Category Archives: Uncategorized

Training ambitions, and the unexpected prime obstacle to meeting them

Given I currently have some extra time on my hands, I’m reviewing my upcoming schedule in preparation for winter training. I want to work towards 60-70 miles a week this next training cycle, which may sound scary to the uninitiated until I mention that I was topping 50 miles per week without much trouble during Chicago Marathon training.

While I’m open to staying with a training load around 40-50 miles per week, I do want to stretch out and give 60+ a shot by extending my weekday runs, making sure I go 120-150 minutes on Saturday long runs, and mixing in some brief morning or lunchtime weekday runs in addition to my typical postwork runs. If it turns out to be too physically demanding, I can always scale back to a more regular workload, but for all sorts of reasons I’ll get into someday I believe I can now handle the larger workload.

That said, the biggest obstacle to running more miles isn’t whether my body can handle it, or even the wear on my shoes (my budget is tighter than it was a year ago, but I can always buy another 1-2 pairs of training shoes if I need it).

The problem is whether or not I can eat enough to compensate for all the extra calories I would burn.

I’m looking to get my diet super clean going into this next training cycle, as well as make it more affordable and simplified. An optimal diet that served all of the above only fed me about 2400 calories. That is well and good for weight loss, if I’m not running more than a couple miles every day. I would obviously be running much more than a couple miles per day.

Again, every mile I walk or run burns about 125 calories. I have actually been walking more the last few days, and have hit 3000 calories burned the last couple days despite no running. It’s fairly easy for me to burn calories when I’m active, and during my 30ish miles per week training days I would easily burn 3300-3500 calories.

If I’m running closer to 9 miles per day, that’s an extra 600-650 calories per day I’d burn, and even if I make the extra effort to take it easy in the rest of my life, I’ll easily burn 3500-3600 calories per day.

Okay, you may say… you’re looking to cut fat anyway, and this would be a great opportunity to shed some more of it, right? What’s the harm?

One of the reasons you don’t want to run a huge calorie deficit is the risk of muscle wasting. While it’s in general considered a cardio exercise, running requires substantial lower body strength, and along with depleting glycogen stores you break down lower body muscle. Proper nutrition allows you to rebuild those damaged muscles as well as restore your glycogen stores.

You’re already playing with fire when you run a calorie deficit, and being able to do so safely during training requires some mindful planning and execution. Even then, you should not run a deficit of greater than 500 calories a day. If I’m going to burn 3500 calories a day, I need to take in about 3000 calories to prevent myself from burning out or getting hurt.

And I probably should not take in as much fat as I have. I’m not looking to go low-fat with my diet revisions, because again the body absolutely needs dietary fat. But I do want to work on staying within 80-85g of fat per day, which means the answer to my dilemma is not as simple as committing to pounding a frozen pizza every day.

And as much as I’d like to go paleo or similar, I don’t want to compromise my performance or development by avoiding carbs and the needed glycogen.

Okay, so just eat a bunch of carbohydrates, right? Well, easy to say sure, since I’m going to burn them every day.

But there’s only so many carbs I can stomach. Most healthy carb-rich foods can be very dense and contain a lot of insoluble fiber. I found during my “sure, I’ll carb load” diet phases in previous years that the most carbs I could handle in a day is about 400-500g. And I could only hit that mark now and again: On a daily basis I can’t consistently consume more than 350g of carbohydrate.

Right now I’m eating about 300-400 calories of potatoes with dinner. I can probably handle about 3-4 bananas at most, and eating all of the above means taking in an uncomfortably large amount of insoluble fiber. Either way, I don’t think I can stomach much more than that.

Plus, your stomach can only process so many nutrients before just passing the rest or storing the difference as fat. Carbs do get stored as fat once the window closes on your body’s absorption capabilities. So eating a ton of carbs isn’t really an easy solution.


So, looking at my diet, after factoring in the foods I do and can consistently eat… I realized I had a deficit of about 600 calories if I want to train at a higher volume. How to cover it?

One answer is to swap out potatoes (at least on some days) with semolina-based pasta. I mentioned fusilli as a pasta of choice, though organic elbow macaroni is an option as well thanks to its density. Both provide more carbs in a meal (as many as 60g extra, plus some extra protein) than potatoes do overall.

However, potatoes provide a ton of potassium that pasta does not. It can be possible to supplement the traditional way: By making pasta with marinara sauce. I eat my pasta plain with salt, broth and coconut oil for seasoning. But a cup of marinara sauce adds about 800mg of potassium, which would cover most of the gap.

While it’s not totally my cup of tea, I’m not opposed to quickly heating a cup of marinara or similar pasta sauce and dumping that onto the pasta for dinner with my chicken. And, while not as much, pasta sauce also comes with a few extra carbohydrates.

I also find that sometimes at work I need an afternoon snack. If I commit to quick-prep oatmeal, that can provide some extra carbohydrate on key days.


All of these options of course have a common problem: They’re processed foods. And while inexpensive, it gets away from the whole food philosophy I’ve been working to follow and maintain with my diet. I wouldn’t want to eat these items exclusively, let alone every day.

None of this is to say I’ve found the solution. These are mostly just the options I’m considering ahead of 2019. The good news is I don’t have to find an answer now. Go-Time for this plan would be about 2.5 months down the road.

But it does present an interesting dilemma: If you want to train high-mileage, how do you make sure you get enough energy to eat to maintain that workload?

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What do I eat when I eat “junk” or processed food? A long primer on my favorite processed and “junk” food

So I always mention that while I eat clean most of the time, I do eat processed food about 20% of the time, and often I exercise some judgment (as well as obviously taste) in what I eat that 20% of the time.

Selected frozen pizzas

Despite living in arguably the pizza capital of the world, I don’t go or order out for pizza that much. First of all, that can get expensive in a hurry, there are just as many local varieties of frozen Chicago pizza in stores, and you can often get far more pizza for your buck when you buy it frozen at the store.

Usually, I try and get a pie totaling about 1200-1500 calories, something I can eat in one sitting when I need a huge protein/carb/fat boost. Most mainstream store varieties are TOO calorie dense, and taste a little too chemically plasticine for my liking. The one mainstream variety I’m still down with is the relatively light Newman’s Own, though availability is come and go in Chicago.

