Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Return to the blog-o-space

In a ways, it’s somewhat shameful that I can’t find the time to pen an entry or two every so often over the course of…uh, two months. But that’s my fault for treating each like a chapter of something bigger instead of keeping tabs on the every so often that I encounter.

So I’m going to dumb this down for myself, in an attempt to commit to creating more content on a regular basis.

My last two weeks:
New view. After a year plus down in University Commons, I (along with the guy in the photo) ventured north to a different loft apartment. One bed plus den, 1 1/2 baths and a balcony. Balcony shoutout is key, as I have furnished it with a crucial apartment component...

Oh yeah. They were gooood.

And for those interested, my two tiny compatriots are just fine. Here's proof:


Those who wander the loop. OK, so ignore my thumb for a moment, as I was really trying to be discrete, but going back and forth up Monroe or Adams has proven to be an enjoyable experience. This was from day one, as I came across some guy (in a UIC alum Jay DeMerit jersey...random)...but wait! He wasn't just some guy, he was easily some guy who is 7'5. Even better, he befriended and walked besides a guy humorously shorter than himself. 

I find height to be a fascinating facet of the human condition. As I personally take great pride in individuals who I come across who are shorter than myself (they can't help it, I can't help it, it is a great equalizer)  those who are over sized are of equal interest.

Walking the streets of downtown, especially near the end of the workday, provides intense people-watching potential. Hell, I even passed by my former boss at one point. 


What does the future hold...
More to come. I DePromise.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Solder Field 10 Miler

I tried to type stuff during this past month, but it was angry. Not just me being pissed off, but genuinely hurt.

Longer story short: after the pain in my left ankle failed to subside, the beyond helpful training staff suggested I get into a walking boot and was run-less for an entire month. I instantaneously flashed back to what happened now seven years ago:
Post Accessory Navicular Removal Surgery, May 2003. 

That too was not a happy time, regardless of the thumbs up. But good to know I painted my toenails back then.

Health care bureaucracy made it take forever to get into my PCP who, shockingly referred me to an ortho specialist, who (well, for starters I didn’t even get to see an actual doctor, just a physicians assistant, grumble) said, yeah…stay in a boot and I’d get an MRI. OK.

So here was the important highlights of my last seven days:
Monday, May 24: fell asleep amidst an MRI in a ridiculously hot radiology department. You would think they would be able to regulate the temperature in a hospital, but nope; a world-renown teaching hospital= suite 237 in the FAC. Scary.

Later that day, Mike Gilmartin, head trainer extraordinaire takes me down to the one place I have never been in my three years traipsing about the FAC: sports medicine’s lair. It was bizarre, as it’s a doctor’s office. Right there! Dr. Hutchinson kindly took time out of his schedule to look at the results of the MRI, and said he saw nothing resembling a stress fracture, which was the main and most feared diagnosis.

Boot, off.

Monday night: half mile on the treadmill, no pain.

Tuesday: 3.44 on the FAC pathways, no pain.

Friday: 2 miles on the treadmill, no pain. Run at 9:00 minute miles and faster, just to remember what that pace felt like. Had the distinct pleasure to have my friends over for a pre-race food consumption.

Saturday: As of Monday, I was not going to participate given I had a black bulky boot on my foot. As of Wednesday, I was going to be highly conservative and run a mile, walk a mile.

With the horn/gun (don’t remember what it was, actually) I, along with five current/former co-workers and my guy were off. Within the first mile, I found Gilmartin, and the dearly missed Brian Forth worked his way over and the three of us worked really well together through six miles. I credit the impeccably even pace (we went 9:50, 9:08, 9:04, 9:05, 8:53, 9:05 for the first six) to Mike; the man is a metronome.

Mile seven was fine, honest. It started to feel warm around that point, and my tight contact with the two gents was slipping. We got to the water station, and the crowding was bad enough that I walked through it instead of getting run into. I saw the pair I had gone over halfway through this thing with only 20 meters ahead, but that’s when the wheels fell off.
Final four miles: 9:22, 10:00, 10:33, 9:55...

Ugh. I just ran out of gas, and it hurt to move that slowly. Not physically, but mentally. I had come so far at a really frigging satisfying pace, and just splutted. My back started hurting, lifting my legs was unhappy, and I just felt gross. My foot did start aching, but not in a concerning way, more in a please stop this absurdity kinda way.

Seeing a trio of University Commons chums with a bit over a mile to go helped, but I couldn’t move much quicker. If this was a ½, it would have turned even uglier.

