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.

 

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My First 15k: Calm and Capable

Two weeks ago now, I smashed my first 15k AKA 9.3 miles!

October 29, I completed my first true distance race past a 10k in Chicago– The Hot Chocolate Run. And God bless my Dad, he went to support me. At 4:45 we drove up together. And I learned so much about myself that made me feel confident. I even got myself and my Dad signed up for updates on my progress en route: me on facebook and him via text messages.

Prior, I didn’t have anxiety about the race. I knew I could cover the distance because my last training run was 8.33 miles– with the last four in driving cold rain and headwinds.

But I did have anxiety about other aspects: finding parking for the expo: at the Shamrock Shuffle 8k last April I went to three flippin’ spaces before I found a spot. I worried about the parking garage I chose for the race, and then helping my 75-year-old father find the finish line and meeting up with him afterwards. What if I picked the wrong garage and it was full? What if we were late finding the start? What if one our phones died and I couldn’t find him afterward?

This was my first Chicago race where I wouldn’t be riding with a friend who knew where to park, who I could just follow to the start line. My Dad drove, but I made all the decisions. Instead of using SpotHero, which has proved unreliable, I chose one of the five garages suggested on the race website. I used the discount they offered instead. And everything worked out. I even used gear check, something I used to be too anxious to do.

I had a blast at the expo the day before, and things were easy from the beginning. I even found my car after without a problem! I stayed from 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. because why not? I had no other plans, nothing else pressing to do. I tried on shoes, got fitted for a bra (none of which I bought)– sampled different flavors of nunn. Ambled around and passed by most of what I saw. Tried a rolling stick on my calves and feet. Tried on my racing shirt to make sure it fit. And I bought a few things I needed– including The Tube, a soft belt with three pouches, two zippered, that you can wear on your hips on race day. It’s snug and secure and actually comfortable.

I also bought my first medal rack. There were several for sale in different colors: silver, black, hot pink. I ended up going with a black one that says,

“Courage to start
Strength to endure
Resolve to finish.”

It has 10 hooks on it, and I got a hot pink magnet to go with it that says 15k.

I’m excited to put it up in my apartment! I have enough medals now.

On the way out, I stopped at a table and made myself a race poster. Why not? I was going to ask my Dad to hold it, but figured it best to keep it simple and left it at home. But he did hold it up for a picture for me after.

The race was amazing. So many people were complaining about the cold, but I was fine. I didn’t need a gaitor. I finally know how to adapt my clothes to races: in layers. I had on a t-shirt, the racing half-zip, and a waterproof thin jacket over it, plus gloves. I had on two pairs of tights and wool socks. My New Balances.

I also ran the full 9.3 miles WITHOUT music or my running app, since my battery was depleted so fast before the race even started. I had no idea bout my pace, and lost the 14:00 minute pacer around the 5 mile mark. I started out with a nun’s veil as a costume, but ditched it after mile four: it was too heavy and hot. And I ain’t no nun anyway!

At the 8th mile I called my Dad to alert him to watch for me.

And as I crossed that finish line, I didn’t cry like I had expected. I wasn’t even emotional. Instead, I was just very calm. Happy with myself. Even without my pacer, I still hit my goal of staying under 14:00 minutes per mile! My final time was 2:08:39 seconds at a 13:49 pace!

I had stayed moving for an entire 9.3 miles! It brought me back to the Cinco de Miler in 2016, my first five mile race, where I had to walk the last three miles and had terrible knee pain. I almost quit three times.

Now I can cover 9.3 miles moving continuously, NO PAIN!

And my Dad was right where I asked him to be: on the left. And truthfully, I didn’t need him to hold up a sign or even to yell my name as I crossed the finish line. Just seeing him there, my reliable wonderful father, was enough. Strong and silent. Then he took pictures of me through the fence, and we met up and he gave me a hug. I got someone to take a picture of us.

All the race photos were wonderful as well.

The way we took care of each other at this race was very special. Before the race started, he wouldn’t leave me until I got to my assigned corral. He was still concerned about me. At the gear check, I led him by the hand because there were so many people and it was dark pre-dawn, I didn’t want to lose him. Afterward we went to gear check and picked up my stuff, then to redeem my hot chocolate bowl! We shared my chocolate snacks and then went to breakfast after.

