Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Crowd Sourcing Fail

People mean well, but they often execute poorly: So I posted on FB the other day "Any ideas/recommendations for banquet halls or restaurants for a reception in or near the city?"

Let's just say I got the results I expected. Not expected as in several recommendations for places in or near the city -- I did get some of those -- but expected as in people stretching the definition of near the city and listing places that are not banquet halls, restaurants or even venues that could hold a reception if you tried.

Someone PM'd me, saying something along the lines of "if you have a favorite restaurant, you should ask them if they could do it."

Thanks Lieutenant Logic, because when I asked for restro recommendations, it never occurred to me to consider one of our favorite places.  Another person suggested two places but didn't know the names, only a vague location. I'll get right on that one.

I use to get more irritated when friends would do that but I've learned that it's not only the nature of Facebook but it's also the nature of people.  Most really do want to help but they just have a different view of what that help should be.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wounded Knee: Last Run of 2010 and Beyond

Yesterday evening I went for my last run of the year, and last run for the foreseeable future. It was along the lakefront downtown and how appropriate that light snow started to fall as I reached the turnaround point of a six-mile run.

In a few hours, I get my knee scoped. My knee has been bothering me for a long time and when my race obligations were over for the year, I finally went in for an MRI. Then I went to an orthopedic doctor and got an opinion. Then I got a 2nd opinion because that's what my primary care physician told me to do.

The two opinions were more alike than different. Both said that I didn't need to do anything today, tomorrow or next Wednesday. But Doctor #2 said that only a scope would tell us for sure what was going on and he talked about my torn (missing) ACL which Doctor #1 didn't really bring up.
So I decided to get on Doc#2 calendar and have the outpatient surgery.

The possible outcomes of the scope are:
  • Most likely, the doctor looks around, he sees what he suspected -- that my cartilage is beat up and should someday be replaced, but not this decade.
  • Possible chance the doctor looks around and says "yeah no more marathons for you."
  • Outside chance the doctor says "actually, no more running unless its for the bus."
  • And always the chance the doctor says well if you want to run/marathon again, you need a cartilage transplant and while we're there, we might as well repair your ACL.
Perhaps it is more than appropriate that an available date fell on the Winter Solstice -- the day of the year with either the least amount of daylight or the most darkness. While I'm not excited about having my knee cut, I know it's my best chance for getting back on the running path. Therefore I choose not to dwell in the darkness, but to seek the light for a change.

Whatever happens, happens. Some people hang up their running shoes after Labor Day. Some wait until the temperature dips below a certain point. Others stop at the first snowfall. And some of us just need a doctor's order to stop running for a while.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The UnBearable Holiday Cards

Even the e-cards seemed to be too much bother: I stopped sending out Christmas cards years ago. It wasn't a sudden stop, more of a gradual fade. It was my way of going green long before going green was in vogue.

I don't begrudge anyone who still takes the time to send out a real, physical holiday card. In fact, I do appreciate being on the receiving end of the thought. It's probably helping the post office with stamp purchases and keeping hallmark in business. [Though one could argue that the postal carriers would prefer we all go digital with those cards.]

But I have to ask, if you are scrambling each year to find the same addresses that you scrambled for last year and the year before, and you're trying to figure out which friends will be offended if you say xmas instead of holiday (did we remember the Chanukah cards for our accountant?)...is it really worth the hassle?
It's one thing to get pictures of the children, or a newsletter with an update on what you and the fam have been doing all year, or even a personal note inside the card cover.  But when I open the card and it's just your name and your family in the same hand writing, part of me wonders, what's the point?

Over the years I've got cards from friends with pictures of their kids. But some, presumably in a rush, didn't write the name and age of the child on the back. So while your kid looks great in glasses in and braces, I cannot tell yours from the other five friends who got married ten minutes after college graduation and started spawning a family.

Speaking of newsletters, I recall once getting a couple of newsletters from two mutual friends, lets call them the Jones and the Smiths. I talked to one of them on the phone shortly after getting the cards, but they hadn't talked to the other yet. I mentioned a few things from the newsletter (and yeah I was cheating because I had it right in front of me) and they were surprised I was so up to date on the other person.

I asked "didn't you get their xmas card?"

They responded "Yeah but we haven't had time to read it yet...hey did you get ours?"


How It All Started:
  I've been a Bears fan since 1995, when I started playing in the office Confidence Pool.  In order to figure out which teams to pick, I started watching the games and got hooked on the local team.  That was the year they went 9 and 7 and missed the playoffs because of an early season loss to Atlanta. Little did I know that this irony would set the tone for my life long agony as a Bears fan.

History tends to repeat itself. In 2008 they also missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record thanks in part to a loss to Atlanta. 

In 2001, after several sucky seasons, they cruised to the playoffs and after a bye-week got beatup by the Philadelphia Eagles. History repeated itself in 2005.

In 1994, after a sketchy season, they backed into the playoffs and surprised everyone by advancing in the wild card game against Minnesota on the road.

So the question is, will 2010 be a surprise in the playoffs like the 1995 wild card team that surprised everyone and advanced one round, only to get crushed by San Diego?

Or will they miss the playoffs entirely? Right now they are posed to win their division unless the Patriots don't show up at home next Sunday against the Aaron Rodger-less Packers. Even then, they would just have to win another game against the Vikings that Monday.  I'm not saying they couldn't find a way to lose and drag this out.  What I'm really saying is this could be the year they return to the Super Bowl and lose to the AFC -- again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sometimes it is the Little Things

We are preparing the house for our annual Christmas Party and the good thing about it being late is that we have had several weekends to divide the important tasks. In years past, I would try to clean house, put up the tree and get all the food and drink in the last week before the party was schedule. Luckily, SigOther is here to provide some wisdom.

Her family always put the tree up right after Thanksgiving, so we pretty much did the same.  This meant that the annual Tree Trimming Party officially has become a Christmast Party instead.  Over the years I've shifted the line from having friends completely decorate my tree to just asking them to donate an ornament, but since we have tons of boxes of docorations between us, it doesn't make sense to do it anymore.

Saturday was productive in that we got the empty boxes out of here.  I have to store them at my mom's house and bring them back in a few weeks to repack, but at least we labeled the boxes and set aside a few that don't need to make the annual trip until we have a bigger house instead of a condo.

Sunday I was wearing my Bad Decision Jeans and tried to do too much before we had to head out to the Bears game.  Someone at work sold me their tickets at a reasonable price and I wanted to go, even though it was predicted to be an extremely cold and snowy day.  Sidenote: if the network hadn't moved the game to 3:15 from noon time, it would have been wonderful weather wise.

The Game sucked since the Bears got whupped, 36 to 7.  But more to my disappointment was I learned that I just don't want to sit in a stadium next to obnoxious fans who have been tailgating all day.   I can deal with the trash talking and some swearing, but is it really necessary for someone to shout out to Amy Freeze to "show her tits."  Really!  And the jerks stand up when nothing is happening because they cannot sit still and just enjoy the game.  Ugh.  Maybe if the weather had been better but I think I've seen my last Bears game in person.

