Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Disney Transportation

Time to link up with Deb's Wordless Wednesday Disney photo hop.

Focused on the Magic
The theme for this week is "Disney Transportation."

The first things that came to my mind are the monorail, the Magical Express and Disney Transport buses, and the ferry boats. But no reason to stick with the traditional means of transport when there are:

Disney Pixar Cars!
Cars Land in Disney's California Adventure

Riverboats!
The Mark Twain Riverboat in Disneyland's Frontierland

Rockets!
Rocket Rods in Disneyland's Tomorrowland

Classic, vintage, and muscle cars!
Cars on display in the streets of Anaheim

Safari jeeps (in the background, not the animal pictured)!
The Kilimanjaro Safaris at the Animal Kingdom

Character boats lit up with pyrotechnics!
The finale to Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios

All of these pictures, with the exception of the last one, were taken during the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon.

"To infinity and beyond!!!"
- Buzz Lightyear

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I've been here before

Every year, I have to remind myself that running is a hobby. On an annual basis, I tell myself that I am going to be selective about the races that I sign up for. Once per annum, I reach a point where I find myself thinking that I need to stop taking things so seriously.

When running stops being fun, it's no longer worth it. I have been through this cycle of demotivation so many times. Yet, it's still a recurring struggle.
This past weekend was a breaking point for me. I am fatigued with ongoing training, constantly battling my injuries, the neverending stretching and PT exercises, the frequent aches and pains, and the ungodly early-morning alarm clocks.

I've done seven races so far in 2015 and have enjoyed aspects of every one. However, out of those seven races:
  • Two were plagued by bad weather
  • Two of them I came thisclose to DNS-ing
  • One had me quaking in fear of bad weather for weeks beforehand
  • One had me seriously questioning my own sanity and wondering why I put myself through this. (To be clear - I almost always feel this way during the final stretch of any race, but I usually change my mind within a few hours. This time, however, that feeling lingered for quite some time afterwards.)
Grumpy
I am ironically writing this post right after registering for the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon. When I signed up for the Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon earlier this year, I purchased a Rock N Roll TourPass 3-Pack. I figured it would a breeze to run another two Rock N Roll races this year. But now, it's become burdensome to figure out when and where to run those two races.

Right now, RnR Chicago feels like another event that needs to be squeezed into the calendar. I am already dreading the horrifying wake-up time that I'll need to set on my alarm clock for the 6:30 AM start.

I know that this is a terrible way for me to be thinking about one of the most popular half marathons in Chicago. We should all be so lucky to have problems like this, right?
"Graveyard if first-world problems could kill."

So what's my game plan to change things?

I am going to temporarily stop focusing on running goals. I will try not to get swept up in what the numbers say. No comparisons. No "what-if''s" and no "should-have's." I want to take a page from Amanda W's book on how to run happy.

I might try running without my Garmin. To be honest, this idea terrifies me since I'm so militant about logging my mileage and pace. I've heard some folks compromising on "blind" running by wearing their Garmin on, say, their ankle. That way they have the tracking data available, but are not fixated on it during the run. This strategy is probably my best bet.

I will focus on non-running workouts for awhile. I've long considered running as my primary focus, with everything else as cross-training. Maybe I'll flip that around for awhile. As timing would have it, the new Pure Barre studio near my home will be opening in a few weeks. I've already signed up for a 30-day new-client membership and I plan to use the heck out of it!

What other suggestions do you have for how to get out of a running funk?

--
Linking up with AprilPatty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sunburst Half Marathon race recap

I have always heard rave reviews about the Sunburst Races in South Bend, Indiana.
After eyeing the Sunburst Half Marathon for several years, I was so thrilled to finally run it this year. Many thanks go out to Melanie and the race organizers for the entry!

Today I'll recap the festivities using the "Good, Bad, and Ugly" format.