Final mile. Was invigorated by the potential of finishing. Wrapping around the stadium was cool, and a quick look at the course map helped out immensely in terms of knowing how much more there was until the finish line.

After a disconcerting decent into the underbelly of McCormick place, with non-exsistent lighting (the road wasn’t 100% even, seemed like a really great way to turn ones ankle in a missing patch of concrete; glad no one did) the entrance into the races namesake was a decline into a much brighter, open space. Down and around to the actual fields opening was cool. Wish I wasn’t hurting as much and could have soaked it in a bit. Did notice the sheer number of people sitting in the stands, the cheering was awesome.

At the very least, I crossed the line with good-looking form. I definitely said “f@ck!” to myself as I stopped my watch. I found my people after we all finished, no one worse for wear. I’m fortunate of that, given that the race organizers declared a level black due to the increasing warmth and deemed the race over.

I’d be interested to know how race officials dealt with people still a ways out on the course; yes, there was a pre-determined time cut-off but what are you going to do—“hey you at mile seven, please stop running and walk. I SAID WALK!!!!” I understand they officially declare things over so as to avoid litigation if something goes really awry, but is there no self-responsibility? Saw one guy being iced down with an IV as I left the stadium; saying he was in agony would be an understatement.Have to wonder if pride got in the way of that, but I have a different mentality. Yeah, my ego would have been bruised, but if anything felt off kilter, even the slightest bit, I was going to cease and desist. Maybe it’s a rarity to be in tune enough with your body, but if things are going wrong, stop. I’m willing to call things off come October 11 if something goes wrong or the heat is obscene (I know I don’t do well in humidity); would it suck? Um, yes! But knowing there are other alternatives and can enter another race down the road (rationally, Indy has a marathon the first week of November…irrationally, *insert warm/nifty location here*) can help with that decision if it needs to be made.

A post-race grill fest on the upper parking deck capped things off for an awesome day. I wish the soreness had reached a level of “good soreness”, but never did. Foot felt fine afterwards, so a nap and some icing made everything alright in the afternoon.

With things feeling good, and an open summer in front of me, getting back on track makes me feel much better. I have a much better sense of cross training to avoid any overuse injuries from this point on, and it’s just me, 132 days, my feet and a combination of my rowing machine with a bike every now and again. And I finish typing as the Hawks get game two. A very good weekend, indeed.

Friday, April 30, 2010

My 6.5 Miles

I’m so worn down this week and don’t have much to show for it in many different facets (oh, guess I’m on the cusp of dictating a themed entry). Three miles on a treadmill and 3.5 behind the FAC proved that there is something seriously wrong with my ankle, and I don’t know what I did. Still did a pair of weight lifting sessions and feel my shoulders are starting to look squishily toned.

Initial trainer prognoses feel it has something to do with my nerves. Huh? What did I do? How do you offend the nerves that wrap around ones ankle bone to the point of sharply intense pain? A doctor appointment awaits me for the 11th, so I should get to see a specialist sometime around oh, early August.

Meanwhile, my sleep has deteriorated. Takes me forever to fall asleep, and if I wake up (like I did at 4a this morning), I am up. This I can pinpoint, connect to a cause (transitioning off my current headache medication), so it doesn’t concern me as much. Still totally sucks.

Finally, while I write this, I am in transit on 94 East, heading to a softball series in Detroit.

If I didn’t make it known to pretty much everyone I work with that I didn’t want to go, consider this me stating I didn’t want to go because I don’t feel I need to go. One doesn’t need a stat-lackey, computers are a wonderful thing, even if its DOS-based. Everything is changing in my pathetic profession, and from a sociological perspective, it’s somewhat interesting to watch the old fall victim to the new.

Sports Information as its been from the 70s (ill throw that out there as a starting point as my workplace leads me to believe stats did not exist prior to 1973) until the early part of the last decade is essentially supernova-ing and the “old guard” doesn’t know what to do.

I like watching people get eaten alive, slowly. What can I say…

But it’s in this shift, a schism, if you will, that I am painfully adrift. Things that need to change to stay ahead of the game (game, sports…hey!) aren’t changing. I can curse my forward-thinking strengths, but to watch as the status quo remains untouched over and over is unfortunate. Welcome to my job.

So from this lack of a maelstrom, I got really angry today. Not just normal angry, aside from the stabbing pains of the head and the hoof, but enraged. Specifics need not apply, but I retreated to my home, simultaneously plotting the dearth and destruction of as many as I could while feeling wounded. It’s hard eating a PB sandwich feeling defeated. I hungrily preserved, as did my feline duo.

