Thursday Things

1. The running shoe gods smiled upon me on Sunday. I usually go to Fleet Feet around this time each year for my annual shoe purchasing, which makes me happy because I leave with the two pairs of shoes I expect to get me through the rest of the year, but also makes my bank account very sad, because buying two pairs of shoes at once is not cheap.

I don’t know when Asics turns over all of their shoes, but I do know that they traditionally release the newest model of the Gel-Nimbus, which I’ve run in for the past two years, towards the beginning of the year. If I get lucky, I’ll get into Fleet Feet when they still have the old AND new models in stock, and if I get reallylucky, they’ll have enough of the old models in stock that I can buy two pairs in my size, and if I get really, really lucky, they’ll have the old model on sale.

Guess who got really, really lucky on Sunday?

nimbus18s

*does a happy dance*

The MSRP on the Gel-Nimbus 19 (the 2017 model) is a painful $160, but Fleet Feet had the 18s marked down to $105 (!!) AND they had two pairs in my size, so I saved myself a cool $110 AND I get to run in a model that I already know I like. Win win. Plus, when I ran with an 18 on one foot and a 19 on the other, I truly couldn’t feel any difference at all, so I figured I may as well go with the cheaper version since I could.

2. In case I wasn’t already having a fantastic trip to Fleet Feet on Sunday, when I went to the counter to check out, who was buying gear at the other register but one of my CARA group leaders! This, much like my Rick Bayless encounter a couple weeks ago, shouldn’t have really been all that surprising, considering we were at Fleet Feet, after all, but I’ve never run into anyone I know there before. More coincidentally, she was shopping with a friend of hers and in the process of attempting to convince her to run with us this summer, so I became the living, breathing testimonial to the greatness of training with the 10:30 Awesomes, using my ever-reliable sales pitch, “I hate running marathons. Like, absolutely hate it. But I love training with these people, so here I am, going on five years of running marathons so I can run with the 10:30s.” I mean, if that doesn’t convince you to train with us, I don’t know what would 😛

3. And finally, since I’m already talking about running/people I know as a result of running: I’ve had a Fitbit since June, and while I love the data and insight into my activity it gives me, to my great surprise, the thing I like most about Fitbit are the weekday and weekend challenges. I find them so motivating and I have definitely gotten a bit competitive about them once or twice (or maybe a few more times than once or twice 😉 ).

While I’ve done Workweek Hustles/Weekend Warriors with some of my friends I know from outside running for months, this past weekend, Maggie invited me to a new Weekend Warrior challenge. Upon seeing the email invitation (and before checking to see who else was actually in the challenge), I’ll admit that my first thought was, “Ha! I’m going to CRUSH IT in this challenge.” I knew I was going to run seven miles on Saturday and had a good feeling I’d get in a lot of walking Saturday afternoon as well, so I was totally confident I’d win the entire thing.

Then I joined the challenge, and realized it was composed entirely of current and/or former Chicago Running Bloggers.

weekendwarriorcrb

You guys. I had 34,000+ steps on Saturday, between my run and all the walking I did that afternoon, and I logged over 10,000 on Sunday, and I STILL didn’t win! I came in a solid second place, but to put the insanity of the CRB Fitbit challenge in perspective, here was my other Weekend Warrior challange from last weekend:

weekendwarrior

So, I was appropriately humbled, and will never again assume that I’m going to win a Weekend Warrior, particularly when I don’t know who else has joined the challenge.

Do you have a Fitbit?

Half Marathon Training Check-In

I’m a quarter of the way through half marathon training, which is the PR way of saying that I’ve finished three weeks. I don’t plan to do weekly recaps (obviously, I would think, by this point), but I thought I’d at least give some updates on training thus far.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I decided to use Hal Higdon’s HM3 program for half marathon training this spring, and so far, I am LOVING IT. A month or so into marathon training last summer, I realized that my (exceedingly specific) running happy place involves three days of running, one day of dance, one day of yoga, one day of strength training, and one day of rest. I fell into that pattern during marathon training in 2015, and as soon as I fell out of that habit post-marathon, I struggled with feeling aimless and extremely unsatisfied in all of my workouts, even when following a program, until in July of 2016 I decided to try that method again and instantly felt better. It truly was my “come to Jesus” fitness moment. Having a half marathon training plan that accommodates the running/cross training balance that both makes me happy and has kept my muscles/joints/bones happy without me having to tear the plan to pieces and put it back together with my utter lack of education (see: all of my past marathon seasons) has been such a nice change of pace and makes me feel so, so much more confident in my training plan.