Just spending so much time with him was wonderful. Normally I can only see him at my parents’ house, or if he comes over to fix something or we go to dinner or a movie. He’s a man of routine! But being with with him in the big city, I felt so grateful and safe, too. I worry about him getting older, but he got around just fine to the finish line without my help.

Although now I walk faster than him, which makes me a bit sad. I used to always have to walk so fast to keep up with him as a little girl. I’d hold his thumb in my fist, his hands are so big. I slowed down and we walked together. He did this for me because he knew it was important, and that’s what I’d asked for as my 37th birthday present, that he come to one of my races.

And he picked the most important one.

I did one more race the following week: The Carrera de los Muertos in Pilsen. But it was rained out due to thunder, lightening, and some flooding on the course. We were still given our medals. It was actually November 4, the morning of my 37th birthday. But I had so much fun just dressing up, driving with my friend Heather, and taking pictures that it didn’t even matter. I met up with Diana, a friend from my run club, plus another girl I’d met in line for packet pick-up. The day was amazing!

Now my next goals will be a 10 mile and a half-marathon. I know I can do it. At work the next day a co-worker was impressed that I was walking without a limp. He said when he did the same race and distance last year, he had been in pain!

It seems my body is slowly acclimating to running and I recover quickly.

But I’m taking a little break from racing. Not because of winter. But because races are expensive and I was very social in September and October. I really got into Halloween. I want to save some money and catch up on some other things, too. I’ve been so focused on running the past few months and over the summer that I’ve fallen behind in some other areas. Plus, I need to recharge a bit.

I also have had a small cold for the past two weeks. Still a bit sniffly. Want to get that gone before I start running in the cold and risk another one.

There’s a race in December I may do, but no Turkey Trots yet this year.

I’m feeling amazing. It’s like a a new relationship where you feel secure in the connection and can take a little space knowing it won’t compromise what you share together already.

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.

Race to Ravenswood: Crypt 5K 2016

Last night I ran a 5K through Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago! But I had an entire adventure before crossing the start line. To me that was better than any haunted house– a truly authentic Halloween experience.

Traffic for the Cubs game and Chicago Marathon was horrendous– I arrived in my designed SpotHero parking garage with only 15 minutes to start time. There were no cabs.

And so I took off running! I had 1.6 miles to traverse, relying on Google Maps’ walking. My route was not unfamiliar– I had driven that way myriad times over the years visiting friends in Evanston. From N. Sheridan to Bryn Mawr to N. Ridge to W. Hollywood and on… finally to Rosehill Dr. and N Ravenswood Ave.

I’ve been alone in Chicago plenty. But on foot at night I’ve never usually walked more than a few blocks, from my parking spot to whoever I was visiting or wherever I was going.

And here I was, running alone in the dark through it! I alternated walking.

I felt no fear. There was something wonderful about hoofing it alone on the way– a warm-up. AND I saved money. Plus, Edgewater is one of the safer areas of the city.

I had asked several people to do the race with me, and about five were interested– but all ended up backing out. I am so glad I didn’t allow that to stop my own plans.

On the way I used the bathroom at a gas station, and walked too far and had to turn around a couple times. I was about 22 minutes late starting– my first time ever being late for a race.

It took me about 40 minutes to arrive, and when I saw that start banner I was excited! The crowd had dispersed and no one was cheering. But I was proud of myself.  But I got myself psyched up, yelling as I continued on and soon was entering the graveyard! There were purple and green flashing lights, smoke. Quite the spooky atmosphere.

Many were in costumes but I kept it simple, sporting a normal race outfit with the event t-shirt and a thermal underneath.

Most were just walking along, so it was easy to pass people. I had brought a small flashlight for safety– the path was easy to follow. Little orange electric candles on both sides of the path did the job, plus orange traffic cones with arrow signs taped on. Certain enormous tombstones and memorials were lit up.

I stopped to admire a few of the graves. I asked a pair of female friends to take a picture of me by one of them.

But mostly I just ran! I didn’t feel jealous of the couples or families or people with friends.

It was awesome doing this solo. It was peaceful and breathtaking. I was safe and happy.

I have never felt like such a bad ass! Running a 5K alone in a Chicago graveyard at night! I think it was my first-ever race totally alone, where I wasn’t meeting up with someone after, at least.

And my time was great! I shaved off about four minutes of my usual per-mile pace.

