Two Weeks Until the Chicago Marathon - And I Get Plantar Fasciitis

More accurately, it's less than two weeks until the Chicago Marathon and the Plantar Fasciitis came out of nowhere and has taken up residence in my left foot. Great.

From the Mayo Clinic:

Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.

Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.

Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners. In addition, people who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are at risk of plantar fasciitis.

My pain started last Thursday after what I categorized as a "fabulous run". So fabulous that I sprinted the last two miles because I was feeling great and wanted to see this:
What Happens Ten Minutes Later #shirleyruns #postrun #itgetsbetter #sunrise

I stayed long enough to watch the sky morph into a swirl of pastels [so I was late getting back home] and I probably didn't stretch properly afterwards [ie, I didn't stretch at all]. Walking into work, I noticed some pain emanating from my left heel.

Uh Oh.

I had 12 miles scheduled for Saturday, but instead I "ran" 3 miles on the elliptical machine, swam 20 laps in the pool and finished off with 25 minutes of pool running. The foot was feeling good - not "too" achy.

So I ran 10 miles on Sunday. Yes, probably not the best thing to do, but my foot "didn't hurt too badly" and I wanted to see how much it would hurt. Yes, it hurt to run, and it is possible I won't be able to complete the Chicago Marathon in 12 days.

Pretty much sucks.

I will, however, look at the positive - thank goodness I'm in the Taper phase of training. I don't have to run these last two weeks - I can swim, pool run and maybe hit a Spin class this week. Then really rest up next week.

What I am doing to try and heal up my foot over the next two weeks (based on information gleaned from websites and talking with other runners):
  • Massage my affected foot - alternating between a tennis ball, golf ball and frozen water bottle
  • Foam roll and stretch my calf muscle - I've come to the conclusion that I have tight calves, despite being very flexible. Keeping the calves and Achilles stretched will place less tension on the plantar fascia.
  • Perform strengthening exercises for the foot.

I'll make a final assessment next week on my marathon status. Not the way I want it to be, but nevertheless what I got. Life will still go on.....


Senior Photos - A Girl and Her Horse

A few "keepers" from this evening's photo shoot at the barn with my daughter.

We got there late, just as the sun was setting, so the light isn't the best. We should have arrived 30 minutes earlier, but some of these turned out OK - thank goodness for high ISO!

A Girl and Her Horse
I must have snapped 20 photos of her on Caesar, but this one was the only one remotely "decent". The moon and stars need to align perfectly - those who have horses know what we were up against in this field full of grass.

A Girl and Her Horse

A Girl and Her Horse

Then there are the outtakes.
I Like to Pant Sometimes

I've convinced her to have another session - this one will be in the early morning, so at least we won't be fighting the clock for light and I hope to get some nice golden morning light. Stay tuned!


The Friday Five - Summer Review

Bright Lights and Cityscapes
Summer Lights Up the Boston Skyline

With the official start of Autumn this past Tuesday, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the past summer.

  1. The weather - Again, I'm fixated on the weather. This summer's cooler than normal temperatures, coupled with ample rain was simply perfect. For the first summer ever, I didn't have to water the lawn!
  2. We moved our daughter's horse, Caesar, to a new barn, a great place that is much closer to our house (10 minutes away vs 30 minutes).
  3. I took my son and one of his friends to Boston and had a great time. I visited my parents, staying in their Plymouth home, probably for the last time (they plan to sell the house soon).
  4. I participated in a month long on-line yoga challenge, focusing on arm balances. I don't often mention my yoga pursuits here, and this challenge was just that - very challenging, but I a learned a ton. If you care to see the poses, head over to this set on my Flickr Stream.
  5. Even with the good, there was some sadness this summer. My good friend, Kellie, moved away, my violin teacher decided to stop teaching and I lost a running partner. But with each change, we grow and adapt. I am blessed by so much, regardless of the season.
Did you have a great summer?


Sky Full of Stars - Photographing Star Trails

I took advantage of the clear, moonless skies last night and made my first attempt at photographing star trails.

Sky Full of Stars

It's not a perfect capture, but I'll take it. I learned many things in the process.

