Monday, May 29, 2017

Essence of Freedom 5K Race Recap

Total Time: 26:00 (8:23/mile pace)
Age Group: 2/25
Women: 3/102
Overall: 37/220

**in which I raced on Day 2 of my period (that along deserves a medal IMHO) 
& where I confirmed that I absolutely suck running in the heat**

My dad is an Army veteran and my little sister serves in the Navy.  So, when I saw this race, I definitely felt like I had to run it to support them and the other servicemen and servicewomen who have sacrificed their lives to help keep us safe.

Leading Up to the Race:

I convinced my little brother to run it with me as well, so I didn't have to run it alone.  We had a great time!  He also took second in his age group with a time of 27:46.  This is super awesome, especially because he hasn't run much at all.

Packet pickup was super easy, with three days and on-site pickup (for a $5 fee).  My bibs weren't ready when I picked them up Saturday since I registered earlier that morning.  The women running the packet pickup at Essence Pilates were very helpful and assigned bibs to my brother and me.

I liked that they had a selection of goodies that you could choose from instead of pre-selected items.  When I raced competitively a few years ago, I always ended up with items that I've never use and wound up throwing away or into a drawer somewhere.

However, I wasn't feeling it leading up to the race.  On Saturday night, I had the chills, a massive headache and some nausea.  I'm not sure if it was because I spent time in the sun and wasn't hydrated enough.  Or, perhaps I ate something that didn't agree with me at brunch.  Either way, I felt like shit.  Thankfully, it went away after I slept it off.

That wasn't the end of my physical woes.  On Sunday night, I got my monthly gift.  I mean, seriously.  Could it have come at a worse time?  Ugh.  I immediately began re-adjusting my goals for this race.  Also, the temps at the start (7:45 AM) were projected to be in the low 60s.  Yuck.  That's too hot for me.  I'm such a baby about the heat.  I love racing in the 30s to 40s with mid 50s as my max.  Oh, and overcast of course!

However, I didn't want to let my little brother down or my $40 entry fee go to waste.  And, I'm glad that I powered through and managed to perform relatively well despite the weather conditions and my monthly gift.

RACE DAY:

The women at packet pickup recommended that we get there by 7:15.  My little brother and I rolled out the of house a bit late and showed up around 7:25.  Luckily, we snagged parking by the church and didn't have to park at the Metra train station.  I had just enough time to use the bathroom before the beginning of the race announcements and National Anthem.  Perhaps I would have shown up earlier, but I liked that we didn't have to wait so long for the race to begin.

As per usual, I didn't know where to line myself up at the starting line.  However, this race was chip-timed!  *does happy dance*  Chip-timed races are the best and so much more accurate.  I still had to dodge my way around slower runners before I could establish my pace.  In a sense, maybe that's good for me since I won't be tempted to blast out the gate too fast.

Results below - official and Fitbit

Top 5 dominated by 13 year olds! :o

Timing fail
I had problems with my Fitbit during this race.  I didn't start it as I crossed the line.  I also didn't have my Fitbit App open on my phone so it didn't calculate the beginning bits of the race.  Grrr.  Oh well.

The course was pretty nice and takes you through a residential area in Deerfield.  Overall, the course was nice, and I liked that they had two water stations.  Parts of the road, especially near the sidewalks, were a bit uneven, and I kind of rolled my foot in some spots.  Nothing enough to go down, but that definitely got me paying attention to where I was stepping.

Shade was lacking in certain spots, which only made it worse since the temps rose as the race went on.  The other downside was that I did not see any mile markers posted.  Perhaps there were volunteers calling out the times, but I had my headphones on and didn't hear anything.

Source
Mentally, I wasn't feeling this one like I was the 5k that I ran a month ago.  I'm not sure if the high temperatures and having my period demoralized me and sent me into a funk.  Normally, when people pass me, I like to give them some chase... or at least stick around long enough and pass them at the finish.  But nope, not this morning.  People blew past me and I'd just let them.

