Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Recap! File Under: Not Too Shabby

I’ve been procrastinating writing a 2011 wrap up post because there were so many things I loved about this year I don’t know how to start. Really, I should have started this post back in October. That would have been smart.

I know. Having too many awesome things to sort through is NOT A PROBLEM. Shut up.

So I thought about doing a top ten list but when I went back through my calendar, photographs and previous blog post I realized this business was looking more and more like a Top Twenty* list. So let’s dig in. I’ve decided to keep each description brief but it’s still a helluva list. We could be here a while.


Technically I included this on last year’s list because the vacation started in December but it did spill over into January of this year and honestly, it was too great of a trip not to talk about again. I can still close my eyes and feel myself sitting on a chair at that resort right by the ocean, Mai Tai in hand. I will go back. Oh yes, I will go back.


What? Just a concert? What’s so awesome about that? Especially a band I’ve seen a bunch of times? I see a lot of concerts every year but this particular show just really stands out to me because it was the night where about twenty of my Twitter friends seemed to spontaneously take over the balcony of the Riverside. It was so much fun to sing along with my friends to one of my absolute favorite bands. Good friends, good music, good times.


Jason took my to Alinea in Chicago and I died. That’s the end of the year!

Ok no. But it was the most amazing meal I’ve ever had in my life. Twenty mini-courses (or bites) of art were served and I learned that the most exciting way to dine is to sit down and let the chef bring you whatever he or she thinks is best. When Grant Achatz came out and painted dessert of various chocolates, creams and sauces on our table my jaw dropped like a school girl.


This event could have been unbearable. The weather was freeeezing cold and the wind was relentless. But because I was there with my besties Rochelle, Krista and Marty, somehow we turned it into one of my favorite races of the year.


Jason and I spent the weekend in Portland (or really eating our way through) and I discovered what hipsters everywhere already know: Portland is rad. Whenever I travel to a new place I alway enjoy myself but can never imagine living there. However, I could totally see us living in Portland. It’s like Milwaukee... amplified. But just a bit. Not too much. I can’t wait to go back- for Portland Marathon next fall!


I’ve been visiting the Naples, Florida area since the mid-eighties so that’s nothing new. This year however, Juli, Ava and I met up with my uncle and his kids who I hadn’t seen in about ten years. (The girls finally got to meet their mysterious cousins who they only knew through Christmas cards and photographs.) The kids all had a fabulous time and it was really fun to watch. The moral of the story? Don’t let ten years go in between seeing great people.


The whole fam drove to St. Louis to see the national championships for the FIRST Robotics competition. I can’t say enough good things about this program. Awesome smart kids building awesome robots. And the crowds there cheered like we were at a major sports event. But for science! It was all very inspiring to watch. Spending the weekend in St. Louis was a bonus too. My favorite part was at the top of the Arch when the guide warned us, “Right now we’re experiencing a bit of a... sway.”


I wrote about this race in great detail here so I won’t bore you again with it. I ran my current marathon PR on this day (3:56:02) and I rode that high for as long as I could. The second half of the course at this race is painfully boring and solitary but for some reason I’m able to run a great pace there so I’ll keep coming back for it again and again. I’m hoping to break 3:55 this spring.


2011 was the year I became Coach Tracey. I went in thinking I knew what to expect but the girls always found a way to surprise me. And make me laugh. I had such a big proud for them at the 5K in June- especially because it was approximately eleventy hundred degrees.


12 friends. 2 vans. 30 hours. 197 miles. Fun right? Duh.


We pulled off an awesome race for the second year in a row! I’m so proud to be on this team of organizers and I can’t wait to watch our baby grow again this year.

You guys. It’s still only June. Halfway there!


We surprised my dad at Christmas last year by telling him we were taking him on a trip to New York City to see a Yankees game (his most favorite team ever.) Although it was sad to watch said Yankees CRUSH the Brewers, it was worth it to see the absolutely thrilled look on my Dad’s face.


