Monday.

I haven’t kept up with the things I’ve been meaning to keep up with here. For example:

  • The new recipes we tried in May and June through the haze and hubbub of downsizing, moving, unpacking, and conference travel.
  • The races I ran back in April
  • The toddler’s latest obsessions
  • The books I’ve been reading (because I’ve actually been reading!)

I don’t have time or head/heart-space to do most of this justice right now, but I can do a quick mid-year check in on my 2017 resolutions:

  1. Eliminate credit card debt.
    Done. We hit our savings back in February to make this happen, and have been paying off balances each month. We’re still using our cards more than I would like, and are repaying our savings more slowly as a result, but we’re making it happen (and earning some travel points along the way).
  2. Take action every week.
    No, and I feel terribly guilty about that. At some point the many-times-daily asks for money overwhelmed me, and lacking an immediate way to prioritize, I shut down. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things.
  3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.
    This has been so much fun so far! I don’t expect that we’ll read all 16 books, but that’s just fine with me.
  4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.
    I’ve gone to conferences, but that’s about it.
  5. Finish weaning.
    We’re in the final throes of night weaning right now. We had planned to do this months ago, but it didn’t happen, and then we were moving and didn’t push it, and then it sort of organically happened around my work trip. Progress!
  6. PR at any distance.
    destroyed my 5K PR back in April, then ran a painful half marathon the next morning. A PR at both distances was within reach, but I have no regrets about letting the second one go because the first one was so huge for me!
  7. More regular visits with family.
    This one is happening! We’ve seen my family about once/month, including a trip to Iowa for my grandma’s 99th birthday in May.
  8. At least two blog posts/month.
    I managed to keep up with this until last month. Not bad!
  9. Try at least four new recipes/month.
    We’re still doing relatively well at this one. My parents gifted us with a Blue Apron gift certificate to help take some hassle out of moving meals, so that’s been a nice infusion of ideas. (We have free meal codes if anyone wants to try the service.)
  10. Make time for monthly dates.
    Thanks to the extreme generosity of our friends and my mom, we’ve been able to go out a few times, though definitely not every month. It’s progress!
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2017 Resolutions

1. Eliminate credit card debt.

Debt elimination has been a rolling goal for the last few years. I keep saying that this feels realistic, and then it keeps not happening. Last year I knocked out my student loan. This year the credit card debt has got to go.

2. Take action every week.

We all need to do all of the small and large things we can do to keep our country (or state or city or neighborhood) moving forward. I was stuck in terrible gridlock this morning (20 minutes to travel 20 miles), so I used the time to make (hands’ free!) calls to elected officials about House Republicans’ attempts to hobble the Office of Congressional Ethics.

3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.

Along with a couple of friends, I’m making a book club out of the 2016 favorites list from Brain Pickings. First up: Hidden Figures.

4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.

Attending a couple of conferences each year isn’t enough. I need to find ways to stretch and grow professionally every week.

5. Finish weaning.

I’m not in a hurry to do this – I’ve always said that I’ll be guided by the toddler’s needs and development – but it’s time to start the process.

6. PR at any distance.

I came really close to knocking out both a 5K and half PR in last year’s Illinois races. If I can make strength training and speedwork happen, I think this is feasible.

7. More regular visits with family.

It did my heart good to see the toddler interacting with his grandparents and cousins over the holidays and during our visit to Belgium in the fall. While we don’t expect to get to Belgium this year, we can get out to Rockford (and Michigan and Iowa) more often.

8. At least two blog posts/month.

This seems pretty straight forward.

9. Try at least four new recipes/month.

This should be relatively easy as well.

10. Make time for monthly dates.

This is hard but important, especially with a toddler! But we need to make it happen.

2016 Resolution Reckoning

I only managed one quarterly check-in this year. Let’s see how I did with the rest:

1. More letters. I’m aiming for a letter each week.

I finished the year averaging just over one/week. Many of those were thank you notes, but they were hand written and went out on nice stationery with a stamp, so there.

2. More books. 16 sounds like a nice round number.

Not so much. I finished 5.

3. More miles. Barring injury, I’m aiming for 750 running and 2000 biking. I also really want this to be my marathon year, but I’ve said that before…

I didn’t come close to my biking goal, but I blew my running goal out of the water: 1000 miles for the year and my first marathon.

