The Great Pumpkin Run II: Luda Crisp and Cornstalks

Today was my first fall race kick-off!! A 5k called The Great Pumpkin Run in Oswego, IL.

Nothing went as planned, but I had a wonderful time.  Felt good to pin on a race bib.

It was only 67 degrees but still brutal. I’ve run hotter races– actually run them. Today, honestly, I probably only ran a mile. I’m not sure why the heat affected me so differently today. Probably because I tried to cram training into this past week only. I ran three times since last Saturday.

But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I had everything prepared when I went to bed, I got myself up early, I had food ready. I got my car parked, got a second pumpkin for the race since I forgot my five-pounder in my car — I got a 2.5 pounder instead, luckily.

And I did it! I wore the same outfit as last year: black skull tank top and gray shorts. The only additions to my “costume” for this race were some fun sparkly jack-o-lantern antlers on a headband and cheap orange sunglasses, found ’em at the dollar store. The antlers headband kept me cool

My hair is shoulder-length now; last year it was a black pixie. I just felt free.

The route started in an apple orchard and I saw a taped sign labeling them. One said, no joke, “Luda Crisp.” That’s GOT to be some farm humor, eh? Then we were passing what I think was a soybean crop, and finally, a corn field.

I stopped several times to take pictures. I was in the back of the pack with the turtles and the walkers. People just hanging out with their friends, significant others and families. Moms with their littles. Last year, I felt lonely.

This year I felt determined.

I asked a few random people to take my picture at different points. I overhead a woman making a comment that awhile back I had asked for one and needed another.

And I decided to let her comment go. Who cares if she’s judging me?

I’m not able to run fast today, so at least I can enjoy myself. Who says that races have to be about PR’s and beating your previous time? For me, I think running is about enjoying the journey. I’m not fast, probably never will become a fast or competitive runner. I have good races and bad ones. I used to be so hard on myself with races. I’d constantly put myself down if I had to walk a little. Or if my shirt fit tight or I had to go up a size.

Today I was just happy that I knew to wear a tank and shorts instead of the hoodie we got in our packets and some leggings, like so many others. I’m very sensitive to being over-layered and it makes me miserable. I know, for the most part, how to dress for my body’s needs now in most runs. That is a skill in itself. It’s not just about pace and distance.

The only thing I missed this year was actually running THROUGH the corn maze, like we got to do last year.

But it was wonderful. At the finish line I received both my finisher’s medal and the promised second medal, the “Tough Pumpkin” for carrying a pumpkin the entire race. We got a banana, Boxed Water, and then redeemed our coupons for free cider.

And I didn’t forget to turn off my running app at the finish line. I was delighted to see the map pop up, and all the beautiful turns and squiggles representing my journey.

I think I enjoy running because it’s a great metaphor. At the end of my runs, I see the map pop up showing me how far I traveled– the larger picture. Just like God has a plan for us, and we often don’t *feel that while we trudge along, just trying to make it forward. Just doing our best to keep moving without having the answers.

That map at the end of my runs, good or terrible, always comforts me. He’s taking me somewhere, and I’m reminded that I have nothing to fear.

After getting home I took a nap. I don’t know why today was so taxing, but doing the race on grass and dirt certainly made it harder.

I feel so happy. My next race is next weekend!

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It’s Never Too Late to Mend: The Old Joliet Prison Break-In! What a Night!

I’m home and glowing with affection for Joliet, my hometown of the last 30 years. People here really are decent, friendly and hard-working folks.

I knew this would be the event of the summer and so I had to score myself a ticket soon after hearing about it. And my, did it deliver! It was bigger than the Taste of Joliet, with a 21 and only crowd and fantastic music all night. There were 3,000 tickets available and I’d say they probably sold out from the looks of it!

I arrived about 6:15 and already the designated parking lots were full except for the last one. I didn’t have plans to meet anyone specific, so just meandered around and looked for anyone I might know and checked in on fb. A few people commented and I found one of them! At first I felt kind of lame because everyone had brought lawn chairs and that had never occurred to me. But it ended up being a good thing because it forced me to do a lot of walking. I saw down to eat my pizza and once more to rest a bit. But mostly I just people watched and surveyed all that was going on.

So many people were dressed to theme, some in full-on convict black and white stripe costumes, complete with hats! Others were in suits, fedoras and sunglasses a la The Blues Brothers- another J-town legacy incorporated into the evening. As most know, the first scene features Elwood picking up Joliet Jake from this very prison, in an old police car he got for a deal.

A lot of people had on black t-shirts with Blue Brothers faces and quotes or they were wearing something black and white striped, or just the black fedoras and glasses. They were being sold as a $5 combo at a merch tent, along with event t-shirts, sewing kits, etc. I’m glad I got the hat and glasses! Later they came in handy.

