Hanging with the nephews

My oldest brother and his wife had their anniversary dinner so we took their boys out for dinner and some commerce. The older one, Daniel is turning 13 later this month so I wanted to get him his birthday gift early. Yeah, he’s still into legos so that’s cool with me. I can’t imagine him getting things that actually solidify his soon to be teenage-ness.

My brother dropped off the boys at Smash Burger where we planned to eat dinner with them. I’ve heard some good things about this place so I wanted to try it out. I have honestly have been doing pretty bad with the eating since I have been sick and “injured”, so I kept that trend. But trust me, I’ll be back on it soon!

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It’s funny when you end up knowing someone so well you realize you know what to expect. In this case, we were at a burger joint, probably with good burgers…and what does Daniel get? A grilled cheese. I totally knew when he saw that, he would be all over it. Last year when they stayed over we went to Superdawg, and did he get a hot dog? Nope! Grilled Cheese! This kid…but Eli on the other hand truly Jao’d it up with a burger. They washed it down with some really good looking root beer floats. Must be nice to have that youthful fast metabolism

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Jaz wanted to hit up a clothing store, so the boys and I just walked around Hobby Lobby. I was looking for a frame to mount my autographed Derrick Rose Jersey. I found a shadow box, but it was a little pricy, even after 50% off. I’m cheap sometimes…and very not cheap other times. Apparently this was a cheap moment. Probably because I knew I was going to spend some coin on the boys. We did manage to get this sweet shot of the boys:

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I don’t know why they weren’t smiling. I thought they were going to turn to the left for their second photo of their mugshots.

We then hit up the mall for Daniel to get his birthday gift. He’s such a nice kid that he insisted that Eli get something as well, as long as it was smaller in size to what he got. He’s also very logical. As I mentioned earlier, Daniel went the legos and Star Wars route. Another year I can live in denial that I have a teenage nephew. Eli on the other hand wanted a flat bill hat. I thought that was interesting, because he is the younger one, but is now starting to care about how he looks. I’m cool with expressing yourself through fashion, so I happily obliged.


check him out! But he also wanted skinny jeans…uh, we might have to figure out how to sidestep that one. Lol

Art from the Heart and Other Parts

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This past weekend we went to an art show at Rockstar Ink in Oak Park that benefits the Children’s Heart Foundation.  The event was called “Art from the Heart and Other Parts” and it was hosted by the CRAN project.  Ever since helping organize our Why I: HEART event last month, I have been way more into art.  Jaz and I even went to the Art Institute of Chicago for our Anniversary weekend in August.  Just talking with artists and their inspiration and especially their different processes in HOW they do their work is so amazing to me.  I won the item above from my new sworn enemy Elisha.  She outbid me on a piece at our event, and I walked away with her piece from their event.  I think I came out on top, as this is a pretty intricate and pretty large piece compared to what she won over me.  Plus, I’d own her at HALO.  So I automatically win.

The art community in Chicago seems to be a very tight knit one, and also very accepting one.  I know I will never actually be an artist in this community, but just to be around that kind of energy can be really good to push you towards your goal.  Ultimately they want to get their vision out there, kind of like how I have been trying to push my message of a healthier lifestyle.

Since I’m at it, I just wanted to share a couple of other pieces from my much more artistic friends…


Mike Maravilla with UnsceneMedia:


Chris Sotelo with Chris and Oliver cinema:


The pissed muscle of the week – Piriformis


After the 20 miler on Saturday I was feeling really good about the marathon.  I did the usual post-run ice bath when I got home and Jaz and I went to Edward and Michelle’s wedding where I danced…minimally.  Sunday we hung around the house and my brother and his family came by for dinner.  Then Monday…Oh My God.  I woke up with this terrible pain in my hip.  I had never had any type of issue with my hips so it got my concerned.  I had been trying to engage my glutes in my running the past couple of months, and it appears that I was “successful”.  But since I hadn’t been always doing it, using them for 20 miles can really take its toll.  Tuesday was way worse, I could barely move and walk around.  It was agonizing.  I started getting really worried with the marathon just a couple weeks away.

On top of that my allergies kicked in and I got a sinus infection.  I went to the chiropractor every day, stretched and iced as much as possible.  The pain travelled up to my lower/mid back area.  I finally went to get a massage on Thursday to see if my massage therapist Christine could figure out anything.  And she did.  My piriformis muscle on both sides were super tight and apparently this muscle is right on the sciatic nerve, which explains the pain in my lower back.

