A Successfull Shamrock Shuffle

Toni, Julie and Colleen (Team 40/10) pre shuffle

I am happy to report that 3 members of Team 40/10 successfully completed the Shamrock Shuffle 8K Sunday morning.  It was a blast thanks to weather that miraculously cooperated and long-time friends that kept me laughing all morning long….

Well, the members of Team 40/10 that ran the Shuffle continue to battle the “40” part of the team name.  One team member is nursing nagging knee pain that might be the beginnings of osteoarthritis, one is battling overall joint pain following taking a week off of training due to an awful cold, and after successfully recovering from a heel injury, I had a gallbladder attack the night before the Shuffle.  To steal Colleen’s battle cry “OY VEY!!!”  Thankfully we were all able to overcome our ailments to actually run the entire 5 miles without further injury.  Read on and you might find yourself overcoming your obstacles to find the joy in accomplishing something new…

Team 40/10’s Shamrock Shuffle 8K – March 21, 2010 – Chicago, IL

It’s 5 0’clock in the morning and I didn’t have to get my gallbladder removed so I take it as a sign that today is going to be a good day.  I feel a bit more relaxed than I did prior to the Turkey Trot as I had run a few 5 mile training runs since I recovered from my heel injury.  My runs were not focused on speed.   I was just trying to get the miles on my legs and lungs.  This resulted in pretty slow training runs but I didn’t die, get eaten by a coyote, or reinjure myself so yay for me.  I was pretty sure I would finish, but that was it for my expectations. 

Alex and I hit the road to meet team members so we can carpool into the city.  We are dismayed, to say the least, as we have to use the windshield wipers constantly to clear the windows of sleet.  I keep saying to anyone who will listen, “It can snow and rain all it wants until we have to get out of the car and stand in the corrals.”  Unfortunately Alex is the only member of my captive audience and he sleepily nods his head in agreement.  We arrive at our meeting point and Alex, for the 3rd time of the day (it’s only 7:15 in the morning) says that it’s colder outside than… in the house, in the car, than before etc. etc. You get the idea. 

Jim, Tom and Alex - Team 40/10 support crew

We all pile into the van and head into the city.  Jim, who drives like a veteran cab driver, gets us downtown in record time.  Much to our amazement, the weather appears to be clearing up! Sadly, we exit the car and it gives Alex yet another opportunity to state how cold it is.  In his defense, we are all frightened by the bone chilling winds whipping off the lake. We make sure we have cell phones and agree on a meeting point for the end of the run.  We get the first glimpse of the sea of humanity that we will be joining. The Alex and Tom abandon us for the corral that states “9 minute mile” pace.  Jim heads off in search of a warm place to have coffee. Team 40/10 let’s them go.  We happily file into the corral that states “10 minute mile” knowing that this may not be right, but we don’t want to start too close to the street sweepers that clean up after the last runners. 

As we stand in the aptly named “corral”, we resemble cattle as we inch forward toward what we hope will eventually be the starting line.  Colleen provides much comic relief as she is completely exasperated with her inability to “start running ALREADY!”  I, on the other hand, am taking in the sights.  I don’t know what moves people to wear ridiculous outfits for race day, but I LOVE it!  Team 40/10 looks like we’re about to rob a bank.  We are dressed head to toe in black/grey save for Colleen’s red hat.  Others have chosen flannel shamrock pants, shamrock antennae head gear, shamrock Dr. Seuss hats, and green fishnets.  It’s approximately 37 degrees out and I see some very serious runners wearing almost nothing. I say almost because they are wearing sports bras, teensy weensy running shorts – that’s it. But wait, they are wearing arm warmers (picture leg warmers for arms). Like that’s going to keep you from dying of hypothermia.  Julie says she’s thirsty and eyes the water bottle hanging off the utility belt of an over prepared fellow runner standing mere inches in front of her.  We almost die of laughter as she feigns taking a sip right off the bottle. These are the moments that make me thankful that we went to the bathroom twice as we were waiting to start the run.  In the midst of all the craziness, we sense the front of the pack start to inch forward a bit.  My heart starts beating a bit quicker as it dawns on me that we are about to do this thing.  This goes on for what seems like the entire 5 miles.  We walk past a 10 foot tall speaker that is blaring some Taylor Swift song and walk under the banner that announces START and we are off!