Source

Source
 Toward the end, I felt like I could have run with the man who passed me.  I ran with him for a bit, but quickly fell behind.  Thankfully, no one was close enough to me to give me chase at the finish.  I had enough in the tank to sprint it in and run through the finish line.

As I was finishing, I heard the announcer say "Third woman - 309."  I was shocked.  I didn't think my performance was good enough for any type of award - let alone third place woman.  I was pleased nonetheless.  My time was up 33 seconds from last month's 5k.  The temperatures were easily 20 degrees warmer.  So, overall, not bad at all.

I caught my brother's finish.  He didn't see where it ended and started slowing down before the finish. I made sure to tease him about that, since that's what big sisters do.

After the race, we had about an hour to go until the awards ceremony.  My calves, the right one especially, were killing me after the race, so I got a free massage.  The massage worked wonders and I felt a lot better afterward.

We chilled out for a bit in a park area before heading back for the awards ceremony.  We were both surprised when we heard his name called for an age group award.  This was his first time placing in a race!  I was so proud of him!  Hopefully we can run more races in the future.  I'll have to keep my eye out on him in case he comes to pass me.  Plus, he likes running in the heat!



After the race, my brother and I had breakfast at Walker Bros in Lincolnshire.  We had a great time catching up.  Before I left, he told me that he was glad that he participated.  I'm glad he did!  I told him we should find a race that we can run with my parents and make a family thing out of it like we did in the past.  So, we'll see.  I'll keep an eye out for upcoming races.

But, part of me wants to be a big baby, avoid the heat and race in the fall when the temperatures will hopefully be cooler!

Things I'd Change:

  • Implement proper usage of Fitbit during the race for accurate results.
  • Don't let the heat demoralize me.
  • Maybe only wear one earbud so I can hear what's going on around me.

Training Leading Up to the Race:

  • Friday: 2:29 miles in 19:58 (outside)
  • Wednesday: ? miles.  Interval workout on treadmill at work.  Speed 6.0 to 7.5 mph with a 1.0 incline.
  • Monday: 1.5 miles in 13:xx (treadmill at work)
As of now, the goal of a 10K by the end of the year still stands.  I'll have to pick one and work backwards with my training.  In the meantime, I'll have to start gradually upping my mileage and getting used to running outdoors when it's hot outside.  After all, it may still be hot in the fall.

In closing, I leave you with this beauty below:

Source
So excited for Season 5, which returns tomorrow!

Did you run a race over the holiday weekend?  If so, how was it?  How do you handle running in the heat?  Any tips to keep sane?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

1st Race Since 2013 - Loop the Lakes 5K Recap

Total Time: 25:27.5 (8:13 pace)
Age Group (30-39): 2/26
Overall: 24/151
Women: 4/89

The medal that I earned at the end of this race will be one that I'm proud of for a long time.  The medal represents my efforts to return to the fold (see post below) after a long period of inactivity.  I was able to put my mind into it and consistently train, without overdoing it or injuring myself.

I was so happy to have finished the race well under my goal time (sub-9 minute pace).  I remembered how much fun it is to run races, even though it was windy & cold.  I met some great women and enjoyed the race atmosphere again.

I was nervous leading up to the race.  The weather leading up to the race didn't look good - cold and rainy.  I really didn't want to have to deal with running in the rain, so I'm glad that the rain held off until later in the afternoon.  Also, I haven't run a race since 2013.  Would I even know how to put a bib on?  It's like riding a bicycle, right?

Worse of all, I didn't have any moral support with me.  My parents and little brother couldn't run the race.  My fiance had an appointment in the morning.  It was the first race that I've done by myself, so I was proud of myself for showing up without any support.  However, in my opinion, it's more fun to participate in races with people you know.

I was off the day before so I went to park to see where to park and to find the start and finish area.  I walked around a little to, trying to figure out where the miles would be.  The course map showed the kilometers, which I found a bit odd, since most race maps I've seen either show the miles only or both the miles/kilometers.  The new route is certified.  Unfortunately, they didn't do away with the rolling hills.  Me no likey hills of any kind.  Thankfully, we didn't have to run up the big sled hill because that would have just been cruel and unusual punishment and entirely unnecessary.
  