4. More movies. We saw a grand total of 6 last year. 12 seems possible.

Hilarious. I finished 3, maybe 4 movies the entire year.

5. Less meat. I’m not ready (or interested, really) in going back to being vegetarian, but I am interested in expanding my repertoire of meat-free meals, particularly since Nicolas has been pescatarian for nearly a year.

This definitely happened. Nicolas still eats fish but generally avoids all other animal products these days, so our diet is dramatically different than it used to be. In November, I fell in love with the My New Roots cookbook, which has been a game changer. I’m looking forward to more vegan-mostly cooking adventures in the new year.

6. Less debt. We’re on track to pay off all of my debt by the end of the year. I really want to make that happen.

Oh ho ho. Instead of eliminating debt, we bought a new car! My student loans are gone, so that’s something.

7. Less complaining.

8. Less guilt and regret.

A work in progress. For the rest of my life.

2016 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Ran a marathon; spent 3 weeks in Belgium; took a vacation with the entire family; launched an intranet; took a bootcamp class; found Divvy Red (twice in one day!); used a hospital-grade pump; facilitated a strategic planning discussion; ran 1,000 miles.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
For the most part, and yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Several friends had babies, particularly in the first half of the year, and several more are expecting in the new year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I lost friends, but my year was nothing compared to the losses experienced by many people close to me.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No new places, but plenty of travel: 3 weeks in Belgium, 2 trips to DC/Virginia (conference + friend visit + wedding), and trips to Ann Arbor (wedding), Orlando (conference), Michigan City (family beach rental), Long Beach (friend support), Iowa City (family weekend), and Carlsbad (vacation).

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Let’s just carry my 2016 list forward for another year: more dates with my partner, more time with friends, and more sleep. And more dancing.

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My marathon, and the day after the election.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
My marathon, obvs.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Same as last year: I’m sure there are aspects of early parenting that we’ll regret. I wish I were more patient, and that I did a better job of communicating at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A couple of random bugs, but nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I’m slavishly devoted to my Get To Work Book. I also bought a new bike, but I haven’t had a chance to ride it yet.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
A lot of people complained about their social media and friend circles becoming toxic during the election. I feel incredibly fortunate that this wasn’t the case for me – and that many of my friends have continued to engage, to push buttons, to keep those of us inclined to armchair activism moving forward in this post-election season.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The President-Elect and all around him.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I wouldn’t say that I loved marathon training, but I did love many hours of podcast listening, especially Criminal, More Perfect, and Revisionist History.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
We sing a silly song from one of the Winnie the Pooh movies a lot. Otherwise, I didn’t actually listen to all that much music.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Sadder

ii. thinner or fatter?
Fitter

iii. richer or poorer?
More debt, but also more money.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The same things every year: spending time with the toddler and his papa. Sleeping. Watching movies. Reading books. Dancing. Drinking. Spending time with friends and family.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Trying to convince someone that he really, actually does need to sleep.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We drove out to Rockford Christmas Eve, made a quick trip to the Nicholas Conservatory, and had Indian food for Christmas Eve dinner. The toddler got to have a snowy Christmas morning adventure with Pop, and I got in a quick run before Jenn and her family came over for packages and snacks. The toddler absolutely refused to nap and was in complete meltdown by dinner, so he had to miss the delicious food. We headed home on the 26th after a quick trip to the Discovery Center.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
With podcasts and early morning long runs

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones, Man in the High Castle, Westworld

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year
Some elected officials

25. What was the best book you read?
Bring Up the Bodies was so good. Fates and Furies was way better than expected.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really didn’t listen to much music this year.

27. What did you want and get?
Different responsibilities; a good training cycle; new friends

28. What did you want and not get?
More responsibility; a PR

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I watched maybe 4 movies this year. It wouldn’t be fair to try to pick a favorite.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 36. I took the toddler to our parent/child class at the Waldorf School down the street, then N treated us to brunch at the Cherry Circle Room. We took a walk and had cupcakes at Molly’s. We had literally just come back from vacation, so a low-key day was just fine.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Different election results. More sleep.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Workout clothes + comfortable layers

33. What kept you sane?
My sister

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
So many people lost their heroes this year – I’m afraid to name mine.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The entire election was a shitshow.

