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.

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2016 Resolutions

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

2. More books. 16 sounds like a nice round number. I’m on track to finish my first this weekend.

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…

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

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.

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.

7. Less complaining. This might be the hardest resolution on this list.

8. Less guilt and regret. This one is hardest to quantify, but I’m pretty over beating myself up about things I can’t control, or things that aren’t mine to begin with.

2015 Chicago Half Marathon recap

Starting line

I haven’t written much about running here lately for two reasons: I haven’t been writing much here lately, and I haven’t been running much lately.

Gone is the time when I could run five days/week on a reliable training schedule. Gone are the days when I would get home from work, drop my stuff, and go out for five or six miles before figuring out my evening. These days I get in three runs/week when I’m lucky: two lunchtime workouts during the week, and a long run on the weekend. Once in awhile, I’ll get a bonus short run on the weekends.

Life is busy. I’m tired. The baby is still up a LOT at night. I’ve biked seven (or more!) miles to work every day for two months which has made up for the fact that I have had very little time to get to the gym. All of my excuses are legitimate.

So much about running is mental. I’ve known this for a long time, and yet it always surprises me how easy it is to psych myself out, to decide I can’t do something that I really can. Up until Saturday night when I laid out my stuff, I wasn’t fully convinced I should actually even run the race. We’d had several very bad nights of minimal sleep. I’ve been dealing with mild numbness in one foot. And I’ve just felt blue for awhile, the sort of blue that makes digging into your reserves difficult.

And then the baby surprised me with a good night of sleep. I woke a little before 5, well rested and reluctant to wiggle out from under the softest, snuggliest kiddo in order to eat some peanut butter toast and leave the house by 6. At 6:30, I was walking to the starting line with half a cup of coffee and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude – for the overcast but lovely morning, for the privilege of being able to do events like this, for the strong body that has muscled through a hard year, for my sleeping family who have compromised and coordinated so that I could get the miles that I need to feel sane and healthy.

Waiting for the start//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

You can imagine my surprise when I went on to run the steadiest, strongest, and possibly the best race I’ve ever done. I’ve had faster races, but I don’t think I’ve had stronger races. I felt great. I listened to Tensnake. I accepted all offered high-fives. I took my gels at 4 and 8, and Gatorade at every other mile. I dug in and pushed hard. I felt a blister forming at 6 miles – no problem. My guts started to feel wiggly around 8 miles – no problem. I had some cramping in my chest around 10 miles – no problem. I passed 10.5 miles – which is where I almost always bonk – no problem. The only moment when my energy flagged was when my watch said 13 miles but the finish line was obviously still a quarter mile away – and then I just swore and kicked into overdrive, and crossed at seconds over the 2 hour mark, very close to my personal best.

Medal as big as my face

I was pleased. I was floored. I was exhausted, starving, and unimaginably gross. I collected a medal the size of my head and sat down to eat a tiny square of pizza. I found that I’d run negative splits for literally the entire race except one mile. I don’t know how this is possible.

As I walked slooooooowly back to the car, I shared a long post on Instagram which I’ll distill here: these days, running feels like a gift.

2015 Q1 Report

It’s March 31, which means it’s time to revisit my specific and measurable resolutions for 2015.

Run a marathonTabled for 2015. I really had my heart set on this goal, but after a lot of conversations, the decision not to train for a marathon came down to logistics and lack of sleep. Next year. Next year!

Read 12 non-parenting books: 0 completed. Also 0 started.

Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. No progress, but it’s been a loooooong winter with a tiny baby.

Keep a journal. Success! I have written in my journal at least every few days since the beginning of the year, making notes about each day even if I didn’t manage to write ON that day. There’s a lot of complaining about lack of sleep.

Reduce debt. After some serious consideration, I decided to reprioritize my financial resolutions in favor of paying down debt before building savings. Credit card debt ticked up nearly $4K in January with the last month of a halved paycheck plus needing to prepay for vacation and work travel. My tax return plus reimbursements from work took care of that; in total, credit card debt is down about $1K since the beginning of the year. Additionally, I increased my payments to my student loan by 50%, putting it on track to be paid off in the next two years.