So after two months of having 100+ miles, I had my first goose egg week.  But somehow, I am not worried.  I know myself, and if I try to push myself after having a nagging injury, I will end up hurting myself even more.  My body needs the rest once again, so I will give it.  It was driving me crazy because the weather was SO cool this week, I know I would have loved every run this week.  As long as it stays this cool through October, I’m alright with missing this week!

So pirifformis muscles, sorry for pissing you off this past weekend.  I promise, I will only do that one more time this year!

Jaz got her license!!

I am ridiculously ecstatic that my wife finally got her license! She has been holding off on taking her test for so long, I just wasn’t sure when she was actually going to do it.  I know, she should have gotten it a long time ago, but if you always had someone to take you from place to place, why would you ever need to learn to drive.  I know it is a little sappy, but to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed taking her to work every morning so we could have just a little more time during the day together.  Don’t get me wrong, this will make us much more flexible, but it was just something we were talking about and I guess I never really thought of (missing driving together).  Obviously this is a great thing for us, but now we have to go shopping for another car.  I believe she is going to stick with the Scion and I will be getting another car.  Not sure what though.  Probably something with good fuel economy since I have to drive about 65 miles a day to and from work.  The xB has done pretty well, but I put the miles on Justine pretty quickly ~60K in 3 years!

Any suggestions?

Unexpected Motivation

For a while I have been trying to figure out what is so appealing about other runners.  Sure, they have incredible legs and can do something that many people don’t even think of starting, but there was just something more that makes me admire them.  This weekend I figured it out.

I ran the Elk Grove 20 miler on Saturday.  It was my second attempt at 20 miles this season and I was dead set on making it the full 20 this time.  It was very cool at the beginning and I was cursing myself to not having worn my gloves as my hands were pretty cold.  This run splits all the various pace groups in waves, so of course I was in one of the last waves.  Here we were, a few hundred or so people ready to embark on a 20 mile run.  For most of the group, it will take a fraction of the time for them to finish compared to me.  I always plan on just running my pace, making sure I just finish and not get in any people’s way.  But even though there were people fast enough to finishing about the time I hit 11 miles, there were people still giving me the approving nod or the occasional “stay strong” or “you got this!”  On any other day, we were completely strangers, but today we were in the thick of it…together.

I had been playing cat and mouse with this one woman pretty much the entire run.  I didn’t know who she was, but clearly we were pretty close to the same pace.  In my head, I called her Becky.  She’d pass me and I’d think “damn you Becky!” I’d pass her and I’d think “Bet you didn’t see that Becky!” The last 2 miles felt kind of rough for some reason.  She was making her move to pass me, and this time, instead of letting her, I stuck with her.  There just seemed to be something comforting about having someone thinking the same exact thoughts as me.  We’d hit a couple of tiny inclines and I would drive up them, making sure she followed me.  Then there were moments when I felt like I was starting to fade, and instead of taking off, she’d slow down and let me catch up until I caught up to the pace.  We didn’t say a word to each other.  Just knew that we were chipping away at the mileage, and I was feeling pretty good.  I didn’t have much of a kick left and I knew she did, so I finally let her go with about 1/3mi left.  She gave a quick glance back and she knew I wasn’t catching up this time and took off.  I had to walk for about a minute just to loosen up as my calves were tightening up, and then I finished the run on my own.  While I doubled over, stretching my legs I saw Becky walking by.  No words were spoken, but we both gave each other a smile, as a thank you.  I needed her there at the end and I think she needed me too.  If not, oh well, she had me around for almost 2 miles, haha.  Thanks Becky…or whatever your name is.

So what is the thing that makes runners so appealing?  It’s that inner strength you must have to be a runner.  That inner strength is so evident, that even people that are just around you can feel it, whether it’s just a comment to motivate you, or just simply being there and leading by example.  I hope that is something that I can learn and share with others.  Once you have that inner strength and confidence, there isn’t much that can stop you from going towards what you dream.  Keep fighting…it will be worth it.


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6am on a Saturday – Runners go run 20 miles



Have you ever had that moment in your life when you just knew you would succeed?  I think I have finally hit that moment in training.

