Sunday, April 26, 2015

Race to Wrigley 10K recap

I've had my eye on the Race to Wrigley for a long time. I've run races at the United Center, US Cellular Field, and Soldier Field, but had not yet run at Wrigley Field. This year I decided to take care of that!

It almost didn't happen, though. The rain magnet (yours truly) struck again! Forecasters were predicting rain, wind, and temperatures in the 40s during race morning. This would prospectively be my fourth race in about 9 months that was plagued by inclement precipitation. I very, very, very seriously considered DNS-ing.

Had I actually elected to skip out, I would have felt better knowing that the race proceeds were going to charity. (Incidentally, when I mentioned this to Adam, he said, "The Cubs ARE a charity." Ouch!!! Although, they are supposed to be much better this year, right?)

Alas, in tune with what I learned in my college economics/psychology classes, I am a billboard for honoring sunk costs. I really did not want to waste my registration fee. So I grudgingly arose at the crack of dawn on race morning and got ready to go.

Once the day got underway, things went much, MUCH better than expected.

Prediction #1: At 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning, CTA service would take forever and a day to haul my sorry butt up to Wrigley Field.

Reality #1: I caught a bus as soon as I stepped outside. My bus-to-train transfer took less than two minutes. My train ride was filled with other excited race-goers, which lifted my spirits. I had allowed an hour of transit time, but the total ride only took about 30 minutes. Bam!

Prediction #2:
Upon arrival, the streets would be mobbed. It would be nearly impossible to take any pictures with the Wrigley Field statues or marquee.

Reality #2: I present to thee - saying hello to Ron Santo:

and giving a high-flying greeting to Ernie Banks:

As you can see, I lived dangerously, broke the runner's rules, and wore the race shirt on race day. Normally I wouldn't do this but the shirt was so festive that I couldn't resist!

I also wore white compression sleeves and black shoes in an attempt to emulate the "baseball knickers" look.

I wore the white hat primarily to ward off the rain, but I thought it completed the baseball look nicely, too. (This is about the closest I've ever gotten to running in costume, heh heh.)

Prediction #3: All the runners would be standing around in the pouring rain and wind waiting for portapotties, gear check, and the starting gun. We would freeze our collective patookies off.

Reality #3: There was zero wait for the portapotties. An enormous tent housed a gear check (which had no lines) while also providing substantial protection from the elements. Additionally, runners had the option of waiting inside any of several Cubs merchandise stores or a nearby McDonald's. Normally the waiting is the worst part, but this morning it was effortless.

Runners hanging out inside the tent pre-race
Baseball themed McDonald's near Wrigley Field
Enroute to gear check, look who I ran into!
Chicago Cubs mascot, Clark!

Prediction #4: I would be running the race amidst packed crowds, many of whom would be unfamiliar with race etiquette. Things would probably start out very crowded, but then start spacing out after a few miles.

Reality #4: Normally this race is just a 5K. However, in honor of the Race to Wrigley's 10-year anniversary this year, the organizers offered a "Let's Run Two" 10K option (two laps around the 5K course) which I jumped at. The 10K runners started 20 minutes earlier than the 5K runners and walkers. As a result, the course was not at all crowded during the first loop. It was awesome!

Things did get very, very crowded during the second loop, though. I was weaving around groups of people walking five or six in tandem.

Prediction #5: Other than finishing in front of Wrigley Field, I didn't think the course would be very scenic. The entire event takes place outside of the stadium, so how festive could it be? Wrigley Field is under massive construction right now, too. Here are some pictures:

Reality #5: The course went through some very nice neighborhoods! I'd only ever seen some of these streets while driving by in my car. It was really fun to experience them from my running shoes. It was also fun that the post-race area was staged right in the heart of the Wrigleyville social scene on Clark Street. Wrigleyville is so vibrant!

Prediction #6: There would be nasty rain and wind. Everyone would be complaining and would make a mad dash for the exits as soon as they finished.

Reality #6: The rain was relatively light and I didn't notice any wind. I didn't find the conditions to be bothersome at all. The other participants around me were all having a blast, too. Plenty of people were hanging out afterwards (and of course many headed directly to the Wrigleyville bars, LOL).

Here's the finish line (photo taken pre-race):

This was the scene at the post-race refreshment area on Clark Street:
Prediction #7: The post-race food selections would include the usuals - bagels, banana, water, etc.

Reality #7: One sponsor had lines piled up for very unusual food giveaway: Prepackaged steak!

A few of Chicago's finest taking advantage of the free steak
In terms of the day's time goals, the only thing I wanted to do was break an hour. I took it nice and easy the first half. Despite the crowds in the second loop, I kicked it up during the second 5K and got a nice negative split. My final finishing time was 58:13.