Back to the bad decisions.  As usual, it was a combination of trying to do too much in too little time, not allowing for enough time and trying to make up for not doing something on Saturday when there was time by trying to squeeze it into Sunday's short window.  On a positive note, we did get a few paintings hanged and culled & organized our media (DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, etc).

I just have to learn to manage our time and my expectations better.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Exercises in Relativity

Depends who you ask:  Last night I ran into a friend on the El. As usually happens when I see someone I haven't in a while, they eventually ask me the trademark question: "So, have you been running lately?"

I've learned to fight the knee-jerk reaction that usually temps me to try and answer with any real accuracy.  In the past, if I got the question on a particular bad week where maybe I had been too busy to get my running in I'd unsuccessfully try to explain in a sound bite that I wasn't running at my usual consistency.  Or if it were off-season then I'd feel like I'd disappoint them to say I'm only running 15 miles a week instead of 30 plus.

Then I learned to get over myself.

Most of my Non-Runner friends are just being nice when they ask and couldn't care less if I ran 10, 20 or 50 miles that week.  To them, any running is nuts, especially if you are skipping something more fun to do it, likes sleeping or eating or not running!

Now, if it's a sane, normal non-runner friend, who asks I'll just say "yeah a little bit."  If it's a runner friend, I'll be more honest and say "not as much as I'd like."  They usually get it are more empathetic. They know that things often get in the way of a good run, like work deadlines, or bad weather, or winter darkness.

If you kill us,we cannot give you positive feedback to ensure you are hired permanently:  I managed to go to the gym for the 3rd day in a row and the 4th time overall in the last week.  Super Susie is on vacation and she has some subs.  These subs are a bit more intense than we are use to.  They don't seem to realize that most of us are desk jockeys, not Olympic hopefuls.

It probably doesn't help that I've gotten out of my fitness routine.  Since the marathon, I've "rewarded" myself with taking it easy and enjoying not being tethered to a training schedule.  That has also translated to not going to workout classes and instead doing the work social maintenance thing.

The sub we got today was spunky.  She expected to run us through a workout that would have had no breaks if it weren't for people (read: me especially) ducking out to get a drink of water and taking their time to come back, hoping to miss out on a particularly strenuous exercise.  It probably didn't help that I had a late breakfast and said meal was trying to get out of my stomach as quickly as possible once the Ab Crunches from Hell began.

Lucky for us, she quickly realized that we were not up for her prepared workout so she made some on the fly adjustments.  It seemed like certain routines were designed to give us a breather and I suspect they were not part of the initial plan.  I feel like I let her down because she kept looking at me like "you look more in shape than the rest of this class and if you are struggling to keep up, I might accidentially kill them".

I was proud that I made it to the end. Of course that was only because she toned it down a bit so I didn't toss my breakfast.  Even if I were in better shape, I think today's workout would have humbled me.  But it also reminds me that I cannot afford to take too much time off.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Post Staycation and Sports Team Bliss

Bears beat Eagles and look like a playoff calibre team: We have had some lucky breaks go our way this season.

  • We won our first game against the Lions because of a dumb rule.
  • In Week 5, we faced Carolina rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen when Cutler missed his first start as a Bear with a concussion.
  • We had a bye week when we needed it most and got to play the Buffalo Bills.
  •  Our short week Thursday night game was against Miami who was down to the waterboy as backup QB.
  • And then we got 10 days to plan for our game against the Eagles.

We also get the patriots coming off a monday night game so they will have 1 less day to practice.  I just hope we don't get caught up in a trap game against the Lions on Sunday and I hope we don't miss the playoffs because of the seeding rules of the NFL. We could be 10-6 or 11-5 and lose the wildcard while an 8 and 8 team from another division goes to the playoffs.


Home for the Holidays:  I always try to take the three days before Thanksgiving off if I can so that I have time to get things in order.  Usually it's cleaning up my place but in recent years I use the time to work on my mom's house. 

This year I was extremely productive.  I used each day efficiently and effectively by creating a manageable goal for each day.  Usually I defeat myself by having too many things on my I-want-to-accomplish list but this time, I kept it simple. Each day I had one thing I wanted to do.  If I finished early, I would go to my auxilary list and work on something else, but if I didn't, no worries.

I also factored in the weather to help me. It rained last Monday, so I used that day to clean and organize the den. It's amazing how much bigger a room can seem if you just move a piece of furniture from one side to the other.  We had two matching dressers "facing"each other, with one being right in the path when you walked in the door.  I moved it next to it's twin and suddenly the room seems twice as big.

Before Scrapping

Before Scrapping
On Tuesday I went to my mom's do to the pre-painting setup.  I usually set myself up to fail on these projects because I don't allow enough time for the prep work.  So Tuesday was all about that.  I scraped off all the loose paint. Unfortunately, it was too cold to caulk, not to mention getting dark when it was time to do so, so I had to factor that into my weekend.

Finally, we secured a church and set the wedding date.  We also introduced the in-laws - no shots fired.

After Scrapping

After Scrapping

Friday, November 19, 2010

Now the Fun Begins

About five seconds after we got engaged -- actually 5 seconds after we shared the news with someone beyond our cats or the lady who sold me the ring -- the wave of questions started pouring in. Having answered them as best we could, one particular question stood out: Have you set a date?

We have to set a date for several reasons. It's much easier to ask people to save a date if you give them a specific date instead of a vague, Fall or September or some Saturday in 2011. However, to save a date, we first needed to figure out what kind of wedding we wanted. After mulling it over for a while, we've decided to go with a church wedding in Chicago although a destination wedding isn't completely off the table.

The irony is that a few years ago, I was involved with several young adult programs at local catholic churches that I probably could have had my pick. Alas, I've lost much of my church cred in the last couple years by not attending regularly. And I'm sure the whole living in sin thing probably negates the rest.

When I went through RCIA, we had a class on the Sacrament of Marriage. I'm going off decade old memory here, but as I recall, the general rule is that any catholic can get married at any catholic church.

Now for the fine print. said church has the right to require at least one, if not both, of the married couple to be members of that Parrish in good standing. That means at the very least, you cannot just become a member the week of your wedding. Usually they want you to be a member for at least six months though a year isn't unheard of. In a very small congregation (read:we need money) sometimes a donation can cut through a lot of the rules.

So is the couple that relocated to another city and hasn't found a church they like forced to go back home to wed? No, there are a couple of procedures that can be helpful. You can request a wedding at an alternate church. It's up to that parish to decide if they want to honor your request. You can also petition to have a catholic wedding at a location that isn't a church. This is handy if say you really want the priest you grew up with to marry you, and he is available but the church isn't available that afternoon.

All of these procedures sound flexible but are also opportunities for stress. I've heard horror stories of power-hungry priests who make couples perform back flips and summersaults just to get their day before God.

SigOther and I are exploring the church wedding but if it gets to be too much hassle, I hear that Costa Rica is a great place to tie the knot.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

People Sure do Love a Good Story, but this will have to do

Sig Other and I got engaged on Halloween. We actually got the ring several hours earlier but had to wait until midnight to actually cast the spell. Actually, I choose Halloween because people always ask us when we met or how long we've been together and the answer is "we met at a fourth of July party on the actual 4th of July."  So the holiday theme holds, plus it's an easy way for me to remember.

