Tag Archives: snow

Spring (HAH!) Sunday Stats #2: I Still Have All 9 Toes.

Since today’s stats will be mostly taken up with my race report on the 2009 Shamrock Shuffle 8k race this morning, I’m going to get the writing report out of the way.  Here goes:

On Writing: I got through another 35 pages of Meet the Larssons (to 311), re-reading and marking up on the train.  I have had no time at all to work on it in the evenings or even at lunch, but even so, it’s moving along a little.  I didn’t do anything on it this weekend; Saturday was taken up with personal business stuff, and today was the race and then Junior’s 5-1/4th birthday party (he turned 5 at the end of December but we put off his party to get past the holidays and in hopes of warmer weather, ha ha), so no room for writing. Maybe this week will be better, but I think I’ve got another 2-3 weeks at this level of intensity before things even out.

On Running: The weather report last night looked pretty bad, and for once the predictions were spot on. It started snowing around midnight, and by 7:30am (two hours before race start), this is what it looked like in our backyard. It was about 30 degrees.

I got downtown early enough and trudged half a mile through the slush to the C0ngress H0tel, where CARA (the Chicago Area Runners Association) had its indoor, members-only gear check. By the time I got there, my shoes were already soaked through from the enormous puddles of slush everywhere.  I ducked into the Starbucks at the Blackstone Hotel on the next block for a quick espresso (which I think helps my time), and this is what it looked like on Michigan Avenue just before 9am:

Michigan at Balbo, 30 minutes to start

Michigan at Balbo, 30 minutes to start

I trudged through more icy slush to my start corral, and was in place by 9:15, 15 minutes before the start of the race.  I had earned a preferred starting position by time last year, which in a race with 30,000+ entrants, is a big deal — if you’re stuck at the back, it can take 20 minutes just to get across the starting line, and you’re backed up for most of the race. The price is that you have to be in your corral early, which today meant 15 minutes of standing in place with my feet slowly numbing.  Here I am at the start:

Why is this man smiling?

Why is this man smiling?

I was smiling because my toes had stopped hurting; I couldn’t feel them at all.  And I didn’t for the rest of the race.

My goal was to finish in less than 38 minutes, since I’m pretty sure that’s the time I need to get the same starting position next year.  Since I did more than 2 minutes better than that last year, I thought it was possible, but considering the weather and my inconsistent running over the winter, I wasn’t sure.

There was no let up in the snow, wind, or the slush for the whole race.  The Sun-Times has pictures here; the Tribune has pictures here.  Race conditions were miserable to outright shitty, worse than the torrential rain during the 2008 Chicago Half Marathon, since the temperature was 30 degrees lower.

I missed the first two mile markers and I wasn’t wearing a watch (still need a new battery), so I was shocked when I got to the 3-mile mark and saw that I’d been running much faster than I thought.  I was able to finish in 36:48, almost exactly a minute slower than last year but comfortably under my goal time.  Here I am at the finish; you can see that the weather didn’t get any better.  At this point, I was happy about my time but seriously concerned about frostbite on my toes and possibly the soles of my feet.

It's all over but the screaming.

It's all over but the screaming.

I hurried through the finisher chutes, got more coffee, and grabbed my dry clothes.  I considered changing at the hotel, but was worried that my feet would just get wet again by the time I got to the garage, so I waited until I was in my car and got out of my wet tights, socks, and shoes and into dry things.  My feet felt better in new wool socks and dry running shoes, but the feeling didn’t really start to come back until I got into the shower an hour later, and then the pins and needles were almost excrutiating.  It’s almost 9pm as I write this, and my feet still feel tingly and weird.

I was really surprised at my time, considering that my shoes alone must each have been carrying an extra 5 pounds of water with every step.  And the running I did on the treadmill this winter did a better job of maintaining my speed than I thought it would; I’m really glad we bought it.  Thank you, Craigslist.

All in all, I’m glad I did it, but it was pretty stupid.  I think 33,000 people registered for the race, and just over 13,000 finished.  There’s always a little attrition at races, but two-thirds?  Where’s that flinty Chicago toughness we’re known for?

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Not Going for a PR.

The Chicago racing season opens tomorrow with the Shamrock Shuffle.  The first race of spring!  I’m totally ready, all my gear laid out, timing chip tied onto my shoes, bib number and pins set out; keys, wallet, phone near the door.  I’m raring to go.