The Course (Source)

The race started at 9:00 AM so I woke up at 7:00, ate a Belvita breakfast bar and drank 15 ounces of water.  The night before, I made sure to lay off fiber-rich foods and I also didn't indulge in my usual sweets before bed.  I ate lemon chicken tacos and white rice.  Super boring, but I didn't have any tummy trouble during the race, so there's that.

Packet pick up was at 7:45, so I wanted to make sure I left early enough to snag a spot in the parking lot closest to the starting line.  Technically, I could have walked to the race since the park is close to my house.  However, I wasn't about ready to walk in temps that were in the upper 30s/lower 40s.  Nope.  No dice.

I got there with plenty of time to spare and chilled in my car for a little bit.  I managed to put my bib on correctly and only pricked myself once.  I forced myself outside to get adjusted to the elements.  While I was waiting, I met T.  This race would be T's first and she was walking it.  Her family didn't want to come, so she was also alone.  We chatted for a bit before we started and took a picture together.

Results from FitBit

Mile 1: 8:13
I wasn't really sure where to place myself at the starting line.  I didn't want to go too far up front since I'm not that speedy, but I didn't want to go too far back and have to run past a lot of slower runners.  Plus, this race isn't chip timed, hence the five second differential from my FitBit time and my official time.  No biggie, but still.  I prefer chip timing, but this is a small local race, so I don't expect it.

Portions of the path are a little narrow, so I had to make sure I wasn't cutting anyone off when I tried to pass.  The downside of wearing headphones is that you can't really hear what's going on around you.  I don't think I cut anyone off though, which is good.  I don't want to be *that* runner.

Here are some pictures of the lake, which I took the day before.


Thankfully the rolling hills happen early in the course, so I'm still feeling pretty good as I approach them.

Mile 2: 8:13
I'm beginning to suspect that my FitBit is a dirty liar!  I don't think I've ever run the same time for the first two miles in any race ever.  *raises eyebrows*  Interesting.  Perhaps I've learnt how to pace myself?  Haha... yeah right.

Along the way, I see two women in front of me.  One is wearing a bright yellow jacket and she looks out of range, unless I book it.  I manage to catch the other woman and pass her.  I make a mental note of her in case she passes me.  A little boy is in front of me.  I definitely want to pass him, but for now, I trail behind him.  When I raced a lot, I *never* wanted to let an old man, old woman or child pass me.  It's a pride thing, I think.  So yes, *must pass the boy*... at some point.

I'm bothered by not being able to see mile markers either.  No way in hell can I do the mental math to convert kilometers to miles.  

Source
Also, the course isn't point-to-point so you pass the 4km marker before you've run 4km.  No biggie though.  

Mile 3: 8:08
Am I actually going to run a negative split for this race?!  It looks like it's possible so long as the wheels don't fall off the bus.

Physically, I'm feeling fine - a little tired, but not hurting.  I'm still trying to be a little conservative as to not kill myself, but I definitely want to start passing people, if I can.

On the way to the 4th kilometer, I'm passed by the woman I passed earlier and a man.  Shit.  It's gut check time.  Problem with me is that when a few people pass me, I get demoralized.  That just means that more people pass me and I get more demoralized.  'Tis an evil cycle.

Time to pull my head out of my ass, turn on my turbo boosters and finish strong.

Source
With 0.4 left to go, I figure it's now or never.  Also, I took a look behind me as we turned to run around the back of the sled hell.  A shitload of people are behind me.  Meaning, more people to pass me if I don't hurry up!

I overtake the man and the boy.  Woo hoo!  The woman is in striking distance.  Though, I want to time it right.  As we approach the 5KM mark, I go for it.

Problem is, she starts sprinting too.  Ummm... yeah... wasn't expecting that.  We round the corner, run down some pavement before we have a sprint finish on the grass.

Unfortunately, she surges ahead of me.  I try to catch up, but it's too late.  She finished a second ahead of me.

