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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Because of Boston

It's been three weeks since the terrorist activity in Boston, and outside of the occasional nightmare, life is slowly returning to normal. My boys have all resumed doing the things that typical 11, 14, 17, and 19 year old boys should be doing. I have successfully crossed the finish line in two 13.1 races, which has alleviated some of my fears and has allowed me to once again feel safe as I follow my passion. Most importantly though, I have had time to process and reflect on all that has happened. In true marathon style, here's 26.2 milestones and moments that I have come to appreciate now more than ever...
because of Boston.

1)  Because of Boston I know that there is a reason for everything. There is a reason I qualified for the Boston Marathon by 48 seconds. There is a reason that when I qualified, the 2013 had miraculously not yet filled, so my time would count for both the 117th and 118th Boston Marathon. There is a reason I stopped for water breaks when I usually run right past. We don't always need to know what the reasons are, but we should always make the most of the moments we have.
2) Because of Boston my kids have learned that acts of kindness are more powerful, and more plentiful, than acts of terror.
3) Because of Boston help has come in all shapes and sizes from one of my kindergartners baking cookies for Bailey, to the daughter of Newbery Award winning author, Cynthia Lord, offering her help from her home in Boston.
4) Because of Boston I now have an entire collection of new t-shirts, bracelets, posters, and headbands in support of the victims.
5) Because of Boston I have proof that there are angels among us one being the stranger that led my family back to me three weeks ago.
6) Because of Boston little things like kicking the soccer ball around with Bailey, have become big things.
7) Because of Boston I have become buddies with several members of the BPD and FBI as the search for my luggage continues.
8) Because of Boston what was supposed to be my last marathon, has now become my motivation to run without limits.
9) Because of Boston I have now joined my son Connor in being a Red Sox fan. (Unless they are playing the Cubs.)
10) Because of Boston my love for running has jumped from passionate to obsessed. (I may seriously need a Runners Anonymous intervention soon.)
11) Because of Boston I have formed friendships in the running community that that have not only made me a better runner, but more importantly, a better person.
12) Because of Boston each finish line will be a victory against terrorism.
13.1) Because of Boston I was motivated to run faster and stronger than ever in the Nike Woman's half-marathon on April 28th, earning a new PR of 1:50:07.

14) Because of Boston I know that if one of my boys was in danger, the others would be there in a heartbeat.
15) Because of Boston I have an even deeper respect for local, state and federal authorities who put their lives on the line everyday to keep us safe. In addition the Boston Athletic Association and the many marathon volunteers each deserve a medal of their own for their ongoing commitment to everyone affected by the bombings.
16) Because of Boston I believe more than ever that teaching students how to be kind and respectful, is so much more important than test scores.
17) Because of Boston I make sure that the people I love, never doubt it for a minute.
18) Because of Boston I have learned that taking 3 hours to finish a half marathon with friends, is just as meaningful as beating a PR. (Wisconsin half-marathon, Kenosha, WI 5/4/13)
19) Because of Boston I know firsthand, that people really are more important than things. I will never forget the outpouring of texts, calls, messages, emails and unending support from friends, family, co-workers, students and their parents.
20) Because of Boston towns that a year ago I had never heard of including: Hopkinton, Ashland, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Cambridge, now have a special place in my heart.
21) Because of Boston I have inspired others to try things that they didn't think they were capable of.
22) Because of Boston I have learned how to face my fears head on.
23) Because of Boston I know that Walt Disney was right. It really is kind of fun to do the impossible.
24) Because of Boston I now wear a lot of blue and yellow.
25) Because of Boston it is so much easier to not sweat the small stuff. (I no longer freak out about a sink full of dishes, or not being able to check my email every hour.)
26.2) The big finish! Because of Boston my two oldest sons, Ryan & Nick, have become runners! They have always been athletic, but they never understood the point of running just to run. Until now.  This text from Ry may be the most meaningful gift I have ever received. Wether he pursues this challenge or not, I could not be more proud of the person he has grown up to be, and his three younger brothers are following right behind in his footsteps. (Disclaimer...Ry entered himself in my contacts as "favorite son!" I, of course, love them all equally!)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I am a Boston Marathoner

I am a Boston marathoner. I have always dreamed that if and when the day came that I could actually say those words, I would feel nothing but pride and exhilaration. While I certainly experienced those two emotions on Monday, they were accompanied by a whole host of others that no one could possibly have imagined. Fear, disbelief, anger, pain, and heartache just to name a few. I'm hoping that by writing about my experience it will help me, and hopefully others, to begin to heal and get stronger. You might want to grab a cup of coffee. It's going be a long post.

I arrived in Boston with excitement, anticipation, awe, pride, and a sense of accomplishment. As a relatively new runner, I never dreamed that I would ever qualify for this prestigious event. It still astounds me to realize that the what once seemed impossible, is now a reality thanks to a lot of dedicated training and the unwavering support of family and friends.

My husband and three youngest sons departed Chicago early Friday morning. We were looking forward to exploring the wonderful city of Boston, and taking in a Red Sox game at Fenway. Our "Geidner Field of Dreams" tours take us to different stadiums each year, and my son Connor was especially excited about seeing the Green Monster in person. We had rented the first floor of a house in Cambridge through airbnb. Our wonderful host, Erin, provided us with everything we needed to get the most out of our visit.

Of course the first thing on my list was to check out the expo. We maneuvered our way into the city using the T, and despite the chilling rain, we had a great time. The first thing that we all noticed was how friendly the people of Boston were. When asking strangers for directions, they didn't just walk away or give us a short reply, they actually stopped walking and took the time to make sure we knew where to go. The expo was as phenomenal as I knew it would be, and I was overcome with emotion picking up my race bib.

