Let me redirect you for a moment, please

If you’re just jumping into my blog now, I recommend you start with my posts about traveling to Prague back in 2010. Some of my best writing. I’ve had a hard time finding the right “voice” to write about running with, so I even bore myself with my more current posts.

But please start here, and enjoy.



Biggest Loser 2013

Random post out of the blue, here. But there’s really no way to start from the beginning at this point, so it’s probably better to drop into the middle and start writing, than to not write a post at all. Random post it shall be.

So I’ve been running now for over a year and a half. I struggle with calling it “running” because I began this whole journey by walking, and I still walk quite a lot. But about a year ago I started morphing into trotting, jogging, “wogging,” whatever you call it, whenever I felt I could do it. Running was a struggle, but walking was slow and boring, so I decided to try to conquer the struggle.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Running has still, always, felt like a struggle, despite having trained to the point of running 6 miles, running several 5k’s a month, and even jog/walking a 10k. I am slow. I feel like I leak energy somehow, because even though I’m “running” I’m not moving forward very fast. My feet pound the pavement, my hips bounce, and my chest feels heavy and fatigued. Some days so much so that I don’t run at all. I just walk. Just drag myself through the course.

I talked to my doctor about it last week, when I went in for my first knee injection (arthritis in my right knee from an old injury), that I wanted to get my heart checked because I wasn’t sure if it was my heart or my lungs that burned whenever I began to exert myself. Doc suggested that I didn’t have many risk factors for heart trouble, but it was possibly exercise-induced asthma that I was experiencing. My mind flashed back to March, when I’d had to run after a train at my fastest speed for about 200 yards (to catch my husband’s wallet that he’d left on board, as the conductor tossed it to me), and how I’d coughed like I had pneumonia for an hour afterward. I agreed to an inhaler just to rule out any asthma.

This past Sunday I ran the Biggest Loser 5k in Racine. After I had parked my car, and had gotten about a block away, I started to feel that burning in my chest again. I remembered that I hadn’t used my inhaler yet, so I went back to the car and took a couple puffs. I’m not even sure if I inhaled deeply enough … I don’t smoke so I’m really skeeved about inhaling things … but in any case, the feeling was gone after that.

When I got to the start line, I felt good. I felt so good that I started jogging in place to warm up. Now, I know you’re supposed to do that before a race, but I’ve never in my life actually felt like doing it. But on Sunday, I was jogging in place, chatting with people around me, stretching lightly, feeling bubbly. The race started, and I took off running.

In the first moments, I was kind of hit with the enormity of running the entire 5k, and the thought was sort of exhausting. But I didn’t want to walk the course. Last year I had gotten my first finisher’s medal on this race, and had set my first PR (to make the medal worth something to me), and I wanted to beat that. So I decided to just keep running until I tired, and then walk/run the rest of the course. I ran for about a third of a mile, until my breathing got heavy, then I dropped to a walk. But my legs didn’t particularly like that. They wanted to keep running. So I let my lungs recover for about a minute, then took off running again.

The course was a bit hilly, I knew that from doing the race last year, and so I tried to visualize the hills coming up so I could mentally prepare. But to my surprise, I wasn’t nervous about them at all. And when I got to them, as I walked up them, my body seemed to ask me if I could maybe run them instead. I did a kind of “upper-body-is-pretending-to-run-while-legs-walk” posture, and even broke into a trot partway up. Coming down the hills actually felt more dangerous, so that’s where I slowed down and walked.

The course was an out-and-back, and since I’d done the course once already, it didn’t seem as long as last year. In fact, despite the hills, as I was probably a quarter mile from the finish, I felt better than I’ve ever felt at that point in a race before. I looked at my Garmin and realized that I might even break a PR if I just kept up the effort to the end. And I did. That finish line came into sight, and while I was tired, it seemed like the easiest “running” finish line I’d ever faced. Yes my lungs were burning as I crossed it, but I didn’t feel like I was going to die, like I usually do. I crossed the finish line, recovered for a couple hundred feet, and then felt normal again. This race felt different. This felt great.

I’ve been thinking about this for several days now. I can’t shake the feeling that something changed for me last weekend. Was it the inhaler? The knee injection? The cooler weather? I want to think it was the inhaler. I have to test it a few more times, but I think we may have actually uncovered a previously unknown condition. Whereas every race I’ve “run” before felt hard and long and pounding and punishing, this one felt easier. I felt so much lighter on my feet than ever before. It’s not because I’ve lost any weight (sadface). It was just … I don’t know how to describe it. When I ran, I covered more ground. I wasn’t aware of my feet pounding. I didn’t feel my hips jiggling. I felt fast and light and buoyant and free. (Well, relatively, at least. I’m still slow, and still have a lot of weight to lose.) But I felt good.