Everyone wants to know the story behind my recent engagment. I should make something up because the truth is, while I can guarantee it wasn't the Worst Proposal in the History of Humankind, it won't go down as the most romantic or entertaining or anything. Because there really isn't a story, at least not in the traditional sense.

What people wanted to have happened:

While out running errands one Saturday, we stopped at a jewelry store under the pretense of getting her a silver watch for her birthday. While there, I suggested she look at rings and in the process determined her ring size.

We just happened upon a ring she really, really liked. In my best Polish, I told the jewelry to pretend that the ring wasn't available in her size but could be ordered and would come in few weeks.

Disappointed, we left the jewelry and walked up the street to Stanley's West A&G International Fresh Market store where we do the bulk of our shopping. I pretended that I left something in the car and told her I'd meet her at the deli. I went back to the jewelry and bought the ring she adored.

Later that evening, when we left to go to a Halloween Party, I made an excuse to go back upstairs while she waited in the car. I set the box on our dresser between two candles. When we got home, I made sure I got into our bedroom first to light them. She walked in and saw the box and knew what was coming.

What Really Happened:
People ask if I planned it this way or how long had I been planning to do it. Well let's back up a bit. For months I've been asking Sig Other to find out her ring size. She doesn't wear a lot of jewelry so I haven't been able to do the "sneak off with one of her rings-thing" to get the size.

Each week we'd talk about going to one of those there jewelry shops but it never quite happened because we only have so much time in our weekend to do the domestic tasks that are the reality of being in a relationship. Sidenote: Sig Other has a non traditional work schedule and attends school so her time is limited, especially the cross section of time that corresponds with Retail America.

I even enlisted the aid of her sisters and her mother to try and get the ring size. You'd think three female relations would be have a vested interest in getting their blood relative hitched, but alas, they too couldn't get it done. In all fairness, 2/3 of them live out of state and the one in Chicago just had baby#2 so she's a little preoccupied.

Eventually I realized that I had to take action. So as in the fantasy version, while on our way to do some grocery shopping at Stanley's West A&G International Fresh Market we stopped at a jewelry shop up the street.

The plan was to just get her ring size but while we were there it made sense to find out what she liked in a ring. We looked at a few traditional ones but nothing really grabbed her attention. So I showed the jeweler a picture of something I had in mind. I didn't want the diamond to be the center piece because almost everyone goes with the diamond engagement ring. Nothing wrong with that but I wanted something a little different, so I suggested a sapphire center piece with diamonds along the side. My Polish Peeps did not disappoint. They found one that she liked and we talked about how the matching wedding band can fit with the ring and all that stuff.

I did go back to the store while she was grocery shopping. And she did think I was simply ordering the ring, but because we had found a ring she liked that cost half of what I had budgeted, I grabbed it.

They put the ring in a box and then put the box in a pink gift bag, the kind that you see at baby showers and adult toy parties. I really didn't want to walk around carrying that so when I caught up to her at the grocery store, I asked Sig Other to put the bag in her purse for safe keeping. She immediately figured out what was in it and never gave me the bag back.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Beginning of the End, or a New Beginning?

When I ran the Soldier Field 10 Miler in May, a lady at the massage table who was working on my leg suggested I might want to get an MRI.  I told her how my knee had locked up late in the run and she said she heard some clicking.  So with the Chicago Marathon and the Monster Half Marathon behind me, I finally got the MRI I've been putting off. 

I opted to get both knees scanned, even though the problem child has been my left knee.  My right knee is beginning to feel like my left knee did once upon a time when this all started.  My theory is that my body has been compensating for whatever is wrong with my left knee.  Turns out I might be on to something.

The guy who did my MRI -- I don't know if he is a doctor or a technician -- isn't allowed to give an official diagnosis.  But let's face it, he sees these day in and day out.  He asked me what I did for a living.  When I told him I work in IT, he asked if I ran marathons.  As in plural. Because we both knew that it would take more than one to do the type of damage that he is seeing and I'm feeling.

So this might be the end of my running days. But it could also be the beginning of another Runner Renaissance.  Maybe I get scoped and with some therapy, I run better than ever. Or maybe that's it.  Maybe my running career truly, finally comes to an end.

If that's what happens, then okay. If I must sit on the sidelines, then all right. Because I'll always have my Personal Bests.  My 1:33 half marathon, my 31 minute Shamrock Shuffle (8k) and my 3:30 marathon times.Those can never be taken away from me.

I was only supposed to run one marathon.  Get it off my Bucket List and then get on with my life.  But my ego made me go back and try again.  But I also made a lot of friends on the journey and that is the true victory.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

It's Gonna be a Hot One

When the earliest Advanced Forecast for tomorrow's weather was available, it looked like it would be a rainy cold marathon.  As the days drew closer, the prediction changed and conditions seemed optimal, dare I say perfect.  A cool start would be rewarded with a nice high 50s afternoon when most runners would finish the 26.2 mile run.

But it was too good to be true.  Over the last week it seems the temperature forecast increased by 5 degrees daily.  Perfect running conditions have been supplanted by it's gonna be another hot one.  As late as Thursday I still believed that even if it were a warm day, a start time of 7:30 would make us lucky enough to miss the majority of the heat until at least the halfway point if not the 20 mile mark.

The Chicago Marathon of 2007 was ridiculously hot even before the gun even went off.  In 2008 the start was comfortable enough but the temperature climbed quickly.  These are both valid possibilities for tomorrow.

After the 20 mile run, I promised myself that I wouldn't, wouldn't, wouldn't go out too fast for this race.  No delusions of grandieur, no attempt at a BQ or PR.  I simply wanted to do what I did on the 20 miler: run at a consistent pace the entire time and not have my calves cramp up like they usually do. 

Conventional Runner Wisdom tells us to have several race goals.  I sent the following to my running group:

Quoting 9mm Group Leader Lisa O:

Set at least 4 goals:
  1. This one is the pie in the sky. A time you'd like to make, or close to it. Make it something that if everything goes perfect, could happen.
  2. This is what you will probably do, even if the weather and how you feel isn't great.
  3. This is what you might do if it just isn't your day.
  4. Finish the race. That's good enough. Remember, most people get winded running for the bus.

 My 4 goals are really just #4 in different wrapping paper. This is my first marathon since 2008 and I’m coming back from injury. So I tell myself that I will be okay with whatever I do and feel relatively good while doing it. Still, I’m hoping to make it under four hours and not have the wheels come off too early and end up walking half the course.
That's probably why I'm so calm right now even though in years past I would be jumping out of my skin with less than 18 hours to go before the gun goes off.  But I feel bad for many of my fellow runners who trained all summer and were heading into this taper thinking this might be the year! 
If I've learned anything over the last decade training for 20 marathons, it's that it's very hard to have a perfect season.  You want to run all your mileage, cross train, eat right and get plenty of rest, but most people are tempted by summer fun or challenged by work/life/family demands.  If you manage to get through an 18 week training program and meet those goals 80% of the time, you will do all right.  More than that and you should have a shot at a Personal Best.  But then something like the weather reminds us that we are not always in charge of our destiny and we have to make adjustments.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

20 Mile Run: A New Hope

Two weeks ago I set out to do an 18 mile run with the option of adding two at the end. Unfortunately circumstances didn't work out that way. Luckily, I had the official 20 mile run to try again.