My oldest son flew in from college to meet us on Saturday. I am still so touched that he wanted to spend so much time traveling to be with me for the marathon. We wound our way through Cambridge and Harvard in the morning, and then traveled back into Boston in the afternoon for lunch at Cheers and a walk through the Public Gardens and the Freedom Trail.

Sunday was game day, and despite the freezing winds and gray skies, Fenway lived up to our expectations.  The Sox beat Tampa Bay 5-0 with a no hitter throughout 7 innings. Of course we had our usual heated mound ball game going with my husband and Nick each winning $24. Dinner Sunday night was at Durgin-Park, a centuries-old restaurant in downtown Boston that my mom had recommended. I would travel back to Boston again, simply for this restaurant alone.

Of course sleep did not come easily Sunday night as there was no way to contain my anticipation of race day. I awoke at 4:30 AM, and took a cab to claim my cozy, warm seat on one of two CARA busses, (WITH bathrooms on board) filled with Chicagoland runners. We traveled just over 26 miles to Athlete's Village in Hopkinton, MA. Once there, we had several hours to wait before race time. The time passed slowly until just before 10:00 AM, when suddenly it all became real. No matter how many marathons I run, I can't seem to shake the doubts that I always get just before the race begins. I had no finish time in mind. I simply wanted to enjoy the experience, yet still I was a nervous wreck.

At 10:40 my wave took off on the journey from Hopkinton back into Boston; 26.2 miles away. The streets were literally lined with spectators throughout the course. The Patriot Day parties had obviously started early and would continue throughout the day. It was amazing to have so many strangers yelling my name. (Which someone had written on my leg with a sharpie on the way to my corral.) It took me about 2-3 miles to get into a groove, and I was seriously questioning how I was possibly going to run another 24+ miles. I had dropped my headphones at the start line, and I wasn't sure how I was going to survive without my music. Fortunately, friends who had run the race in previous years had told me that the crowd woud carry me, and they were absolutely right. Before I knew it, I was approaching mile 16 and the series of hills that lead to Heartbreak Hill.

I knew my family was at the top of Heartbreak Hill by Boston College. It was the perfect motivation when I needed it most. As soon as I saw them my youngest son, Bailey, came running onto the course in his socks yelling "run mom run!" To have him  by my side was priceless even if it was only for a short stretch. There have been so many days when I didn't want to do my training runs, and he is always the one one who gets me going. Best personal trainer ever! His enthusiasm stayed with me until I started hitting the wall around mile 23. Since I wasn't racing for any particular finishing time, I allowed myself to alternate between running and walking until I reached mile 25. At that point I saw the infamous Citgo sign, and knew I was going to finish my first Boston Marathon. Boy was I wrong.

As I approached the tunnel under Mass Ave, I saw few runners stopped, and police in the road. I thought maybe a runner had collapsed. When I reached the police line, I realized that they had blocked off the course, and quickly runners were backing up behind me trying to learn what had happened. I was fortunate to have my phone with me, and was able to text my husband and sons. Waiting for their response felt like a lifetime, but within a couple of minutes I received their text saying that they were together and safe. Many others asked to use my phone to text loved ones at the finish line and it was heartbreaking to watch them wait for replies that never came. Cell phone signals were iffy at best.

None of us knew what was going on or what to do, but everyone was helping each other to try to stay calm as we waited for news. We were told that two bombs had exploded at the finish line and that the race was cancelled, but there was no where we could go. My family was approximately 200 feet from the explosions. My son Connor found his way into the nearest hotel, while Bailey was swept by the crowd and separated from his dad and brothers. Within minutes he found he was actually in the same hotel as Connor, but that was long enough to leave him traumatized. My older sons, Ryan & Nick, realized the little guys were gone, and my husband quickly set out to find them. They were all reunited in a courtyard of the Mandarin Hotel, but were soon moved to a mall by officers for safety. I texted them my location, and they asked a young women for directions. She was clearly our guardian angel, and led my family through a back entrance out of the mall for .7 miles down side streets to meet me. All I could do was hug them through my tears. I feel awful that I never even expressed my thanks to this very kind stranger, but I will never forget her.

Each of my boys showed amazing strength and courage. Ryan realized I was freezing and gave me his sweat pants. Nick fielded calls and texts from concerned friends and family. Bailey and Connor remained calm. I have never been more proud of my boys. I hate that they were exposed to such a horrific scene, and that they were there because they were supporting me. I love that their first instinct was to be there for each other. I have never been happier to see their four faces!

We knew we were going to miss our plane, and I knew I couldn't travel anyway without my license which was in my runner's bag, on the busses, near the finish. After about an hour the police re-routed us to the busses so we started following the crowd. I was able to retrieve my bag just before another group of police came in and announced that there were more devices being found, and we needed to clear the area. We walked aimlessly in a fog as my husband attempted to contact the airlines about getting us on another flight. They were phenomenal, and eventually we found a bus that would take us to the airport and get us home.

I returned home from the marathon without:
  • finishing
  • my medal
  • my luggage (which was abandoned at the scene of the explosions)
  • Bailey's shoes (also abandoned)
I returned home with:
  • my family, shaken but safe
  • endless love and support from concerned family, friends, fellow runner's, co-workers, authors, book reps, etc...
  • a finisher's necklace from my husband
When I reflect on the past few days, I continue to be amazed by how lucky we were. Had I not walked for 5-10 minutes, I would've been at the finish line when the bombs went off. Had my family been on the other side of the street, they might be recovering from shrapnel wounds or worse. Had they not stumbled across such a kind stranger in the hotel, we would've had a much more difficult time finding each other. Had I gotten to the buses 3 minutes later, I wouldn't have gotten my license so we could fly home. The list goes on and on, and it is clear that God was with myself and my family on marathon Monday. Meanwhile as I continue to count my blessings, and wrap my head around everything that has happened since Monday afternoon, I am heartbroken for all of those that lost lives or were injured.

