Well, one week prior to being shut indoors in IL we were rucking and working out very hard. Parks are now off limits, especially at Chicago’s lakefront path. Mayor Lightfoot ordered the lakefront closed until further notice and people are going to get a warning, a fine, and then possibly tossed in the brig!
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! This is gonna piss more people off, but I get it. I’m mostly an introvert so being alone is not a big issue. Having time to catch up on audiobooks, read books, and reach out to people I’ve not heard from in some time.
Now as you sit there contemplating your life in the new age of being cooped up inside many people that I’ve spoken with have stated a truth that was missing in everyone’s life. People contact is important. A meaningful conversation, or a handshake or bro hug goes a long way to make people connected.
Stay in touch using a product called zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. Anything, or smoke signals….. not kidding. (J/k)
Catching up and boy there is a lot to write about. Writers block hits hard. I honestly view such statements like that with a little skepticism and brush it off thinking that how hard is it to put things on paper ‘a la’ blog post?
Well I can truly state as a matter of fact that no matter how much there truly is to write about I found it difficult to sort subject matter in order to start filling in the blanks. Ever try to go grocery shopping with half the list in your pocket, and which list you were to grab for what specific grocery store to start with makes it a little hard. Yeah yeah I get it. Go to one place, and grab everything and that’s that.
Not gonna happen, and as usual scatter brain happens more often. Glad I’m not in advertising for I’d have lost my job. Now with a little more effort this time around I have found that slowing down and scribbling ideas here and there have helped to paint a bigger and clearer picture. This is one of those clear picture moments.
I had started a running program at Cf Spero gym, and had been increasing distances, drills, and skills for the runners to prepare them for them running a half marathon, or 10k in the trails in the coming October race. Most had rarely if ever ran in a true trail so I asked them out on the team in the Cook County Forest Preserves near Palos Park, IL. This is an expansive trail network, and many a mountain biker and biker, and trail runner loves to train in all year around.
There are easy trails, moderate, and the hard trails. It’s not as hilly as other places I’ve raced before but you can surely train your heart out here if you’re smart. Getting back to my runners…. we had a plan of attack. Step one was locating our location, and trail head. City folks looking for an opening in the woods…. it is a blessing that these trails are well marked, but with late summer early fall setting in there has been good over growth due to rainy season here so on the trails, and the footing was challenging, and trail signs are hidden on a few turns so keeping your eyes peeled was step two.
Their first run in a trail was a success! Officially this was a five miler and some gps watches show it to be around 5.5-6 miles. Either way success. Lessons taken away that day:
Gym shoes are just that, for the gym
Heel striking isn’t going to get you anyplace faster, just more tired
Trail shoes save lives (sliding backwards on muddy slopes averted) unless you’re wearing #1
Hydration packs need to have water in them to work
Hydration bottles can also be lost during your run while wearing #1 and not averting #3
5 mile loop is not a straight out and back ( you can’t fit triangle in square)
Having electrolytes to take ‘during’ run is negated if you leave them in pockets
Share the trail motto is lost on bipedals with pedals
Skirting danger going up hill while said bipedals think they’re in Moab
You can run, relax, zone out, and be happy on a trail. Racing or training.
See, I’ve made my first top ten list. 💥
I do believe that sharing such experiences with other people help to foster a sense of belonging and comradery few other things can. Sure you can knit in a group, but can you do it while running a 10k in beautiful sunlight and friends along? Nope, those pesky needles will get you every time.
Trail race #1 – Ragnar Northwoods in Wisconsin 9/21/19
Have you ever run a race when it’s so hot you never stop sweating? How about a race that is just plain humid all of the time that you’re just soaked without even trying to get sweaty? I see a few heads bobbing and hands are up yelling Amen!
We had a blast! The village has a fire pit going all day long, and even before we started our first run we stood by this heat only to see steam bellowing out from our bodies due to the humidity clinging to everything on us. You can only imagine post runs around the fire laughing our butts off telling our tales and drinking coffee, eating at the craziest hours, and trying to help the next runners for their leg.
