Monday, June 19, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 27: Grandparents

"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." --Alex Haley


My siblings and cousins and I are definitely blessed with the love of our grandpa.  There were a lot of things that made my childhood a fun one, filled with learning and imagination and adventure, but my grandpa had a large role in making that a reality.  My paternal grandparents passed away before I was born, and my grandma passed away when I was really young and my brother was a baby.  In a way, I have always felt like he loved and supported me enough for all of my grandparents.  Every girl should be so fortunate!

Seriously, I have so many awesome memories from being a kid that include my grandpa in some way.  I loved going over to his house and spent many afternoons there playing with various old school toys that had been around forever (like the Fisher Price barn) and all kinds of board games, looking at all of the stuff, the relics, in the basement storage room... sliding down the stairs to the basement on cushions, playing outside in the yard, cautiously exploring the foundation of the burned down barn just to the east of the house (even though I have a feeling we probably shouldn't have been doing that), learning to ride my bike on the long shallow hill of his driveway.  I first learned how to drive in a pick up truck on empty country roads dancing through corn fields and acres of soybeans, my grandpa in the passenger seat.

Living far enough away from my family that I don't get to see them all the time is probably one of my least favorite things about being an adult, though I do positively love the life that we have built out here in the city by the lake.  I wish I was able to see my grandpa more often, but I'm so lucky to have all of these memories in the meantime.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Jess Goes Running: Marathon Training, Week 1 and 2

Wow!  Here we are!  Somehow this came up more quickly than I thought it would; May was a busy month, though, so it's no surprise that all of the sudden, I was finding myself at the start of Marathon Training.  Again.  Oh man.  Knowing how things ended for me last year, I was, and am, bound and determined to not let it end that way again.  I am trying to really listen to my body and not be so hard on myself this year.  I really want this to be a success and I really want to cross that finish line in October.

Week 1 did not start out with a bang.  In fact, to my dismay, it ended up being a week of walking.  Long story short, I twinged my knee the Wednesday before training was set to begin.  On Sunday, which was supposed to be the day of my first miles, it was apparent that running was not going to be an option.  So... I did the next best thing.  I walked instead!  Miles are miles, and these early ones are all runs that I can handle and do regularly, anyway!  What was important to me was getting active while still allowing myself to heal.  For the long run?  I walked just about 5 out of 6 miles, still a workout to be sure!  As I progressed through the week, my knee bothered me less, but I still didn't want to push it that much.

It would figure that at the start of Week 2, just when my knee was starting to feel better, I came down with a summer cold.  Ugh, it sucks to be sick any time of the year, but when it's hot out, it's even worse.  I definitely didn't feel up to running through that, so I walked 3 miles on Sunday and took an extra rest day on Monday.  Tuesday was a planned rest day for me anyway; Wednesday I was supposed to do 3 miles, but I decided I would push it to Thursday as I still wasn't feeling the great and the weather wasn't particularly nice.  (Tom was supposed to run that night, too, for his own marathon training plan, but decided to postpone to Thursday as well).  Even that night, and into the day on Thursday, I wasn't really confident that I would be able to run on Thursday.

Except I knew I had to try.  I was starting to feel better from the cold, and my knee was feeling back to normal.  So I went out and did it.  3 miles, at run/walk intervals, and pretty slow (which I expected, as it was my first run in a few weeks), but I got through it and was no worse for the wear!  It was a pretty lovely sunset and I enjoyed it even though it was still pretty hot out.

Yesterday, the last day of Week 2, called for a 7 mile long run.  I really didn't think trying to run all 7 miles at once was a good idea, though, given I hadn't been getting that much distance the previous few weeks.  So, I went for what I figured was the next best option and split it up into 2 parts!  The first 3.5 miles took place in the afternoon, during the height of the heat and humidity, and it was pretty miserable.  I got through it but I wasn't sure if I really had it in me to do another 3.5.  I decided I would wait until later on in the evening, until it hopefully cooled down a little bit.  And sure enough, there was the most perfect cool breeze blowing in off the Lake.  The second run went much better, much more smoothly; I really enjoyed it!  The kind of run that makes you happy to be out there, doing it.  I ended up with 7.13 miles for the day and I considered that a smashing success!

Though it was not an ideal start, I am pleased with the effort I put into the first two weeks of training and the progress I have made.  So far, so good!  I expect that I will be back to running without walking intervals this week, and I'm looking forward to getting in the miles.  I'm feeling confident and ready for the work that lies ahead.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jess Goes Running: May and Marathon Training

I don't think I've ever been happier for spring, for warmer weather and longer days.  I feel like I did a pretty good job of staying active throughout the winter, despite my injury, and I've seen an increase in the frequency and duration of my runs (and walks, and yoga classes).  In fact, April was my most active month since marathon training abruptly ended last year.

