Tag Archives: race

A Bump In The Road In My Half-Marathon Training

It kinda feels like someone is repeatedly slashing a razor blade across my shins. They’re shin splints. I’ve got ‘em. And it sucks.

My arsenal against shin splints.

I’m training for the Chicago Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon on Aug. 14 and it’s turned into a painful journey. I noticed the problem a month or so ago, so I got new shoes. They still hurt. I got compression sleeves (which are as sexy as old lady knee-highs.) When I ran the memorable 5K last month, I rocked my sleeves and my shins felt awesome.

Then I did something really stupid. I went to a “Medicine Ball Madness” class at the gym without my sleeves and with all the up and down and up and down and up and down on the stupid step, my shins took a beating.

So now I’m taking the shotgun approach to fixing these shin splints. I recently got inserts for my shoes. I stretch my shins and calves (even have a special calf-stretching thingymadoodle.) I use Biofreeze (think: high-end Bengay.) I also do three strengthening exercises. One is where I place a pole or weighted bar atop my foot and do toe taps. Another is where I put my feet on one end of a towel and scrunch up the towel with my toes. The third exercise where I’m standing backward on the stairs with my heels hanging free. I lift up on my tippytoes and then I dip my heels down. And repeat.

All of this and I’ve taken two weeks off of running. I was loathe to do this, but after a talking-to from my trainer, I’m actually listening.

Not running for two weeks makes me nervous because I worry about losing my conditioning, let’s face it 13 miles in the middle of August is nothing to sneeze at, especially since I’m not the superfit type.

But I know I have to get better. So I’ve been hitting up the elliptical and bike, including checking out spinning classes. (My instructor scared me in the beginning because she had uber thick, muscular thighs and talked about doing Ironman competitions for 10 years.) I hope to pound the pavement again next week, but without the pain.

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Semper Fi: A Marine’s Run

Looking to change up my exercise routine, I ran a race Sunday that honored those in the military. The real honor came at the end when I cheered for Yuyri Zmysly, a man who doctors said could forever be in a vegetative state.

Image from Salute, Inc.

It was Salute Inc.’s “got freedom?” run. My crazy-runner-MILF friend texted me on Friday to see if I was running it. I smirked, running it, ha! I hadn’t even *heard* of it. At 5:30 race morning, I decided to give it a go.

I left the boys at home and headed out. At the starting line, I stood there, feeling pretty proud of myself for leaving the boys to go run a 5K on a whim. (There was a 10K option, which naturally I didn’t do.) Then the starting gun went off. And we were off.

The weather was cool and it was strangely foggy. I felt good the whole race and there was a quaint sense of community as several event volunteers were local high school kids or Girl and Boy Scout troops. Also, many people stood in their front lawns with their pajamas and morning coffee cheering us on. One woman even turned on her garden hose to mist us.

Soon the race was over. Me and my crazy-runner-MILF friend (who ran the 10K) were gabbing over bananas, when we noticed the crowd at the post-race party grew quiet and shuffled over to line the last few blocks of the course.

We followed suit and heard shouts of: “Here he comes!” “There he is!” Standing on my tippy toes, I saw him. He was in a wheelchair, his body was thin, his fingers were slender and gripped the air. Wow. I wonder what happened.

He had a mini-entourage around his wheelchair. Well before the finish line, they all stopped and a burly man stood in front of the chair. The man helped Yuriy to his feet, held out his arms for support as Yuriy took a step. We all held our breath.

His feet shuffled, his upper body jerked and he moved forward and onward and onward. We were clapping and cheering  and after Yuriy passed us, we crowded the course and circled him. The finish line was still about a block away.

I looked at the 6-foot-tall, ripped man next to me. The tears in his eyes matched those in mine. He gave me a faint smile. I kept clapping. Yuriy kept walking.

The finish line seemed far away, this wasn’t a ceremonial finish, Yuriy was grinding out the end of this race like the rest of us did. He was willing his body to do what he wanted, he was pushing its boundaries.

With each shuffle, we got louder in our cheers and our tears were now freely flowing. Then he did it.

Retired Marine Cpl. Yuriy Zmysly, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, finished the 5K. He did it just five years after suffering a brain injury at a military hospital that left him unable to speak, see or walk.

Yuriy Zmysly walked crossed the finish line, showing that the human spirit is unconquerable.

Thank you Yuriy and to all the servicemen and women for their valiant hearts and sacrifice.

(For more information on Yuriy and his amazing story of love and triumph, click here.)

We Came, We Saw, We Shuffled

The temperature was in the lower 70s, clouds dotted the sky, a slight breeze skimmed off the lake and we were surrounded by more than 32,000 people. What a perfect day for a first race.

It was Chicago’s Shamrock Shuffle, the largest 8K road race in the world and I was finally getting the opportunity to run a race with my husband. Though neither of us are avid runners, I’ve always wanted to do a race with him. He’s cheered for me at my races, but I wanted him on the frontline, not the sideline.

