Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Oxymoronic

During the month of August, I experienced two unusual contrasts.

1. The numbers tell different stories
My workplace hosts periodic fitness challenges. These usually involve doing pre- and post-program assessments, which include body composition analyses. Over the past two years, I've undergone maybe eight body comp analyses.

The results have always been pretty consistent... until last week! My body fat percentage dropped nearly 1% compared to six weeks ago! It's also the lowest percentage I've ever recorded. Woo hoo!

I credit this to doing more weight-lifting. Now I am really pumped (get it? pumped? har-har) to keep up the strength training.

However, in contrast... 

I attend Weight Watchers meetings every week where I get weighed-in.

My weight has been stable over the last few years. I have always fallen within a 2-pound range... until last week. This time, I recorded my highest weight since last October.

Yikes!

I want to believe my weight is higher because of muscle gain, and I do have my body comp results to back that up. But even so. Even though numbers are just numbers, it's not fun to see upward movements on the scale!
2. Quantity over quality?
I've previously mentioned my goal to run 750 miles in 2015. This translates to 62.5 miles per month. I have stayed perfectly on track every month this year through July.

I really thought I would fall off the wagon in August. The heat and humidity with a side of lagging motivation sure seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Would you believe I actually ended up logging 72.5 miles (an extra 10 miles!) in August?Running Fort2Base helped a lot.

I started thinking, if I can continue logging 72.5 each month for the rest of the year, I can get to 800 total miles for 2015. That would be the highest annual mileage I've ever logged, and by far the most consistent!

However...

The entire month was full of mediocre-to-crappy runs.

Last weekend, I finished off August with an 11-mile long run. It didn't go well. My paces were snail-like and I felt like a slug. And unlike most of my other runs this month, I didn't have the weather, fueling, or other factors to blame this time.
This is a whole other topic, but this most recent crappy long run has undermined my confidence for my next half marathon (the Hub City Half Marathon on September 13).

It feels bizarre to log my highest monthly mileage all year but to simultaneously feel so underprepared. Here is hoping it was just one of those days and that correlation does not imply causation (or whatever the statisticians say).

Oxymoronic times all around, eh?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Five things I did this summer

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


This week's topic: Five things you did this summer.

The topic implies summer is over, which makes me sad. Indeed, this summer has felt like the shortest one, ever. Between June being extremely rainy and cool combined with this week's onset of fall-like temperatures, I feel like summer only lasted about three weeks this year. It's definitely a hint to take full advantage of any good weather remaining!

That being said, let's get to my five things. (If you follow me on Instagram, you'll recognize some of these photos.)

1. Ran the 606
The 606 is a new 2.7-mile elevated bike/pedestrian trail converted from an old railroad line. I went to check it out, armed in my running shoes. Wow! It gives such amazing views of so many different neighborhoods!
Source
It's too bad the path is a little inconvenient to both public transport and to any Divvy bike stations. Otherwise, I would be a regular traverser.

Incidentally - I ran into the Nesquick Bunny.

L to R: Me and the Nesquick bunny

Talk about randomly meeting icons, right? He even gave me a very well-appreciated bottle of chocolate milk! =)

2. Visited Argyle Street and the Argyle Night Market
Argyle Street is the site of a prominantly Vietnamese neighborhood in Chicago. Every Thursday during the summertime, they host an outdoor night market. It's reminiscent of the markets you'll see in Asia, albeit on a much smaller scale.

My friend Rose and I went to check it out one night.

Afterwards, we wandered around the neighborhood taking in the atmosphere. I enjoyed seeing all the beautiful murals adorning the streets.

We stopped at a local Asian bakery, then had dinner at Pho 888. So much delicious food! I've already got recommendations for more Vietnamese favorites to check out in the future.

I absolutely love wandering through Chicago's various ethnic neighborhoods. It's such an incredible way to see the true locals living their lives.

3. Ran the Morton Arboretum
I have heard amazing reviews of the Morton Arboretum in west suburban Lisle. It is reknown for its natural beauty and well-maintained running/biking paths. It plays host to lots of weddings and other special events.

