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.


Bucktown 5K: Pom-poms, Trust and No Glances Behind

Truth is, I don’t like running. Yet it remains the only form of exercise I can tolerate. I avoid it as much as possible but keep signing up for races.

So I must be a runner, deep-down in my gut.

My friend Lisa and I drove up together, parked, took a bus, and arrived in plenty of time. I loved the race swag– a light blue, white and red hoodie with the Chicago flag logo. Mine is just the right size but it was too hot to race in, though I wore it on the way.

I’m struggling.  My friends are able to increase their mileage and continually improve their times. I think I’ve done one race where I ran it all, but otherwise I need to walk at times–  and lately I’m walking father intervals, for longer.

My problems are that I’m unable to commit to a running routine and when my body complains during a run, I’m not able to sustain myself without slowing down to walk at some point. They are signing up for longer races. I’m still stuck doing 5K’s, though I did manage an 8K this spring!

Routine has been a blessing in other areas of my life. I have a feeling it would center me, if I can just find some way to make it happen with running. I’m working on a regular bedtime, weekends included. I know, that sounds so juvenile! But it’s working. I’m not a morning person but am convinced with repetition I can adjust.

How do I jump that mental hurdle? Ignore my sore feet, the pain in my right knee that chronically flares up though I have no official injury? I want to break through!

I refuse to give up, to settle for this. I know I have it in me.

This morning I decided to trust my friend Lisa when she suggested we leave by 6 a.m., park her car away from the crowds on a safe street, and take a bus to the race. I’ve never done that prior, but this was also my first neighborhood race– and she lived in the city years ago. She knows where the parking is bad and what times to avoid, and so I agreed. And it worked! Riding a bus was even a little extra component of fun. We took selfies at the bus stop. It was great to not have to hoof it all the way to the car!

It felt good to trust someone else’s plan.

And today, I truly felt special in this race. I owe it to the cheerleaders/pom squad, whatever title they choose! They were right by the starting line– in uniform and shaking metallic blue and red pom-poms!!

I’m just a woman who pays to race. Who’s not “good” at it yet but still showing up. And being in this neighborhood race today, I felt this enormous gratitude.

I didn’t look back even once– I never stopped moving. My knee was okay! It was such a liberty to not feel any compulsion to check how many people were behind me. I was mindful, focused on where I was going– not who might pass me up or my placement in the number of other racers.

I got OUT of my ego, with that little victory.

And then there were the children– mostly toddlers and four and five-year-olds, standing curbside with their tiny fists opened, leaning in and hoping one of us would choose THEM  as we passed by!

That made me feel like a super-hero! Knowing that some little person was thinking *I was cool because I was one of the people running in that crowd. As we passed through all the beautiful homes in Bucktown, people gathered on their balconies, front stoops, sidewalks  and corners to encourage us. Yelling, holding up signs, dancing, saying ” Great job!!”

Also, how many people in neighborhood envied US– the people who volunteered to challenge ourselves? The crazy people who refuse to quit running?? I’m guessing a lot.

Just when I was feeling sorry for myself about my foot pain, God showed me something humbling: a woman runner sitting curbside, fixing her leg prosthesis. Her t-shirt said “Chicago Blade Runners,” as did the t-shirts of two other women who were not disabled but seemed to be there in support. I’ve now learned it’s a running club for amputees and disabled athletes.

That woman would probably give anything to feel pain again in both feet. Imagine the grief of losing a limb– and not just any limb, but a leg. But that doesn’t stop her.  If that woman’s not making excuses, neither should I!

And when I came to that finish line, I felt myself start to tear up again– two of three times. Again, I wanted to let go and cry with relief, with JOY– but couldn’t. I kept control.

One day, my dream is to run so hard and so fast, that when I cross that finish line I burst into tears without abandon. I will be so proud of myself.

Honestly, I’m proud of myself now. And right now, little tears are escaping me.

Because writing about this is hard– but I’m doing it. I’m admitting to myself– and all of you– that running scares me. That I feel stuck and disappointed in my progress. And that I’m lucky to be surrounded by other runners who inspire me and invite me to race with them, who wait patiently for me to finish after them.