Circumstances beyond my control prevented me from participating in the official Ready to Run 20 Miler with CARA on Sunday and my group because of a wedding in Michigan.

Tangent: Before I signed up for the marathon, I asked the SigOther if we were making another trip to Michigan anytime in the fall. She wasn't sure and I counted back from the marathon and said "well this weekend is bad because it's our 20 mile run and I really need to be in town for that." 

Lo and behold one of her relatives was having her wedding that same weekend and we need to be there.

Fortunately, when you run for as long as I have, you meet so many runners and running groups that you can usually find someone to help you out. The ClockTower runners were meeting on Saturday and they have enough people atall pace groups tat I was able to find an 830 group. I wasn't sure how that would work out since I struggled running 18 miles with the 9s two weeks ago.

I was doing some of my speed work with the ClockTower Runners on Tuesday evenings but once the heat picked up, I found it easier to either run in the morning with Hugh or do it in my hood so that I still got home a little earlier.

We started off with about 10 people includeing Karl and his wife who were the group leaders. Karl was pushing a stroller with their 2 year old. Monica and Veronica -- the Hispanic sisters -- wanted to do 8:20s and Ms Karl talked about doing 22 miles. I wasn't sure what I was in for but If figured if this group could at least get me to the half way point, I could make it back on my own.

They only stop at the official water stations that Fleet Feet has set up. I had brought along a bottle of gatorade that i had picked up on the way to the meeting point because I didnt' know what the gatorade situation would be.

It wasn't long before our group spread out and apart with some who run faster than 830s takingoff. Ms Karl stayed with us so it was myself and a guy who works for Gatorade running with three ladies. I didn't catch names but one of them was a firsttime marathoner.

One of the amazing pheonomials of MT is a runner will have a terrible run one weekend. Then, a couple weeks later, they'll have another LR that is even longer than the terrible run yet have a great experience. So it was today.

Usually around mile 14, my calfs start to cramp up. That didn't happen this time. Not only that, but I actually had some juice in the tank. Not enough to do more mileage but on the last two miles I thought about kicking it up a bit to get it over with, but then I decided itwould be rude to leave the group that got me through 18 miles. Instead we stayed together and I successfully completed the most mileage I've run since the marathon of 2008.

Two weeks ago it took me 2:43:49 to complete 18 miles (9:06 average pace).  We finished the 20 miler in 2:52:17 which breaks down to a 8:37 average pace.  And while that doesn't guarantee anything on Race Day, it does give me some hope that I will do well on 10-10-10 if I stick to an 830 pace instead of trying to BQ.

I would say that is the lesson I've learned this season, from both my training and the last half marathon I ran. This isn't going to be the year I BQ or set a new PR and I have to accept that.

18 Mile Fiasco

Two weeks ago I set out to do an 18 mile run with the option of adding two extra miles at the end if I was feeling good. At least that was the plan. Unfortunately an alarm clock malfunction caused me to wake up late and not meet my group at the start of the run.
Evil Forces 1, Icarus 0.

I woke up at 6am, threw on my running clothes, and left from SigOther's place. Since we start at 6am and there are a few announcements, I figured I could meet them at the sleding hill at Soldier Field where we always stop for water. Unfortunately, my co-group leader decided to take the group north for the first time all season to Northerly Island in order to spread out the 20 mile distance.
Evil Forces 2, Icarus 0.

Not know this, I got to the water stop at about the time my group should have been there so I figured either our Site Leader had a lot of announcements or I just missed them. About 30 seconds later I saw a group coming. It was the 9s lead by my friend SHB. Someone in her group mentinoed that my group had gone north so i asked if i could run with them. Maybe going at a slower pace would allow me to complete 20 today.
Evil Forces 2, Icarus 1.

We ran south and it was uneventful for a while.  The weather was good for a LR and it seemed like I would be able to get 20 miles in after all.  Then I realized that SHB leading the novice group through 18 miles and would add 2 miles at the end.  However, her group had already run two miles before I met up with them, so that meant when we got back to basecamp, I would have only run 16 miles.  I could run two more with SHB and her intermediates, but I would have to do another two miles on my own.

Alas, I did not run those two extra miles on my own. By the end of the 16 I was already dragging.  I managed to do 2 more miles to make it an even 18 (technically 18.5 since I did run the half mile from SigOther's place to Soldier Field Sledding Hill) but couldn't do much more.  When I threw up gatorade, I figured it was time to call it quits.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Marathon Training

This part of the season is a mixed blessing. The Good is that with only four weeks left until the marathon, the end is in sight. For me it's easier to map out my running/workout schedule and make plans with friends after work.  The weather has also cooled enough so that running midday isn't very different from running in the morning or evening. 

The Bad is that  there isn't a wide latitude of room for improvement. Sure if I slack off now, I'll pay for it in October. And the upcoming 20 mile LR will solidify my endurance and running ability. But I'm not gonna suddenly move up a pace.  My 18 miler demonstrated that while it humbled me.  In the back of my mind, I always keep the idea of attempting a BQ (Boston Qualifying), but it doesn't look like this is going to be the year.

The Ugly is that this is the part of the season known as the Post-Labor Day Blues. That's because around this time you start to feel the urge to rebel. Giving up all your Friday nights so you can get up at the buttcrack of dawn in order to run your LR starts to get old. It's a little harder to get out of a comfortable bed, especially if Autumn Sleeping Weather has arrived.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Group Leader Confidential

Every summer thousands of people train for the Chicago Marathon and many of them join running clubs like CARA. I've been a group leader since 2003 and have trained for both fall and spring marathons, so I've led a lot of different groups of runners over the years.

Two of the biggest scandals we group leaders encounter are pushing the pace and too many water stops.  The pace groups are split in 30 second increments, e.g. 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, etc. and the goal is to run the LR (Long Run) distance no more than 5 seconds off pace per mile.

As we go deeper into the season and the LRs increase, stopping for water becomes an issue. We're encouraged (or is it required) to stop approximately every two miles or so for a water break. CARA and Fleet Feet have set up gatorade stations along the lakefront as well. The issue is that stopping and waiting for everyone to get water takes time if your group is large and it's sometimes hard to start back up again, especially once the LRs get into double digits.

For years these two scandals were things I'd hear other group leaders talk about but really didn't experience first hand. I was leading an 8 minute per mile (8mm) group at the newly established downtown site and usually only had 2-3 runners at that pace. Between our egos and low numbers, it was pretty easy to get along. Water stops didn't take very long and pushing the pace was rarely an issue as we were already running as fast as we could.  Now that I'm a bit slower, I'm leading an 8:30 mm group and the griping has increased a bit.