One Saturday, I hopped in the car and made the trek out to experience it for myself.


I logged an enjoyable 10-miler, then had lunch at one of their outdoor seating areas. The premises are ENORMOUS. Despite my lengthy run, I barely scratched the surface of all the Arboretum has to offer.

This is another place to which I wish I lived closer!

4. Went to the Zoo
In June, Adam and I went to an event at the Lincoln Park Zoo called Adults Night Out. It takes place after normal operating hours, and features special animal discussions, concessions, and entertainment.

Unfortunately it rained the whole night we were there (as it did for most of the month of June, really). Therefore, we spent much of the event exploring the indoor exhibits.

I was terrified by the Madagascar hissing cockroach exhibit:

[Shudder]

I hope the zookeepers keep that exhibit well secured. In my worst nightmare, those roaches escape and wander into some radioactive nuclear plant, expanding to 350 times their normal size and eventually taking over the world. (There's probably a sci-fi horror movie depicting the whole storyline in all of its grisly detail.)

Anyways, I digress. The event was a lot of fun and a great way to experience the zoo without all the usual packed crowds.

Since I can't possibly leave you with just that one cockroach picture, here is a much more pleasant image!

Giraffe taking a break between dinnertime bites to gaze at its observers

5. Ate lots of non deep-dish pizza
Neopolitan pizza seems to be a growing movement, even in a city reknown for its deep-dish. As sacrilegious as it may be, I've had fun trying out several different new-to-me joints. These include Pizzeria del Mercato, Spacca Napoli, and Sono Wood Fired.

Spacca Napoli

I'm not even close to being done with my non-deep dish pizza exploration. I still want to try Coalfire, Forno Rosso, and Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana, amongst many other places.

Yes, I'm going against my prior proclamations of all deep dish, all the time. I will call it expanding my appreciation of the diverse pizza world. =) But I still do think deep dish pizza is the best!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Questions nobody asks - Part 2

Continuing this series of questions. My first set of responses is here.

9. If you could get back any article of clothing you once wore, what would it be?
Nostalgically I'd like to get back the running shoes I wore when I first became a runner. I achieved a lot of milestones in those shoes!

At the time, everyone wore white shoes trimmed with one color. I, on the other hand, had a pair of white Nikes trimmed in two different colors - reddish-orange and blue. I purchased them from a Nike Outlet store purely because they looked cool.

Sadly I couldn't find a picture of those shoes. Here is a pair which looks somewhat comparable:

10. If you could hire any actor to portray you in a movie, who would it be?
Kelly Hu. Besides being an actress and a fashion model, she's a runner! She grew up in Hawaii and she ran the Honolulu Marathon (one of my dream marathons)!
Kelly Hu
It isn't all decoration with Kelly, either. She also supports ecological movements and Asian American causes, both of which are very close to my heart.

11. If you could play any instrument, what would it be?
I took piano and flute lessons as a young child through college. To this day I still love the piano. It is so versatile and so classic.

If I had to pick an additional instrument to learn, it would definitely be the trumpet. I love its brilliant, majestic, and powerful sound.

12. If you could hear anyone in history give a speech, who would it be?
I've never been a history buff, so this is the hockey fan in me coming out. I wish I could have seen Herb Brooks's pregame speech before the U.S. Hockey Team played the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Here is the movie version from Miracle, played by Kurt Russell:

(I imagine this dramatization was heavily toned down since Miracle is a Disney movie!)

13. If you could live in one city for the rest of your life, where would you live?
Chicago is and always will be my home. I love living here. Brutal winters aside, I'd be happy to stay here the rest of my life.

If I had to pick a different city, it would be Sydney, Australia. It has everything that I look for in a big city. It's beautiful, cosmopolitan, and diverse, with stunning architecture and biodiversity, temperate weather, great culture and history, and friendly people.
The lights of Sydney, Australia
Source
My everlasting thanks to Adam for proposing to me in Sydney! =)

14. If you could make any fictional character come to life, which would it be?
Stitch! He's so cute and funny!

Honorable mentions: Bugs Bunny, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, and Figment.

