Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching up and the spirit of aloha

I hope everyone has been enjoying their holidays! I've got a lot to catch up on from the past few weeks.

Holiday Party Pic
I had mentioned here that I would post a group picture from the Chicago Running Bloggers Holiday Party once I got a copy. Voila!

From L to R: Kim, Anne, Katie Eric, Erin, Emily, Kelsey, Lauren, LindsayEricaBethany, me, MaggieZenaida
What a great gathering of bloggers! I truly wish we could all get together much more often. Maybe at least once a quarter?

A New Winner
The holiday headband giveaway prize has gone unclaimed. Therefore, I have selected another recipient. Congratulations to ArmyAmy!!!

ArmyAmy, please email me at by Friday, January 3, 2014, and we'll get you set up with your new headband!

Aloha 'Oe
I had a really great time in Maui. Lots of beach time and water activities intermingled with the classic Maui tourist haunts like the road to Hana, Haleakala National Park, whale watching, and a luau. (I did not end up doing the Purple Christmas Fun Run in Kahului.)

I've said for years that I wished I could BE Hawaiian and this trip was no exception. Every time I go to Hawaii I am reminded how much I love the way of life there, the friendliness of the people, the Polynesian culture, the spiritual respect for the land and the ocean, and of course the stunning scenery and perfect weather. The islands are enchanting and truly magical.

The view from my daily runs

It was extremely difficult to return to Chicago afterwards. I've never thought so seriously about not coming back. Ever. Adam and I were half-joking that the Hawaii airports should have counselors available at all departure gates for travelers suffering post-Hawaii travel depression (of which there appeared to be many). 

It didn't help that upon return, I came across a show on HGTV called Hawaii Life and got sucked into watching a few episodes. I learned that real estate prices in Hawaii, while high, are not as outrageous as originally anticipated. Who knew that it was potentially so doable to live in Hawaii? Sigh...

In any event, I am already trying to figure out when I can go back.

Celebrating Adam's birthday with an alfresco dinner at Morimoto Maui.

Not surprisingly, the 2014 Honolulu Marathon is looking more and more appealing. It's a good thing that the Honolulu Marathon is in December and has no registration limits. This means that I have plenty of time to think about it and build up my motivation!

Other Notes:

  • I finally signed up for my first road race in 2014: the Esprit de She 5K/10K on July 24. This was one of my favorite races in 2013. It was like a night out on the town with a few hundred of my closest running friends (read my recap here). I am super excited to run it again. Ladies, if you have a chance to attend this or any of the events from this race series, they are a blast. Highly recommended.
  • I am still going strong on my Runners World daily run streak! I'm up to 40 days as of yesterday and still feeling really good. I was concerned that the run streak would exacerbate my niggling running ailments, but my legs actually feel as solid as they ever have. Cheers to that! 
  • Unfortunately, since running the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in mid-November, I've only done two runs longer than 5 miles. I'm pretty sure I've lost much of my long-run endurance by this point, and I am daunted by the prospects of having to build it back up. UGH.
  • Speaking of being daunted, I am becoming more and more of a cold-weather running wimp. These days I'm reluctant to run outside if the weather dips below about 25 degrees. Now I am becoming more and more content to slug my runs out on the climate-controlled comfort of the treadmill. What's happened to me?
Two feet of snow. Literally.
  • I had read about how switching running shoes every so often helps strengthen your foot mechanics by diversification, thereby reducing the risk of injury. I've been focusing nearly all of my runs on a single pair of shoes these past few weeks, particularly while I was on vacation. Then, I finally switched things up when I got home. I realized that I did indeed have certain pronating tendencies in the one pair of shoes that I didn't experience in other pairs. How's that for justifying multiple pairs of running shoes?
  • And even with this added justification, I will not be buying any more running shoes for awhile. I SWEAR. But - that doesn't mean that I can't identify what my next planned purchase will be. I've been hearing absolutely rave reviews about the Brooks Pure Flows and I am very eager to try them out. My targeted purchase time, based on estimated current running shoe retirement rate, is next summer.
The Brooks Pure Flow collection. Such great colors to pick from!