Well, here we are--it's May.  I've done a good job of getting out there and getting in the miles, even though it has been a little challenging (just a lot going on both in and outside of work).  I've gone on some pretty sweet runs and I'm proud of the work that I have put in.  There were times when I was in the lowest points of my injury where I worried I'd never run and be active without pain again, that I'd never get back to my old self.

The truth is, I still have days where my foot hurts.  Recently I've been noticing a few lingering issues in my right foot, which up until now had been unaffected by the issues plaguing my left foot.  Now, I've been pushing myself a lot at work lately and it's very possible that it's just strained from that; it could also be the beginning of plantar fasciitis, which my doctor always said was a possibility.  It's also possible that it's nothing and I'm just paranoid.  In any case, I am listening to my body and I'm not pushing it.

Like over my weekend, for example.  It was a beautiful day and would have been perfect for a run, but my foot was bothering me so I took the bike out instead.  It was the second time I've gone biking this year, and it was not without its challenges but I'm still glad I went.  I'm so happy I bought my road bike last year; I never would have done such a thing if not for Tom, who inspired me to get into cycling in addition to running.  I touched on this in my instagram post yesterday, but for as much as I love running, there is something really fantastic about cycling, too.  I'm excited to see how cycling fits into marathon training and I look forward to having it as a cross-training option all summer.

Marathon training.  It's only a few weeks away.  To say that I am nervous is an understatement; I am terrified.  I know what I need to do to be successful and I am confident in my abilities but the "not knowing" is a lot to deal with--because I felt like I was getting along okay but I got hurt anyway, and in the end my entire plan came to a derailed abrupt end.  To defer the marathon once is one thing, but to have to do that twice?  I really don't to go down that road again, and I will do everything I can to avoid it, if I can help it.

So... I have a few weeks to prepare.  And then, I'll work on eating well and sleeping enough and getting those miles, slow and steady.  I will get stronger mentally and physically and hopefully, on that Sunday morning in October, I will cross the finish line after 26.2 miles through the city that has stolen my heart and soul.  That is what propels me through my doubts and my fears... I want it so badly, even though I know it's gonna hurt like hell, and I am willing to put in the work.  I press on in the hope that I will be rewarded with the sweet victory of even getting to the finish line, the opportunity to fulfill this challenge that has eluded me.  Ahh, 15 days.  Here we go!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 26: Daily Tasks

Though I'm definitely not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination, I do like to keep things neat and clean.  I'd say our apartment is a pretty organized space, which is an impressive feat considering we live in a small one bedroom apartment that has two closets total (and a really small amount of storage space in general).

We keep up with sweeping and mopping and dusting regularly enough, cleaning the bathroom, too.  We don't have a dishwasher, so doing the dishes by hand is a frequent task.  I don't hate doing the dishes, but I don't love it, either.  Because of my ambivalence towards dishes, I try to just get it done as quickly as possible and try to occupy myself with music or a podcast while doing so.  A dishwasher is definitely on my must-have list for any potential future home.

We also need a washer and dryer, for sure.  Of all the standard household tasks, I probably like laundry the least.  It's just so time consuming, and tedious, and I tend to have a lot of laundry between my work clothes and all my running gear.  If I could do a load every couple of days or every other day then I probably wouldn't mind it so much, but having to go to the laundromat means that sometimes, we put off doing laundry longer than we should.  Which I'm sure is a pretty common tale.  Ah, well, we make it happen!  We do the dishes, fold the laundry, dust the shelves, get it done, and then we go running and play outside and the world spins on.  It's a system that works well!

Friday, April 28, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 25: Outside

"Go play outside!"  I can still hear my mom's voice in my ears.  My brother and I--and our daytime siblings--were lucky to have the lay of the land.  Growing up, we lived on a rural road where we had neighbors but we definitely did not live in a subdivision like most of our friends.  We had a huge yard, with a swimming pool, a playhouse (built by my grandpa at his house and transported on a trailer over to ours), and a basketball hoop off the shed.  Hours and hours and many sunny days, snowy afternoons, spent playing and exploring and imagining.

So, we'd go outside.  We would play in the yard, play on the swings, walk across the logs that made up the planter on the west side of the house like we were on a bridge, crossing a wide river.  We had a trampoline for a little while, which was always a fun and dangerous diversion as we would often practice flips and wrestling moves long into the evening. We would frequently take our bikes and ride around the block, with the expectation there were certain roads we weren't allowed go on.  For the most part though, we had free reign of the neighborhood.  This was before cell phones, before kids started staying inside all day playing video games or obsessing over their phones.  Summers frequently found me with freckles and blonde hair bleached green from the pool, and I though I was never very athletic I enjoyed watching my brother and his friends play ball.