After the race, I came up to her and told her, "Good job!"  She thanked me for pushing her to a strong finish.  We chatted for a bit before going our separate ways.  I'll have to keep an eye out for her during races.  I'll get you next time!

0.10 7:32 pace


The only hill in Vernon Hills.  We finished in front of it.
Holy crap!  This may be the first race that I've run where I've run a negative split!  I always blast it out of the gate in the first mile.  I fade a little in Mile 2, fade significantly in Mile 3 and hang on for the rest of the ride.  Perhaps the long layoff has made me change my ways??

After the race, I hung around, mainly to get my official results and see if I placed.  I also caught T.'s finish and chatted with her post-race.

I'm not sure what happened during the awards ceremony, but I didn't hear my name called.  I thought I may have placed since the woman who won the race ran it just a little faster than me.  I saw the woman who out-sprinted me inquiring about the results.  Low and behold, I placed second in my age group.  Go me!

My Winnings
Gear:

  • Wore: running tights, short-sleeved top, long-sleeved top, light jacket, hat and gloves.  I got a touch hot toward the end and shed the hat and gloves.  Perhaps capris would have been the better thing to wear.
  • Wireless headphones.  My fiance gave me these beauties for my birthday this year.  What a different running without cords makes!  Highly recommended!
Rowkin Wireless Headphones
Overall, I was very pleased with my performance, and I'm even more proud of myself for running it solo!

So, what's next?

As of right now, I don't have any races on the agenda.  I may try to run another 5K later in the month and am trying to decide which one.  As always, location and price are two key factors.  I kind of balk if I see a $40-$50 price tag for a 5K.  I can just run one for free outside.  Granted, the more expensive the race, the better the quality (hopefully anyway)... chip timing, start corrals, etc. etc.

Long term, I'd like to race a 10K before the year ends.  So I've got to boost my mileage.  But, I think it's a totally reasonable goal.  If not, I can always race more 5Ks if I'm not ready for the 10K.  There are some great fall races that I'd like to run if able.  We shall see!

But for now, I'm comfortably back on the boat and hoping to stay on for good!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Guess who's back? Grandma Pony has returned to the fold!

Greetings fellow runners!  So the year without running turned in almost three years without consistent running.

During those dark years, I exercised a handful of times, but fell off the boat as quickly as I got back on it.  Mentally, I wasn't motivated to incorporate a regular exercise routine in my life.  I clung to my excuses about my longer work schedule and how there was no gym in my office building.  Yes, I was super close to Millennium Park and the Lakefront Trail, but that didn't motivate me enough to start running again.  I didn't want to wake up early and work out.  I didn't want to work out at night after a long day at the office.

My ass grew larger and larger, but I didn't care.  I was comfortable on my spot on the couch, binge-watching TV shows and eating fattening snacks (doughnuts/donuts, chips, cookies... you name it; I ate it).  The rational voice in my head tried to make me feel guilty for not being active, but I quickly shut her up with more excuses and of course, more handfuls of fattening snacks.
Me basically (Source)
In 2015, my fiancé and I spent two weeks in London from mid-April to early May.  I celebrated my 30th birthday there and met up with a friend who lives in England.  Of course I wasn't going to run during my vacation when there are plenty of other things to see/do.  

In June, I went to trial on a big case that had been around at my previous firm for a long time.  Thankfully it was local, so I didn't need to travel.  The weeks preparing for it were intense - late nights & weekend work.  This quickly became yet another excuse why I could not work out.  

In August, my family, fiancé and I went to Pensacola to watch my sister get her wings.  She's in the Navy and was stationed in Pensacola.  Again, why bother running, right?  Who wants to run in sweltering heat?
Me circa post-CM '13 to September '16, though I probably did less than that.
(Source)
In May 2016, I left my previous firm.  I joined my current one in June 2016.  One of the biggest selling points to the firm was the free gym in the building.  My current firm is located in River North, just north of the Loop.  I have access to the Chicago Riverwalk for lunchtime exercise sessions.