Have you ever run a Ragnar trail race? Fun! Three loops consisting of 1) Green – short 3.1-4 miles b) Yellow – 4.1-5 miles and c) Red – 6.1-7 miles. Technical difficulties do differ on each depending what part of the country you race. I met up with my Ragnar Kentuckiana team from 2018 and we just had a better time in general.
Man oh man, we had a blast! Eight runners, tents, coffee everywhere and very nice Runners village. Food trucks, and since I’m always hungry while I train, or race this was my utopia for the weekend. Oh, did I mention they had beer?
My fiancé, Brian, Natasa, David, Laura, Annie, Becca, and I rounded out the Spero ‘Gio’s wrecked runners’ crew. Yes, they aptly named the team after me. How kind…lol
Some of us are experienced runners, and some not so much. However they got into the groove of running that they forgot that it is not as treacherous and difficult as they had made it out to be while they were out there in nature on all times of the day. The trick was just to keep their wits about them especially at dusk and overnight runs are mentally draining. They spooked the wildlife more than the wildlife spooked them during those night runs, but they don’t believe it when to,d that fact. They’ve sworn that the heard a wolf, bear, or Sasquatch on the trail with them this night runs.. lmao! But, you just never know right?
Finished – but not over. We had one more race to do in October and back to training when we got back.
Well coming off the trails in Wisconsin we dialed in our trail running skills in Palos Park Trail System once more to keep our momentum going. Running more than 10 miles on the trails while being more efficient and effective on our running speed and cadence. We had a few new runners for this late fall race in Galena, IL Oct/19.
On this weekend we had the option of three distances. A 5k, 10k, or half marathon. Five of us raced the half while four more raced the 5k. Nicely groomed trail, and almost flat and shaded. Late warmer temps had runners shed their outer shells and ran fairly fast on this little trail.
Coming from the Northwoods with minimal rest and recovery I thought I could tackle this 1/2 marathon without skipping a beat. Well, not so fast my body was telling me very early on. Half marathoners staged first on this 27F morning and I was not a happy camper. Cold, and feeling very stiff we started our run. Sun was peeking out between he trees only teasing us with some light and zero warmth.
My hat, shell, and gloves stayed on when we hit a few icy bogs on the trail and knew right away that this was gonna be a rough one if I hit these bogs, and I’d feel colder if I did. Not my ideal running situation while I was just getting warm. Well, to no avail with runners somewhat tightly situated on the trail some of us hearty souls took one for the team and sloshed through those bogs and kept on cruising. Feeling cold, it took me to the 10k mark to finally shed my shell and stash it in my pack somewhat.
The shell stayed on my shoulder straps and it would not budge. Upon shedding the shell I began to feel my Right IT bad fire like crazy. No build up of discomfort or indication of hip tightness at all just boom! Here I am big boy! Whatcha gonna do!? Well, I continued to run, walk, stretch, and repeat that process around a half dozen times to stretch and curse my tight hips, all the while I hydrated to stem any possible cramping that may arise from this. I thought long and hard about just walking the rest of the distance, but I was not gonna give in and just walk.. I made up my mind that I would finish regardless of my discomfort.
I made it back to the start line and knew I had 5k left. Regardless of the hobble, shuffle, and pain I would not stop to stretch until I crossed the Finish line. When I did finally cross that line I was fatigued, and in pain. We took our medals, some pics, and then I tried to walk a few steps (26 total) to the top of the bridge / sidewalk to grab some food when at the first ten steps I took my body lit up like lightning bolts on both IT bands bilateral knees and hips. My body was having none of this stair climbing nor walking in general. So, what did I do? Heck I walked with Nene next to me for 800m to the restaurant and finally sat down to drink as much coffee as possible not caring about anything else except that there was food coming my way and I could relieve my pain with copious amounts of coffee until we walked 1200m back to the car and head back to the hotel to take a Hot bath. Purchased epsom salt, and Skor chocolate to take the edge off. Yes, cho-co-late! My pain killer of choice.. I have my type of meds and you have yours. 😛
Post bath what would any sane human do? I’m not sane so we went to a distillery that a friend referred me to and had an adult drink. Man did it hit the spot. No, not buzzed just felt the warmth inside that was missing and we headed back to the the hotel and then grabbed some food. Time well spent.
