Welcome Back

19 10 2010

Hello Friends!  My apologies for the radio silence in blog-land.  Where to begin?  Well, my last post was…well, the title really gave it away.  It was shitty.  And that’s okay.  I’m happy to report that the time I’ve been “away” from blogging has not been so, and has actually been radical.  Aside from my being a PITA (pain in the ass, for those of you new to the acronym) when I fell into my “feel sorry for myself” moods because I couldn’t run the marathon, I’ve taken this opportunity to rest and reconnect with other things that I enjoy.  And, hi, can I tell you guys how THANKFUL I am for your inspirational, supportive comments?  Seriously, you’ve put some amazing stuff on here that has really helped me when I was inching dangerously close to wallowing.  AND, with your generous donations, I’m so grateful and excited to say that we raised a cool $2K for the puppers and cat faces (and other wonderful creatures) at the Anti-Cruelty Society!  That’s freaking amazing!  Thank you!  So even though I did not run the marathon, your support and thoughtfulness endure and the fundraising effort was a true success.  Thank you, thank you!

I hope you all had marvellous rest of summers leading into this gorgeous autumn.  Autumn is by far my favorite time of year (love the weather!  love the clothes!  love the smell in the air!).  Everything feels cozy and magical to me.  And it’s also around this time that I begin to feel reflective and set some goals for the hibernation season.  Because, let’s face it, in Chicago, despite my best efforts to run in the winter and commute to work, the exposure to elements ends there.  The rest of the time, I prefer to be holed up in my tidy place, with Banjo on the couch, reading a good book and sipping some sort of spicy tea (Good Earth tea, anyone?  It’s amazing), looking down at the city from my window.  I get giddy just thinking about it.  Hell, I’m wearing a cardigan as I write this.  It goes without saying that I am in the mood for fall. 

Oh, so goals for the fall.  I’m going to get to those shortly, but the first step is to reflect a bit on what I’ve done thus far.  Though I originally approached this “healing time” as a crock and a nuisance, when I look back on the past month+, I’ve actually done some stuff.  For one, I stuck with my promise to myself to stay in shape and get stronger.  John Nelson, the most badass core fusion trainer in all the land, has been coming to my apartment (god bless him) three mornings a week to kick. my. ass.  He’s a doll and I feel really lucky to have plucked him from his few moments he’s not whipping Jennifer Beals into shape at Exhale (yes, this is true) to come to my place and torture me as only pilates can, while not using my left foot one little bit.  The result is that, even though I’ve been indulging in delightful food during my healing time, I am stronger than I’ve ever been.  Even my arms are getting some…dare I say it?  Muscle tone.  Holy crap!  Hurrah!  Can I afford to keep this kind of indulgent home pilates up forevermore?  Hell to the no.  But it’s oh so worth it for the past few weeks, and it’s keeping me motivated and sane.  And I can now probably beat most school children (under the age of 10, please) at arm wrestling, which has always been a life-long dream/goal.

I also have done some other delightful things during this time period:

  • Made some fun and rewarding strides at work (not to mention worked some late nights/weekends.  This is not “delightful”)
  • Got a library card and moseyed around the downtown public library (hi, did anyone else know that libraries are so freaking amazing?)
  • Visited the Art Institute (finally!)
  • Set up my sewing nook (yes, I said “nook”) and procured a beautiful Singer sewing machine (thanks, Mom!)
  • Had an awesome weekend with my Mom in town (super lady, super time)
  • Finally finished a book (sure, it’s just one.  And yes, it’s the sequel to “Eat, Pray, Love,” but a whole book is a big deal for me)
  • Saw about 4,000 movies (Inception, The Social Network, Catfish, Eat Pray Love, Waiting for Superman, It’s Kind of a Funny Story).  So many that staff at the AMC River East were likely beginning to recognize me.
  • Got may haircut into a sassy, Lois Lane-esque bob
  • Put my sad-sack disappointment aside and cheered Marathoners on (with my mom and Ironman Jim, which was just super) on 10.10.10, enjoying it the whole time.  I even got to see some of my running pals.  It was an awesome experience, as it always is.
  • Slept in on Saturdays, something I haven’t done consistently since I started the winter running group back in November.  This has led me to realize that sleeping in is really radical (duh, Ashlee).  It’s usually followed by my whipping up pumpkin pancakes and vegan sausage and coffee with cinnamon.  Then I bring it all into bed with me (I am shameless) and read a book, while Banjo looks longingly at my bed-feast.  It’s pretty heavenly.