In the end...
I had a blast at the Race to Wrigley! What a wonderful surprise that all of my fears of bad weather and crowds turned out to be completely unfounded. The atmosphere and festivities were a lot more fun than I had expected!

Dare I say that I'm starting to catch some of the hype about Cubs baseball? I am not a baseball fan. But, being surrounded by hundreds of happy runners/walkers in Cubs gear can actually be pretty infectious. =)

My next race: the Cinco de Miler on May 9

Friday, April 24, 2015

Advice to a younger me

I loved reading Erica's post from yesterday with tips to her younger self! Here is some of the advice that I wish I could have given to myself earlier in life:
  1. Get enough sleep.
  2. Be comfortable with yourself. Embrace what makes you unique.
  3. Amidst all the ups and downs, life is a constant.
  4. Instead of always waiting for that perfect moment, do the things that you love NOW.
  5. Keep a journal and take plenty of pictures.
  6. Travel every chance you get and do as the locals do. Be a traveler instead of a tourist.
  7. Go for that graduate degree/certification earlier rather than later.
  8. Cook more. Eat less processed food.
  9. You feel better when you take care of your own appearance.
  10. Relationships mean everything both personally and professionally. Nothing is more important in life than your family and friends.
  11. Quality over quantity.
  12. Be not afraid. Don't worry about things until they happen.
  13. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  14. If you need orthodontic work, get it done - the sooner the better.
  15. You know yourself better than they know you.
  16. Learn at least two foreign languages.
  17. The first reaction is usually the correct one.
  18. You already know what to do.
  19. Read more.
  20. Enjoy the journey and be present in the now.

What other advice would you give your younger self or to me?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Time to link up with Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays!

Struttin' my stuff for everyone
Earlier this week, I wore what I considered to be a very cute outfit to work. As a result, I was striding around the office with an added boost of confidence. I met with my boss, had productive discussions with several team members, resolved lots of issues. All in all, I was feeling really good about myself.

Then, around 11:30 AM, I realized that my fly had been open the whole morning.

Thank you, thank you, please hold applause.

A new do
It's been extremely windy in the Windy City this week. I've actually delayed running a few errands because I didn't want to have to walk/bike around in those conditions. It's been giving me a nice unique hairdo, too. This is pretty much the story of my week:

We need a metal detector
During the epic Blackhawks-Predators game on Tuesday night, it was hilarious when Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne lost the puck in his pads! Here's the video:

Apparently the Hawks and Preds have a penchant for losing the puck when they play each other in opening-round playoff series. Remember when Antti Niemi (who used to be my favorite Hawk) had a similar incident in 2010?


Of the two incidents, I thought Niemi's had much better commentary. "It's almost like Niemi was giving birth to that puck!"

I'm running the Race to Wrigley 10K this Saturday. Check out the race shirt - I think it's pretty snazzy!

In the Race Participant email, the organizers are encouraging everyone to wear their event t-shirt on race day.

Hmmm. Most experienced runners consider that a no-no and a great way to brand yourself as a newbie. (Although, I have seen arguments going either direction.)

On one hand, the Race to Wrigley probably doesn't draw the most serious crowd of runners. The majority of participants probably will wear their event shirt. Who am I to go against the organizers' suggestions?

But on the other hand, I do believe that you shouldn't wear anything new on race day. Nobody wants to deal with potential chafage or other wardrobe issues.

Ahhh, the endless dilemma of what to wear...

Meet me in St. Louis
Within minutes of the 2015-16 NFL schedule being released on Tuesday night, Adam and I were already road-trip scheming. We are looking at going to St. Louis the weekend of September 28 to watch the Steelers play the Rams. Note: I've had some bad sportsfan experiences in St. Louis (within a span of 48 hours, we saw both the Blackhawks and the Penguins lose to the Blues) so hopefully this time will be better.

Being the planning runner that I am, I've already found a local race that I want to run that weekend. It's called the Flat as a Pancake 5K/10K. Considering how ill-trained I am when it comes to hills, any race with a name like that is a gimmee for me!

Probably not the most aerodynamic choice of running attire out there, but a great costume nonetheless!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Disney Nature

Before we begin today, how about that Blackhawks triple-overtime victory last night?!?! OMG. I stayed up to watch every second. It's going to be a rough morning but it was so worth it!!!

Allright, down to business and linking up with Deb's Wordless Wednesday Disney photo hop.

Focused on the Magic

The theme for this week is "Disney Nature."

Right away I thought of the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom. This is one of my favorite experiences in all of the Disney Parks!

Here are some action shots:

I've been on the Disney Kilimanjaro Safaris maybe three or four times. It's a different experience every time, since the animals are free to roam and do whatever they please.

The animals always get right-of-way, too. During this most recent visit, our jeep had the pleasure of waiting for some of them to cross the path before we could proceed. Love it!

