Friday, June 27, 2008

Lakefront Jog

I have been in quasi-overcast Chicago for a few days and decided to venture out this morning for a run on the lake front. I am visiting one of my oldest friends, and while he does the work thing I have set about filling my days. Now, Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago is not the most exciting of neighborhoods, though it does afford access to the lakefront and some of the most quality book shops around.

So, upon waking this morning, I donned my running gear, stuffed some cash and keys in my shorts and set out. It is warm here, but not stifling, and there was a nice breeze off of the lake. I walked over to an underpass and headed out when I got to the trail, and in a mile or so I was feeling my groove. Looking out over the expanse of Lake Michigan I felt a surge, a surge of expanding possibilities.

It has been a while since I have dedicated myself to running on my own. When I was training I would run for hours solo, and I enjoyed it, but I find now my motivation has been running dry. I fear facing my alone-ness out on the open road. But here, in Chicago, I ran, by myself, knowing no one around me, not even the terrain. And I'd like to say it was triumphant, inspiring, but in the end it was just a run, one I decided to cut short because of pesky knee pain (in the right knee this time).

I am glad I went though, even if it was short, even if it didn't make me feel like I could conquer the world, or just my little part of it. It reminded me that sometimes I need to just be. Just be and keep moving.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Resting in Reston

My foray into VA did not include any running, despite my best intentions and preparation. I find it hard to prioritize running when I'm not in active training, especially when it takes time away from a visit with a friend who will be M.I.A. for two years. The trip was fruitful despite the stress and anxiety that comes from leaving for such a chunk of time. I was grateful to spend a few days just being there.

Of course, after a delay on the interstate on my drive home, I was more than ready to get out and get running after 5+ hours in the car. I met my best friend for a late evening park run on Sunday, nothing too strenuous, we did one and a half loops at Riverview, followed by a set of lunges just as a the evening's showers fell upon us.

I am looking forward to a bike ride this evening and a run with my new running buddy tomorrow, with the possibility of a long hill tackle. This month has been full of fits, starts, and stops in all sorts of ways. I am looking forward to a more steady and calm July. Sometimes, though, I find I just need to rest and be -- giving myself time to come back physically and mentally. I have faith that I will regain my strength and find a new rhythm.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Runs on the Road

For the next two weekends I will be traveling to visit some of my favorite people and favorite cities. This weekend I'm headed to the DC area to bid farewell to one on my nearest and dearest, as he embarks on a two year stint in Africa. I am sad to lose his proximity, but excited for him and the opportunity.

So, I will attempt to keep an update on the road runs -- which reminds me that one of my very first running attempts was in Virginia, with Richard. Perhaps I will revisit that funny little suburban trail and see what a difference a year and half makes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Last week I got caught in a rainstorm. Not a few piddly little drops but a deluge, the kind of pouring rain that hits you sideways. I enjoy the rain, especially on warm days, but this storm hit on my lunch hour when I was on the opposite side of town from the office attempting to reach the Indian buffet. I was not quite at the restaurant when the rain hit, so I ducked into a nearby office building determining to wait it out. In my experience such strong storms peter out fairly quickly and I would be able to snake over to pile on my lunch in no time. Mother nature had a different plan. After watching the rain pound the plate glass for twenty minutes I surrendered and headed to the buildings dreary food court for sustenance.

Luckily by the time I had to walk back across town the showers had abated a bit. I sprinted between awnings and managed to not get entirely stoked. I promised myself that next time, even if it wasn't raining when I left I would take my umbrella.

Getting stuck in the rain does not happen very often, usually we are prepared, watching the news or the sky for guidance. Pittsburgh's weather this week has been a precarious mixture of sun and rain, changing from one to the other at the drop of a dime. An external manifestation of the storms and sun within me. Oftentimes my feelings follow no predictable pattern, and in this time of letting go I tend to sit with the storm until the sun peeks through. The rain, no matter how strong and persistent does not last forever.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Forging Ahead

I have not been paying as much attention to the blog this week as I've been adjusting the heat and the accompanying malaise. Physical activity has largely gone by the wayside with a few exceptions.