The Turning Point:

Shit hit the fan one afternoon in July 2016.  I decided to weigh myself.  Now, I don't know what brought this about, since I knew the results weren't going to be good.  I suppose I wanted to see just how bad things had gotten.  And boy, were they bad.  I had gained 7 pounds and was officially the heaviest that I've been in recent times.
(Source)
SMH.  Needless to say, this was what lit the fuel under my ass and made me want to lose the weight ASAP.  I decided that I'd start working out in September, after my three month review at work.  Looking back at it, I don't know why I bothered to wait that long.  It's my lunch break, and I can do what I want with it.

I officially started running again on September 13, 2016.  For the most part, I've been consistent.  I've taken four extended periods of time off, but they've only been for a week max.  They were: Thanksgiving (because Thanksgiving), the week after (pulled lower back muscle), a week in January (infection) and a few days in March (NYC trip).

My Keys to Consistency:
  1. Get up & get moving.  Doing something is better than doing nothing.
  2. Ease back into it.  Don't overdo it and burn out.
  3. Music
  4. Set realistic goals and expectations.  Forget about the runner you once were.  Focus on the runner you are today.
#1: My parents got me a FitBit Charge HR 2 for Christmas.  This has definitely help me become more active.  I've made a good effort to complete my steps.  I walk the long way around my office.  I walk during my lunch break when I'm not working out.  Some people may find wearing a fitness tracker annoying, but I love it.  I love being able to see my daily progress.  Also, having the heart rate monitor tracker and sleep tracker is great.

#2:  I did this interval workout for a while to build up my stamina.  It was silly for me to think that I could easily run 3 miles (or more) in a sub-10 minute mile pace after years of inactivity.  As someone who is prone to overdo it, this was tough.  However, limiting myself to my lunch break (1 hour) during work really helped prevent me from doing this.  I can only spend 25-35 minutes working out, so I can allocate enough time to get changed and eat my lunch.

#3: Music has been essential for me to get through my runs.  I wasn't using it during my marathon training in '13, but I've brought it back since it helps motivate me.  My running playlist on Spotify was so big (193 songs/12 hours and 40 minutes) that I had to create a condensed version.  Playlist below.



"I'm Your Baby Tonight" is my warm-up song because it's exactly 5:00 minutes!  Unfortunately, there aren't many Aaliyah songs on Spotify, so I have to convert YouTube videos into MP3 files so I can play them off my local files on Spotify.  A small inconvenience, but necessary so I can have songs like:


in my life.  I ran to this and "We Need a Resolution" on repeat for an entire workout.  #bestworkoutever

#4: Currently, the most I've run in one sitting is 3.1 miles.  I definitely think I can run more than that, but I really want to ease back into it so I don't burn out or injure myself.  I used to look at only running 3.1 miles max as a failure since I was running a lot more miles when I was marathon training.

However, I'm not that runner anymore.  I may never be that runner again.  That could have been my physical peak.  Who knows.  I need to focus on the runner I am now, being consistent about workouts and slowly pushing myself to run longer distances and to run faster.

As for goals, the main one is to be consistent and not allow myself to fall off the boat again.  I should be able to work out at least 2-3 times a week, since I have a gym in my building and access to the Riverwalk.

I completed my first race since 2013, a 5K (see next post).  I was really pleased with my performance and will evaluate and decide what to focus on.  I can easily see myself racing more 5ks and completing the necessary mileage to run one works with my schedule.

Or I can try to increase my time/distance so I can eventually complete a 10K.  I think a half may be a bit of a stretch right now unless I really get back into it, but attempting a long run during the week is going to be a challenge for me.

So maybe I'll aim for a 10K sometime in the fall.  I've got all of summer to up my time/distance.  And if that all goes well, perhaps I can run a half marathon in the spring 2018.  We'll see.

Right now, I just need to stay on the boat!