For the first time, I felt like a runner.

(Postscript: just past mile two or so, I ran past an observer on the sidelines who was wearing an Ironman jacket. We caught eyes, and then he called out to me, “I like your pace!” That made me feel soooooooo good!)

A list of races last year

I figured I would at least list the events I did last year. Half of these have blog posts written but not published. 😦

WFB, Melanoma Run (written, see previous post)
Healing Center, Laura’s Smile Mile, Purple Stride (written, see previous post)
June 3 – UPAF Ride for the Arts
June 9 – Hope Springs Eternal: WBCS Racing for Research at MCW
June 16 – Retro Rock n Run
June 23 – Berry Big Run
June 24 – Brainstorm 3K
June 30 – Run to the Rhythm
July 4th – National Dash
July 14 – Run the Green; Tour de Fat
July 12 – Storm the Bastille
July 19 – Rush on Festa
July 21 – Walk Run Wag for MADACC
July 24 – Run for the Parks
July 26 – Run/Walk for Hunger
July 28 – Sausage Run/Walk
August 4 – Doctor’s Dash
August 9 – Franklin Country 2 Mile Run/Walk
August 21 – The Color Run
August 11 – Hank Aaron State Trail 5k Run/Walk
August 26 – Fiesta Walk
September 8 – Fox Trot
September 8 – TosaFest 5k
September 9 – Dylan’s Run to Indian Summer
September 15 – Nancy’s Run, Rock & Stroll
September 16 – Biggest Loser Run
September 22 – Glo Run
September 23 – Susan B. Komen
Sept 25 – Wheel for Teal Ride
September 29 – Slut Walk
October 6 – Changed For Life – Run, Walk, Push or Pull for Shriners Hospitals Chicago
October 7 – SPECTATOR: Lakefront Marathon
October 13 – Get Your Rear in Gear
October 14 – Panther Prowl
October 20 – Great Pumpkin Race
October 21 – Chicago Monster Dash
October 27 – Skeleton Skamper
November 4 – Jingle Bell Run
November 10 – Shorewood Fowl 5k
November 18 – Around the World in 5k
November 22 – Pewaukee Turkey Trot
December 1 – Santa’s 5k
December 22 – Santa Hustle
December 31 – Run Into the New Year (GLM #3)
January 12 – Polar Dash
January 17 – 5K Poker Fun Run
January 27 – RACC Expo Run (GLM #4)

A year!

Exactly one year ago yesterday I wrote my last blog post. There were a lot of reasons I quit writing, some having to do with time, but mostly I think I just started to dislike my style of writing “here’s what I did and here’s how I felt about it.”

But in that time I ran/walked over 40 5Ks, and I do regret not having a record of how I felt while doing them. Now the year begins again, and the races cycle around again, and I’ve done some of the same races again this year and skipped others. I don’t like writing after a race, because I’ve got energy and would rather use it doing something else, but hopefully this year I may write more. And maybe I’ll reference last year too.

For now, I just wanted to get this one posted before it turns midnight, so that I’d be in the groove again. Here’s hoping.

June 9, 2012 – Hope Springs Eternal: WBCS Racing for Research at MCW

(Note: This was written a year ago, but I figure since I never published it then, I may as well publish it now.)

—June 9, 2012—
This was a little 5k that I wasn’t sure I was going to go to. At this point I was still having trouble getting out of my warm bed to go exercise early in the morning, so I nearly skipped it. It sounded small and I didn’t know much about it.

But, in the end I got myself out the door and down to the park. I walked up to the registration table just a minute or so before the race was to start, so I filled out the form as quickly as I could, grabbed the tech shirt they offered (woo-hoo!), and took off.

It was a nice walk through pretty woods, though, and the racing group was very small. By the time I was done, I was glad I had gone. I realized halfway through the walk that I had neglected to pick up my goodie bag, so along the way I asked different people what had been in it. A water bottle, a couple of granola bars, coupons, and a ticket to a charity open house for breast cancer research, a $25 value. “That’s right!” I thought. “That’s the reason I even wanted to do this walk!” I kicked myself for forgetting the bag and hoped it would be waiting for me when I was done.