  • I made 20 exposures using my 24-70mm lens, my camera mounted on a tripod. Some of the exposure details:
  • 24mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 20 seconds
  • I also used a remote shutter release in an attempt to reduce camera shake, but as you can tell, there is still some blur going on. I enabled the Long Exposure Noise reduction processing on my camera, which sounded like the right thing to do, but resulted in a 30 second delay between exposures. This causes gaps in the stars trails.
  • For Post processing, I combined 19 exposures (I removed one exposure due to an airplane flying low through the sky) in PSE and for each layer, set the blending mode to "Lighten", which allows the brightest parts of each exposure to be seen.
  • I also found software that will stack and process everything for you - StarStaX, making things very easy.
For my next try (possibly soon as the weather cooperates), I will make the following changes:
  • Exposure setting changes - 24mm, f/2.8, 20 seconds and whatever ISO gives me a proper exposure (I'll have to play around with it). The aperture change here is to see if I can get brighter star trails.
  • Turn off the in camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction.
  • Use the interval timer, which will automatically make consecutive images.
  • If possible, I will try for a different time at night to shoot - while it is dark enough at 8pm now, I found there to be a lot of "other stuff going on in the sky" - planes, etc, that interfere with the concentric trails.
Capturing star trails has always been on my "photography bucket list", but I was recently inspired to finally get it done. I found that inspiration in a song. It's all over the popular music airwaves, so maybe you've heard it.

Of course, it's Coldplay's Sky Full of Stars.
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars
I'm gonna give you my heart
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars
'Cause you light up the path

I don't care, go on and tear me apart
I don't care if you do, ooh
'Cause in a sky, 'cause in a sky full of stars
I think I saw you

The song evokes the vastness of the sky and reminds me that we are all connected by the stars. I am looking at the same stars as friends far, far away. We can be so far apart, but still feel a glimmer of closeness. Who do I look for when I stare up at the stars? Family, friends, loved ones. I also feel wonderment and remember that darkness is needed in order for the stars to shine.

I hope you take time tonight to check out your night sky - hopefully it will be clear and full of the same stars I'll be watching.


Fifteen Years Young

Yesterday was the boy's fifteenth birthday. Oh, how fast the years pass!

From this little tyke (at seven days old!):
A Week Old

To this big guy:
Why Isn't He Playing?

The ideal birthday? Sleep in until noon, head over to your friends' house and play Minecraft for an hour, then head home for a round of golf with your Dad. After golf, play football with more friends, then go to dinner with friends.

Birthday Celebration #teenagelife
It's a tough life, isn't it?

My personal highlight of the day - unabashedly singing duets with him in the car after dropping off the last of his friends. It's one of our "mother - son" activities - we cue up the Glee Version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and belt it out. He doesn't quite sing on key, and he doesn't care.

And neither do I.


The Friday Five - Indulgences

Five [Indulgent] Things I'm thinking about this Friday.

  • The weather - we can never stop talking about / thinking about the weather! A little over a week ago, the AC was running in the house. It's cooled off so much now, I wonder how long I can stave off flipping that switch to "Heat". But with the cooler weather, we've enjoyed our first Chili of the season. I also made Chicken Noodle Soup, baked a batch of spiced pumpkin scones and indulged in a Spiced Pumpkin Latte. [On the subject of Spiced Pumpkin Coffee - I'm now making my own, using real pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg]
Since it Feels Like Fall Today, Taco Soup for #dinner #foodie
Another Fall Favorite - Taco Soup
  • My guilty pleasure song download of the week (actually, of the month, since I hardly ever download music) - Taylor Swift's Shake It Off [Yes, I hear people wailing "noooooo..." right now]. Let me explain myself - the song is perfect to run with! With a snappy 160 beats per minute tempo, it's just a little slower than my running cadence. Plus, the chorus alliteration makes for easy "sing-it-in-your-head" playback as my feet hit the ground.
'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
    I also purchased Clean Bandit's "Rather Be" and the "Bang Bang" collaboration by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. It was quite the song purchase splurge for me. I added all the songs to my "Running" Playlist.
  • A Jimmy John's Sub Shop finally opened in the little town where I work. We've been anxiously awaiting this lunch alternative to the typical fast food that's available here. I enjoy their subs and crunchy kettle potato chips, but I didn't realize how yummy their cookies are! The triple chocolate cookie - the perfect buttery moistness, punctuated with white, dark and milk chocolate sweetness. They are big enough for sharing, too (but you might not want to!).
  • The iPhone 6 or 6Plus, that is the question. I am using a three year old iPhone 4s so I'm due for an upgrade. I'm going to wait until the local Verizon store has the physical devices so I can hold them, put them in my pocket and [most importantly] see what fits in my running shorts / skirt / tights. Yes, you can bet I'll bring my running gear to the store. The lens stabilization offered in the iPhone 6 Plus camera gives it an edge over the non-Plus version, but I wonder if the form factor might be too big. Regardless, I need to wait until mid October to make the switch.
  • With the cooler weather, I get to wear cozy leggings around the house, to the store and to yoga class. I bought a pair herringbone leggings, and while I initially vacillated back and forth on the purchase, I am so glad I have them - so soft and cozy and they look great with a skirt and boots.
There you have it - Five indulgences for this Friday. I hope your Friday is great and you can enjoy an indulgence or two this weekend!