The Good
  • Gorgeous course that ran along the St. Joseph riverfront and through many local South Bend and Mishawaka parks and neighborhoods. The finish was on the University of Notre Dame campus near the football stadium.
    The St. Joseph Riverfront in downtown South Bend
    Source
    The Notre Dame football stadium
  • Weather conditions were very pleasant. It was sunny and breezy with temps in the 60s.
  • Mid-sized races are my favorite, and I thought the half marathon field size was perfect - right around 1,250 finishers.
  • Great swag - I loved the medal and the race shirt!
  • There were frequent aid stations with friendly volunteers, ample medical support, and helpful, spirited police officers. In my experience, it's atypical for the police to cheer on the runners - but here, many were cheering us on with gusto!
  • Amanda N and I met up before the race. Here's a picture of the us before the race start:
    The "SB" could stand for either South Bend or for Sunburst. Not sure which one was intended???
  • Amanda and I ran together for the first 10K or so. It was great to have her company! We enjoyed chatting and bantering with other runners on the course. HUGE congratulations to her for smashing her old PR to smithereens. She earned a new PR by a mind-boggling 30 minutes. BOOM!
  • I finished in 2:12:40, which was a 71-second PR for me. (Mini-boom!?!?)
Amanda and me with our medals at the finish.
The Bad
  • While my 2:12:40 time was a solid PR, my goal for the day was to break 2:10. Going in, I felt pretty confident that I could do it since I just ran 1:37:43 at the CARA Live Grit 10-Miler in April. I was disappointed that I didn't achieve my "A" goal. I know I could have done better.
  • I ran a majorly positive split. Up through about Mile 7, I was right on pace. But then fatigue started hitting, I cramped up for a few minutes, and my legs began feeling heavy. Everything deteriorated from there. During the remainder of the race, I clocked only one mile at target pace.
    Trying desperately to battle through
  • Around Mile 11.5, the marathoners/half marathoners merged with the 5K walkers. This resulted in significant crowding for much of the rough final stretches of the course. Thankfully, the 5K walkers branched off again near the very end.
  • I wasn't expecting the long, rolling hills on the course. Most of them weren't too bad, but right after the Mile 12 marker there was an absolutely killer hill. I thought it was cruel and unusual, especially at that point in the race. Amanda F, who ran the full marathon, said it was new on the course this year. She shared this picture which doesn't even begin to do it justice:
  • The course was very winding. Even though I am militant about running the course tangents, my Garmin still ended up registering 13.18 miles at the finish line.
The Ugly
  • I wore a time-tested sports bra and socks, and I applied ample BodyGlide. Yet, somehow I still ended up with chafing and blisters. Going into the race, I already had a black toenail and it got exacerbated pretty badly during the race, too. Ahhh, the glamour!
    Obligatory race photo body spasm.
    As you can probably guess, this photo was taken prior to all the skin/blister issues.
  • Adam wasn't able to get to the finish area to spectate. He drove around for about 45 minutes but kept getting redirected due to road closures. After I crossed the finish line, he was still circling the premises. He didn't get to see me run at all, which was disappointing.
  • The ribbon on the medals lists a race date of June 5, 2015. The race took place on June 6, 2015. Oops by someone!
Despite not having my best performance, I had a great time at this race. I loved the surprisingly beautiful riverfront scenery, the finish at Notre Dame, and the friendly, genuine volunteers and staff. It was great running with Amanda N and celebrating her spectacular new PR afterwards (wow)! If I lived closer to South Bend, this would be a race I would enjoy doing every year.

My next race: the PAWS Run For Their Lives 8K on June 14, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summertime to-do list

Happy Friday, everyone! I'm linking up with CynthiaCourtney, and Mar for the Friday Five.


This week's subject prompt: "5 Favorite Summertime Activities."

It was really difficult to pick just five! Therefore, I am going to cheat a little bit and go with five giant categories, instead.

1. Outdoor sporting events 
Baseball is an obvious choice. I definitely want to see both the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago. I have also been wanting to get to PNC Park in Pittsburgh to see the Pirates (try saying that five times fast, LOL).

Additionally, I'm going to be checking out something new this summer: UEFA Soccer! Manchester United and Paris St. Germain will be playing an exhibition game at Soldier Field in July, and Adam and I will be attending with a former coworker.
This Paris St. Germain player looks as pumped as I feel!
Source
I'm already on the lookout for my very own vuvuzela.