It’s nice to have confidence in my training plan, because at this point, my confidence in myself is low, to say the least. Out of the five half marathons I have on my calendar so far this year, I plan to approach four of them with a “just for fun” attitude. One is a week after my first half of the year on a hilly course, one is in July, one is during taper, and one is not too long after the Chicago Marathon, so my expectations for all of those races are low, to say the least. Because of that, I’ve decided to make my first half marathon of 2017 my goal spring race, and because I’d like to do it, I’ve decided to make that goal to run a sub-2:00 half marathon.

I’ve never run a sub-2:00 half before. My PR, set on a picture perfect day in early April of 2014 after a winter of tempo and interval runs, stands at 2:02:50, so in theory, a sub-2:00 half shouldn’t be that unattainable. I need to take 171 seconds off my time, or about 13 seconds per mile. This is not like my pipe dream Boston aspirations, where I’d need to take closer to three minutes off all 26.2 miles of a marathon. 13 seconds isn’t nothing, but it also certainly isn’t three minutes.

A 2:00 half marathon is a 9:10 pace, but because I’d like to break 2:00, and, ideally, give myself a bit of a cushion to do so, I decided I should aim to run at a 9:00 pace. Last week, my training plan called for a three mile run at goal pace, so I set out to run three miles at 9:00. The good news is that, for the first time in my nearly six years of running, I actually hit my exact pace goal for one of those miles. The bad news is that when I got home from my run, I thought I was going to die. While that certainly didn’t bolster my confidence in my ability to run a sub-2:00 half, I figured I still had more than two months to gain more fitness and speed, and it wasn’t worth getting too bent out of shape over.

Then on Saturday, I ran seven miles: the first time I’ve covered that distance since the Chicago Marathon. It went poorly, to say the least. Granted, this was also the first time I’ve run in anything above, say, 40 degrees since the Chicago Marathon, so maybe my expectations were too high. After logging shockingly consistent runs throughout this entire training cycle (all of my non-speed workouts had been between a 9:55 and 9:58 pace. Every. Single. One.), turning in a 10:19 long run–which, to be fair, is still a lot faster than my usual not-cold long run pace–left me feeling so defeated that I came home and cried. I’m sure I’ve cried after runs before, but I certainly don’t remember the last time that happened before Saturday.

If I’m being honest, Saturday’s emotional breakdown was more a culmination of several frustrating workouts rather than the result of just that run in particular. Even though I kept up a regular workout routine after the Chicago Marathon, I have constantly felt out of shape. So many–not all, but so many–of my workouts feel harder than they should. I don’t think anything’s wrong with me physically, considering that the blood work I had done at the doctor a month ago came back normal (aside from my stubbornly, inexplicably high cholesterol), but it bothers me that I don’t feel like I’ve seen any results from the work I’ve put in. To be fair, I rarely see results from workout programs/habits, but I have tried to be a bit more conscious of what I eat after the holidays ended (see: high cholesterol), and that hasn’t seemed to make one lick of a difference, either. On the other hand, I am only three weeks into a 12-week training program, so maybe I’m expecting too much too early. Even though my mileage is relatively low (I ran 15 miles last week, for example), it’s still the most I’ve run since last fall.

So that’s where I am right now. While it’s definitely not my favorite place to be running-wise, I suppose it’s all part of the process, and hopefully this will pass sooner rather than later. Either that, or I’ll change my goals for this race and stop caring about running 9:00 miles 😛

Thursday Things

1. After years of saying I should go to museums in Chicago and never actually doing it, I’ve finally started to take initiative and, in particular, take advantage of the days free to Illinois residents. I went to the Shedd Aquarium in September, and on Saturday, I paid the Field Museum a visit.

fieldmuseum

If I’m being honest, I usually want to go to the Field Museum just to take a picture of SUE, because she’s probably my favorite, uh, person?, I follow on Twitter. I’d say she’s my favorite dinosaur to follow on Twitter, but I don’t follow other dinosaurs, so…. Anyway, moral of the story: SUE is a great Twitter account that I’d recommend following regardless of your interest (or lack thereof) in dinosaurs.