I saw a quote on BAA's facebook page that read, "If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target." This could not be more true. As I get ready to run the inaugural Nike Woman's 13.1 in DC on April 28th, and the Kenosha half-marathon on May 4th, I know it won't be easy. I won't be able to just focus on the run and my music like I am used to doing during races. I will be scared and will be on full alert of my surroundings. Regardless, I will continue to run because no one has the right to use terror to steal my passion, nor my child's innocence. I will run for the victims that lost their lives or were injured in Boston. I will run to show my sons that no matter how much evil there might be in the world, goodness and kindness will always prevail. I will run 26.2 more miles for Boston.

As President Obama said, "We WILL finish this race." I hope to be in Boston on April 21st, 2014 to do just that, because I am a Boston marathoner.

Friday, April 12, 2013

March Reading Madness!

As a huge Indiana Hoosier fan ('89 alum), I was inspired to bring some of the NCAA March Madness excitement into my library for my k-5 kiddos and staff. Congratulations to the four books that
were crowned champions this week! The road they took to get to the final four is shown below. The students absolutely LOVED this challenge, & listening to them debate about why one book should beat another was priceless! We are already looking forward to March Reading Madness 2014!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

March Running Madness!

March was a crazy month for sure filled with highs and lows. The highlight of the month was logging my 2nd highest monthly mileage ever: 207 miles & mile 5,000 since starting running 40 months ago! This was especially meaningful to me, as early in the month I was suffering from some serious lower back pain. I was really worried that my Boston training would be compromised, and that definitely freaked me out more than a little! Luckily, I was able to get through it (see previous post,) and was able to stick to my schedule.

I had a GREAT 20 mile run on the treadmill early in the month, and then a terrible 20 miler outside two weeks later.  Definitely wouldn't have predicted that, but that's how it goes sometimes. As much as I hate "bad" runs, sometimes they remind me not to take running for granted.

I ran two 1/2 marathons in March and PR'd in both, which was clearly another highlight of the month. The weather was great & the running Gods were with me. I just hope they stick around a bit longer & help me finish Boston! I was exhausted at the end of each, and it crossed my mind more than once that if I was that tired after 13.1, how was I going to run 26.2?

Speaking of tired, one of the low points of the month was discovering that my thyroid continues to be unstable. Since thyroid troubles are pretty common, I'm guessing many runners are familiar with the effects of hyper or hypo-thyroidism. I have taken synthroid for about 30 years, but suddenly my TSH levels are jumping all over the place. Unfortunately while the doctors try to figure out the right syhtroid dosage, I am left feeling exhausted. As in come home from work at 4:00 and could sleep through the night exhausted.  Since running a marathon and exhaustion don't go hand in hand, I am stocking up on energy drinks, chews, etc...!

Countdown to Boston is 9 days! Weather forecast looks perfect! Hopefully I can calm my nerves enough to eat and sleep this week! I am bib #19800. Send a text to 345678 with the word "runner" for text updates diring the race!
Happy running my friends! Stay healthy & strong!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 13.1 Race Recaps #1 & #2

As I sit with my legs up against the wall at a 90 degree angle letting gravity force the lactic acid to flow through my legs, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to update my blog with my most recent race recaps!

One of my goals for 2013 was to run 13 13.1's during the year. The 1st two races are now officially in the books, and each included a PR!

13.1 #1:

On Sunday, March 17th I ran the March O' Madness half marathon in Cary, IL. This race comes with many challenges.  Due to it's hills, it is the #1 Boston training race in our flat state of Illinois. Even more challenging than the hills though, is getting into the race before it fills up. Registration opens at 6:00 AM on New Years Eve, and this year it sold out in 38 minutes! Let's just say I was really glad I didn't give in to temptation and ignore my alarm clock that morning like I wanted too!
Race day temps were in the 30's, but the skies were sunny and there was very little wind. I always dedicate each race I run to someone special, and this one was co-dedicated to both my friend Joe "Bones" Thompson, who passed away on St. Patrick's Day in 2011 at the age of 50; as well as the father of a very good friend of mine, General Harry Cochran, who passed away suddenly a couple of days before the race. Both of these incredible men inspired me to tackle this hilly course head on, and I ended up running a 1:55:44, which was a half marathon PR in my book.

Overall race rating:


Positives: Super friendly people, inexpensive registration fee ($43), close to home, easy race day packet pick-up, great pre-race & post-race atmosphere in a local high school with indoor bathrooms, awesome race hoodie, raffle (I won a coffee gift pack), fun medal, excellent volunteers, and the best post-race soft pretzels!

Negatives: The course is a road course that is not closed to vehicle traffic, making it a little dangerous at times.

13.1 #2

Today (3/30/13) my son, Bailey. & I ran the Egg Shell Shuffle in the beautiful Busse Woods forest preserve in Elk Grove Village, IL. I dedicated this race to my grandma who passed away in 2010, but would've celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday. As a bonus, my husband and son, Connor, volunteered at the race and presented Bailey & I with our medals at the finish line. Bailey ran the 5k with no training outside of soccer, and came in 98/418 runners with a time of 28:25. He thought he could've done better, but I was totally impressed!
I ran the half marathon, and from the start I could tell it was going to be a great race. My #1 goal with Boston coming up in 16 days, was to avoid injury. I ran my 1st mile at a pace of 8:11, and knew I had to slow down to prevent burning out. I settled into a pace of 8:35 and surprised myself by maintaining that pace throughout the race, taking 2+ minutes off of my PR from 2 weeks earlier with a chip time of 1:52:02. I thought my time might be good enough to place in the top 3 in my division, but I ended up in 5th, missing 3rd place by less than 2 minutes. Nonetheless very happy with my finish! Following the races, there was an Easter egg hunt for kids and adults.  Totally fun and well done! Bailey even ended up winning a $20 gift card!
One of the highlights of the day was meeting a fellow runner who proved once again how amazing runners really are! We were taking turns passing each other during our 13.1 today, & finally I passed her up for good for the final four miles. We bumped into each other getting water afterwards & instead of being mad, she was full of compliments. It made my day, and was a perfect example of how running truly isn't about winning. It's about inspiring, and being inspired, by others who share the same passion! One of the countless reasons I ♥ runners & running!!