Quick side story:
Elsewhere in the Animal Kingdom that same day, Adam and I were watching some monkeys bopping around and swinging from tree to tree. We saw one monkey that decided to, uh, answer nature's call while dangling from a branch about 20 feet in the air. Worse yet, there was another monkey on the ground almost directly beneath that, uh, took the brunt of the answer. (I actually did get a picture of this, uh, incident, but decided for the sake of decency not to share it.) When you gotta go, you gotta go, right?

"There's nothing funnier than the human animal."
- Walt Disney

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why I run

I am frequently asked why I run. Nonrunners are always curious why us runners put ourselves through that kind of "self-inflicted torture" (those were the exact words that someone once used when asking me!)

Well jeez, when you put it that way, it does sound pretty crazy, doesn't it?

I will certainly agree that running can be hard, frustrating, and painful. I definitely have my days, weeks, and even months where I wonder why I put myself through the effort. Sometimes the couch looks oh-so-inviting!

In the end, though, running has always been worth it. SO worth it.

I run because:

I love the euphoric feeling I get from a good run. Sometimes it feels good right away, sometimes it takes a few miles, sometimes the euphoria doesn't come until after I've finished (sometimes hours later). But running always makes me feel good.

I love the mental strength and clarity that running gives me. It has taught me how to keep persevering and pushing even when every fiber of my being is screaming at me to slow down or stop. I've learned so many times that my body is capable of much more than what I think. To me, this is a metaphor for life. It has translated into increased confidence across so many other facets of my life.

I love experiencing improvement. In the last three years, I have improved my half marathon time by more than 20 minutes. An 8-minute mile pace no longer feels like panicked sprinting to me. The 10-mile distance used to feel like an enormous effort, but now it's my favorite race distance! In my humble opinion, there is truly no better feeling than seeing your training efforts pay off.

Running is so versatile. It can be done solo, with pets, or with 50,000+ of your closest friends. It requires comparatively minimal equipment. Getting started requires almost no preparation or training. You can run at any time of day or night, for any length of time, at any speed, both indoors and out, in any season, and in nearly any weather conditions. It can be done almost anywhere in the world. What other sport or activity can boast that kind of flexibility?

I love the cameraderie. I've made the most incredible friends through a shared love of running. It provides an amazing, transcendent bond across otherwise perfect strangers. Runners are some of the most welcoming people I've ever met. It's not a coincidence that the runner that breaks the tape receives the same finisher's medal as the runner who finishes last.

OK! Before I close for the day, let's make sure we covered everything.

Have I have shown an artistic running picture? Check.

Have I been philosophical? Check. 

Have I included an image of a glorious sunset with a runner's gallant silhouette? Check, check, check.

And now. It is time to share one final, brutally honest answer on why I run:

I love the shoes!!!!!!!! =D

Linking up with April, Patty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

Monday, April 20, 2015

CARA Live Grit Lakefront 10-Miler race recap

This past Saturday, I completed my third running of the CARA Lakefront 10-Miler (newly sponsored by Live Grit this year). This is one of my favorite classic Chicago races. It is very affordable while offering great organization, beautiful course scenery, nice swag, and a field of serious runners. Additionally, I love mid-sized races and this race had just over 1,100 finishers. Perfect!

The race-time weather forecast was calling for clear skies with temps in the mid- to upper 50s and rising. I had originally been planning to wear capris and a long-sleeved shirt, but decided at the last minute to switch to a short-sleeve shirt. Even with this change, I was fearing that I was overdressed. It's such a frequent challenge.

Erin and I hopped into my car and trekked up to Montrose Harbor. We arrived on site and met up with these fabulous ladies for a pre-race photo:

From L to R: Erin, Marcia, Sara, Wendy, Zenaida, and me

It was terrific to see everyone! It was especially great to meet Sara and Wendy in person for the first time - they are both such awesome women!

Zenaida and I were planning to run together as long as we could. My hope to was finish sub 1:40, as my 10-mile PR was 1:41:15. I mentioned to Zenaida that I wanted to try to run at a 10-minute pace for the first five miles, and then try to speed up in the second half.

Off to the starting line. After a recorded rendition of the national anthem that most of us couldn't hear, the runners took off.

My Garmin was indicating a 9:45 pace during most of the first mile. Since I do tend to start out too quickly, I tried to slow down a little. Zenaida and I ended up crossing the Mile 1 marker in 10:25. I was dismayed at the apparent inaccuracy of my Garmin, while also thinking that I might have already undermined my time goal. I told Zenaida that I wanted to speed up. She told me to go on ahead.

In the name of maintaining relatively even splits, I wanted to make up for the lost time on a gradual basis. Surprisingly, I hit the Mile 2 marker in about 9:35. This made me think that I had overcorrected and that yet again I was starting out too fast. Isn't it funny how quickly the mentality can change?