There’s more to the Field Museum than SUE, obviously. This trip, I saw the ancient Egypt, gemstones, and evolution exhibits for the first time, along with the bird exhibit, which I insist on seeing every time I go to the museum. All of that, which really isn’t that much, took up three hours, which I found so surprising! It didn’t feel like it took that long! Out of the three new-to-me exhibits I saw, I liked the gemstones the best, but I also really liked the evolution exhibit, especially the dinosaur part. I never had much interest in dinosaurs as a kid, but I suppose following SUE on Twitter has changed that, since apparently now I like them enough to spend one of my three hours at the Field Museum looking at them.

suethetrex

Speaking of the evolution exhibit, however: I was minding my own business, looking at dinosaur bones as one does, when I turned around and saw someone from my high school class! Or at least, I’m pretty positive it was him. As I mentioned last week, I have an inexplicable, crushing fear of saying hello to people, so I didn’t actually verify that it was him. It did look exactly like him, though. It was SO CRAZY. I honestly think I’ve seen him maybe once or twice since I graduated high school nine (omg) years ago, so to see him at the Field Museum of all places, considering he still lives in Michigan, was pretty wild.

2. In July, my mom purchased an electronic egg cooker, which uses a hot plate to boil water, which in turn either soft/medium/hard boils up to six eggs at once, or, using trays that come with the cooker, cooks poached or scrambled eggs. When she bought it, I rolled my eyes so hard they nearly fell out of my head. This seemed like the very definition of unitasker, and seriously, how hard is it to make eggs on the stove? Well, dear readers, I am now eating all of my words (and all of the eggs), because after deciding I had had it with the crippling fear that comes from attempting to turn on a gas stove, I let my anxiety win and asked for an egg cooker for Christmas and…I kind of love it. By which I mean I’m obsessed with it.

dashrapideggcooker

This has seriously been life changing. It works SO WELL. I’ve had limited success attempting to hard boil eggs with, you know, actual boiling water, but they’ve come out perfectly every time I’ve used this. I haven’t tried anything more advanced than that yet, but I absolutely love it and would definitely recommend it. Even my roommates, who don’t have any irrational gas stove-related fears, think it’s awesome, so it’s not just me and my insanity 😛

3. Tuesday was my first Valentine’s Day in Corporate America, and my oh my, did it exceed every expectation I had for the holiday. At my old job, my Valentine’s Day experience consisted routinely wondering if I was 1) invisible or 2) worthless, due to the fact that an older gentleman who worked for the other company that shared office space with my former company brought in plastic roses for every woman in the office, including my female coworker who worked for my company, not his company, EXCEPT ME, every. single. year. Now, admittedly, I didn’t particularly want a plastic rose that would end up in the trash, along with my mood and/or self-esteem, by the time I got home, but it’s the principle of the matter, you know? Anyway, that was my workplace Valentine’s Day background, so obviously, short of being mocked in front of a crowd, it probably wasn’t going to get much worse.

But holy smokes, did it get better! My work day started off on a wonderful note when I walked into my office building’s lobby and discovered that the building management had bought hundreds of frosted sugar cookies and was handing them out as we all arrived to work that morning.

valentinesdaycookie

I figured this would be the extent of celebrations, but boy, was I wrong! I had barely settled into my desk when the person in charge of admin for my office started coming around and distributing little tins of customized M&Ms to everyone.

valentinesdaymms

By this point, I’m basically beside myself with glee. A cookie AND M&Ms?! I had hoped that maybe someone would bring treats into the kitchen and I’d become aware of their presence before everything had been eaten. Never in a million years did I expect two treats before I had even been in the office for 30 minutes! AND THEN, all of five minutes after M&M distribution, I received an office-wide email that a client had brought in roses and treats “for the ladies” (as far as I could tell, men were welcome to help themselves, too).

valentinesdaytreats

Needless to say, Valentine’s Day 2017 blew all previous Valentine’s Days out of the freaking water.

Did you do anything for Valentine’s Day this year?
Have you ever been to the Field Museum?