When I got back to the starting point, there was no one sitting at the registration table, and everything had been cleaned up for the most part, except for one goodie bag sitting on the table, sans t-shirt, and a few more in boxes. I looked around to see if any of the registration people were around, but didn’t see them. But, I figured, since I was the last one at the table, I forgot my goodie bag, and here sat a goodie bag in the same spot I had stood, I assumed it was mine, so I took it.

Eventually I found the man who had registered me, and he affirmed that the goodie bag was mine to take, so that made me feel good. Also, after the race, which seemed to consist mostly of people who knew each other, there was a little party with music, and a LOT of donated drinks from Starbucks. I grabbed a Double Shot and a can of their new Refresher drink, and a hot coffee.

So in the end I was happy I had gotten myself out the door. And I think that marked the end of any difficulty I had getting up for a race. They seemed to ALL be worth it for something.

More Adventures in 5K Land – Healing Center, Laura’s Smile Mile, Purple Stride

This morning I had two 5Ks on my radar: one for the Healing Center in Bay View, and another one called Laura’s Smile Mile. I debated between the two, but the Bay View one seemed a bit smaller and friendlier, and the other one’s website seemed slightly unwieldy and didn’t have online registration and didn’t say anything about a t-shirt. So I decided to do the smaller, friendlier one.

I drove down to Bay View, but was driving in a bit of a thoughtful reverie and missed my turn and ended up too far south. By the time I made it back to the event, I had missed the start time by 6 minutes. I asked the gal if I could “buy” a t-shirt anyway, and she said of course, and that if I was going to pay the registration fee ($24), that I should join the 5K anyway and catch up to the group. She was very sweet. So she registered me, I put the t-shirt on, and went off to find the pack of walkers.

But the day was so beautiful I had to stop and take pictures.

And I couldn’t find the walkers, and the path was uphill, and I knew that the other 5K started in an hour, and more importantly I had seen that there was a plant sale in the park … so I decided to check out the plant sale and then do the other 5K instead. So I circled back around to the park, bought some mint and lavender and a savory crepe :), and then got in my car and headed to the other 5K. Along the way, I looked down from an overpass into a park and saw a large group of people dressed in purple t-shirts walking paths together. Another 5K! Which one was it, and why hadn’t I heard about it?

I headed on to my original destination, which I discovered from signs was only a two mile walk, not a 5K. But I had to park so far away, and I didn’t even know where the registration tent was, and it turns out that the (loooong) route I took to the registration tent was actually the walk route, and so I felt I had already done half the walk before I even started. I wish I had done this sooner, but it occurred to me after I was quite a ways away from my car that I should pull out my phone and activate the GPS on my “Map My Walk” application, and see just how far I did walk to get to the starting point.

And when I finally found the registration tent, I had about a minute to register before the walk started. But they had no adult size t-shirts left, and … well, something inside me just didn’t want to participate in that walk, so I didn’t register, since I was pretty late anyway. I did wander around and look at their tents, and bought a string backpack for $5, which made me happy. I use those all the time.

So then I fell into line at the end of the pack, strolled with them along the water until we nearly reached the road, and then split off from them and headed toward the purple shirt group I had seen from the overpass. I really wanted to find out who they were and what their cause was.

One more note about that particular Smile Mile 5K: They had the runners returning along the same path that the walkers were heading out on. That must have been annoying to the runners, as they had to find a place to cut in between the walkers (some with wagons and strollers), and try to find a bit of asphalt to pass them as the walkers were mobbing most of the walkway. I myself veered off onto the gravel right next to the water rather than have to walk behind the mob, which had to slow down and even stop (think “rush hour traffic”) as each runner found a place to cut through. If I could sit down with those organizers and have a little chat with them, I would have quite a few suggestions to make that might make their event run a bit more smoothly. I am confident they will receive the same feedback from other participants.

Anyway, I walked along the water on this most beautiful of days, past the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World, until I came to the purple group, who had already finished their walk. Their event was called Purple Stride, it was for Pancratic Cancer Research, and they were some incredibly friendly folk. I bought a t-shirt from them ($5!!) and a keychain, chatted a bit with some super cool people, and then headed back off to my car.

I think I walked a 5K (3.2 miles), don’t you? Keep in mind that the blue dot is where my car was parked, where I started (and ended). The green pin is where I was when I started my GPS app.

I find it interesting that this app even kind of shows that I moved off to the left when the runners came by. See the little tiny “jog” by the water at the bottom of the green patch. I get a total kick out of seeing the circles and jaggies that show where I wandered about.

I had put on my Melanoma long sleeve tech shirt this morning because it was a little bit chilly. At the Bay View Healing Center walk I put on their t-shirt, then at the Pancratic Cancer Walk I threw their shirt over the other two.