Once again, happy holidays! I'm working to get back on track with all of your blogs!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Chicago Running Bloggers Holiday Party and a Winner

Quick post today. I am departing early tomorrow morning to head to Maui, and am trying desperately to get a few things in order before then.

This morning I attended the second annual Chicago Running Bloggers Holiday Party. It consisted of a group fun run (where many of us dressed in holiday-themed attire), followed by a potluck brunch and a gift grab bag.

We got several inches of snow last night and all day today, which unfortunately knocked out a few of the planned attendees. However, it was still fun (albeit challenging!) to go running in the freshly fallen snow. There were only six of us that went running, and we felt super hard-core taking on the elements!

Here are a couple of pictures (both courtesy of Maggie):

L to R: Lauren, me, part of Anne, and Maggie

L: me, and Anne
NOTE: We got some comments from passing cars about our sweet matching green socks. =D

Erin hosted the gathering for the second year in a row. After the run we all headed back to her place, where several others had arrived, to share in food and gifts.

One of the things that I love most about running blogger gatherings is that the potluck food selections are always super healthy! Lots of fresh veggies, salad, bean dip, hummus, kale chips, salsa, quinoa muffins, and vegetarian chili were just a few of the many options available. Delicioso!

The gift exchange was fun, too. Not surprisingly, many of the gifts were running- or fitness-themed like handheld water bottles, GU, Luna bars, running gloves and headband, running ID, and a yoga mat. I received a two-pack of Vapur foldable water bottles and a Salted Caramel GU (which I have never had before and will finally get to try!)

As usual, it was great to see and catch up with so many fellow bloggers. We took some group pictures which I haven't gotten a copy of yet. I will definitely post them when they become available!

Finally - thank you to everyone who entered the holiday headband giveaway from earlier this week. Congratulations to Amy for being selected the winner via the following entry:

Amy, please email me at by Friday, December 20 and I will get you set up with your prize.

Happy holidays, everyone!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holiday giveaway!

Happy Monday, everyone!

I recently won a spandex headband from Shinianen, courtesy of BellasBoutiqueMN (an Etsy business owned by her sister, Elizabeth). In addition, Shinianen told me that BellasBoutiqueMN would provide another headband for me to give away on my blog!

Here are pictures of Shinianen modeling the headband:

Check out the Etsy listing for all of the product specs. In addition, here are the colors available:

  1. Disco ball
  2. Peacock
  3. Purple and black damask
  4. Paisley
  5. Peace sign
  6. Pink, red, and orange stripes (with sheer gold insets)
  7. Blue and white stripes
  8. Burgundy and white stripes
  9. Navy blue solid
  10. Pink textured
  11. Black solid

In addition to the great color selections, these headbands are all handmade, super versatile, and would make a great gift. In case you were wondering, I selected the disco ball pattern for myself - and I am super excited to rock it out (no pun intended) at an upcoming race. =D

BellasBoutiqueMN Spandex Headband Giveaway Rules
  • One reader will receive a spandex headband of their choice.
  • This giveaway is open until 5:00 PM CST on Friday, December 13. I will announce the winner on Saturday, December 16.
  • To enter the giveaway - leave me a comment telling me which headband color is your favorite.
  • For bonus entries: 
    • Visit BellasBoutiqueMN and leave a comment telling me what other items you like.
    • Share this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and let me know what you did (one bonus for each share).
  • You can leave all entries in one comment if you like.
  • This giveaway is open to all U.S. readers.
  • You do NOT have to be a blogger to enter! Just be sure to provide a way to contact you.
Happy holidays to all!!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Things Friday: shuffling, losing, purple-ing, et al

1. Every year I'm NOT shuffling...
Yours truly has never run the famed and insanely popular Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago. I was finally going to end this non-Shuffle nonsense and go inaugurally Shuffling in 2014. I was really, really excited to finally find out what all the hype was about. But then... I looked at the race date.

Would you believe that for the gazillionth time, I will not be able to Shuffle next year?