Colleen is a quick footed runner and finds a hole and Julie and I are left to watch her red baseball cap disappear into the crowd ahead.  Julie and I are step for step and happy to settle into our stride.  I wish I could say the miles went by as quickly as they seemed to for the Turkey Trot, but that would be a big fat lie.  Apparently Chicago is not as flat as Naperville. It has bridges, hills and slight rises that do not make me happy.  It’s quite an experience running with 25,000 people through downtown Chicago and along the lakefront.  There are supportive spectators ringing cowbells, blowing whistles, clapping, waving signs, cheering from the overpasses, and hanging out windows lining the entire route.  I lose Julie for a moment and then I find her.  I lose her and then I find her.  At about 1.5 miles I lose sight of her for the last time as I get stuck behind a couple that finds it necessary to run holding hands.  Barf.  I think I see Julie about 17 times during the rest of the run, but there are many, many Asian women wearing all black and donning ponytails.  Later Julie discloses that she too thought she saw me many times.  I pass the marker that indicates I’ve reached the 5K distance and I remember that was the Turkey Trot distance.  I fight the disappointment that rushes over me as I come to the realization that I still have 2 more miles to go.  I dodge the myriad of lost hats, single gloves and socks (can’t figure that one out) that have dropped from clueless runners.  I know I’m running at a quick pace for myself.  I’m just trying not to get run over. Of course the last 2 miles consist of a turn that has us running into a wind tunnel and one last hill that has got to be someone’s idea of a cruel joke.  My legs are dead as I approach the finish line.  There is no sprint to the finish for me this time. I’m relieved to be done and amazed to beat my best time for that distance by 6 minutes.  It’s still a snail’s pace by most people’s standards, but it’s super speedy for me and that’s what matters. 

Julie and I find each other with the help of our cell phones.  We take our “finishers” picture, slug some Gatorade, eat a banana, collect our beer (we didn’t get carded – ugh!), and meet up with the rest of the group at our meeting place.  We all share our individual experiences and it’s priceless to relive it. 

Team 40/10 finishes another organized run.  We all finished vertical and smiling.  We are all happy with our times.  Most of all we had fun accomplishing something together.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.  This is going to be a fun year full of ups and downs (literally) for Team 40/10 as we continue our trek towards the Marathon in October.  The next significant step will be a ½ marathon in June. OY VEY!


Until next time…Live Well, Toni Kuhel

...and SMILING!!!


Trot Toward the Finish Line

Julie and me before the Turkey Trot

With all the build up to the Turkey Trot, I thought you’d like to know how it went for Team 40/10. This is my account of reaching for the next goal.

It’s 6:30 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. Alex has already hit the snooze button twice.  Gotta get up because it is TURKEY TROT DAY!!!!  Fanfrickintastic! The first snow of the season came today accompanied with rain and wind with a “feels like” temp of 30 degrees according to the pathetic weather man that has to work on Thanksgiving.  We put on our layers of clothes like we are getting ready for a trek through Antarctica.  Julie (Team captain of Team 40/10) and her husband Tom arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed on our front door step at 7:00.  My heart is racing and we are still standing in my kitchen. I’m so nervous because, up until that very moment, I had only run 5K’s on the treadmill with no hills, wind, or people to dodge.  I had previously run 2 miles outdoors and thought I saw my life flash before my eyes.  How the heck is this run going to go for me today?  My goal is to run the whole 5K and not kill myself or other people.  I would also like to avoid looking like I’m about to have a heart attack, asthma attack, stroke or other acute health emergency.  I manage to slug down a protein drink and ½ a Larabar and a glass of water.  My stomach is quivering so much I can’t muscle down the rest of the fruit bar. I’m freaked out over the possibility of not achieving this first goal. I want to do well because it will set the tone for the training I have to face the rest of the year with the Chicago Marathon as the ultimate goal.  If I’m this much of a wreck before my first real 5K, what kind of a disaster will I be standing at the starting line of the marathon? Too much to process….must trot like a Turkey….must avoid looking like a Turkey.