We're Marching On

A little bit of Black and White this Wednesday:


My Memory Art


Horse Jumps at High Speed

About 2 tenths of a second (estimated based on my camera specs of 5.5 frames / second):




Mid Air

Stick the Landing


I told my daughter I would buy a GoPro video camera if she would jump with it. I think it would cool to see it from her perspective. She hasn't warmed up to the idea yet....


The Friday Five

Five things I'm thinking about this Friday

  • It's our 22nd wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary, Scott!
Back in June
Not the best photo of the two of us, but the latest one I had on my phone - taken in June.

  • Since it's almost the middle of September, I really need to update my blog header! Maybe I'll work on that this weekend (instead of cleaning up the yard - wait, I really need to weed the garden, even though that 5 foot high thistle must really look impressive from the street).
  • It feels like Fall outside and I am not complaining - I'm breaking out some cozy leggings and boots for the football game tonight.
  • It's exactly one month until the Chicago Marathon. Those little aches and pains in my knee and ankles are calling out to me a little more. I've been mitigating / managing with increased stretching, foam rolling, strength exercises and acupuncture. Yes, I started acupuncture sessions in late July as a part of my "three pronged attack" on my ankle injury [The other two prongs - seeing a foot doctor who prescribed deep tissue massage and a physical therapy assessment]. A running friend recommended a local, very affordable acupuncturist and after the results I've seen, I am sold on the treatment. Here is some background on the practice of acupuncture:
The technique of acupuncture involves placing hair-thin needles in various pressure points (called acupoints) throughout the body. Stimulating these points is believed to promote the body's natural healing capabilities and enhance its function.
  • This week's excitement - yesterday, I took my son to the Doctor's office / clinic to have blood drawn to check for Varicella (Chicken Pox) immunity. The state of Illinois requires all incoming high school freshmen to have their Varicella vaccine / booster. My son was exposed to the chickenpox when he was 18 months old at daycare. We opted to give him the Varicella vaccine when we learned he had been exposed in an attempt to lessen / prevent the illness. He did break out into a half dozen small blisters, a very mild case. Because of this, a booster shot is not needed.
    I don't, however, have documentation of the confirmed case of the chickenpox, so a blood test is needed to satisfy the State requirement.
  • This was my son's first time having his blood drawn, and during the process, he passed out! The "Nurse Alert" was sounded in the clinic, and I watched as three nurses, one EMT and an administrator descended upon my son. I wasn't too freaked out as I have personally passed out at least three times (once after a weight lifting session in High school, once in a store and the third time during immunizations I had before traveling to China - I blogged about it here. Scott passed out after having blood drawn at work and in the same clinic as today's episode. I guess it runs in the family. I am thankful for the nurses' quick and thorough response. He won't be too keen to donate to the blood drive, though.

What's happening on your Friday?


Chicago in 2003 - Throwback Thursday | 3

Our first day trip to Chicago, to celebrate the end of Summer.
We departed early on the Amtrak train. Riding the train was a treat - we ate breakfast in the Dining car and spent most of the trip in the observation train, where the windows curved along the sides and roof of the car, giving the occupants a lovely, unobstructed view of the landscape.