I’m wearing a lot of shirts here. πŸ™‚

When I got back to my car, I found this tucked under my windshield. Should I do one of them?

And then I went to Alterra for a coffee afterward. It was busy.

And now I’m off to do a bit of gardening…

… and fill up my bike’s tires, as tomorrow is the UPAF Miller Light Ride for the Arts! (ps. My friend Nancy took all the photos featured in their trailer!)

Adventures in 5K Land – WFB, Melanoma Run

I like walking 5Ks. I feel like I’m doing good for others while doing good for myself as well. And I get a t-shirt, Bonus! So ever since I walked my first 5k in 2006, I’ve put at least one on my schedule every year, usually in autumn. Some years I’ve done more and started in the middle of summer. Last year I think I maybe walked one.

This year, since spring came early, I started thinking about 5Ks much sooner. I went through a rough emotional period between January and March and kind of quit exercise of any kind, so by April I was feeling sluggish and lousy and decided I needed to get moving again. There was a 5K in my village that I saw lots of advertising for, so I decided a few days ahead of time to sign up for the Saturday walk. A friend of mine also invited me to do a Melanoma Run/Walk the following Sunday, and then join her for margaritas afterward.

Anyway. I walked the first one two weeks ago on a Saturday. I assumed it would be a piece of cake, as I’ve had no problem finishing any 5K in the past (except for that one year when I did two in one day, the second with a group of fun-loving, unmotivated friends, who decided about 1/5 of the way into the disorganized event that it would be much more fun to go to the art museum instead, which I was kind of grateful for because honestly, two in one day is a bit much. And I didn’t really know those people before the walk, but by the time the day was done I considered them pretty special friends. What a memorable day).

Anyway, I digress. So I woke up that Saturday morning full of cocky confidence and went to the village high school to start the 5K … and to my surprise it was incredibly difficult. It was hot, they provided no water β€” I hadn’t thought I’d need water because I’ve never brought any in the past, but that’s probably because it’s always been provided. When I walked my very first 5K six years ago, I had gotten there just a bit late and started at the very back of the pack, and by the end of the walk I had worked my way to the front. This walk I started near the front, and by the end I was pretty much at the very end of the pack, with maybe six people finishing after me. It was extremely disconcerting to my self-confidence to have done so badly, until I saw my final time (fortunately all participants were timed, which was awesome for me), and I had finished in 18:00, which is exactly what my pace always is. So I guess the people in my village are just fast walkers. Even the ones pushing strollers. Even the very overweight woman who puffed past me. I really felt off my game.

I went home discouraged, but the next morning I tried again. The Melanoma walk was only 3K and it was at the zoo AND my friends were there. I almost didn’t go when I found out that my friends, who are runners, started an hour before my walk did. They’d have been finished 40 minutes before I even started, and I didn’t want to make them wait around for me. But I wanted the t-shirt, so I got myself out the door. πŸ™‚ It was rather disorganized and very, very crowded at the zoo β€” (it was a ZOO at the zoo! ha ha!) β€” and there was at least one other unrelated 5K going on at the same time … but I went. I got my shirt, I did my walk, I met my friends, and I had a good time. And surprisingly, that whole weekend, despite being a little bit tired physically, I was incredibly productive.

I figured with getting such a good start to the year doing two walking events in a row, maybe I would see if I could do at least one every weekend through the summer. So I picked up a Badgerland Striders Event Catalog, which is in my opinion about the most comprehensive listing of running events I know. I sat down with the paper and mapped out a bunch of 5Ks that took me through July 12. (I still need to sit down and map out the rest of the summer. It’s just kind of a lot to do all at once, there are so many to investigate!)

Last weekend I could only find one 5K, and it was in Madison. I debated whether to drive that far for a 3-mile walk, but it was held in conjunction with Brat Fest and it sounded like a fun day, so I decided to go. Unfortunately, the morning of the event, half the state was under a big green blob of thunderstorms and rain, and I figured I might drive all the way to Madison only to find it had been cancelled. So at 6am I put the kabosh on my plans and rolled over and went back to sleep. πŸ™‚

I felt lousy that whole weekend. I said so on facebook, and a friend who works at the Racine Art Museum told me that if I walked 5K in my neighborhood, she would bring me a t-shirt and a bag of goodies. So I did. I made my own 3.2 mile route through the neighborhood and walked it on Sunday evening, accompanied by the muted sounds of neighborhood activity and distant thunder.

And it felt good.