Here in Chicago, I usually go with Eastside Cafe, whose protein-rich local ingredients and thin crust make it far superior to everything else on the shelf. Whole Foods generally carries it in spades (I usually get cheese or sausage given that’s available on the shelf), though Eastside distributes locally in Warrenville on the far west side of Chicagoland if anyone in town is willing to make a road trip and take their pick. (Someday on a free weekday I’ll make the trip so I can finally try their pepperoni pizza)

Other local Chicago varieties I like are Screamin Sicilian (known for overloading their mid-thick pies with toppings) and Reggios (the latter of which originated as a restaurant that still runs today). Home Run Inn and Connie’s are okay (those two also run local restaurants: A Home Run Inn location is about 15 minutes from my apartment), though HRI is a little plasticine, and Connie’s frozen pizzas have a bunch of random fragments that tend to get everywhere.

The key with picking these pizzas is that they are protein rich, not TOO calorie rich, and made largely with fresh local ingredients (even if they are processed with some variety of manufactured chemicals). When I need a protein bomb on a protein-weak day, or I’m a bit too gassed to cook a meal, they are a solid fallback option.

Fairlife Reduced Fat Lactose Free Chocolate Milk

I’m not totally lactose intolerant, but my body has a shallow stop-loss when it comes to milk consumption. It’s hit and miss whether a decent quantity of milk or ice cream will send me to the crapper like a hockey player serving time in the penalty box for slashing.

This variety of Fairlife’s chocolate milk removes the lactose, eliminating that risk, and allowing me an easy opportunity to pound a taste-friendly 19 grams of protein in a 12 oz glass, or a single serve 11.5 oz bottle.

Sadly, Treasure Island Foods’ demise means I no longer have an easy go-to spot to get this, and I’ll need to find a new place to get it. But it makes for a great post-workout drink, a poor man’s protein shake… as well as a great dessert option, or even an overnight appetite-cover if hunger wakes me up during the night.

I’m not into drinking it everyday since it is flavored, processed milk. But you could do far worse with regards to chocolate milk, and it’s not as expensive as protein shakes.

English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches

I do not discriminate much when it comes to breakfast sandwiches. If you can slap meat, eggs and cheese between two toasted english muffins, I will probably want to eat it for breakfast.

I tend to avoid breakfast these days because I value intermittent fasting, but sometimes I will pound a breakfast sandwich to start the day, often while recovering from a hard workout or when I know I’ve got a tough day ahead and will need the extra nutrition.

Starbucks’ sausage sandwiches tend to be okay but reliable, though they’re more plasticine than most sandwiches. Here in Chicago, I’ve become partial to Mariano’s Vero cafes’ sausage (Buon Giorno) sandwiches lately. Local Eva’s Cafe in Old Town makes a great sandwich, and the nearby Lakeview Rewired cafe in my neighborhood makes a great sandwich on ciabatta-style bread.

Evolve and Orgain protein shakes

When I do spend an excessive amount of money on ready-made protein shakes, my shakes of choice are Evolve and Orgain, both sold at Whole Foods. Orgain is loaded with vitamins and goes down relatively easy. Evolve is more fiber and protein rich, though lighter in calories (which may or may not be a problem depending on my needs that day).

I get the vanilla varieties of either one. But at $3+tax a pop, I don’t drink them regularly.

Epic Sea Salt Pork Rinds

These are also expensive at $4+tax, but each bag of these pork rinds contains about 40g of protein, and they are hearty pork rinds without the annoying thick patches of random hardened skin that most varieties of pork rinds provide you. This is another snack food I’ll pound when I want a protein boost, and the bag is usually done right after I open it.

Kettle Style Potato Chips

I’m a sucker for kettle style potato chips, and I’ll usually try to get varieties cooked in avocado, sunflower, coconut, etc oil rather than vegetable or canola oil. Because if I’m going to eat awful junk food as a snack, it had better at least be cooked in some healthy oil, right?

I’m partial to the salted-no-flavor varieties of Kettle brand chips and Boulder Canyon avocado oil chips.

365 brand veggie chips

If I’m going to delude myself into believing that veggie chips are a better snack for me than potato chips, I’ll get the Whole Foods 365 brand, because those tend to be plainer and cleaner than other varieties, plus the bag is not as big… making the act of housing the whole bag in one sitting slightly less regrettable.

Fresh old fashioned chocolate glazed donuts

They don’t make donuts like they used to. The average hipster donut place makes the bread more like cake, and they put nonsense like bacon on top of it. If I want bacon I’ll just get an actual sit-down breakfast at a diner.

When I want an honest to goodness old fashioned made from scratch chocolate glazed donut, it’s hard to find great places that serve one anywhere. In Chicago, I will vouch for Firecakes in Lincoln Park. The only other place I’ve recently found great old fashioned donuts is Lee’s, a stand in the Granville Island Market in Vancouver BC Canada.

I am also amenable to maple glazed donuts and (when in the right mood) plain sugar glazed donuts. But generally, if I can’t get a chocolate glazed donut I just won’t bother. I don’t do sprinkles or neon colored glaze.

Truffle oil french fries (bonus if cheese sauce is an option)

If you’re a bar that serves a heaping pile of french fries as a dish, I’m generally down if I would like to eat.

The Reservoir in Uptown serves a great version cooked in truffle oil that’s garnished in parmesan. The Res is general is highly recommended if you ever land in Chicago, not just for that but for a vast alcohol selection and some of the nicest people running a bar in Chicago.

The Bar on Buena in Buena Park will serve you a side of home made melted cheese with their fries, which I also like.

But the kings of cheese fries in Chicago are Devil Dawgs, who serve a large bowl-caliber cup of cheese fries done right: They don’t just pour cheese over the top of the fries, but mix in cheese with the fries throughout the cup as they pile them on. When I want a sloppy cup of cheese fries every now and again (with a hot dog, of course!), that’s the place to go for me.

Beef taquitos (rolled tacos)

Why have beef taquitos gone away as a dish? This makes me sad. First of all, Mexican restaurants in Chicago don’t really serve them without charging too much for them. Secondly, stores that used to carry them like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have stopped carrying them.

They’re the best kind of rolled tacos! I’ll eat them plain, though I definitely won’t complain if you top them with cheese and guacamole (but I WILL if you top it with sour cream, which I do not like). Chicken doesn’t cut it, and sorry Trader Joe’s but the bean and cheese variety simply isn’t the same.

Fried chicken

I have always been a mark for fried chicken. Even during my chicken allergy phase I’d gladly break off any boycott to eat it.

I’m not as high on the varieties at supermarkets, or breaded chicken tenders. Chicken nuggets are okay, though it does depend on how they’re made. Places like Church’s or Popeye’s are just okay. KFC has cleaned up a bit over the years and now that I can eat their chicken without suffering dysentery I think they’re alright.

