Saturday, June 30, 2007

Starbucks Girl Lost 100 Pounds

One of my habits is making the block long walk on a regular, almost obsessive basis, down to the local Starbucks coffee shop. I agree with Sensationally Red and others that there is no downside to caffeine in moderation but I just drink too darned much coffee. It isn't that I like the coffee so much that keeps me trekking back and forth to Starbucks. The reason I go down there so often is that I live alone and I get lonely. There's always a smile and a "hey Sam" down there because I'm one of the regulars and I'm sure they laugh behind my back about "the old runner who comes in here all the time" but I don't really care about that. Years ago I'm sure the comments about me were on the order of "oh shit, here he comes and he's drunk, quick let's get the hell out of here because there's going to be trouble." So, even though I still have my issues, I know I'm improving my health and have enhanced the peace of mind of those who know me.

My plan this evening was to write a note about the fabulous 9 mile run this morning in a cool breeze, low humidity and sunny lakefront. The reality is for whatever reason I struggled with the run from start to finish. I knew through the early miles that something wasn't right and I don't have a clue what was wrong. I was talking to someone else in my group about it and they offered up the tired old phrase "some runs are like that." Welp, guess they're right. I got through it, kept pace and all, but it wasn't the run I wanted. Poor me.

I've been a bit pissed all day about the crappy run but my last trip to Starbucks for the evening pulled me out of my funk. The tall pretty girl looked a bit tired or down so I asked her how she was and she kind of frowned and mumbled something like same old crap or whatever. Now that I'm old I've gotten used too and accepted the fact that young people many times feel they can confide their true feelings to me, and in reality they can do that without fear of judgment. I don't know why that is, it just is, sort of like the crappy was just that way, no particular reason.

She knows I run for a living so she said she might be tired because she usually runs 3 or 4 miles on her own but today she ran 6-1/2 with a friend. Could be she was just tired.

But then the sky opened up and with a big beautiful smile she told me she lost 100 pounds by running and with better eating habits. "I used to be a big girl," she said. I looked at her big smile that had been absent a few seconds ago and I offered up something really bright like "holy crap, that's just wonderful" or something like that, then my eyes teared up and so did hers but we both had a big smile on our faces and I told her I started working out and running about 15 years ago, not because I was overweight but because I was underweight, had almost no muscle tone left anywhere and despised myself.

I walked home with my tall coffee and also dragged home a moca frappucino for the doorman. The frap had a big load of calories in it, the Starbucks girl said, and it wouldn't be good for me to drink. Well, that's true but once in awhile I do splurge and the doorman is in his early 30s and plays pretty aggressive hoops on an almost daily he'll be okay.

So my habitual trips to Starbucks are usually a waste of time and money but tonight's journey was pretty eventful for me. In a few short minutes I could see the humor in my situation and my irritation at a so-called bad run and I understood again that there are no bad runs, some are just better than others.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ms. Legs Is Doin' 9 Saturday

I was getting off the elevator in my building this evening and Ms. Legs was getting on. She's one of the prettiest and nicest women in my building and is the one who a few weeks ago, during another elevator encounter when I was coming in for a run, asked me if I would happen to be training for the marathon. I told her I was and she said she was too. It's her first marathon and she's turning 40 this year.

Well that's about all I know about her, but it's enough for now and maybe forever because I have a new friend who's not rude and has a really warm and real smile. I saw her coming in the front door a couple of evenings ago but I was yammering with the doorman about either Paris Hilton or the war so I didn't get to talk to her. However, her big smile reached me across the lobby. What is it about distance runners and the immediate bonding? Maybe we just know we're all nuts but also know the only harm we may cause is to ourselves.

I asked Ms. Legs this evening how her training was going. She said she was going to do 9 Saturday and she would be glad to see how that goes. I didn't even think to compliment her on her beauty, or whooo hooo her fine frame, I'm thinking I've lost it or beginning to lose it or maybe I've found it? It's all a bit confusing how my priorities have changed.

I hope she can train this summer without hurting herself and get to the finish line of that marathon. I remember well my first marathon. The medal looked and felt like the biggest pot of gold anyone could place on this earth. It was the spring of 1998 and a Cher look-a-like was wandering around at the finish line giving hugs. She told me she liked sweaty men. But...she had an awfully deep husky voice? Hmmm, how do you spell transvestite? I was so happy I hugged IT anyway. I mean, hell we were in California.