36. Who did you miss?
My people.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
This was the year that some of my work/professional friendships got real, and I’m so, so grateful for that.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:
Listen more than you talk.

My Marathon Year

When you’ve been running long enough, or have run enough races, people start asking when you’re going to do a marathon. For me, the questions started after I ran my second half, in the fall of 2011. Riding high on the euphoria of finishing Detroit, I decided I wanted to run a marathon.

13.1! Space Blanket! Medal!
Detroit half marathon finisher, October 2011

So I registered for Chicago in 2012. And then I thought about it, and then I thought better of it. I sold my bib, and then I broke my arm, so running the marathon became a moot point – though I did end up running a portion of the marathon with a dear friend as she finished her second. The experience of running her through the hardest 8 miles of the race was so powerful – and the rush of the finish so intoxicating – that I decided (again) that I wanted to run a marathon.

And then I thought about it again, and decided it wasn’t for me again. And so it went for another year, where I ran seven half marathons in four cities and two states. I joined an informal running group. I started doing speedwork. I got more serious about my diet. I got fast(er). And then the marathon bug bit again, and I started telling people: this is my marathon year.

And literally the next day, I found out I was pregnant. I watched the 2014 Chicago marathon from my chair, nursing my two week old baby as the elite runners passed through our neighborhood. Not my marathon year – not that kind of marathon, anyway.

And then 2015 wasn’t my year either. The baby continued to breastfeed enthusiastically and sleep erratically, both of which wreaked havoc on my well-being. I agreed to wait a year, and then made sure I was out of town on marathon day.

So in March of this year, I entered the Chicago marathon lottery, and in April, I got in. A week after I received my acceptance, I ran one of the most difficult races I’ve completed and wondered what in the world I’d gotten myself into.

Post-race face
Portrait of the artist as a water-logged half marathoner, April 2016

And so the summer passed with nearly every lunch hour spent on increasingly sweaty runs, and with nearly every weekend seeing me nudging my “longest run ever” record a little bit further. The last five miles of my 14 miler featured thunder and lightning, a torrential downpour, and standing water on the trail. It was so humid for my 15 miler that by mile 11, my shoes and socks were squishing with every step. My 16 miler was a dream. My 17 miler was painful at every turn. My 20 miler was spontaneously pushed to a Friday morning and culminated in a freak storm.

I ran before dawn. I ran most of the Lakefront Path, and literally all around Antwerp. I listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts. I didn’t do as much strength or cross training as I should have. I was constantly hungry. I got to a point where I was just so sick of running that I couldn’t wait for it to be done.

View from mile 3/17 at 6am.
Sunrise at Navy Pier

All of this prepared me for the marathon itself – and none of it prepared me for the marathon itself.

I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming feelings that I experienced in the week leading up to the race. Everything felt incredibly emotional especially – my last long run, walking into the race expo, and picking up my bib.

I'm not crying; you're crying.
Race expo

I felt stressed and anxious when people asked me how I was expecting to do, or what time I expected to be by a certain location – as if I was going to let them down if I wasn’t there on time. I experienced a lot of impostor syndrome – I’m not a marathoner, I’m not an athlete. I felt the need to downplay what I was about to do, and wished I hadn’t told as many people – even as I couldn’t stop talking about it.

I worried about food all week – what should I eat? What shouldn’t I eat? What should I eat the day of? What is going to work with my stomach? And then an infected insect bite sent me to the emergency room three days out, and massive doses of antibiotics gave me all new worries.

I spent the night before the race at my parents’ hotel, where my mom’s mention of the race when making her reservation resulted in a surprise package waiting for me in the room.

Happy marathon eve to me.
Happy marathon eve to me

The morning of the race was everything I expected it to be. I jogged to the course, the streets filling up around me with marathoners and their loved ones. I watched the sun rise over Buckingham Fountain as I stretched. I ran into members of my running group – all first time marathoners – with enough time to snap a photo before we had to head to our corrals.

Team Noon Recess All Stars is ready to go!
Team Noon Recess All Stars

And then it was go time.