I decided to stop paying so much "real-time" attention to my Garmin and to run by feel instead.

The course went over the infamous Cricket Hill around Mile 3. By Chicago standards, this hill is a big deal. I'm also the biggest flatlander you'll ever find in the running hemisphere. However, the horrors of Calvert Hill in DC must have altered my perspective because for once, the hill didn't faze me. I charged right on up.

Zenaida took this great picture of Cricket Hill.
Doesn't it look so lush and green despite the terror it instills in Chicago runners?
The soft, grassy surface was actually much more bothersome to me - I felt like I was running in quicksand! I was happy to get back onto the pavement afterwards.

I was trying to high-five as many of the spectators and volunteers as I could. I took a GU at around Mile 4.5 and enjoyed the little caffeine boost that I got shortly thereafter. I was still feeling really good and my splits were all in the 9:40s and 9:50s. How long could I keep this up?!?

The course went south on the lakefront path to Fullerton Avenue around Mile 6, then turned around and headed back north. As soon as I made the turnaround, I was hit by a veritable wall of wind. Holy cow! Where did that come from?

My hope was to run a negative split, but the wind was relentless. As I pushed through, my hands and arms got progressively colder and stiffer. My left hip flexor and piriformis were both aching, too. Not surprisingly, my splits for the next two miles rose to just over 10 minutes apiece. I was glad that I had some extra time banked up.

I hit Mile 9 at 1:28:20. I told myself that it would be great to finish with something starting with a 1:37. Doing some quick math in my head, this meant running the final mile in less than 9:40. Yes, I can do this!

A few minutes later, my Garmin was reading around 9.5 miles but course marshals were telling us, "Just a quarter-mile to go!" Really? Either they didn't have their facts straight or my Garmin was off. Both were possibilities, LOL. In this case, my Garmin ended up being pretty accurate.

Then, my favorite part of the race - seeing the finish line! I gleefully sprinted the final tenth of a mile. What a thrill it was to see a 1:37:XX on my Garmin after crossing!

My official finishing time was 1:37:43. This is a 3:32 improvement over my prior PR. WOO HOO!!!

After grabbing some post-race food, I met back up with Erin, Zenaida, Marcia, Sara, and Wendy. It was awesome to hang out and chat with everyone. Huge congrats and high fives to Erin, Wendy, and Sara, who also PR'd!!!

Here is our post-race photo:

Notice that almost all of us were wearing jackets here. The temperature felt like it had dropped about 20 degrees compared to the start! At that point, I was really glad to have the clothing that I did. Gotta love how temperamental Chicago weather is, eh?

Here's the finisher's medal:

Love it!
What an amazing day! Great friends, great race!

The new PR was a huge momentum booster for me. There is no better feeling than seeing visible results from all of the training efforts. Suddenly I am super motivated to continue working hard so I can keep improving. Bring it on!!!

My next race: The Race to Wrigley 10K on Saturday, April 25.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wannabe spokesperson

Happy Friday, everyone!

I'm linking up with Cynthia, Courtney, and Mar for the Friday Five.

This week's subject prompt: "5 brands to love."

There are SO MANY brands that I love that it is impossible for me to select just five. Instead, I'm going to take a slightly different spin on this topic. I'll share five product categories in general that I would happily endorse, if given the opportunity.

1. Running gear
Being the runner that I am, this one is a no-brainer. I could easily write several separate posts on all the different running products that I love. When considering overall selections of shoes and apparel, ASICS has probably been the most consistent for me. However, certain other brands have really stood out to me for specific items. E.g., I have a Sugoi jacket that I absolutely love; sports bras from Victoria's Secret that are very flattering; and Balega socks that are so cushy that they make me feel like I'm walking in melted chocolate. We won't even get into fueling, hydration, PT, or recovery products.

2. Dairy products
Cheese, glorious cheese. Cheese makes everything better. I also love ice cream, yogurt, custard, gelato, whipped cream, sour cream, etc., etc., etc. If butter wasn't so unhealthy, I would eat a lot more of it.

3. Scarves
The most versatile accessory known to womankind. They can be worn in any season; in any infinite number of ways; come in a dazzling array of colors, patterns, and styles; and are truly one-size-fits-all.

4. Slow cookers
Cooking doesn't get much easier or faster than with the slow cooker. Just dump in all the ingredients, stir it up, and set the timer. It's a life-saving tool when the schedule is a complete disaster. Not to mention how great it feels to get home after a long day and be greeted with the aroma of a ready-to-eat slow cooker meal.

5. Five honorable mentions (since I had trouble picking a single item to list as fifth)
The Divvy bike sharing system
The Shazam app for identifying music
Barre classes
My library card

Your turn! If you could endorse any products or brands of your choice, what would you pick?