Runner’s Trots : 0 Amee: +1!

I ate a full dinner before running after work tonight. Half a mile into my run, I was regretting it!

That telltale rumble happened- but not in my gut.

Rather, in the place every runner fears. Usually I would turn back and deal with it at home first. Maybe even stop my run and start over.

But I had four miles planned, it was already getting late, and I was resolute.

I knew there was a bar up head on my route. So I just ran faster!

“Not yet, not yet, not yet!” I scolded my digestive tract.

I had taken a longer route to add more mileage– but I cut over from a trail to ensure I’d make it!

I ran into the bar and bolted into the ladies’, passing through a pool tournament. Paused my run!

And whew! Safe.

GI crisis averted.

Instead of starting over or giving up, I’m learning to improvise.

The remainder of my run was relaxed, even pleasant. I hit my goal of 4 miles.

You never know how far the next porta potty is on race day!

These small victories on training runs matter.

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It Didn’t Break

Earlier tonight I was washing dishes, and a glass mug fell out of my hand.

On to the floor! I gasped, expecting it to shatter.

But like a falling cat, it somehow righted itself — and survived.

I laughed in relief. I have three of them– they are glass stein mugs from Long John Silver’s, years ago. Before writing this, I Googled them.

These mugs are 25 years old. They have ships on them. People sell them on eBay.

Not this broad! These remnants from my childhood make me happy.

It’s such a small moment, but witnessing this made me feel resilient.

They’ve gone with me to all my apartments, since I graduated college. I use them to drink milk or pop. I use them all the time.

If those mugs can hold up that long, I feel I can withstand anything.

When Running is Your Coping Skill

A conversation with my Dad this weekend zapped me out of a no-running funk.

I told him I was volunteering for a second race. They were three days apart.

Dad: “Have you run this week?
Amee: “No.”
Dad: Pause. “Are you still running?”
Amee: “Yeah.”
Dad: “Better stop procrastinating. Gotta do what you gotta do.”

I had to laugh. Months ago he was asking me why I was running so much! It had been 14 days since my last run. A week ago, I had a major panic attack at 3 a.m. I’m back on track now, thanks to being pro-active and reaching out to people as well as using different coping skills.

But I notice that lately if I’m in a bad mood or struggling to accept something, my friends and family ask about my running:

“Would a run help?”
“Have you run today?”

It’s sweet and reassuring. It means they’re paying attention.

It’s an alert that maybe running is more important to me than I even noticed.

And I’m starting to get it. If you lace up and go consistently, especially when you don’t want to– running becomes a vital aspect of your routine. It’s another source of stability in your life; something you do regardless of your moods or even if you feel a little ill.

Dory told us, “Just keep swimming.”

I want to be like her. In my case however, the mantra is “Just keep running.”

I’m so hard on myself. I need to stop comparing myself to other runners.

And when I volunteered at these races, my running friends were thankful for my support on the course. But they also made a point to ask why I wasn’t running it.

“You gotta get back to running!” one person told me.
“It’s great to have you out there cheering,” said another, “but you need to get out there kicking some ass.”

That made me laugh. Me, kicking ass at a circa 14 minute a mile pace? But I realized, that’s just my own insecurity.

I’m racing on a regular basis. In the pictures, I’m clearly working hard. I’ve got a good stride, I’m IN IT. I LOOK like a runner.

Even if I don’t always feel like one.

Tonight I was well-rested and got a lot done at work! I came home excited to run. I broke it in half: I ran to and from someplace I was going. It wasn’t quite 3 miles– 2.92 when I added up both distances.

But I already feel more sane. And going home was easier, I was faster.

I’ve got a 5k this weekend, and there are several races from September to November I’m planning. GAME ON, I’m ready!!

The Last Firefly

Tonight I attended a 5k as a volunteer, not a runner. And was inspired!

Total last-minute decision.

Right when I reported for duty, I was happy. After hunting down someone in charge I was told to cut open the bags of colored powder at a table. Kids who had just done a 1 mile color run were coming over to get two bags each, with a countdown to throw it all in the air following.

Their energy was more refreshing than sweet pink lemonade. I was definitely at the cool table– it was mobbed! All different ages, jostling each other and deciding which colors they wanted. I threw powder at them and they loved it.

They danced around, they egged me on. There were also clear plastic bottles full, usually intended for condiments. I squirted the powder on their bright white t-shirts and especially on their hair– they were delighted! Of course, I patted myself down generously as well.