I have to work one weekend per quarter, and Shamrock happens to fall on that particular weekend. Talk about bad timing. What a bummer!

So... maybe in 2015?

2. Speaking of not shuffling...
I definitely wanted to be more selective about the races that I run in 2014. I've made the mistake several times of registering for a race very far in advance to take advantage of an early-bird discount, only to regret it later. I told myself that it would be worth paying a little extra to have more flexibility.

So yeah, I am currently in the unfamiliar position of having exactly zero races on the calendar right now.

It's gotta be the shoes.
It's a little weird. But it is also kind of nice to have a completely blank calendar slate to work with.

3. Run-Streaking
I hit Day 20 of my Runners World Run Streak yesterday. Knock on wood, it has not been too challenging so far to maintain the streak and my body is feeling good. For the most part, I've been slugging out most of my streak days on the treadmill, often doing just the minimum 1-mile requirement.

Graphical depiction of my running log

One mile is pretty easy to do from a time standpoint, as well as both mentally and physically. I am really enjoying the consistency that this streak challenge is giving me in my running, too.

I can't say that I will for certain maintain this streak after the goal date of January 1, 2014. However, I do think I will be more likely to run more frequently in the future than my usual historical practice of 3 days a week (or less). That's a step in the right direction!

4. Less is more
I haven't talked about it on the blog, but a few months ago I had gotten to the point with my body where I basically couldn't stand myself any more. All of my clothes were tight, I had to loosen my belts a notch or two, and I had bulges in places I didn't bulge before. I was still working out and running, so it was tough for me to comprehend that I could have gained a lot of weight. But, I have a hearty appetite - and I wasn't holding myself back from indulging pretty much whenever I felt like it.

Over the past few months, I have put forth a concerted effort to improve the quality and quantity of my food intake. It has really paid off for me. I've lost some weight, my clothes are fitting much better, and overall I am feeling a lot healthier.

I can feel the difference in my running, too. It might be a combination of both training and the weight-loss, but running feels noticeably easier now than it used to. It makes me even more motivated to continue training consistently.

5. Turning Purple
Adam and I are headed to Maui for vacation later this month. I have been searching for some kind of a race that takes place while we are there. This is the only one that I've seen:

I am debating on whether or not to sign up. On one hand, it's just a fun run so it is not timed. Plus, it is a little bit of a distance from where we are staying. But on the other hand, it goes towards a good cause, and how many opportunities do you have to participate in any kind of running event in Maui?

Decisions, decisions...

Linking up with Running Bloggers Fitness Friday!!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2013 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot race recap

Sorry this race report is coming to you on such a delayed basis! I had a wonderful Thanksgiving but when I came back to the office I got completely slammed with work. It's been a crazy time.

On Thanksgiving Day I ran the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh for the second consecutive year.

In both years, the organizers have offered a 1-miler, a 5K, and a 5-miler, and both years I opted for the 5-miler. You can read last year's race recap here.

I felt more prepared this year going into this race compared to last year. In 2012, I had barely run at all between the Chicago Marathon in early October and the Turkey Trot. This time around, I had run a few races in November so I had been training more consistently.

My biggest concern going into this race was the weather. I had started monitoring the weather forecasts a week and a half in advance. The entire time, the temps were forecasted to be in the teens with wind-chills in the single-digits. I packed tights and the warmest base-layer shirt and running jacket that I owned, plus a vest, hat, balaclava, and gloves.

I was hoping that the forecast would change as race-day drew nearer. No such luck. The temperature was at a balmy 15 degrees on race morning. When I got my race shirt, I even decided to wear it during the race as an additional layer (I know, I know, breaking the runner's race-shirt code).

Here's a picture of me masquerading as a bank robber in my full winter-running attire:

Pretty sharp, eh?

By the way - one of my favorite Blackhawks players, Antti Niemi, wore number 31 on his jersey. Therefore, I was happy to get race bib number 31. =)

Former Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi
Since Niemi and I are both wearing masks, there's some resemblance in the two #31 pictures, yes?