One runner in particular was a problem child and let us know about it. She was complaining about pushing the pace, and running extra miles, and water being wet. Wanting to do my due diligence as a group leader, I dropped back and ran with her the following LR, listening to her gripes. Apparently we were guilty of pushing the pace for the first mile of our LRs over 30 seconds too fast. This winded her for the rest of the distance and "it wasn't enjoyable."

I seriously doubted we snuck in an 8 mm but even if we did, it shouldn't wind a person for the rest of the afternoon. I apologized that our pace might not always be on target but pointed out that our average pace was coming out to be around 8:35 each week, which meant we were actually running some of those miles slower. She didn't want to hear it. After talking with her for a while, I could tell we were not having a meeting of the minds. I spoke in English, she spoke in Total Disgust, a cacophonous dialect of F-You.

Problem Child opted to train at a different site for the rest of the season.  I hope that she found a group she can run with and a group leader who can hold pace better.  But something tells me she'd just find something else to complain about.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beating myself up over missing a running opportunity

Thursday was one of those rare summer days when you could go for a run early, midday or late and not notice much different temperature wise. and I blew it.

I didn't go for a run before work, even though I did wake up on time -- thanks in part to SigOther's cat. I didn't go during lunchtime because we had a crisis at work and I needed to be nearby. And I couldn't go after work because I had invited some friends over for a low key cookout and needed to get things ready.

Over the course of an 18 week program, missing a run or two will not impact your marathon results. Even missing consecutive runs shouldn't substanially derail your training. However not starting your weekly running until Thursday, I can personally attest, will make Marathon Day a lousy experience.

It is that first marathon experience that has taught me to not skip runs unless I have to and to get them over with sooner than later when the opportunity is there. Nevermind that it usually takes me two months into training season to wake up early enough to beat the heat.

The good news is that I had a decent LR on Saturday. The bad news is that according to the weather forecast, it will be a while before there is another day like Thursday. I was supposed to do a 9 mile tempo run and I could not have asked for a better day weather-wise, which the Running Gods delivered. I cannot ask for a make up day and will just have to accept whatever Mother Nature throws my way for the rest of the season.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Real Estate Market Keeps US All Dreaming

I've been watching the Real Estate market since the fall of 2008 when I first thought about purchasing a home as prices were coming down. There was one particular house that has just about everything I could want and thus I refer to it as my dream house.

It is only a few blocks from the Jefferson park Blue Line station and the Copernicus Center, so I'd have my transportation requirements taken care of and be near my Polish peeps. It has a big backyard with a great deck and a two car garage. A finished basement and a modern kitchen. New windows, roof and water heater means that all we'd have to do is move in and paint the place.

In March of 2009, I called a realtor from Zip Realty who made an appointment so I could see it even though we both knew their asking price of $539,000 was way out of my price range. It looked even better in person, especially after finding out it also has an attic that could be expanded into a kick-ass master suite later in life.  On the downside, the basement was a little limited, it would be more of a children's play area than a ManCave, but I'd have to take a longer look if I ever had a realistic chance of getting this place.  Which I didn't.  In fact, no one really did.

The owner, who was expecting another child in July, had told me that if she didn't get an offer in a month or so, she was going to take it off the market because she didn't want to deal with a closing and a birth around the same time. I asked my standard "why are you selling such a great house" question and they responded that the husband had just got a job out of state. She also added that he could do the traveling thing if they couldn't sell the home.

I thought, well when the second child arrives that's gonna get old real fast.

My dream house was quietly taken off the market in Sept 2009. Thanks to the Internet you can learn so much about a house. I learned that the owners had a mortgage and a HELOC which combined put them at about $475K owed on the house, so they didn't have a lot of wiggle room.

On a whim, I emailed the owner the other week. Feigning ignorance, I politely asked 'Just curious if this home was still for sale and what is your current asking price."

It was over a week when i got this response:

"Hi. Thanks for asking. Its not officially on the market, but we would still consider selling for the right price... Nothing below our original asking price.  [Emphasis mine.]


The problem with this house is it's asking price. Anyone who can afford the asking price doesn’t want to live there and anyone who wants to live there cannot afford the asking price. They wanted almost $540K for it. And while it might have been worth that price at the height of the market, those days are gone for good.

I looked online and it appears they only have one mortgage now for $375K. I guess they were able to quickly pay off the HELOC and refinance. So while they have more wiggle room, they apparently want to recover all their renovation expenses.

And I cannot blame them for wanting to come away with something for all their hard work.  But there was just something about the sentence Nothing below our original asking price that irked me.  As if anything less was a personal insult.  It is no doubt this inflexibility on their part that caused them to take their place off the market.  It makes me wonder what they would say if someone offered them, say $525K, would they counter offer or just say no thank you.

I think it's fair to say that they are dreaming if they think they can get their price in this market.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Price of a Run

I often post on Facebook my success -- or more often my lack thereof -- in getting up in the morning to go for a run before work.  In all fairness, it's harder than you think, especially when you are training for a marathon.   For the record, I'm not the only runner who faces this challenge.  Many of my running friends have to walk the line between sacrificing sleep and getting in their required run.

To figure out if it's even worth putting on your running clothes, you have to work backwards. Let's say you start work at 9am and your average door-to-door commute is one hour. Let's say you also take 30 minutes to shower, dress and otherwise get ready for work.

If you run a 9MM (Minute Mile) and want to get in a 5 mile run before work, you have to be up and out the door, hopefully in your running clothes by 6:45am. As an 8MM, I can sleep about 5 minutes longer. I also can get ready for work in less than 20 minutes providing it isn't a Shave Day.  On the other hand, I tend to hit the snooze a few times so that quickly negates any extra time.

Keep in mind that you probably should factor in some cushion time into your pre-work run.  You cannot assume you'll finish your 5 mile run at whatever pace you normally run.  It might even take you longer to shower and get ready since you're a little tired from running 5 miles. And woe is the day when all of this plus issues with your commute make you extra late for work.

Trying to sneak a run in during lunch is even tougher because while you may not have to worry about the travel time, you probably cannot fudge much beyond the 1 hour lunch and you definitely should shower. So somehow you have to change clothes (twice), run and shower all in an hour. Not realistic unless you can run really, fast or have a flexible boss/work environment.

It works the same in the evening. You leave work as early as possible but you cannot control how long it takes to get home. You donn your running clothes before you talk yourself out of it and head out. Let's assume leaving work at 5, get home at 6 and have your act together enough to get back out the door by 6:15pm. You finish your run by 7 and then a quick shower gets you ready for whatever is left of your evening by 7:30 ish.

Which brings up the next point. This is based on a relatively fast runner. If your running pace isn't what might be considered Speedy Gonzalez territory, then you either have to get up earlier or run fewer miles. Most avid runners agree that it isn't worth the effort of donning running clothes to run anything short of 3 miles and if you are training for a marathon, your daily mileage shoots past that fairly soon.

So if you are lucky enough to have a flexible work schedule, take advantage of it and run when you can.  Otherwise, make the effort to get up in the morning and catch up on sleep by going to bed earlier, so deal with the fact that your evening is gonna be shorter than you'd like because you are making up mileage.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Not writing any checks I cannot cash

So today I finally remembered to write a check, yes a real check, to my condo association. I write so few checks these days because just about everything is done electronically. I pay my bills online. My mortgage is deducted from my bank account -- Ironically, the same bank that holds my mortgage and one credit card. Sidenote: it's interesting that it pays my mortgage early, but doesn't deduct my credit card payment until the virtual last minute.