Overall race rating:


Positives: Beautiful scenic course with live elk (seriously!), reasonably priced ($54), great volunteers (especially the ones who share my last name), egg hunt, variety of races (5k & 13.1), parking, ease of same day packet pick up, fun medal for finishers of both races.

Negatives: Lack of porta potties & tp, would've preferred last year's race hoodie rather than the shorts we received, post-race food options were limited.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Running Lucky!

For me "running lucky" means that after 3 years, 3 months, and 29 races, I continue to be injury free. (Especially since according to my son, I am "so old," and I definitely don't stretch or foam roll like I should.)  However, after wrapping up week 13 of my Boston training last weekend with a 20 miler on Saturday followed by an "easy 8" on Sunday, my luck seemed to have run out when I woke up Monday with alarming back pain. My 1st thought..."it's okay. It's a rest day anyway. Just ignore it, take lots of ibuprofen, and it will go away."  Mind over matter.

By Tuesday the pain had lessened a little, but even as stubborn as I am, I knew my early AM run wasn't going to happen. (I could hear my mom reminding me that "there's a fine line between between stubborn and stupid" loud and clear.) Tuesday night I bargained with myself that I would try running slowly, and if it got painful I would quit.  I survived the 5 miles, and woke up Wednesday to run 5 more. With a half-marathon coming up the following weekend, and Boston just over a month away, I was terrified to stray from my training.

The pain had dropped from a 9.5 to about a 6, but now I was starting to worry because I knew I had changed my normal running gait in order to accomodate the back pain. There was no ignoring the reality that if I didn't seek help, I was probably just making things worse rather than better. Of course my doctor had no convenient appointments available, but luck stepped in again when I stumbled upon a 6 year old gift certificate for a one hour massage given to me by Ethan; a sweet, curly-haired, former kindergartner of mine. The certificate had no expiration date (thank goodness) & I discovered that the founder/director of the massage therapy center happened to be Ethan's dad.  He couldn't have been nicer, and went out of his way to schedule me for a deep tissue massage that would get me in shape to run my upcoming race.

I have had a few massages in the past, and I have loved every minute of each one. I quickly learned however, that a deep tissue massage, is NOT a regular, relaxing to the point of almost falling asleep, massage. John, who has been in the business or over 30 years, and has worked on numerous professional athletes, could not believe how contracted my muscle tissue was; not just in my back, but everywhere. It was 75 minutes of pain, but it was good pain, and it was exactly what I needed.

During my visit her are a few things I learned...

  • Good-bye Water Joe. Even though I drink 4-5 liters of H20 daily, I discovered that I was dehydrated.  How can that be? I don't drink coffee, tea, or pop, but I do drink a liter of Water Joe (equivalent to two 8 oz cups of coffee) to wake me up each morning for my commute to work.  John said it takes 4 cups of water to undo the dehydrating effects of one cup of coffee. I had no idea. Needless to say, no more Water Joe for me!  (Except on race days!)
  • Sleep in a fetal position. While I already tend to sleep on my side, he said that by sleeping with one pillow behind me, and one between my legs, I should notice a big difference.  He also recommended splurging on a therapeutic neck pillow. Sounds well worth the investment to me!
  • Unstable thyroid is nothing but trouble. I've had thyroid issues since high school, but for the past year my levels have been all over the place.  (Pre-menopause?) Never did I think this would affect my back, but I was wrong. Hopefully my endocrinologist will have this stabilized sooner rather than later!
As luck would have it...
  • My back pain was NOT caused by running!
  • I WILL be able to run the March O' Madness 13.1 in Cary, IL tomorrow. (Considered in IL to be the best training run for Boston.)
  • Pain has gone from a 9 to a mere 1.5. (Hopefully to soon be non-existent!)
  • By shifting a couple of rest days around, I won't lose a single mile of training due to this little setback.
  • I discovered an amazing massage place & therapist! If you live anywhere near the north Chicago suburbs, check out the Message Therapy Center of Winnetka! Phenomenal!
  • Most importantly, by making a few small changes, I will be healthier & stronger than ever!
I feel so lucky to have discovered running just over 3 years ago, and even more lucky to have essentially remained injury free.  I am determined to keep that streak going, and one of the ways I do this is by actively engaging with other runners to share advice, tips, and resources.  (I will be visiting John, and breaking that foam roller out more regularly too!)

What do you do to "run lucky" & stay injury free? If you do happen to be sidelined from running with an injury, I highly recommend the book, The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanin. So inspiring!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Side Effects of Running

When people ask me why I run, the short answer is always "because I feel so great afterwards."  The truth is that running is my own personal cure for depression.  Depression runs strong in my family.  My mom has suffered from it for as long as I can remember.  Growing up I can remember periods, usually around holidays, that my mom would seem sad for no reason.  She struggled through suicide attempts, hospitalizations, alcoholism, lots of therapy, and divorce before finally finding the medication that worked for her. In addition, about 15-20 years ago, she also discovered the Nordic Track.  She has faithfully used it almost daily ever since, including while recovering from three separate battles with breast cancer. She is truly the strongest, most amazing, person I know.