So, yeah, it’s been time well spent.  Am I itching to run?  Heck yes.  But this time has given me a much better appreciation for my little friend known as my body.  This time around, when I’m given the okay to run again, I will ease back into it and be careful.  Do I want to run the marathon in 2011?  Absolutely.  But my body will let me know when it’s ready for that type of undertaking.  The nice thing is that when I do get back out there, I’ll be much more aware and appreciative of the scenery, the smell of the air, the sounds of my feet…all the good stuff that we try to tune out to get past the sometimes-drudgery of running.  I really look forward to reconnecting with the rush of freedom that running brings, the skyline lit up in the background on a cool evening.  It’s going to be awesome, and while I’m excited, I’m also patient.  I have my follow-up x-rays this Thursday, so come what may, I will be ready.  If I need longer to heal, so be it (Confession: I’ve been kind of a crap patient.  Doc said I was only supposed to walk 4 blocks a day, which is freaking IMPOSSIBLE for most turtles.  So, I’ve been keeping it at about 10 blocks a day :).  If I’m ready to roll, I will get some PT, clinical massage (YES), and new shoes.  That will be tres fun.

So, on to Autumn/Winter goals:

  1. Heal and get back to running and Bikram (yes, heat, please!)
  2. Visit my friends in NYC
  3. Take a jazz singing class.  Your requests are welcomed. 🙂
  4. Learn how to sew (um, let alone wind the friggin bobbin) on my sewing machine (Author’s Note: I found the most DARLING sewing book by Lotta Jansdotter.  I want to sew everything in it.  YES!) and make many kitschy, precious things like aprons and placemats with pockets for chopsticks and bandanas for Banjo.
  5. Make all of my holiday gifts by hand this year.  Yes, homemade holidays.  I’m loving it.  I will not divulge what I will be making (there are many things I’m dabbling in), but let’s just say I have a 50lb bag of sea salt coming to my home in a few days.  And no, I’m not preserving body parts or curing meat.
  6. Learn how to make bread in a La Cloche Clay Baker.  Have you seen these things?  They’re amazing.  I am not a gifted baker, but baking bread this way just feels so damn charming.  And doesn’t winter seem like the right time to bake bread?  I think so.
  7. Keep going to the public library and read books!  I sound like a toddler, but the library is a treasure.  I want to spend days and days there with tea just moseying around.  And, I want to get a biography of Ann Richards.  I love that tough Texas biatch.
  8. Drive to Dallas with Banjo to visit my family for Thanksgiving.  Forget the turkey!  I need me an open road and woman’s best friend this November.
  9. Cook in 5 nights of the week and pack my lunch four days a week.  I think I can do this, and in my mind, it seems easy enough.  Besides, the food near my office is garbage (yeah, I’m talking to you, Johnny Rocket’s), but the execution takes planning and that can get tricky.  Ah, well, we persevere.  It’s so tasty and such a money saver when you get the hang of it.  And I don’t know – while a packed lunch makes some people sad, seeing my neatly packed lunch in the office fridge, grinning back at me in anticipation of noon, is a hallmark of a good day.
  10. Not buy any new clothes until 2011.  This one will hurt, but it’s a good challenge.  I am, however, allowed to buy bras, tights, thermal underthings (I believe they are called “Cuddleduds” or something), and pajamas.

There you have it…my fall goals.  They’re not the loftiest, but they sure make me excited.  And that’s really what it’s all about.  What are yours?

Here’s wishing you  bright, beautiful leaves and big, steaming cups of cocoa to welcome the season!


Well, shit.

8 09 2010

Howdy, bloggies.  I apologize for the radio silence, but as you might have already inferred, no news (on the blog that is) in this case meant that I received some not-so-hot news from Dr. #2.  Let me start off with a grateful tone – I’ve been really fortunate in all aspects of my life, but on the injury side, I’ve been especially blessed.  Aside from getting hit in the head with a baseball bat in a freak 9th grade gym accident (sitting too close to home plate and a foreign exchange student threw the bat after she made contact with the ball.  The bat then gained momentum and made contact with my head, resulting in a lovely contusion the shape of a goose egg on my forehead right before picture day) and a series of stitches in my noggin (are you noticing a head injury theme here?) after an overzealous 4th of July where 5-6 year old me stood on a chair in the backyard, which tipped, thereby bucking me off and onto my parent’s (cement) garden statue of Buddah, I’ve never broken a bone, pulled a muscle to a debilitating point, or sprained anything, really.  I’m lucky and I certainly still feel very, very lucky and fortunate.

As you all know, I was experiencing some naggin foot pain, went to a clinical body worker (who thought it was my calf $80 later), a Podiatrist (who thought my right foot was my left foot, yikes), and finally to Dr. Chin at the Running Institute.  After some attentive poking, prodding, pushing, and making me march in place, we did a separate set of x-rays, and I was expecting to hear that I’d need to rest a bit or stretch more, or (gasp) sit out for a week and the be back in fighting shape.  You can imagine my shock/heartbreak when he emerged in the room, a sheepish look on his face, telling me how it’s been a difficult week because he’s already had to tell five people the same thing he’s about to tell me.  The exchange went something like this:

Dr: “Ashlee, I’m glad we caught this when we did.  There’s a stress fracture in your cuboid bone.”

Me: “Okay, um….”