I love the Shuffle.  Thirty thousand joyous Chicago runners, casting off their winter’s torpor and cold weather running gear to welcome spring to…

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Weather forecast for March 29, 2009: snow starting around midnight and continuing well past the 9:30am starting gun, temperature at race start a balmy 33 degrees (Fahrenheit), winds of up to 25 mph driving the snow into the runners’ faces.

On the upside, the race course should be a little less crowded than usual.

My time last year was a little under 36 minutes, and while my big goal is hanging on to my preferred starting position for next year, I’d really like to beat that time.  I think that’s doable if I…

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!  Yeah, no chance of a personal record in snow shoes.

A Rejection. A Submission. More Outlining. No Editing. TGIF!

Just a quick update tonight.  Another rejection slip in today’s mail:  “Jimmies” was rejected by one of the big three pro magazines, the only one of the three that I thought would want it.  I spent a while this evening combing through my bookmarks of submission guidelines and finally made up my mind to send it to a semi-pro journal that I like; the editor rejected TTB a couple of months ago, but that hardly makes him unique.

I’ve just about finished writing the synopses of the story for Project Hometown from the viewpoints of each of the major characters.  According to the Snowflake Method (link on the sidebar under “On Writing”), the synposes are supposed to be one page for each of the major characters, and half a page for the minor characters.  That didn’t work for me; of the four major characters, the synopses are approximately 1200, 350, 750, and 900 words.  I’ll have to try harder for the minor characters to keep to a limit, or I’ll be dealing with them through the end of the year.  After I finish the character synposes, the next step is to go back and expand the overall plot synopsis.

No revisions this evening due to exhaustion, researching where to submit “Jimmies,” and (most important) much needed & wanted catching up with Mrs. Unfocused — it’s the first night since Sunday we’ve both been home all evening.  This evening she noticed I got a haircut.  I got it on Wednesday.

Tomorrow’s Saint Lucia Day, which means Unfocused Girl and Mrs. Unfocused bring up coffee and cinnamon rolls for us all to have in bed.  I love Swedish holidays!  Happy Saint Lucia day!

Saltwatch 2008-09:  Days after Dec. 1 without seeing a City of Chicago salt truck:  12.  The good folks at Chicagoist have been on this story for a while (here’s a link to a recent post about my Alderman ripping Mayor Daley a new one, which I’m glad to see, even though I disagree with his proposal to raid the Midway privatization funds to fund snow removal).  As a commenter said earlier this week, apparently Daley’s snow removal plan is to wait until Sunday, when it’s supposed to go up to the high forties, so the snow will simply melt.  Long-term, we can all just wait until June before leaving our houses.

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day 6: The Value of Crit Groups.

I got back to MTL tonight, but I’m so tired from going out last night and getting home late that I was only able to slog through eleven pages (87 down, 413 to go).  Of the eleven (not quite half of old chapter 10/new chapter 3), I cut four pages entirely without adding replacement text.  I’m worried that after all this cutting, I might have a very tight, well-written short story instead of a novel, but I know I have at least as much to add in the middle and end.

About six months ago, I attended my first ever writers’ critique group meeting.  I found a relatively new group through Meetup.com, signed up, and posted the chapter I slogged through on Sunday and Monday for comment at the meeting.  I had no idea what to expect, but I went into it with a fairly open mind.  I was a little concerned by the one guy who posted a forty-page memoir excerpt (we had a ten-page limit) that was all one paragraph, but based on the other samples posted his was an anomoly.

Putting aside the run-on memoir guy (who didn’t bother to read anyone else’s work in advance of the meeting), most of the other writing was pretty good, and certainly the general level of quality was about where I was or better.  The people in the group seemed perfectly nice, and respectful of each other’s feelings.  Still, I haven’t been back, and I haven’t really been able to put my finger on why.

As I’ve said before, I’m looking for new-to-me podcasts about writing and other subjects to expand my listening.  I recently saw a mention on someone else’s blog to two podcasts for writers that I hadn’t heard of before (I’m really sorry if it’s your blog — I lost track of the post and can’t find it through google — please claim credit in the comments and link to your original post).  One hasn’t put out a new episode in a couple of years; I’m listening to the back episodes now and will post about it when I’m done.