Locally, there’s a lot of “wait 20 minutes” boutique joints in Chicago and many cities with shops that’ll gladly serve you “home cooked” fried chicken. They’re okay, but most are probably not worth the premium price or the wait.

Here in Chicagoland, the king for me remains Evanston Chicken Shack in Evanston. I abhor traveling to Evanston but am always willing to make a stopover if given the chance.

In Seattle, I’ll vouch for Ezell’s like many others, but the founder’s spinoff shop Heaven Sent Fried Chicken in Lake City is honestly the king there. If you live in Seattle and like Ezell’s, I encourage you to go to 145th and Lake City Way and try out the original.

If you’re in Portland OR, go to The Screen Door. It’s a sit down meal, it’s a bit pricier and there probably will be a wait, but you probably won’t regret it.

I generally will mark out for a wide variety of local fried chicken. Again, I don’t like to fry food at home, but am more than happy to pay someone else to do the frying. If you drag me to a fried chicken place I will probably be happy with your decision.

Mission style burritos

I was first introduced to big Mission style burritos not by Chipotle, but by Seattle’s famous burrito shop Gordito’s, known for making burritos as big as newborn babies. Fresh, delicious, and if you don’t arrive starving you will probably have to bring some home with you.

Since then, Chipotle has made the big burrito famous, and America has gradually wised up to the fact that Mexican restaurants have been making these burritos for generations. But I had wised up long before this, and have always loved the big Mission style burrito.

Here in Chicago, I fortunately live about five blocks from what I consider the best place to get a carne asada burrito: El Burrito Mexicano, right under the Addison CTA station near Wrigley Field. It’s cash only and it’ll run you $10-12 after tip for a plate. Plus, obviously, avoid going on a Cubs game day because it’ll be stupid-packed. But the massive burrito is chock full of great steak, refried beans, tomatoes and cheese. It’s a total winner, but given I don’t usually carry a ton of cash it’s only an occasional treat for me.

Does sushi count as processed food?

I mean, I guess it does. Seaweed paper has to be processed. Sushi grade rice is as well, as is soy sauce. Even if all the other ingredients are fresh, there’s a lot of processed sodium-rich stuff in sushi, which is another food I love when the price is right.

I’m a mark for Alaskan (salmon avocado) and other salmon rolls, as well as Negi Hamachi Rolls (yellowtail and scallions), and various creative dragon-style combo rolls rich with salmon. If a sushi restaurant offers fried calamari or salmon bits as a side, I am all over that.

Here in Chicago, I don’t have crazy expectations. I like Gorilla Sushi in Lincoln Park because it’s affordable and their offerings are solid. But Chicago’s got quite a few good spots, especially Lakeview. Rollapalooza and Sumo are good Chicago sushi spots.

Seattle’s rising expense has taken away my favorite kaiten spots, so I don’t know what’s good there anymore. In Vancouver BC Canada, Miku Restaurant is the king, a very pricey and upscale joint that is absolutely worth the cost. But Vancouver has a LOT of great, affordable sushi options too numerous to name or visit.

When my dad takes me to his favorite sushi place in Vegas, Sushi Wa, I will pretty much eat anything he shoves in my direction. They make such a wide variety of sushi I wouldn’t otherwise have any idea about 20% of their best stuff.

Sushi is terrific, and if somehow I ended up filthy rich I’d probably eay it way too often.

Ramen

Don’t even get me started on how much I love ramen. Another pricey but terrific food I have to be careful about eating too often.

I’ve dabbled with and enjoyed spots in Chicago and Las Vegas, but nothing I’d fall over to recommend.

In Seattle, Aloha Ramen was easily the best ramen spot, in no small part thanks to their garlic-rich fried rice.

In Vancouver I LOVED Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, which is famous for their excellent pork gyoza but also makes good ramen and backdrops it with terrific friendly service.

I admit I’m still a mark for cheap generic top ramen out of a package, however. Often, given the option and the craving, I’ll just eat that.


I just wrote far too much about food you and I should not be eating that often. As I do after eating any of the above, I regret none of it.

P.S. I also didn’t mention ice cream, which I don’t do much at all anymore, but I remain partial to Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup, and Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone.

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Another day of brief post-marathon notes, on a sleepy Thursday evening

I’m honestly ready to start running again, but two weeks off is two weeks off. I had a plan and I’m sticking to it. No running… not even any kind of working out. I’m giving myself a full two weeks to rebuild and recover as much as possible.

I’m going ahead and pigging out a bit on the stuff I like, potato chips and pizza and such. I’m still eating mostly clean, though I’m definitely not logging enough activity to burn off the excess. But this week I’m willing to take on some water.

Occasionally I feel a bit of lower body stiffness here and there, but otherwise I feel good. I can jog across streets with no problem.

The weather in Chicago has taken a turn for the cold, with temps dropping to the 40’s Fahrenheit today, possibly to the low 30’s tonight. I keep all my winter gear packed in a big duffel bag, and it looks like it’s finally time to begin unloading it. Time to acclimate!

I know my run-training plans for January and beyond, and I’ll get into those later. But I’m still hashing out how I’m going to train for the rest of this year. I definitely plan to strength train during November, and will definitely taper any running during the December holidays. But I’m not yet sure how much running I’m going to get back to doing in the short run. I don’t foresee running a race before next year, and this section of training would be lighter and a little less formal.

I got several topics I want to write about this weekend, and one will probably be preferences for when I do eat processed or junk food. Perhaps tomorrow! I don’t just eat any random junk. There are some things I won’t ever touch, and there are some items of preference that can be somewhat healthy and keep you on track. Soon.

That is all. I plan to turn in early and catch up on sleep. Until tomorrow!

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Some random thoughts the day after my marathon

I am definitely sore. At first yesterday I thought, “Well, this doesn’t feel much worse than after a 20 miler.” But deep down I knew better, and sure enough the soreness stiffened up and felt decidedly worse this morning. I had to work today, so there’s no day off to rest up. Back at it.

When I’m on my feet and moving around, movement gets easier and I almost feel normal. If I sit for extended periods, then getting up feels painfully difficult.

The saving grace of good running form is that, even when you’re very sore, that form can still carry you somewhat comfortably if you have to jog across a street or similar.

Others who ran the Chicago Marathon struggled as well. A few had great days, but many experienced, skilled marathoners I know reported this was one of their harder marathons. They didn’t have ridiculous hiccups as I did, but many slowed quite a bit towards the final 10K… very unusual for people who have run a few of these races. They know about the wall and how to prevent it.

