Friday, May 20, 2016

Where did the time go...

Friends, so many things have happened since my last post.  My last post, when was that?  It was almost three months ago.  I'm not a hardcore everyday blogger but three months is a long time...

So, I fell off the wagon and am getting right back on.  What has happened in the last few months?

- At the end of February, I flew to Florida and ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon with a new-old group of friends, including Michele who ran her first half marathon ever!

- In mid-March, I flew out to New York with a new-new group of friends and ran the NYC Half Marathon. This beautiful race starts in Central Park, goes through Times Square, and around the westside highway for a lovely finish in Battery Park.  That race recap and awesome medal photo will be posted soon.

- My Chicago Endurance Sports participants are rocking out these amazing long runs in preparation for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon and/or Soldier Field 10 miler.  As they grew stronger each week, I grew more confident as a pacer.

- My other mentees with the American Cancer Society are preparing to kick ass!  This special group of folks have not only committed to fundraising for the American Cancer Society but also to run this year's Chicago Marathon.  Here's to the next five months of training!

- And finally, something NOT race related... This week, I started a new chapter of my life regarding my food.  After a few weird events and funky feelings, I have been prescribed a food elimination period of eight weeks.  During this period, I am not to consume fun stuff.  Really, all the fun stuff is not okay.  A separate post will follow.

That's it for now... Hope everyone has been enjoying some time outside!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: Smartwool Socks Part 2

So last year, I had a chance to participant in SmartWool's Perfect Pair sock challenge, where I swapped out a sock in order to put SmartWool head-to-head with the sock already in my arsenal.  Though the sock was completely comfy and first rate, it just didn't sway me to want to change from my current sock, Feetures.

This winter, however, I was reintroduced to the wonders of wool and kept hearing more and more about SmartWool's line.  Finally, with a store credit and some holiday shopping magic, I purchased this pair of SmartWool socks.

This is the Women's Phd Run Ultra Light Micro Sock.  IN MY FAVORITE COLOR.  I promise that I purchased this sock because my running colleagues kept recommending it but I will admit that the color made it that much easier.

I put the sock on and I kid you not, it felt so good.  Just enough compression without putting pressure on my toes with a seamless design so it felt like it was one with my skin.  I felt like my Feetures were starting to tug on my toes some and the new SmartWool socks were great.  I took these babies for a spin and am absolutely head over heels.  My runs ranged from -15 degree windchills over sidewalks covered with snow to 40 balmy degrees and puddles, anywhere between three to twelve miles.  I plan to take these guys down to Florida with me for my first half marathon of the season. 

And they have other fun colors!  Can't wait for my next fun run at Fleet Feet Sports where I plan to pick up another pair or two.  

Happy feet!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Happy new year!

Happy new year everyone!  It's been a busy holiday season but I've finally settled back into my routine.  It seemed as though Mother Nature also took a holiday break, as we enjoyed incredibly mild temps over the holidays and are now dressing for negative windchills.

Around this time last year, I did a "Best of 2014" post, reflecting on swag bags, race courses, and interesting experiences.  2015, of course, was centered on THE enchilada of races, the Chicago Marathon.  So this time, I will talk a little bit about the past and more about what 2016 has to offer.

Looking back...
1.  Just read my Chicago Marathon race recap.  Relive the torture and the victory.

2.  Unlike last year when I took a big hiatus after my first half marathon, I am still running today.  The marathon didn't scare me away, my legs aren't broken, and I am still running!

3.  Guys, it was 26.2 miles.  That is all.

Looking ahead...
1.  Not only am I still running, I am mentoring for Chicago Endurance Sports as part of their Winter Warriors training program.  I have had the greatest pleasure of mentoring runners, both new and old, every weekend since Thanksgiving and can't wait to get them to their goal race this February.


Look at these tough chicks.  From 55 degrees to -15 degree windchill, they keep showing up!

2.  I have taken time to get off the pavement to enjoy trail running, which is something I so desperately wanted to do last year.  I've only been out once or twice but definitely plan on making it a regular thing!


3.  And finally... Chicago 2.0.  Oh yea, I'm going to do the Chicago Marathon again.

To a year of incredible adventures and challenges - cheers!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Margaritas, Cupcakes, and Cake Pops - Oh My!

Last weekend was really busy but full of fun stuff.  Saturday was absolutely beautiful and would normally have been kicked off with a morning run with Fleet Feet's Breakfast Club.  This past Saturday, however, involved a trip out to Arlington Heights for LUNGevity's Breathe Deep Busse Woods 10k.  This was Carolyn's qualifying race for next year's runDisney Princess Half Marathon and I came out for support.