Thursday Things

1. I crossed yet another restaurant off my Chicago bucket list last weekend, continuing on the momentum I already established earlier in the week. I was in Avondale on Saturday around lunch time and had six miles worth of burned calories to replenish, so after years of meaning to go, I finally stopped into Honey Butter Fried Chicken.

honeybutterfriedchicken

I think if I learned anything last week, it was that I should put more faith in restaurant reviews. I’ve heard amazing things about Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and as I thought with Au Cheval, I figured it’d be good, but I didn’t think it’d be mind-blowingly fanatstic. Once again, I was wrong. Holy smokes, was that the most delicious fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. The biscuit and the chicken tasted great on their own, but then they put honey butter on top of it, and…*heart-eyed emoji*. Wowza. I was a little nervous about ordering the corn muffins, because I find you never really know when you buy cornbread if it’s going to be northern cornbread (i.e., sweet, and therefore delicious) or southern cornbread (i.e., authentic, but not even half as tasty due to the lack of sugar). To my delight, Honey Butter Fried Chicken serves northern cornbread, so the corn muffins tasted as good as they looked.

It isn’t the most CTA-friendly restaurant in the city, but if you happen to be in the Avondale area, I’d definitely recommend stopping by.

2. I was in the West Loop on Friday afternoon, walking down the Restaurant Row stretch of Randolph soaking in the sunshine and mostly just feeling happy. When I got to Randolph and Peoria, I saw Leña Brava, and thought to myself, “Oh, that’s Rick Bayless’s new restaurant!” I don’t really keep up on celebrity chefs in Chicago, but Rick Bayless is a familiar enough name that seeing he opened a new place caught my eye in the RedEye a few months ago.

Since it’s wintertime (not that you’d know by being outside on most days, but that’s beside the point), a lot of restaurants have those extra, temporary doors set up outside their main doors to keep the cold out. There was one at the restaurant immediately west of Leña Brava (which I later learned was Cruz Blanca Cervecería, another Rick Bayless establishment), and through the plastic windows, I saw two people leaving Cruz Blanca. I blinked, and thought, “Hold on…”

Then, as I walked past the temporary entrance as these two individuals left, and OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS, ONE OF THEM WAS RICK BAYLESS, LIVE AND IN THE FLESH AND RIGHT NEXT TO ME.

I have never in my entire life seen a celebrity of any variety, on any location on the “obscure” to “obvious” continuum of fame, in the wild, so this was A Big Deal as far as I’m concerned. And while I suppose it’s not particularly coincidental or even surprising that I saw Rick Bayless walking out of one of his establishments during a non-meal time on a Friday, it sure felt special that immediately after thinking, “That’s Rick Bayless’s new restaurant,” he magically appeared in front of me.

3. My brother’s college doesn’t hold regular classes for most of January, but rather does one of those winter term things where you take a special class for three weeks, or, once in your college career, you take the whole month off and come back when second semester starts in late January. My brother opted to take the term off this year and spent two weeks in New York City to do some volunteering relevant to his career goals and Broadway show viewing relevant to his interests.

While I consider myself to be a fan of Broadway shows, I, honestly, don’t really keep my finger on the pulse of the goings on on Broadway…like at all. I usually become aware of a show because I accidentally hear a song from it somehow or because everyone tells me I should be into it (see: Hamilton. Fortunately, everyone was right on that one.). But if you asked me what shows are popular on Broadway right now, I couldn’t even begin to guess. I learned from my brother’s Facebook posts while he was out in New York that a show called Dear Evan Hansen exists and, apparently, is the second most popular show on Broadway right now after Hamilton. I saw the soundtrack pop up on iTunes last Friday under New Music (which, as far as I’ve ever noticed, doesn’t happen all that often for Broadway soundtracks), and saw it was also one of the highest albums on the iTunes charts as well, so I figured I should give it a listen. It’s nothing like Hamilton, but it was amazing. I could listen to You Will Be Found forever.

And now I want to go to New York to see the show.

Have you ever seen a celebrity out and about in the real world?

Goals for 2017: January Check-In

At the beginning of the year, I laid out my plans for 2017. In the spirit of holding myself accountable–the reason I published a post with my goals in the first place–I hope to check in each month to see how I’m doing. Here’s how I did in January!

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
I haven’t published or even pitched anything yet. I took some time to come up with a list of topics about which I feel confident writing or, minimally, in which I have a significant amount of interest, and sorted through some freelance writing resource websites to find places that might want to publish the types of articles I hope to write, in addition to brainstorming other outlets found relevant. I went through all of those sites/publications to find whoever appears to be the right person to contact about freelancing and found out how to contact him or her. I drafted one pitch email and then jumped into a swirling whirlpool of self-doubt (What if the email isn’t good enough and I blow my chance with them? Would writing for this outlet burn bridges at another outlet? What if I don’t really have time to do this after all? Ad infinitum.). So, overall, I feel like I made some progress on this goal, and probably an appropriate amount for the month if I only want to hit that one article goal. Ideally, I’d like to publish more than one article, however, so I really need to get moving on this to make that happen.