After parking the car several blocks from the starting line we start to see them.  We see those very serious runners that are doing a warm-up run back and forth along the street.  Julie and I exchange knowing glances that say “We are not doing that!” without having to utter a word.  I’m a bit concerned because I’m a tad winded from the walk up the slight hill and from adjusting to breathing in the cold air. I have visions of me walking after 2 miles of trotting. We finally arrive at the school and it is teeming with all kinds of participants. There are the afore mentioned serious trotters donning shorts and Chicago Triathlon shirts, gaggles of high school girls wearing matching neon tie-dyed knee socks, regular folk looking for justification to eat an entire pumpkin pie, little kids (this strikes fear into my heart –oh the agony of being shown up by an athletic 6 year old), parents with jogging strollers and everyone else in between.  The diversity is comforting as I don’t think I’ll stick out if I should feel the need to walk.

We all find our spot at the starting line and we are packed like sardines. I’m protected from the wind by the ring of people around me.  The announcer is announcing something and then just like that, the pack loosens up because it’s trotting time! I push the start button on my watch as I cross under the banner and Julie and I get going. Alex and Tom are long gone and that’s just fine with us.   The energy of fellow runners, the chatting I hear all around me, the relief that it’s all begun – it’s exhilarating.  Previously I told Julie that I wouldn’t be talking to her because I was sure I’d need to conserve my breathing or else I’d lose consciousness.  I’m feeling so good; I actually get a few comments out of my mouth without feeling like dying.  Julie calculates that we are on our usual pace as we pass the 1 mile marker. I take note of my heart rate (still beating, but not too fast – check), I take note of my breathing (still breathing , but not too hard – check) and we take on mile 2.  It’s around this time we spot Uncle Sam running alongside us.  Really…he’s got a costume on from head to toe. We get passed by a number of quick footed runners and we pass others.  Hopefully the “others” view Julie and me as “quick footed” too .  We make the first turn and we are both amazed at how strong we feel. We comment on the apparent turn in the weather.  All the wind and spitting rain has stopped.  It’s actually perfect running weather in our opinion, because if it was any warmer we’d be sweating our heads off.  I take off my gloves, tuck them into my shirt and unzip my hoodie. Instantly I feel more comfy.  All of a sudden we spot the 2 mile marker. It’s just about snuck up on us! Woo hoo! We can hardly believe it’s here already. Remember, the last 2 mile run outdoors was a huge struggle for me. Julie hadn’t even run outside because she’s been sick. We were conquering this thing!!  We continue to navigate through the throngs of runners, being passed and passing others again and again.  We pass a water station without taking water. I wish I could say it was because we didn’t want any, but I wasn’t so sure that it would be a good idea to mess with our pace. Slowing down might never turn into speeding up again. We make what I think is the last turn back toward the school.  I announce this to Julie and we keep chugging along.  It’s at this point we see those really, really excited runners coming back towards us on the sidewalk. Yup, these folks were not only finished with the trot, but they were running back home. They were shouting things like “You’re almost there! Good job!”.  I’m jealous that they are done and have energy /audacity to come running back voluntarily.  Well, the finish line has got to be coming soon.  And there it is… I see the beige bricks of the school at the very end of the road. Julie tells me that I should go faster if I feel like it. She tells me she feels her coughs coming on.  I see another turn that I’m absolutely convinced is the last turn and I get excited.  I really want to be done and my legs feel good so I pick up my speed.  I hear Julie say “Go Toni!” and then I go.  I start sprinting around the corner and I’m a bit annoyed because the finish line is not as close as I would like it to be, but I’ve already started sprinting.  About  ¼ mile from the finish line I really start regretting the decision to sprint so early.  I see the people lining the streets and the finish line ahead and I dig deep.  I…just…want…to …be…done…al…read…y!! And just like that I step over the finish line, under the banner that we trotted under just 33 minutes and 25 seconds earlier. I throw my hands up with no one in particular watching. I DID IT! I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I DID IT!  I find Alex, Tom and Julie at our predetermined meeting spot. We are all vertical and smiling.  Alex with his long legs finishes in 26 minutes. Tom, a previous marathon participant, finishes in 28 minutes. And despite Julie’s proclamation that I smoked her, she finishes just 10 seconds behind me.