We decided to run the race as part of the Imerman Angels, an organization that provides one-on-one support for those with cancer. I was running on behalf of my two cousins, Jimmy and Chubby who died of cancer. (With the support of family and friends Hubby and I raised $525! Thanks again to all who donated.)

There’s something magical about races, a sense of community, excitement and strength that everyone should get to experience at least once. And today was my husband’s day.

A few minutes before the race was to start, we were jittery with anticipation, marveling at the crazy ways people paired running gear and shamrocks. Hubby was worried I’d leave him behind. I reminded him how he had trained way more than me and that he would be fine.

Then the crowd lumbered forward. We were off.

A few steps before my favorite view of the race. My "money shot" was covered up by my thumb. 😦

We paced ourselves fairly slow, as I always fear I’ll run out of gas at the end of the race. My smile grew as we neared one of my favorite views. It’s just as we’re about to duck under Michigan Avenue, you can see Nordstrom above you and the bobbling mass of runners sloping below.

Around the first mile I felt a stitch in my side. Whoa, what’s going on? Not too long ago I ran 3 miles and felt like I could have done it backward, now I’ve got a stitch at Mile1? This isn’t good.

Meanwhile Hubby’s chugging along like the little engine that could, giving me encouraging grins every few steps. We hit up the drink station and I thought Mile 2 would be better, but at the end of that one, someone had swapped my legs for concrete pillars.

Now Hubby’s shooting me some concerned looks, he can tell I’m hurtin. I’m wondering what’s going on with my body. I’m hot, I’m sluggish and it seems my runner’s high is late on arrival.

“If you want to go ahead, that’s fine. I don’t want to drag you down,” I told him.

He shook his head. “No, we finish this together.”

The temperature climbed and I could tell I was hot, too hot. I saw an onlooker with a water bottle and wondered if I could ask him for a swig. I started to think about all the people I was running this for. I heard my cousin Chubby tell me: “Now girl you finish this race, you ain’t that big.” And I imagined Jimmy smiling at me in a fur coat. (One of my favorite memories of him is when a bunch of us went to try on fur coats for fun, he tried to talk Hubby into getting one for me. Hubby wisely refused.)

I thought of my Twitterfriend who was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after having her first child, of my friend Glenn who’s an amazing man and lost his mom to cancer. She had to be spectacular to raise such a great person. I thought of Andre and his stark honesty about his courageous battle, a little girl named Anna who has since passed. All of them fighters, all of them great. If they can fight such a rotten beast like cancer, surely, surely my ass can make it across the finish line.

“You’re doing great baby,” Hubby smiled at me. I just nodded. My cheeks were on fire and I was starting to get chills. I knew I was dehydrated and overheated. This was not good at all. Instead of being smart and stopping to walk and get something to drink, I plodded forward.

A black woman in the crowd yelled for us to dig deep and keep running, that we were almost there. That helped me kick it up. Hubby and I rounded the corner that was the last leg of all major Chicago races. It’s a hill. (Why do they put the end of the race atop the only hill in town?)

And we dug, dug, dug our way to the top of that hill. We turned the corner, and could see that beautiful banner that reads: FINISH.

A woman who was quite… rotund passed me and I thought: No way. I sped up, she did too. I sped up more and kept it up so that she wouldn’t even try to catch up. Hubby was right next to me. Just before we got to the finish line, we embraced the cliché, clasped our hands together and crossed.

“We did it baby,” he said.

Yes, I thought. We sure did.

One Race, One Dream and A Fight Against Cancer

No joke. In 10 days one of my dreams is about to come true and the best part is that it’s going to benefit cancer patients.

The dream? It’s running a race with my husband. I know, I know. It sounds eye-rollingly mushy, but don’t tell anyone: I’m a closeted sap.

Getting ready for the Corporate Challenge 5K

I have always been enamored by the idea of running. It’s the purest form of exercise, just you and your legs pounding the pavement. No weights, mats, ropes, pulleys, bars, BOSUs. Nada.

I started running in 2002, largely because many of my co-workers were doing the Corporate Challenge, a 5K. I didn’t want to be the one bringing up the rear, so I put mine in gear and started training. It sucked in the beginning, but I stuck with it and fell in love.

I love the runner’s high. I love how running gives me time to think. I love what it does for my body. (Finally I found something that could turn my pear shape into an hour glass.) So let’s fast forward several races, including the 2006 marathon. In that race, I asked Hubby to jump in after mile 20 to help me get to the finish line. He ran with me until about mile No. 25 and hearing his footsteps next to mine, pushing me to keep going meant so much. He’s not an avid runner, but he stuck it out with me and I wanted that experience again.