15. When you were a kid, what did you dress up as for Halloween?
I dressed up as a vampire a few times. I've done the Mardi Gras masquerade theme. I've also dressed up as a tourist.

Your turn! I'd love to hear your responses to any or all of these questions!

--
Linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fort2Base race recap

After hearing rave reviews every year about the Fort2Base 10 nautical-mile race, I decided to check it out for myself.


The race starts at Fort Sheridan, which was a former Army base and at which an Army reserve complex still operates. The course runs south along the North Shore bike path, and ends at the Great Lakes Naval Base. The 10 nautical-mile distance translates to 11.5 miles.

The race also offered a 3 nautical-mile race (3.45 miles), which started and finished at Great Lakes.

The Good
  • I stayed at the official race hotel the night before. I was able to have my race packet waiting for me when I checked in! That was a huge timesaver.
  • It was awesome to see so many friends at the race, including Marcia, Amanda, Melanie, Jill, and Chris. It was also great to meet Heather in person for the first time!
Prerace photo with the FNRC run club
Selfie right before crossing the starting line.
Note the military presence right behind us!
  • The weather cooperated for the most part. The race started at 7 AM, and forecasts were calling for thunderstorms between 8 AM and 10 AM (perfectly bad timing!) Temps were in the low 70s and it was humid. However, while I did come across some wet pavement and puddles, I did not experience any rainfall on the course. Hallelujah!
  • It was amazing and awe-inspiring to run through both Fort Sheridan and Great Lakes. These areas are normally off-limits to civilians. 
Fort Sheridan
Source
Great Lakes Naval Base
Source
  • I got choked up seeing all the military personnel on-course in their uniforms welcoming us and cheering us on. They, along with all the race volunteers, were fantastic.
  • I LOVED the race medal! It was so cool to see the emblems for all five military units emblazoned on the ribbon.

The Bad
  • I had a great time at Anne's wedding celebration the night before. This also meant I deviated heavily from my usual night-before-race dinner choices. I was fueled up on sausage, schnitzel, sauerkraut, spaetzle, dumplings, beets, and potato soup. Living on the edge!!!
  • Race logistics were a little complicated. Everyone, including spectators, had to park at Rosalind Franklin University and take a shuttle bus to either Fort Sheridan for the 10 nautical mile race, or to Great Lakes for the 3 nautical mile or to spectate. Traffic was a disaster trying to get into the parking area.
  • The North Shore bike path was quiet and lined on both sides with trees and forest. However, the path was narrow and it was still open to the public. This created some awkward traffic moments.
The North Shore bike path
Source
  • Around Mile 6, I could feel hotspots developing on the ball and middle toes of my left foot. This made me nervous. I tried to alter my stride slightly to put less pressure on that area of the foot. It felt a little awkward but it worked.
  • Around Mile 7.5, my stomach started giving me hints of discomfort. (I think it was due to drinking Gatorade within a relatively short amount of time after taking a GU.) Restroom options were few and far between, and I was visualizing the worst. Thankfully the discomfort passed after a couple of minutes.
  • I wasn't feeling my strongest during the race. I had been hoping to do a 10-minute mile pace, but it felt plenty challenging just to maintain 10:30 miles in that humidity.
  • Everyone kept talking about Hero Hill near the Mile 10 marker. It was just as bad as reputed, especially at that point in the course. I had heard military folks would be there to run us up the hill. When I came through, I was actually glad all of them were occupied with others. This meant I could walk as much of the hill as I wanted! (I ended up walking about 80%, heh.)
The Ugly
  • The course was long. At Mile Marker 1, my Garmin said 1.15 miles. Mentally, this threw me off. I kept waiting for the extra distance to net out elsewhere, but it never did. At the finish line I forgot to stop my Garmin. When I realized this a few minutes later, it said 11.75 miles. Most folks said they measured the course anywhere from 11.75 to almost 12 miles. 
  • Marcia mentioned the start line was different than prior years. As it turns out, we did not run the advertised course start. Someone posted the below maps on Facebook showing the published route versus the actual route. Note the big extra loop. One person theorized that the runners started lining up on the wrong side of the starting line, and the organizers just went with it. 
Left: Published route
Right: Actual route
  • As I write this, the organizers have not addressed the change in course or the added distance despite all the comments on their Facebook page, etc.
My official finishing time was 2:04:15. I had been hoping to break two hours, so I wasn't thrilled with my result. But given the long course and the other challenges, it is what it is. I'll call it giving myself plenty of room for improvement in the future!