Rebuild my savings. Tabled. It makes me anxious to not be putting money in savings each month, but eliminating debt is a higher priority.

Take better care of my skin. Success! I have moisturized every day since the beginning of the year. Now to see if I can do sunscreen…

Start flossing. Success! I have flossed every day since the beginning of the year. I don’t see my dentist until mid-May, but hopefully he will be impressed.

2015 Resolutions

Part of my day job involves making sure that goals are specific and measurable. Here are my attempts at specific and measurable resolutions for 2015:

The fun:

  1. Run a marathon. I really wanted to do this last year, but pregnancy got in the way. I’m planning to run Chicago, with Detroit as my back-up choice.
  2. Read 12 non-parenting books. I read (most of) 17 books last year, but really only finished 12 in their entirety, and the great majority of those were parenting books. I’d like to read more for pleasure this year, but am setting my sights low.
  3. Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. I knocked out 17 items last year, and added a few to the original list.
  4. Keep a journal. My grandpa kept a daily journal for years. It often wasn’t much more than the weather (including on the day of my mom’s wedding!), but that’s more than I’ve managed. I’d like to remember more about my baby’s first year than the milestones. I hope this will help.

The practical:

  1. Rebuild my savings. I took 4 weeks unpaid during my maternity leave, and that took a good chunk out of my savings. I’m far short of the recommended 3 months’ of living expenses, and don’t think I’ll get there this year while also reducing debt, but 2 months’ worth of living expenses in savings seems reasonable.
  2. Reduce debt. I wanted to eliminate my credit card debt last year. That didn’t happen; in fact, I’m right about where I was last year, though I’ve paid off two cards. I’d like to cut both my student loan and credit card debt in half this year.
  3. Take better care of my skin. For many, many years, I have done nothing on this front. Moisturizing daily will be a start.
  4. Start flossing. The dentist yells at me about this every time I go, so I need to either start flossing or stop going to the dentist.

2013 At The Races

In preparing for this weekend’s I-Challenge, I realized I never posted ANYTHING here about all of last year’s running. Which, given last year’s running, is a serious omission.

January 2013: Polar Dash half marathon in Chicago

Fired up?

Don’t ask me why, exactly, it seemed like a good idea to run a half marathon in Chicago in January. Maybe Megan and I just weren’t thinking when we signed up in the early fall? Thankfully, we were blessed with unseasonably good weather – in the low 50s! in January! in Chicago!. In the two weeks leading up to the race, I was also blessed with some sort of chest cold that I simply couldn’t shake, which made the race challenging. I felt great for the first portion, picking up a pace buddy somewhere around the 6 mile mark. We stayed together until miles 11-12, when I started having trouble breathing. A buddy of his had jumped in around mile 8, and the two of them encouraged me to stick it out, but I eventually told them to go on ahead, and took a short walking break. I’d hoped to catch up with him at the finish line to thank him for keeping me going, but I never saw him again. Thanks, random pace buddy! You got me through a tough spot.

I finished in 2:04:19, 5 minutes off my Monster Dash finish in October, but not bad for being sick.

Silver and blue

April 2013: Illinois Marathon I-Challenge 5K and half marathon in Champaign

My second year doing the I-Challenge, and my second year with back-to-back PRs. I rolled into Champaign with an incredibly full bladder and just enough time to get through the race expo and queue up for the 5K Friday night. A 5K has the potential to feel like small potatoes, particularly after distance training for the half, but it was a great way to start off the weekend. I started off on the slower side, but as I rounded the corner from Green to head back to the stadium, I punched the Go button and kicked up to a pace that I didn’t know I had in me. I ran the last half mile with a woman who was also doing the I-Challenge – the marathon for her – and while we agreed that neither of us should be going out that hard with a race in the morning, that didn’t stop us from powering around the corner and into the stadium. I finished in 24:55, taking more than a minute off my PR from the previous year.

