Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Giveaway: Michelob Ultra 13.1 Half Marathon

It's been full-throttle catch-up mode for me since getting back from vacation this past Sunday. I have a lot to share about the trip (Adam and I went on a cruise that visited Panama, Colombia, Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire). But, we'll get to those details when time permits more fully.

In the meantime, let's talk about some spring races. I've run the 13.1 Chicago Half Marathon the last two years (check out my recaps from 2012 and 2013).

Obligatory race photo body spasm from the 2013 race
Photo courtesy of Xaarlin
This year I am going for the three-peat!


The race organizers are offering ONE FREE RACE REGISTRATION to anyone who would like to participate!

Here are the race details:

Date: Saturday, June 7, 2014
Time: 7:00 AM
Location: South Shore Cultural Center (7059 S. Shore Drive, Chicago, IL)

This race has a gorgeous course along the lakefront path, beautiful views of the Chicago skyline, a finish line that is just steps from the beach, and an incredible post-race party (deep-dish pizza, anyone?!?!?)

Yummy yummy!!!

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win, please leave a comment below. I will use to select a winner on April 1.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The 98th percentile, bikram yoga, and everything else

I've been working on this blog post in bits and pieces for the last week but FINALLY getting around to publishing it!

Registration opened up for the 2014 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon last Tuesday at 10 AM CST. I put a reminder in my calendar. When it popped up, I turned it off and promptly forgot about it.

During lunchtime the next day, I was surfing the internet and a Disney advertisement popped up (gotta love internet cookies). I thought, "Oh yeah, I should probably register for Wine and Dine. I wonder how full it is?" I went onto the Run Disney website to take a look.

To my complete surprise, the Wine and Dine Half was already listed at 98% full. Worse yet, I was met with the glaring disclaimer that "Events may sell out before percentages can be updated."

Ruh roh.

I did my best Speedy Gonzalez impression and blew through those registration pages as quickly as I could type and click.

I zipped through so quickly that who knows if I even selected the right shirt size or entered my birth date correctly. Nevertheless - I got in!

BUT - if I end up with a race shirt that fits me like a dress, or if I end up in the "10 and under" age group, then we'll all know why.

Shifting gears -

I've been wanting to try bikram yoga for a really long time. Through the magic of Gilt City, I found a great deal on a 5-class pack at the Bikram Yoga West Loop studio. I gave it a go this past weekend.

I'd heard a few things about bikram yoga that made me uncertain about how I would like it. Namely:
  • The 107-degree room temperatures, of course, and their potential effect on the body
  • Instructors generally do not demonstrate the moves during class, they just talk you through them
  • A standard set of 26 poses that are always done in the same order
  • Classes are 90 minutes in length (the longest yoga class I've ever done previously was 55 minutes, and that already feels long to me)
  • No music
I was most concerned about how I would react to the heat. The last thing I wanted was to succumb to nausea in the midst of class. Generally it's not a good idea to blow everyone's zen to smithereens.

I prepared by taking a couple of salt capsules and hydrating fiercely in advance. I think I overdid it, though, as I found myself needing to use the restroom during the middle of class. (We were instructed to try to stay in the room during the entire class, though, so I held it.) Add bikram to running races as times where it's challenging to get the hydration strategy down.

The verdict after my first class? Thumbs up! The heat didn't bother me at all, I was able to follow along easily by watching the other students, and I didn't even think about the fact that there was no music. The 90 minutes went by pretty quickly, too. I felt really good afterwards - very limber and refreshed.

I do wonder if it would get tiresome doing the same set of 26 poses during every bikram class? We will see how it feels after I've gotten a few more classes under my belt. But as of right now, I am looking forward to doing more bikram in the future.

