Saturday, December 20, 2014

Disparate Thoughts

The new scarf that I love, not the old one that I didn't love.
When you start a scarf for your husband for Christmas and then you hate it and so you go out and buy new yarn that you like, that makes you happy, and even though it's only five days to Christmas, you are able to knit over a foot in one day because you like the yarn, you like the way the scarf looks and it actually excites you to knit it. This is why I knit. Because you can make pretty things for people that you love.

When you don't run for a week, even though last weekend you were able to run 8 miles no problem at a 10 minute pace, and you start the run feeling thirsty, you most likely won't be able to run 6 miles at that same pace, and you remind yourself why you need to run at least a couple of times during the week.

When you are feeling frustrated at this world because you feel so ineffectual about your ability to make any real change outside of expressing your frustration on Facebook, and you have a nihilistic conversation with your husband that even protesting is playing into the same system, it's best to remember that all you can do is try to make the world a better place and that small changes can add up.

When you have a son that takes dance class at school and they put on their own version of the Nutcracker called the "peanut" cracker, and he becomes obsessed with Nutcrakers and asks to watch the Nutcraker with you, and he keeps asking when the "Russian" dance is because that's the music he danced to, that's when you remember what a great thing it is to have a child.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lifetime Turkey Trot - Delayed review because stuff

A lovely shot of the woman who
finished right in front of me.
Like all good runners, the family decided to sign up for a Turkey Trot. Runners do this to themselves because (1) we're runners and we do things like this (2) Thursday morning runs are novel (3) the swag - a nice long sleeve t-shirt (4) any excuse to eat more excessively than we had already planned on. This year we did the Lifetime Turkey Day. We've been doing a tour of different turkey day races, and this one did not disappoint. Well, I was a little disappointed that Fleet Feet had only one location (not the one closest to my house) for packet pick up, but since I snagged a ride there from work, and I didn't wait too in line, I'll forgive them.

The night before the race, Mr. H. and I examined the course map, as you do, trying to make sense of it. Having both a 5k and an 8k makes the course outline strange sometimes. And the quality of course maps can be over the place - I've seen hand-drawn maps before. This one was better than hand drawn, but still confusing, mainly because it looked like it had us running on Lake Shore Drive. Neither of us thought this was right and prepared for a general up the running path, hairpin turn, back down the running path course. Or so I thought. I've never done this race before, so had no idea they actually shut down two north bound lanes. It's definitely cool to run on Lake Shore Drive, a first for me, albeit a little hillier than the path what with those overpasses.

I had the pleasure of running with several marathon training buddies, which made the miles go by quickly. My first mile clocked in at 10:18, then a second mile of under 10, at 9:49. Mile three I slowed down because (1) I got water and then (2) took off my hoodie that I shouldn't have worn in the first place but it was so cold and I'm kinda sick of being cold, but then by the end of mile 2 I
Mr. H. all alone - yet once again proving
it's lonely at the top,
or, in this case,  in 57th place.
wasn't cold, so I had to take it off, which was difficult since my watch was in the way and I couldn't get my left arm out of the sleeve - mile 3, 10:23. But I made up for it in mile 4 ( 9:36) and mile 5 (9:08). Finishing time 49:58. Not my fastest 8k, but I'm not complaining. I know I benefited from the woman who was pacing with me (whose name I don't know because she wasn't in my training group, but I should know because we've been introduced and now I feel bad). I think having someone who is slightly faster than me to run with during races is really the key to getting myself to run faster.

My general goal in races is to finish in top 50%. In my age group, which they did in 10 year increments, I finished 95th out of 211 - so all good there. Of women, I finished 599th out of 1,218 - so just squeaked in. Unfortunately, overall I placed 1,248 out of 2,167 runners. If only I hadn't worn that hoodie.(By contrast, Mr. H. finished 5th in his age group, was the 41st male to cross the finish line and the 57th person over all. I bask in his fastness). 

After our race, Baby H. was supposed to run a 50-yard dash, but due to (a) miscommunication (b) confusion on where the start line for the kid's races was and (c) miscommunication, he missed his race. I now feel like the worst mother ever, but hope to make up for it soon with a Christmas race (fingers crossed). 

Overall, as usual, it was a fun way to start the day, get a quick 5ish-mile run in and then go home and cook and watch football (which being in Chicago is just sad) and eat lots with loved ones. I know this is kinda late, but Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Week 18 - Marathon take two

Members of my CARA training group pre-race.
What can I say about running a marathon that I didn't say the first time?