I think this may have been the hardest race I’ve ever done. Somebody put a mountain in the middle of Wisconsin and we climbed iit that day. Whenever I’m feeling down I though I just look at those post-finish photos and I smile. Naturally, I’m going back to do it again.


Yup. We did Maker Faire in Detroit again at the end of the summer. Nerdstravaganza!


This weekend ruled. We spent three days living in a beautiful sprawling home in Santa Fe with some of our oldest, dearest friends. It culminated with a lovely wedding that I’m so happy I got to be a part of. This was also the weekend discovered I liked whiskey (along with my Whiskey Sister, HBT) and the lot of us fit a record amount of people in a tiny hot tub.


Dude. Do I really need to talk about this some more? You can read about it here. I still think about this several times a day. Sometimes it seems like it was all a dream.


This was the year I sucked it up and started working out with a trainer- in group sessions as well as a series of solo workouts in the fall. I realized that even though I’m capable of pushing myself very hard, having trainer will always give you that EXTRA push. I literally got my but kicked up and down the lakefront. And I discovered that I love football drills! There was one day when I think he almost broke me and because I’m a crazy person it was one of my favorite workouts of the year.


I spent a lot of time in Chicago this year (which isn’t that strange for me) but I feel like I really fell in love with the city again this year. From the 50K and Alinea in March, to summer weekends downtown with the fam, my first ever Bears game at Soldier Field (!!!!) and the Chicago Marathon with my besties in the fall. I kept finding myself there again and again and loving it. And of course we finished the year again with the Google holiday party! Milwaukee is my home now but I still have Chicago in my heart.


After hemming and hawing for years and making excuses as to why I couldn’t fit dancing into my schedule, I finally dragged myself down to Danceworks and started taking a modern class again. It sounds cheesey but I really feel like it’s good for my soul and Im excited to expand this part of my life again in 2012.


Dang, we really rocked out the besties events this year! From Besties ‘Stallis Cookout to Besties Book Club- and who could forget Besties Hanging Out and Making Fun of “Grey Gardens” Clips? Spending time with this very different, very incredible group of ladies was for sure a highlight of my year. We even got to cap off the year with Besties Night Out at Lake Park Bistro where we shut the pace down (with our awesome.)

Looking back and writing about all of these makes me feel so incredibly lucky to have the life that I have. I feel like any time I’m having a grump fest now I should look at this list and virtually slap myself upside the head. Because wow. If 2012 can be half as great as this year then I’ll the luckiest girl in the world. Happy New Year!

*Honorable mentions incude the personal marathon I ran on my 33rd birthday, our Mary Poppins sing-a-long, and that time I GOT TO SEE JON STEWART.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

That Time I Ran 2000 Miles and Didn't Know It

Remember when I talked about that little goal I had of running at least 2000 miles in the year 2011? As it turns out, that part wasn't that hard at all. The hard part was doing the STUPID MATH so that I would actually be aware of it when I acheived the milestone. You see, I had been taking my yearly mileage number from Dailymile's "leaderboard" page- a section that shows how your miles measure up against all of your friends. I put my faith in that number. I lived by that number.

That number was WRONG.

Oh, Dailymile, your'e so cute sometimes with your little bumps and glitches. How did I come to this realization? Well, on Christmas Eve when I was logging my morning run, Jason looked over my shoulder on my laptop at this page on my training log. It looks like this:

(Yes, I'm aware that this particular display includes last December's mileage as well, but don't worry, I'm not counting that.)

Anyway he says to me "All those monthly numbers already add up to over 2000 don't they?"To which I PSHAWED and replied, "Of course not! I know my yearly total! Do you think I would have passed 2000 miles and NOT KNOWN IT?"

So I opened up my calculator and added up January, February, March, April, and so on.

And I got 2003.

So I added it again.



I passed 2000 that morning and I had no clue. In fact, I had finished 2000 exactly with my friend Sara merely an hour earlier and then bounded off for three more cooldown miles around the park, completely oblivious to my milestone.

Here is a screen cap of the leaderboard from the SAME DAY showing me at 1973 running miles:

Wrong, wrongwrongwrongwrong, Wrong, Wrongity-WRONG.