Miles and miles away, another Team 40/10 member is doing her self-made solo 5K with her girls and husband at her finish line. Unlike us, she had hills, ice, and traffic to face. Colleen is the watermark for our team.  She sets the bar high for all of us with longer distances and faster times.  She finishes in about 29 minutes even with all her obstacles.  A rock star as usual!

Goal 1 is done! Julie and I can’t stop saying “We did it!”.  We can’t stop smiling because it wasn’t so bad. It was fun and it felt great! We are looking for our next challenge. Of course Colleen has already started cooking up a 5 mile Team 40/10 training run.  What’s another 2 miles….

Part of Team 40/10...vertical and smiling post trot!

Until next time… Live Well! –Toni Kuhel

Team 40/10


As many of you know (if you’ve been paying attention) I will be running the Turkey Trot with my husband Alex, my friend and her husband.  What I haven’t shared with you is the big picture…the big, giant, humungous picture.  Spurred on by my friend Julie (Turkey Trot partner), we have created Team 40/10 (we all turn 40 in 2010) to run the Chicago Marathon in October next year.  You can stop laughing now if you’ve been reading my Tweets that declare a personal best of 2 miles non-stop outside and a first 5K non-stop on the treadmill.

I am practicing the fine art of finding motivation to keep up my running workouts.  I won’t disclose the identities of my fellow team mates, but I will say we are a collection of 4 high school friends. We have all been to each other’s weddings, our kids have grown up playing together, and apparently we are all equally delusional. If I think long and hard about our end goal of surviving and making a good showing at the marathon, I get breathless.  If I think about how tough the first 5K on the treadmill was and multiply it by 9, I get panicked.  If I look at the faces of friends when I tell them of this ultimate goal, I feel embarrassed.

I am not a runner.  I will become a runner.  I don’t run because I enjoy it.  I didn’t run at all before this proposition.  There is a famous saying, “If you see Toni running you better run too because something/someone is chasing her.”  The point being that I don’t run for the sake of running.   I am now running toward a goal.  I cannot express fully what a huge difference this has made in my workout mind.  My focus is different.  I’m always looking to improve something about my run.  I’m looking to improve my speed, distance, heart rate, endurance, strength, and injury prevention.  I understand I am very early in the process and a whole slew of obstacles could and probably will pop up over this training year.  But…hold on to your hats….I am ENJOYING running!!! I don’t think I’ve experienced the rumored “runner’s high” just yet. I think you have to run longer, but I’m really looking forward to making small improvements every week so that I can feel that “high”.

Team 40/10 is a thing of beauty.  We share our workout logs, our triumphs and challenges.  We encourage one another and share tips and info that we find on-line or from experience.  There is something to be said for community.  Our little community has kept us honest with our workouts and kept us belly laughing at our dilemmas.  I am not suggesting to anyone to take on this challenge.  This is my challenge to you- Figure out what will give structure and focus to your workouts.  What will light the fire under your feet to get you up and out of bed on those dark mornings? What’s going to make it worth it for you to get off the couch and move with a purpose?  Will it be emails to a workout confession friend, a personal trainer, Weight Watchers, a workout journal, or your version of Team 40/10? Whatever it takes, figure it out and do it.

Now what you all have to look forward to is updates on the trials and tribulations of Team 40/10 in addition to the follies of the Kuhel family.  Wrestling season has just started for my Evan and Jared, Renee has returned to her Jazz dance class and Alex has a renewed spark to begin running. The stories are about to get very good, or at the very least, very entertaining.  I’d love to hear about any goals you are setting.  You can do anything. My immediate goal is to complete the Turkey Trot non-stop with Julie – vertical and smiling at the end. I’m off to add another 5K onto my running shoes – gotta report to the team later and I’m not prepared to fess up to missing a run.

Until next time…Live Well! – Team 40/10 ROCKS!!! – Toni Kuhel