Two of my sons were also diagnosed with depression in grade school. The oldest, now in college, was on medication for 10 years.  Interestingly, the medication that works so well for my mom, had very negative side effects for my son.  For him, a completely different medication seemed to work well. In high school, he felt like he wanted to wean off the meds though, and was able to do so with great success.

When Ryan was first diagnosed at age 8, he drew the picture above titled, "Side Effects." He did not like feeling like there was something "wrong" with him that he needed medication for, but he made the best of it by imagining that one of the side effects of taking the meds was that it would help him to become an amazing athlete.

Last fall, Ryan began his freshman year at St. Mary's University as a starter for their soccer team. I honestly believe that being active, in conjunction with being lucky enough to have had two incredible coaches growing up that understood his diagnosis, yet did not let it define him, is the reason he is so happy and healthy today. (Thank you Coach Mark and Coach P!)

My other son continues to struggle with his depression, and taking his medication is an ongoing battle.  The drug that works best for him, is the same drug that works so well for my mom.  The key being that he needs to take it consistently, which is where the problem comes in.  He tends to go through periods where he seems fine, and then for no obvious reason falls into a slump where he has little energy or motivation to do the things he typically enjoys.

Being in middle school, and going through all the typical hormone changes that are common at that age, make it harder to manage his depression.  Unlike my older son, he is also not as verbal about how he is feeling.  The one thing that does help pretty consistently though, is when he is playing sports.  His first love is baseball, but we see the depression abate for him regardless of if he's playing baseball, soccer, basketball, etc... The key for him is to stay active.

I too was diagnosed with depression after the birth of my 3rd son.  At first we had believed it was post-partum, but eventually it was evident that it was more than that.  For many years I was prescribed the same medication as my mom and my younger son with moderate success.  For whatever reason though, like my boys, I just didn't like the idea of taking pills each day.  I tried several times weaning myself off of them, only to have the depression return after a few months of being medication free. Then I discovered running.

Just over 3 years ago, I started running and have pretty much run 75-125 miles per month pretty consistently ever since.  When I was about 6 months into it, I was feeling so good that with my doctor's consent I once again weaned myself off of my anti-depressants.  I am happy to say, I haven't needed to go back on them since.  There have been a few months when my mileage has dropped and each time, the signs of depression would come creeping back.

I knew I had to make a choice. It is highly likely that depression will always be a part of my life.  However, I now know that I can choose whether to fight it with running and maintaining a healthy life style, or I can go back on my medication. I choose running.

I am not a doctor, nor an expert, but I do know that depression works differently for everyone, and there is no one right answer or cure. What works for one person, may have just the opposite effect for another. (As it did for my mom and my son.)  There is no stigma attached to needing an Rx, attending therapy, etc..., as long as it helps. However, based on my family's experience alone, it is clear that daily physical activity as at least one component in the battle against depression, is capable of delivering a pretty strong and lasting punch.

I love looking back at my son's drawing now because of course, the side effects of the medication did not make him an amazing athlete.  Ironically though, one of the side effects of being an amazing athlete, was treating his depression. On those days when I don't feel like lacing up, that drawing is all the inspiration I need!

I'd love to hear why you run & what positive side effects keep you motivated to continue day after day,  mile after mile!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

My February 2013 Report Card

So February has come and gone, and as March begins my thoughts are now turning to spring, outdoor runs, and the beginning of a busy race season!  February is always a strange month for me. I always look forward to it as myself, and two of my son's, all celebrate our birthdays between the 10th-21st.  On top of this, there are also usually a couple of long weekends, not to mention Valentine's Day.  You would think the month would be one big, long party, right?

While that may be true, by the end of February, I can honestly say that I cannot wait to tear the page off the calendar! The guilt has set in about the fact that I have spent most of the month eating poorly (thanks to all that birthday celebrating,) plus the cold, gray weather has taken it's toll on my mood and energy level.  Here is a photo of my completed February RPF Calendar page.

For the most part I would consider February 2013 to be a success as far as sticking to my goals, but there are definitely some areas I'm hoping to improve on with the arrival of March.  My youngest two sons are bringing home their 2nd trimester report cards tomorrow.  If I was to receive one for February I think it might look something like this...

Running: A+
Comments: All training runs completed, maintaining 8 minute mile pace, attitude beginning to shift from dreading long runs to embracing them, completing shorter runs before work rather than in the evening...huge improvement!
Upcoming March races
March 9th: Nike Women's Marathon virtual 10k
March 17th: "March O'Madness" 13.1, Cary, IL
March 30th: "Egg Shell Shuffle" 13.1, Schaumberg, IL (while my son Bailey runs the 5k)
April 15th; Boston Marathon!!!

Eating: D (Disastrous for the diet, but delicious!)
Comments: Seriously ridiculous!  See proof below!
2/10 Dave and Busters for lunch...huge chicken caesar salad
2/14 chocolate all day
2/15 dinner at The Stage Stop, Wilmot, WI...steak, lobster & baked potato with literally a whole stick of butter
2/16 Ribs and au gratin potatoes from Carson's Ribs, followed by Bakers Square pie
2/17 Dinner at The Lake House...soup, pasta and the biggest ice cream sundae ever
2/18 Birthday french toast made by my son Nick, Chinese food for dinner, followed by ice cream cake
2/21Chicago deep dish pizza
2/22 Opening day for Dairy Queen!
Anyone feeling sick yet?

Dieting: C-
Comments: Thankfully the other 20 days of the month I made good choices (and ran my butt off,) so I still managed to lose 2.2 more pounds for a total of 8.2 for the year. I even won my first Dietbet by losing 4% of my body weight!  Whoo hoo!

Blogging: D-
Comments: So many ideas in my brain, but no time or maybe just no energy at the end of the day to transfer them from my brain to this blog!  Not a complete fail, as I have kept up with my "Been there, read that" page, so the blog hasn't been completely stagnant.  One of my March goals is to write a new post at least once a week.  Writing shorter posts more often will hopefully help me reach this goal!