I have two strong legs, two knees, two feet. I can condition them to do better, and I will.

Back in the Couscous Tank

That’s where my phone is, again!

(A Tupperware container in which my phone is immersed, with hopes of restoring full function.)  It’s couscous because I don’t have rice–but I like this better. It worked last time!

*update: sound restored! Couscous tank worked again.

So what happened?

1. An errant water squeeze landed near the mic on my phone, rendering it silent. During Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now?”– how perfect. This happened around a mile.

I was using my new water bottle hand thingy, which was comfortably strapped on my left hand. I wonder if I should get another one for my right hand, just for a little resistance and to even it out? Does anyone do this?

2. Boob Sweat! It’s no one’s friend. I’ve been stashing my phone in my sports bra so I could hear my Pandora and the directives of my Nike Running app, which motivate me with updates on how close I am to meeting my goal. That’s over.

I have a stretchy neon yellow fanny pack that will include my phone but the downside is it’s far away and hard to hear.

Then just as I was reaching the end of the trail and the road that would soon carry me back to freedom, I was devastated to realize my phone had stopped tracking at that first mile when the water squeeze happened. I had paused to inspect it and never “resumed” the run.  I then resumed it but it only counted . 22 miles from there till I reached my car.

BUT I AM PROUD OF MYSELF! And here’s why:

I didn’t let that moment of technological misfire ruin my run. I briefly was angry, but then turned around and kept going.

I didn’t walk– but kept running. I knew my run had value beyond what I could track and claim credit for in mileage.

And thankfully, at least m GPS kept working. It tracked my entire run on a map. I’m estimating I was at least 3 miles.

This morning I tried a new trail and allowed myself to follow it and get a little lost. Thankfully I don’t work till this afternoon so there was no hurry.

I got up, had a few quaffs of Gatorade, and got on my way this morning! I will cook myself an omlette shortly.

I cannot GET OVER how much energy I have!!

Running is proving to be superior to coffee in waking me up!

Now for some lemon water and I’ll start my to-do list for the day!

A Soul on Fire! Singing, Sushi and Running

This was a great week for me– I gotta tell you!

Yesterday morning on the way to work I was listening to Christian radio and heard the perfect song– “Soul on Fire,” by Third Day. Even better, the lyrics talk about RUNNING!

I felt like God was telling me, “Keep it up, kiddo!” That’s the song I’ll be thinking of as I run.

It was a bit chilly tonight but I put on a stocking cap and a hoodie and I was good to go.

I took two days off running this week, Thursday and Saturday, to give my feet a break. Eleise and I kept to our schedule of three runs, and tonight I did .96 by myself without stopping! I checked my phone at the end of the block and then kept going till I hit 1 mile! And then I walked a bit, and ran to finish my goal of 1.75 miles– I made it 1.81 by the time I got home.

I’m getting mindful of what I’m eating, as well. I had a good lunch with my Dad today after Mass, and later tonight I passed on cheesecake and coffee.

Wednesday night was our choir’s last rehearsal of the summer! I had such a good time and will miss them for the next few months! Our choir director, David, ran threw several songs so that I could get up to speed and they could review. Rehearsals are laid-back and equal parts fun and music education.

The best part of our rehearsals is always at the end, when we stand in a circle, hold hands, and pray for whomever we feel called to with our intentions, be it out loud or just in our hearts. I specifically asked if we could get all of us together after Mass today and take a few quick pictures of us looking all spiffy in our choir robes! This is also the last week we’re wearing them– they’ll be taken to get cleaned and we’ll resume them when it cools off. Although I’ll miss the pride of wearing one, I do admit it’ll be a nice reprieve in the coming heat!

The whole choir (those I’ve met, some are currently not singing right now) wasn’t quite there today, but we got most of the group who have regularly been at rehearsals since I joined. I asked a tall gentleman to take pictures of us and he did! He was kind enough to take several, and I found two I really liked. We are diverse, happy, and coming together to share our joy in the Lord! I was so proud to post it today on Facebook.

And as for the sushi, I declared last night Date Night for myself and my book and went out for sushi! Why not? I got a lot done this week! I wanted to celebrate. I put on a cute outfit, a bit of perfume, and brought a book with me. Between the meal and the words, I had a great time.