While petting the cats, smacking my peanut buttery gums and calming myself down, it came to me that knowing how to bring someone down (though it wouldn't be difficult in the slightest) isn’t the person I want to be. I honestly understood for the first time that nothing in my current situation is going to change, and the clouds lifted.

My work environment has come to define me to my core, and that’s over. What an amazing sense of calm to really be able to see things from a better perspective:

Lip service remains a constant, and everyone becomes a product of the system. Think you are gonna get out? Nope! Should probably already be thinking ahead to next year. Ambition gets lost in the Flamey sea of apathy. Consider it a deep body of water.

I will be using this weekend away in a city my mother grew up in (sidenote, eek) to cement my decisions in as private a setting as 15 college-aged brats can muster, but at this point I’m certain I will come back knowing what is about to transpire. And I hope that calms my ankle nerves down a bit. Certainly helps my head.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Week v April 19-25

Completely meaningless post other than to type something once a week. I’ll have a more in-depth thoughtful entry later this week, promise.

I conclude this week with six runs, 30 miles, my lengthiest long run in over two years and a lone achy ankle (totally out of the blue).

I’d like to think my cats are proud of me, but common knowledge leads me to believe they just want to be fed. Editor’s note: they did.

The only thing that grinds my gears is that due to my travel schedule this coming week, I will have to (this is assuming the hotel has one) get my long run in via tredmill for the third straight week. Last week and this week I waited out a headache by which point it was 6:45p and growing dark, and the cold rain today was not something I wanted to take part in for fear of a cold in a busy week such as this.

So my ankle last night as I got off the treadmill felt like it had been healing after rolling it (the only way I can describe it); it’s a cracking hard locking feeling. This came out of nowhere, so I’m not pleased. Then today it didn’t really bother me until about the sixth mile, and the wheels came off at that point. Grumble. Icing helps a bit, but we shall see where this goes. I’d prefer away, but when do I get what I want?

Next week I will be attempting to shift my runs to the morning, as this week was dominated by post 7 p.m. jaunts. Gotta get used to that, except for the days I lift in the morning.
And fair dues to Hossa, I didn’t see that as being a suspend-worthy hit as it happened.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Week Of Perpetual Motion, and/or What Moves Me

Three runs, including my long one, on a treadmill this week. Not too pleased about that, but pleased that it beat the alternative of not getting a run in. The good thing about the treadmill for my seven miler (other than the fact that I sociologically critiqued Rocky internally for an hour, thanks WGN!) was that it felt pretty good, save the pounding my knees have taken. Lungs felt fine, heart rate wasn’t too high and my stride was intact throughout and I only started to tighten up slightly with about three quarters of a mile to go. I’ll call the week a success, other than the missed run on Wednesday (should have run in the am, but then the softball game at Northern went late and I didn’t get in until after 9), so I’ll move on.

Nothing earth shattering, but I’ll be interested in how tomorrow’s Boston Marathon plays out. If anything, it’s framed my next elongated post on my top five favorite and least favorite runners of all time.

To conclude this evening, I spent the past two days being subjected to what I consider to be utterly horrendous walk-up music by the UIC softball team. So I’ll put these top three out there:

This would totally be my walk-up song. Now while the video is trippy, the opening as well as the chorus gets it done for me. The Odd Couple is easily one of my favorite albums of the past two years with the whole retro vibe thing, but I just like the opening shift from spaghetti western to 60s soul in less than 10 seconds in this song.

In the runner up position and a more mainstream selection,

Guero is my ultimate summer album, and this is such a great opener. It does what a walk-up should do; get you pumped up and create some energy in a very short amount of time.

But, deep down, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to hear someone walk out to this…and what better person than me? (Please, get through at least 30 seconds of this and then you can consider yourself cultured for the day. )

One of Mike's co-workers asks candidates during an interview what they would select as their walk-up song. If I am ever in a position of power to do such, I totally will ask the same.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Selfish Marathon

179 days separate myself from 26.2 consecutive miles. Scary thought?

Scarier thought: me, me, me.

I walk around my neighborhood and can’t help but see these placards and information on charity groups one can associate themselves with for the, or any upcoming marathon. Let’s see…AIDS, pet rescue, suicide awareness, cancer; that’s what I can at least recall seeing on Halsted. I flip through the latest issue of Chicago Athlete, and there are PAGES of associations one can make with any cause they please.

This race is for me. Stop sending me stuff, Team in Training!!