I am glad to have experienced Fort2Base and to get such a unique glimpse into two military stations. As always, I tip my hat to all the women and men serving our country. Thank you for all you do!!!

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

--
My next race: The Super Bears Shuffle 5K on September 10

Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekend Wrap: 8/21/15 to 8/23/15

Hello, everyone! Popping in and linking up with HoHo and Tricia to recap my weekend.


On Friday I got a much-needed haircut. Here is the before and after:

Friday night, Adam and I went to check out a local joint called the Wise Owl Drinkery and Cookhouse. They have a nice outdoor patio so we tried to take advantage of our final weeks of summer weather.


On Saturday morning, I went to a Nike Training Club event. We went through a benchmarking workout to help measure our fitness levels, then did some yoga.


Saturday afternoon, Adam and I went to Taste of Greektown. It was very windy and crowded, but the food was outstanding. You could smell the aroma from literally a mile away!



Adam (and every other guy in the vicinity) was fascinated by an enormous electronic rotisserie we saw near one of the restaurants. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture, but it was mechanically and rhythmically spinning dozens of skewers over open flames. 

Saturday night, Anne was hosting a wedding celebration at Schnitzel Platz. Many congratulations to her and her new husband, Terry!

Left to right: Me, Anne, and Erin

I enjoyed the live polka band:


The food was very authentically German, of course. Sausage, schnitzel, dumplings, sauerkraut, spaetzle, plenty of beer, etc. Check out the beer boots!


We had a funny moment when one of the food runners brought out the following dish:

We asked a waiter what it was. His enthusiastic response: "I have no idea!!!" (It turns out it was a dumpling made out of either potato or bread.)

Sunday morning, I ran the Fort2Base 10 Nautical-Mile race. Full recap to come tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a picture of the fabulous medal:

After the race, Adam and I had lunch with my mom, then came back home to relax for the rest of the day. Now, onto the new workweek!

Your turn! Tell me about your weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Five Things Friday

1. This past Tuesday, I went to a "Cross Train and Cocktails" event hosted by Class Pass, Fleet Feet, and On Your Mark Training. We went through a killer HIIT workout on the Roosevelt Collection rooftop. Such a gorgeous setting!

Source
Afterwards, we went back to Fleet Feet for refreshments and shopping. Luckily we were all safely indoors when an outburst of monsoon-like storms catapulted through the area. YIKES. (Thanks to Adam for picking me up so I didn't have to bike home in those conditions!)

Monsoons aside, I had a great time at the event! KitchFix served almond-crusted chicken samples which I'm already plotting to recreate at home. I snagged a fabulous new Nike tank top at half price. I also spent a lot of time admiring the Super Bears Shuffle 5K finisher medals displayed all over the store.

You know where this is going, right?

2. Seeing the Bears 5K swag got my wheels turning on pulling the registration trigger. The race is expensive for a 5K : $45 + $3 processing fees, or $43 total after using a discount code (BEARS5K). But I really want that medal. I also feel the need to even things up after running the Packers 5K last year. Plus, the "Combine Course" with shuffle cones, step-over pads, and tackle dummies sounds awesome.


Allright - SOLD. I'm in.

[Best Superfan imitation:] BEARS!!!!!!!!

3. On Wednesday night, I went to a barre class for the first time in quite a long while. Hello, muscle burn and shake - and so we meet again!