Today is just one of those days that I feel grateful, motivated, and healthy.

I’m ready for June!!

Single and Writing: A Joyous Epiphany

This blog has been a chronicle of my single life, and my Lenten endeavors. This year I’m basically apathetic about Lent.

Blogging is fun. But it’s ultimately unsatisfying for me. I grew up writing poems. I was lucky to get a couple poems published in college in my school literary journals. I wrote as an intern, a staff writer and then a columnist for daily newspapers. I like more exposure.

I’ve had this blog for not quite two years– and it hasn’t taken off like I’d imagined. I could have promoted it in my column, but chose not to. I’m proud that I put my name on it. A few times, I’ve gotten mentioned in other blogs. But ultimately, I never found a focus for it.

I used to think I didn’t want fame. I didn’t want to be known.

But I’m beginning to change my mind.

Yes, fame is awful. But authors and writers don’t become famous the way the Kardashians do. If so, it’s because they promote themselves relentlessly on TV, cross over into other media, or have very active Twitter feeds. Or they use writing as a springboard to become a celebrity, and never cared much about the writing itself. Columnists become famous. Journalists. But authors? Not as much. I’ve met a few who have been writing for years– they usually toil in obscurity, but keep writing because they love it. Once in awhile, they get a break and ride that wave.

And I admit, my column got me a bit hooked. I loved knowing the people who didn’t like me in high school and my exes opened up the paper and saw my mug shot. Even if that particular column wasn’t so great– it was still an achievement. I was so quiet as a teen. I never said much. I never stood up for myself. A lot of times, I still don’t.

Writing is my bullhorn. It’s my right hook.

Writing is the voice that God gave me. Why else would I have it if not to speak up??

Also, I notice my blogs are often too long and don’t get a lot of comments. I know I don’t always reply! Before I delete this blog, I’m going to try and reply to all the comments I’ve gotten. It’s the least I could do. The most popular ones tend to be around 750 words, but my average post is usually closer to 1300. I just have too much to say! I just love talking too much. I’m too verbose for blogging!

I’ve mainly put off writing because I felt I had nothing to write about. But the last six years alone have given me PLENTY of experience, heartbreak, and fuel. I thought I was too young to start anything. That if was meant to write something, I’d do later in life. But now I just feel like I’m wasting time. What if I die before I finish anything? You never know!

My father is already 70, Diane 71. I don’t know if I’ll ever marry or have children, but I’d love to do something in his lifetime to really make him proud. I think the main reason that I kept my column as long as I did is because my father honestly just loved it so much. My step-mother would cut them out and mail them to relatives too, that made me feel fantastic.

I loved hearing my father say, “My daughter writes for the paper.”

Maybe I’m single so I can write. Maybe that’s what all this solitude is about! All these lessons.  Maybe my legacy won’t be children, but a life set forth in the printed word. And then I can live forever.

Maybe I’ll write scandalous poems. Maybe I’ll try some slam poetry. Maybe a memoir. Maybe some fiction!

I used to worry about offending people. My parents are Republican! But offending people can be really, really fun. Not in an insane, Ann Coulter kind of way. But in a Sharon Olds kind of way. In a Vonnegut kind of way. In a Prince kind of way!

Either way, I don’t have many blogs left in me. I may keep it going until March 17– which will be my 2nd Anniversary of Unrelenting Amee! That would be some wonderful symmetry. But I’m impulsive, and once I finally decide to be done with something, there’s no going back.

When I end this one, I will not be starting another to replace it.

If if I ever do, it will be something focused, professional. Someplace to showcase a body of work and promote myself. Sometime in the future. This was just a playground where I enjoyed seeing how high I could swing, kicking my feet in the breeze. I can drop in here when I feel like it, but there’s never been a schedule.

I’m changing my life, making it more structured. And a big part of that is going to be writing. I’ve been saying for years I’d do it. But now, I’m ready to do it.

I’m reading Julia Cameron’s “The Right to Write,” and it’s definitely getting through to me.

Blogging lets me cave in to impulsive publishing.

Deleting this blog will help me become disciplined, and reignite my hunger to publish. Force me to submit.

To hustle.