My next assignment was to get dropped off at a spot on the course to help direct them toward a turn. I went inside and found a supervisor, who directed me to the corner of the gym by the back doors. There I found two gals from my running club, Diana and Terri! We all got to wear these dashing neon orange crossing guard vests, and Terri took a selfie of us in them! Then we loaded up into a van and Jody joined us. Dropped off at designated locations to direct the runners around corners or just encourage them.

The last woman I saw come around was followed by a car. She was an older woman, sweating and smiling all the way! I had talked to her as she was running toward my post the first time, and told her I liked her silly yellow headband. It had two yellow sprouty things on springs on it, waving as she shuffled on.

She had on a bright yellow tank top and thick, beautiful white hair.

“We’re fireflies,” she said. I cackled at their creativity. The race was named the Firefly 5k– perfect. She kept on, undeterred about being the last runner. I admired her. On July 4, I was the last runner in my race!

I was picked up in the same van less than 30 minutes later I believe, and then I was told which direction to walk back to the finish line.

But en route, I saw all the supporters of the runners and decided to stay and encourage people.

And I saw almost every person come up the hill. I gained a new perspective about racing. Instead of focusing on how I’m always “back of the pack,” I saw how hard EVERY runner was working. Some were full-on sprinting, seemingly dancing and barely touching the ground with the balls of their feet. Others were a steady pace, but still really labored. Some were walking. Some were wincing, favoring one leg — but determined.

I saw couples, kids, families. A boy who seemed to have been crying, but his dad was walking next to him, watching his son and encouraging him verbally to keep going. Maybe the kid wanted to quit. Maybe he was upset about something else. But you could see the love the father had for his son.

I saw racers going solo, as I often do.

One man seemed to be a giant— he looked to be nearly 7 feet tall! It was almost like watching a giraffe run. I was amazed he could be so coordinated. I realized that we all have our challenges. I am extraordinarily short. This man is astonishingly tall. And there he was, barreling along.

I did my best to constantly encourage them with claps, eye contact, pointing.

“You got this!”
“Keep going!”
“I like your shoes!”
“You’re doing AWESOME!”
“WOO HOO!”

And not just the ones struggling, but the ones KILLING it, too. Because running is hard, whatever your pace. And everyone out there is pushing themselves.

I am always so appreciative in races when I’m just slogging along and suddenly a volunteer is up ahead or around a corner– it inspires me to pick it up, get competitive again. To remember that I can do it.

Trying to beat a PR. Trying to support someone by running that race with them. Trying to block out the pain from injuries. Just trying to finish.

Toward the end, I made an effort to genuinely SMILE at runners. And a wonderful thing happened– it made ME happier to smile at them.

I’ve had a rough start to my weak. A panic attack Sunday night, must from general anxiety. Smiling and *meaning it truly made me feel more relaxed.

I was also happy to realize just how many runners I recognized. They saw me too and some haven’t seen me in months, since I haven’t done any group runs in awhile. We mainly interact on Facebook. They were surprised and genuinely waved and greeted me. One passing by, Laura, reached out to high-five me!

All the spectators were heading back to the finish line. The police left. I wasn’t sure if that last woman was still out there? I didn’t want to abandon her. It looked as if it may rain at any minute, so I headed back toward the finish. As I approached, I spied those same yellow firefly headbands. That woman had her own cheering section! I made small talk with them. They were closer to my age, 30’s or 40’s I’m guessing.

After 10 minutes or so I ventured back toward the street to look for her. And there she was! I ran up and she smiled at me with recognition. I ran back toward the finish line and joined her friends in cheering her on! I was on the opposite side, and we all cheered and yelled for her! Turns out her name is Lorrie.

“GO, LORRIE!” I chanted.

A race staff took her picture.

Lorrie was triumphant! And best of all, she medaled!

Just goes to prove it doesn’t matter your pace– don’t let that stop you from racing. She won 2nd in her AG– which running lingo for Age Group. You can be last in a race and still medal!!

Afterward I went to the after-party in a beer tent with some other peeps from our running club. We got free pizza, we took pictures. We bonded.

Robin told me, “You need to get back to running!”

Indeed, I do. I haven’t been on a run in a bit outside of a race.