The last week before the race was a mix of different emotions. I was nervous, confident, scared. The day before the race I had a meltdown and almost decided it wasn't worth it. After that I kinda just went through the motions of getting what needed to be done without thinking about what it meant. I got my bag together, laid out my clothes, made sure things were where I needed them to be, drank lots of water, ate some (more) pasta. In the morning I continued on autopilot and it didn't really hit me until my training group hit the  porta-potties before going into the gates (CARA rocks btw because they have special CARA member only porta-potties) that I was going to have to go out there and cover 26.2 miles.

But I did it. And I did it faster than the first time, by about 30 minutes, and I finished in under five hours - 4:50:50. I didn't make my "perfect race" goal of 4:45, but really, anything under five was going to make me happy, and I am. The first 20 miles I had the sincere joy of running with one of my group leaders from CARA, Jennifer. I credit her with keeping me on pace that first 20 miles. Once we split up, I held it together until about mile 22; I was actually having thoughts that I might not hit the wall. But, the thing about the wall, it kinda sneaks up on you. By the end of mile 22, I was smack dab up against the wall and I never really got over it or around it, and I basically lugged it with me the last four miles. But the good thing was, while it slowed me down, I still pushed myself to run. I finished with an overall pace of 11:06 and the knowledge that I can can fight through the pain (at least a little). 

The amazing CARA team at the Expo.
Once I got across the finish line I didn't  have that feeling of euphoria that makes you forget your pain. What I had was a constant thought that I needed to get to the end of the chute before I sat down otherwise the EMTs wouldn't let me leave without checking me out. In a zombie state, I made it out of the chute and then out of the runner area and through the throngs of people waiting for their runners and into the arms of my wonderful husband. It was a slow, but short walk across the street to the CARA compound where I was able to take off my shoes, change my clothes, get food and drink, relax and meet up with other runners. 

So that was my second marathon, in a nutshell. While I've never run any other marathon, the Chicago marathon definitely is special. The course support, as always, was awesome, from the volunteers to the spectators. I can't imagine running a marathon without someone pretty much every step of the way cheering and clapping and saying way to go. 

Other general thoughts on the race:

A great pic of CJ with me, Jennifer and Anne
in the background (source CJ's friend).
The expo was fun and I spent way too much money. I now own three, no four, shirts that say something about the 2014 Chicago Marathon on them.

I liked the packet pick up. Even though you needed to show ID along with your confirmation ticket and the fact that no one else could pick up your bib, a sign that security is a lot higher at these things, checking in and getting the bib was smooth.

The shirt is less than exciting. In fact, it's pretty boring and basic. It's a plain gray shirt with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon logo on the front and the date on one sleeve. It feels more like a BoA shirt than a Chicago Marathon (that happens to be run by BoA) shirt. Having ordered shirts like these for events, I wonder if they completely forgot they needed 45,000 t-shirts until a couple of weeks ago and this was the best they could do.

The woman who put the medal around my neck, thank you. Thank you for sounding like you really meant it (and you probably did) when you said I deserved it and that I had earned it. It's a small thing, but it made me feel great.

To the woman in the bathroom after the race who gave me a dab of toothpaste when I commented that bringing a toothbrush was a great idea, thank you. Your kind act made me feel human again.

I could, and probably should, dedicate an entire post to what it's like to train with CARA, but basically it's awesome and everyone should do it. From the support during training, the compound before the race in the Hilton with special bag check, to the CARA only porta-potties before the race. CARA rocks (and I'm not just saying that because I'm married to someone who works there).

Another great thing about training with a group is you run into a bunch of people on the course. Not only did I run a good deal of the race with Jennifer, but I also had the pleasure of seeing several people from my training group along the course. It definitely helped the miles go by. Plus, I was able to sneak into a couple of their pictures.

Having family members who are dedicated to making it around the course to cheer you on is great, and, even though she's not supposed to, having a sister who runs with you between mile 24 - 25 giving you that last bit of support to make it to the end, well, that's priceless. 

Now the big question everyone asks, am I going to do it again? I don't know. Right now I don't want to. My leg hurts, my brain hurts, the thought of running more than a few miles hurts. Ask me next year when registration opens up; I may give an entirely different answer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

80s Movies - 48 Hours

So this challenge I have set myself is seeming pretty stupid. I mean who cares if I've seen a bunch of movies from the 80s or not. The only reason I started this whole thing is because one of my friends had actually seen more than me and I couldn't imagine how that could be since all I did through the 80s and 90s was watch movies.