This 10k was a small community race (maybe 60 runners for the 10k and 150 for the 5k?) but it had a big heart.  Lots of families came out on this sunny day; it was chilly at the start but just perfect for running.  I ended up running with Carolyn the whole way and she totally rocked out a PR of 1:18:49 for an overall pace of 12:43- woo!

I never take good running pics

The next day brought an equally beautiful day but with even warmer temperatures.  There wasn't much time for a long run but between everything that was scheduled that day, John and I were able to get out for a walk on the lake.  Later that afternoon was a pacer meeting for the Winter Warriors program at Chicago Endurance Sports.  This 14-week training program is designed to introduce you to running or to help motivate you throughout the winter.  I've been searching for a way to step up my game in the running community and am super happy to be a mentor for the 10k program.  This program was a game changer for me and is what got me through the Chicago Marathon with big smiles the whole way.  I've really been looking forward to the start of this program since the marathon ended and can't wait for it to begin!

official margarita pacing team of Chicago Endurance Sports

Monday night was the traditional Fleet Feet co-ed run but this week brought a special Pint Night plus a birthday celebration hosted by Brooks Running.  Unlike RAM Racing and the Hot Chocolate crew a few weeks back, Brooks really brought it on for the fun run.   There were cupcakes, cookies, cake pops, and even a birthday cake!  And there were nice souvenir glasses and totes for everyone.  And last but not least, beer.

I went out for a four mile run and felt really great.  I felt even better after a cake pop (and red velvet cupcake....and a second cake pop).

This weekend brings on the start of Winter Warriors and a weather forecast of SNOW!  There's no better way to start winter training, right?  At least we'll have warm hoodies for post-run.  And perhaps more of those fancy margaritas ;)

Interested in Winter Warriors?  It's not too late to sign up!  Visit Chicago Endurance Sports and sign up to start training with the crew!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Race Recap: 2015 Hot Chocolate 15k

I wasn't quite sure what my thoughts on this race would be considering that my first marathon - The Chicago Marathon - just happened four weeks ago.  The Hot Chocolate 15k theoretically comes in at the perfect time: it happens right at the end of the reverse taper and the course highlights some of the marathon's real estate.  Hopefully you're itching to run (either competitively or casually) and can relive some marathon goodness.

This year's expo was NOT at McCormick Place (shouts of joy!).  It was held at the Hyatt in downtown so I could slip on by during my lunch break.  As per the norm, lines were super short and I was able to grab my bib and goodie bag pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, the clear bag for gear check was not included in our goodie bag and was missed by many runners (lots of credit, though, to the poor volunteer who stood in the middle of the floor trying to catch everyone on their way out!).

I was skeptical of their promise for free chocolate as Ram Racing/Hot Chocolate failed to deliver at a fun run hosted the week before.  What happened at that fun run, you ask? 

     RAM: "Come out to a fun run where hot chocolate, fondue, and goodies will be provided!"
     (I show up to the run)
     RAM: "Oh, by the way, we don't have hot chocolate or fondue..."
     (... ... ..disgruntled runners)

Lame. Whatever.

But FYI, they did have hot chocolate samples at the expo along with marshmallows and fondue.  And I'm really a fan of the jacket design this year.  And the buff...!

I was fortunate to have a qualifying time this year so I could start in Wave 1.  Earlier start, earlier finish!  I didn't have a race day plan in mind; I've been bouncing back and forth on my goals, especially since I am working back towards continuous running (marathon training was run/walk).  Race? Have fun? I left it to be a last minute decision.

Things were marked very clearly but due to the size of the race, things were very far apart.  There were tons of Wave 2 runners standing around which made it difficult for Wave 1 participants to move to the front.  But things worked out and I eventually found my way to corral F. 

Though I was in a qualifying corral, my time wasn't fast by any means.  But boy, some folks in my corral sped off!  We all joined in the chase; it was exhilarating for about 30 seconds until someone finally broke the silence and said "okay guys, that was fun, now for the real pace".  Thank you to the gal on my right for being the voice of reason. 

I knew my GPS would go nuts in downtown with the buildings and tunnels but I forgot to turn off the auto lap feature and honestly didn't want to mess with it.  I didn't even want to look at my watch.  The timer at Mile 1 confirmed that I was running too fast for me (10:30ish) so I pulled back some to conserve energy.

Wait, we're on Michigan Ave?  When did that happen? I haven't done much continuous running since training for the marathon and I feel great!  Let's keep going!

Oh Michigan Avenue.  You with the blue marathon line.  For this race, we were running south on the same road that led me north to the finish line for the marathon.  I looked at the blue line and laughed aloud, replaying moments from those two final miles of the marathon.  Was that really just a month ago?