Once we got outside, it was definitely cold - but not as unbearably cold as I had anticipated. Adam and I found parking within a few minutes. On our way to the starting line, we saw many, many runners and spectators camped inside some of the parking lobbies trying to keep warm.

I stopped at the portapotty (no lines!) The portapotties actually shielded you pretty well from the elements. Normally I get in and out of portapotties as quickly as possible. But, on this day I actually lingered for a few extra moments because it was so much warmer inside the portapotty!

Adam and I met up with friends Molly, Julie, Brian, Cristin, and Laurel near the starting line. We chatted for a few minutes before lining up. For good measure, I choked down a pre-race GU and some water.

I never heard any kind of starting airhorn, but the crowd gradually started moving. As more and more people began running, I looked around for the usual balloon arch or overhead sign denoting the starting line, but never saw one. Then I heard a soft buzzing noise and looked down to see that I had crossed a timing mat. I hurriedly started my Garmin a few seconds late.

Even though the cold was not as bad as anticipated, it was still very cold. I hadn't done any warm-up prior to starting, and for the first mile or so I couldn't feel my toes or my fingers. I thought, "Wow, this is going to be a long five miles." There weren't very many spectators so I tried to distract myself by really taking in all the scenery and following those course tangents.

Mile 1: 10:02

Around the 1.5-mile mark, we crossed over the Roberto Clemente bridge. It was my favorite part of the course last year and it was still my favorite this year.

Around this point, I was starting to feel warmer and the feeling was coming back to my fingers and toes. I had started with the front of my balaclava pulled up to my eyes, but it kept fogging up my glasses. As I got warmer I pushed it below my nose, then my chin.

We started seeing some of the elite runners coming from the opposite direction. Runners all around me began incredulously saying things like, "Oh my gosh, we've barely started and they are already on their way back?" The elites were all wearing shorts and tank tops, too. Brrrrr. (I have a theory that the more elite the runner, the less clothing that is worn - even in Arctic temperatures.)

After crossing the bridge, we entered downtown Pittsburgh.

Mile 2: 10:03

Other than the runners and volunteers, the streets were quiet. I was imagining what the streets would be like on a normal workday. I was still focusing on those tangents and I exchanged some high-fives with a number of oncoming runners.

Mile 3: 9:57

Somewhere after the 3-mile marker, Brian and Laurel caught up to me on the course. I had never met Laurel before this day, so she and I chatted a bit while trying to keep pace with Brian. As we were crossing back over the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the way back, I could feel its incline. I told Laurel that I was very Midwestern and that I wasn't used to these hills, er, inclines.

Laurel: "But the the hills keep things interesting!"

Me (gasping): "Boring is good! I like boring!"

This is more of what I am used to.

I walked through a water station around 3.75, which I believe was the third one available (I skipped the first two). Brian and Laurel kept charging ahead. Once I resumed running, I tried to gradually increase my pace to catch up with them.

Mile 4: 10:07

Given that I had only walked for about 30 seconds through the water stop, it took me longer than I had anticipated to catch up with Brian and Laurel - probably almost half a mile. By that point, we were in the home stretch. I started pushing the pace more and more. I saw Adam at the final turn, waved to him, then gunned it as best as I could to the finish line.

Mile 5: 9:03

My official time was 49:12. About 20 seconds slower than last year. Not bad considering the frigid temps and no warm-up.

Post race group picture
From L to R: Laurel, Julie, Brian, Cristin, Molly, and me
Adam and me
Last year this race had some logistical challenges with parking and crowdedness. E.g., last year we had waited in line for nearly half an hour to park (and to pay for parking), and runners had been packed in elbow-to-elbow for the first few miles. However, this year the race organizers made many modifications based on everyone's feedback. This included staggered starting times based on race distance and providing free parking at designated lots. Sure enough, both went MUCH more smoothly this year. It was great.

This race is becoming a classic for me. Once again it felt great to have the race under my belt before heading back for Thanksgiving celebration. Also, I really do love the variety this race provides from all the Chicago races that I am so used to. I look forward to running it again next year.

...and that, my friends, is my final race of 2013!!! What a fun year of racing it has been!