There were food trucks and tons of props serving as photo ops: an old J-town cop car and a white board painted with black stripes and height markers for patrons to take “mug shots.” In the right corner, there was another cop car– this one a prop for the headlining and closing act, The Blooze Brothers. A kind woman I talked to took a shot of me leaning against it and in exchange I got one of her and her boyfriend over by it.

I saw my friend Hallie in line for a tour and she invited me to cut in with her friends and tag along, so I did! The tiny, broken down cells were very sobering. But probably my favorite part of the evening was visiting the tent for the Old Joliet Prison Burnt District Artists. I’ve been seeing posts from them on facebook as they helped clean up and also found raw materials they could incorporate into their artwork. A lot of cool things are happening in Joliet right now, a lot of new business and breweries are opening up. There’s some intense Joliet pride and I’m proud to see it manifested artistically. That’s where I found the young and hip people. I really liked a piece by Ruben Calderon of Art of Breath Galleria (facebook) — it featured a male prisoner in what seems to be prayer, with a guardian angel visible behind him. The cell bars are in the background, along with a phrase, “It’s Never Too Late To Mend,” written on the cell wall to his right. If I had the cash I would have made an offer.

I met some really nice people just ambling around. One woman offered me a chair at her table to eat, and another told me how much she and her boyfriend love live music and had the best anecdote ever. Her boyfriend had actually BEEN a prisoner here at The Joliet Prison more than 20 years ago, and came back tonight a free man to this event. She said he had told her he’d grown as a person and learned a lot while doing his time. He was glad to come back and reflect on it because it was no longer a painful memory to him.

Then when The Blooze Brothers took the stage, I ran up and spied a friend front and center! We just kinda jammed out together, he was more quiet; bopping his head but clearly really in the moment. I was more wild, dancing around and joking with the woman on my right. We were both being totally silly.

I got one of three free CD’s they passed out because I put on my fedora and black sunglasses and was dancing like crazy– it pays off to be festive! Can’t wait to re-live tonight and play the whole CD when I’m driving around next.

I thought it was beautiful that the band did a tribute to Aretha Franklin’s recent passing. The lead female singer was Shelia Pepple, as far as I can tell from the liner notes from their CD. She sang “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” and a few others I didn’t know with some impressive pipes!

And as for Elwood (Chuck Little) and Joliet Jake (Jeff Sismelich)– they KILLED IT!! They really had the dancing cold, and Elwood wailed on his harmonica. They did “Soul Man,” “Rawhide,” and “Jailhouse Rock!” I left before the end of the set, but didn’t see “Sweet Home Chicago,” it was probably the last song.

I danced my tail off, re-connected with old friends, took some fun pictures and left feeling very glad to be a Jolietian.

In this historic prison, I was freed.

The Extra Mile

Tonight after work I finally ran 3.04 miles, almost a 5k! And I ACTUALLY RAN! I only stopped to use a bathroom, and pause to get a picture of a blazing sunset. My pace has improved, too.

It’s my longest run since March, and I think that was a race. I feel amazing. After six months of not being able to sustain a run of any length, tonight I reached within myself and made it happen.

The temperature inspired me– in the ’70s! A breeze. I drove to a nearby trail rather than just the same route near my neighborhood.

I had planned on 1.5 miles but was going to try for 2. But I got lost somewhere and actually ran an entire mile out of my way before realizing this. Yeah, I know! I am something else. 😉 I laughed at myself, feeling like God decided I was going to run 3 miles tonight even if he had to be sneaky to arrange it!

Thus, tonight I ran an extra mile and felt so empowered. I decided after I hit the 2 mile mark I’d run the rest of the way back, rather than take it easy.

I won’t get down on myself for not running much this summer. I’ll move forward.

It was so uncomfortable for the first mile– my lungs were really feeling it! On the bright side I had no side stitches, no knee or ankle pain. No issues with my shoes feeling flat or uncomfortable. I was dressed just right for the weather.

Just when I thought I’d have to start completely over, my body has retained *some level of fitness. My body knows I’m a runner.

How lucky am I?!

A Baptism for Liam, an Epiphany for Me

I’ve been to Baptisms before, but today’s was special because it showed me something important about myself as well as celebrating the new faith of my friends’ first child.

It showed me that I do want a family life and I do want a Catholic marriage.

My friends Jenni and Ryan celebrated their first child, Liam. He was born on Ash Wednesday into an Irish Catholic family! They have been close friends of mine since high school, when all three of us went to youth group together. They’ve never missed a birthday of mine! They are both responsible but are silly enough to keep each other laughing, too.