I'm really proud and humbled too that I've been able to run and learn how to suck it up near the end of some difficult training runs and marathons. And I'm also seeing how I can be of help to other runners, especially the newbies, just by showing interest in their adventure and giving them a bit of encouragement.

Also, I would like to say that my hat's off to any ultra, trail runner, mountain or hill runner, that may stumble across this writing. I've been reading about you all and I can't relate to your stamina but I can relate to your bonding and support for each other and I respect you.

One decision I made in the fall of 1998 when I ran my personal best here on the flat asphalt of Chicago was that I'd never run further than 26.2 miles the rest of my life. All that was one my mind the last 2 or 3 miles is "I need a big bag of M&Ms and get this bitch over with." This was when boca burgers were being promoted. They were serving them at the finish line and I ate 4 of them as fast as I could and was still hungry but was starting to embarass myself.

By the way Red, the ham jerky was just okay. Fairly mild, not too salty but you'll have a happy and full life if you never buy a bag of it.

So, Ms Legs is doing 9 Saturday morning and that's what my schedule calls for. The 8 miler last Saturday felt great since it was nice and cool so we'll see what's in store this weekend. Ran a brisk 5 Monday, took today (Tuesday) off, will run 3 early tomorrow morning, 7 miles of tempo on my own Thursday, kick the 9 or get kicked with my group Saturday morning then pull out the stops Sunday morning in a little 5k race downtown called the Race To Taste, in association with the annual Taste Of Chicago.

I'm picking up the pace a little after trotting along and treading water last year and feeling very, very good but most of all I'm very grateful that I can be active and alive.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Goody Bags, Hyponatremia, A Brisk 5K

I ran a 29:46 5K Thursday night in Grant Park in a little race to raise funds for cancer research. The 9:46 per mile pace was slow for me but considering where I've been the past two years I'll take it because it's the fastest I've ran since a trip to the emergency room at Northwestern Hospital in the summer of 2005. About two weeks after I got out of ER my mom died and I went to her funeral feeling like crap, worried that I might trip and fall down, so it wasn't a good summer. However, I did learn another lesson and frankly I'm quite tired of lessons but I know there are more ahead of me.

I've not been keen on talking much about my injuries or setbacks because I usually get the usual "shit man you're old" look "give it up, read a book or something." That really gets old! The trip to ER was due to what experts say is a rare condition called hyponatremia, low blood sodium, not enough salt. I was pushing it a bit in the heat and humidity and was losing my balance but thought I was having trouble adapting to the heat. Very embarassing. Well, I got to a point where I thought I was going to fall down and was worried that I might be having a stroke, thus the trip to ER.

One intern after another would stop by and ask if I were still having chest pains and I kept repeating that I never had chest pains. I knew I was in deep shit lying on my back in that place. My "old" running buddy Bambi, who's 30 years my junior and of course beautiful, called me and these are the first words that came out of her mouth. "Boy you'll do anything to get out of a run." My running friends are true friends? Jeez! I was in ER on a Friday night and we were supposed to do a 10 miler early Saturday morning and I had to bag a run...dammit!. I stayed overnight and took the prescribed stress test the following morning on a treadmill and was told by a cute nurse with a Jodie Foster like southern drawl "urrrr ahhh-some." YES...I KNOW! The cardiologist told me "you're out of this hotel." YES! And the only thing the Doctor could find was "your blood sodium is a little low" so he recommended increased salt intake. Duh! Yep, so now I know about not only hydration but electrolyte imbalance and its affect on the brain. And I need to conserve as many brain cells and nerves as I can considering what I've put myself through in this journey we call life.

I've not had this funky hyponatremia problem since then but I ran very, very slow last year and ran with fear. And, that isn't the way I do anything, much less run.

Soooooo I have been pushing a bit more this summer and thus my excitement about actually running a little brisk-er 5K and being able to walk straight the next day. It's the little things in life that are important, like being able to talk and walk, enjoy a sunrise or sunset...much less run.

Speaking of little things, all of these little 5ks here in the Windy City have the usual goody bags, stuffed with stuff like a mini energy bar. I usually get home, look for the energy bar and toss it on top of my fridge for later use, then I pitch the rest of the stuff. Once in awhile there's a running shirt in the bag called a "keeper."

