Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Run In Italy!

I ran here in Milano on Saturday to add Italy to the list of countries where I have run...which including the United States now stands at five, along with Mexico, England and the United Arab Emirates.

One thing is for sure, Milano was by far the most urban run I have ever done. I read the other day that Italy is roughly the same square mileage as Arizona, but is packed with over 56 million people. That is like wedging the number of people in Florida, New York and my home state of Illinois into Arizona. A tight fit for sure!

(By comparison, Arizona actually has just under 7 million residents.)

The other thing about Milano is that it is several hundred years old. The Duomo, the city's cathedral, was first constructed in 1386. It's a magnificent building that represents the center of the city, as well as its activity. Here is a photo, and I'll post more "travel" photos later.

One of the amazing things about the Duomo is that, according to a friend whose college Italian teacher grew up in Milano, during WWII it was considered off limits as a bombing target given its history and beauty.

What you get when you have a city this old and this busy is a lot of everything: lots of people, lots of cars and lots of pollution. You also get streets that go in every direction that can baffle even the most gifted map readers.

Now mind you, I'm from near Chicago and its grid system of streets, which are so easy to navigate. So easy that most of the suburbs followed suit. Because of that I didn't get really adventurous -- I ran 1.8 miles up and back the same street and once around the neighborhood near the hotel for a total of 4.1 miles.

In actual running time I covered the distance in 45:39, but in real time the run took somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour since I had to wait to cross streets and stopped to take photos.

One thing you notice beyond the craziness that is Milano is the graffiti! There is tons of it, but no one seems too concerned about it...it's just there. You'd think that people would want to clean it up, but since these are the same people that gave us the Renaissance, they must not want to discourage anyone's creativity.

The majority of people who live here reside in apartments, and most neighborhoods are a mixture of apartments and small businesses, especially restaurants, bakeries and cafes. Italians are very social, and they
just don't live at the rapid-fire pace we do (except when driving...they are crazy drivers!), so it's pretty typical to see the sidewalk cafes busy with people enjoying each others' company. One of the many reasons I love it here!

This picture shows a little bit of everything, the crazy streets, apartments, businesses and the public transportation, which is definitely the best way to get around town. The Metro (subway) looks like a plate of spaghetti, but there are very few places in town it won't take you.

In between these large intersections there are some spots that are very beautiful. The buildings have been around a long time, but so have the trees, which give off a nice canopy of shade.

And of course, no discussion of a European city would be complete without talking about the roundabouts! Roundabouts are a traffic control staple in Europe, and I am beginning to see them pop up in the United States too.

Some of them are small, like this one that contained a small park, and some

 are large and contain buildings on all sides. To me it just adds to the charm of the city

I finished my run back in front of the hotel and was so happy to have had the chance to run. When we were here two years ago our hotel was a bit isolated and there was nowhere to run, but this location was so much better to both run and have access to sightseeing.

It was such a joy to run in a new and exciting place, and as I type this we are at an apartment just a stone's throw from the Vatican, so I hope to have another adventure to talk about as early as tomorrow.

So where in the world have you run? What is your favorite part of running somewhere new!

(More photos are below!)

Monday, October 19, 2015

What A Weekend!

Why am I smiling? It's a pretty simple explanation -- I had an incredible weekend!

It started out on Friday when I visited Dr. Chhadia for a follow-up appointment. While there are places that still need to heal, everything looked where it needed it to be, which he was happy about.

He still wants me focusing on flexibility and range of motion stuff in physical therapy, as opposed to strength, and I scheduled eight more appointments until I see him again at the end of November.

But the best part? I get to get rid of my big bionic brace! They want me to keep it handy in case of soreness or when I might need to protect my arm, but otherwise I'm good to go. I'll bring it along for our trip but I wanted to be out of it by the time we left, and I was able to get there!

In case you were curious, here is an x-ray of my arm taken on Friday. They took more picture and the best I can tell I have 14 screws in there!