We created worlds of make believe and adventure in our backyard and beyond.  We used to ride our bikes down to the dead end just past our neighbor's house; there was a large, fenced off pasture and a small grove of trees and we would ride down there and be in another world.  Now the dead end is no longer a dead end and the large, fenced off pasture is now home to a mansion.  Though it wasn't really all that long ago since we were kids, running around outside until dinner, and then afterwards, until it started getting dark, it has changed so much.

I know times have changed since I was a kid, and I also know that I live in a very different area now than I did then.  But I hope that my kids can enjoy the freedom of playing outside like I did, that un-tethered excitement and joy, filled with possibility and adventure.  I can't wait to tell my kids to go play outside... to watch them enter worlds of imagination and nature.

Jess Goes Running: Feeling Like a Runner

(More photos from my adventures can be found here.)

The last time I really wrote about running, besides 8 Minute Memoirs, was February.  After a late fall and winter of healing, I was slowly getting back into running again, slowly trying to reestablish routines and find my footing.  It wasn't an easy few months, really.  Over the course of winter and the transition into spring, I realized that I not only had work to do from a physical fitness perspective, but also in terms of my mental and emotional health.  For a while, I struggled with feeling like a runner.  I felt so disassociated from the identity I had created and built for myself.  It had been a long several months since my injury and diagnosis, since my deferment of the marathon.  Nothing had gone like I planned.

Somewhere over the course of the last month or so... I started feeling like a runner again.  I was out there getting miles, without pain.  (I also was not experiencing any pain at work, another milestone...  I still experience some tightness when I'm getting out of the car after driving home from work at the end of the day, but stretching it out generally does the trick.)  I had a few really good, really powerful, really empowering runs... watershed moments.  I was, and am, slowly starting to get faster, starting to feel stronger.  I participated in my first race of the year, the Shamrock Shuffle 8K (my 4th time running!) and also went to my first interval training session with the Evanston Running Club, something I am planning on making a regular part of marathon training.  I subscribed to Stridebox, a monthly running subscription box and ran my first 5K of the year last weekend weekend--posts about both are forthcoming!--and have recently realized over the last few days that I am more or less back to my baseline from this time last year.

Not a runner.  Not a runner?  That's the same voice that told me I couldn't do it in the first place, the whole reason I started running  5 years ago... because I was tired of telling myself I couldn't do it.  I can, and I will, because I'm a runner.  And I've never loved it more.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Matters of Population Density

This past weekend, I went home--or at least, home as I knew it for the first 18 years of my life. It occurred to me earlier in the day, when I was out running errands, that it’s been 11 years since I graduated from high school and moved away to college, 11 years since I really lived there… and even though it is and always will be “home” wherever I’m currently living, in a way, I’ve been slowly becoming more aware of the distance, the time that has passed, how different it all looks.

After all, I’ve been living in the city for over two years now and I’ve grown accustomed to this lifestyle of mine, the existence of an urban dweller commuting to work in the suburbs, of falling asleep to the sound of his breathing and the always awake, always living, city outside the walls of our one bedroom apartment. It’s like falling asleep to the television, the constant hum of the streets below, even at 3 in the morning.

Last night, falling asleep in the bedroom I inhabited when I was a teenager, the last space I kept as my own before I moved away to college, it was so quiet that I could hear my own heartbeat. The world outside my mom and dad’s house, the house where I grew up, was silent. It was so quiet that when I was young, I had to listen to the radio to fall asleep. My dad had set it to turn off after a certain period of time, which was usually after I had entered into dreamland, but I just could not sleep without it. Eventually, this was less of an issue (and I mean, let’s be honest, eventually, when I was 17, 18, the radio was just replaced with the sound of a boy’s voice, or any one of my friends, staying up late gossiping with me on the other end of a telephone) and I just embraced the silence. Until I moved to Edgewater, and now I welcome the low frequency vibrations of the city as my own white noise soundtrack.

Laying there in the total darkness in that room (the same place where I got ready on our wedding day) I dozed off and just listened to the sound of my own breathing. I was curled up in the middle of the queen sized bed, falling asleep, when the phone rang--my husband, saying goodnight. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not but when I hung up the phone it was so quiet that it almost woke me up even more… and in that moment, I felt so small, so aware of the solitary plane I was existing in. The world was, is endless, and even in that moment I was merely along for the ride. (Practical matters of population density notwithstanding, it was probably the most alone I have been in months and it felt strangely exhilarating if not a little terrifying and exciting.)

All this to say… I am glad I will always have a place to come home to. That bedroom will always be mine, those walls will always be home; even if the nearby towns change beyond recognition, I’ll always know the way around by heart. Even if it looks less familiar than it used to. But… there’s something familiar about the Kennedy Expressway on a Friday night, an arrival back into the city, wrapped up in that familiar rhythm and melody. In the city it is as if I am wrapped up in a cocoon of energy--that which flows through the wide open spaces and the starry skies of my childhood home in miniature (but still no less kinetic).  Oh, I love them both equally.  But here, too, I am home.