2. Exercise outdoors
This one is a no-brainer. When it comes to outdoor workouts, running is the only thing I'll do outside on nearly a year-round basis (with a growing timeframe during which I will move it indoors). During the summertime, I'm looking forward to outdoor biking and swimming, plus checking out offerings for outdoor yoga, pilates, tai chi, and Zumba. 
How amazing does this look?
Source
I have always wanted to go to North Avenue Beach to play some beach volleyball. Admittedly, though, I'm a little intimidated by all the hard-core volleyball players that frequent the nets there. I would clearly stick out as an imposter!
Maybe someday.
Source
3. Al fresco dining
I plan on checking out some new farmer's markets, consuming lots of wonderful in-season fruits and vegetables, putting the grill to good use, and eating outside as much as possible. I've got this list of outdoor dining venues in Chicago and I hope to work my way through each location, one-by-one.
This is the outdoor patio at Piccolo Sogno, which is just up the street from where I live!
Source
4. Festivals for months
I have been referencing this site for summertime festival options. Tops on my list are: Blues Fest, Jazz Fest, Taste of Chicago, Randolph Street Market, the Air & Water Show, Festa Italiana, Taste of Greektown, Chicago Outdoor Film Festival, the Ravinia Festival, the Millennium Park Music Festival, and the Summerdance Festival.
First on the agenda is the Chicago Blues Festival, which takes place next weekend!
I think that in the summertime, everyone should just default to carrying a picnic blanket or similar around with them at all times. You never know when it might come in handy!

5. Beach town getaway
This can mean a weekend jaunt up to Wisconsin or Michigan, or maybe something a little farther ashore domestically or internationally. I'm not picky. =)
The gorgeous, pristine beaches in Grand Haven, Michigan
In terms of weekend-able trips, tops on my list is Traverse City, Michigan. I've never been there but I hear it is fabulous.

Speaking of which - I'm heading to South Bend tonight to run the Sunburst Half Marathon tomorrow morning. Afterwards, Adam and I plan to hang out in southwest Michigan since we'll be in the near vicinity. It's going to be a really great weekend!

--
Your turn! What is on your summertime favorites list?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Vagrantly

Once again linking up with Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.
Channeling My Inner Spiderwoman
Last night, Luna Bar hosted a soiree at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago. Prior to yesterday, I've only gone wall-climbing once, back when I was in college. What an adventure it was to try again!

Here's a picture of me getting my climb on:
Wall-climbing and bouldering are a lot harder than they look. My arms, back, and especially my hands are all killer sore today. Suddenly it's become difficult to do the little things like open door handles or use soap dispensers. After I got out of the shower this morning, it was a real challenge trying to squeeze the water out of my hair. Yowza!

On a side note, the Brooklyn Boulders Chicago facility is amazing and ENORMOUS. They offer many more fitness options beyond just wall-climbing, too. It is very cool.

Many thanks to Luna Bar and Brooklyn Boulders for the awesome event!

More shoes
I think I may have found a new favorite running shoe. Hello, Saucony Ride 7!
If you're keeping track, my first running shoe love was the Asics Gel Cumulus. I wasn't thrilled with one of the most recent iterations of the Cumulus, which led me to the Mizuno Wave Rider. The Wave Rider is much firmer, which makes me feel like I am more in control of my footstep. However, when doing long runs, I do feel that the firmness can be a little harder on the joints down the stretch. The Saucony Ride is more similar to the Cumulus than the Wave Rider, but is firmer than the Cumulus with more forefoot cushioning.

I am liking the Ride so much that when I saw a ridiculous bargain for them on Amazon, I picked up another pair (shhhhhh...). I've decided that it is imperative to always own a pair of red running shoes. Check out this gorgeousness:
Weed-out
This past weekend, I was in Chinatown and stopped at one of the Asian grocery stores. On a whim, I bought a box of these seaweed snack packs:
I love the saltiness and crunch! I figured it would take me awhile to get through the box of 16, but I'm already a third of the way through. These might become a new regular on the snack list.

Blackhawks Talk
How about the Hawks' stunning come-from-behind victory last night? Someone on Twitter said, "That was such a Blackhawks thing to do" and I couldn't agree more. The Hawks really have a flare for the dramatic.

I love love LOVED watching Crawford and Vermette doing their post-game press conference in French. I could listen to them speak en Francais ALL day long!

Also, check out this clip of Oduya giving some helpful shoves to Seabrook after Seabs lost a skate blade:

Finally, Teuvo Teravainen looked awesome last night. What an amazing prospect we have in him! He looks like he is about 15 years old, though. He and Brandon Saad are only two years apart in age, but Brandon looks about 20 years older. To illustrate:
Left: Teuvo
Right: Brandon
Two years apart in age, a world of difference in appearance!
Hello Summertime!
  • Tops on my summer to-do list this year is to try the outdoor yoga at Millennium Park on Saturday mornings. I've actually started about a LOT of outdoor yoga offerings across the city during the summer. My plan is to try out as many as I can squeeze into the schedule. (I am working on a post about my summer to-do's. I'm hoping to share it within the next week or so.)
  • I am on the fence about getting a summer pool pass at the Chicago Park District. I do enjoy swimming, but it takes more prep work than running. When it comes down to it, I'm not sure if I'll have enough initiative to go swimming on a regular basis?
  • Adam has a new Divvy membership! I am super excited to share city explorations with him using the Divvy bikes. It's going to be so much easier to go to festivals, the lakefront, and other shindigs now that we can both Divvy to and from!