The other is Writing Excuses, in which hosts Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, Dan Wells, and other semi-regulars talk to each other and other writers about different topics of interests to writers.  Each episode is only about 15 minutes long (“Because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart!”), and they aren’t limited to science fiction or fantasy topics.  Writing Excuses is in its second season, all of which is available on iTunes or on the blog at the link above (CDs of the first season are available for sale).  Occasional problems with sound quality aside, Writing Excuses is an interesting, informative, and often funny podcast.  The hosts are younger writers (well, younger than me, anyway) at different stages of their careers (some are just beginning to earn a living by their writing, while Sanderson is very well known and just took over the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series).

In episode 5 of season 2, the Writing Excuses team discussed critique groups.  Several of the hosts talked about how important their writing groups had been to their development as authors, but one mentioned that one thing that can drive him crazy is a writing group where the participants don’t just tell you what did or didn’t work for them, but offer you suggestions on how to fix your story.

Bam!  That was exactly what was wrong with the group I tried last spring.  The leader of the group and a couple of the other attendees didn’t just want to tell me what they thought was weak, but they also had very firm ideas about how I could make it better.  And I hated their ideas.

One member of the group gave me a couple of useful notes during the meeting, then handed me a markup of my chapter at the end.  I took it home, but I was so discouraged from the meeting that I never looked at it.  The only reason I didn’t throw it away was that Mrs. Unfocused did read his comments, and said that they made sense to her.

This evening, before I got started hacking away at old chapter 10/new chapter 3, I went back and reviewed his comments on old chapter 9/new chapter 2 and compared it to my own edits from earlier this week.  As it turns out, I had come up with about half of the same edits on my own.  But the guy also noted that one two page, explanatory section read like an office memo and bored the crap out of him (he said it more nicely than that), and I had left it in the revised version of the chapter almost completely untouched.  I reread it, then reread what Holly says about this point in the One-Pass Revision Process (link is in the sidebar, under “On Writing”):  “If the scene just tells the reader about your world or its history, or lacks characters, conflict, and change, put a note in your spiral-bound notebook telling yourself which important points of worldbuilding you’re cutting, and draw a big X through the entire scene.”  So I cut it.  By itself, that one suggestion was worth the hour-plus I spent at that group meeting.  I don’t know that I’d go back — I really don’t want suggestions on how to “fix” it, but I very much appreciated the comments on what the readers did or didn’t like.

Forgive the typos — need sleep.  Just one more thing:

Saltwatch 2008-09:  Days after Dec. 1 without seeing a City of Chicago salt truck:  11.  Have you seen a salt truck?  Should we put pictures of the salt trucks on the sides of milk cartons?

Update on Project Hometown.

As expected, I didn’t get any work done on the revisions to Meet the Larssons.  I did manage to work on the train downtown this morning and again at lunch on the Snowflake Method outline of Project Hometown.  This is a revelatory process; I’m thinking so much more about the plot and the characters that I think writing this second novel will be a very different experience from the first draft of MTL.  Today, as part of Step 5, I finished an 1100-word synopsis of the main character’s story, and a 350-word synopsis of my secondary point-of-view character’s story.  This is far more planning than I did for MTL, and (so far, anyway) a far more structured plot, which will be much better for my alpha and beta readers.

Days since Dec. 1 without seeing a City of Chicago salt truck: 10.  If you see one, please comment about it.

Yo, Mayor Daley! Where Are the Salt Trucks?

It’s winter in Chicago, and for the second snowfall in a row, the city’s usual fleet of salt trucks are nowhere to be found.  Under the light covering of snow, the streets are covered with ice, but the only salt going down is what my neighbors and I are throwing down ourselves.

I took a cab last night, and the driver was complaining about the same thing.  He said that if the city isn’t going to salt this winter, he’s going to stop driving.

Bad things happen to Chicago mayors who ignore winter weather.  Daley has been one of the best at keeping the streets cleared & salted so that it isn’t completely treacherous to drive.  Maybe he’s just distracted by the financial crisis or Blago’s arrest, but come on, Mr. Mayor — get back in the game.  If this had happened a year ago, you’d have fired someone by now.

No work on the MTL revisions last night due to distraction from the Blago story, and none tonight because of a holiday party.  Back to work on Friday Thursday (getting ahead of myself looking forward to the weekend, I guess) .