What's the longest hiatus you've taken from running?  How'd you get back into it?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Year Without (aka EPIC FAIL)

So, it's been almost a year without running.  I posted back in January about all the races I wanted to run and I even signed up for the Soldier Field 10 Miler.  Well, none of those things happened.  I haven't run a race since the Chicago Marathon last year.  In fact, the longest distance I've run since said marathon is 3 whopping miles.

And, honestly, there is no good reason why I simply stopped running.  I did get a new job in May after working at my previous firm for just over 4 years.  I lost my flexible schedule, and now have to leave at 5.  I've also stayed late (left at 10 one night and 8 another) a few times, and my building no longer has a gym.  Though, I'm closer to the lake, which does make a lakefront run more possible.

Perhaps I burnt out after running two marathons in two years.  Perhaps my body simply said "Enough is enough.  Time to take a break."  I didn't get injured after last year's race.  That's probably because I went to PT and caught what could have been a big ITB issue early on.

The scariest part is this: I don't really miss it.

Sums up my exercise this year
In all honestly, I've enjoyed being able to have my summer back.  It's not that I didn't enjoy my long runs with my pace group around the forest preserve.  Those were a lot of fun and essential to my training.  But, I've enjoyed being able to sleep in Saturdays, eat what I want and do what I want Friday evenings and not have to worry about injuring myself (since I'm doing nothing).

But now, as I sit on my ass on my couch in my spot (yes, I'm like Sheldon from BBT and I have a spot) watching coverage of CM14, I feel guilty more so than anything.  It's like I *know* that I should be out there with the runners sweating it out through a journey through Chicago, but instead, I'm at home sitting on my @$$.

I feel guilty that I let my brother down since we were supposed to run it together, and we both had to defer.  I'd like to believe that his training wasn't going well due to his jobs, but I'm really only saying that to feel better about my lazy @$$ self.  My parents are even volunteering at the race today.  They're somewhere around Lakeview.  How awesome would that have been to pass by them and grab some hydration??

My mother even noticed how lazy I've become.  She told me that maybe my body told me that I'm thin enough.  *shrugs*  Weight loss never was a goal on mine during marathon training.  I just wanted to break 4:30.  Anyway, my family and I would run a few races a year together.  This year we haven't run any.  My dad (who is in his upper 60s) is on a regular running regime - 3 miles a day (outdoors right now)/ 3 days a week.  There's no reason why my relatively healthy 29-year old self shouldn't be on one too.

The thing is this:  it's so hard to get on the boat once you've fallen off.

And, I fell off...  *HARD*

I did see a trainer when I worked at my old firm, but I stopped seeing her after I left since she's city based and I live in the 'burbs.  Oh, and I did complete the Hustle up the Hancock.  I was the last one out of my group and basically walked up the stairs.  Meh.  My attitude was, "Eh.  At least I got it done."

Ideally, I'd like to get back in shape so I can complete next year's race.  That goal seems so daunting right now.  But, I think it may be possible so long as I start getting in shape now.  My goal would be to finish it with my little brother.  A PR would be nice, but isn't the goal.  I've run under 4:30 so I'm satisfied.  I'd have to work hard to PR, but I'm not sure if that's possibly after a year long break.

*sigh*

I've just got to put my mind into it and get back in shape.  I've got a year, and I can do this if I focus on it again.  The guilt is really beginning to consume me.  Also, this sedentary lifestyle isn't healthy.  It really isn't.

In closing, stay tuned.  Hopefully I can have a comeback year and be at next year's race with my baby bro beside me.

How do you get back into it after a long break?  How do you mentally motivate yourself to get active when you've become used to being sedentary?  Is it even possible for me to run a full again after a year off?  Or, am I biting off more than I can chew?

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm FAMOUS & signs

Hello all!

Forgive me, but I have been such a slacker post-marathon and have not been posting.  That would be because I haven't really done much since October and therefore, have little to blog about.  I kept trying to write a longer recap of the marathon, but have decided to forgo it.  I'm not going to give you the mile-by-mile.  First, it's so far in the past and second, the only thing I really have to say is that I'm happy that I set a huge PR and accomplished my goal of breaking 4:30.