Maybe you think this is all a tad obsessive but for people like me it really is a big deal. My friends and I all use this site to track our workouts and believe me if any of us had gotten to January 1st and then found out Dailymile shorted us a few miles of our goal- it would not be pretty. At least in my case the discrepancy was in the other direction, but I still feel like the whole build up was a bit... anti-climactic now.

But still, yay? Now I get to spend the last week of the year running whatever miles I want, whenever I want, JUST BECAUSE I LIKE TO. And that's awesome.

One more thing: Did Jason really just "happen" to notice in passing that the two totals were off? Well, not really. You see, he was secretly working on a project for me and was actually more than just casually interested in how I was tracking my total. You see, he had been spending some time at the Milwaukee Makerspace building me an odometer that would download my miles from Dailymile. Yes. I said an ODOMETER. You know, like this:

I can plug this guy into my laptop and it will grab my miles from the interweb and display the running total accordingly. (His blog post about how he made it can be found here.) As it stands I'll probably wipe it out after the 31st and start over for 2012 and I'll keep it on display somewhere in the house. Really, the whole thing just tickles me. Robot Lady has an odometer now. It's too perfect.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ava Year 8

8 years old. EIGHT. Ridiculous! Bonkers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Project 2000

For those of you who don't know, I have a pretty lofty goal of running a total of 2000 miles in the year 2011. I started out this year casually aiming for it just to see what would happen and it turns out I haven't fallen off track yet. As of today I've logged 1751 miles so I only have 248 more to go in the next month and a half!

A snippet of my Dailymile Leaderboard for the year (running miles only).

Why I am I doing this? To see if I can.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Full Circle

So I signed up for a dance class. It's not earth shattering news, I know. My degree is in dance. (You know, the one I don't use?) I actually took this same modern dance class on and off when we first moved to Milwaukee but at the time i had a really hard time fitting it in around the girls' schedules. Then after that I had a hard time fitting it in around my running schedule. Now, I'm MAKING the time. Time isn't going to create itself. If I want something to happen I have to put the wheels in motion.

I love moving. Obviously, it's a big reason why I was drawn to running when I fell away from dance. I love to feel the air moving in and out of my lungs, to have my breath propel me and to feel the momentum of my body as it moves through space. I love to create lines and shapes and feel changing rhythms. Most of all I love that moment where you're mind separates from your body and the dance just happens without thinking.

It's time to start moving like that again. Even if it's just once a week. Baby steps.

Student Dance Company at Columbia College, 1999. Look at all that short hair! So late-90s.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time Machine

The other day I took this photo of the girls while they were having breakfast before school:

There's nothing really that special about the photo. They didn't even really pay attention to me at the time. But I looked at it after and thought about just how many pictures I've snapped of them together over the years. It's a LOT. I don't always notice all the little changes that take place day to day with them but holy moly all those changes really stack up over the years. I stared at this photo with Juliana in her They Might Be Giants concert tee and Ava looking like an actual "big kid" and it kind of took my breath away. I tend to have moments like these when I least expect it and it really sends me into a tailspin. I started looking at old photos on Flickr of them growing together as sisters and REALLY. I don't think I need to say anything else:

I mean, COME ON.


It's too much.

And this was taken just a couple of months ago:

I hope you enjoyed these because I'm dead. Rolling in my grave. I can't take it anymore.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

As the White Rabbit once said, "The time? Who's got the TIME?"

i have plans for every weekend in December already. People are talking to me about Christmas shopping. AND, I'm already mapping out my 2012 race schedule.

2011 is soooo over already.

But I feel like I've hardly even written about what's happened to me THIS year. I'm not ready for it to be over yet! Sure, I've written up race recaps and done the obligatory birthday blog post,s but what about our trip to New York City? Or our weekend with old friends in Santa Fe? This year I didn't even remember to talke the obligatory photos of my kids in their Halloween costumes. MOM FAIL. Sometimes I am so bad at documenting life.