Day Trip to Chicago - 2003

Day Trip to Chicago - 2003
You Can Barely Tell, but my Little Boy is Wearing a Fish Tale Shirt - Perfect for Today's Visit

We visited the Shedd Aquarium that day.
Day Trip to Chicago - 2003

Day Trip to Chicago - 2003

Day Trip to Chicago - 2003

Day Trip to Chicago - 2003
Yes, We Broke Down and Bought Her a White Seal Stuffed Animal - She Loves Animals

It was a fun day trip, but our experience with Amtrak was a little frustrating due to numerous delays (the track is shared with freight trains, and they get preference). In subsequent years, we opted to drive to the Chicago suburbs and take the commuter train into the city instead. Still, I'm glad we took one trip on Amtrak - there is something nostalgic and romantic about a true rail experience.


The Sunset and Moonrise

What I saw while out walking this evening - the end of a perfect September day.

The sunset
Tequilla Sunset
I don't think I'll ever tire of sunsets (or sunrises) around here.

A Surprise
This is what my camera decided to Autofocus on while I was trying to shoot the sunset. Maybe my camera is smarter than me.

Another Surprise - the Moonrise
I See the Full Moon Arising
I wasn't even searching it out - and boom - there it was, this huge ball rising above the houses in the neighborhood. If I had been smarter, I would have been out along the prairie, watching for it. This is the lazy photographer's moonrise - and I'll take it - this time.

Did you see the Super Moon Rise last night?


September 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Cape Cod

September's Desktop Calendar displays the beauty of Cape Cod's sand dunes - filled with wild sea roses.

I shot this image in 2011 while visiting my parents who spend their summers in Plymouth, MA, a town considered to be the gateway to Cape Cod. When I pulled up this month's calendar image, I was surprised (I curate my calendar images in December - I never remember what's coming next) and felt a bit nostalgic. Nostalgic because my parents recently decided to sell their Plymouth home, a beautiful, light filled place that sits high upon the hills, overlooking the pines. Whenever I visit, I'm filled with calm and serenity. I'll definitely miss the place.

To download September's Free Calendar, click on this link from
September 2014 Calendar - Cape Cod

If you care to view some of the photos I've taken over the years while visiting my parent's place, I've compiled some of the photos into an album on my flickr stream.

Scenes from Plymouth


Along My Run | 7 - August Rebound

I'm hesitant to say I've made a full recovery from my ankle injury, because I know these things can revert as quickly as the days have become shorter, so I'll just settle for a "running rebound" in August.

The days are noticeably shorter - each morning run starting a little darker than the previous day's. I've always noted that once the calendar flips to August, it feels like a light switch flips, and we become enveloped in darkness in the early morning and evening. The transition takes getting used to - getting up in the dark, donning reflective gear and lights. Soon, the entire run will be in the dark - I can't say I'm looking forward to it.

I am, however, looking forward to some cooler temperatures and less humid conditions! Summer, taunting the kids that started back to school, finally decided to show up. Walking out into the heavy, sticky air, the hardest step to take is that first one. Then I remind myself "I get to run today" and my perspective is changed. So we slog through the miles, drenched with sweat at the end, making sure to properly hydrate along the way.

August 2014 Runs - Rebound #shirleyruns

1. Post Run - Felt good to get 12 miles in today, 2. Mile 6 Reward , 3. Fire and Water , 4. Parade In , 5. Walk on By , 6. Obstacle Course this Morning!, 7. Lose Yourself, 8. Settling Down , 9. Jump Over Or Splash Through? , 10. Sadly, this happens at the end of the run now., 11. Just the Start of Today's Long Run , 12. Good Morning, Sun , 13. Clouds and Wee Little Moon, 14. Misty Morning Run , 15. It was a Run in the Rain This Morning. Unexpected, but welcome! , 16. Like the Countryside , 17. Throw Me a Curve , 18. Pretty Tired of the High Humidity.

August's Stats: 136 miles, 9:16 minute / mile average pace. I'm happy with it all, considering how fast I ramped up the mileage in order to get back on track for the Chicago Marathon. I am also fortunate that I've got a good group of people to run the really long miles with - they are my support line. My goal is to simply stay healthy for the next 6 weeks and do the best I can.

I'll close with some running quotes that caught my eye:

No one ever drowned in sweat. Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts. – Dan Gable

Runners just do it – they run for the finish line even if someone else has reached it first. – Anonymous

The triumph cannot be had without the struggle. - Wilma Rudolph

Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing. - George Sheehan

Finally, something I hope to be true:
I plan to run for the rest of my life. It will always be a part of who I am. - Brian Sell

Even if you aren't a runner, these tenets hold true for any passion - I hope you hold on tight to those passions and never take them for granted.



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The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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