I write so few checks that I'm actually still using checks with the name of my bank at least two mergers ago.   Looking through my checkbook ledger -- which I use to keep track of my checks but don't bother balancing my checkbook -- I see that I've written about 10 checks in the last year.  Not counting the condo association which comes from a separate checking account.

There's the two to the respective tyrants government entities for my license plate and city sticker.  Then there are a couple of checks to our yoga instructor because she will no longer work for perogis.  There's a random check to a friend for event tickets, or the foot doctor who was born before the invention of bread and doesn't take credit cards.  Finally there are the ones to my insurance company because they don't have an easy pay by credit card method -- I have to call them on the telephone and TALK to someone to give them my cc info and I would rather be forced to watch Jersey Girls in 3-D.

I have a feeling my checks are gonna last me a very long time.  Which brings to mind this question: those businesses that make those custom checks -- how are they doing these days?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Baby Showers not my cup of tea

As a long standing rule, I don't typically attend baby showers or birthday parties for children. The only exception is if I am somehow responsible for that kid coming into this world. For example, my friends D&K can blame me for buying them shots at a bar party -- that I may or may not have been the person who won it by dropping a business card into the ole fishbowl -- which led to them hooking up and eventually getting married and spawning offspring. So I felt obligated to show up to their shower, and the kid's first birthday party.*

But otherwise, unless you expect me to delivery your baby or God forbid you have conclusive DNA evidence that I am the urchin's papa, don't look for me at the baby shower.  Of course, being older and 1.765348% wiser than I was when I made that rule, I was wondering if it isn't time to reconsider. Especially in light of an invitation to a nontraditional baby shower that came my way recently.

First came the invitation via snail mail. I thought it was a thank you card for a wedding present I had finally got around to sending. But no, it turned out to be an invitation to a the shower.  I did what any guy would do, put the invite on my desk and completely forgot about it almost immediately. 

A few days later came an email for the same event.  I'm sure there's a fancy french word for "person who puts on a baby shower on behalf of the expecting mother who will act like she didn't know this was being planned yet was the source of providing addresses for potential guests -- let's call her the Shower CoOrdinator.  The SO sent an email apologizing for the short notice and seeking a headcount so there could be enough food.

Now I was still pretty certain I wasn't gonna attend but was impressed by her owning up to sending out the invites late.  I'm sure that was meant for others; guys really don't care if we get 100 days or 100 seconds notice to a shower -- to avoid it, we'll puncture a lung.
But as I mentioned, this wasn't your typical run-of-the-mill baby shower.  It was for a fellow runner friend whom I've known for the better part of the decade.  We've traveled together to exotic lands to run marathons, like Paris and Cincinnati.  I was kinda feeling a little runner loyalty.

Then came the emails from fellow friends who are also guests asking if I was going to this magnificent event.  Those emails morphed from gentle inquiry to full out lobbying to get me to go.  Pushing the angle that it was more of a backyard barbecue than a shower, even though neither the snail mail invite or the email from the SO made any mention of BBQ.
Reading between the lines, it didn't take long to figure out that they have husbands they want to drag along to the event as well.  It seems I had become the domino that could empower a bunch of wives to make their husbands attend an event with them.

So after checking with SigOther, I RSVP'd -- which is French for Please Let Us know what the F you are doing -- that we would be attending.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post of the actual event.

* Fortunately, they have blown off enough of my parties that I now have a "get-out-of pretty much anything they invite me to" card.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Now if they would just create bus-only lanes on Irving Park

Several years ago, I switched from taking the Brown Line to the Blue Line to get to work.  Initially it was because of the Brown Line renovation, and my commute time was expected to double.  So my choices were: get up earlier (not likely) or find an alternate route.

Because the Blue is so much faster, I still take it to work.  Often I drive to the nearest station and park near the Cooney Funeral Home.  But sometimes I have my act together enough to take the bus.  Surprisingly, I can take two buses and the Blue Line and still get to work faster than if I just walked to the Kedzie Brown Line and rode it all the way in.

However, there is something that has always bother me about the Irving Park bus ride.  We stop at Central Park and then we make another stop one block later at Elston.  It seems to me that it would make more sense to eliminate the Central Park stop and make everyone walk one short block -- and it really is a short block -- east or west to catch the next bus.

During the reign of the 80X a compromise was developed.  The 80X skipped the Central Park stop while the 80 would hit both.  I usually managed to catch the 80X so I didn't care as much but still thought about writing Tracy Swartz from Going Public to make the suggestion.  Guess I didn't have to:

Spotted this sign as I walked home today.  Looks like they are getting rid of the stop.  My only questions are 1) why make it happen on a Thursday and 2) who in the CTA is reading my mind.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

MT: Week Four -- By The Book

It's my fault that I cannot remember all the little details about last week's training because I waited too long to post this blog.  Part of the reason for the delay is I split my time between my place and my girlfriend's condo and last week was one of those times when it was more 70-30 than 50-50 her place. 

I do recall that on Tuesday we did our tempo run and then got together for post-speed workout drinks and food.  Even though it made for a later evening than I had planned, I felt it was important to bond with the other runners.

On Thursday Adrian, Tracey and I met for quarter mile repeats at the track behind the Water Tower Mall. It's a little known track that is situated behind several tall buildings such that in the evening, you are seldom if ever in direct sunlight.

Saturday's LR was uneventful for me, though my girlfriend had an adventure.  Our friend Ginger suffered an odd injury -- she slipped and cut her lip and face up a bit.  It was at the 7th mile of a 9 mile run and my SigOther asked "would you like me to stay with you?"

Even though the group leader did everything by the book and stayed with Ginger the entire time, she still took the SigOther up on her offer.  My girlfriend was a little upset because she was looking forward to completing the longest distance of her life at that point. 

I had felt some guilt in week three because I cut some runs short, so I know exactly how she feels.  I did what I could to convince her that those two miles won't come back to haunt her as long as she gets in all her runs this week and makes it to whatever distance we are doing this Saturday. 

Still, I was really proud of her for being upset at not finishing her mileage.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

One appliance headache leads to another

It started with my dishwasher a few weeks ago.  I noticed that there was some water pooling at the bottom.  It wasn't leaking and the dishwasher functioned fine.  But I couldn't leave well enough alone.  Nope, I had to get a screwdriver and see if I could figure out why the water wasn't draining completely. 

Again, I don't have the terminology to correctly identify the parts and am a bit too lazy to google it right now.  Because the point is, I decided to investigate replacing the dishwasher. And of course if I'm gonna replace the dishwasher, it is a slippery slope to replacing the other appliances.  Warning: blatant justification approaching!

I figured that since my appliances are at least 9 years old, I would have to make some type of concession to whomever buys my condo (if and when that ever happens).  Also, newer appliances would make the place more appealing and we'd get to use them in the meantime.  I decided that I wouldn't get state-of-the art, top-of-the line, but I wasn't gonna go absolute cheapest either.  I want something middle of the line.