Would I do this race again? You bet! I love Galena, and plenty to do there. This year we’ll sty a bit longer and have great time to enjoy the festivities they have after the race. Halloween weekend with parade, and costume contest to be had.
Around the middle of July my journey back to running distance began anew with my fiancé in Palos Park Trail system in Illinois. Wolf Rd Woods’ Orange Trail.
It has been literally over a decade since I’ve run distances longer than two miles. A quick question for you out there. How many have gotten really hurt or injured while running? I’d wager to say over 50% of the population has experienced a big running injury since starting but have gotten back into it one way or another.
Well a bit of a flash back and history. I used to run pretty much every day, race, and have on occasion been a bandit runner on a marathon or 10k.
I enjoyed it very much, but it was cut short by an avid cyclist at the lakeshore running trail in Chicago’s famous lakefront trail. I coached many new, and advanced runners for short to long distance races.
This beauty of late summer season run happened to be a short (lol) nine miler. Well on our loop back I happened to be their rabbit since it was a fast finish run. The trail happened to be under construction at that time so there was a shared bike/pedestrian section by The Theater by the lake. Fullerton point is what most chicagoans refer to it as.
I see it like it was just yesterday when this happened. I was speeding up since my spidy senses were tingling in a slight incline. Why I felt like there was something wrong I didn’t know but I started to run much faster than expected. Hugging a fence blocking the far right side of the trail that was under construction. No sooner than I had started to speed up that I felt a jarring hot sensation on my right hip/leg that I was shot up and forward from the impact of the cyclist that was going so fast he slid another six feet from my landing position
The impact was hard, and I landed bent knees and bent over. I tried to stand upright. Well I did try to no avail. The cyclist and his buddy came by and began to yell at me accusing me of cutting in front of them. Well, what I didn’t mention was when I started to feel something was wrong around fifty feet from my location in front of me two ladies in bikinis walked across the trail and I began to have the hair in the back of my neck stand on end. Sixth sense kinda stuff.
My runners arrived at the same time the cyclists were yelling at me and accusing me of causing the accident. Well, my runners were quick to point out that they were goose necking at the ‘girls with bikinis’ that they didn’t see me at all when one impacted me going mighty fast. So fast the handlebars of the perp‘s bike was twisted to the other direction at the time of impact.
They fled the scene before I or my runners could take any of their information down. I ended up walking back to our starting location which was over 1.25 miles away. That same week on the same path just a mile away two more runners were hit by cyclists, both incurring head injuries. Never a good thing trying to dodge bikes, pedestrians, roller blades and other runners while people really have no care for others and just do what they want as if they owned he path(s) they’re on. Selfish.
The injury didn’t seem that big of a deal since I had run a 5k race with it but the pain kept getting more and more excruciating. After a Dr. appointment, and subsequent MRI it showed that I incurred a fracture and spent almost a year in PT, and chiro care for quite some time learning to squat, and walk properly. On an MRI it didn’t look to be that big but the crush injury caused nerve problems also. Happy me for sure.
Since that time I’ve not run on that path ever again, and have only returned there to ruck it but not run it.
Getting my running legs back has been a mental game to say the least, but having been a habitual runner to not running more than a mile for any time at all with pain on and off has made it a big mental game.
So I’ve spent plenty of years getting my body stronger, with shorter runs not longer than two miles, and biting at the bit wanting more but pulling back when this nerve pain kicks in. It comes and goes when it does show up uninvited.
Roll forward to the present day, and my new running adventure. I’ve started training runners once more, and loving it. Imparting knowledge and the love I have for it. In doing so I’ve started running longer and feeling my legs take me to distances I had forgotten I used to run. It feels so good.
So, if you’re out there contemplating coming back after an injury, do yourself a favor and learn a technique to run, and strength train! It is a life saver. If it wasn’t for my strength training while I was in my running prime I’d have been screwed for sure. Although it took this long to get back to distance running I can tell you it is well worth it.