Last night was one of those exceptions as I joined my new running buddy for a five mile jaunt in Frick Park. I am the least familiar with Frick out of all of the city parks despite having lived close by for a number of years -- something about the terrain baffles me. There's no clear cut 'loop' but rather a network of trails that snake up and down hillsides and traverse grassy fields.

Setting off last evening, I was glad to have a guide and a partner in forging through despite temperatures hovering in the early 90's. Don't get me wrong, I'm a heat loving type of gal but my body has yet to fully adjust which messes with the function of all sorts of internal regulatory systems. We started out at a part of the park I was not familiar with, by the Frick museum and enjoyed a copious amount of tree shade along the trail - making things a good deal more manageable. I have done most of running up to this point on flat river trails, city streets, and paved park loops, the change of terrain was refreshing. Despite the heat and one seemingly endless hill it was a pleasant run. I was pleased with how it felt considering my little hiatus.

With my upcoming weekend trips, I worry about maintaining any sort of momentum -- running in Reston, VA can be a challenge when you are unfamiliar with suburban streets and paths. Chicago provides a much more hospitable experience, and I am considering throwing a 5 or 10k into my weekend. San Francisco's Pride 10k, which I ran last year, was a nice kick off to the weekend. I am still deciding and wondering if a trek across town at the wee hours of the morning would be worth the post-race high.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Energy Reserves

In training quality rest serves an important purpose, without it muscles cannot rebuild properly and the risk for over use injuries increases. Sometimes I find it difficult to take a rest, in the thick of habit, used to my daily flow of endorphins.

In the past few months I have taken a rest from active training and explored and got reacquainted with some new activities. I feel the better for doing so, but I miss running and all the little victories I celebrated on the way to the marathon. These changes and the emotional heavy lifting of the past month have left me with less than my usual stock of energy. I find myself worn out frequently. Tired.

So, instead of fighting past this fatigue, I've decided to sit with it and to rest and re-build my energy reserve. I am planning several weekends away in the coming weeks and hoping to use that time to recharge my battery that sometimes feels close to dead.

Monday, June 9, 2008

hades 5k

Friday nights return to racing began on a hot note, to the tune or 90 degrees and high humidity. The runners were relatively undeterred, perhaps scaling back expectations a bit but preparing to race none-the-less.

I met up with my new running buddy on the way into the park, we collected out packets and a race shirt worthy of the Steel City in bright gold with a black print of the Observatory. Gold has never been my color -- but it is always nice to have something to wear on the ubiquitous black and gold spirit days.

We shot the breeze for a while before the race, I was thankful to have company this year, as last year I spent a soggy hour waiting for the race to start solo. I was a little worried about my performance, I felt sluggish and all around hot and unmotivated, not necessarily good omens for the race to come. Still, I managed some excitement, and was off and running in the heat following seemingly endless announcements and the singing of the national anthem. The first flat bit and hill around the Observatory went well -- though as I descended into the park proper I began to feel the effects of the heat and my less then trained status. I trudged along, trying to not speed up too much on the downhill and risk falling out on the long snaking uphill. My fellow runners seemed taxed as well, as we headed up the hill several of my compatriots started to walk. Despite a twinge in my knee I decided to continue running -- chasing my running buddy up the hill -- I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and attempted to relax.

I made it into the finishing gate with a respectable time, and also with a good deal of nausea from the heat and pounding the asphalt. After sitting down and regaining my equilibrium I felt better and proceeded to fill myself with cup after cup of cool water and some well timed Italian ice. We stuck around for the awards -- and delightfully we both came in first in our respective age groups (which also meant we had to brave accepting our medals from a large fuzzy green frog mascot, but we persevered).