Dr: “I’m going to have to direct you to stop your running for at least 4 – 6 weeks”

Me: <frantically doing calculations in my head as to when 4-6 weeks would be from then> “But I can run the Marathon?”

Dr: “I’m afraid not.”

Me: <uncontrollable waterworks/sobbing> “Not at all?”

Dr: <hands kleenex> “Not at all.  I’m so sorry.  If you run anymore on that foot, your bone will crack in half.”

Me: <Basically crying through the rest of the appointment, not absorbing anything he’s telling me.  At this point, I’m also in denial and entertaining visions of taping my foot up tight and running the Marathon anyway>

You get the idea.  So, um, Thursday was a difficult day, and the charge of not doing any weight-bearing activities on my left foot for 4-6 weeks has me a bit depressed.  And by a bit, I mean, in all honesty, a lot depressed.  No running, walking (beyond normal here and there), yoga, elliptical, biking, high heels (or any heels for that matter – I am getting outfitted with an immobilizing plate in my sneakers – sneakers and work pants = hot), no dancing, and no fun!  I’m sure that I’ll get over it and I’m working toward reframing this recovery time as a positive thing, but after all the running (I was up to 16 miles in one shot), 7 months of training, the cross-training (riding my bike, hot yoga, pilates), the blogging, the lobbying for the cause, not to mention, perhaps the most potent of them all, the visualization of running the Marathon, having my family and friends pile into Chicago to lend their support, and all of your support and interest, and (fuck) the finish line and the feelings of crossing it, it’s proving difficult to get used to this prescription of no running.  And could it be the auspicious tune of 10.10.10, the banners all over town, the painted watertower along the highway with images of triumphant runners on it, that is making the sting all the worse?  Perhaps it’s the ushering in of lovely, cool, fallish weather that literally speaks to my body to slap on a pair of sneakers and unload the demons of the day on the path?

I know that to many, the thought process is “it’s just one race,” or “it’s no big deal,” but running has taken on a more spiritual side to it for me – and the Marathon, something I laughed at and even feared, became a personal goal I was working hard to tackle with aplomb and joy.  Without belaboring it much more, I, like many people, am not the kind of person to respond well to someone telling me that I can’t do something.  I take it as a personal challenge and it only makes me want whatever I can’t have all the more.  I love my foot (did that sound weird?), and appreciate my body, but the dream and investment of the marathon training has me feeling that, by following Doc’s orders, I am abandoning a dear friend or something very precious.  On Friday morning, after lots of crying, I got ready for work and headed outside to catch the bus (something I haven’t done since last winter), part of my “rest up” commuting plan.  I felt hopeful and good, like things were in reasonable perspective.  I looked around me and life (of course) was going on, joyfully, methodically, and nothing had really changed.  Phew, what a relief!  Then, I looked up and saw a Marathon advertisement on the top of the bus and started getting misty eyed.

This sadness is creeping up on me and I know I both have to sit with it and acknowledge it, and simultaneously find ways to manage it, eventually replacing it with the joy of a new challenge.  Patience and moderation are not my strong suits, but I am blessed with a fantastic network of friends and family (thank you to all of you for your caring concern and positivity).  I think one of the lingering feelings is that I’ve let everyone down, including myself.  In reality, I know that I had no jurisdiction over whether or not I got a stupid stress fracture, but everyone has been so supportive with encouragement, donations, and good will, that it pains me to not see this through.  Of course, I already have my sights set on next year’s Marathon, but like any person possessed by running, I am acutely aware that every week I lose two weeks’ worth of fitness, and that by the time I’m approved to run again, I’ll be doing 1 – 3 milers, easy pace only once or twice a week.  This may sound like bitching, but it’s just normal trepidation.  One of the positive things to come out of this experience is that, and mark my words, Bloggies, every run after this point will be precious.  I will have this experience to remind me of how fortunate I am to have all of my other parts in good working order, and to trump the petty concerns of feeling tired or not being able to run fast – just the act of running will be a joy that I will savor.

So, on to the positive stuff, because far too much time has been devoted to feeling upset and sad about this.  Here are some positives that I came up with on Thursday night (not the best frame of mind) versus my positives now.  I think the change shows how proactive I’m trying to be about this whole thing:

Thursday Pros: To give you an idea of my mood, when thinking about a blog post or email to people, the resounding subject line was “Fractured Hopes.”  Tres gauche!  Super dramatic!  It makes me laugh now! (shakes head)

  • I have a high tolerance for pain, according to the Dr., having run 10 miles on the fracture through the pain, without any meds or cortisone shots
  • I will set my sights on another race and come back more determined (as if I needed that.  Yikes)
  • I can come back faster and perhaps do better than my projected time for this Marathon

Now Pros:

  • I can use this as an opportunity to refocus and spend more time with friends, reading, cooking, resting, and doing other things that I generally did not have as much time for because Marathon training is all-encompassing
  • I can use this opportunity to learn how to be a stronger swimmer and to log quality in-pool time with my expert swimmer beau
  • I can use this time to get stronger and focus on muscle conditioning
  • I can use this time to learn how to meditate, generally be more relaxed, and re-embrace the importance of rest
  • I’ll eventually get outfitted for some seriously kick ass running shoes 🙂
  • I’ll pick a winter race somewhere warm and ease into it
  • I’ll use this as an opportunity to connect with a cool coworker who is a canoe guide (she suggested canoeing as a non-weightbearing exercise that would satisfy my urge to be outside) – so psyched!
  • I’ll use this time and experience to lighten up a bit – marathon training made me understandably intense, but this will help me to see the lighter, more natural side of physical activity and to appreciate the little things instead of the huge goals
  • Um, I didn’t break my cuboid bone, which is pretty rad
  • All the awareness and money that was raised for the ACS is not lost – thanks to you guys, the puppers and catfaces will still benefit from your kindness regardless of whether or not I run (thanks again!)

And because goals are just dreams without actions, I’ve done the following to get crack-a-lackin’:

  • I reached out to my favorite pilates teacher to arrange some in-home personal training to keep me strong without putting weight on my feet
  • I joined a local pool, so I can swim whenever I get the urge to move (bonuses: it was cheap and has a (kinda skeevy) sauna)
  • I bought some books on low-impact pilates, proper running form, and meditation so I can make the most of this down time and improve my running form to prevent further injury
  • I’m taking calcium supplements, soaking and icing the foot, religiously wearing the foot tape and compression sock (oh so glam), and am generally being a good patient
  • I’m starting to actually look forward to using this time effectively and to cultivate new skills

Perhaps that was too deep of a delve into my subconscious, but hey, it can’t be all about cute running gear and people vandalizing my bike!  I also thought about just stopping this blog, but upon further consideration, I actually think this is the perfect time to keep going.  I won’t be running for a little while, but I will leave the light on and chronicle this experience – if only for posterity’s sake.

Thank you again for your love and support – and for generally being fricking radical.  And for helping me see the bright sides of this.  And for putting up with me (that one’s really for Jim) while I get over this.  I’m going to make you proud, and I’m going to make me proud by seeing this through.

The Power of (or a plea for?) Positive Thinking, and the interesting intersections of the Universe

2 09 2010

Hello, pals!  Firstly (do I start a lot of my entries off like that?  Eh…), thank you so much for the outpouring of support for and inquiry about the ankle/foot.  It really means a lot and has been keeping me in good spirits, despite the countless hours spent (what I call) “dilly dallying” instead of adhering to my training schedule.  It’s making me batty!  I wish I could report that the foot is significantly better, but it’s not.  I had a few good days, and then took a yoga class, which seems to have exacerbated the bad ache all over again.  The excellent news is that I am seeing a running doc tomorrow at a very highly recommended running place, so I’m confident that I will get a definitive diagnosis and plan.  It’s the uncertainty that gets me, so I’ve been very cautious and respectful of my body.  That being said, I would so love and appreciate if you could send some positive vibes my way for a good diagnosis/outcome.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would feel/react in the off-chance that I was told I would not be able to run the Marathon, and let’s just say I don’t like going to that place.  So, fingers crossed for getting on the road to recovery and happily resumed training!  And thanks again – I feel like the luckiest gal in town having your support.

The universe is an interesting place.  Chicago’s is now splattered with lovely 10-10-10 banners that simultaneously make me nervous and giddy.  They’re of “everyday” Chicagoans, which is interesting, because I was noticing that some of them looked familiar.  When I checked out the website’s list of those used in the campaign, I found that both my dermatologist and a former client of mine (when I was a consultant, not a street walker…I kid) are representing for the running contingency.  It’s always interesting to discover that people you interact with have similar passions and interests.

So, wanted to put that request for some extra positive vibes out there before I hit the hay and thank you again for all of your support and enthusiasm.  It’s pretty cool to find that, what started out as something (admittedly) kinda unpleasant and (sorta) ridiculous, has become something I’m not just into because I’ve invested a lot, but also something that is a real source of joy and peace in my life.  While nursing an injury has been frustrating, it’s also made running and all of my other abilities all the more precious to me, and that’s always a welcomed thing.  We could all stand to be a little more grateful for everything we’re blessed with.

It’s 38 days until the Marathon – here’s to hoping that I’ll be there at the start line!  I’ve also been watching “Spirit of the Marathon” again – it keeps the fire burnin’, even while I’m sitting at home.  It’s a great overview of what the day is like – exciting stuff.  Click the link about to watch it.

Sending lots of good wishes your way!

WTF is a Cuboid Bone anyway? and other joys of logging longer distances (10 Miles)

30 08 2010

Hello and good day, friends!