Well, the goody bag I got last night featured a bag of Jeff Foxworthy ham jerky, never tried it, didn't know it existed but it put an even bigger smile on my face than I had because of the refreshing heart-pounding run I had just completed. I might even share a piece of the dried ham with my son, with my blue collar friends and hide it from the suit and tie crowd.

Yes, this working stiff farm boy has to keep a few secrets from some of the aristocrats around here. But there are a lot of good and real people in this big brawling city...really there are! Tomorrow morning I'm meeting a bunch of tough son-of-a-guns for an 8 mile run along Lake Michigan and there will be no fear, maybe a little nervous, but never afraid.

I've found a home, I'm no longer a misfit and I'm in hog heaven with my little bag of ham jerky that I won. Git-er-done!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Five Reasons To Run

I almost feel obligated to blog something now that I have one or two pen pals. My day job as a correspondent for Reuters News, covering the insanity of the grain futures markets at the Chicago Board Of Trade, tends to discourage me from writing another line about anything when I'm in my little home.

However, I am discovering a pretty good release from a bit of stress that may have built up by tapping out something that eyes other than mine can see. It's one thing to keep a private diary, quite another to expose myself to the wild and wacky world of the web...this keeps me honest.

It seems a bit egotistical and arrogant for me to think about a legacy that I may leave my kids and granddaughters. I grew up with a false sense of humility, you know, be damned sure to never think highly of yourself because if you do god will get you.

Well screw it!

I want my kids and granddaughters to be proud of their Grandpa Sam. It's a miracle that I'm alive, much less have a family, considering the hell raising I did from the late teens to the late twentys. My antics have mellowed a bit over the years, but I still have to be on the edge to feel alive. And, maybe that's really why I run. And frankly I like the attention, the shoes, shirts, shades, laughter, jammin music and of course the pretty girls. So, I'm a big show-off and headed for hell but I sure have a lot of good company.

I'm meeting my running group this evening for an easy hour of some damned running. I don't know why anyone ever calls a run an "easy run". I've never had an easy run but some have been less difficult than others. Easy in my mind is sitting on my ass dreaming of what I want to be if and when I ever grow up.

It's sunny, 78, low humidity and a cool breeze here on the Lakefront in Chicago and I'm headed out the door to kick butt, my own, and believe me it needs kicking. I'm doing this running gig for many reasons and here are five of the most important ones.

Stephanie, Natalie, Mallorie, Rylee and Scarlett

I hope you can laugh and tell your kids and grandkids that Grandpa Sam was a little different but was a pretty good runner...for an old fart!

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Brief Visit Into The Past

Since Sensationally Red has this blogging obsession and since I have somehow fallen into her internet web, I thought it would be good to check in and let her know that I really am trying to learn how to post pictures to this darned thing.
This is me before the start of the Suzuki Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego in the spring of 1998. It was my first marathon. I trained and did the fund raising thing for the Leukemia Society Team In Training marathon program.

You can't see the writing on my arms but in magic marker is written Orlando who was the little six year old Leukemia patient I was assigned to run for. On the other arm is written Mike, who was the friend of mine who died in December 1997 of Leukemia. His death made me mad enough to accept the challenge of running "A" marathon to raise funds to help find a cure for the disease. Welp, for some dumb reason I'm still running.

This one's for you Red, now I need to find a camera and refine my "so-called new-found skills." When I run across a hot young woman who is so passionate about fitness and/or running I simply cannot ignore their fine example. I have five little active, healthy and athletic granddaughters and I want them to be like you when they grow up.
Carry on!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Is REALLY Going On?

Something's in the air, or water, or in my head. Being an admitted head case, it's probably the latter.

I've been running for awhile now, been involved with several training groups and there has always been a big group of eager "newbies" ready to tackle the marathon, half-marathon or maybe their first 5k. But I have never, never seen so many people coming out of the woodwork and lacing up their new Nikes, Sauconys, Asics, Mizunos or whatever as this spring. I do tend to embellish events at times and maybe I'm just an old drama I mean king but this borders on a running explosion rather than a running revolution.

