Running Lit

With the holidays approaching and more “down time” in sight, I got to thinking about what book(s) I’m going to read next. Choosing my next book is incredibly difficult. I most often read fiction before I go to bed each night and while I’m traveling for work. It’s a good way to get my mind off of things and decompress before sleeping. And, without fail, when the weekend rolls around I always have the urge to head to a coffee shop I’ve never been to, curl up in a comfy chair, and read a good book with a hot cup of coffee for a few hours. If I could do that every weekend, I’d be a  happy girl.

I recently joined a book club (what up..old lady status!?) with a group of girls from all over Chicago. We read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green last month and we are hoping to meet up in December to discuss The Forgetting Tree, which I just started the other day (so don’t give it away!).

I go through phases when a good book about running sounds interesting. In the past few years, I’ve read these running books:

I tend to read books about running that are based on a specific person’s experience, as opposed to a book on strategy, tactics, or training plans.

Guess how many books I have on my “To Read” bookshelf on Goodreads?

:drum roll please:

THREE HUNDRED FORTY-ONE. …AND COUNTING.

It’s not a joke. I have a serious addiction to scouring book recommendations and prize-winner lists for my next victim (errr…book). There couldn’t possibly be enough time to read all of them but I feel comfort in the fact that the “next book should I read?” decision will be much easier if I have a narrower selection than the list of every book published by mankind. I skimmed this list of 341 books for books about running this afternoon and have these on the list:

And yet…I don’t feel like reading one of those specific books over the holiday. So, I’m asking for HELP!

What books about running did you really get into? Are there books like the ones I’ve already ready that you’d think I’d like? What’s next on YOUR list!?

 

1,000 Miles

Milestones are always fun and I just passed a big one during my speedwork session last night. I have officially run more than 1,000 miles since the end of January when I started my training. ONE.THOUSAND. That’s a lot of miles. I’ve been running 3-4 times a week since the end of January and it has already paid off in more ways than I can count. (If you’d like a list, please let me know and I’ll dedicate an entire day to creating it for you!)

Sure, 1000 is pretty cool. I consider it a pretty big deal. But it takes a runner to look at that number and say “that number isn’t high enough. next year I will dominate my miles”. I’m sure a lot of you know what I’m talking about. Once you reach one milestone, you go voraciously after the next. You can call it the ‘running bug’ or an ‘addiction to running’ or whatever. But I think every runner that genuinely loves to run knows what I’m talking about. We will never stop. We can’t stop. Why would we stop? I look at some of those monthly mileage numbers and wonder why they aren’t higher. Yet, others make more sense. (November, for instance–after my first marathon and during a small bout of tendonitis.) Every runner is different and we all experience things differently.

I just know I’ll be running more mileage in 2012. My level of fitness between now and when I started my training in January is like night and day. I recall struggling to run a 6 mile tempo on the treadmill last February and how great it felt to have accomplished that. Six miles isn’t enough for me anymore (although there are days when 6 miles is necessary!). I’m excited to amp up my training in a couple of weeks to begin preparing for my spring half marathon schedule. My official goal is to run a sub-1:40 half marathon. I realize this is a lofty goal, but I feel like it’s well within my reach if I dedicate myself to serious training like I did most of 2011. My marathon pace was 8:07, but my half marathon PR pace is 7:55. I am totally capable of running the half at a quicker pace; I just know it!

Last Friday was my birthday and an extra special gift arrived from my Dailymile Secret Santa match! I got the book “Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run” by Kristin Armstrong. The book has been on my list for awhile and for whatever reason, I was reluctant to spend the money and buy it for myself. (Afterall, at a time when you should be shopping for others, it’s hard to stop shopping for yourself once you start!). I’ve only read 50 pages of it so far, but I love it already. It’s short-n-sweet tidbits about running camaraderie, struggle, excitement, joy, and love. I recommend every female runner out there go out and buy it. (I’m especially enjoying reading it before I go to bed. It’s my ‘running meditation’ before my morning miles the next day.)

 

I’m planning on running this weekend while home for Christmas and I’m oddly excited for the lack of snow. Typically I’d be disappointed that we wouldn’t be experiencing a White Christmas, but some rainy miles sound perfect to me right about now. I’m looking forward to fun miles, fun meals, and laughs with family. And it might just be my first run EVER on Christmas morning! (probably while everyone else is asleep and warm in their beds ha)

To bring an end to this rumination on miles and dedication, I’d like to leave you all with a gem of a music video. The title may be about “walking 500 miles”, but this year I RAN 1,000 FREAKIN’ MILES! :all smiles:

-J

The Travel Section of the NYT Got to Us…

As much as I like to adventure and explore, it’s rare when a fleeting idea turns into reality. And this particular adventure happened because of my mom’s voracious appetite for beach-combing in Michigan and kitschy little bookstores. (Although I don’t think I could totally rule out my desire for a short getaway either). In May, I got sucked in to the New York Times travel section online and stumbled across an article that screamed, “YOU MUST TELL MOM!”. The article was called “As American as Cherry Pie”, but pie was mentioned as an added bonus to the article’s centerpiece: the McLean and Eakin Booksellers store tucked away in quiet Petoskey, Michigan. The article’s author, a fiction writer herself, raved about the stores’ employees—women who can pin you with a book recommendation (or several) based on what you’ve read recently and lead you down a path to accumulate as many books as you possibly can, all while having an appetite to actually buy and devour each written word encased in their covers. I immediately posted the article to my mom’s Facebook wall, knowing that she would probably think “oh, wouldn’t that be nice?”. Now, mind you, my family (especially my mom) is known for packing up in record time and headed to some place that’s a few hours drive away just to soak up some new scenery. I guess I didn’t realize the extent of this genealogical effect until my mom commented on my post on her wall with these words: “I love a good bookstore! And I love Michigan! So a good bookstore in a place I love IS heaven! When do you want to go?”. Within a few short hours of me telling her about the article and the cute little bookstore we could peruse, we had decided on a date to take the plunge, to drive up to Petoskey, and spend a relaxing couple of days reading and beach-combing.