Last week was crazy busy, so I apologize for the delay.  Between a sopping carpet, replaced lovely plush carpet (and the furniture moving required to get said plushy carpet), and constant icing of an aching ankle/foot, I still managed to (unhappily) bang out 10 miles this past Saturday.  All seemed fine with my foot for the first 5 miles, but after that, I was in discomfort and knew something was up.  It’s amazing how during training for something one slight teency weency glitch and you become a paranoid knob hitting up every specialist in town.  I mean, it’s understandable – it’s your body, you’ve been training for ages and don’t want to be sidelined by an injury, and let’s face it, getting accustomed to working out 5 – 6 days per week (perhaps a slight exaggeration on my part, but let me dream, people!) and then being told to not run for a week, is frustrating.  Certainly not the end of the world, but I have considered taking up knitting or something.  So, this week began the slew of appointments.  This morning I went to AthletiCo for an inujry screening and this afternoon I saw a podaitrist.  I am now wearing a beige-tan old lady type compression hose on my left leg, with white padding sticking out the side of my otherwise darling Crocs slingback flats.  I also have anti-inflammatory cream (think: Ben Gay’s more expensive, prescription cousin) and a scrip for physical therapy (see: clinical massage – not too shabby!) on my calves, ankles, and feet twice a week for three weeks.  And another podaitrist appointment on Thursday.  Hmph.  Now, I’m not a very medical person, peeps.  I mean, I grew up going to Christian Science sunday school (which was just lovely, btw, for all the haters), and while I certainly don’t still practice or shun modern medicine, it’s just not really in my nature to max out my health insurance.  What could be causing all of this commotion?  A little guy called my left cuboid bone.  He’s moving because my calf is weak or something and the movement hurts.  This is the little punk who’s responsible for me icing my ankle every 15 minutes on the hour and hobbling around my apartment like someone out of the show “Mama’s Place” (I’m trying to conjure images of floral mumus and curlers in my hair, which is not entirely accurate, but let’s pretend, shall we?).  While it’s not a precise diagnosis, I was comforted to find this account of physical therapy gone very right for this condition.  Can they really just massage my foot and then POP feeling better?  That would be awesome, because I’m seriously jonesing to run (who thought I would be saying that?) and would love some relief.  Man, definitely a nice reminder to be thankful for all the things that *are* working well and feeling healthy.

So, I can’t say that it was a particularly eventful weekend, as I had to miss a dear friend’s bday (sorry, Monica) festivities because it hurt too much even to wear my Crocs two seconds to the kitchen and I ain’t wearing that kind of footwear to a glitzy piano bar. 🙂  I did enjoy some lovely food and a special 4 year old’s birthday party before intense foot ache sank in.  On Sunday morning, Ironman Jim did the Chicago Triathlon, and I welcomed him home with a veggie brunch spread of whole grain flax, pumpkin, coconut, walnut pancakes (they tasted less overloaded than the description sounds), orange raspberry syrup, veggie sausage links with salsa, and fresh coffee with cinnamon.  It was a delightful, albeit cobbled-together from the pantry, breakfast.  Then we spent the day with our very special pooches and capped off the evening with a trip (our first ever) to Veggie Bite, a vegan fast-good place in Wicker Park.  OMG!  What the place lacks in marketing and glossiness, it more than makes up for with the down-to-earth staff, principled platform (they have Mercy for Animals flyers along the wall and the staff is super veg-friendly/knowledgeable), and freaking delicious food.  Like, you have one bite and then, with your mouth full try to exclaim, “Oh, we are SO coming back here again.”  We had the Bite Burger, which is delightfully reminiscent of a Big Mac (sans the artery-clogging trans fat and the animal cruelty), complete with a great vegan version of the special sauce.  We also had the Fajita Wrap, which was really delicious.  The seitan was firm, the sauce really made the wrap special and spicy, and the tortilla was simply the best I’ve ever had.  We also gorged on crispy fries and one of the best milkshakes I’ve ever had.  Of course, the term “milk” is not applicable here, but let’s just say that their shakes are amazing.  So creamy, no funky cardboardy aftertaste, and loads of flavor.  The chocolate coffee was the shake flavor of the evening.  After chatting with the manager, and giddily finding out that Veggie Bite hosts vegetarian meet ups quite often, we took a stroll to Mana Food Bar and sat outside, enjoying the beautiful evening over a watermelon mint sake cocktail (hey, I’m resting this week).  It was a wonderful way to wind down from the weekend and prepare for the week ahead. 