Crossing the finish line, I was ready to head home. There was a post-race party at a bar closeby, but a friend of mine in Plainfield was celebrating his birthday. My phone was at less than half battery capacity, and I wasn’t up for another trek back to my parking garage. So I asked a woman about the closest intersection to find a cab, and followed her advice. A cabbie in the drive-thru for White Castle waved at me.

Pretty hilarious! He pulled up a few minutes later and I gave him my parking garage address. He was friendly, making conversation. He asked how often I come to Chicago and I found myself answering that these days it’s mostly for races, which is true!

He couldn’t believe I hadn’t found anyone to race with, saying “You’re a charming lady.”

Well! Thanks. 🙂 He was impressed I had walked there, as well. “It’s a long walk,” he said.

After my car was brought around, I tipped the valet and drove to the party! Not bad at all.

Cinco de Miler: crying at the finish!!

Today I broke my seven-month hiatus with racing by running the Cinco de Miler 2016.

And finished FIVE MILES!! Along Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.

It was my friend Lisa’s idea, and this morning she picked me up and we made it happen!! She invited me around January, but I was ambivalent about committing for quite awhile. First, I wasn’t sure I was up to two extra miles beyond my standard 5k. Second, the race shirts were hideous and I didn’t want to pay for one!

But she was so excited about it and we motivated each other. She was waffling herself not too long ago, and I encouraged her. We both decided to wear something of our own rather than those ugly shirts. This is our second race together!

We took a ton of silly selfies– one of the best parts of a race! I’m so glad we did this.

In the parking garage, I noticed the women parked next to us had a Joliet sticker on their vehicle. I introduced myself and we got a long great! She was with a few of her friends and it seemed a few of their daughters. Her name was Kim.

All the festivity– flowers in women’s hair, men running with Mexican wrestling masks, children wearing fake black mustaches that curl, some women with traditional cotton tops embroidered with flowers. Salsa blasting on the speakers as we lined up in our corrals!

Yesterday I mostly walked four miles, to warm up after months of nothing. I was shocked how easy it was. How natural I felt returning to this exercise.

In past races, I always felt insecure; I needed someone by me. If my friends ran ahead, I felt abandoned. Especially if they disappeared into the crowd.  As long as I could see them, I felt a little

I was so much in my own head that all I could think about were all the people passing me by– I was always glancing behind to reassure myself that I wasn’t last.  That *I* was ahead of others.

Or I was so fixated on the miles ahead— counting down, worried about my time. There was a part of me who never fully relaxed.

I was hard on myself if I had to slow down and walk. Always comparing.

Today, I broke free of all that.

I didn’t try to keep up with Lisa– I let her go and decided to do my own thing. And I felt calm, steady.

Maybe because this is my sixth race now– I knew I would find her afterward. I wasn’t worried about getting separated or lost.

I trust her more. I trust *myself* more.

I chose to run my own slow, steady pace– right down the yellow line of the streets blocked off for this event.

Proud to say I ran the first 1.5 miles at around 13 minutes!! I had set my Pandora on my phone to Selena and that driving Latino beat was perfect for the occasion.

But after that, I was conscious of the two added miles and felt I’d slow down and walk a bit. And then first my right knee and then both knees began to hurt. And I had to acknowledge it.

I  tried running sporadically after but had to accept that with the added miles I couldn’t push it or I might not finish.

But oh, running along Lake Shore Drive!!! Since I began running it’s been a fantasy of mine. I always thought I’d drive up and park somewhere and be one of those cool people you always see while in traffic, inbound to the city North on 41.

Until Lisa mentioned it last night, I had no idea this was part of the course route.

God arranged my dream to come true.

And thank Him that I wore pants, not shorts– and brought two long-sleeved shirts. Since it was a 9 a.m. race and I tend to get cold, I brought an extra hoodie in case it rained or was cold by the lake.

Talk about The Windy City!! Once we hit the third mile and were right next to the lake on our right, both those shirts felt like a joke!! But I felt badly for those wearing only tank tops or shorts, or even t-shirts. Had I been otherwise attired, I might have quit.

Between my knees, which seemed to get worse– and the serrating chill lakeside, I was beyond tempted.

But I saw racers returning, wearing medals. That energized me.

And each mile marker surprised me. I had learned to just ENJOY the race.

I was always moving except when I stopped to take a few pictures– a tree in front of the lake, the MARIACHI band performing!

I loved the man around mile 2– a tall old man with white hair waving maracas. “Everybody’s gonna finish,” he said with a smile.