Being there with our other mutual friends– also from youth group– was wonderful. They all have families now, and their kids were playing together in the back yard. I’ve seen them all be pregnant. I’ve been to their weddings and showers. I just felt so grounded and comfortable today with all of them.

A statue of the Blessed Mother was in the left corner of the yard and I found her presence very comforting. I found out it was passed down from someone in their family. My own Godmother has a similar one in her front yard. I’ve always hoped that one day when I hopefully own a home I will have one as well.

I spent the afternoon just catching up with our friends, getting to know both their families better, taking pictures and eating great food! It was wonderful to see them together as parents as well, knowing they prayed and planned for this blessing in their lives. They both have this wonderful, relaxed glow about them. And a big reason for that is their marriage is grounded in a strong friendship and shared Catholic faith.

If I’ve had doubts about whether religion is truly a deal-breaker for me in a relationship, today they were dissolved. Jenni has always been my voice of reason, reminding me that it’s not an unreasonable expectation and showing me that it’s possible in her own marriage. I’ve dated enough Atheists and people who profess no faith. They were all good men but there was definitely something elemental missing. I am unabashedly a woman of faith.

And the highlight of the day? Of course, it was holding Liam. He was so calm and cuddly. He felt comfortable with me and I got to take a few pictures with him. And for me, holding a baby is so natural and it just makes my day. To know this little being trusts you enough to relax and let you hold them is such a good feeling.

I will know when I’m in the right relationship and I’m genuinely happy single for the time being.

I’ve almost renounced my faith in the past because I wanted so much to be compatible with a man who was not religious. I am more confident now and will not compromise my religion again for the sake of being in a relationship. Now I recognize my faith is not only fundamental to my my identity, but my happiness.

Doctors Fall, Too

Today I had a doctor appointment. We did labs and luckily, everything is good.

I told her about my recent attempt to get back into running– and tripping! She had a good laugh about the little demon dogs. I told her how hard it is to start over after being gone almost 10 months from regular runs or racing.

That I have anxiety about falling again. That I feel like I’ve forgotten how.

And she did the most awesome thing. She pulled up the sleeves on her lab coat to show off her own battle scars– especially her elbows.

“They didn’t really heal,” she said with a smile. Next she showed me the knee scars, with pride!

This woman is a full-on M.D. at one of the best hospitals in the country. She’s petite and fit and has glorious natural long hair. She’s the kind of woman I see and think, “Wow.”

And she was telling me that she, too, falls down running.

The difference between us is that she doesn’t let her falls define or scare her.

She gets back out there. She accepts those clumsy moments.

And she knows that falling is part progress. As long as you don’t stop.

My sleeping has been off, and running used to help regulate it.

I can do this.

Bella and Cookie: How Two Tiny Devil Dogs Felled me Mid-Run

You’re not a runner until you are bleeding IN YOUR SHOES!!

Tonight was my first run post-cast removal. I waited an extra 19 days past my six weeks off running while in my cast. I was anxious about falling again. So I get my run app and music apps open, I lace up, and set a humble goal. I make it .02 miles up the street before these two itsy bitsy white fluffy willing to bet my miles on it BICHON FRISE devil dogs attack me! They come running full force and go for my feet. These little shits are fearless. I’m so fucking surprised that I trip on one of them and what happens? I PLUNGE straight down.
Just like when I broke my damn hand two months ago!
But this time, luckily, it’s just some road rash. On my left elbow and my right kneecap. (See picture! Lighting is dark.) Blood is running down my leg onto my teal Nike socks, and I’m on the ground and LAUGHING. I swear I feel like God is saying to me, “HOW BAD do you want this run tonight?”
A TEENAGER runs up to me, “Are you okay? I’m so sorry! Can I help you?” He reaches a hand out to me and I grab his palm with mine, he lifts me up with a genuine smile. He’s got a friend. They’re both holding a dog.
“What are their names?” I have to know.
“Buttercup and Cookie.”
That gets a good cackle out of me. Those tiny beasts are named Buttercup and Cookie. I told him to leash them next time, since I’m going to be running often from now on. I get up. I laugh, wave, and get going.
A guy in a black truck drives by on my right, and sticks his arm out the window to give me a thumbs up.
I get in a mile before I feel the runner’s trots creeping up on me and make it home. I ask a random girl walking whose probably high if she’ll take picture. I explain about the fall.
“That’s some SHIT,” she says, and obliges me. I go in. I tell my neighbor, who gets a good laugh and high-fives me. Then brings me a weird egg and grilled cheese sammich. I clean up my leg and arm, shower, and tell all ya’ll. Hope you got at least a little laugh out of my return to glory.
I don’t even want to wash the blood out of my shoes. Makes me feel like a legit bad ass.
I’m officially BACK! God, I missed this!