I decided to make a point of walking through the aid stations so I wouldn't have to worry about spilling things left and right.  It was also here that I saw a pacer and tried to "hang" as long as I could.  As for the course, we were greeted with strawberry marshmallows, M&Ms, and fun entertainment!

Okay, can't run with that pacer anymore.  Good try, though.  Minus walking through the two aid stations, I've been running the entire time!  The course finally started heading back to downtown; we had a few more funky turns (designed to make up mileage) and even had some HILLS tossed in there.  I was a bit zealous over the last few miles and though I still felt pretty good, knew that I was slowing down.  I tried to focus on climbing the "hill".  And the next hill.

And about four hills later, I recognized the final underpass and knew that Columbus was just around the corner.  I pushed through the final hill and set my eyes on the finish line.  1:43:07 for an average pace of 11:04 per mile!  A PR by leaps and bounds!

After grabbing my gear and checking in on Carolyn (who, despite having a nasty fall, had an amazing race), I met up with Stacey and wanted to devour my finisher's mug.  Hot chocolate, banana, chocolate fondue and other goodies after a 9.3 mile run? Yes please!

After Michele successfully finished her race, the four of us headed over to State and Lake Tavern for a recovery brunch, aka burgers and fries.  Mmmmm.

I was very surprised at how well this race turned out and couldn't have asked for a better time.  It was nice being able to revisit some parts of the Chicago Marathon course.  Even more, it was really great to know that even after tapering for nearly a month, my fitness didn't disappear and if anything, my race time improved.  #trusttheprocess

Now on to Winter Warriors!

Friday, October 16, 2015

2015 Chicago Marathon Recap

It finally happened.  This year's Chicago Marathon was my first marathon ever.  It was such a huge experience that I had to break the recap down into three parts: before, during, and after.

Many thanks in advance and photo credits to all.  I will admit now that I did not take any photos on the course and relied on the blogging community's photos to help fill in the gaps.

Post-2015 Chicago Marathon: I am a marathoner

Did part 2 leave you hanging?

I crossed that finish line and became a marathoner.  Holy cow.  It happened and somehow my brain was still planning out my next run interval.

I continued walking through the chute, grabbing water, snacks, my space blanket, and most importantly, my finisher medal.  This year's design featured Chicago's Cloud Gate, or better known as "The Bean".

The chute itself is about a half mile long and my first chance for escape is at Congress Parkway.  I weaved throughout the barricades and met up with my cheer team.

Cheer Team: John, Carolyn, Michele, and Geoff
(plus Stacey, Will, Monica, Ashley, and Jacque)

We returned to the American Cancer Society race resort to grab my belongings, get stretched out, and eat some snacks.  It was a fabulous experience and I'm super happy to have had all of those amenities and services available to me (food buffet and stretching tables within 10 feet of each other? Yes please!)

After hanging out for half an hour, we headed back to the hotel where I immediately prepared myself for an ice bath (thanks for the extra ice, Carolyn).  Real ice guys, not just cold water.  I've done this before but this ice bath was just a little extra special.  I laughed hysterically for a solid minute.

We decided to quickly head out for a post-marathon party before my legs had a chance to realize what was going on.  Donning my official "Finisher" zip up and medal, John and I headed out for Marina City to celebrate (aka crash) a fellow marathoner's party.  I'm so happy to have grown closer to Maureen and her mom, Donna, who have been fabulous supporters.

And how did my huge adventure end?  With a burger from Shake Shack and the season premiere of The Walking Dead!

* . * . *

In the days after...

It took several hours for me to be happy with my accomplishment.  I still don't quite believe it now as I am typing this recap.  A piece of me is wildly disappointed because if my legs didn't cramp, I could have run a lot more, run a lot faster.  The other piece of me, however, is saying "who cares?".  The ending temperature was nearly 80 degrees and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky.  I was given a problem at mile 15 and instead of quitting, I pulled myself through those last 11 miles.  Guys, for the slower-than-average runner, that's more than 2 hours of constantly re-evaluating my legs - 2 hours in addition to the 3 hours I already ran.  The mental strength built from training over the last 5 months is what didn't allow me to quit, the passion for who I was running for is what helped me put one foot in front of the other.

So what's next?  I haven't run yet but am looking forward to my first attempt Saturday morning.  I'm also happy to say that I will volunteer by pacing for Winter Warriors, a 12-week training program for 10k-ers and half marathoners.  And who knows, maybe a marathon next fall!

"When you cross that finish line, a medal will be put around your neck.  From that point on, you are a marathoner and no one can ever take that away."  
-Dave Zimmer, Fleet Feet Sports

Sweet victory.  Here's to you, Bob!