And I believed him. When I felt weak, I thought of him.

Not long before mile 4, one of the women also from Joliet in the parking garage before the race appeared next to me. She tapped my shoulder and smiled. I slowed down and we commiserated about our knees. She gave me a vital tip: she takes Ipubprofen before a race. I prefer Tylenol– but I’ll remember that next time.

Maybe start taking a supplement to help my joints. Loosen them up by running regularly.

Rather than accept my joint pain and give up running– I’ll learn to take better care of myself to prevent it.

Even the Tin Man couldn’t walk the Yellow Brick Road with un-oiled joints! Oil is needed.

God was showing me that we’re never alone in the race. This race called life.

I allowed her to pass me, and felt at peace.

I had told Lisa to text me when she finished– and when she did, I was happy for her! Glad she did her thing and I did mine. For one of the first times in my life, I didn’t feel envy.

What a blessing!

I felt stronger than I thought capable once I saw the FINISH around the corner!!

I started running again: it was important to finish RUNNING.

Volunteers were standing in a cluster, handing out finisher’s medals.

When I arrived I was shocked to feel emotional– tears started to well up.

I almost cried– but I didn’t allow myself. I admit at that moment I did feel self-conscious.

I suppose I associate crying with loss– grief.

When was the last time I cried with RELIEF?? I don’t remember.

I couldn’t totally let go. But I teared up again, gulped deep breaths.

And vowed to start training again. My time is 1:36: 05

Lisa and I are already planning our next race! We talked non-stop on the way home.

I know I can do it. I’m already getting better.

And one day, I will let go enough to ACTUALLY cry with joy at the finish line.

 

 

 

 

An Errand, a Run and a Rainbow– In Chicago

Today I had an errand in Chicago, off Belmont Ave.

I stopped to gas up and got some Gatorade and a banana.

Took 2.5 hours of traffic to make it– I got there with 15 minutes to spare!

I had dressed in running clothes hoping I could squeeze in a run– the day was gorgeous. Traveling north up Lake Shore Drive, I enjoyed seeing all the runners. The traffic was horrid, but the sight of all those people calmed me. I felt connected to them. And most, I noticed, were running solo. Some people biking, some riding Segways.

One day, I want to run on Lake Shore Drive. But that’ll be another adventure! That would take some planning.

I parked next to a meter and paid for two hours. The errand just took a few minutes. And then I turned on my Nike running app, set it for 2.5 miles, and off I went!

This was my first complete run on concrete sidewalk. But soon I loved it– getting around all the people on the sidewalk was like an instant obstacle course. And there were so many others running– and the wind was fantastic!

I started with my phone in my pouch but soon took it out to monitor my progress. It was easy to hold it and seeing the numbers change kept me going. I still had to slow down and walk a few times. I haven’t yet run for an entire 30 minutes uninterrupted, but I’m working on it slowly!

There was something invigorating about being in midst of so many other fitness-minded people. I can only imagine what a buzz it would be to do a 5k, a mud obstacle course, or a marathon!!

As I ran, I loved the knowledge that I looked like just another Chicago runner– no one would know I’m a suburban gal. I had called up a city friend to see if she wanted to meet up, and was surprised that I could answer a phone call whilst running. Of course I slowed down to talk and my run paused. She was overworked after a long day and we decided another time would be best.

I passed by places I’ve been in the city and smiled at the memory. Again, sweating was glorious.

I started near Belmont and Clark and ran to Ashland and then back as far as Roscoe.

I almost stopped in a few restaurants to refuel, but wanted to finish my 2.5 miles first. And I did!

It said that was my fastest mile yet. God bless technology!!

Then I celebrated at a place called Yoshi’s Cafe, on Halsted Street. Right where my 2.5 miles ended.

I was initially outside, but then it began misting a bit of rain. They moved me inside.

Watching the sidewalk, a boy walking with his father and younger brother stopped and pointed:
“THERE’S A RAINBOW!!”

My server along with one of the owners came outside to admire it. Everyone there was kind and smiling.

I had asked the server to bring the check with my meal, because I had to eat fast to make it back to my parking spot on time. Also, dark was falling. She did, I tipped her well, and I made it back 15 minutes early.

A perfect spring eve in Chicago.

I still can’t believe I don’t have any leg cramps and my feet don’t hurt!

My life is pretty fantastic right now. I’m in a choir at church, I’ve got a friend to run with, and I’m learning to even discipline myself enough to not just run on my off-days, but enjoy it.