It's kind of weird to think that sculpture is inside me, but I am thankful for all of it, as well as the talent of me doctor. I'm very blessed and thankful that the people I needed in my life over the last 53 days were with me, from Dr. Chhadia, my therapists, Darcy and my Mom, Matt and Kevin and all of my family and friends who have supported me and encouraged me. It's certainly meant a lot.

I've got a way to go -- strength training might have to wait until 2016 and my radial nerve still needs to answer its wake-up call, but I'm beginning to see progress every day, which is exciting.

So how did I celebrate? I went for a run of course. I headed out to Hawk Hollow for my first run there since August.

It looks a little different than the last time I was there, since it has fallen into fall, but it still looks good! That and I saw a hawk, which is always an inspirational bonus.

Saturday and Sunday I ran my (sorta) new 5K loop. It's pretty much the same as one of my other loops, except I turn and go down a street a couple of blocks early to shorten it up.

What was great about both runs is that I did them non-stop! Despite three miles (or so) being a pretty short run, I hadn't been able to run without a walk break since I started back. Not sure why...it could be fitness, could be a side effect to the medication I'm taking, but whatever, I'm just happy to win a small victory.

What that means to me is that it gives me a confidence boost and makes me feel like I can stretch run out over the next few weeks, which I will!

So how was your weekend? Did you win any small victories with your running?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Three Things Thursday -- October 14, 2015

Hello again! Sorry that this will once again be a bit more than things other than running, but I'm trying to check in at least once a week, and, well, since I'm not running a heck of a lot, I have to tackle other topics! ;--)

* Congrats to all of you who finished the Chicago Marathon Sunday! It was a beautiful day to spectate -- and pretty decent conditions to run too -- and Darcy and I were there as guests of Bank of America in their awesome hospitality tent.

The best part of the tent is the access to the finish line. Since security measures were beefed up in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, there isn't a lot of access to the finish, so being there is quite a treat. It's also a great place to get some up-close photos. The sun made taking good pics a bit of a challenge but we made due.

My favorite photo from the finish line area is this one of 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and 2005 Chicago Marathon champion Deena Kastor. At age 42 she continues to rock it, finishing as the top American female and set an American master's record with her run in 2:27:47.

The thing I like about this photo is the huge smile on Deena's face! I interviewed her for a story about 10 years ago and she was one of the sweetest people you could ever meet!

I met a lot of interesting people in the tent, and on our way back to the car we crossed paths with Bill Rancic, who had run the race and was so gracious in our brief conversation with him. If you want to see more of my photo gallery, check out my Facebook page.

As always, watching runners stream across the finish line was truly inspirational...so much so that I have already decided to run next year!

* Cubs! Along with running, one of my true passions in life is baseball. I have been a Cubs fan my whole life (I saw my first game at Wrigley Field on June 11, 1977) and of course am over the moon with the success of the team this year.

Needless to say, I was super excited when I found out Darcy had secured tickets to Monday's game 3 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. The game itself was just an unforgettable experience. I had never seen Wrigley that electric fron the beginning of the game to the end, and the best part was that the Cubs bashed six homers and won 8-6. A win the next night moved them one round closer to the World Series, and the will travel to either New York or Los Angeles for the NLCS starting on Saturday.

So of course, we got to #FlyTheW after the game. It's a long-time tradition that the Cubs fly a white flag with a blue "W" after every win, and we brought our along too!

It's not easy being a Cubs fan sometimes, in my lifetime they have made the playoffs six times while suffering 30 losing seasons, so I am going to celebrate this like crazy. Contrary to the popular narrative, not all of us are drunks who show up at the game for the party...I care deeply about this team, and millions of others do too. I took a lot of people to that game in my heart, especially my sister Joni, who died of cancer four years ago and was the biggest Cubs fan I've ever known, and my mom, who is 78 and saw a game with me there last June. My mom saw her first Cubs game in 1942!

One memory I have of Joni is that one Christmas I bought her a "W" flag, which she flew outside of her house after each victory. As her cancer progressed, I once sent her a text after a win, and Joni's reply was one I will remember forever.

"I can't tell you what seeing that flag blowing in the breeze does for me."   