Tonight I discovered five vital things:

1. Volunteering at races is almost as fun as running them! Sometimes more.
2. The people in my running club are welcoming, hilarious, good people.
3. I need to sign up for more local races and even some group runs to get to know them better.
4. If I don’t want to pay a race fee or don’t feel up to it, I can always volunteer. And still have a blast with my running peeps.

and most of all…

5. The running community is my tribe. They are energetic, generous and fit.

I may volunteer at a second race this weekend! Someone invited me.

Mud Factor 2017: Save Your Cash for Warrior Dash

I did my first (and maybe only) Mud Factor race today in Wilmington, Illinois. My first Warrior Dash was in 2016, last summer. I’d do it again if I can find someone to go. You might be wondering about the difference: I will tell you.

I actually had a great time! Got major sun on my shoulders. And it was totally last-minute. Wednesday afternoon I was craving a race for this weekend and found this online. I asked a few people in my running club, but no one was game for mud. I decided to chance it solo and then found a friend and her daughter had commented on the Facebook event page. They invited me to join them to run with her granddaughter.

So I was in! They weren’t running until the 1:30 PM kids’ wave, which was only a 3k– 1.86 miles. Of course my giant ego thought that wouldn’t be enough challenge– so I signed up for an earlier 12 PM adult wave to make sure I got the whole 5k experience. I had planned to run BOTH!

Yeah, that didn’t happen! That’s my beef with MF: this course isn’t a full 5k and requires that you run two laps to fully complete it. Warrior Dash gives you a solid continuous 5k course in one long lap.

But my shoes literally got sucked off in the mud about halfway (I’m estimating?) — I finished the rest of the lap in my socks! I stuck them out of the way on that mud hill and my plan was to go back for them and finish in my shoes, time be damned. But my socks were so caked in mud that I couldn’t get my momentum back. And for some reason, my toes were cramping?! It was damn hot and I told myself, “I’ll make up the difference in the 1:30 wave.” So I re-hydrated, had someone take a picture of me, all mudded up. Changed into clean pair of dry socks.

Then I realized I couldn’t wait that long, so I tried again. I think I made it about a quarter mile in (however long was left) before I knew I was done.

This was also my first DNF (did not finish) race: but I’m okay with it. The clock said it took me 36 minutes to get to the 3k mark. That’s respectable. I don’t in any way feel like I wimped out. There was A LOT of mud, it was damn hot, and I had gotten there at 11 a.m. so had already been in the sun 1.5 hours by then.

So I headed over to the wash-off station, which was a joke. The line was probably 45 minutes because they had a shoddy wooden structure with weak trickles of water, it seemed less than 10 people at a time could use it. Right when I got up there, it faltered. Warrior Dash had a more sophisticated system designed to get a big group through quickly– hoses which you can control yourself, with a steady, COLD water pressure.

I ran a mud race alone today. At 12 noon! That’s seriously bad ass. I almost didn’t sign up because I thought I’d feel like a loser running by myself. But it was the opposite: I felt brave. I felt proud. I felt strong.

Mud Factor has less obstacles than Warrior Dash– and my arms are weak. I really struggled getting up the walls with ropes at WD– but today, I kept moving. Even though I haven’t worked out my arms, it seems I’m overall stronger. I ran most of the course, whereas at WD last year I was mostly walking and gasping for breath.

I texted my friend and we met up at the taco truck. Things were getting packed up by then. We took pictures together and they were just as muddy as me! By the time we left it was about 3 p.m.

One thing that’s better about MF is the parking: attendants directed me and it wasn’t in a big mud field like WD had been. It was easy to get out, quick. But there are extra fees for everything: parking, bag check, food truck, bottles of water or Gatorade, merch. And the merch tent has less options, although the staff was great and didn’t hurry me along to make a choice.

I’d say this is a perfect race if you’re a family and really want to enjoy the course with your kids or just have fun with your friends. The savings could go along way if you’ve got 4 or more people to register.

But if it’s just you, the extra fees for Warrior Dash are worth it. The course is more challenging, there are better, vastly different obstacles. There are on-site photographers at several points and your race times are posted. I think pictures were up in a couple of weeks. Going down the big water slide at the end and then leaping over fire to finish WD just makes you feel invincible!! You can opt for a meal-included, and it’s easy to redeem your food ticket. You get a more ornate medal and a big fuzzy hat. There are multiple places to take photos before and after the race, and plenty of props as well to climb on and show off your guns.

Glad I tried a second brand of mud race today or OCR, obstacle course race.

