Monday, August 25, 2008

It's that time again......


All three of them traipsed off to school this year. With Halle starting Kindergarten I will now have a whole 3 hours to myself five mornings a week! What will I do with my time? (Probably run!)

They all looked so grown up walking to school.

Parker is in 5th grade, Grayson is in 3rd grade, and Halle, of course is in Kindergarten.

Halle Jane on her first day of Kindergarten! She has been ready to go to school with her brothers for years! I'm so glad for her that the day FINALLY came!

I'm going to miss my little buddy, though! At least we can still go to lunch!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jen's Newly Redecorated Scrapbook Room

Thanks to my in-laws, my scrapbook room is ready for business! Here are some pics:

Watch for more memories to come!!!!!!!!!!

Sweet 16?

I think NOT!

Yesterday I ran my first 16 miles, aka sweet 16. Less than halfway in I decided that there wasn't really anything sweet about it. I've been cruising through my training, working hard, but not really bumping up against anything that felt un-doable.....until this.

I made it through about 6 miles, stopping for a few water breaks but not walking. But at mile 6 I couldn't stand it anymore. And neither could the group of 4-5 others that I was running with. We stopped to walk, ate some fuel (gu's, gels, sport beans, luna moons--all shots of sugar and electrolytes to replace the carbs our bodies burn through while running.) Starting back up was tough, but we did it. But, I found that we were just exhausted and needed frequent walk breaks. I looked at my watch at one point and we were 11 miles in and had been running for 2 hours and 30 minutes. What was so weird is that my whole group had run the CDC (half-marathon) 2 weeks earlier in around 2 hours and 10 minutes. Here we were, less miles in, more time on the clock, and not really wanting to run any further.

Want to know what the difference was? My FAVORITE topic...THE WEATHER! When I got up for the CDC it was in the 50's. I actually wore my sweatshirt to the race and shivered after I put it in the coat check area until the race started. Once I started running, and the sun continued to come up, the weather was beautiful and in the low 60's. At times there was a cool breeze blowing off of the lake. It was awesome running weather. But yesterday? Not so much. I remember looking at the temperature gauge as I was leaving the house and it said 71....and it was 5:45 a.m. I quickly decided to leave my coat behind. I stepped outside and realized that it was a balmy, steamy 71. Yuck. I hoped for the best thinking that it's usually cooler on the lakefront.

We didn't get our running mission underway until around 7:30. By then the sun was BLAZING, the humidity was high, and I was sweating by mile 2. And thus the struggle began. Did I really just say only 14 more miles to go? I'm glad to report that we all finished, but it took us 3 hours, 10 minutes and 7 seconds. Once I stopped running, I was immediately stiff. I sat down to stretch, and learned that it would be a stretch just to get back up! Lucky for us, Athletico was there at the ready with tables set up on the lawn stretching people out. If it weren't for them, I fear I would still be sitting on the sidewalk.

It was an extremely uncomfortable ride back to the suburbs. My legs hurt so bad I could hardly stand to sit there. The only thing that kept me going was the massage appointment that I had at 1:30. And let me tell 'ya, never before has a massage felt so good and been so deserved! Nancy has magic fingers. I got off that table feeling like a new woman! Seriously, the soreness was gone and I walked away without a limp.

This morning I was watching a little news and learned a few things. First of all, the temps topped out at 92 yesterday. For those of you that reside in Texas, 92 is not that big of deal. I'm used to 106, right? Well, right, but 92 with Illinois humidity is no doubt just as bad as or worse than the 106 heat in Dallas. I scoffed at those that told me Chicago was humid. I now take that back. I also learned that though the temps were 92, THEY WERE HIGHER ON THE LAKEFRONT. My theory of cooler on the lakefront only holds when it's COOL! And, to top it all off, air quality was poor. Not good for runners. Oxygen can't get to the muscles and they lock up.