I feel young and healthy and excited to see what’s next!

A Sunday Whim and St. Teresa of Avila, Chicago

Last night when I was trying to sleep, I thought about where I have an opportunity to explore in my life, and I realized it’s within my faith. Right now, I have Sundays off. I know I’m Catholic– that’s not changing.

Truthfully, if I could do anything I’d be a missionary. But to do that you need a lot of freedom. You need to have the money and the health. I’m not there yet. But it’s a good motivator.

But I don’t have to limit myself to my current parish.

As much as I enjoy bringing Holy Communion to the family I bring it to, it limits me.

I’m grateful for this family, because they brought me deeper into my faith. They made me commit to Mass, because I had someone else counting on me. But It’s also hard because Mass has become goal-oriented for me. It’s about making sure I remember to bring my pix and get the hosts, so that I won’t let them down.

And not every parish will give Holy Communion to a stranger with a pix– some priests need to know who you are and what your intentions are. I’ve been denied for that reason. Once I explained after Mass, he took me inside and did give me the hosts.

Lately I’m feeling restless in this parish. Not as connected as I was in the beginning.

I realized that I want to see some other parishes. Other liberal Catholic parishes that celebrate diversity.

In this town, Joliet, there are plenty of Catholic parishes. You can find a Mass all day long. But they’re mostly the same. Conservative. Mostly white parishioners who are upper-middle class, well-dressed, mostly families.

And I’m always looking for more Catholic friends. I’d like to meet some more people my age. I’d like to explore Chicago!

I realized too late that I hadn’t brought my pix when I got on the road. I almost turned around and resigned myself to the 7 p.m. Mass at a local church.

But I needed to see a new side of the Catholic church– for my own faith. There’s so much bad press out there. I had made this promise to myself last night, and I wanted to honor that.

Hopefully I can make the 9 a.m. Mass at my local parish, usually held in the rectory, so I can bring Holy Communion as scheduled tomorrow. But I’m not sure that Mass will be held as scheduled, since a few times I’ve showed up and waited and no one’s answered the door. The schedule isn’t rock solid.

Tonight I went to the 6 p.m. Mass of St. Teresa of Avila in Chicago. And I loved it!

It was under construction, and they met in the parish hall. Which is ORANGE inside!! I liked the bulletins and the heavy read Gather missal books, arranged on a shelf. I walked around taking pictures of the art, details I liked, and the building, because I just got a new camera app for my iPhone and I’m photographing everything. I think because of that, people noticed me. A few parishioners approached me and all were very nice. I asked if it was okay that I park in the parking lot– there was a sign about towing. Twice, I’ve had bad experiences with being towed in Chicago! They assured me it was legal and thankfully, my car was still there afterward.

Sister Sandra Ann Silva spoke about her missionary work, and her voice was gentle. She had a quiet, smiling manner. She talked about the harsh conditions these families live under–without shaming. She was seated near me, and her presence reminded me of the nuns I grew up around, the Sisters of St. Joseph.

It was more like being in a Non-Denominational church, because everyone sat in folding chairs. After the Mass, everyone quickly picked up their chairs and put them away. It was the fastest Nicene Creed ever! I couldn’t even remember it fast enough to keep up, so just prayed silently most of it. I really liked that Fr. Frank has his own blog. There were copies of a Catholic magazine, Extension, freely available. There was a good mix of people– families, singles, different ages and racially diverse. I perused the plans for the new church being built, and it looks wonderful. It’s designed around being transparent, so people on the street can see inside. Big windows.

I asked Fr. Frank why St. Teresa was their chosen patron– he said because the original church broke ground on her Feast Day.

Fr. Frank is leaving tomorrow to participate in the Catamino De Santiago. A blogging priest. That’s pretty rad. Check out his blog here! http://frfrankscamino.com/, and his previous blog, at http://www.frfrankscamino.blogspot.com/. I just followed his newest! Also, he’s short. I like short people.

He had brought the backpack he’ll be wearing. I took a picture of him in it, and told him I’m a blogger, too! I told him my address and he said,

“Are you unrelenting?” I laughed and confirmed so. He said when he gets back, he’d follow my blog. It was amazing to feel connected to a priest because we both have a blog about our faith. Mine was started during Lent in 2011, and is still going!

So I am unrelenting. An unrelenting Catholic and an unrelenting blogger.