Let’s admit it, last year was terrible.  I was severely undertrained, and didn’t have a good base to run something like a marathon.  I look back at last year and I think about how naive I was.  I thought the fact that it was such a “great thing” that I was training for a marathon would carry me through that day in October.  I remember thinking all year that I was jumping into something crazy, but the fact that I am doing it means that I would finish.  But all through last year, I never once felt good about the marathon.  Of course I would worry about it everyday, but there was never a moment last year when I said to myself “I think I will do well”.  So I went into the marathon, with 18 weeks of training behind me, over $2000 raised for the America Heart Association…the fact that I got to the start line, was a victory in itself.  And to me, it felt like the last part of the win that day.

Here are some of the pictures where I felt like I was defeated that I haven’t really shared online (mainly because I was ashamed):

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Weeks went by after the marathon, and I was sure that I would never go through that again.  I know the weather was not ideal and it was not in our control, but it scarred me.  It discouraged me.  It almost felt like I was proven wrong.  I didn’t finish like I wanted to.  I wanted to finish with a genuine smile on my face, and it didn’t happen.  I felt cheated.  I wanted another shot, but could I be strong enough?

Here I am, 24 days till my second marathon and I had that moment.  The moment I felt like I will be ready for the marathon.  Throughout my training this summer, I did my best to stick to a running schedule, running 4-5 times throughout the week including the long run on the weekend.  I gave my body rest when I felt I needed it.  I iced and stretched constantly, and most importantly, I trained my mind by pushing my body.  Remember those 95 degree days we had this summer? I ran in it because I wanted to remember how tough it was last year in the heat and find a way to finish my run.  The moment came yesterday when I was running with the F^3 crew during their fun run downtown.  It was a cool night and it was just supposed to be a casual run through  the city.  I ran with Heather, Cate, and Christine and they said they were going to do a slower pace.  They ended up easing into their usual pace, but somehow I kept up reasonably well.  Before I knew it, I shaved a minute off each mile running an average 10:30/mi (my usual is 11:30).  I was shocked, but the fact that I did it means that I am capable!  Now I am not expecting that throughout the marathon, but geez, I’ve never run that pace for that long!

But there it is, I am a runner.  I will be running the Chicago Marathon in 24 days.  And I will be ready for it.



For one of the first times in my short running life, running was more than just foot after foot.  I am sure that out of the almost 12,000 runners who finished today’s Chicago Half Marathon, people were sharing the same thoughts. Every so often I would catch a glimpse of a runner carrying an american flag or a sign from a spectator mentioning what 9/11 means to us now.  And for those couple of strides of catching eye contact with these people, I would get that lump in my throat and I start to fight back tears.  Now of course that is something you could have caught on TV at some point today, but actually being out there with people who have shared that same pain, or even more pain if they lost someone in those day’s attacks.

During the race, I started thinking about where I was ten years ago with my life around the time of the 9/11 attacks and how life has continued even after that horrific day.  It was difficult not to catch footage or segments this week on the radio about that day.  Today, I thought about how these people actually lived through that day, whether actually being there in front of it all, or someone they loved died.  There were moments that just overtook me and I just wanted to stop and cry though out the race.  Everytime I had that feeling I remembered the people I heard on the radio or on TV talking about their experiences.  Here they were, 10 years later, sharing their story and instilling a sense of courage into anyone who would listen.  I remember that day I was so scared because I wasn’t sure if my brother was traveling for work that week.  Those moments when I didn’t know felt like hours, but soon enough, we found out all was okay.  We were the fortunate ones.  There were thousands of people who never got that call from their loved ones.  Now those same people moved on from that day and have continued to live their lives.  So I would shake out that lump in my  throat and move on, just as they did.

There is something about finishing a race that is so exhilarating.  The entire race goes through your mind in that last stretch and you just want to finish strong.  Luckily I saw Sean at the last corner, it is always nice to see a familiar face on the course.  He had finished about an hour earlier, and he decided to run that last 1/4 mile or so with me.  Here was the perfect example of someone just wanting to help, just like that day 10 years ago.  And then the emotions came flying through me again.  I saw Jaz waiting for me on the sideline, and I waved to her and mouthed “I love you”, Sean exited off to the side and it was just me and 200 feet till the finish line.  I kicked it into high gear and just let all my thoughts run me.  At the end of every race I run, I send a kiss to the sky for my dad.  Today, I sent another kiss for all of those who died on 9/11/01.  It was my moment with them.  I may have never known the wonderful people that died that day, but today, I ran for them.