I guess it's good to have a bad run every now and then. It teaches you to listen to your body and to fine tune mistakes that you may have made during the week leading up to a long run. I'm blaming a lot on the weather here, but did I properly hydrate? Did I eat enough salt? Carbs? Probably not. I definitely paid closer attention to what I did before the CDC since it was a race and not a training event. Trust me, I'm paying better attention now. I have to get through an 18-miler and a 20-miler yet before the big 26.2.

This pain also reminds me why I'm running this distance. Sure, I like the idea of completing a marathon, but this has become more about The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and all that they stand for as well. I remind myself that chemo treatments are a whole lot worse than running a few miles in the heat and humidity.

But do you know what I love about Chicago? Hot weather doesn't stick around long. Guess what happened overnight? A cold front came through, dropped the temperature into the low 60's and sent the humidity away. AND, the news reported that temps are COOLER on the lakefront. Today is a beautiful day to run! Sweet 16 anyone?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

13.35? Hold on now....

Guess what I learned today at my track workout? The distance for the CDC (Chicago Distance Classic) was measured incorrectly. A half-marathon is 13.1 miles, but it seems that they made everyone run and extra quarter of a mile! No wonder I was so tired. It's not the first 13 miles that kills, it's the last .35.

Just because I can, I will make some changes to my official time. Running 13.35 miles in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 42 seconds equates to a 9 minute and 38 second mile. Running an average of 9 minutes and 38 seconds per mile for the ACTUAL 13.1 miles of a half-marathon creates a new and more accurate time of 2 hours, 6 minutes and 11 seconds. Looky there, I already beat my first PR!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Half Marathon Finisher

I have to tell you that this running thing has taken me even farther than I ever thought I could go! I think back to last December when I started running on my treadmill to combat all the sweets I was eating over the holidays, and now I've run a half marathon. (Strange thing is, after all the miles I've run, I still haven't lost any weight. That's not right--or fair!)

So was it hard? I guess I would have to say it was challenging but do-able. I found that my lung capacity was good meaning I wasn't breathing hard, but my legs were very tired and my arches hurt. I was definitely ready to see the finish line!

One has to wonder.....if I wasn't breathing hard, could I have run faster? Probably. But, with this being my first half-marathon, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I think just finishing was more important than scoring a good finishing time, so I was afraid to run too hard for fear of dying in the end and having to crawl across the finish line! Plus, since this was my first half-marathon, I knew that no matter what my finishing time was it would be a PR (personal record). Looking back, I think I could have pushed myself a little bit more. But now I have a time to beat: 2 hours, 8 minutes and 42 seconds. (For those of you keeping score at home, I ran 13.1 miles at an average pace of 9 minutes and 49 seconds per mile.) They say that no matter when you start running that you can improve for 10 years. I guess my times at 46 will shatter my current PR's!

Below are some pictures with my teammates from Team in Training. It was AWESOME to run wearing my PURPLE Leukemia & Lymphoma Society jersey! The crowd goes crazy when you go by! It was really encouraging. And it helped me remember every step of the way that my pain was nothing compared to what those with cancer experience! I thanked God for good health and running ability (and prayed that he would carry me through to the finish line! He is faithful!!)

Until next time......

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Visit from the In-Laws

Johnny's parents are such great sports! For the last few years we have always made a summer trip to Florida. But, now that we moved away from Dallas, Dallas got slotted for the summer trip leaving little to no time or funds for a trip to Florida. And since we didn't come to them, Mom and Dad decided to come to us!

We had a wonderful two week visit in which we experienced a lot of Chicago. We started out in the city at our favorite pizza place: Chicago Oven Grinder. Simply the BEST pizza pie in the city! Then we headed over to Wacker Street and boarded Chicago's First Lady for an architecture tour on the river. This was very informative. I had no idea that so much went into the design of the Chicago skyline. While in the city we also hit Garrett's popcorn. The "Chicago" thing to do is get a blend of cheese and caramel. This doesn't sound that great, but trust me, it's fab!

The girls took a trip into the city via the Metra Train and WaterTaxi. We ate lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (my favorite!) and went to the American Girl store. We also shopped on Michigan Avenue.