Also, in most Chicago races there’s a beautiful view that always gives me chills. You’re on Grand Avenue and about a half block away is Michigan Avenue. Looking up, you see upper Michigan Avenue, it’s almost like a bridge. And you can read the sign for Nordstrom. The street slopes down so below you is a sea of bobbling heads, runners whooping it up because their voices reverberate off the walls of lower Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile’s underbelly. The energy is electric and at that moment I always feel like I can do anything. I want to share that moment with my best friend, my Hubby.

He’s always known this. And I’ve tried not to pressure him into running a race with me, just gently asking if he’d like to join me some day and finally, this year, he’s strapping on his shoes and running his first race. I’m soooo stoked. We’re doing the Shamrock Shuffle on April 10.

This year we’re running as part of a charity team, the Imerman Angels. It’s a neat group because they focus on pairing cancer patients with people who have successfully fought the same type of cancer and it connects parents, spouses, kids of cancer patients with other caregivers and survivors. It’s a one-on-one service and it’s free. Which is why we’re raising money for them.

Unfortunately, our enthusiasm for the race and this group hasn’t matched with what we’ve raised. We’re still quite short of our fundraising goals, so even if you’ve got an extra $5 to share, click here and make a donation.

Jimmy holding Logan in 2007.

I’m running the race in the name of two people in my family who died of cancer. One was Jimmy Bryant, who had lung cancer. He was a hilarious guy who enjoyed the finer things in life with humility. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it was true. Some of his best tales were those about him being a fish out of water as a city boy who would spend time on my grandparents’ farm.

The other person is Claire Chisholm Bryant, another cousin of mine, but she was known as “Chubby.” Jimmy’s humor made me giggle and smile with amusement, but Chubby’s made me belly laugh. Growing up she was one of the adults who was easy to talk to and her sense of humor was rooted in commonsense.

I will think of them throughout the Shamrock Shuffle’s 8 kilometers. Them as well as a host of other folks whose lives have been touched by cancer. Andre, an amazing coworker whose strength and talent seem endless; my daycare director who is a mother of four and is just like family because of her love for my boys. And there’s a special person in the Twitterverse who I bonded with during my third trimester as we both were having health issues and hoping our little ones baked as long as possible. She’s a spoonie, and my mom is too. She had a healthy baby girl, and then a few weeks later, my Twitterfriend was diagnosed with cancer.

I will think of each of these people and other friends as inspiration when I plod along my 8K. And I’ll smile even broader when I hear the footsteps of my best friend right next to me.

Being Brown in the Suburbs: No Burnt Crosses, But A Few Cross Looks

I should have known by the look in his eyes. The middle-aged white man looked at my chocolate self, then to my light-skinned baby and back to me. “Excuse me,” he said walking closer. “But is his father white or Asian?”

The color of us by Erica Lynn Hang.

I paused. Did he just ask me that? Here? In the frozen-food section of the grocery store?

Inhale. Exhale. “He’s white,” I said, feeling my blood rise. Gathering courage to stand my ground for whatever racial onslaught was to come, I said louder, bolder: “He’s Norwegian.”

“Oh.” He responded and walked toward me, fumbling to pull something out of his pocket. Egad, what is he going to do? You know folks are crazy.

“The reason I’m asking is because this is my family.” He pulls out a picture of himself, a round black woman and two very tall biracial boys all smiling in their Sunday best. “The oldest is in college and this one’s in middle school.”

I melt.

“Let me show you my other son.” I whip out my phone and pull up a picture of Logan with his wildly curly hair and caramel skin.

“Do you guys live here? Are they treating you OK?” He looks very concerned, it’s clear he cares. By “they” he means the community, our predominantly white, moderately conservative Chicago suburb. He’s not asking me if there’s been crosses burnt on our lawns, but if we’re treated well, like equals, genuinely received by our neighbors.

We do like it here and generally have had no issues. Unlike our previous suburb, where everyone at the grocery store from the cashiers to the customers were routinely rude to me. At the time I chalked it up to grumpy people, then one day I took my husband shopping with me. It was a marked difference, people smiled when they greeted you in the aisle, asked you if you needed any help, there was no hostility. I was shocked.

After that trip with him, I told him he needed to come to the grocery store with me each time because I didn’t want to be treated so rudely. It sucked because it felt a bit like we had the Black Codes in the grocery store, where I needed a white person to vouch for me.

(There was also a bit of that Saturday Night Live episode where Eddie Murphy went undercover as a white man. On the bus, after all the black people were gone, he watched how a party broke out among the whites.)

That grocery store experience was a few years ago and in another suburb, where we live now it is better. And this time in the store, this white man was telling me how he and his wife did have some struggles several years ago, but that his kids enjoyed the good schools. “They are good at the schools,” he said nodding meaningfully. As if to reassure me that it won’t matter to the other kids that my boys are biracial.

Ethan started to squawk and I needed to finish up my shopping, so we said goodbye. I wished him a nice day.

Smiling, I walked away thinking I should have known by the look in his eyes. When this white man looked at me and my family, he saw his own.