The first leg of my trip included a lakeside scenic trip from Chicago to Grand Rapids. Amtrak’s line toward G.R. curves around the lake, and, when the summer sun was setting, I found myself feeling like I wasn’t in the Midwest at all. The lake looked like the Pacific and I was going north along the east coast. …Except I wasn’t going that east and my train stopped smack dab in the center of Michigan. My mom scooped me up & we navigated our ways to our hotel for our one-night stay in Grand Rapids, resting up for a short mid-morning drive to Petoskey.

The drive northward is straight out of a Hemingway novel (or so I’ve been told). The relative flatland of southern Michigan gives way to rolling topography the farther north you get. Case in point: our romp to Deadman’s Hill. After seeing a tiny roadside sign reading “Deadman’s Hill Lookout”, we knew a U-turn was in order. We flipped the car, drove down a well-paved road that transformed itself into a pebble road needing some maintenance, and drove up to the lookout. After walking from the car to the outlook, we came to the sign pictured here, which reads: “The period of early logging in the hills of the Jordan River Valley was marred by several fatal accidents. The last known and best recalled tragedy took the life of 21-year old Stanley (Big Sam) Graczyk, a fun loving lumberjack, soon to be married. He became legend on May 20, 1920 when he was killed while driving a team and big wheels loaded with logs down a steep slope near here. Anthony (Tony) Wojciechowski who was with Big Sam when he died is responsible for the accurate recounting of this legend. This high point, with its commanding view of the valley, has ever since been known as Deadman’s Hill”. From there on out, Sam and Tony were the stewards of our adventure, although our adventure wasn’t quite as adventurous as theirs.

It turns out Hemingway’s influence was not limited to the fact that we were visiting his old stomping grounds. For dinner the first night in Petoskey (which was a Sunday), we went to the City Park Grill. Turns out Hemingway used to sit at the seat second from the end at the bar, scribbling away his novels. The history goes beyond fiction writers and straight to our taste buds from there. As both my Mom and I are always open to trying a new brew, both of us ordered the hoppy Hangin’ Frank from Short’s Brewery in Michigan. Yes, “Hangin’ Frank”. Whatever you’re picturing, it’s correct. The keg pull at the bar immediately caught our eye, probably because of such a literal and straightforward interpretation of the guy after whom it’s named. Turns out Hangin’ Frank is an IPA made exclusively for the City Park Grill and is named after Frank Fochtman, a former owner of the grill and the establishment’s longtime running ghost. Let me tell you, I am not a seasoned “dead-guy-dedicated” beer drinker. In fact, I’ve never had a beer named after a ghost before. But having experienced this “first” in the Grill that Frank actually haunts, I can tell you the beer was even more tasty than if I hadn’t known the story behind the brew.

After dinner, we walked down to the pier and meandered a bit of the lakefront immediately accessible to the central business district of Petoskey. The sun was going down and it was one of those summer nights when you felt like you could take your time doing whatever you were doing, but upon calling it a night you would be totally unable to tell someone exactly what it was that you did. ….Or maybe we had just reached the point of extreme relaxation. The next morning we had planned to go to American Spoon Cafe for breakfast, having passed by it later on Sunday past hours. I literally could have spent the entire afternoon at the cafe reading. And although it wasn’t the sunniest of days, the entire cafe seemed to be flooded with light. The gelato looked enticing but I was in the mood for something hearty and unique. I landed on the Smoked Whitefish Omelette and a cup of fresh Joe. I was NOT disappointed. I can still taste the smoked whitefish in my mouth! If I had already found a tome to devour, I would have been happy at American Spoon for at least 5 hours. But alas, we had not yet visited the Bookstore that had given us an escape route to Michigan.

I know I’ve been leading you on. I know that I have intentionally created hype surrounding the bookstore that was supposed to be the answer to our book-loving and book-buying dreams. Alas, I was not as impressed with the bookstore as the writer of the New York Times article. But that didn’t stop me from buying three books and finishing one in the next day, before arriving back home in Chicago. Every avid book reader I know could probably think of a bookstore that seems to be good lucky for him/her; a place where he or she can always go to find a book, no matter what kind of book they might be in the mood for. I’m not saying “don’t go to McLean and Eakin”. I’m saying “allow the books in their selection to talk to you”…and if you happen to walk out of this treasure with a stack of books you just can’t wait to crack the spines of then please DO write me and give me your take on the store!

Other than great food (that comes with great stories), a recommended bookstore (yes, despite my reservations), and a breath-taking shoreline (literally), Petoskey offers the chance to delve into a dream of being a homebuyer for all those that are not already (or who would love to own a summer home). Driving north of Petoskey’s downtown area, you come across a one-mile stretch of houses that are right out of a summer dreamland–where all the kids are neighborly and nice to one another K-8, and where parents really have not a care in the world. And to be honest, I think I would have no choice but to lead a carefree life if I lived in one of the Bayview Association homes.  I’ll leave with your own dreams……

-J