Goal #2: Get rid of 50 things
CRUSHING IT. I started throwing away/donating things as soon as the year began, and I’m already up to 23 items without even really trying (i.e.: I haven’t gone through my closet, bookshelves, dresser, desk, etc. to find junk I want out of my life). Since the ultimate goal here is to reduce the number of things I own, I’m not counting things I throw away with the intention of replacing (like the pair of jeans I sacrificed in January to my lack of a thigh gap. Irrelevant to this discussion, but a hole near the crotch due to frequent friction has been the demise of my past THREE pairs of Old Navy jeans, and it’s starting to really make me mad. SO few people have a thigh gap, Old Navy, especially at the very top of their legs. Your jeans should be able to withstand that kind of movement.). I feel really good about my progress on this and am excited to see how much farther I can go in the next 11 months.

2017goalscheckin

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
I made it through three lessons, so I now have 24 to go. Making progress! I’ve learned that I enjoy the noun-based lessons MUCH more than the verb-based lessons. I’m guessing that’s because nouns are easy to learn, since that’s basically just memorizing vocabulary, but verbs are really hard to learn when you don’t have the rules explained. Or at least, it’s really hard for me.

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
I did a great job on both of those fronts on the surface, since I am not currently injured nor rehabbing a present/past injury in physical therapy. In terms of my action steps for that goal:

– Strength train once per week, minimally, during running season: check.
– Stretch after every run: check.
– Foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji rather than a full-blown foam roller: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. I have touched neither my foam roller nor my Moji once this year. Fail. I don’t understand why this got so hard for me to do. I used to be great about foam rolling 😦
– Do at least three PT exercises twice per week: Another fail. I usually do a couple of PT exercises before dance, which makes for a total of eight PT exercises in January as opposed to my targeted 24. Ouch. On a more positive note, I’ve started incorporating PT exercises into my post-run cooldown routine, and since I’m now running three days a week, this should be a more attainable goal moving forward.

Overall, I think I’m in a pretty good place with these goals for the moment. I’m THRILLED with my progress on getting rid of things and, much to my surprise, have found a lot of enjoyment in going through my room and finding things I no longer want. I really hope to make some progress on the freelancing front this month, and ideally I’ll actually buckle down and spend some time with my foam roller again. Fingers crossed!

Did you make goals for 2017? How are they going so far?

Friday Things

1. You guys. I have seen the sunshine for FOUR CONSECUTIVE DAYS. It was sunny all morning on Monday, I briefly saw sun Tuesday afternoon, and then there was MORE sun on Wednesday! Considering that, on Jan. 26, we had only had five days with sun for the entire month of January, this is not a small deal.

wintersunnysky

January was such a strange winter weather month. I don’t really have high hopes for sun during the winter in Chicago, so the cloudiness didn’t surprise me, but the temperatures and lack of snow most certainly did. We haven’t had measurable snow yet this entire year, and while we had a couple of bitterly cold days, for the most part it was somewhere between the mid-30s and mid-40s for all of January (right on the razor edge of which winter coat I need to wear to feel comfortable, of course. I don’t think I’ve ever switched between my pea coat and parka so many times before!). Obviously we still have all of February, and last year it snowed in April, so I don’t think we can really label this the winter that wasn’t quite yet. It sure feels like it’s heading in that direction, though. I suppose I don’t mind the lack of snow–it makes running outside a lot simpler–and the temperatures haven’t been terribly uncomfortable, but if we’re going to have a non-winter winter, I wish it could at least be sunny more often.

2. I got a couple more punches in my Chicagoan card this week. On Monday, I caught a Chicago unicorn, by which I mean I and two coworkers walked into Au Cheval and immediately got a table (granted, it was like 11:15 on a Monday in January, but let’s not split hairs here.). Au Cheval, allegedly, has the best burgers in the entire city of Chicago, and I’d have to say I agree with that assessment after having their cheeseburger (I have a working theory that Au Cheval’s burgers are the best in town because they come with cheese by default, not by special request, and I will always believe that putting cheese on a burger instantly ups its deliciousness by at least 10 fold). I can’t imagine that the cheeseburger and fries, which are made in pork fat, did my already borderline high cholesterol any favors, but you know, #yolo.