My plans didn’t work out, but I improvised and had a blast! Bonuses were the cool head wrap included with the bib and safety pins. The finisher’s medal is cool and I like the race logo. I bought a neon yellow race tank as well but thus far, it’s not entirely clean after two washings. Hoping I can get it clean tomorrow with some Oxyclean!

And I got some great pictures!

It’s official: I’m addicted to racing!

Race Day Resilience

I nearly forfeited the 5k my work sponsors tonight because of a possible injury.

But I decided to buck up and give it a try: and I was fine! Two plus hours later, no pain.

Tonight I learned that our bodies recover when we least expect it, and to trust mine more when it comes to my running.

And I also had my first-ever race mantra:

“Protect my feet. Make me powerful.”

After running 7 miles (for the first time ever!!) Tuesday and two miles yesterday to prepare for tonight, I noticed some pain in my right foot last night and again this morning. It had been seven days since my last run prior to Tuesday. The pain felt like it was on the top of my foot where the toes themselves connect to my foot. I’m a toe-cracker (sorry if TMI!) and it felt like I had cracked mine too hard. Walking at all was painful, though not agony. Just uncomfortable. But since I’m a receptionist I luckily spend the majority of my day seated.

After doing some Googling and posting on the message board for my running club, I was terrified that I either had a stress fracture or “a complete tear of the plantar plate, where the toes connect to the ball of your forefoot.” The latter was suggested by another run club member who said she’d had the exact same symptoms as me and ended up going to a wonderful podiatrist.

But I wanted to participate tonight with my co-workers, clients, and running club friends.

On my lunch I bought my first bottle of Ibuprofen (normally a Tylenol girl)– because people had said my usual remedy is useless for inflammation. I went home and took two 200mg and grabbed a freezer pack and towel from home. Elevated my foot underneath my desk for the remainder of the day. After work I slathered Bengay on both sides of my foot and hoped for the best.

And tonight, I was fine! I walked a lot because I had to pee BAD. I was afraid to run the first mile, but then the urge passed and I was able to pick it up a bit. The humidity was still horrid, but there was a magnificent WIND and the course ran downhill around a curve too, so that was helpful.

But I really felt like a runner today. Instead of getting all in my head and skipping the race to go to quick care, I just took practical steps to treat the pain and showed up determined to at least try. I had to laugh at myself– I’ve become the very stereotype of a runner who seems to live in total denial of an injury, obsessed with racing.

I’ve already missed one race in April, that 10k that I trained two months to run only to be saddled with such a sever cold I couldn’t get out of bed that morning.

I just want to get the money’s worth for my entry fee! Today I felt bad ass. And beyond that, the thought of having to miss races or even just a few days or a week because of injury made me… surprisingly sad. I had no idea what I had done to cause this pain. Even the possibility felt so UNFAIR!

And along with a several other vendors, there was a physical therapy tent. After the race, I asked a woman to take a look at my right foot. She had me take my shoe and sock off and examined me. She said there was no bruising, nothing seemed broken– I have a healthy foot and the flexing was normal. Relief! She attributed the pain to upping the mileage AND trying a new route simultaneously.

Glad to know I’m back in business! I’ll tape it up to be on the careful side tomorrow, and ice it a few times this weekend. Seemed it’s just pains of adjustment.

Which means I’m making headway as a runner. Which makes me happy.

The biggest gift is proving that I can take care of myself and that my body can heal faster than I anticipated. To not get hung up on “what-ifs” and solving a problem that isn’t even necessarily a definite problem yet.

I’m usually so solution-oriented and sometimes I need to just RELAX.

I get why running is such a mental sport now. It’s all about grounding yourself in your body, whilst also getting OUT of your head.

Prior to racing, we all were lead in some yoga. I was cracking jokes to my co-worker about how UNSUITED for yoga I am. He was laughing along until he just quit the stretching all together, when it was my turn to laugh!

Tonight I allowed my heart to lead, and my feet followed.

NKOTB– FINALLY!!!! At 36, the Dream.

Just got home from my VERY FIRST NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK concert, in Chicago.

I AM WIRED!!! Two friends from work, Cindy and Bonnie, invited me. We bought these tickets the day they went on sale– MONTHS ago. Floor seats!!

It should really be named the Magical Abs Tour, because all FIVE ARE RIPPED! My beautiful Catholic boys from Boston.

Somehow in their mid-40’s they are sexier than they were 30 years ago. And the timing finally worked out so that I could go and see them– I’ve been wanting to since 1988 when my then- best friend introduced me to New Kids Mania.