What's new with you? Favorite snacks? Biggest plans for the summer? Did you watch the Hawks last night? Current shoes? Too many questions?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Finals predictions

This year's Stanley Cup Finals match-up: Chicago Blackhawks vs Tampa Bay Lightning.


When I wrote up my Stanley Cup Finals predictions back in 2013, I constructed head-to-head comparisons on the forwards, defense, goaltending, special teams, and coaching.

This year, I was inspired by this article to take my predictions in a slightly different direction.

Who wins and in how many games?
Blackhawks in six (although I am tempted to say five).

My playoff predictions record is 11-3 so far this year (see here, here, and here). The funny thing is that two of my mis-picks were due to selecting against Tampa. Go figure, eh? Hopefully that will change this round.

NOTE: Adam is actually 14-0 in his predictions this year! How about that?

I understand that the Lightning are a fast, skilled team with a lot of scoring firepower. However, the Western Conference was much stronger overall than the Eastern Conference. I would have favored any of several Western Conference teams over Tampa. Additionally, the Lightning are very, very young. The Hawks have literally about a hundred more man-years of playoff experience.

While I will certainly take the Hawks winning another championship in whatever way they can, I would LOVE to see them finally clinch on home ice. Can you imagine the mayhem!?!?!?

The Conn Smythe Winner will be...
Duncan Keith. The guy is an absolute beast and his impact in the game has been priceless. I've never seen anyone shoulder the amount of minutes that Keith has, amidst multiple triple-OT games, yet look like he is barely breaking a sweat. Did a group of scientists create him in some top-secret hockey-gene laboratory somewhere, unbeknownst to the rest of the NHL?
Duncan Keith stepping onto the ice

Very strong honorable mentions go to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for their dazzling offensive firepower, leadership, and uncanny ability to take the game to the next level.

The series' bigger X-factor will be...
Team depth and the number of players who can step up when it matters the most.

When I thought about potential X-factors, there were so many choices. Tops on my list were goaltending and special teams. But - I think the Hawks are loaded with strong players who have not fully showcased their talents in this year's playoffs (Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp are the first two that come to mind). I look forward to seeing some of these guys now impacting their presence with authority.
Everyone remember this moment during a 17-second stretch from 2013?
Bickell's face tells you everything you need to know about how much the championship means.

What will we remember most about this Stanley Cup Final?
This Final will continue to solidify the Blackhawks as a modern-day dynasty in the salary cap era. Three championships in six years? Five conference finals in seven years? Bring it home, baby.

Whose legacy will be impacted the most?
Jonathan Toews. The captain of all captains. He can literally will the entire team to victory. He is unparalleled in his poise, leadership, and ability to raise his game at all ends of the ice.
Toews is one of the best to ever wear the "C" on his jersey.
Honorable mentions: Coach Joel Quenneville for his consistent mastermind successes while juggling a bevvy of roster moves; Stan Bowman both for constructing championship teams and for being able to rebuild/retool so quickly; and Duncan Keith for all the reasons I mentioned above.

Other special mentions:
I think Brent Seabrook and Brandon Saad are having incredible playoff runs.
Brandon!!!
I wear his jersey with pride!
(Adam is very proud of the fact that Brandon is from Pittsburgh, too)
I also give enormous kudos to Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya for their yeoman work on the blue line. Huge credit to Corey Crawford, too, for his exceptional resilience in the net.