Then on Wednesday, after years of thinking, “I should go out to eat during Restaurant Week” and then coming up with every single excuse under the sun to not go out to eat during Restaurant Week, I finally had a Restaurant Week dinner at Bistro Campagne. I end up Lincoln Square every couple of months or so and have walked past Bistro Campagne plenty of times, so I was excited to finally try it out.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.

Over 300 restaurants participate in Restaurant Week, and since I was not particularly interested in doing the leg work to comb through all of those to find the best bang for my buck myself, I left that task to the RedEye and Chicagoist. I whittled down a short list from the places listed in the articles, and from that short list, only one restaurant appeared on both: Bistro Campagne. I expected a good meal, but I never dreamed it’d be as fantastic as it turned out to be.

I had the Soupe du Jour for my first course, which last Wednesday was butternut squash soup. It was absolutely perfect: so smooth, so flavorful, and just the right size to start my meal. For my main course, I chose the Poulet Rôti Forestière, a chicken dish with fried onions and mushrooms, and it was simply to die for. I eat a lot (A. LOT.) of chicken, and this was seasoned and cooked to perfection. Unsurprisingly, I put a high priority on dessert when looking at restaurants, and the Pot-de-Crème au Chocolat (basically the best chocolate pudding you could ever hope for) MORE than met my expectations. Seriously, I cannot get over how incredible this entire meal was from start to finish. AND on top of all of that, it only cost $33 (pre tax, tip, etc.). The chicken entree alone normally costs $27, so to get two additional courses for only $6 more blows my mind. Restaurant Week continues through Feb. 9, so if you’re in town and have a free night, I cannot recommend Bistro Campagne enough.

3. I came down with a cold on Monday, which is an annoyance in and of itself, but my discomfort has been enormously compounded by the fact that it is so freaking dry in my office. I have been a sneezing machine since they turned the heat on a few months ago, and this week has taken my nose woes to new heights. We have an online suggestion box where employees can submit ideas to improve the company either from a business perspective or a culture perspective, and someone else requested humidifiers in the office due to the dryness (so I’m not the only one who’s noticed this). We can’t install humidifiers because of lease restrictions, but someone recommended a personal desk humidifier instead. Has anyone ever used something like that? Growing up, we had a humidifier my parents would put in our bedrooms when we got sick, but obviously I don’t need something that powerful to cut down on the Saharan qualities of my cube. If anyone has experience with a personal desk humidifier, I’d love to hear if it works or not! Anything to stop the constant nose irritation and sneezing 😦

Have you ever participated in Restaurant Week, either in Chicago or elsewhere?
Do you have a desk humidifier? How do you like it?

Training and the Future

Last fall, I arbitrarily decided to make 2017 the year of the half marathon. At the moment, I have five halves on my calendar. While my foot hasn’t bothered me at all for months, I don’t want to push my luck, so I decided to take 12 weeks to train for my first half of the year, which will happen in late April. I really only like to run three days per week, so I opted for Hal Higdon’s HM3 program, with slight modifications to his prescription (namely, I’ll cross train three times per week instead of two times, and I’ll only take one rest day per week under normal circumstances instead of the suggested two).

I started training on Sunday with 30 minutes of yoga–which, admittedly, feels like a strange way to start half marathon training, but I want Sundays to be my yoga days when possible, so yoga it was. I went for my fastest run in quite some time on Monday and felt great. If all goes according to plan, I should log 13 total miles this week: the most I’ve run since October.

Training, whether for a full marathon, half marathon, 5K, or any other race, is a future-oriented endeavor by nature. I suppose that goes without saying, really. You put in the hours of running and cross training so that, in two, three, four, or however many months, you can show up on race day and do your best.

I’ve always understood that race day isn’t guaranteed. When I talk about my upcoming races, I generally include a qualifier–“if all goes well,” or something similar–because I’m aware that not everyone makes it to the start line. It makes me nervous to definitively say, “This is happening,” especially since I’ve spent enough of my running life in and out of physical therapy to know that just because you want to run a race doesn’t necessarily mean you will (particularly if you decide to stop doing your PT exercises because they’re boring and time consuming and then your hips get weak again and some other part of your lower body gets hurt again because you have apparently have nothing better to do with your time than pay a physical therapist hundreds of dollars to hang out with you and bruise your legs. Not that I would know anything about that, of course 😛 ).