I literally heard every single song I wanted to hear tonight. I am flabbergasted, they covered material from every single album, including their first one in 1986 and their CHRISTMAS album. I’d say there were maybe five songs out of likely 30ish that I didn’t know. And bless them, for every single note it seemed there was a coordinating dance step– that’s a lot to remember!

Back in the day I was ALL ABOUT Jordan and Joey.

But now? HELLO DONNIE WAHLBERG!!! His gregarious personality is so obvious in the way the moves and dances– always with his arms open, waving to the fans– smiling and joking. Jordan is more of an introvert– he puts himself out there, but he’s more focused on his performance and his dancing, which is still INSANE. Joey has grown into a confident man who knows every woman there wants him and is highly enjoying it. Danny’s athleticism and goofiness; his ABS TATTOO that proclaims, “Elizabeth,” that lucky woman! Jonathan’s smile sneaks up on you; I always liked the that he was the responsible older brother figure of the group.

Boys II Men opened and although it was wonderful to see Nathan and Wanya Morris and Sean Stockman were indeed impressive– they just weren’t on the level of NKOTB. They are missing Michael McCary, the bass who retired from the group because of a MS diagnosis. And they sounded good, but the three of them combined are no Jordan Knight!! They kept their shirts on. They haven’t aged as flawlessly. They’re not as confident. The bottom line is just lack the same strong nostalgic emotional attachment to these three that I’ve had since day one for the New Kids. Although I (still have!) one Boys II Men album which I play regularly, I had five NKOTB albums at one point. From their debut self-titled album, the that tragic “Face the Music,” and even the Christmas album– one of my favorites. Although I didn’t get the one in 2008. Now I will! “Single,” “Remix (I LIke The)” and “Summertime” stand up well 9 years later! Tonight I bought the latest album, “Grateful,” with only five songs on it.

The two best moments: JOEY MCINTYRE passing by me on the right, walking the perimeter on what might have been the shoulders of body guards. Somehow he was above the fans but also right in the thick of us!! I rushed over and strained to reach him– I ALMOST TOUCHED HIM. His leg or his shoulder. I wish I had just given it a good LUNGE, I probably could have made it!! And then shortly later, 10-15 minutes, ALL FIVE NEW KIDS migrated to a proscenium stage directly to our LEFT– we all RUSHED over and I could see their expressions, their sweat, their exact dance moves. And I have so many pictures and videos to prove it!

It was exhilarating and simultaneously reassuring. I’ve always felt uncool for loving NKOTB so much– but being there felt like family. Others spent the ’90s wallowing in grunge, and I embraced the saccharine melodies of pop instead. I still liked rock. But there’s something so refreshing about seeing these guys. Instead of grizzled rockers who look 20 years older and are writing books about their addictions, the New Kids are just regular guys. They have families. They have an obvious affection for not just each other, but the fans. They wanted to give us a show of our dreams, and they did!

I’ve never felt anything like it at another concert. I hope this is just the first of other NKOTB adventures!

Highlights: Cover Girl, My Favorite Girl, Valentine Girl, Tonight, You Got It (The Right Stuff), Step by Step, I’ll Be Loving You, Stop It Girl, This One’s for the Children, Happy Birthday, Popsicle, Call It What You Want, Please Don’t Go Girl, Games, Hangin’ Tough, and of course, STEP BY STEP!!

What I loved most about tonight was the JOY these five men exuded. They were humble. They were excited. They were dedicated. They were GORGEOUS! There was no shred of a feeling of routine or obligation– they were in on the joke with us. And even though unlike several of my friends, I didn’t get to see them as a child, I felt like it didn’t matter. I’ve never experienced such a feeling of unity as a fan at a concert.

Even better, I went with two sisters– Cindy and Bonnie– who are also lifelong fans and were singing and screaming every single word, fan-girling out just as hard and obsessively snapping photos and trying to get video of all the best moments. We kept looking at each other in utter ecstasy, jumping up and down and squeeing away during each song. Even though I only met them two years ago at my current job, through our mutual obsession, we were all three sisters tonight in Allstate Arena.

I jumped, sang and screamed myself hoarse. Two hours later, sober, I’m still aghast at realizing a 30-year-dream.

I work at 7:30– it’s it’s almost 2 a.m.! Time for sleep.

Thank you, Lord, for New Kids on the Block. And thank you for making me a fan.