But there are certain that don't need to be seen. And frankly, there are certain movies that shouldn't be streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime or available on DVD, and if they are, they should have warnings at the beginning similar to the Warner Brothers / Looney Toons statement about how this movie is a product of its time but is totally racist but we shouldn't pretend it doesn't exist. So I guess that means I probably should watch this from a historical/cultural perspective, because I have a hard time imagining who in their right mind would think that some of the jokes in this movie were funny, much less OK. Though apparently Nolte thinks this movie actually taught blacks and whites how to talk to each other.

48 Hours was, according to IMDb, Eddie Murphy's first movie, and you know, it was only 1982, so I guess that's why the full on racist "jokes" were acceptable. Of course at the end, Nick Nolte's character "apologies" for his racism and the world's a happy place. I guess if the racism had been tongue and cheek or ironic (like Eddie Murphy's Alfalfa character later on SNL) then it would have been funny. But it wasn't pointing to some long ago character that pointed how stupid we were back then that people thought this stuff was acceptable at all. No, it is (I hope) and example of not that long ago we thought these jokes were in any way acceptable and it's really too bad a black actor even had to take a part so demeaning to get his career started. But what do I know, maybe Eddie Murphy really did think the jokes were funny.

The only other thing that struck me about this movie was Eddie' laugh. So pretty much everyone knows his iconic laugh. Well that's not the laugh he had during the movie - at least not until the very end. I couldn't tell if he was trying out different laughs, or if the director hated his real laugh (or at least I assume that's his real laugh - maybe it's his totally put on) and kept telling him to laugh differently but then gave up. Whatever, clearly he went with the one that makes it into Beverly Hills Cop and that's the one we all know and love.

I can't wait to see what amazingly dumb shit I have to put up with next on my quest to watch these 80s movies. I'm sure I'll be surprised of all the stuff my 8-18 year old self missed during a decade I thought I knew.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Marathon Training Week 17

I am now at the point where I am ready for the marathon and scared to death of the marathon. Everyone keeps telling me I should have no problem reaching my goal of 4:45. It seems like it should be doable - that's a 10:52 pace, a mere 8 seconds faster than I've been training at. Surely I can do that - all the race calculators say I should be able to do that. But, there are so many variables that we just won't know until race day.

I love this upcoming week's mileage - 3, 4, 2 two days off and then 26.2. Seems like quite a jump from our last long run of 8 miles. Speaking of the last "long" run, it was cold - cold as in high 30's and actually a few flurries, as in snow. Foolishly I thought I wouldn't need gloves because I always took my gloves off during my winter runs even when temperatures were lower than that. But that was way back when my body was used to such frigid temperatures. Not so on Saturday. My hands were so cold it took me sitting on them for several minutes before I had enough feeling in them to turn the key to start the car.

Part of me wants to fast forward to this weekend - but in an effort to remain mindful, I remember that this whole journey is part of the fun. I'm actually enjoying this feeling of expectation (at least a little bit). I know I put the time in my training. I know that I can do this. But there is so much more to be done this week - relaxing, knitting, running some really short runs, decorating for Halloween, figuring out how people sign up for runner tracking (BoA why do you make it so hard?), finally deciding what I'm going to wear, going to the expo (!). 

This time next week I'll be so happy it's over, but also eager to start training for another race.

Stats for the week:
Miles run: 21
Miles left to go: 35.2
Raised so far: $1135.20
Left to go: Nothing - just seeing how much I can raise now.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The taper & one final plea*

Me (right) at the 2012 marathon, Jackie wearing the shirt I
may wear this year because she has since given it to me.
The taper is the period between your peak mileage and your run  - in my case the marathon. It's a weird time because your runs get shorter which feels like you're going in the wrong direction. You also have more free time, which I've been using to eat and obsess about the marathon.

So far I've had ice cream (or an analog for it) every day this week and I've formulated my race strategy from how often I'm going to fuel, what I'm going to wear, and all my different pace options (perfect race, OK race, worse race of my life) and what finishing times those result in.

What I haven't been doing is worrying if I'll be able to pay for the entry fee. Or where the money for my next pair of running shoes will come from. I also haven't been at a loss for people who believe in and motivate me. Providing that support, motivation and funds is a goal of the CARA Road Scholars program. Not only does it help kids create a healthy habit, it  also gives support and motivation in a new way.