I have eight weeks left in the year. Eight weeks to sift through all my memories and photos from 2011. Smewhere in there is all that Thanksgiving and Christmas business as well. Oh, and I have 300 more miles to run before I hit my goal of 2000 for the year.

I'd better get moving.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Kind of Town

Yahoo! It's Chicago Marathon weekend!

Yesterday I got an email from my friend Shiow, that began like this:

"Weird when a marathon is kinda no big deal...."

Oh but it is! It still is! If I ever act like running a marathon is easy, just punch me in the face. Seriously. With over 45,000 runners, this will be by far the largest event I've ever taken part it. Also, it's taking place in one of my most favorite places in the world!

As a kid living in Rockford, Illinois I remember telling my parents that I wanted to move to Chicago when I grew up. (I also remember them warning me how crazy living in a big city would be.) During school, I went on all the obligatory Chicago field trips that a northern Illinois kid would- the Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Lyric Opera... When I got older, I would beg my mom or dad to drive me and my friends there so we could go shopping down by Clark and Belmont, where we considered all the "cool" shops to be. I have this great memory of my dad standing around awkwardly in The Alley while I browsed through racks of goth dresses. (Fifteen-year old me was a real treat.)

Then when I graduated from high school I finally got the chance to move there to attend college. A group of friends and I (including Jason) all lived in the same dorm building in the South Loop- just a few blocks from where the marathon start line will be on Sunday. It's kind of funny because at that time in my life I was completely oblivious to the sport of running. I don't even remember hearing about the event!

What I do remember though is how in love I was with the city. I remember walking home at night from my job at an art store on Chicago Avenue to the Red Line train. I would look up at the skyline and the lights glowing from the windows of the Hancock Building and think how awesome it was that I *actually* lived there. When I found myself rehearsing at the Dance Center in the evening after most everyone else had gone home, I would stand at the ballet barre looking out on Sheridan Avenue and think to myself, "How lucky am I that this is my life?" After Jason and I got married, we rented our first crappy little apartment on the far northwest side- the third floor walk up where I would blow a fuse every time I turned on the hair dryer and the coffee pot at the same time- and I thought it was the most perfect place ever. We brought home a kitten, followed by another, and another. I worked at a coffee shop, a bakery, all while surrounding myself with art, music and dance. When the Bulls won the NBA Championships for the 6th time, everyone in our neighborhood poured out of their apartments and started celebrating in the streets.

I know, I'm being overly sentimental and that everything tends to looks glossy and perfect in hindsight. There were times when I had to leave a full grocery cart behind at the store because my credit card was maxed out and I had no money. There was that creepy stalker-ish guy who would always come to see me at the coffee shop I worked at. And oh, the joys of being a young college girl walking through Uptown in the late 90s! But it's also the city my first daughter was born in. It's where Jason and I started our life together. It's where I had big dreams of being a professional dancer. Oh, there's also that time I jumped up and down on top of Buckingham Fountain in the middle of the night singing the theme song from Married With Children.

And now I get to run one of the biggest marathons in the world there!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

North Face 50: Look What We Can Do! (or) Shiny Happy People Holding Hands

Ok here we go. I've had a couple of days to relax and process. And oh, did I need to process. So many. Emotions. Really it was the overwhelming feelings I had about Saturday's race that took longer to absorb that any pain from actually running 50 miles.

So what did running 50 miles feel like?

This is going to sound really weird, but physically it didn't seem that hard.

STOP RIGHT NOW. This is not me bragging about how "easy" it was or how good I am at stuff. I really believe that this was just my training paying off. BIG TIME. And how I worked HARD during training, I can't even begin to tell you. Luckily, Krista was feeling the same way as we ran. We kept saying things like, "The miles/hours keep flying by!" or "I expected to feel soooo much worse by now." We kept waiting for some proverbial wall to come crushing down upon us and reduce us to crawling snail people but it never did. Good training, folks. And a good TAPER. We were so rested and ready for this race it was unreal. At one point we were giggling and shouting "LOOK WHAT WE CAN DOOOO!"