Here we go!
This view!

I want to remember how strong and steady I felt crossing the starting line. I want to remember those first miles, the sidewalks crowded with spectators, excitedly anticipating seeing my parents between miles 3 and 4. I want to remember running through Lincoln Park, a river of people rushing northward. I want to remember turning onto Addison at the northernmost part of the course, scanning the crowd for the previous night’s Lyft driver, whose wife had run the race before and who said he’d keep an eye out for me at that turn.

I want to remember the blinding sunlight through Boystown, and then the wave of emotions as I passed Neo, and then the beautiful scenery on Sedgwick as we headed back south. I want to remember checking my splits, mile after mile, and finding myself exactly on target mile after mile. I want to remember crossing the river back into downtown and texting the friends and family who were waiting for me to the west.

I want to remember the halfway point, my feet sticking to the pavement from all of the energy chews, my heart full of pride at what I’d already accomplished. I want to remember Annette and her family in the West Loop, her running out to join me for a few blocks. I want to remember accepting red licorice from someone in the crowd. I want to remember jumping up and down as I saw Karen at the western most point of the course.

Mile 15
Mile 15, photograph by Karen

I want to remember that it started getting hard after that, and that by the time I saw Alisa on Taylor Street, I was starting to struggle. I want to remember turning south to Pilsen, and wondering if I was going to finish, but holding it together because I knew I’d see my family soon. I want to remember digging into my reserve so that they would see me smiling. I want to remember the hurried hugs and kisses – and the toddler so overwhelmed by everything that he turned away.

And then I want to remember turning the corner at mile 20 and everything falling apart. I want to remember the last 10K taking everything I had – and taking it all out of me. I want to remember crying as I limped down Halsted, pulling it together to run through Chinatown, then falling apart again. I want to remember how sweet that grape popsicle tasted in mile 24. I want to remember counting down the blocks until I saw Michelle who lifted my spirits by running the last few blocks of Michigan along with me.

And then I want to remember the end, pulling out all stops to get up Roosevelt, summoning some secret reserve of energy to call out THIS IS IT as I rounded the corner into Grant Park and saw the finish line.

I ran a fucking marathon
I ran an effing marathon.

And then after – the shuffle through the finisher’s area, getting my medal and my space blanket and my banana. Collapsing on the ground for an ugly cry before I could return any of the texts or emails or social media love that had been blowing up my phone for hours. Finding my way out and meeting Michelle somewhere on Michigan and her getting me home. Painfully climbing the two flights of stairs to my proud family. Sitting on the floor to stretch without any certainty I could get back up. Devouring a caramel apple cupcake despite having no interest in food whatsoever. A celebratory meal with family and dear friends. Walking slowly around the Arboretum the next day rather than sitting at my desk and cramping up. Trying to make sense of the surprising pains and emotions that emerged in the days that followed.

So, I ran a marathon. Maybe someday I’ll run another one. How do I feel about it? I feel everything about it.

Race(s) Recap Precap: Illinois Marathon Weekend

I’m attempting (again) to throw myself back into blogging. We’ll see how long this lasts.

This was my fifth year running races during the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon weekend. The race weekend includes everything from a 1K youth fun run up to marathon challenge (5K + full marathon). I did the half I-Challenge for the fourth time – 5K at 7:30am Friday night followed by the half marathon at 7am Saturday morning.

These races are my favorites, hands down. The races are just great – great course, great communication, great gear, great people – and it’s always wonderful to have an excuse to go back to C-U for a weekend. I get such a rush running through all of these places that are so familiar and so special to me. It’s no wonder that I’ve broken my own records in nearly every race nearly every year.

Despite running a ton of halfs, I’ve never really had a “race plan” or a race strategy. I generally plan to do what I’ve done before, and roll with what comes my way during the race. This was easier when I was racing more often – now I have to try to remember what it was that I did 6-12 months ago? and did that thing work? etc. These blog posts are part of my strategy for remembering.

The last two weeks of training

I faithfully followed a training program for the last few months – for the first time ever. I did the technical runs. I used pace alerts and my heart rate strap. I trained in all kinds of disgusting weather. I went in hoping to break 2 hours in the half – not a PR, but pretty dang good considering that I’m still not getting much sleep, still breastfeeding, and only really training during my lunch breaks plus a long run on the weekends.

