Monday, October 10, 2011

Let's Run Together 26.2 (2011)

So my brother said to me, "How about we run the Chicago marathon?"

Over 500 miles of training, running in four different states and six months later, there we were.

The whole experience of the marathon was incredible. First off, it was amazing to walk around the city and see so many other people who you knew would be running on Sunday (you could recognize them because everyone had to cart their "Participant Bag" around the city). There was a great sense of community from both participants and spectators. Over 45,000 people were slated to run, and over 1.4 million people were going to be lining the course along the way. It was the experience of a lifetime for so many reasons. Here are several of the highlights/details of the race:

Mileage exertion:

miles 1-10: no work at all At the beginning of the race I kept getting zings of energy. I was so excited and pumped up that I thought I could probably just float to the finish line. It was still relatively cool at this point, and the sights and sounds of the crowd were incredible. I have a mental snapshot of running under the bridge at about mile 1; there were people lining both sides of the streets, going up to the bridge, and on top of the bridge. Everyone was going crazy, and the energy swell was something you could literally feel.

11-16: work At this point the sun was up and beating down on us pretty good. The blacktop was warming, so I was starting to feel baked. I started running through every sprinkler station. I also started drinking 2-3 cups of water at every aid station. Which is also when I made the first bathroom stop.

16-20: a struggle I needed to find a bathroom again. Stat. This was where I was running a mile at a time, waiting for the next aid station where I could get some more water. Thinking to myself, there's a banana coming up, there's a Gu packet coming up....

20-22: i think i can One foot in front of another.

22-26.2: pure gut Almost there. Gut it out. You can do it. Walk a little if you need to. Pick it back up. Walk a bit more. Pick it back up. I hit the wall at about 22 miles. I knew I'd finish, but it was sheer will power putting one foot in front of the other. The night before the race, the door of the L sliced my toe and so I was really feeling it toward the end. I knew my sock was bloodied and my toenails were aching. But I knew it was almost done. This is where we saw Aaron along the course. He ran with us briefly & told us he was hoarse from screaming for us a few miles earlier on the course. I wanted to sprint the last .2, but I just didn't have it in me. I gave it everything I had, took in the last 800 meters, and crossed the finish line.


My emotions throughout the entire experience were eVeRyWhErE. Leading up to the race I felt strong and confident. I knew I was on track to shave some good time off of last year's race. I was so excited to be in Chicago and enjoying every minute of every experience. At the expo I was getting teary. I don't know why...maybe because it felt like the culmination of everything, but right before the main event? I can't explain it; all I know is that I was fighting for composure most of the time at the expo. While waiting to cross the starting line, I kept getting zings of energy. I felt 0% dread, only excitement. At about mile 15 I was really glad that my brother was running with me. It felt secure and comfortable knowing that I wasn't alone among 45,000 other people. At the end of the race, I felt relief and pride. I knew I'd given it my all. If the conditions were a little different, I know I would have reached my goal. But finishing in 5:15:30 felt awesome. I couldn't have done it any better for this race.

Some mental pictures I have of the race:

  • standing @ the start, Millennium Park to the left, music blasting, people throwing back Gu shots, discarding sweats into piles that we had to walk over/around on our way to the Start
  • mile 1, going under the bridge, spectators all around and above you on the bridge
  • running in the loop to the Chicago Theater, seeing the amazing spectators, marathoner heads bobbing
  • turning the corner about 800m from the finish line, energy swells, spectators scream

Awesome Neighborhoods:

The Loop--the essence of Chicago

Lincoln Park--beautiful

Boys Town--a flamboyant spectacle, a party for your eyes

Old Town--classy

Pilson--a fiesta

Nike Inspiration Zone (Mile 18?)--good music, lots of people

Chinatown--this was hands down the best part of the race, the energy completely swelled, there were dragons dancing, gongs gonging, people cheering, it was amazing

running over the river (grated beneath you so it literally felt like you were running over the river)

Best Signs

There were hundreds of signs along the course, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Go complete stranger!
  • Worst parade ever.
  • Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.
  • Sweat = liquid awesomeness
  • Holding this sign is work too
  • Pain is weakness leaving the body (doesn't really make sense, but I still like it)
  • After all the training, enjoy your 26.2 mile victory lap

Runners who have stuck with me:

Wazzup guys--two guys running with a sign that said "Wazzup!" These guys would yell out to the crowd throughout the race. They'd say, "Hey woman standing on the center island! Wazzzzzzuuuuuuuppp!" Or, "Hey mile seven! Wazzzzzzuuuuuuuppppp!"