In other news, I have started to work out again.  Granted, I'm not running yet, but am starting to do cardio work at the gym in my office building.  It's better than nothing.  Anyway, I swear, there are signs that are telling me that I have to get off my butt and get my rear in gear.

First, I had a dream that I weighed over 20 pounds than the most I have ever weighed in my life.  I FREAKED out when I woke up and immediately got on the scale (bad idea).  Thankfully, the number was not the number from my dream.  It's still more than I want, which is a given saying I've done nothing for three months.

Second, my work is participating in the Hustle Up the Hancock this year.  My office always participates and this year, I decided to join the team.  Now, I have to start working out so I don't make a fool out of myself and finish last out of my teammates.

Third, my picture is on the registration page for the Soldier Field 10 Miler.  If that's not a sign, then I don't know what is.  So needless to say, I signed up for that race.

I am the runner in the pink shirt & white cap
I'm thinking about doing the Shamrock Shuffle, but don't know if I can justify A) $45 for an 8K and B) having to trek down to the city.  Also, the weather can be bit of a doozy in March.  Have you participated in the Shamrock Shuffle?  If so, do you like it and is it worth doing?

My proposed race agenda is as follows:
  • March 16: St. Paddy's Day 5K (if I am ready by then, which I kind of doubt)
  • March 30: Shamrock Shuffle
  • April 19: CARA 10 Miler
  • April 26: Loop the Lakes 5K (this is in my hometown so I most likely will do this and this will be my first race of the season if I can't get ready earlier)
  • May 24: Soldier Field 10 Miler
  • June 1: North Shore Half Marathon
  • July: TBD - maybe a 4th of July race and/or the Run from the Cops 5K which is held in my town
  • August 31: Buffalo Grove Stampede 10K or 5K
  • September 21: CARA Ready to Run 20 Miler or the 20 Miler in Schaumburg (if I get into the marathon)
  • October 12: Chicago Marathon (if I get in)
I want to run Chicago again.  I really don't want to run any other marathon than Chicago either.  I'm sure there are great marathons out there, but I like the city atmosphere, the big crowds and lots of runners.  My bro wants to run it as well since he could not run it last year due to a knee injury.  So, if we both get in, I can always run with him to make sure he finishes.  I've hit my time goal anyway.  The next goal will be to run a 4:22:00 (10 minute) miles or better.  Diddy's 4:14:54 looks tempting, but may be a stretch.

Anyway, hope that you all are doing well & are staying warm!  To all of you runners who brave these conditions, you are super brace & awesome!  More power to you!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Foodie Penpals Reveal Day

I was paired with Andrea from Pennsylvania.  I told her that my favorite foods are dark chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter and quinoa.  I also told her that I'd prefer it if she could send me local foods that I cannot find in my area.  And boy oh boy, did she deliver!

My Box of Goodies
She must have done her research about me by reading my blog or Yelp reviews since she picked up on my enormous sweet tooth! 

She sent a honey graham and dark chocolate vanilla sea salt caramels from Valos Chocolates which is based in Arnold, Pennsylvania.  I read about the company and the founder began his chocolate making career in Chicago!  That made me smile reading that.  The honey graham was a nice treat work, but the stars of the chocolates definitely were the caramels.  They were absolutely divine with the right amount of sweet and salty making it a perfect after dinner treat to keep my sweet tooth at bay.  Can you believe that I still have two pieces left?

She also sent over two packages of Nicholas Coffee & Tea Co. Gourmet Ground Coffee from Pittsburgh in the Scandinavian Morning Blend and Graham Cracker flavor.  They have been in business since 1919!  Unfortunately, I do not have a coffeemaker so I will have to buy a filer so I can make the coffee using my Keurig!  

Included in the package was Biscotti Brothers Bakery Granotti made with chocolate chips and sea salt.  I have never tried whole grain biscotti before.  My taste buds were pleasantly surprised when I took a bite.  Again, the sweet and salty flavors were awesome.  They are good to eat with breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee or as a snack.  They have whole grains so you can feel good eating them!