Maybe it was that high five from Dean Karnazes at the starting line? Oooh, there's another idea for a title. "Dean Karnazes is Magic!"

But that's not fair. If anything, Krista and I were magic that day.



Conditions/Course/Technical Stuff

The course was a little bit of everything and I was happy that we had done a practice run through about a third of it so I had some idea what to expect. The first hour or so in the dark was pretty flat (thankfully!) and it was very serene and calming. The weather was perfect. Like I said before, the early miles seemed to fly by. We chatted, took our gels and salt at the appropriate times and ditched our headlamps after the sun came up. Our pace was very steady and easy and we dutifully remembered to walk the hills. There was a long stretch where we saw our cheering crew at 6 miles but not again until mile 21. We missed them! It was so exciting to round the corner approaching that aid station knowing all our friends were there. And the megaphone Evan brought was an added bonus. Our whole strategy for this 50 miler was to never thing about the distance as a whole. We would break it up into however many miles it was to each aid station and when we got there, hopefully we could erase the previous run from our minds. This would soon become known as "OBLIVIATE". (Thanks be to Harry Potter for that one.)

Anyway, we were clipping along and obliviating all our previous miles as we went. But after mile 21 the trail got significantly more difficult. The route was a 14 mile out and back with an aid station at the turnaround. It. Was. HILLY. This was also the section of the trail that was inaccessible to us the day we came out for a training run. I don't know how it managed to be uphill BOTH ways but it did. Some kind of dark magic was at work here for sure. It seemed like just when we would get a good rhythm going there would be another mountain to climb and we'd be forced to walk again. The good part during this stretch? All the runners ahead of us were doubling back so we got to see a lot of friendly faces. Every person out there was so nice. It didn't matter if someone was passing us or we were passing them. Everyone had kind, encouraging words to say. "Looking good!" "Great job!" or "Keep it up!" I started to make up a song that went, "Evveryyone here is my beeessst friieeeend..." If you want to find the nicest people in the world, run an ultra. Case closed.

The first time I started to feel a little bit sketchy was at the tail end of this hilly section. Somewhere around mile 32 we started to get really quiet and were just concentrating on getting to the next aid station. As we assessed how each other was feeling at this time we quickly decided to dub our situation as Terror Alert Yellow. But light yellow. Although this part was difficult, there were definitely times in my running life where I had felt much worse. Considering we were at mileage in the 30s, things were looking pretty darn peachy.

And then we came up on the mile 35 aid station. We could hear a different voice in the megaphone but were too far away to distinguish who it was. When we came around the bend though we saw Amy was shouting encouragement not only to us but to every other runner on the course. (This is one of the many reasons why Amy is so rad.) And and AND... Rochelle was with her! She had sneakily told me she couldn't make it to the race had been secretly planning to meet us out there the whole time.!

Hugs ensued.

The mile 35 station was such pick-me-up. Not only did we see Ro, but we were picking up our pacer, Evan for the final 15 miles. Final 15! It seemed crazy that we were this far already and feeling this great. I had hoped to get to 35 feeling good-ish but didn't really expect it to happen. Somehow it did. (See again: Training, training, training.)

Final 15

Everyone kept telling us how we were ahead of our projected pace but we never wanted to get too excited about it since anything can happen in those final miles. Evan then told us that if we kept it up we would break 11 hours. (I had been estimating to get in under 12 hours but really just wanted to make it before the cut off at 13 if everything fell apart.) Hearing this was nuts. I didn't even want to think about it. Plus, the hills kept coming even though we thought we were out of the most treacherous part. Of course, the smallest slope starts to seem gigantic when you're approaching mile 40.

Oooh, mile 40! This aid station was a party. There was no crew here but the volunteers were dancing and we did a little shimmy and I ate some Skittles. I really think I tasted a rainbow. I couldn't stop thinking about getting more Skittles for the rest of the race.

This race report is long.