Cavemen--two guys dressed as cavemen...don't know why they stand out to me

Man running with a flag--I assume military


SO many people were running for charities or dedicating their run to someone. A few made me choke up a little bit.

  • Thanks, Annie, for the kidney
  • No human being is illegal
  • Running a marathon is hard, living without you is harder
  • People running with names written on their back of those who have died from various forms of cancer
  • Every charity/group you could think of seemed to be represented: World Vision, ending aids, free Palestine

Thoughts I remember having through the race:

I'm done with gatorade.

I'll take another water. and another. and ano-ther.

Spray me with a hose, yespleaseandthankyou.

I wonder if my soles are melting.

I wish these people wouldn't keep stopping all around me, it's hard to get around them and it makes me think they know something I don't.

How can someone run AND drink beer?

I'm glad I don't need my ipod since it isn't charged anyway.

Hey, there's my old dorm window!

Need a bathroom, stat.

Vaseline? What for?

I wonder if all of this back sweat is adding to the humidity.

I highly recommend running the Chicago marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute before, during, and after the race.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Assume Strength

The setting: a semi-cluttered, energy buzzing classroom

The characters: thirty-ish seventh graders who are a little on the sixth grade side (official change comes after Christmas)

The challenge: read forty books by the end of the year

Cue gasp!

When I first heard about a teacher challenging her students to read forty books in one year, I had a hefty dose of cynicism. Okay, sure, a few of the advanced students might be able to read assembly-line style, but real "If I have to look in the book for an answer I probably won't die, but why risk it?" students? Get real.

But the more I read about this teacher's program, the more I began to taste the kool-aid. And it tasted gooooood. I briefly considered if it was even possible for students to read that much; maybe I should lower the expectation to twenty.

But then I thought, why not assume strength? Why not assume that they can do it?

So, this year I started off day one of school expecting the students to read. At Open House I told students they'd better bring something to read with them the very first day of school. When I went over the this is how we do a fire drill, this is how you organize your binder, this is how you get to your seat on time expectations, I also mentioned, "And oh yeah, this is how many books you're expected to read by the end of the year: 40."

Some eyes went wide. One kid (advanced math) quickly figured out, "That's, like, one book a week!" Nodding, I assured them they could do it. We would all work on it together, and they would be so proud of themselves by the end of the year.

Some asked what would happen if they didn't reach forty books. I told them that I had NEVER had a student not reach that goal that I had set for them. Technically true. Also, I told them that I wasn't going to tell them what would happen if they didn't do it, because they would. It's not an option not to.

And you know what? They are blowing me away. I've never seen anything like it. We talk about books constantly. Kids give impromptu commercials for books they are reading. They keep a list in their planner of "Hot Reads" so they know what to check out next. Last week I told them we were going to the library as a class.

They cheered.

Every single day I have multiple students coming in to tell me that they just finished this or that book and are anxious to get started on another one.

I don't know if they all will actually read forty books by the end of the year. But I'll bet most of them will. I'll bet ALL of them will read more than they've ever read before. And that's a win.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I think everyone has that one food that they ate before they got really, really sick. For me it was Reese's. I had been feeling sort of gross all day, and the only thing that sounded good to me was a peanut butter cup. Being a college student, I actually had some Reese's in my dresser drawer. I ate a few, thinking that they were going to be the only thing I'd eat that day.

It didn't take long before I felt that rumble, so I ran to the dorm bathroom and made it just in time to jackknife over the toilet and spill my insides. Needless to say, watching Reese's perform an anti-gravity routine did little for my desire to indulge in any future peanut butter cups.

I developed an aversion.

And now I have a new one. But I don't have the luxury of avoiding this particular thing.

A few weeks ago I was in the Rockies of Colorado, vacationing with family. As I am officially in "training mode" for the Chicago Marathon later this year, I knew that my running schedule couldn't really afford a vacation hiatus. So I packed my running shoes and planned to suck up the few Os that I could while running at 9,000 feet.

The first half of the run was actually fine. Altitude schmeltitude. Sure, it was on a slow & steady decline, but whatev, right? The energy that I saved by going downhill would leave me with plenty of juice for going back uphill for the second half.

Not the case.

My heart rate raced to the 190s and I had to keep taking walking breaks. But worse, far worse, was the rumble I started to feel in my stomach. Before I knew what was happening, I was on the side of the road summoning up the little bit of breakfast that I had that morning.

I was mortified! I was running with my brother-in-law and we were only out for a two-miler, and here I was throwing up like I was at the end of an Olympic training session. Two. Miles.