So, here’s hoping that your week is beautiful, injury-free, and full of joy.  I’ll keep you apprise when I’m back up and running.  And please cross your fingers for a speedy recovery – Saturday is the big 18-mile run, so I am going to try to be a good patient to prepare to tackle it.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire (16 Miles)

24 08 2010

Happy Tuesday, faithful blogfriends!  I hope that you all enjoyed beautiful weekends full of good weather and fun.  Mine started off with a nice Friday evening dining at our fave Lebanese place and heading to bed early to rest up for the Saturday run (so is my life these past 5 months).  Saturday morning was drizzly and cool, and the group set out at 6:30am to tackle 16 miles.  I’m not going to lie – it was tough.  I stopped to stretch a few times and drank more Gatorade than I care to recount.  The drizzle was cooling and the weather was pretty cooperative.  It took me awhile, given all of the breaks, but I finished and was still alive!  I attribute a virtuous week of dedicated training and nutrition (sans the cream puffs I indulged in at a recently discovered ‘Beard Papas’ chain in the pedway).  I then got a deep-tissue massage, which was lovely, and went home to take a nap.  I woke up from the nap, made dinner plans with Jim, and continued to lounge in bed with the Banjster, reading magazines and talking on the phone with my Dad.  In the middle of our conversation, I heard a strange noise coming from the walls.  Was it construction outside?  Was it a pipe that had suddenly turned on?  I listened to it for a few minutes, shirking it off as something technical, but safe that I did not understand, and went about my business.  A few minutes later, I smelled what smacked of incense and knew something was amiss.  So, out into the hall I trotted in my pyjama pants and newly acquired (tres proud of it) “Mean People Wear Fur” PETA shirt, only to discover that my neighbor’s apartment was on fire, and the noise I had heard but could not decipher was the sprinklers.  I knocked on the door, smoke billowing under the door crack, and called my neighbors.  They were not in the apt, but their dog, Chestnut, was.  No sooner was I trying to jimmy my way in, than Robert, the best guy you could ever have working at your building, came on the floor, having seen that the sprinklers were going off.  I told him the dog was in the apt, he raced down to get the keys, and meanwhile, I made sad attempts to bust open the door (like, really pathetic).  Robert returned with the keys, opened the door, and all we saw was lots of smoke.  We called to the dog.  No answer.  We couldn’t hear anything either because the sprinklers were so loud.  We attempted to edge into the hallway, but the whole place was filled with smoke.  I went into my apt, got a towel, wet it under the faucet, and was prepared to wrap us in it so we could run in and make the rescue.  Right as we were about to dash in (seriously, it was like, cinematic), Jim came off the elevator, stopping us in our tracks.  The Fire Dept. was right behind him and hello, Jim reminded us how unsafe it is to bust into a burning building (His exact words: “Ash, don’t ever open the door to a burning apartment again.  They made a movie about that shit; it’s called ‘Backdraft'”).  The Fire Dept. came and I began to cry because they were ushering us off the floor and I didn’t want to leave without knowing the dog was okay (Banjo was on a leash and with me at this point, so I’m not an irresponsible dog mom, in case you were wondering).  Right then, a firefighter, god bless ’em, handed a sooty, wet, squirmy Chestnut over to Jim.  She was scared, but a-okay.  We then walked down the 28 flights of stairs with both puppers, and ended up watching Chestnut for the night.  She’s an active little creature, to say the least, wildly unaffected by the events of the day.  Jim was such a trooper, helping out in every way and being the best partner ever, and I felt positively exhausted after a day of running, attempted animal rescue, and a sleepless night with an active fire pup.  It’s a blessing that everyone was alright and that my neighbor’s apartment is largely salvageable.  The fire was in the kitchen, but the rest of their place is okay.  And as for the surrounding apartments, the sprinklers kept the fire from spreading, and we’re all getting new carpet (yippee) because ours are soaked.  And everything smells like burnt plastic, which is a truly interesting smell.  But it’s certainly an important reminder that at the end of the day, stuff is just stuff, and the things that matter are the people and critters that make our lives so rich and happy.  I also gotta give mad props to Robert – he’s truly a hero.  I’ve told everyone who will listen this story, because I think it’s so extraordinary to find someone like Robert, with a big, courageous heart.  He was going to put it all on the line to rescue this dog, and I feel so fortunate to live in a building where he and the rest of the staff rallied together to respond in extraordinary and quick ways.  His humility is really inspiring, as well.  When we saw him later that night and were lauding him with hero talk, he got all misty eyed and simply said, “I didn’t want anything to happen to you” (directed to Chestnut).  A real hero in our midst!  We’re all so lucky! 

So, it’s been an active weekend to say the least.  And let’s talk for a moment about how I need to get my evacuation act together.  When Jim was like, “get Banj and let’s get off the floor!  There’s a fire, Ash!” I proceeded to putter around my apartment, not knowing what to get.  I grabbed my purse, Banjo (of course), jeans, flip flops, deodorant (what?), my watch, cell phone, and a pen.  Truly a strange selection of “necessities.”  No passport or credit cards or laptop.  I guess it really hits home that the only thing in my apartment that is truly irreplaceable to me is Banjo, so as long as I’ve got her, I don’t really need anything else.  I know that’s kind of a “duh,” but you get my drift.