The next thing I remember is reaching the final aid station and them telling us we had 3.7 miles to go. I wanted to cry I was so excited. My Garmin battery had died by this point so I had no idea we were so close. It was fantastic news... until I started to feel really crappy about a half mile later. (Terror Alert Orange? I was flirting with it.) I took a serious nosedive at mile 47. I could tell Krista was getting a rush of energy because she was picking up the pace and even running some hills that I definitely would have walked! She was amazing. I started to get worried because I didn't want her to have to slow down for me if she was feeling so good but I really really really wanted to finish together. We hit a big sandy hill (curse you sand!) and I asked her to walk for a minute. I needed a final push but didn't know how I was going to get it.

There were some volunteers at the top of the hill who were cheering for us and shouted "Less than 2 miles to go!". I think this was all I needed to hear. TWO MILES. Two miles is nothing. Whenever I get to the point in a training run where I have two miles to go I know I've got it. This was it. I got my second (or third, or fourth) wind. It helped that we hit a long, sloping downhill that allowed me to just let go and have the momentum take me. It was like I wasn't even running again! *Sigh of relief.*

Somewhere along the last mile we emerged from the trail and had to run along the road. I thought this would hurt but I was just so excited about being done that I wasn't even feeling anything anymore. AND THEN WE COULD HEAR THE FINISH LINE! It was still far away but there is was in the distance glowing like a beacon. A shining pool of water in the middle of a scorching desert. It was the most beautiful thing. We waved our hands wildly hoping our friends would spot us in the distance and I warned Krista a bunch of times that I was going to cry.

Finish Line Stuff

As if our cheering crew wasn't awesome enough already, more of our friends had shown up for the big finish. Jason and the kids were there too and Juliana had the megaphone now and was screaming, "Don't stop Mom! You can do it!"

And they were all doing a power arch for us. Because they are the best people you could ever know.

And then Krista and I got married. Wait what? No. It just looks like it. And Amy threw glitter! Just like I wanted. It was magical. Official time: 10:45:06.

Here's a video of the finish:

So you want to run a 50? What should you do?

1. Train hard.
2. REST well.
3. Have the greatest people in the world supporting you. (But you can't have mine!)

I would totally do this again. It was a much bigger commitment than training for a marathon or a 50K but I know for sure this won't be my last 50 miler. I can't say that I have the desire to do a 100 but I would run this distance again in a heartbeat. Who's with me?

Friday, September 16, 2011

If You Work Hard Enough

I've been meaning to write about my upcoming 50 miler for a couple of weeks now but for some reason it hasn't happened. I've been lucky up until now to not really fret or freak out about it that much so I think subconsciously I felt like writing stuff down would burst my bubble of calm about the whole situation. For months now I've been dutifully training my hardest: logging my miles, eating well (for the most part) and getting lots of rest. But by pretending like it's not really that big a deal I've saved myself from sleepless nights and countless hours of worry. Here's the thing though:

It's kind of a big deal.

When I went to go pick up my packet yesterday the girl at the table asked me which distance I was running. When I heard the words "Fiiiftyyy miiiile" come out of my face it almost felt like some robot entity took over my body and while I recognized the tone of my own voice I wasn't sure who or what was forming the sounds. This is the girl who three years ago just wanted to finish her first 5K. I do remember at the finish of that race thinking, "Yeah, I could do twice that. If I worked hard enough."

And THAT my friends, is how things can begin to spiral out of control.

Jason keeps asking me if I'm done at 50 or if I will ever get the bug to run 100 after this. Although he is supportive and proud of the things I've accomplished I can tell that this time it's asked with trepidation. As in, "You're done after this distance... right?" Although I don't see myself being done running ultras, I also don't feel like I'm going to need to keep going farther and farther after this point. I know that I really love the 50K distance. I love running marathons. I also really enjoy running half marathons. Hey, I could even see myself going back to 5Ks and trying to PR there. There's just so much out there to do, so many trails to run, so many things to see. I'm excited to see where this journey takes me from here.

But first I have to run fifty miles.

I leave you with this:

Thanks to Krista for this one. Looking forward to hugs and glitter at the finish line!