I'll be honest, the main reason I signed up for another marathon is to test myself and see if I can improve on my time from 2012. Training to run 26.2 miles is hard; most people have no desire to do this. And that's exactly why charities use races, especially the marathon, to fund raise. They know all of you out there, the ones who don't spend the untold amounts of time running in circles, you think - ok, she's running a marathon, that's pretty big, I should support that. And it works. So many of you have already donated to my fundraising: Amy (times 3), Jackie, John, Claire, Tim, Tracy, Sarah (times 2), Aaron, Katie (times 2), Lucy, Joe, Brian, Jayme, Yaz, Andrew, Jennifer, Meshelle, Paul, Joanna, Alain, Brett, Grandpa, Jamie, Dad, Alexis, you've all contributed and I can't thank you enough. You helped me reach my goal and that contribution helps some great kids reach their goals too.

For those of you out there that have said to me "oh, I keep meaning to donate" and those of you who have thought "I should make a donation" and to those of you who are now thinking "if I make a donation do you think she'll quit asking for donations?", now is the time to make a donation. Hell, it doesn't even have to be to me. There are other Road Scholars fundraisers you can choose from. And it doesn't have to be much. If 10 people reading this gives $10 each, well, that's another $100 - the cost of shoes and race day uniform.

Thank you to everyone who has donated, donates in the future and plans to donate someday. I'll even say thanks to those of you who don't donate because I know (a) you'd like to but don't have the money (b) you have donated to some other runner's charity (c) you donated to some other charity that doesn't even have a marathon fundraising team (!?) (d) you have some other totally valid reason for not donating.

Thank you all for listening the last 17 weeks. It's almost over.

In case you don't already have it, here's the link to my fundraising page: http://www.razoo.com/story/Melanie-Higgins-Fundraising-For-Cara-Road-Scholars-2014-Bank-Of-America-Chicago-Marathon-Team

*May not actually be my final plea.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Marathon Training Weeks 15 & 16


Pre run looking happy.
Note: I had this great post written last Monday about my wonderful 20-mile run and how great CARA is, and how great Ready to Run is, and how great my pace group leaders and training buddies are, and how great the weather was, basically just how great everything was, but then I did something and it didn't save and then it was gone. So instead of trying again later, I threw in the towel, figured you all had enough of me going on and on about marathon training anyway.

Short version is: Great run, as I mentioned, nice day, felt really good after the run and am now feeling pretty confident I can achieve my goal of a 4:45 finish time barring some unforeseen event.

There were a few things different between the first time I ran 20 miles and this last time. First, the weather was much nicer - cool and overcast for most of the run. More importantly is the amount of training I've done and the base I had coming into marathon training. It has made all the difference. I figured out the other day I missed almost 100 miles of training in 2012; this year, I've missed less than 20. Consistency is the key.

Post run - amazingly, still happy.
But putting in the miles does take a lot of time. I've had people ask me how I find the time to train with a four year old at home. And while it can be challenging, especially more so when you're married to someone who also spends a good amount of time running, it's totally doable - if that's the thing you want to do. I get up early a few days a week, I run home one day a week and I hire a babysitter on Saturday mornings, or he stays over at my sister's house the night before. Sure, there are times I think that my son will one day be sitting on a therapist couch talking about how we would have rather gone running on Saturday mornings for hours at a time instead of make him pancakes. But honestly, if this is the worse thing we do to him, I think he'll live. Of more concern to him right now is why we don't buy him every single toy he sees.

Back to running. I wisely took the Monday after the 20-miler off to rest and relax. So I went to a yoga class which was a wonderful way to stretch out. All day I was surprised at how well I felt. The next day, when I went out for my morning five mile run, didn't feel as great. It wasn't a terrible run, but I definitely felt the 20-miles. The terrible run came the next day. The eight miles home felt worse than the 20 miles. My legs felt like lead the entire time. I kept waiting for them to warm up which finally happened at mile seven. However, by Saturday morning, with only a 12-mile run, I was back to my usual self. There was even part of me that wanted to push it toward the end. I settled with running up Cricket hill.

So now I'm at the point where I'm figuring out my game plan for the day of the race. I'm going to try to keep at a 10:50 pace for the first half and then see if I can either negative split or stay at that pace to finish. I'd hit the finish line around 4:44 - and that would be 39 minutes faster than my first marathon. But we'll see - I'm still not totally confident that's how it will turn out.

Stats for the last two weeks:
Miles run: 69
Miles left to go: 56.2
Raised so far: $1075.20
Left to go: Nothing - just seeing how much I can raise now.