The training group I'm currently with SOLD OUT the training program for the Soldier Field 10 miler that was held Memorial Day weekend. And, they had to put a cap on the training entrys for this summer's half and full marathon here in the Windy City. The Chicago Marathon registration was increased to 45,000 this year from last year's 40,000 and the damned thing filled up a month earlier than last year.

People have always been a bit curious about my running and quite often bring it up in casual conversations. You know the questions such as do you get high running? How many marathons? Are you training now? How far did you go Saturday? What do you eat? Do your knees hurt? And of course the two inevitable questions..."if I may ask, how old are you?" and "how in the hell do you smoke and run?"

Those questions continue. But there is a big exodus of people, for some reason mostly women and a few good men, coming up to me with a big smile when I come in from a run with sweat dripping from my bald head and matter-of-fact stating that "I'm signed up for the marathon, my first one." "Well, let's rock," I say.

One of my editors at work, a woman I think around 40 something, says she's getting the running bug but isn't going to give up yoga. "Never give up yoga," I say, "it's a great complement to your running."

Last week I got on the elevator in my building with a freakin beautiful tall leggy girl who looked at me in my running togs and gave me a big beautiful smile. Hell even I, the guy, was envious of her good looks. Naturally, I got a little light headed and was wishing I had packed a really bold, manly deodorant in my fanny pack. I was taken aback and sort of smiled back expecting her to turn away but NO! And she said, "you wouldn't happen to be training for the marathon, would you?" "Well, yes I am." "Me too, it's my first one, I'm turning 40 this year so why not." Ah crap, to be 40 again!

There is another young woman in my building training for her second thon and she wants to run with me when we get to the high mileage part of training because "it gets boring then and harder." That's sure as hell true!
Foxy Shelly at work is going for her first thon, a young man named Ron is new to our group and training for the half but he already has a sore foot. Then there's Curt, big strapping young man who wants to run fast, gunning for his first half. Damn he works hard, very proud of him. And my favorite newbie is Jessica, my son's squeeze. Jess is kicking butt, taking names and had this goofy idea of keeping the running going over the winter and do the Walt Disney Marathon on January 13 too. Sheesh! Get over it girl. So now I'm registered for the damned goofy Disney thing in early 2008 and I'm not sure I'll survive the summer.

The running trail along Lake Michigan early each Saturday morning looks like a darned locust swarm during a hot dry summer on the High Plains. The poor bikers are freaked out trying to dodge crazy-assed marathon trainees popping all flavors of gel packs or shot blocks and discussing the merits of gatorade over tap water all while trying to stay two abreast and avoid tripping the traveler in front of them.

I started running in the early 90s, not because I was getting old but because I wanted to see if I could do it. I did it and I'm still doing it because no one will let me quit!!!!

It's really hard living in my head, but at times it's pretty interesting.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Keep Trying-Don't Quit

Everyone has their own journey, personal dreams, strengths and weaknesses be it physical or mental. There are a lot of people who are faster than I, bigger, stronger and much more disciplined. But there is no one just like me and no one just like you. So we're unique...just like everyone else:)

I read your December 3, 2006 blog Red and it would be great if that were posted on some "help for smokers" website or something. It is very motivating and reminded me that I need to think and become a non-smoker, instead of continue to smoke and wish I were a non-smoker. I'm having a hard time growing up, but I'll get there.

And, yes I agree that it's a bit puzzling how and especially why some people smoke and run. I've been asked about that many, many times and all I can say is that I run slow. A young trainer told me several years ago and these were his exact words, "you sir, are a genetic freak." Still not sure if I like that label. But I'm just weird and I've accepted that. I will say though that I enjoy people, even like some of them and mean no harm to anyone.

I just got in from a seven mile run on the Lakefront and the weather was picture perfect, nice sunshine, cool breeze and 70 degrees F. Yes, that's unusual for Chicago. I've never heard anyone say they moved here for the weather but we do get a few days here and there to brag about. I'll have to get off my butt in the future and get this blog set up for pics, get a cool camera and show off some of my running friends and my personal running havens.

Running on asphalt and concrete isn't my idea of a running mecca but when I keep my head up and my mind in a good place, it's a pretty nice world around here.

I've been running and working out for around 15 years, have heard about and experienced a lot of training programs and the reality is most of them are good, providing I get off my butt and get into action.

The bottom line for me whether it be starting a training or exercise program, addressing a habit, addiction, vice or whatever you want to call them is to keep trying and don't quit.