My ankle has been hurting since yesterday morning and I think it’s likely related to, oh, ya know running 16 miles and walking down 28 flights of stairs.  So, I’m icing and resting it.  Fingers crossed that it will be on the mend!  Downtown Chicago now sports lovely 10.10.10 banners everywhere you look.  I’m really doing this, people!  Exciting, scary, whoa!  This weekend is a paltry (ha!) 10 mile “cutback run.”  Then it’s all uphill from there.  I gotta tell ya, there’s a certain delirium that sets in after 3 1/2 hours of running.  It’s like, I hear songs on my iPod, but I don’t really know what they’re saying.  And I can taste Gatorade and feel my calves burning, but I sorta just keep going.  Your body really does become mechanical about the whole thing, which is extraordinary to experience.  So, all-in-all, a lucky weekend and beautiful Chicago weather for the week to come.  Enjoy!

A Glamorous Way to Help Homeless Animals

20 08 2010

The shelter community is an awesome one.  You can randomly meet a friend-of-a-friend, or, in this case, an Aunt of a friend and hit it off immediately.  Valerie Schey is a downright kick ass lady.  Not only is she one hell of a runner (I met her at the PAWS Run for their Lives 8K last year where she smoked the competition in her age group – a true dynamo!), but she’s an amazing advocate for animals.  She’s the force behind CARE of South Bend Animal Care and Control, and man does she do great work (check out their Facebook page where they have updated pics of pooches and kittens up for adoption, as well as triumphant snaps of the adopted ones heading home with their new families).  She’s an inspiration and she’s now doing a kick ass deal to benefit the shelter, while also doing what you need to do to stay gorgeous.  This is truly a deal that appeals to dudes and dudettes alike.  Pass along to your friends, family members, work colleagues, or someone you feel is in desperate need of some highlights (I kid…).  If you’re in-need of a salon appointment anyway, it’s a win-win!:

Help homeless animals while you “Spa and Share”! On September 13, 14 and 15th, when you present the attached voucher (Spa and Share Voucher) at check out at any one of the 19 Mario Tricoci Salon and Day Spas in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs; 10% of your total purchase will go toward helping the homeless animals of South Bend Animal Care and Control*. It’s a win-win! While you’re enjoying a day (or an hour) of beauty and relaxation, you can help the homeless and abandoned animals in our shelter.

Mario Tricoci (http://www.tricoci.com/) is a wonderful salon and spa that I have been using for many years now. I have attached a copy of their spa menu which also lists their locations. I have also attached a copy of the voucher which you need to present at the time of your purchase.

* South Bend Animal Care and Control (SBACC) is an open door shelter. No animal in need is ever turned away. Every year, we receive thousands of lost, abused, abandoned and owner surrender animals. We provide them with a warm and safe place to sleep, food, medical care and loving attention. We place as many animals as possible into their forever homes through our adoption program.
When an animal enters our facility, we assess the animal’s health and temperament in order to determine their adoptability. We do everything within our resources to treat sick animals, rehabilitate abused animals, and address correctable behavioral issues. In addition to the SBACC adoption program, SBACC works with several local and national rescue groups to insure that our animals have every chance to find loving, lifelong homes.
The Community Animal Rescue Effort (CARE) of South Bend is a not for profit, 501(C)3 organization that was incorporated in June of 2008.Created to serve an unmet need for the South Bend Animal Shelter (SBACC); CARE works to support SBACC through volunteer and fundraising activities.

Life is Beautiful…Me running is, um, not so much (16 miles)

19 08 2010

Hello, All!  It’s been awhile and man, some awesome stuff has transpired since then.  For one, you guys have seriously stepped up with the fundraising.  Thank you and keep it coming, baby.  Secondly, Chicago Now’s Marathon Missfit spotlighted yours truly, See Shlee Run, on her blog last Thursday in the “Running Feet, Helping Hands” section: http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/marathon-missfit/2010/08/running-feet-helping-hands–the-anti-cruelty-society.html.  Alas, she deleted the link to my blog, but ultimately, I understand – it’s apparently a competitive world out there for bloggers. 🙂 I’m very grateful for the exposure for the ACS’ awesome cause and the response has been sensational. 

As for the title of this blog…well, it came from a lingering feeling I’ve had over the past few weeks.  You see, the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon has this fun gadget where they film you as you cross the finish line.  Needless to say, after seeing mine, I was left feeling a bit disenchanted.  In my mind, I’m trucking it across the finish line like a fast/cool-as-shit gazelle, looking fine in my sweet duds, and fast as lightning.  The reality was so grim that even Jim in his genuine sweetness could not pinpoint me in the crowd because we both thought I was actually a middle-aged Athena-like figure with a red face trotting along.  Now, I’m not saying this to focus on the negative, or to illumine a bad body image.  Rather, running has made me feel awesome about myself and my fitness level.  I’m relating this because coming to terms with my finish lining not being quite as glam as I’d hoped has helped me to really not give a care what I look like when I run, which I’m finding, is a very beautiful thing.