With a 7am race, there was no time for fun – just a quick beer and a grilled mushroom sandwich at the Esquire, then an early bedtime at my Airbnb. I was out the door not long after 6, but still barely made it to meet Stephen at the starting line Saturday morning! We were both aiming for a 9:15 pace, so did the first half of the race together – through campus and into Urbana, where I spotted my friend Lucy taking photos in her front yard. At around mile 6.5, I got a side stitch and dropped back a bit. Water and a gel perked me up, but not enough to catch Stephen as he went on to finish the marathon. The most joyous part of the race for me was the trip through Meadowbrook Park which, while congested, provided a brief glimpse of a deer bounding through the prairie grass. I noticed at mile 10 that I would easily PR, but didn’t use that as an excuse to slack when, as usual, my energy flagged around mile 11. Thankfully, the music and the crowds spurred me on as we reentered campus, and I powered through to another PR: 1:56:59, nearly 3 minutes faster than the previous year.

Back to back PRs.

Fucken medals

May 2013: Rockford half marathon

This race was a totally different animal for me. Instead of pushing myself to PR, I was supporting my sister in her first half. The race started and finished downtown, weaving along both sides of the river through both affluent and modest neighborhoods. We ran the whole thing at her pace, enjoying the rare occasion for solo sister time. At one point, we were heckled by an older woman, who observed as she passed us that I was barely running! When we approached the heckler again, Jenn suggested that we gun it, and so we blew past her and kept up the pace for a few more minutes, eventually slowing back down to a comfortable finishing pace. The heckler caught up with us again, and I mentioned that Jenn had given birth less than a year previously, and that this was her first half marathon. We parted ways without further heckling. With the finish line in sight, Jenn picked up the pace, and we were happy to see our family at the finish line, though Jenn’s husband and kids were still on their way. We earned every last bite of the belated Mother’s Day picnic enjoyed that afternoon. Finishing time: 2:29:57

Running

After

June 2013: Rock n Roll half marathon in Seattle

Annette and I decided earlier in the year that we wanted to do a destination race, and Seattle provided a beautiful destination! I don’t think either of us were really prepared for the hills or the sun, but that didn’t stop us from having an enjoyable race. I didn’t have a goal in mind, but as we walked to the starting line, I decided I’d aim for two hours, a relatively reasonable goal given the last few races. I’m not super familiar with Seattle’s geography, but I can tell you that we ran through Chinatown with Mount Rainier looming in the distance, along two beautiful bodies of water, and on a couple of highways normally closed to pedestrians. I felt great and was on track for a PR until mile 12, when I suddenly got a crippling side cramp and had to walk. And walk. And cry. And walk. So much for my goal. It was a bitter finish, but not the end of the world, particularly since I hadn’t set a goal for myself until shortly before race start. We spent the rest of the day getting sunburned in Fremont with a grade school friend, watching a naked bike ride, and destroying giant burgers at the top of Queen Anne Hill. I finished the race at 2:04:27, and finished the day with a ridiculous sunburn.

July 2013: Rock n Roll half marathon in Chicago

I’m not sure what to say about this race exactly. In June, shortly after returning from Seattle, I took a hard fall on my bike which left me badly bruised for several weeks after, which made it hard to really train. I was averaging 20-25 miles per week, including a few long runs with N and speedwork with a running group, but I wasn’t making any improvements in pace or distance. Of all of the races, this is the one that I should have skipped. But I didn’t! Megan and I queued up on a beautiful summer’s morning, and the race got off to an interesting start, as my Garmin struggled to get a satellite lock between the skyscrapers and tunnels downtown. The course was great, covering both city and lakefront, and several of our friends came out to cheer at different points, but as the race went on, the mercury rose, and the sun became a little unbearable. At mile 10.5, crews were handing out sponges soaked in very cold water. I think you were supposed to squeeze the water on yourself and then toss the sponge, but I didn’t. In fact, the sponge became my lifeline. When I bonked half a mile later, I held the sponge to my face, cooling my forehead and inhaling the moisture. The sponge makes a prominent appearance in all of the official race photos, and in the group photos taken by friends later. I don’t think I set the sponge down until we got back to the car. It is my new lucky charm. The following photo should tell you everything you need to know about this race. Finishing time: 2:02:23

An accurate representation of today's half marathon as taken by Nicolas, and featuring my new best friend, the sponge. #project365 10/365