It was not a personal record for me, but considering the heat and my status I was pleased with the result. It gives me a base from which to improve, and proved that I have not lost my running mojo after all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

sweat box

In the past day Pittsburgh's mercurial weather has shifted from dreary semi-cool rain to 90 degrees in a hot Southern style. Feels more like Alabama than Pennsylvania. I welcome the heat, but the suddeness of the change has set me off kilter. This week has been a bit of struggle for me in general -- I did get myself to the gym last night for a short run on the treadmill, my first workout of the week. Next week will be better.

The heat makes an interesting bedfellow for my return to racing, thankfully the trees in the park should provide some respite. Last year there was a downpour, the start was delayed due to threats of lightening. I persevered and ran without the friends I was expecting, who had, perhaps smartly, stayed home and dry. Despite the soggy conditions and loneliness I pulled out a personal record -- coming in first in my age group and category. After the race I saw one of my old high school friends and his wife, a welcome surprise, I ate cupfuls of Rita's Italian ice in the parklet I used to play in as a child, the rain gone and the early June heat steaming mist out onto the asphalt.

This year I don't plan on setting any records. I just want to run and accept my limitations in this first race after the marathon. Proving to myself the healing power of showing up and carrying on.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

using pain

Not much to report on the physical activity side with my two days off, but I'm looking to jump back on the treadmill tonight and do a bit of speed work in preparation for Friday's 5k. My days of rest have not been as restful as I imagined, heavy with socialization. I enjoy time with friends and meeting new people but it does tax my introverted energy reserves.

I subscribe to Runner's World's inspirational quote of the day, and often it leaves me perplexed -- usually because I cannot figure out how they relate to the running, such as the recent quote from Dostoevsky, "Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness". Does this refer to the physical pain? The suffering induced by mile upon grueling mile? Despite some serious hurt after the fact, I have never experienced a run as suffering, and if I did I'm not sure I would turn to it as my exercise of choice.

This quote stayed with me, however, beyond the implied context. I'm not sure I agree with Dostoevsky -- but I can attest that emotional (and physical) pain tap into a different level of consciousness. Facing pain instead of fleeing from it can lead to greater awareness, a deeper understanding of the self. Suffering, while not a desirable state can awaken us to new possibilities, can alert us to what we need to ultimately thrive, move forward, run faster, longer, find love within ourselves. Pushing limits, whether from within or without connects us to the essence of our humanity, our animal bodies, the elasticity of our spirits.

Pain has been my constant companion in this past month, and it is not something I enjoy, not something I knowingly invited. Yet it is here and I strive to use it as best I can, to expand my consciousness and my compassion. Go deeper.


Monday, June 2, 2008


Pittsburgh pulled out another gorgeous weekend keeping the rain quarantined to an early part of Saturday morning. I planned to take full advantage with bike rides Saturday and Sunday.

Friday night I decided to run after work, exploring the newly re-opened connection between the North shore trail and Point State Park. This week I was able to run twice without knee pain and I decided to take a nice long run to start my weekend off right. I made a loop from the trail, across to the Point, down through town onto the Strip trail and back to the North side. I can tell that I've lost stamina in the past two months of infrequent running, but managed to push through some of the fatigue. Back home, I headed over to the Greek food festival, indulging in all manner of foods encased in phyllo.

Saturday and Sunday I went on two separate bike rides, both incorporating the South side trail and stops for tasty gelati and iced coffee. Saturday's trip involved a near run in with a gaggle of geese, which after my last encounter was something I wanted to avoid. With a little backtracking we were able to avoid the situation all together.

Tiredness hit big time on Sunday. I realized that I had worked out in some manner every day this past week, and I was spent. I suppose, as with every thing else, there can be too much of a good thing. Physical activity makes me feel almost normal -- gives me a break from my whirling emotions. It is hard when I get this respite to acknowledge and permit myself rest as well. My tenacity works against me, pushing me past my comfortable limit, an outward manifestation of my desire to get past the pain. So I'm taking a break for the next few days and resting, giving my body time to restore and facing whatever emotions come.