I did some research and tried to compare deals between the usual suspects -- Home Depot, Best Buy, Sears, etc.  The problem is that each store does it differently.  One place will give free shipping but the installation is $150.  Another place charges $50 for delivery and $100 for installation.  Most will provide free haul away of your old unit while some charge up to $40.

Here's the deal with that.  Big Guy store hauls away your old appliances.  They probably have someone who evaluates the inventory and they get separated into 1) still working 2) need minor repairs and 3) too expensive to repair or completely broken.  Category 3 hopefully gets recycled or disposed of properly.  Categories 1 and 2 get sold to one of those Discount Appliance Stores you see next to the Currency Exchanges in the borderline neighborhoods.

Discount Appliance Store buys these appliances in bulk.  Let's say they buy my old dishwasher, refrigerator, oven range and microwave for $100 total.  They then sell these items either individually or as a package to customers with a slight markup.  For example, they might sell my appliances to a landlord who just purchased a two or three flat and needs to replace or provide these appliances.  They might sell them to the landlord for $200.  DAS makes $100 profit and the landlord saves hundreds of dollars over buying them new, banking on the hope that the appliances last a couple more years until he can purchase newer, better quality items -- if he's every inclined to do so.

Staining a Saddle

So decided to tackle another home project last week.  I decided to stain the board underneath the front door to my condo.  I wasn't sure what the technical term for this board was so I googled it and found it is called a Threshold or Saddle.
For some reason, the Thresholds on our doors do not match the dark woodwork of our doors and stairs.  I'm guessing they were retro fitted and no one ever bothered to stain them correctly.  There were four almost-impossible to remove screws and  I thought it would simply be a matter of removing those screws, taking the sill to my workshop (aka my mother's basement) to sanding and stain.  Not so fast.

The screws just held down this one thin strip of wood which is part form, part function.  The Threshold itself was held down by more screws which were sealed with some type of wax.  I didn't want to break these so I decided to sand the Saddle in place.  I cheated and used a belt sander (read: overkill) to do the majority of the board and then used some sand paper by hand to do the parts the belt couldn't reach.

Here it is after one coat.  I didn't realize that the stain would take 6 hours to dry enough to add a second coat and that I would also need to use steel wool beforehand.  The steel wool apparently is to break the polyurethane so that another coat can be applied.  So another trip to the hardware store.  While there, I decided to replace the screws I had removed with better ones, since I had basically stripped the previous ones -- I could have used them one more time, but if  I ever needed to remove this piece again, it would have been a hassle.
After rubbing the Threshold with the fine steel wool, I put that thin strip of wood back on and then applied a second coat.  While it takes 6 hours to dry, you can usually remove the painters tape after about 30 minutes.  The finished product:

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Monday, June 28, 2010

MT: Week Three -- Head Games

Last week's training started out as strong as Week2 but faded a bit at the end.  For one thing, the summer weather arrived bringing Heat and Humidity, the problem children of Summertime. My easy run Monday evening wasn't bad, though I cannot say the same for my running mate Hugh. Hugh had his knee scoped in early April and while he has been cleared to run, he is experiencing the same post-injury issue I am going through: re-establishing his running endurance.

When you run as many marathons as we have, you get use to logging a high amount of miles per month. While we always Respect the Distance, we also expect an easy 5 mile run to involve more effort putting on our running clothes than actually pounding out the mileage.  So when you miss a significant amount of time through injury or other inactivity, you are back to square one with regard to your running capabilities. It's frustrating enough re-teaching your body to run the mileage you once ran without thinking about it. But humidity doesn't help and in fact zaps your energy reserves at twice the rate of a normal run.


On Thursday I got a couple of running friends together for hill work. Hills are generally hard to come by in Chicago and the marathon course doesn't really have any, unless you could a couple of overpasses on the last two miles of the course, including the PR-killing Roosevelt Rd at the course's end. However Hill Work is a tried and true part of speed conditioning, one that I've avoided for the last few years. So I decided to incorporate a hill workout every third week, to coincide with the standard marathon training cutback week.

We met at the sledding hill behind Soldier Field to do two sets of hill repeats. As typical, before we started the mindset was "two sets aren't worth my time coming out here...I'm gonna have to do 3 or 4 sets." A set is running up the hill at 5K pace, with a return job back down the hill (pseudo-recovery) and then right back up the hill again. This is repeated four times to make one set (about half a mile of total distance). Two and a half minute rest and then another set. After running the first set, everyone was like "one more set is plenty."

And keep in mind we skipped our two mile warm up because my runners showed up with bikes and backpacks and no way to safely secure them. We counted their bike ride over as their warm up but I was essentially cheating myself out of some mileage since I only got in a quick half mile warm up. My two runners want to do something every week so we decided we'll alternate between hill work and track work every Thursday. We'll see how this goes.


On Saturday my LR was supposed to be 10 miles but because of the muggy conditions and my co-group leader having some stomach issues, we cut it to 8 miles. I could have done the extra two on my own, but I had some things to do later in the day so the sooner we got home, the better.

And this is where the mental games begins. Intuitively, I know those missing miles from Thursday and Saturday won't really mean much as long I don't continue cutting runs short. But it is too easy to fall into a routine of cutting some miles here, missing a run there and not doing my cross training. Add in the summer cookouts, street fests and other events with temptations to eat bad and stay out late and before you know it, Autumn arrives and the marathon is just around the corner.  You feel unprepared and you tell yourself that you won't finish the marathon/set a new PR/qualify for Boston because you slept in one Saturday in June!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just a little bit more to go

This week I finally reached my target weight of 200 lbs.  When I got injured last year, I gained some weight because I was still eating like someone who ran 100 miles a month even though it was more like 30 miles a month.  If you look at the calendar I use to log my miles, in Febraury I have entries showing my weight to be 211 lbs.  What it doesn't show is January when I was as high as 218 lbs, but didn't log it because I was embarrassed.  Naturally some of it was water weight, but it is safe to say I was at least 215 lbs. 

It took signing up at the gym, eating better, consistently averaging 7+ hours of sleep and increasing my weekly running mileage to get those 15 lbs off.  I wanted to get them off before marathon training began because contrary to popular belief, you don't really lose weight training for a marathon.  In fact, your appetite increases because your body needs so much more fuel to handle those weekend LRs.

Could I have got the weight off sooner?  Probably.  But keep in mind that during the winter, your body is designed to store fat, not shed it.  And while I did scale back on the comfort food, I didn't go crazy on the diet changes.  Soup and Salad for lunch was a stable, but I would still grab an Italian Beef & Fries with co-workers to conduct Social Maintenance at the office.  So I believe that I made the best compromise between losing some weight and also still enjoying life.