Well, so I made it back okay. But since then I have absolutely dreaded the thought of running again. I've kept up on my training, but there is not a single positive thought that I have about it before I lace up my Asics. I've developed an aversion to running.

I've already booked a hotel room in Chicago, paid the hefty registration fee, and planned a mini-vacation around it. I don't have the option of just bowing out, really. So how do you get over an aversion?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Analyze This

So I feel like I've got an opinion about everything lately. I've been wanting to blog about Osama's death, the birther nonsense, kids these days, Time's most influential, etc. But...they end up being big topics that I keep putting off until I no longer want to talk about them anymore.

That and I don't want to feel like I'm complaining all the time. Or right all the time. Or as someone who knows something, when in reality I'm probably just another chump with a big mouth about her opinions. For whatever reason, I've been keeping it to myself.

In a weird twist, it turns out that while I'm analyzing the news & issues of my world, the world is analyzing me.

I've read that Facebook has software that analyzes your profile, then matches ads to your personality.

Here's what Facebook has most recently matched to me:
  • 52% off Hot Yoga (I hate Yoga, hot or cold, but they've got me pegged with 52% off; they know I'm po' folk)
  • Flowers for Mother's Day (so either they know I am a mom, or I have one; freaky)
  • Free for Women (a website that is calling for all American women; they have a need for American women to deliver their---unnamed---samples. Nah.)
  • Dystance4Dystonia (a website that says, "Since you've already registered for the Chicago Marathon, you should run for a cause...this cause...")
So, this is how they've pegged me. I have a mother, I'm an American woman, I'm running a race, and I must love yoga.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Khaled chooses all my books

I was looking for a new book to read a few weeks back when I hopped onto the Barnes and Noble website. Having read The Kite Runner a few years back, then A Thousand Splendid Suns, I searched to see if this favorite author had any new gems that I had yet to discover. No new ones, but I did see a feature on the website that intrigued me: Meet the Writer. About midway down on the column, Hosseini lists his ten favorite books including a "what makes them so great" spiel.

My geometry teacher would be so proud:
I (H) enjoy Khaled's books (K) (so H = K)
he enjoys several books(B) (so K = B)
therefore, by transitive property, I would also enjoy them
(H = B).

That is how I mathematically discovered Life of Pi.

There is absolutely no reason why this book should be awesome. It is an unlikely story about a boy named Pi (as in 3.14) who is lost at sea with a tiger (as in Panthera Tigris) named Richard Parker. There's a story behind the name. Pi's and Richard Parker's. At 420+ pages, there's a lot of fishing, burning, enduring storms and fighting for survival. In fact, the actual plot doesn't even get started until about 150 pages into the book.

And yet.

The story will stay with me for the rest of my days. The book is fantastic on so many levels. Its similes and metaphors, analogies, and descriptive writing alone make the book drip red velvet (yum). It creates sharp contrasts between what is expected and what happens. It compares zoology and religion. The battle is as much about boy vs. cat as it is about hopelessness vs. faith. Even in the midst of horror is humor. And the last few pages. Blew. Me. Away.

I've avoided coming to a definite conclusion about the book mostly because I think that the way I interpret the book will say something about me. Kind of like the old "how do you see the glass?" type thing.

I'd love to sit and chat with you about what you think it's all about.

Since he's proven reliable, I've decided to stick with Khaled's choices for a while.

Next on my list is Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Loose Lips

Judgey Pudgey. That's what he called me. The year was 1996 and I was in Mr. Jones's Social Studies room participating in a mock trial. I was the judge. One of my classmates started saying, "Here comes Judgey Pudgey," when I would walk down the hallway.

In terms of terrible taunts, that registers pretty low on the seismograph. But I remember it. And I remember how it made me feel.

I've been thinking lately about the power of words. It's simply not true that sticks & stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you. They can break your spirit, demoralize you and even steal your dreams. Not only that, but they do literally hurt you. A recent report in Psychology Today reveals the actual physical effects that bullying and hurtful words have on the brain.

The good news, however, is that as destructive as words can be, the opposite is also true. The right word said at the right time can build you up, encourage or inspire you.

Nothing brings this more to my attention than when I'm hanging out with my husband's family. My in-laws and extended in-law family are excellent at encouraging, praising, thanking, showing appreciation; you know, living in the good word world. The result is that after spending some time with them, I feel renewed, invigorated, and a new sense of strength.

They are better than a full night's sleep.

With enough of those types of words, the hurtful words lose some of their power.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'm Here and I'm Literate!

Now that Caeden is learning to write, we find pieces of him everywhere. This is our shopping list, hanging on the fridge.

(magnifying glass)