Now it’s been explained to my thick-skulled self that these groups are going to try and get $$ however they can and I get that: Lady Housewife can solicit all her similar-minded friends for donations/pledges when she waddles her way to a six + hour finish. But I personally don’t see the value of putting one foot in front of the other for some cause beyond your own. If you want to raise money for PAWS, write them a check and ask friends to do the same.

Using a race/a marathon as a front for that, to me, feels like its cheapening the experience for yourself. Are these people otherwise not going to compete if not for the cause they are raising funds for?

Ah, that word: compete. Maybe that’s where I struggle the most in trying to wrap my brain around this 40,000 person event. How can you commit to this thing if you are not going to try and achieve your best? Wouldn’t you want to? Now given that this is my inaugural showing, I’m not sure what to expect, but I have a goal time (to be revealed upon 12 weeks prior to the marathon; I want to see how I respond to some longer runs first before vocalizing what I’m aiming for) and I will be disappointed if I falter (within reason; I can accept change in plan due to weather, injury, etc.).

I don’t want to do this half-assed. Why do others?

Screw ‘em. This is my thing, running for myself. Just gotta keep that in mind. Maybe I’ll have my face on my shirt. Maybe not.

Speaking of team in training, I do wish they would stop sending me info, seriously. A few years back, a good number of charity runners at the Marine Corps Marathon were disqualified after they intentionally cut the course so as to finish in the allotted time to receive a finisher’s medal.

Uh, yeah. Wrap your head around that one.

If you want to read more about it, I would suggest going through my beloved elitist (and somewhat elite) running site, and the “world-famous” message board  here.

It’s amazing that the article (in a post a few down from the original link that no longer works) that it essentially says there is an unspoken agreement that charity runners can cut a course so as to claim the finishers medal. I get that too, that the bulk of competitors, natch, entered individuals (more PC?) create this massive cash cow for the race organizers and you need that to close streets/insurance/pay elites/etc. so…you gotta “stroke” them to perpetuate this for financial success.

Is it worth it, though? I don’t think so, but then again, I’ll be the self-focused schmuck with my face on my singlet, racing the damn thing. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Meet My Brain

As I make my way to the land of a once-burning Great Lake and a guy named Al Palowski, I can’t help but utilize the outlet and wi-fi this bus provides. Couldn’t tell you our driver’s name, though. I never seem to ask and always feel bad about it.

My older sister is one for over-exaggeration. One of those things that won’t leave the family lore is when she once proclaimed that no one would be in more pain than her, ever (upon getting wisdom teeth removed, if memory serves) and wholeheartedly meant it.

Part of me wants to leave my headaches out of the public conversation I’m having with myself but I think it’s an important part of this story I’m beginning to write.  Besides, I’ve carved out a foolish niche for myself:
No one will ever know how much pain I’m in, ever.

In a way, it’s not fair that I’m completely functional (to an extent; that whole operating heavy machinery thing is probably right on the border of abilities, but I can’t say I’ve had the opportunity to take the wheel of a tractor) while I feel like a spike is being methodically tapped into one of seven points around my cranium. My mother suffers from chronic migraines, and when she’s got one, she’s done. Can’t claim that, I just close my eyes and wait for the worst of it to end so I can get on with my day. So maybe it’s not a matter of fairness but of being fortunate that a headache doesn’t leave me completely crippled all day, just really uncomfortable.

Some bouts are more elongated than the normal few minute, let’s call it episode, and some are much more intense than others, and only two have ever really terrified me to the point of anxiety. Afterwards, I’m left with your run of the mill advil curing headache that lingers. And repeat. Sometimes a few times a day, some days more than 10.

It’s not pleasant, and I know I come off as icy to most all day but it’s hard to maintain a normal sense of attentiveness when it’s just inevitable that I’ll have another episode eventually. I wish they came on a schedule, like a train…

Honestly, if it was just a couple of times a day and that was all, regardless of the intensity, I’d be fine and this wouldn’t be a factor. I probably would have, in a stubborn male species sort of way, never even seen a doctor. But its those damn headaches that surface while I run that makes me bring this up. It’s the overall headache I wake up to in the morning that can prevail in a battle of will power, leaving me laying in bed with a headache instead of getting up and functioning…with a headache. Poor me.