Setbacks are up is not an option!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Six Weird Things About Me

I see Sensationally Red has given me an edict to post six weird things about me. The timing is perfect because I've been beating myself up over one of them and it's time to make a few changes in my life. Unfortunately for anyone who may stop by to read this, none of it is very funny/weird. Well maybe it is a bit humorous. I don't blog much and frankly don't comment on very many blog sites so I don't know who I'll pass this too.

But, here goes.

1. I'm 63 years old, have been running for around 15 years, completed 6 marathons, training for my seventh and I have been smoking for 40 years. Okay, not weird...just sick!

2. When other runners find out I smoke they think it's weird, but they let me run with them anyway. I think I'd run away from me.

3. It's weird to me that I'll lace up my sneakers, go for a five mile run and the last mile all I can think about is getting down to Starbucks, get home, plop my butt in my chair and light up.

4. I quit smoking two years ago for over two months and I felt better from day one. In the first couple of weeks, I thought about smoking but I didn't have any physical withdrawal symptoms. I was calmer, running was easier then I tightened up a hamstring, got pissed off and lit up. Now, that's just weird.

5. I've become obsessed with wanting to be the healthiest, happiest and fastest 63 year old I can possibly be but I have a cigarette going as I write this. Weird?

6. Tonight is my I quit night. I can keep a commitment and I've never committed to do this in writing or expressed my frustration publically. Wanting to be the best at something and continually almost deliberately sabotaging the opportunity to achieve a goal is just freakin WEIRD!!!

There, I did it. Now you know I'm just overall weird.

I'm getting up an hour earlier starting tomorrow morning for an early morning run before work. I've done this before and it felt great, and I want to feel great. I've worked hard on my body so I can handle some pretty heavy workouts. Now, the mind has to focus on the big nicotine hurdle.

Looking forward to more positive, happier and maybe less weird posts in the future.

Thanks Red for the kick in the pants.
You are one active, honest and interesting blogger and an inspiration to us all.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Zoo Run Run

My son Jake, his girlfriend Jessica and I ran the annual Run For The Zoo in Lincoln park this morning and had a grand old time cruising through this family-friendly 5k. There is also a 10k version but we elected to run the short one and I figured I'd look a bit conspicious in the kids run.

I got passed by a couple of baby joggers but it didn't bother me much because the paths were narrow, the humidity high and everyone was having a good time, including me. I was in no hurry to get this little race over with because the race planners really sent us on a scenic and interesting winding path around the zoo and Lincoln Park. There were a lot of families with little kids and that made the morning even more special than a PR or an attempt to run fast-er:)

One of my favorite runs is my personal zoo run. From my abode near Oak Street Beach on the Lakefront, winding through Lincoln Park and the zoo to Belmont Avenue and back is close enough to 5 miles that I don't feel guilty about notching that number in my mental chart of weekly mileage.

On my winter runs, if it is really cold, I will sometimes duck into the underground passage/observatory at the sea lion exhibit, warm up a minute or two and watch the sea lions do their underwater cartwheels and whatever. There's a nifty glassed in cove that allows human intruders such as I to watch the show, and perhaps the lions get a kick out of some goofball human staring at them through a glass while the frost melts off his beard in the winter and the sweat beads drip from his bald head in the heat of summer.

Jessica is doing well with her initial foray into running and has registered for the Chicago Marathon, hooked up with the Leukemia Society's Team In Training program and is getting stronger and faster. I keep reminding her to get the mileage in first and the speed will come later but she's young and I think she wants to go really fast...hmmm, don't we all.

Jake is cracking out 3-5 milers with ease now. Despite his silence, I think he is convinced we're nuts for pushing runs over 5 miles...and of course he's right. What's really great though is that he is very supportive and encouraging of anyone who wants to tackle a marathon.

He has always been fascinated with the show that Chicago marathoners put on here each year so Jessica and I will try to liven it up to the best of our ability, assuming we get to the start line with no serious injuries while training through the heat of summer.

I was thinking today of Gerry Lindgren (sp), the great mid-distance runner of my era, the late 60s and early 70s. He says his job was to make other people better runners.

A major difference between he and I is that he pulled runners from the front while I push from behind. But we're all part of a special team...and I'm proud of that!