Even though I’m aware that ~things~ can happen between day one of training and race day, all of my worst case scenarios have usually consisted of stress fractures or other season-ending injuries. I have never particularly worried about making it through the next two, three, four or however many months, period, just to get to race day, never mind run the race itself. The shockingly brief period of time between January 20 and today have changed that.

I didn’t realize quite how much I had taken political stability for granted until Trump was inaugurated. To be fair, Obama was the only president who had held office during my adult life, and while I was aware of politics when I was a kid, it’s not like I 1) paid that much attention or 2) had any sort of power whatsoever to do anything. Frankly, I was far more concerned about never getting A-‘s than I was with what Bush did in office, or with when my family’s cable package would include the Disney Channel than I was with anything Clinton did in office (and since I was between the ages of 0 and 2 when H.W. Bush was president, I, obviously, was not at all concerned with any of his actions or decisions). I didn’t spend my free time scrolling through the thoughts and opinions of friends and strangers on the Internet reading through everyone’s feelings, predictions, calls to arms, etc. Maybe this kind of outrage is normal when someone outside of the bubble you live in becomes commander-in-chief. But I doubt it.

I also didn’t realize quite how much I had taken my anxiety for granted until Trump was inaugurated. I worry, a lot, about just about everything under the sun. If I’m being totally honest, sometimes I think worrying is my safety blanket. It doesn’t feel normal to not worry about anything, so I generally find something to worry about to one degree or another. My big fears–fires, tornadoes, flying–are all, ultimately, rooted in a fear of dying, and while I absolutely worry about all three of those things, there is always, in the back of my head, a small voice reminding me that while I could die because of one of those things, I’m probably not going to. My oven probably will not spontaneously explode. A tornado probably won’t level my house. My airplane probably won’t fall out of the sky. That small voice can remind me of those things for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I have lived through turning my oven on and being in a house with a turned-on oven many, many times, through tornado-spawning severe thunderstorms, and through many flights before, and I almost assuredly will this time as well. Beyond that, literal billions of people also survive using ovens, severe thunderstorms, and flights annually. That small voice never manages to actually conquer my anxiety voice, but it at least tempers it a little bit. My anxiety and I, however, have never lived through a president who thumbs his nose at convention, then spits on it and throws dirt on it for good measure, and to say that this uncharted territory makes me nervous would be an early candidate for Understatement of the Year.

So much has happened in twelve days that trying to think twelve weeks into the future feels both impossible and terrifying. I don’t even want to try to imagine what kind of state the country could be in come April. I suppose everything could be just fine. Our built-in checks and balances could do their job. Our representatives and senators could break with their party lines or vote for the greater good of the country and its longevity than what their fears for 2018 dictate. The past two weeks have not made me particularly optimistic about things being “just fine,” however.

I’ve tried to do what I can to both maintain my sanity and stay accurately informed throughout all of this. I started donating to groups working for those whose rights and safety are in jeopardy, whether “those” are people or the environment. I’m subscribing to reliable media outlets–the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal. I…have not called my representative or senators, though I did at least figure out how my representative is, which I figure is a step in the right direction. (As a side note, I’m somewhat unsure what kind of impact calling my representative or senators would have. Unsurprisingly, living in Chicago, everyone representing me in Congress is…not aligned with Trump, to say the least, so it’s not like they need my convincing to stand up for what I believe is right. They’re already doing that. So I don’t know what impact attempting to engage them would have? This is a genuine question, so if anyone has insight, please feel free to let me know.) But all of these things feel so futile. What difference will one $25 donation, one subscription, one phone call make in the face of an administration that seems bent on stopping at absolutely nothing to get its own way? I feel so powerless, and I don’t know how to fix that, or if it’s even possible to fix that.

I suppose, in a very, very roundabout way, choosing to still train for my half marathons is my very, very small way of trying to hang onto the flickering spark of hope I (barely) have in my soul: the hope for a future that does not include revoking the Constitution, for a future that does not include depriving non-white, non-Christian, non-straight, non-male humans of their right to have the exact same rights as white, Christian, straight males, for a future that does not include war, for a future that does not see me fleeing to Canada, despite how increasingly tempting that prospect becomes day by day. Choosing to still train for my half marathon is my way of saying to myself that a future exists, even though at times it can be exceptionally difficult to believe that.

So I’ll continue running, and cross training, and totally failing at keeping up with my PT routine. I’ll continue doing what I can to fight for what I believe. And I’ll continue doing what I can to kindle the spark of hope in my soul and the soul of others into a fire.