Part of the issue was the sneaky humidity. The cloudy 60 degree weather did obscure for many how much the humidity would be a factor. It hinders sweat evaporation, which became an issue when the wind wasn’t blowing, and when it wasn’t raining.

And of course that occasionally substantial rain was an issue. Never mind getting you all wet. The extra water does weigh your clothes and shoes down and add weight, which slows you by about 2-3 seconds a mile per extra pound. It hit most runners before the halfway mark, and I imagine the long term effect of the watered down gear plus the high humidity contributed to slowing people down late.

I have some theories on what may have caused my hiccups.

  • I drank some protein rich fluid during the 1st half, and it’s possible it sat in my stomach with any water I took in, hindering digestion and backing up traffic in my esophagus, triggering hiccups.
  • I hadn’t practiced fluid intake as much in my training, and while I was skilled enough at it to do so without problems, perhaps the combination of pace running while taking in occasional fluid strained my breathing tract enough to trigger the hiccups. It’s also possible I took in some air at some point and that triggered it… though if that were the culprit that should have cleared up after a bit.
  • Perhaps, despite being in control otherwise, my body was intrinsically freaking out from the combination of long moderate running, nutrition intake, dealing with weird and occasionally wild weather, etc. Perhaps the hiccups were a sign of it beginning to give in, even if my legs and lungs were not.

I think one key adjustment I can make for next time is to not worry about carrying nutrition for the next marathon, certainly not the next time I run Chicago (if/when that happens). It seemed like Gatorade and the bananas or other products provided later on would have been more than enough.

I always run with the mindset that if I don’t bring nutrition for a long run, I am up the creek. This might be true in a race like Vancouver, where their energy drink is something no-calorie like Nuun. But for Gatorade races, that is probably enough.

In fact, I was not prepared for how many people on the South Side had food to offer passing runners. I was shocked. It was a veritable buffet from West Loop all the way to Bronzeville. Had I known there would be so much available I wouldn’t have even carried anything. Between that, on-course bananas and Gatorade that would have been more than enough.

The South Side portion of the course was so much fun, even if I was miserable for much of it and didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. The spectators really bring the energy down there on race day. The king bee of it all had to be the marching music played as you enter Chinatown. You have got to see and hear it to believe it… especially if you’re on about mile 20 of a marathon.

I’m on the fence about putting in for Chicago’s lottery for next year, especially since I’m not certain of what my living and job situation will be by next summer. I may end up moving, and if I leave Chicago I’m not going to be too keen on coming back just for a marathon. But I feel like it’s a race I should definitely do again.

That’s all for now on random thoughts. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have some less random, more evergreen material. Meanwhile, hope you’re doing well, especially if you’re coming off a marathon like I am.

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Do I ever take an offseason?

My final shakeout run is in the books and I feel ready to go for tomorrow’s Chicago Marathon. I definitely feel way better and a lot more physically/mentally ready for tomorrow than I did while ill and sleeping poorly right before Vancouver.

Tomorrow, effective no later than 2pm CDT, I begin an imposed two week minimum hiatus from running. This is a rule created by the Hanson Brothers that bookends their training plans in Hanson Marathon Method. While I don’t necessarily train their way, it is a rule I plan to follow.

Never mind how much damage I’ll have to heal from. From a pure healing standpoint, you could easily begin easy running in as little as the next day, provided the running is easy and brief enough. I can do recovery runs after 20 milers with little problem.

Hal Higdon recommends you take about 3 days off after a marathon before trying any running. Even then he recommends you take it very easy and ease back into a regular schedule.

The real reason to take a break, along with physical recovery, is to take a mental break, free up those hours I’d otherwise devote to running and do some other stuff with my evenings. I definitely have some other projects and work I’m looking forward to doing during the break.

The most obvious time to take an offseason is right after a marathon, where a runner needs the recovery time anyway. The famous Kenyan runners actually will sit around and not run at all for as much as two months before resuming training. Frank Shorter’s famous quote goes, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another.” The offseason is meant for many to re-set the mind before committing to train again.

During an offseason a runner might run some, but nothing resembling training for particular fitness let alone a race. Week One for that can begin down the road.

Once I got serious about running again, I’ve definitely taken breaks. I don’t know if I’d full out call them offseasons, as when I take them fluctuates depending on various factors.

For one, I began serious training in a traditional spring-to-fall schedule, and eventually decided I wanted to run in winter. At that time I took a break in late summer in 2017, then resumed training in the autumn as others were running their marathons and wrapping up their training. I also took another break, after weeks of general training, before beginning training in January for Vancouver this past year.

For there to be an offseason, however, there has to be a defined season to train. And in my case, winter is my favorite time of year to train, but I don’t know if November to May would be considered my “season” just yet.

This time around, obviously, I’m going to take a way more conventional break following the Chicago Marathon, which I suppose you can call an offseason. I not only will take a two week break from running, but I want to focus primarily on other physical training during November and December.

After light strength training during this training cycle, I would like to improve my upper body strength, core strength, overall flexibility and conditioning ahead of resuming training in winter. I’ve got a strength and conditioning program or two that I’ve previously worked with and think will serve me well with two months of daily committed effort. I’ll get more into this once I’m at that point and knee deep into it.


 

Meanwhile, for this training cycle, there’s one more important task remaining at hand. I will talk with you again following the Chicago Marathon.

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My running shoe collection

I want to show you the sizable collection of shoes I own and use.

I used to be a guy who’d buy one pair of shoes, and then wear them everyday until holes in the seams forced me to buy a new pair. It turns out you’re not supposed to wear shoes that often, but I had no idea.

My running shoes were an old pair of Avias that I kept for about a decade and had definitely long passed their expiration date once I got seriously into running. Parts of the sole had actually detached and fallen off, but I kept running in them whenever I needed running or athletic shoes.

After buying my first serious pair of running shoes (Saucony Ride 9’s), and learning a little bit about different types of training, I decided to buy a small variety of shoes to better suit that training: Some speed shoes, some trail shoes, some regular running shoes and a pair of racing flats.

I used them all liberally, and as they piled up miles and I increased my training volume I went looking for more upgrades, as well as needed different shoes for a wider variety of purposes. Over time I’ve assembled a sizable collection of running shoes. I became a veritable Imelda Marcos when it comes to running shoes.

Let me show them all to you, in the order that I acquired them:

Continue reading

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Sorry not sorry for the absence

No, having to abort the Vancouver Marathon didn’t gut me that badly. While disappointing, it was again the right decision in that moment. I had felt ill plus hadn’t slept well in the previous days leading into it, plus temperatures for the race were unusually warm.