Now, let's talk about tickets.
  • What is up with Tampa and their ridiculous ticket policies? Way to shoot yourself in the foot. I agree with this commentary that it's a pathetic strategy. Why is the NHL even allowing it? #FireGaryBettman
  • Tickets for the Finals games at the United Center went on sale at noon today. Standing-room-only tickets started at $140, and the nosebleed seats started at $285. Tickets on the glass had a $1,200 face value. (Note that these figures are both quoted BEFORE all of Ticketmaster's hefty taxes and fees). Ouch.
  • Against my wallet's better judgment, I took a deep breath and at noon I did valiantly attempt to get tickets to Game 6. No luck. Not even close. The Ticketmaster screen might as well have laughed in my face. That's how bad it was. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? 
  • We won't even begin to talk about the prices on the secondary market. Last I checked, they started at about $975 a pop.
  • I look forward to enjoying the games from the comfort of my living room couch, or maybe one of the local Hawks bars on Madison. On the bright side, at least I can go to the bathroom whenever I want to, right Tazer?

I can't wait for the games to begin tomorrow night.

GO BLACKHAWKS!!!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Fitness tweaks and tools

Here are five fitness things that I'm spinning these days:

1. Foam rolling hip flexor
Normally, my foam rolling routine consists of working my IT band, glutes, and calves, and sometimes my quads. Aside from rolling, I stretch my hamstrings and hip flexors.
During a recent gait analysis, I mentioned my history of IT band syndrome. I was advised to try foam rolling my hip flexors instead of just stretching them. The suggestion was that while it's certainly good to foam roll the IT band directly, the hip flexors also have a largely fundamental impact on the IT band.

I have been giving the hip flexor rolling a try. It hurt like crazy when I first started. This was a bit unsettling, considering that I have consistently stretched my flexors. But obviously foam rolling is a whole other method.

Long story short, my legs do feel noticeably better these days. Early this month, I had started experiencing a recurrence of knee pain. It was making me really nervous. Thankfully, since I've started the hip flexor rolling, things seem to be back under control. Huge relief!

In case anyone else wants to give it a whirl, I found this instructional video:


2. Fountain Finder app
I'm always happy when the water fountains on the Chicago Lakefront Path are available for use. They are such a terrific resource and provide great hydration flexibility.

While I am familiar with certain parts of the lakefront trail, there are plenty of stretches where I have no idea of water fountain placement. This has involved me just having to look around and keep my eyes peeled in the hopes that I'll see one.

SOLUTION: The Fountain Finder app! It has GPS mapping capabilities enabling you to find the closest water fountains on the path, complete with pictures. Ingenious!!!
The fountain listings also note whether or not there is an adjoining bathroom, which is helpful. I do wish that you could search for the bathrooms separately instead of checking each fountain listing. But it's still better than the alternative!

3. Drop sets
When I am weight-lifting, my usual practice is to do 3 sets of 10-15 reps. However, this gets really cumbersome and boring for me after awhile.

To mix things up, I do drop sets. Here is an article describing the concept in more detail. In short, you use a higher amount of weight to start. Once you reach failure, you immediately reduce the weight and keep doing reps until you again reach failure. The idea is that this practice enables you to work your muscles more thoroughly to failure than if you just stuck with heavier weight the entire time.

I usually only drop the weight once or twice by about 20-25% each time. However, you could certainly vary the number of drops you do, as well as the amount of weight reduced each time.
Admittedly, after you've done three or four drops, it does feel a little silly to be struggling with some comparatively minuscule amount of weight. But that is when you know you have REALLY worked those muscles to complete and total fatigue!

4. Stretch breaks
My workplace is trying very hard to promote more activity throughout the day. They are encouraging each of us to get up from our desks and move around for at least five minutes every hour. They've got standing workstations, portable footpedals, and other little fitness gadgets set up all around the office for our active use.

This is all well and good, and I certainly appreciate the intentions. In reality, though, I find it too distracting and interruptive to get up once an hour. Especially when I'm swamped.

My compromise is to try to do a little bit of stretching a couple times a day. It's not too difficult to pop into a conference room for a few minutes and stretch out the perpetually tight hamstrings, hips, or calves. I figure that this all adds up over time!
If only...
5. Old workout videos
Someone suggested dusting off those old workout videos from the 80s or 90s to give yourself a change of pace. What a fun idea!

I do have some old Jane Fonda videos at home. Apparently you can also find some great classics on YouTube. Hello, Cindy Crawford, Alyssa Milano, Paula Abdul, and Denise Austen, just to name a few. I love some of the classic music selections.
Can't stop, won't stop!!!

And since we're on the subject of 80s workouts, I would be completely remiss if I didn't include this hilarious Blackhawks video:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!! (Can you imagine the outtakes!?!?!?)

Anyways, I digress. Happy Friday to all!
--

Linking up with Cynthia, Mar, and Courtney for the Friday Five.