Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BTN Big 10K race recap

This past Saturday, I ran the BTN Big 10K for the first time.
This race is enormously popular, probably because of the strong representation of Big 10 alumni that live in the Chicago area. I think it's very clever to use the word play on the Big Ten Conference for a 10K race! Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

I've been eyeing this race since its inception in 2012. I have always been wary about its annual timing in July, though. With that in mind, I signed up for this year's race with exactly zero intention of shooting for any time goals. My true motivation?


Each runner gets to select one of the Big Ten schools to represent, along with a school-specific shirt. I've mentioned many times that I am a proud alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Go Illini!) I will happily rep the orange and blue anyday.

The race village was located in Soldier Field's south tailgate lot. On race morning, I zipped there on a Divvy bike and gleefully docked at a station right next to the starting corrals. Divvy is the best.

I stopped by the Illinois booth and grabbed some rocking Illini sunglasses.

I was hoping to wear the Illini sunglasses during the race! You couldn't really see through the lenses, though. This meant I was back to wearing my plain old neutral sunglasses. Ah well.

As I was making my way towards the starting corrals, an emcee announced that Illinois had the largest representation of runners at the race. (Michigan State came in a very, very, VERY close second.) Several folks around me grumbled, "What a surprise that Illinois won in a Chicago race." YES, there was a disparate hometown advantage, but I was still happy. The winning prize? The playing of the Illinois fight song at the starting line!

The starting area was jammed with spectators and mascots cheering us on. So much energy! The runners were fairly packed in at the start, but as is typical in most races, everyone gradually spread out.

The course consisted of an out-and-back on Lake Shore Drive down to 42nd Street, returning along the lakefront path. The course also went underneath the McCormick Place tunnel twice.

The temperature was in the mid 70s and rising, and the humidity was thick. I started at a semi-easy pace and felt good for the first three miles or so. Then, the humidity began wearing on me so I slowed down. (I saw one guy veer sharply off course, head directly towards some trees, and then violently throw up. Yikes!)

Around Mile 4.75, there was an on-course slip and slide. You better believe that I took advantage!
Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the slip and slide, so here is a snapshot from Lindsay's 2012 race recap.

As we all know from our childhood days, slip and slides generally require lots of momentum via a nice running start. However, there was a long line of folks waiting to go through. This meant there wasn't much room to do anything but take about two big steps and then plop-dive in head first. Embarrassingly, I only made it about halfway through the slip and slide before I came to a grinding halt. I had to try to get up from there and claw my way to the end. Awkward... but still fun. =D

At each of the aid stations, they were playing a rotation of the schools' fight songs. Loved it! One station played the Penn State fight song as I passed through. Adam is a proud Penn State alum so this made me smile on his behalf.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 1:02:57.

The post-race party was basically the biggest tailgate party I've ever seen in my life. There was lots of beer, plus rows and rows of grills cooking up Amylu sausages. There were also opportunities to attempt field goals, do a 40-yard dash, play corn hole, or practice your football throwing skills.

Several school mascots were present to take photos with their proud alums. There was no Illinois mascot, so I got a picture with some of the Illinois cheerleaders.

I found out later that my picture ended up getting some extra recognition - it showed up in this article! Ahhh, the magic of social media and hashtags, woo hoo!

The BTN Big 10K was a really fun, festive race! I think all Big Ten alums would enjoy it. It is nice that they offer both the 10K and a 5K distance. I am already trying to plant the seeds for Adam to sign up next year. We all gotta represent, right? =)

My next race: The Fort2Base Nautical 10-Miler on August 23.

Linking up with April, Patty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run, and with Jessica, Mary Beth, and Jennifer for Race Recaps.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Getting back on the horse

After taking a 6.5-week blogger hiatus, I am finally getting back on the horse.

To be honest, for a period of time I had pretty much decided that I was pulling the plug on my blog. It takes SO MUCH time. My motivation/momentum had taken an earth-shattering nosedive. I've been unenthused about the increasing pervasiveness of advertising and sponsored posts.

In short, this was my blogger theme song for a few weeks:

What changed my mind to bring me back? Ultimately, the remembrance that blogging is a terrific way to stay in touch with friends and meet new ones. I have so many examples, but here are three recents on which I am reflecting:

1.) This morning I attended a fabulous Women's Forum sunrise yoga event. I got to see six awesome friends there - all of whom I met through blogging. It was the best kick-off to a Monday morning that I've ever had.
From L to R:
Top: Erica, me, and Jill
Middle: Lauren and Melanie
Bottom: Maggie and Natali
2.) Natalie will be visiting Chicago in August! We were talking this morning about plans for meeting up at the Air & Water Show. She is another wonderful friend that I met through blogging and I am super excited to catch up with her.
Throwback Monday to the 2014 Chinatown 5K with Natalie (left) and me.
Aren't Natalie's Sriracha leggings the coolest (or rather the spiciest) thing ever?!?
3) To me, one of the biggest highlights of running races is the post-race celebration with the many great friends that - you guessed it - I met through blogging! Here is a picture of Xaarlin, Luiz, Cristina, and me after the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon on July 26 (recap coming soon):

L to R: Luiz, Xaarlin, me, and Cristina
In the surroundings but not pictured: Xaarlin's dog, CB
All of the amazing friendships have me realizing how valuable it is to keep the blog windows open. So with that...

We have a lot of catching up to do! I've got three races to recap, amongst many other things. Let's see if we can gradually get both back on track and in motion.

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

The Mark Twain Riverboat in Disneyland's Frontierland

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.)
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
    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!
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?
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.
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!
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


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:
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?