So part of this whole return to running with purpose  nonsense is stemmed from a means to overcome what I can’t ignore. I know it’s there, can’t do much about it, so I need to stop succumbing to this crutch/excuse my headaches have provided. I’ve seen a few doctors, I’ve seen a specialist (who had me get an MRI and created some really funky pictures of my brain, as seen above. Look at that jaw, it could be no one but me…) and because they aren’t migraines (that’s where that whole functionality thing comes into play; nothing is ever a trigger like light or sound is for migraines), they are classified as just a headache.

Its taken me awhile, but I feel like I can overcome “just a headache.” Let’s find out.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

To begin

A colleague of mine began a blog that chronicled his impending father/family-hood, and it made me think/ponder and question some ideas and non sequiturs brought to light by his wordpress domain.

The nerve, SS.  

So I wanted to address the mentality of people who have children and how it affects those who want nothing to do with tiny progeny (*points to self*) and started to do such last night, but it came off as so selfish and somewhat unnecessary that I ceased typing. His space on the internet didn’t really feel like the public arena in which I wanted to launch such a set of personal thoughts. So I, for the 17th time, dust off my blank corner of the www and attempt to start afresh. I removed the last posts I had, circa Jan. 2008 as they serve little purpose, and perhaps may be counter-productive to my current attempt at this.

I think my main purpose at returning to an open forum of zoethought is really to create a sense of accountability for something. I want to be held to task, if such is possible and if there is any interest in my actions, what better means to obtain this than to put to word document….

Back to this need for accountability. An aside…

As a senior in high school, I had a sense of identity. I = runner. Very simple, clear cut, nothing blurred or complicated. My day was defined by whatever in regards to running/competing. This was only heightened by college coaches at the DI level telling me I should run for them. Too bad I didn’t run for any of them.

 Anyway, after finishing 10th at my cross country regional, I made a bet with myself. If I could finish in the top 10 at the sectional in Skokie the following weekend, I would dye my hair pink.

But not just any pink. Flamingo pink. I had dyed my coif a multitude of colors throughout the latter half of my high school career (dark blue, purple, green, red, blue again, orange) but never pink. Pink was the unattainable unicorn; I never had reason to go full out for what I wanted. Never felt deserving of an achievement to dye my hair pink.

I guess in a foolish 17-year old self way, I vocalized this to my teammates the morning of the sectional.

So when I finished 8th in my sectional (a race that I could describe to you in such obscene, prideful detail some nine years later you would instantaneously qualify me in the same breath as a former HS football player recanting his Friday night glory days), a finish that not only stamped my teams ticket to state (which we/I laid a fat egg at), but if my teammates didn’t come through, I would have qualified as an individual. That was an accomplishment. And I vocalized my bet, so I had to go through with it (and was given parental clearance upon having already taken my senior pictures a few weeks prior). With the assistance of my mother, I bleached my hair white-blond and bought my jar of Flamingo pink.

It’s now 2010, and after cleaning and organizing some things from my past in the early stages of this month of March, I recalled that memory in full for the first time in a very long while. I know I dyed my hair pink because I made it to state, but to know that I did it because I actually set my mind on something seemingly unreachable was honestly depressing. Now please do not mistake this as a reward: I honestly did not feel that it was remotely approachable a goal given the caliber of talent against me at the regional.

So I asked myself honestly and truthfully when was the last time I did something for me on that great a scale? Something drastically spiteful to myself.

I couldn’t tell you. And I was in college for five years!

That thought ate at me for a few weeks, badly. How can this be? What can I do to gain that sense of identity and self accountability back?

And in a hotel room in Tucson at 12:30 in the morning following a mercy-ruled softball loss against second-ranked Arizona (a team so frigging focused on being nothing but a perennial champion it’s disgusting; a disgust I used to crave), I committed to myself for at least the next 199 days (at the time of this entry).  Might not seem like a big deal to some, but for me, this is. Holding myself to something is a big deal, I swear.

Less than two weeks before the capacity was reached, I registered for and will race the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10; a distance that I still think is beyond boring.

By no means will it be easy, and this is thought beyond the scope that I will be traversing 1.008 miles for every year I’ve existed.

My headaches have had a nice stranglehold on my overall well-being and have a direct hand in creating my blob-like level of fitness for over three+ years now.

Being in the middle of a run and feeling like I do (I’m sure I will shine more light on this eventually, now isn’t the time) is not fun.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite end of the spectrum.  But in spite of that, I will trek on.

This will be only part running log ( I gotta web site for that), thought point-of-entry and other means of communicating (I will also be honing my CSS craft in going beyond the scope of generic blog templates).

 Because if I don’t do this now, will I ever really be able to hold myself to task ever again?