Lastly, she sent Ciciarelli Brothers salad dressing.  They have been in business for over 50 years.  However, it's not just a salad dressing.  It can be used as a marinade, in pasta salads and on white pizza.

Overall, excellent box and it has been wonderful having Andrea as my foodie pen pal this month!  I sincerely appreciate her efforts to put together a box filled with local goodies.

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Andrea's Box of Goodies
One day last week, a colleague asked me how my day was going.  “I had the best oatmeal for breakfast that I’ve ever had,” I replied.  He was a bit taken aback.  Not quite what he expected to hear!

But really, it was true, and it came to me courtesy of Jen, my October Foodie Penpal.  Jen is in Chicago, and she sent me a box of incredible local foods—this is perhaps the best package I have received in all of my months in this food exchange—definitely in the top tier. I was treated to a tour of Chicago in small bites, and it has me excited to visit there in January, when I’ll head in for the Modern Language Association convention.

The oatmeal was a perfect serving-sized pack from Milk and Honey, which is a restaurant I’d like to hit when I’m in town.  It’s their Cherry Almond Toasted Oatmeal, and it beat the heck out of anything I ever make for myself in the morning!  The fact that the oatmeal is toasted, I think, makes the difference, as well as the coarsely ground almonds.  There was flavor and texture there that was truly amazing.  Extra benefit:  I follow Weight Watchers, and so sometimes I can be afraid of packaged foods, even healthy ones, due to added Points Plus values, but this serving of Best Oatmeal Ever came with only 8 PP, which is not much more than a typical breakfast for me.  Score.

I’d told Jen that I try to eat healthy, and she sent a range of tasty things that have allowed me to treat myself without overdoing it.  Good flavors don’t need to come in big bites, and the many local sweets that were a part of my package provided me with a couple of weeks of indulgences.  Three caramels from Katherine Anne Confections—Rosemary Sea Salt, Banana Lemon, and Maple Bacon (ohmygoodnessyum)—were just wonderful, and the tiny Askinoise dark chocolate bar was excellent one night after dinner.  Just enough.  OK, I could have had maybe one more of those maple-bacon caramels, but still.

There was also some loose maté tea from David’s Tea, and that is a gift that I’ll be enjoying for weeks.  I get a little obsessive about teas when the weather gets cooler, and I had heard many friends say how much they like maté, so I’m glad to finally get a chance to enjoy some (this one is “Simply the Zest” with a nice citrus flavor).  I probably won’t give up my morning coffee, but the maté will add something to my afternoon repertoire when I need a little something-something but can’t add any more caffeine to my day.

Another healthy snack was a Mark Bar, which is made from quinoa and full of protein.  It says you can eat it before a workout, but I indulged midday.  And last, but not least, are some pepperoni sticks that we’re still enjoying—my eight-year-old daughter has found them, though, and so who knows how long they’ll be around?

I live near, but not at all in, a city, and so I forget sometimes the fun involved in shopping small producers and discovering neighborhood gems.  I not only found out about some of the places to go and things to eat when in Chicago (especially thanks to Jen’s lovely note that explains all of the places that these treats came from), but I have some renewed interest in getting out more and into my own nearby city of Pittsburgh, to which I moved not too long ago.  Maybe I can start out on a PA quest for some oatmeal that rivals what I got to try out this month.

Thanks so much to to Jen, and thanks to Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean for keeping this exchange going.  It’s so much fun!

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For more information about Foodie Pen Pals and to sign up, see Lindsay's blog for more details!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

CM13: Second Time's the Charm

I broke sub 4:30 in my second marathon ever.  I also beat Oprah and my managing partner so I am pleased.  A longer race recap will follow in the coming days.

My CM13 Splits
I barely beat her and I barely broke 4:30.  I'm proud of myself nonetheless.  Looks like I won't need a third chance to break 4:30.

Up next?  Diddy perhaps?  The music mogul ran a 4:14 in NYC in the 90s.  Sounds like a reasonable goal, right?