In reality, I disappeared because a lot happened in my life around that time (including a job change). And in resuming full training shortly thereafter I simply didn’t feel like writing further.

I have been training, and in fact just logged 20 miles ahead of my participation in the Chicago Marathon on 10/7/18. Again, with a lot to manage in my personal life I decided to just keep training simple and not dwell too much on anything.

I now feel I’m in a position to start writing regularly again. While I’ll have some thoughts on running I do want to give myself permission to branch out into other subjects going forward. So expect to see some non-running material in addition to the running material going forward.

More to come.

Breakdown at 5K. DNF.

It’s unfortunate for me to report that due to illness, related in part due to somewhat high heat at the race, I had to drop out of the Vancouver Marathon at about 5K.

I actually knew at around the 3K or 4K marker that I was in trouble and probably needed to drop out. The forecasted heat for Vancouver struck a little early, and within 3K I struggled badly with it. I also had struggled to sleep well the last couple nights and that compounded the issue. I was laboring badly at a level I expected would strike closer to 30K than 3K. I was suffering clear effects of heat exhaustion, and continuing past 5K seemed infathomable.

I walked past the 4K marker, and at the 2nd aid station (5K) I took a sizable quantity of water, stepped off-course, removed my bib and started a long walk back to the hotel. Within minutes of walking strategically under shade I already felt better and knew I had made the right decision.


The good news is that by DNFing early, I avoided the substantial wear and tear expected from the marathon, meaning if desired I can resume training as soon as I have good reason to do so, rather than needing to take weeks to recover.

I had netted a lottery spot in this October’s Chicago Marathon, and having planned to run it I was somewhat concerned about my ability to bounce back from Vancouver and begin training for that. But now that’s not a concern, and (after a bit of time off) I can begin training for that at my leisure.

It’s my first ever DNF in a race, and I figured if I ever did so at a marathon I’d have done so after 20 miles than after 2. But while disappointed I don’t feel bad… only that I made the right decision.

Never mind running the marathon… can I even make it there?

I’ve probably been more concerned this week about whether or not my flight to Vancouver will make it out of this bad Midwestern weather than I’ve been about how the marathon’s going to go.

It’s not what kept me up all night Tuesday through Wednesday morning. That I haven’t figured out. I didn’t stay up late, I didn’t eat differently, I usually shut everything down by 10pm so it wasn’t a blue light thing, and I wasn’t particularly worried or anxious about anything, not even the marathon and not even what I’m about to describe. But despite being very tired my stomach turned over, couldn’t settle and I couldn’t get to sleep. I did eat around 4am and finally I passed out for a couple hours, but the lack of sleep left me a functional wreck for much of Wednesday.

Since it was my last day at work for a week and a half, I couldn’t call off, and with business to wrap up before leaving I didn’t want to anyway, so I went to work a full day before heading home, eating dinner and sleeping a good long while into this morning. Any plans I had to run Wednesday were mostly shelved due to my condition.

That all aside, the weather this past week suddenly became a cause for concern… not the weather on race day in Vancouver, which will be warm but clear… but the weather in Chicago on my departure date.

All through the last week the reliable Weather Underground forecast indicated that thunderstorms would hit Chicagoland with over an inch of rain all day Thursday, which as forecast would prevent my flight to Vancouver from leaving. I already won’t have a ton of time in Vancouver before the race… waiting another day could cause some problems.

On Tuesday I scrambled for a plan B. I booked a one way flight to Seattle for Wednesday night, booked overnight lodging near SeaTac and a BoltBus ticket into Vancouver for Thursday morning. The whole thing despite short notice only cost about $300. Of course, that accelerated my timetable to pack. Instead of having the evening after work Wednesday and all morning Thursday to finish up, I had to quickly get everything done Tuesday night. While perhaps that could have been a source of anxiety, I got it all done that evening before eating dinner and heading to bed.

But then the weather quickly turned! By Wednesday morning the thunderstorms that all week hadn’t been forecast to hit before overnight Wednesday/Thursday now were forecast to arrive during the evening commute on Wednesday, which subsequently would wipe out or uselessly delay that new flight I had scheduled. Plus, as mentioned, by that Wednesday morning I hadn’t slept much at all and I wasn’t convinced I could stay up until after midnight let alone competently drag myself from SeaTac to overnight lodging, then sleep a bit less than usual and try to transit to Vancouver Thursday morning. Plus, there were various boarding complications I won’t get into that offered a sizable chance I’d have to check my bags, and the risk of losing luggage isn’t one I want to take.

On top of all that… the forecast for Thursday had softened, and now there’s a decent chance my originally scheduled flight will be able to leave as scheduled.

So I cancelled the Plan B flight, which was easy and fully refundable. I wish I had taken my chances scrambling for lodging, because the lodging was non-refundable. And the bus ticket I bought was non-refundable. So I spent $100 for a backup plan that wasn’t necessary. Also, changing my storage parking arrangement did save me a few bucks.

——

All of that never minds that I’m running a marathon in three days! It’s hard to stress about a marathon when you’re already dealing with a bunch of other issues, most notably just being able to get to the marathon site with enough time to spare to pick up the bib and get everything else I need in order.

This will all be behind me once my plane to Vancouver is in the air, over the clouds and out of the Great Lakes.

… if it can get there first!

A marathon dress rehearsal run, and discussing in-race fueling options

Yesterday’s 6 mile run wasn’t so much about training, because at this point of the taper I’m pretty much as trained as I’m going to get.

The goal of the run was to practice marathon fueling. Never minding that the Vancouver Marathon uses low-calorie Nuun as their electrolyte hydration at aid stations (which isn’t effective like Gatorade because Nuun is low calorie and the calories in Gatorade are important to avoid late-rate bonking)… even if they used a better solution, race mixed drinks are typically mixed on-site, often poorly so and leaving your cup short on the actual electrolyte solution.

——

If I haven’t effectively implied it, one of my primary race goals is to avoid hitting The Wall, the moment of 100% glycogen depletion when you bonk and just have nothing left in energy. I’m obviously not a marathon expert by any means, but anyone who says it’s unavoidable is wrong.

For those wondering why they hit the wall late in a race… pretty much every resource points to a lack of effective in-race fueling. Your body burns mostly carbs when running at any pace beyond a recovery jog, and the faster/harder you’re running the more proportionally you burn carbs. At my size I burn about 120 calories per mile run, and at over 26 miles, that’s over 3200 calories burned.