Optimally, I would like to get down to 190 lbs.  I believe 195 is realistic over the course of the summer if I can keep up with the eating habits I invoked this year.  The summer cookouts, street fests and trips to Ravina will compete with that, but the increase LR should also help.  It's really gonna come down to having one or two solid weeks of pure discipline followed by relaxed but vigilant adhereance to my diet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

MT: Week Two

This week was a lot better in terms of training because of two significant changes.  First, my work schedule lightened up enough for me to go back to my regular schedule most of the week.  This afforded me the second significant change: getting a run in before work first thing Monday morning.  SigOther and I got up early and went for a run which benefitted us both.

For her, it made Saturday's LR much easier.  For me, getting the extra easy run in gave me peace of mind, since I knew I would do speed work on Tuesday.  This meant that if I didn't have time to get the second Key run in during the week, all I had to do was try to get another easy run in and I'd be okay.  Fortunately, I was able to get the second Key Run in on Thursday evening -- in the heat -- so Monday's run was just bonus mileage.  I also made it to three of five exercise classes during the week, also on run days so I basically did three Two-a-Days.

That might have to change once the mileage gets higher because this old body cannot take as much abuse as it once did.  It's easy enough to do the exercise classes after the runs, but doing them beforehand takes some of the energy I have available for the Key Runs.

This week's LR was better too in an unexpected way.  Both my group leader partner and I were feeling sluggish when we started, probably because we are two fortysomethings who train intensely during the week.  So on the way out, we struggled to keep our 8:30 pace.  Our group didn't mind and as a reward, on the way back, everyone had more energy so they also didn't notice that we picked up the pace on the way back once our legs finally loosened up.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MT: Week One

Stands for Marathon Training and this post is a few days late.  Our training week is from Monday to Sunday, though most do the Long Run (LR) on Saturday and use Sunday to either rest or cross train (or recouporate from Saturday night.)

For a variety of reasons, I've opted to do the FIRST training program, where you essentially have three key runs during the week and the other days are either Rest, Cross Training or Easy Runs.  I decided to do this program because my work schedule is busy and my body is old.  It's easier to get three Key runs in per week with everything else being extra than to try and do one of those run 4-6 times a week programs.

The Key Runs are not easy.  You basically have a Tempo Run, a Speed Workout and a LR and since you should have a rest day in between, your schedule is kinda set based on when you get the first run in each week.  Last week was bad because I did my Tempo Run Tuesday evening and because of work, didn't get to do another run until the LR on Saturday.  I also didn't get to go to any exercise classes at the gym until Friday, again because of work.

Since it was only Week One, I didn't beat myself up about it.  Instead, I just worked on correcting the problem.  This week SigOther and I did an easy run yesterday morning before work.  Tonight I also did my Tempo Run.  I also made it to both exercise classes yesterday and today.  So I'm off to a good start running wise.

Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of marathon training is the increased appetite.  While I did manage to lose a pound this week, I also gave in to anxiety and had chicken fingers and french fries for lunch.  And though I had a healthy grilled trout for dinner, I also had some potato chips with it, which are so not the vegetable I should be eating.

Friday, May 28, 2010

That will teach me to be responsible

My place has been on the market for three months and while there have been repeat showings, no offers have come forth. There hasn't even been a showing since mid-April. I did lower my asking price, but now that the Tax Credit has expired, I really don't expect any thing to come of it. We did get positive feed back from all the agents and potential buyers.

One lady said it was down to my place -- a two bedroom with no parking -- and a one bedroom with a parking spot in Andersonville. She opted for the parking spot, which makes sense. The general rule of thumb is that it's easier to resell a two bedroom than a one bedroom. However, parking triumps an extra bed, especially in a trendier neighborhood like Andersonville.

The thing is, my place originally offered parking. However, to afford the seller's market of 2003, I had to give up the parking spot to get the seller to lower his asking price enough so that I could afford it. At the time my income from the No-Name Software Company could only cover so much, especially since I was still paying off my g-school student loan.  Could I have gotten a loan to cover the full asking price? Probably, but I opted to be in what turned out to be the minority and only buy as much home as I could afford.

So I did the popular 80/15/5 loan where you put 5% down and got a Home Equity Line of Credit for the other 15% to avoid paying PI. Over the years I dilligently worked toward paying off the HELOC loan who's rate followed prime. Between selling off stock options and using my tax refunds, I managed to get a $30+K loan down to about $5K over six years.

And my reward for being a good citizen and home owner: I now have a home that isn't worth what I paid for it, and I apparently cannot sell it becuase I wasn't selfish enough to overspend for parking six years ago. It isn't all bad. I was able to at least refinance last December and got rid of the worthless HELOC (when the housing market busted, Chase thanked me by freezing my line of credit so I couldn't use it.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh Snapp!

Almost every day on my way to work, I pass the Your Snappy Shop at 3544 W Irving Park Rd , just before Central Park Rd.  I have yet to walk into the shop -- it appears to cater to women only -- but I am just curious enough to make a visit.  This shop strikes me as a throwback to a different time.

A quick google search tells me that this retail store provides elegant dresses at affordable prices.  Again, not of direct use to yours truly per se, but as I have tons of lady friends who often lament about having to go to another wedding or banquet and not being able to afford a new dress -- and they cannot use the umpteenth thousand brides maids dresses they already own because one other person has seen them in it -- I could recommend this place to them.

Of course that presents another challenge.  Many of these aformentioned people don't realize that Chicago extends beyond Ashland Avenue. They believe that if you go west of Western, a dragon will swallow you up whole and spit out your bones.

This has its advantages and its disadvantages. The advantage is that when the day finally comes, I'll be able to buy so much house and still live in the city, The disadvantage is that when I want to have friends over, most will suddenly come up with some incurable disease or ailment that requires them to stay at home.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Putty versus Filler

This is a strange topic to write about but I figured I'd see how this site works with pictures since the private site is very kludgy. 

A long time ago, the KrazyGuatemalan put a hole in my door frame because he was struggling with the screen door.  I didn't actually see him do this but So Suede often brings up the story and KrazyGuat doesn't deny it.  He does contend that too much time has elapsed for him to take responsibility for fixing it.

I've let it go undone for years figuring I would get it fixed when the time came to sell my place. Well, that time has come.  I could simply give potential buyer money to fix it themselves, but the inner handyman in me wanted to take a stab at fixing it.

A couple years ago when I had a Polish handyman working on my broken floorboards, I asked what would be involved with fixing the frame.  He said that it would take the same amount of time and money to simply replace the frame.  However, he wasn't really interested in taking my money and doing it.

Flash forward to the present and I asked my Polish Painter, who also is a contractor, how to fix it.  Again, he wasn't interested in adding it to the painting project and taking more of my money but he did give me some instructions so I took a stab at it myself.

First I had to clear the debris and trim away enough of the frame so that I could wedge a piece of wood into the hole. 

Next, I applied generous amounts of Wood Filer over the wedge and broken frame. 

Once it dried I sanded and then applied a second layer of Wood Putty.
Wood Putty is different from Wood Filler in that it's more liquidy.  As I understand it, you use one or the other, seldom both.  Personally, I like the Wood Filler better but in this case, it worked out to use one and then the other like I did.

Once the putty dried, I sanded again and then painted.  Now it just looks like a door with some normal wear and tear and a fresh coat of white paint.  Total cost: my time and $5 for wood putty.

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