Even before starting, I was already feeling the effects of the HIIT from the night before. To add to this, I took a Zumba class just a few hours earlier, plus I rode a Divvy bike to/from the barre studio.

My legs were completely trashed afterwards. My glutes, abs, arms, and back are all sore, too.


This was definitely not the smartest sequence leading up to Fort2Base on Sunday. DERP!

4. My workplace organized an architectural walking tour yesterday afternoon. What a wonderful learning experience! Chicago's stunning architecture never ceases to amaze me.

Here are a few snapshots:
Upper L: The Palmer House Hilton lobby
Lower L: Marc Chagall's "The Four Seasons" at Chase Plaza
Upper R: Intricate Tiffany mosaics at the Marquette Building
Lower R: Light court at the Rookery Building




I learned a lot of interesting trivia. For example: Merchandise Mart used to have its own ZIP code; women were not allowed at the Berghoff until 1969; and Chicago's water filtration plant (just north of Navy Pier) is the largest in the world. Very cool!

5. I've finally reached the point where I can't deal with my hair any more. It's the longest I've let it grow in probably the last decade.

This is what it feels like:

(Troy Polamalu!!!)
This afternoon I will be marching in to get a serious chop. I want to lose at least three or four inches. I can't wait for that feeling of post-haircut freedom and airiness!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Currently

Currently feeling: Lethargic, and burnt out on running and working out. I'd like to find a way to shake up my exercise routine somehow. My motivation could definitely use a kick.

Currently looking forward to: Visiting Traverse City over Labor Day weekend; cooler temperatures for running; and seeing some beautiful fall foliage in the coming weeks. I enjoy the transition of summer into fall.
Source

Currently listening to: This song that I took notice of when it was playing at the BTN Big 10K race village. I think it's very catchy!


I was also very inspired by some of the great music I heard at the Broadway in Chicago concert this past Monday. I'm planning on downloading a few new songs from 42nd Street; Carole King; and Cabaret.

Currently reading: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. It was one of a few selections considered by my book club this month. We ended up going with The Rosie Project instead (my cursory thoughts on it are here). However, I thought Luckiest Girl Alive sounded intriguing so I decided to read it on my own.


The book touches a LOT of issues. At the outset, I didn't like the main character. It was to the point that I considered DNF-ing the book! But I pushed through, and was really glad I did. The character development became more and more insightful as the story progressed.

Currently craving: Cheese-laden dishes. [Best Forrest Gump imitation:] Cheese pizza, cheesy lasagna, enchiladas with cheese, cheesy nachos, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese and crackers...

Currently drinking: Water, straight-up, maybe with a little bit of lemon juice.

For a long time, I had cut way back on my orange juice consumption (this is for various reasons). But I have to admit I am starting to revert back to my old ways here and there...

Currently experimenting with: Coconut oil. (As per usual, I jumped on a food trend bandwagon very late in the game.) Someone told me that coconut oil is terrific in pancakes and baked goods, and I definitely agree! I am a huge fan of the tropical scent, too.

Currently annoyed by: Customer service representatives who are supremely inefficient and unhelpful; and who operate in ways that are completely nonsensical. No further comment.

Currently wishing: I could go to Disney. I know it sounds cheesy (not to be confused with the cheese cravings I mentioned above). I've heard about future Disney offerings from the D23 Expo. These include new Star Wars features; the opening of Soarin' Around the World (instead of just California); and a new nighttime show at Animal Kingdom called Rivers of Light, etc., etc. It all sounds amazing!!!

I've also been getting updates about the Wine and Dine Half Marathon and other upcoming RunDisney events. Now I am wishing I was registered!


Currently in disbelief that: The Chicago Cubs hold the second wild-card playoff spot in the National League and are competing heavily for the first. I am shocked at how well they've played down the stretch. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep this up. (Never mind the anxiety it is causing Adam as a Pirates fan. He is experiencing his first-ever baseball fan conflict in Chicago!)

Can you imagine the mayhem if the Back to the Future prediction comes true???