Motherhood: A-
Comments: For the moment all four of my boys are happy and healthy!  I feel blessed to say that other than being crazy busy, February has been pretty much drama free! (A birthday gift in itself!) When my kids are happy, I feel like I must have done something right.  My lack of time spent cooking and cleaning for my sweet children however, lost me a few points..  :)
Assessment: Speaking of gifts, each year for my birthday my boys write me a letter in their individual "mom" journals.  Reading the words that come straight from their heart each year is the most meaningful gift I have ever received.  My oldest even remembered to send the book from college. He earned major bonus points for that one!

Reading: C+
Comments: In January I read and reviewed 23 books.  In February, that number dropped to a sad 13.  It's hard to find time to read when you're training for a marathon and celebrating birthdays! :(

Life in the Library: B
Comments: I completed reading the 20 Monarch nominees to my k-2 kids for the Illinois Reader's Choice award.  We cannot WAIT to vote for our favorites next week and find out which book young students across Illinois like best!  My fingers are crossed for Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst!  Some other highlights this month included our 5th graders preparing and presenting skits based on Jan Brett's books for our k/1 kids, and a return author visit from Peter Lerangis.  Take a minute to enjoy the video below of Frank, one of our 5th grade students, interviewing Mr. Lerangis during his visit.  It is guaranteed to make you smile!

What brought this grade down to a B was a project that our 4th graders have been working hard on to create video book talks for a national contest called, Storytubes.  Unfortunately, we just never had enough time during library to do all that we wanted to do, and the project did not go as well as planned. We did have a few that turned out great including the one below created by Emma, Serena, Katia and Lexy.

Fun Factor: A-
Comments: Outside of work stress, not having my oldest home for his birthday for the 1st time ever, and some absolutely awful commute times due to weather, February was pretty much filled with fun!  In addition to all of the above, my beloved IU Hoosiers continue killing it on the basketball court, and I finally painted and almost finished redecorating my bedroom which I've been wanting to do for quite a while.

Overall, I'd say February 2013 a pretty good month, but now it's time to bring on March Madness! What would your February report card look like?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Boston Training Part II & Race Shirt Wall Art!

Before I begin this post, I want to wish my sweet son, 
Connor James, a very happy 14th birthday! :)
Boston training part II
Finishing today's 7 miler marked the end of the 1st 9 weeks of my training for the 2013 Boston Marathon. I am proud to say that I have not missed a run, and my pace is faster than ever. The 1st 9 weeks were what I'd call a "comfortable challenge." 264 miles completed, which was not too much more than the weekly mileage I run on a regular basis. During the next 9 weeks my mileage will jump to 346 total miles, followed by 26.2 in Beantown on April 15th!

This is the part of marathon training that usually puts doubts in my head, and makes me start to question why I once again committed to something so huge. I have decided that this marathon is going to be different. Now that I am into my 3rd year of running, and am preparing for my 4th marathon, I truly understand what a blessing it is to be be runner. I am making a choice to do this, so no more dreading it & doubting myself! For the next 9 weeks my goal is to celebrate every training run including the good, the bad, and the ugly! Bring on Heartbreak Hill because in 9 weeks I'm going to be ready to kick some butt in Boston!

Here's a look at what Boston training part II has in store...

Wondering what to do with all those race shirts?
Over the last three years I have collected many race shirts that I really don't wear, but that I can't seem to part with. I had seen others create t-shirt quilts (which I love,) but I don't sew, and I wanted to create something that would allow me to add to more shirts as I earned them. Here is what I came up with:
Want to create your own race shirt wall art, here's what I did...

You'll need: 12X12 canvas boards, tee-shirts, glue gun, binder clips, tulle ribbon, some sort of clip to hang the shirts (I found mine on clearance at a local craft store) & a little super glue.

Step 1: Cut apart the front and/or back panel of each shirt, and cut off sleeves.
Step 2: Stretch shirt over the board and use hot glue to secure shirt to back of board. (Make sure design is centered, straight, & stretched tight.) Some of you may prefer to iron shirts first. In addition to not sewing, I also do not iron.  I found as long as I stretched the shirts tightly, the wrinkles disappeared. :)
(This is what the back will look like before you strech tight and glue.)
Step 3: Repeat with additional shirts.
Step 4: Nail large clip to top of wall. (I used super glue to glue each clip closed as I did not feel that these clips would've supported the tulle.)
 Step 5: Thread approx. 15 feet of tulle ribbon through clip until you have an equal length hanging from center.
Step 6: Use 2 binder clips to attach each board to the ribbon on both sides of the square. I found it was easiest if I hang one near the bottom 1st to pull the tulle taught. Then I started from the top and created 5 rows of 5 squares. Re-adjust squares as needed.

Get creative!  You can substitute different ribbon, clips, styrofoam or thin plywood squares for the canvas, etc... I contemplated using the squares to create a border around the room, and a few other designs, but one of my goals was to put as few holes in the wall as possible (only 5 so far!) should my college age son want to re-claim the wall space when he returns home for the summer.  Thanks to the binder clips, I can easily take these down, move them around, and put them back up!  I also considered mixing in more canvas boards with my medals displayed on them, but an inside source told me that a certain son just might be creating something special to display my medals for my birthday next week. ;)  So excited!

While it broke my heart to cut some of these shirts, I am so happy with the result, and I can't wait to watch my race wall grow! This was such a simple project! I now have a fantastic reminder of my running journey, and an entire wall of inspiration during those long treadmill runs when I need it most!

Monday, February 4, 2013

January recap!