Don't believe what you read, we represent the fan base, not the frat boys and girls who the media (and White Sox fans) like to talk about. Our love for this team is deep, and most of us know the game pretty damn well.

Having seen many of the current Cubs in the low minors over the last few years, I knew this day would come but it's still better than anything I could have ever dreamed up. The next few weeks could be gut-wrenching, but I don't want it any other way!

* Italy! The trip is finally here! I hope to write next Thursday's installment after my first jet-lagged run in Milan. Then this space will become a running travel blog again. The run I'm most excited to do will be in Rome, as our accommodations sit about a 5K run from the Colosseum. So a jaunt there and back should be fun. There is also a nice park nearby I hope to check out too.

* Bonus: Today is the last day to get the best pricing for next May's Indy Mini Marathon. Make plans to join me there, and don't forget to tell them I sent you! That can be done by selecting my name in the Ambassador's drop down. Like this:

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Three Things Thursday -- Gonna Brag Bonus Edition

Welcome back! Sorry my posts are few and far between...but the one-handed typing thing, ugh! Actually I'm getting pretty decent at it (probably about 25 words per minute if I REALLY focus), but it is still a pain and, honestly, there are days I just don't feel like doing it.

This isn't one of those days! Some good things have happened lately that I thought I would share!

1) My recovery is coming along slowly but surely. Hard to believe that I am six weeks beyond my accident and a month from surgery. There are definitely challenges every day, and PT is kind of painful, but I am getting some movement back and my range of motion seems to be improving.

I still have swelling and the radial nerve in my arm -- what controls many hand movements -- is still hibernating, but overall things are moving forward. My therapist told me today that improvement will become more exponential when I don't have to wear my brace any more.

Can I share a secret if toy promise not to tell my doctor? I actually went for a run sans brace last night and it was great! I ran 3 miles on the indoor track (in case I had any pain and needed to stop) at about a 10 minute pace and it felt really good. It was just so tough running with the brace that I had decided not to run until I could take it off. It was uncomfortable, not to mention discouraging!

So I'll keep that my little secret until I see Dr. Chhadia next week. Hopefully he makes it official and I can get rid of it for good!

2) My younger son Kevin continues to improve in his first year of cross country at Aurora Central Catholic High School. On Sept. 26, at the Charger Classic, his team's biggest meet and only home meet of the year, he set a 3-mile personal best of 22:46!

Then yesterday at a quadrangular meet he dropped his 5K PR to 23:09! He's made so much progress, back in May he ran a 5K with me and finished in 28:17, so he has improved five minutes since the beginning of the summer.

He isn't as fast of many of his teammates on the freshman/sophomore team, but he continues to improve and is slowly catching up to his mates. Most of all, he loves the competition and enjoys being part of the team. He has plenty of time to get fast, the stuff he's learned since joining the team is the most important!

3) My oldest son, Matt, claims he has "retired" from competitive running, but he still seems like he enjoys competing. It was Family Weekend at Benedictine University and he joined Kevin and their mom for the Cindy Cebrzynski Memorial 5K Run/Walk. And after not having run in a couple of months, he went out and won the race in 21:40!

Winning the race meant $75 in his pocket, which he was really happy about! Here he is pictured with Cindy's parents, and he looks pretty excited!

He's busy with school, which is more than fine with me, but I hope he resumes training and racing someday. I'm trying to talk him into running the Indy Mini with me next May but given he has never run more than an hour before, running a half is still beyond his comprehension. Maybe someday!

Finally! Best of luck to everyone running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday! The work is now done and it's time to toe the line and rock it!

Chicago is a special race and a special experience. I've run the race six times and have so many great memories. I know the marathon is hard, and, trust me, I've been there, but make sure you take the time to enjoy Chicago, all of its diverse neighborhoods, and of course the massive crowd support. Chicago loves its marathon!

I will be there to spectate, which I think I've done as many times as I've actually run the race, so I'll do my best to get you to the finish line!

Here is a recap of my first Chicago Marathon in 2000 and here are my thoughts from my last one in 2013. Those were both amazing days, for very different reasons.