Despite my weight loss and fitness, I still carry a good portion of fat. But fat burns glacially in exercise compared to carbs. While you can train your body to proportionally burn more fat, your fat will never burn anywhere close to as fast as carbs will during a run. Carbs become glycogen, which is your body’s primary fuel during a run. No matter how much fat you have… as soon as you tap out your available glycogen, you bonk. You’re running on auxiliary power and your body acts like it. So I have to make sure I get enough carb fuel to offer a chance of avoiding the wall in the final miles.

(Yes, your pacing and general hydration are also factors, but those are far easier to control. And all of this never minds that no matter what I’m absolutely going to be very sore and tired in the later miles. I accept that.)

According to the Hansons’ fueling formulas, my lower body stores around 1200 calories of glycogen, and should burn about 1000-1200 calories of fat throughout the race. If I properly pace myself I need about 600-750 calories in pure carbs to finish the marathon without hitting the wall. I also should ideally do it frequently in smaller portions rather than every half hour or when I pass the aid stations.

Even if courses provide nutrition, your best bet is to carry this nutrition yourself and consume it regularly throughout the marathon (which adds the benefit of allowing you to pick nutrition that works best for you). Plus, I still need to be able to physically get myself to a food resource and then back to the hotel, so I’m better off overkilling a little bit on what I carry and consume since my effort doesn’t end at the finish line.

Since I’m not Eliud Kipchoge with custom engineered drink bottles waiting for me every 5K, and point to point van service for transport… I’ve needed to figure out what to carry with me. I only have so much space in a belt pack, and carrying a 32oz bottle of Gatorade will obviously slow me down more than it’s worth, as every extra pound you carry adds 3-5 seconds to your mile time. What I use has to work effectively, and be portable.

Over the last few months I’ve worked on in-race fueling on various runs. I’ve experimented with gels (one packet is 100 calories), chews (one 6-chew packet is 200 calories), honey (a full 6oz flask is 568 calories), and for a while made a go with the minimally viscuous raw agave in a gel flask (6oz = 485 calories).

The agave is portable and easily consumable, but its simple sugars only replenish certain glycogen stores (albeit important ones for the body, like in the liver) and aren’t fully utilized by the body to run. I still found myself fading or even bonking late in 2.5+ hour runs despite consuming it every 10-15 minutes in-run… whereas the more engineered electrolyte sugars of Gatorade and similar drinks did keep me going.

I have found Clif Shot Bloks useful, but there’s an obvious problem: Trying to chew and swallow something while actively running at a decent pace makes it a little hard to breathe, which in turn makes it hard to effectively run until you’ve swallowed (and hopefully washed down) a given blok.

And, as I’ve found out the hard way, you definitely need to chase anything you consume with water or the issue will become much more difficult. In a race that will already be very taxing, those little aggravations could more quickly exhaust my energy stores before the end of the race… which defeats the purpose of fueling in the first place.

——

So anyway, I sampled the shot bloks once again yesterday while carrying 20oz of water. Perhaps active water use after consumption would help. Perhaps practice would help. They are the easiest and least messy of my fueling options, and if I can make them work it’s a better solution than gel, which is not only really messy and tastes like flavored motor oil but doesn’t feel good in digestion. I took one blok every 10 minutes and washed it down after swallowing.

The good news is despite attacking Cricket Hill (up and down) three times during the run, I felt energized after the run as compared to tired (as I often am when I take a similar run after work). The issue remains that, even with water, the moments between the blok entering my mouth and when it finally goes down remain difficult for my breathing and in turn my running. My heart rate did spike the first 3 times I fueled but stayed level the subsequent times… but my pace wasn’t great relative to my active heart rate, and I suspect repeating this process 8-24 times could slow me down and further complicate an already complicated marathon situation.

Now, I could just do it anyway, which I think is not a bad Plan A given this is already going to be a difficult race, and having usable fuel for the haul that works is better than not having such fuel. I think no matter what I’m going to bring Shot Bloks for the race, and if no better method presents itself I will just suck it up and pop one every 10-15 minutes until I cross the finish line.

I can also consider loading up a gel flask with agave and carrying it as well, saving the Shot Bloks for every 30-60 minutes or so, and just taking the agave on the regular. Both sources are palatable and digest reasonably well, and (though I will want to attempt using them together at home or in training to make sure nothing happens) I think having an adequate supply of both will cover my fueling bases.

The race has an interesting (possibly Canadian?) wrinkle, supplying bananas to runners at an aid station around mile 19. Aside from the concern of runners recreating a Mario Kart course with discarded banana peels, I think taking and eating one at the opportunity would also help. Bananas are my most common post-run carb-replenish fuel, so digestion is no problem.

And of course I plan to stick to a pre-race ritual: Eating a breakfast sandwich and chasing it with a shot of espresso a couple hours before the race. The nutrition from this must be important: Every time I’ve done this, I’ve raced well.

——

Admittedly, a lot of the above is talk-it-through thought process on my part. I’ve given this a lot of thought, because being able to finish the race with dignity regardless of finishing time is a high priority for me, and I know fueling in-race is vital to that happening.

Taper madness, no. Taper dilemma, perhaps.

My biggest dilemma with the marathon taper is not the so-called taper madness. In fact, with as much volume and intensity as I put into runs and life each week I’m honestly thrilled with any chance I get to rest. So when you tell me to cut volume, I’ll cut all the volume I need to without a second thought.

No, the biggest dilemma was *how* to taper, not necessarily cutting runs because of course you ideally should run the same number of times each week (barring injury, not running as usual atrophies your growth and throws your body off)… but in shortening those runs figuring out if I should do shorter runs closer to goal pace and ditch any long runs, or just do a slightly reduced volume at easy pace, still do a (not as) long run, and focus more on promoting recovery.

You run as you train, and I should probably do some volume of running at my goal pace if I expect to run capably at that pace on marathon day. You can get away with hardly running at your desired pace and then nailing it in a shorter race. But in a marathon I realize your body is going to revert to habit over the final miles as you tire. If you’re used to running 10:00 miles in your everyday runs, your body’s going to have a real hard time nailing that 8:30 goal pace when you’re in hour 3+ fighting yourself not to slide into your everyday habit of running at 10:00 (or slower).

Plus, the Hansons say that adaptions to any given training usually kick in after 10 days, and anything done closer to the marathon than that typically isn’t going to grow your ability or do anything other than put more wear on your body.

At the same time, you don’t want to lose aerobic training benefits by not doing any running beyond short 3-5 mile runs. You may not develop any further adaptions in time for the marathon by doing a long run a week before… but you can certainly *lose* aerobic endurance capacity by not putting any such work in during the last two weeks before a race.