2013 is off to a great start!  All new year goals (I don't like the word "resolutions") are still on track, and I've had lots of time to do the 3 things I love most: hang out with my boys, run, and read!  (Granted it's never as much time as I'd LIKE thanks to all those pesky responsibilities that always get in the way like work, paying bills, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc..., but overall I can't complain!)

Boys: (One of my February goals is to finally start adding content to my "Boy oh Boy" page including tips on juggling running, teaching, reading, and raising 4 boys.  In the meantime, here's a brief introduction to my guys...)

Ryan, my oldest started semester 2 of his freshman year at St. Mary's University in MN.  I didn't think it was possible, but it was even harder to say good-bye to him after winter break, than it was last fall.  I know he is where he should be, and I am honestly so grateful that he is simply a happy, healthy, soccer playing, college student, BUT I MISS THE KID LIKE CRAZY!!!!

Nick, my 17 year old, is now thinking college too.  The pressure on kids to decide what they want to do with their lives seems to increase every year.  I hate it! On Monday of last week Nick surprised me by announcing out of the blue that he was thinking about being a pediatrician.  By Wednesday, he had decided on becoming a high school teacher and coach.  My advice...slow down, breathe, and don't get so caught up in the future that you miss out on the present.  In other words, savor your "Cardinal Crazy" days kid!

Connor, my 8th grader, is growing like crazy!  He may be the one and only tall Geidner in existence!  January brought the return of baseball practice, and a huge project to help his dad finally finish our basement.  He loves helping with projects, so overall this makes him a pretty happy guy.

Bailey, my youngest, has pretty much left me speechless most of the month.  (Which I think is his goal.)  He is amusing in the most random ways & speaking of goals, scored a beautiful one in during his indoor soccer game last week.  You have to love middle schoolers, right?  Right?  He also happens to be my #1 favorite fan of my #1 Indiana Hoosiers!  GO IU!

Despite the outfit, he claims he is still going to Michigan to major in architecture.  (See full story in previous post "Dream a Little Dream.")

By Connor using ipod app :)
No races this month outside of Mommy Run Fast's  "5 by the 5th" virtual race series. However, I did run 138 miles in January, all but 4 of which were on the treadmill.  Here's my January page of my awesome running calendar from Jenn at Run Pretty Far.  (Absolutely love every single one of her products!  If you aren't familiar with her stuff check out her site! Everything comes super quick, and even the packaging is cute!)  I was thrilled to meet & even exceed all of my monthly goals this month & this calendar was a great motivator! Bring on February!
It's still almost impossible to believe that 10 weeks from today I will be running the Boston marathon!  I keep thinking I'm going to open my email one day to find one from the BAA that says, "just kidding!"
Sometimes I wonder about when I started truly feeling like I was a runner. After 3 years I still don't feel like I LOOK like a runner, but I finally believe that I truly AM a runner.  I will even go so far as to say that I am a pretty decent runner.  However, I just still can't quite wrap my head around the fact that I am a good enough runner to be running the Boston marathon.  When I get frustrated that I'm not losing the weight I want or don't look nearly as cute in my new running outfit as the model at the store did, I pull out my BAA acceptance letter and smile.  It is a constant reminder that being a runner is an attitude and a mindset, NOT a look or a number.  I am proud to say that I AM a runner!

One of the best things that has come out of blogging so far (besides all of the fabulous connections I have made with other bloggers,) is that I finally created a Goodreads (user name: susan_geidner) account and am logging my reading.  Not only have I discovered countless great books, but I love going back and reflecting on what I've read.  As a librarian, I've been having my students do this for years but never created the time to do it myself.  I am LOVING it!  the only negative is now my "to read" pile is 10 times larger than it ever was, and it was never all that manageable in the 1st place!  My husband and sons don't enjoy reading.  I just don't get it.  How can anyone NOT love reading???  It's pure craziness!  Click on "Been There Read That" above to see what I've been reading lately, and let me know if you've got other titles that I should add to my list!

Feedback please!
So after a month of blogging I'd love some feedback, ideas, advice!  I think my biggest struggle has been finding the time to blog as much as I'd like too.  How do all of you experienced bloggers find the time?  Do you have a schedule of what types of posts you add and how often you create them? Outside of posting to social media, what are some of your best tips for connecting with others through your blog?  Perhaps adding "find a balance" to my February goals would be a good place to start! :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

3rd Times A Charm!

One of my favorite races of all time is the Nike Women's Marathon/half-marathon in San Francisco.  The beautifully scenic course, the energy of so many female runners (no offense guys), and of course the gorgeous Tiffany finishers necklace makes it the one race I hope to repeat year after year.  (Granted, I only do the half.  Those hills are crazy!)

So what does this have to do with my 3rd marathon?  Well, the entry for the NWM is a lottery, and I knew that I was lucky to get in on my 1st attempt in 2011.  I also knew that I wanted to run one last marathon in my very own Sweet home Chicago so my mom could be at the finish line.  Consequently I made myself a deal that if I didn't get into the 2012 NWM 1/2, that I would run the Chicago full in the fall of 2012.  In the Spring of 2012, I found out that I did not get chosen for the lottery, so I joined Team DetermiNation and started training for my 3rd, and final, full marathon in Chicago.

My training went really, really well although I still don't know exactly why it felt so different.  I probably shouldn't say this, and I'm certainly not recommending it, but while I always follow the daily miles in my training plan religiously, I have never paid attention to pace runs, stretching, fartleks, splits, cross training, etc... I simply lace up my shoes and run.  I don't mean to make it sound like it's a piece of cake, because it's not.  Besides lacing up your shoes you're going to need to believe in yourself, never give up, and be willing to work hard even on the days when you'd rather stay in bed curled up with a good book!  For whatever reason though, my pace improved substantially, and one Saturday after a long run I realized that I was completing my training miles at a Boston Qualifying pace.  I tried not to think about it, because the idea of running Boston has honestly never crossed my mind.  It was never a goal or even a dream of mine.  However once the thought entered my mind, there was no blocking it out.