September 2013: Chicago half marathon

Megan and I were up and out early, arriving in Hyde Park as the sun was still coming up for our third half marathon in a third season in Chicago in 2013. I had sincerely hoped that after a 6 week break from racing, I would be in better shape for this one. I’m not sure exactly where I went wrong, but my energy started flagging as we made our way up Lakeshore Drive to the turnaround at 31st St. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t walk until I saw Annette, waiting at the top of the bridge with high fives and a slap on the ass. I made it to about mile 9 before I had to slow down a bit, and to mile 12 before the pain in my hip really kicked in. I swore LOUDLY as I slowed to a walk, despite the encouragement of the pacers I’d been running with for awhile. Another 2 hour goal slipped away as I limpingly ran through Jackson Park to the finish line, coming in at 2:01:41.

Go time.

September 2013: Women Rock half marathon in Chicago

This was really the right way to finish the racing season: a just-for-fun half on the lakefront with my sister. After the frustration and injury of the last two races, it was great to enjoy the scenery and her company on a beautiful fall day. I don’t know if it was the pace group or the fact that the race was only open to women, but it was definitely the most friendly race I’ve done, with lots of smiles and encouragement from other runners. I was only minorly bothered by what would later be diagnosed as a hypermobile SI joint. The post race swag? Necklaces (instead of medals) and a flute of cheap champagne. Finishing time: 2:32:37.

Untitled

A girl, her sponge, and post race cheap champagne.

2013 at the races: 7 half marathons and 1 5K in 4 cities and 2 states with 3 PRs. Not bad, but definitely too much for one year.

2013 Resolutions in Review

Now that it’s firmly 2014, let’s look back on last year’s resolutions:

1. No pants in public.
DONE. For a while, I took daily photos of my tights to prove that I was toughing it out through the Chicago winter. Then I got bored with that, and then the weather got nice, and not wearing pants didn’t seem like that much of a challenge. Then it got effing cold again, and I resumed the countdown to the end of the #yearofnopants. There were days when I desperately just wanted to throw on jeans, and there was at least one occasion of layering yoga pants over tights under a dress because I was freezing and didn’t have any other clothes available to me (thanks, unseasonably cold and rainy May weather), and there were several times when I ran errands immediately after a workout and so didn’t change out of my running kit, but I made it from Jan 1 – Jan 1 without leaving the house in pants of any non-workout type. I suspect that I will wear pants every day for the next week, and then I’ll go back to wearing skirts most of the time.

2. One really big race: either the Chicago Marathon or a triathlon.
NOPE. But I did do 7 half marathons and a 5K, and destroyed my PR at both distances, and did my first true destination race. I also plateaued halfway through the year, making each subsequent race an exercise in discomfort and frustration. I wish I’d done better, but have accepted that I didn’t.

3. Ride a goddamned motorcycle.
NOPE. No matter how often I ask the internet, no one wants to give me a motorcycle ride. Maybe this year I’ll just man up and take my colleague’s motorcycle class.

4. Get out of debt.
NOPE. But I did make progress, and committed to monthly financial accountability, and feel good about the progress that I’ve made.

5. Leave the country at least once.
DONE. Karen and I went to the Bahamas in February, and Nicolas and I went to Canada for the afternoon in May.

6. Run 1,000 miles and bike 2,000 miles.
NOPE. I ran 783.66 miles and biked 1030.84 miles. The running distance wasn’t unreasonable considering the number of races I did, but between sickness and injury, I had to cut way back in the last 3 months of the year. Had I biked as much all year as I did in the last 3 months of the year, I would have made the distance in spades, but I didn’t, and so am happy with the distances I did log. In 2014, I’d like to do more of both, but I’ll be happy with whatever ‘more’ ends up meaning.

7. Figure out this career stuff.
DONE. Well, sort of. I spent a lot of the year wracked with work/life balance angst, a lot of which resulted from a loathsome commute. I made and continue to make my peace with it, and am resolved to stay where I am for at least another year or two – which is further out than I’ve ever felt like I’ve been ready to commit to any job in a while.

8. Keep living with my heart wide open.
ONGOING. Much of the year required trusting my gut and doing my best to say yes to whatever the universe decided to send my way. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the work.

9. Be more like Leslie. Always.
ONGOING. Forever.