We’re truly in the home stretch here.  Last weekend was a 14-mile run, that I had to miss because I was doubled over with a tres glam stomach bug all Friday night.  After lots of miso soup, tea, water, and crackers (and some sunshine and lots of rest), I went to yoga on Sunday and vowed to tackle this weekend’s 16-miler with aplomb.  Yes, 16 miles.  Yes, I am shaking in my boots.  No, I don’t want to think about it.  Yes, your prayers are welcomed. 🙂  The weather has given way to breezy, cool hints of fall and it’s making me SO happy and excited.  I adore fall – it’s my favorite season, and I think a favorite for runners, as well.  The weather makes you feel faster, lighter, and generally happier.  There’s a coziness about the season, while the mild coolness still makes the outdoors accessible and desirable.  It’s simply the best racing weather possible.  I can’t wait to smell that crisp, slightly smoky fall air as I run; it will make me all the more excited for 10.10.10.

I’m adhering to the training schedule as much as possible and joined a hot yoga studio so I can get both cross-training and flexibility in one shot.  Hot yoga, or Bikram, is so amazingly therapeutic and overall awesome.  Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.  While I’m naturally pretty flexible, the heat truly limbers you up and I would credit practicing Bikram regularly with mitigating a lot of injuries, sprains, and strains that other runners experience.  Plus it’s so blissful to be in the dry heat and silence testing your body.  I love the dry heat of saunas because there’s something restorative about sweating out all of the toxins that might be holding you back or making you feel less-than-stellar.  Not to mention, it’s the best cure-all for when you feel a cold/flu/bug coming on.  I’ve also been riding my bike everywhere.  Seriously, I’m a ridin’ fool…so much so that I am choosing my work attire based upon what is riding friendly (i.e. won’t get caught in my chain or flash my privates to all of State Street).  It’s a great way to break through the morning haze on the way to work and I love the challenge of figuring out how to get places on my beloved Astrid.  Last week, I biked to Logan Square from my apartment in under 30 minutes.  It was a great ride, and a kindly police officer in Wicker Park even gave me a free bike light.  Hurrah!

I’ve been trying to eat more at home, because really guys, my eating out was getting out of control.  My fridge was sad and contained a withering cucumber, a half-drunk bottle of strawberry kefir, a Heineken, and a piece of semi-moldy cheese.  This is not how I like to operate.  So, one Trader Joe’s run later, I am feeling like a whole woman again and have been making some lovely, quick, and easy meals that make my tummy and wallet happy.  I promised that I would share some recipes and I think that now is the time!  I made a simple, healthy stir fry the other night that lasted for dinner and two lunches.  I’m a very improvisational cook, so my measuring is…eh, not so good.  Be creative and enjoy:

Dead Easy 9 Veggie Stir Fry


  • Trader Joe’s Seven Veggie Chopped Medely
  • **If this is not available, then I recommend finely chopping: Jicama, Cabbage, Carrots, Broccoli, Onions, bok choy, peppers (red, green, yellow, orange, whatever makes you happy), or any other veggie you like to stir fry with
  • Rice Noodles (1 cup)
  • 3 stalks green onion
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce (or Bragg’s Aminos, if you prefer)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • A little chopped (or jarred and minced) Ginger, to taste
  • Handful of whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • Pinch of curry powder
  • Few shakes of Tabasco, if you like some spice
  • Few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • Few shakes of garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen, shelled edamame
  • 1/2 cup water (for a more watery sauce)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or sesame oil, or whatever oil you like to stir fry with, people)
  • One packet of Arby’s Sauce (I had it on hand and it seemed like a fun addition)

In a large skillet or wok, sautee garlic, oil, and almonds (putting them in early will make them deliciously soft when it’s time to serve) together.  Once slightly sizzly (whatever that means), add the remaining veggies (except edamame and saving some of the green onions for garnish), soy sauce, vinegar, spices, ginger, and sauce packet (if you procure Arby’s sauce for this, you’re my hero).  While that’s simmering on a low heat, bring water to a boil in another pot.  Once boiling, add rice noodles and allow to cook for 7 minutes (or as indicated on package).  Stir occasionally.  Revisit your sauce and add water if necessary and edamame.  Once noodles are done cooking, drain and add them to your sauce.  Stir up and serve in a bowl, garnished with raw, chopped green onions and serve with cute chopsticks.  Best eaten when warm (so the noodles are softer), but still excellent when cold.

Mushrooms would also be delightful in this stirfry, as would sweet potato or squash, to make the flavor a bit richer.  Why not add some Daikon Radish or other veggie fun?  Or some leafy greens like spinach, kale, or collards?  The key is to not overcook or over saturate your veggies so they’re still crispy when it comes time to chow down.  And hey, I didn’t have 5 Spice powder or anything else Asian-y and fun on hand, but I’m sure that would be freaking delicious.  I had a speedwork run in the evening after having this for lunch and I felt strong and energized!

I’m off to yoga and I wish you all a wonderful rest of the week!