I didn’t run much for the two weeks leading up to the races. This wasn’t on purpose – I had an unexpected trip come up about 10 days out, and running just didn’t fit in the agenda while I was there. I got in a 12 mile run the weekend before the races, but very little the week of. My last training run was a lousy 2.5 miles on the indoor track due to bad weather.

I’ve had persistent groin issues since my toddler was born (via c-section) in 2014. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise considering that they cut through all the layers of my abdominal muscles – those enormous sheets of tissue that connect to many other major muscle groups. Anyway, that started acting up around the time I went out of town, and had me hobbling after every run for the two weeks leading up to the races. So that was a source of anxiety going into the weekend.

Nutrition

I feel like the clean-eating part leading up to races is actually harder than the tapering part. I’m terrible at following a specific diet. It bores me to death. My general plan is to cut dairy, fat, fried things, and fiber in the 2-3 days before a big race. Anything that might be hard to digest is out. In a vegetarian-mostly household, that tends to result in a lot of garbage carbs. This is something I need to change for future races!

My go-to pre-race meal place in Champaign has become Za’s. In fact, I’ve eaten there twice over the race weekend the last two years – dinner/dinner last year, and lunch/dinner this year. Their combo meal is an easy way to get exactly the veggies, protein, and carbs that I want, and nothing more. My pre-5K lunch was a salad with chicken, pasta with chicken, veggies, and marinara sauce, and garlic bread. My post-5K, pre-half dinner was pizza with veggies and no cheese, pasta with chicken, veggies, and marinara sauce, and garlic bread. Next time I’ll skip the pizza – it was too heavy on my stomach, and I regretted it all night.

Oh, and water. About 3-4 days out, I start hydrating like it’s my job. I don’t know exactly how much water I tend to drink, but I fill up two water bottles at a time, multiple times throughout the day. It’s a good idea, even if it means lots of pit stops in the days leading up to the race.

Travel

Our strategy the last two years has been to drive down to Champaign Thursday afternoon, giving us all of Friday to hit the race expo and do things around town. We made this decision last year due to rain in the forecast, but in general, I think it’s a much better idea than rushing down Friday and then trying to do things Saturday on race-trashed legs.

We stayed at a different hotel this year, which I hope we’ll be able to do in the future as well. For the price of a regular room at our normal spot, we got a suite at Country Inn and Suites – totally worth it with a toddler who goes to bed at 7. Other bonuses: better and more extensive breakfast options, and coffee and snacks (including fresh cookies) available around the clock. Don’t underestimate the importance of around the clock snacks when you’re running two races in 12ish hours.

In my next post, I’ll actually talk about the races. I promise.

Q1 Resolutions in Review

A new post in a new location! I moved my blog from my own domain to WordPress about a month ago, but this is the first actual post over here. Please update your feed readers, assuming you still use such a thing!

1. More letters.
I’m keeping up with my goal of one letter/week, but they’ve mostly been thank you notes. (I need to write more thank you notes as well.)

2. More books.
1/16 completed. Not great, but not too far behind.

3. More miles.
Running: 161/750 completed. I entered the Chicago marathon lottery in March, and am running the Illinois Half I-Challenge at the end of April. Running is feeling really good. I like my current training program, and my current running routes. I need to be more consistent about long runs, but the combination of winter and sickness has made this difficult.
Biking: 94/2000 completed. I just haven’t felt like riding lately. I’m not sure why that is.

4. More movies.
1/12 watched, but it was a big one! We took the baby to see Star Wars in the theater. He was unphased by the noise or explosions, but he definitely didn’t like the non-human creatures.

5. Less meat.
N is working on perfecting briami and the eggplant sauce from a favorite Italian restaurant. I’m playing with Persian food and crusty rice for bi bim bap. I don’t know that I’m eating less meat, but I am enjoying exploring vegetarian cooking.

6. Less debt.
We have a substantial amount of travel coming up in the next six months, including an extended trip to Belgium, so I don’t think that we’ll pay off all of my debt, but we’re making steady progress, which feels good.

7. Less complaining.
8. Less guilt and regret.
Works in progress, always.