Rockdale is just a 10 minute drive from here.

Soldier Field 10 Miler in Chicago
A redemption race for sure—I did this one in 2011 and want to try again to improve my time.  Remembering last year’s lamentful post about being in the “short bus” of running, I laugh at myself.  How I just radiate angst sometimes!  Silly woman.  I also want to look less fat on the jumbotron this year crossing the finish line at the 50 yard zone.

[In addition, I am very seriously mulling a weekend trip to do a pair of away races in neighboring states on consecutive days sometime in May but haven’t quite solidified the idea yet.]

Mayor’s Half Marathon, Anchorage AK
Final race of the spring running season and endpoint of the training schedule which begins this very day.

As for the rest of the year, I plan to switch over to biking throughout the hotter months and train to finish up the summer with a Century Ride sometime in September.  The thought of biking 100 miles gives me the same scary-but-attractive adrenaline thrill that the idea of a half-marathon once did.  I think this is the year to go for it.  Then for the fall, a destination trail race sounds good—maybe a 15k—but nothing too ambitious.  No marathon craziness this year.



Sunday – 4 mile walk outdoors admist 35 mph winds; “invigorating” would be an understatement

Saturday – rest

Friday – 30 minutes run/walk intervals

Thursday – short cardio/UB weights/half-hearted abs

Wednesday – Yoga

Tuesday – 30 minutes run/walk intervals

Monday – UB/LB weights/not-enough abs