Then Johnny, Dad, Parker, Grayson, our niece Chatlie and I all went to Toyota Park to watch the Chicago Fire take on Everton! I thought that seeing Everton in Dallas was a once in a lifetime event, but it seems we are more privileged than I ever imagined. It was a bitter-sweet game because our Chicago Fire won. Not that great for Everton, though. I think the most memorable thing about the game will be the Irish Everton fan that sat behind us and his chants in his Irish accent saying, "We're on holiday, you're in the middle of your season!" as an excuse for Everton's poor showing. Everton was in the states playing some exhibition games getting ready to start the English Premier League in a few weeks. Either way, I think we all had a great time in the front-row seats that Johnny scored us!

Since Mom and Halle were left out of the Everton game, Mom told Halle that she would take her anywhere she wanted to go. Halle picked her favorite fine-dining place for dinner....McDonald's! After that they went to Build-A-Bear. Halle got the best pink leopard you could pick out, complete with voice chips and fancy clothes. And lastly, they went back to McDonald's for ice cream! Nana loves to spoil her Halle!

Since Mom and Dad were here for two weeks, they let Johnny and I have a few days to ourselves while they stayed with the kids. (I don't know who was more excited--Johnny and me or Mom, Dad and the kids!) We didn't go far.....just to downtown Chicago, but we had a great time! We stayed at The Drake hotel which is one of the oldest Chicago hotels. Lots of famous people have stayed there, and now they can add John and Jennifer Harris to the list! While in the city we enjoyed dinner out with Matt and Mel, went shopping, went to Ravinia, and also took in a Cubs game. Talk about an action packed 3 days!

Ravinia is awesome. All summer long they have different musical talents. The best thing to do is pack your own dinner and blanket, buy tickets for lawn seats, and enjoy the music! We listened to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play scores from E.T., Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and other great movies. The weather was perfect--in the low 70's, and we nibbled on cheese and had some great red wine. We couldn't have asked for a better evening.

But, I think the highlight of our time in the city was our Rave Run on Lake Michigan. It's great to be able to run together. I've never been able to keep up with Johnny, but it looks like all the miles I've put in have paid off. We had such a great time running along the Lake, talking, and pushing each other to finish 6 miles. At times I forgot where I was and thought I was running by the ocean! The waves were crashing and the beaches were full. Several times we marveled, "I can't believe we live here!" We are definitely going to take the kids into the city to go to the beach!

Lastly on the entertainment front, Johnny's company hosted a picnic at the Lincoln Park Zoo. We all loaded up and headed downtown once again to meet Johnny's co-workers and friends. We enjoyed a great lunch of burgers and Chicago dawgs and then we spent some time wandering through the zoo.

Although I love going to the city, it's very fast-paced and really makes me thankful that we live in Wheaton. The city is close enough to get to every once in awhile if we have something going on, and I do love the excitement of it, but I LOVE Wheaton!!!

Enough on the entertainment front. My blog wouldn't be complete if I didn't brag a bit on the even MORE awesomeness of my in-laws. When we moved in this house I claimed the back office to be my scrapbook room. The only problem is that is was covered with boy wallpaper and was very masculine. For a year now I've dreaded redecorating because it involved taking the wallpaper down. Yuck!! But, Mom, Dad and Chatlie helped me use a steamer to strip the wallpaper down. Then, while Johnny and I were on holiday, Dad painted the room for me! Then, Mom made me a new valance and roman shades. She sewed for 2 days straight to get them finished! She even bought a sewing machine to leave at my house for such projects! I am blown-away at their help and generosity. I am still arranging my office and getting it all set up, but very soon I'll post pics of the finished project. I COULD NOT have gotten this done without their help.

And, as if all of the decorating weren't enough, they are so helpful to me when they're here. They stay with the kids so I can run errands, several times Mom cooked dinner because I was running someone somewhere or had a workout scheduled, they swept the floors, washed dishes, helped with laundry, and Dad helped Johnny in the yard for hours.

So for all of you wondering how I feel about my in-laws coming for two weeks? I love it! I wish they would come back....but I guess I'll have to wait until Thanksgiving.