I know, because I have: I’ve heavily cut volume at times for recovery reasons, then found myself struggling to complete easy mid/long-range runs I used to finish with little trouble. Comfortably running my goal pace doesn’t help me if after 10-15 miles I’m so gassed from suddenly running much farther than I had in the last two weeks that I can’t keep up.

I wavered back and forth on how to approach this past week (because either way the last week before the race is going to be all shorter easy runs anyway). But I eventually decided to err towards being more aggressive on my regular runs early in this week, while easing up later in the week and finishing with a couple of longer runs… not terribly long of course.

I took today off after a team speed workout yesterday, and that was probably good to have that sequence of events breaking up the week. Tomorrow I’ll run a more typical 6ish mile run, and then Saturday I’ll knock out a comfortable 10-11 miles before taking Sunday off and making the final week-long descent towards Vancouver. For these last two runs I’ll be willing to go brisk but shorten my stride and go with quick easy steps if it starts to get a little tough.

That’s probably the best way to approach a taper, or at least the first week of a two week taper. Shorten up and do a little bit more with tempo early on, hit a quality workout, and then soften up on pace demands while getting in a couple of longer runs to end the week.

On sleeping in summer, and sleeping after night workouts

A couple good not-so-known nuggets in here on why we don’t sleep well, and some not-so-known ideas for how to sleep better.

– This points to why I usually haven’t slept as well in summer, and it’s not neighbors blasting music at parties: My core body temperature was often too high to sleep effectively. The hot bath idea is a good trick to attempt.
– According to my Fitbit tracker I also have a lower resting heart rate during warmer months, and my weight tends to be lower during those months (regardless of how I eat). While I definitely want to make sure I work on getting better sleep in summer, it’ll be interesting to see if my resting heart rate and weight take the corresponding turn anyway.
– Though I currently follow a better sleep schedule than I have before, and have been getting decent sleep, I’m still prone to waking up super early, occasionally being unable to get to sleep, or waking up having logged little REM or deep sleep. This trick may be worth a shot:

If you’re only able to sleep 6 hours a night, then restrict yourself to 5. You’ll feel like poop the next day and crash hard…

But then only let yourself sleep 5 hours and 15 minutes. Now you feel like double poop and will be out before your head hits the pillow. So go to 5 hours and 30 minutes… And as long as you meet your designated quota, incrementally increase the amount of sleep you allow yourself. No naps.

You’ll be a zombie for a while but this is actually a core part of what is now quickly becoming the first-line treatment for chronic insomnia: CBT-I. The application of cognitive behavioral therapy to sleep issues.

One of the more paradoxical CBT-I methods used to help insomniacs sleep is to restrict their time spent in bed, perhaps even to just six hours of sleep or less to begin with. By keeping patients awake for longer, we build up a strong sleep pressure—a greater abundance of adenosine. Under this heavier weight of sleep pressure, patients fall asleep faster, and achieve a more stable, solid form of sleep across the night. In this way, a patient can regain their psychological confidence in being able to self-generate and sustain healthy, rapid, and sound sleep, night after night: something that has eluded them for months if not years. Upon reestablishing a patient’s confidence in this regard, time in bed is gradually increased.

 

Though on most weeknights I finish my running no later than 7pm… I do log group workouts on Monday and Wednesday later than is ideal, ending around 8pm. By the general rule, you want to get to sleep at least 3 hours after your last workout or you’ll have trouble sleeping well. This is probably more of an issue for older people, but guess who’s pushing 40? 😉

So, let’s say instead of trying to go to bed after a racing team workout or a Monday group run at 9-10 pm and hoping for the best, only to end up with screwed up sleep… I actively short my sleep on those nights by turning in three hours after the end of the run, then afford myself the option of turning in 15 minutes earlier than last night’s time, such as:

Wed: 11:00pm
Thu: 10:45pm
Fri: 10:30pm
Sat: 10:15pm
Sun: 10:00pm

If on Thursday or afterward I’m definitely tired enough to pass out at 9pm, then great I’ll do that. Unless of course I keep waking up early, in which case I’ll make myself stay up until the listed time and then pass out. Note that my typical shut-down time these days is somewhere between 9:00-10:00pm, so by Sunday I would in theory be back to my “normal” schedule.

If I skip the Monday run I would just turn in for bed normally until Wednesday. But if I do the Monday run, which due to a cooldown run home usually concludes my running around 7:45pm or so, then I would turn in per the following schedule.

Mon: 10:45pm
Tue: 10:30pm

Then once Wednesday comes, I once again turn in later per the above Wed-Sun schedule, and repeat. Obviously, if I skip the Wednesday workout and don’t do a later run, then I can follow my normal sleep schedule as usual.

———-

Thinking about this with such a level of detail may seem excessive to many, but this is the depths to which I’ve gone to fine tune my day to day habits and life to improve my training and recovery. It’s not only paid dividends over time, but it’s been vital to keeping me upright, let alone in good health.

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Hello again.

In February 2017 I quit my improv commitments and decided to stop performing for a while. A while has become 14 months, and to be honest I don’t miss it at all. I never thought of the decision as permanent, and as with all things never say never. But as of now I have no interest in going back.

There’s no need to get into all the reasons why I left performing behind, but the main point is what I decided to focus on instead since has felt far more rewarding. I not only focused primarily on my distance running, but also worked on my overall health and self improvement: Improving my diet, getting better sleep, carving out and enjoying my free time, not drinking except for occasions, sourcing and improving my attitude and outlook, etc.

To get into why improv and performance art didn’t serve those things only serves to dwell (probably, admittedly, with some salt) on the past, on a lot of externally sourced factors I honestly cannot change… instead of building on the present towards the future. I liked a lot of what I did as a performer and regret none of it. And I like my decision to leave it behind, as well as who I am and continue to become now. What I’m doing now is a lot more rewarding than what I was doing before.

Despite having left it behind I kept this weblog and left up all the previous posts, which I still stand behind even today. What I wrote is still true and worthwhile, so I’ll leave it for those who can use it.

Going forward, however, I am repurposing the weblog to be more personal and about the things I work on today, my running, my health and associated matters.

  • I still run a lot, still take it seriously, have learned a lot about myself and running, and would like to write more about what I know and have learned.
  • I’ve worked on improving my diet, sleep habits and general health. I’m no doctor, nutritionist or anything else certified, but I have learned a lot and would like to write more about that as well.
  • I have various observations on both of the above, among other things, and want to write about that as well.

I may also backdate some posts based on previous experiences over the past year, that I think may lend some insight.