The timing of the marathon became my biggest challenge.  My mom, who I was running this "last" marathon for, ironically wasn't going to be able to attend, as the non-profit she works for was hosting their 5k the very same day.  We were each sad not to be able to support each other in person, but we were together in spirit!  Next I discovered that my oldest son's first college family weekend at SMU in Minnesota fell on the same weekend of the marathon.  Of course I wasn't going to miss that, so we headed to MN on Friday and left late in the afternoon on Saturday. Luckily my husband offered to drive the 6 hours back to Chicago.  I went to bed around midnight and woke up a few hours later to join 45,000 other runners on the start line.

The conditions for the race were perfect, and I was amazed to see my family cheering me on at several points along the route.  The energy, enthusiasm, and motivation from the fans was indescribable.  Boston flashed in my mind a few times, but mainly I focused on the crowd, my music, and running one mile at a time.  I felt strong until around mile 22.  At that point I knew that Boston was in reach, but I kept telling myself that this was my "last" marathon anyway, so why should I worry about Boston?  My stubborn, never say quit, attitude took over and I ignored the temptation to walk and just kept going.  When I crossed the finish line I knew it would depend on my chip time, but I felt pretty confident.  While I was certainly exhausted, I have never felt so strong after running 26.2 miles!  It truly was an incredible feeling!

The time I needed to qualify was 3:55:00.  My chip time ended up being 3:54:12.  I BQ'd by 48 seconds and took 40 minutes off my PR!!! I am now just under 11 weeks away from running the 117th Boston Marathon, and am still pinching myself to believe it's really happening.  Once again, I believe I will be hanging up my marathon shoes and sticking to 13.1's after April.  (Of course, you all know how well that's worked for me up till now! I am adding a clause though, that if any of my sons want to eventually run 26.2 with me, my new marathon shoes would be ordered tomorrow!)  I have learned that while there is countless sources available for fabulous running advice, there really is no magic recipe for running.  Running simply IS magic, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it!

Oh, and remember that 2012 NWM in SF that I didn't get into that led me to signing up for the Chicago marathon in the first place?  I ended up getting accepted in the early fall in a surprise 2nd chance entry opportunity!  I ran that half and picked up my 2nd Tiffany's necklace two weeks after the Chicago marathon.  Celebrating my BQ by running my favorite race, was the perfect finish to an unforgettable race season!  So perfect in fact, that two weeks after Boston I'll be running the inaugural NWM half in DC and collecting a little more Tiffany bling from yet another firefighter in a tux!  All I can say is hurry up Spring!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oops! I Did It Again!

After running the WDW marathon in January 2011, I truly believed that would be the 1st and last time I would run 26.2 miles in one morning.  Boy was I wrong!  By the fall of 2011 I had completed several other races, and I was feeling really confident about my running and how far I had come in just two years.  The pain that I had experienced during the last few miles in Epcot was all but forgotten.  I wanted to feel the exhilaration of finishing a full marathon one more time.

One of my longtime friends and former colleagues, Michelle, had recently moved to Arizona.  I was anxious to visit her, but knew that I would need to persuade my husband as to why I should get to go to sunny, warm AZ, while he was left behind with our four sons in dreary, cold IL.  After doing a little digging I discovered a really small marathon taking place in Apache Junction, AZ called The Lost Dutchman.  It happened to fall on my birthday weekend, and I knew he couldn't say no to sending me as my gift! :)
My plan worked, and I began training for marathon #2.  (You know, the one that was never going to happen.) According to my Nike+ account, I logged a monthly record high 213 miles in January 2012.  Crazy!  Needless to say, between my positive training experience and knowing my friend was volunteering at the finish line, I felt more ready than ever to PR in AZ with 529 other runners!  Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned.

I rarely get sick, but found myself coming down with a cold the day before I was to fly to Phoenix.  Michelle met me at the airport and we headed to packet pick up, before going to her new home in Cave Creek, AZ.  Catching up with Michelle and spending time with her beautiful family, was definitely the highlight of my trip.  Despite downing Zicam and fluids like crazy, my cold continued to get worse, and I was far from the fun guest that I had planned to be!  However, I was determined to run the race, despite feeling like garbage.  I promised my mom that I would stop if I needed to.  Her advice, "there's a fine line between stubborn and stupid.  Don't cross it."

The best part of The Lost Dutchman for me was the starting area where race organizers host a unique campfire lit by the fading moonlight.  During the first thirteen miles I actually felt amazing, and was stunned by the gorgeous scenery that surrounded me.  (Including coming face to face with a bull.) I was on pace to finish in about 4 hours, killing my 1st marathon time of 4:33.  Then around mile 18 I started fading... FAST.  There were so few runners that by this point we had all really spread out.  I slowed down considerably and spent several miles walking.  I did run through the wall at mile 24, but barely.  The whole time my mom's advice kept running through my mind...I wanted to cross the finish line, but I did NOT want to cross that "fine line" into the stupid zone.  People were passing me right and left, but knowing that Michelle was at the finish line, and that she would be the one to present me with my medal, inspired me to keep going.
I finished in just under 5 hours, taking an hour longer that I had hoped.  Michelle was there waiting for me, and was phenomenal! Not only did she make me feel like a champ, but she could tell how much I was hurting, and got me to my hotel in record time. (Including a quick pit stop at In n' Out Burger, which I had been craving all weekend!)  Michelle is the absolute definition of a true friend, and if you're looking for a small race, The Lost Dutchman is second to none!!

Needless to say, I flew home early the next morning, convinced that THIS really was my last marathon!  Or so I thought...