Sliding Down the Banister of Life: Lessons from Shamrock Shuffle 2018

Today was the the most arduous race of my life thus far but the most fun.

Because of friends I’ve made in my run club in the past year. I asked to get a ride with someone I’ve been wanting to get to know and she was excited to include me with her gang. We met at 6 a.m. at a local park and ride area and were together until circa 2:30 p.m., if I’m calculating right. I was one of six she happily transported in “Black Beauty,” her SUV.

And I learned that I have more — genuine– friends in this group than I realized. As I shared anxiety about being too slow to qualify for a “finisher’s medal” and having the course shut down before I crossed the line, two people in the club took that to heart. They both offered support and to help me in different ways.,one even offering to give me his medal if I didn’t make it in time. I appreciated the offers but declined, wanting to make it without any help. I took a chance.

And I still did it on my own. I was very slow. I had major shin splints after the first two miles, out of an 8k (4.97 miles) race. Why? Because I hadn’t run over a 5k since late October, at the 2017 Hot Chocolate Run 15k. I had managed to run once each month from November to March, due to the exceptional chill this winter. Honestly, I did a LOT of walking today.

I’ve also avoided running because I can be a perfectionist. If it wasn’t at least a 5k, why bother? If I knew I would be slow, better to wait until I had more energy. Until the weather was better. But several warmer days passed, and I didn’t run. I didn’t want to deal with those awkward miles, the transition.

“Junk miles,” you might call them. Thing is, you can’t avoid them.

Junk miles happen in every aspect of our lives. Those days you just don’t WANNA but have to anyway. That’s the whole concept of “adulting”– soldiering on. If you wait for ideal conditions, you’ll never finish anything important.

I almost didn’t even register for this race. I knew I hadn’t trained and that my time would be terrible. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the whole race, like I did last year. I wanted to preserve that glory. Last year, I CRUSHED my goal, ran the entire way, and didn’t even need a bathroom break the whole five miles. I had a runner’s high so invincible that I legit FORGOT about work the next morning until a co-worker texted me to check in.

But I’ll admit it, I wanted the swag for 2018. A black racing t-shirt, the medal. Even the socks, though I could tell they were kind of cheap. More than those, I wanted to come back and spend time with friends from the two running clubs I joined last year. I loved that they all gather at Palmer House before the race. I had so much fun hanging out after the race, too.

And those running friends were encouraging me all the way. Even though I felt like I didn’t really “belong” since some of them are elite runners who race every weekend, regularly place and medal, and have run Boston multiple times. But they all told me to just go for it, that they hoped to see me there.

So today, I’m proud of myself. I did this knowing full that it would be arduous. That it would be cold and windy. It was harder than I anticipated.

But when I crossed that finish line and was given my medal, I really felt I’d earned it. I heard them call my name out and smiled like a fool! And then I claimed my stuff from gear check and met up with them at Miller’s Pub.

When I walked in, they all cheered! And it was genuine.

I realized how hard I’ve been on myself. None of my running friends are judging my time or ability. They like seeing me at races, they’re happy for every little bit of progress I make, even if it’s quite humble.

When I got home today, I took a long hot bath. After I publish this, I’m going to sleep. And then back to the grind at work tomorrow!

But I cried a few tears at home today, overwhelmed by it all.

I may be inconsistent and awkward as a runner, but I’m still in it.

And the weather was BRUTAL today! A cruel chill that felt much lower than the 35 degrees I saw displayed on the route. At least we had some sunlight. I had on two pairs of running tights, two pair of gloves, a base layer, the race t, AND a windbreaker coat for running. My Shamrock Shuffle 2017 hat, plus a warm scarf bundled around my neck and mouth. I was dressed warm and it worked!

And the best example of how wonderful today turned out is a moment I had with my friend at Palmer House, where everyone congregated before the race. We were in different waves and corrals, but we all met up and got ready together. It was exciting to be part of a tradition in such a classy place, no less.

Last year, she and I played on the stairs, taking silly pictures. She was sliding down the banister and I took a picture. I think that’s how we met! And I suggested over a chat recently that this year we should try to re-create that moment this year. Last time I hadn’t been brave enough to try taking the same picture. The brass banister was taller than my hip and I just couldn’t let go and slide. But today, I did it! Just like this race, it was a bit awkward getting up there at first. But I maneuvered on and stop caring how I looked or if I would fall off. I raised my arms and went to the top and slid down that banister! My mouth was wide open in a laugh and I went for it. I have great pictures, too!

I LET GO. For that moment, and of my expectations for today.

One race and one awkward moment at a time, I’m becoming more confident.

I’m having more fun. And I’m surrounded my some amazing friends, too.