Hope you enjoy what’s to come.

I have decided to stop improvising

After over two years of improvising in Chicago (and quite a few years before that in Seattle), I have decided to stop improvising on stage for a while.

I actually made the decision a couple weeks ago, but needed to complete some official business before it was practical to announce it. I have officially left One Group Mind, the organization I had been practicing with since 2015 and the one organization I was still currently committed to, and as of last night am no longer committed to anything improv-related going forward. My last show with my team Sosa Mimosa was 2/24, and I coached my last rehearsal for Flynn Tin Tin last night (2/26). I didn’t want to make a big deal out of goodbyes, so (though the org and teams knew) I kept it quiet until now.

This was not a painful, ‘Mike Schmidt or Lou Piniella crying on TV’ sort of decision. I’m actually quite relieved. My life over the last few months has changed in many ways, and demands on my time and energy outside of improv (demands I mostly want) also increased. While free time and other interests have become more important, improv gradually became little more to me than an obligation… one I realized I did not need to keep.

——

Over the last six months I got seriously into distance running. I’ve run regularly (to a lesser extent) over the years, but wanted to get more serious about it. I run most days of the week, and now regularly run races on some weekends. For a lot of reasons I really enjoy it, and of course I’ve gotten in pretty good shape and health doing so.

Because of this, rest and recovery becomes much more important. As a Chicago resident rest is very hard to get since doing anything at all requires some walking and other physical effort (plus I also have to commute to/from work, like everyone else). Add in an improv commitment that requires going to and from Wicker Park one or more nights a week, and I just wasn’t getting a lot of time to rest. (And improv culture, of course, does not lend itself to a restful and healthy lifestyle in general)

Of course, your body as a runner punishes you when you don’t rest, and I don’t want to risk long term injury from exhaustion, let alone deal with exhaustion’s negative effects on my running performance. Plus, I have other errands and responsibilities I need to find time to do, things you take for granted like laundry, grocery shopping and preparing meals. Removing any unnecessary late nights or commutes from my schedule became a huge priority. During a stressful week a couple weeks ago, it became clear how much improv had gotten in the way of the rest of my life, more than adding to it.

——

I still generally enjoy improv, watching it and doing it. At my last performance and my last coaching rehearsal, I still had fun. But everything surrounding getting to that space and carving out time for it is what really sucks, and at this point it just sucks too much.

I don’t (unlike a lot of people in the scene) have any delusions or ambitions of channeling fame or fortune through improv, and did it solely as a serious interest. Since improv’s not a serious interest for me anymore, I should stop. I have finite energy and time, and I now realize improv’s eating away at too much of it. I want to get to a point where I once again have a impassioned, active interest in improv… and realize I need substantial time away for that to return.

I still believe One Group Mind and The Comedy Clubhouse are the sneaky-best places for improv fans and performers in the city of Chicago. I gladly endorse the organization as a place to practice, and gladly endorse the Clubhouse as a great place to enjoy improv on the weekends. It’s my hope that if/when I want to return that I can return (from our communications I’m told they’d welcome me back). I still believe that anyone who ignores the Clubhouse or the organization, or looks down upon it as a lesser improv house, is making a substantial mistake. Yes, that’s just my opinion, albeit an informed one (as someone with more experience than he ever wanted with all the local Chicago improv theaters), and a lot more coldly objective than it ought to be given my allegiances with the theater.

I may or may not come and see improv or other comedy shows over time, but I do want to spend time away, so I probably will not during the foreseeable future.

For now, I want to focus on running and enjoying the rest of what life has to offer. Some people get into improv as an escape from a life they don’t care for. Personally, I like my life, and I want to create all the space I need to get the most of what I want out of it.


 

One notable point is that I originally moved to Chicago at the end of 2014 for the explicit purpose of doing improv. And now I’m no longer doing the thing I moved here for.

Now, I could come back to improv in time. There’s also the possibility I just don’t. But if I’m not going to do improv, then what am I doing here in Chicago?

Well, for as many issues as I have had with this corrupt and troubled city… it turns out Chicago is a great city for running. Along with many running groups and organizations, and countless local races throughout the year… the Lakefront Trail and Lincoln Park are two accessible and massively inviting places to run. Training for me has been very easy since instead of dodging cars, I can jog a few blocks to a trail and then not have to worry about vehicle traffic throughout a long run. I realize very few other livable locales for me could offer that.

Obviously, if for some reason I was economically or logistically forced out of living in Lakeview my situation could change, and maybe then I consider a move out of Chicago. But for now, Chicago is actually a really good city to run in. So even if I moved here for improv and don’t do that anymore, I can still live here for the valuable running experience.

It’s not the school that makes people famous

I had written a longish piece that was basically an extension of this Mick Napier “Laying Claim to Fame or Acclaim” piece.

Rather than post another wall of text most won’t read. I’ll just ask you to read Mick’s words, since you’re more likely to read and respect those. He says what I’d just restate.

A new home

I just moved into a new studio apartment. It’s about the same cost as my share of the 2-bed I just left, and not only do I get the benefit of my own space but the quality of the new place is MUCH better in just about every way. It’s not a luxury condo or anything, but everything’s clean, working and well maintained. I’m closer to supermarkets than I was before, closer to the Lakefront than I was before, farther from the craziness of Wrigleyville and Boystown, my new neighbors are relatively chill adults who don’t throw late night ragers like my former neighbors, the management and maintenance staff are readily available and easy to work with, and the parking isn’t any more difficult than it was before.

It helped me realize that for the last 20 months I never really felt comfortable at home. Problems kept arising at home time and again regarding things breaking or not working, never minding any roommate issues. And that had a substantial effect in the pursuit of projects, ambitions and other endeavors. I pushed ahead for about a year after arriving, but even towards the end of my training anything outside of home and work felt like a grating chore, something that was getting in the way of the few moments I had to breathe. A big part of that is that being at home never provided much comfort or relaxation. There was a constant waiting for the other shoe to drop. And that can wear you down after a while.

I’m currently worn out for a different reason: A week of packing, moving boxes/bags/furniture, and dealing with logistics has left me physically tired. Everything is done save for receiving my items from storage, which I can do anytime before December. Though I had hoped this Labor Day weekend to start a workout regimen I was interested in, the weariness and bruises throughout my body tell me I need to rest this weekend. So, probably Monday!

But mentally, emotionally, ambition-wise, I’m looking forward to getting back to work this fall on things I left behind last spring. Along with a new start in a new home, I feel like I now have a comfortable home base from which to pursue everything.