Other random notes:
  • I just saw that the Chinatown 5K announced its date for 2014. It is none other than July 12 - my birthday! This is going to be a really fun way for me to celebrate.
  • Maggie hosted an awesome clothing swap this past Saturday. I just love these types of events. They are such a great way to catch up with friends while cleaning out your closet and getting some amazing new-to-you stuff. I picked up some fabulous items that I've already begun wearing. Can we do things like this more often!?!?
  • I've been battling a scratchy sore throat, stuffy nose, and overall tiredness since this past Sunday. My ears feel clogged, too. It's made it tough for me to be on my A-game.
  • I had three miles on my training plan yesterday. I wanted to do my best to stick to the plan despite not feeling 100%. So I slugged it out on the treadmill. It was slow and very ugly, but it got done. And call me a wimp, but I will think again before attempting to run through cold symptoms in the future.
Wah, wah, wah

To end things on a more positive note, I am going on vacation tomorrow! So even amidst my sporadic posts, I will be away from the blog for a little while. Good luck to everyone running races in the near future (I've heard of a ton of St. Patrick's Day-themed ones...!) I look forward to catching up with everyone when I get back!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blackhawks-Penguins NHL Stadium Series game

This past Saturday night Adam and I attended the much-anticipated Blackhawks-Penguins NHL Stadium Series game at Soldier Field.

Mother Nature obliged by putting forth her finest weather conditions:

Translation: spending the evening sitting in the uncovered upper deck of an outdoor football stadium in frigid temperatures, icy winds, and blizzard conditions. Sounds like a blast, doesn't it?

Given this prognosis, I did the best that I could to prepare. Here is what I wore:
  • 3 pairs of socks (compression socks, then two other pairs of socks on top) plus my winter boots
  • Running tights underneath a pair of jeans
  • 2 long-sleeved winter running shirts, a running jacket, my winter jacket, and a Blackhawks jersey
  • Balaclava, scarf, ski hat, and Blackhawks knit hat
  • 2 pairs of gloves
Adam and I also brought two blankets, plus some cardboard pieces to sit on and to put underneath our feet.

"Shapeless blob" is the way that I would describe how I looked and felt wearing that quantity of layers. To illustrate, it was kind of like this:

(Note that the shapeless blob was wearing red to represent the Blackhawks)

On the bus ride enroute to Soldier Field, it was really easy to identify which passengers were headed to the game. Many were wearing full-body ski suits and masks with their jerseys. Plenty of other hockey fans had successfully achieved similarly shapeless blobdom as I did.

After we arrived at Soldier Field, we went to check out the NHL Fan Festival being held next to the stadium.

The stage where they had live music performers.
Dueling Stanley Cup ring hats
Adam and I cross-representing our two favorite teams.
Left: A giant Blackhawks jersey!
Right: A giant Penguins jersey!

Fans getting into the spirit of things

We played some Blackhawks and Penguins trivia games, checked out a few merchandise stands, and collected a random assortment of sponsor giveaways (Advil, Shamrock Shake coupons, and Geico water bottles, to name a few). Then we went through the stadium security lines to enter Soldier Field.

It wasn't much warmer inside the Soldier Field concourses compared to outdoors. Unfortunately, our seats were in the upper deck of the north end zone where there was exactly zero protection from the elements. We reluctantly climbed the stairs towards the upper deck. The wind was howling and the snowfall was steadily increasing. Once we got to our seats, we immediately decided it would be best to go back inside and stay there as long as possible.

The indoor bathrooms were heated and were by far the warmest area in the entire building. Therefore, Adam and I decided to go hang out in our respective bathrooms and meet back up in a few minutes. Plenty of other women were standing around in the ladies room just trying to keep warm. Adam said the same was true in the men's room.

The time came to go to our seats. Here are some pictures from where we were sitting:


One of the scoreboards behind us

As the pregame ceremonies and the game got underway, the snow came down in buckets. It made visibility very challenging. Our seats were far away and high up to begin with, so it would have been difficult to see the game even in clear conditions. It was like watching an ant farm.

Additionally, numerous fans were standing up and blocking what limited view many folks did have. This elicited some raucous shouting for everyone to sit down. The standees generally ignored them. As time went on, the demands to sit down became progressively more and more comical and/or derisive. If my own view wasn't being blocked, it would have been almost entertaining to listen to some of the exchanges.

Despite all the layers I was wearing, it was so cold that I had no feeling in my hands or feet. My blanket, jeans, gloves, and balaclava were all getting wet from the snow, too.

The snow

Game attendance was announced at over 62,000. During the intermissions, the entire crowd (men and women alike) made a mad dash to the concourses, food/beverage vendors, and especially the warmth of the bathrooms. When you've got pretty much the entire population crammed into a concourse all at once, many of them inebriated, things can get pretty squishy. Basically, you really need to make sure that you keep your balance!

I've made it blatantly obvious that my most lasting memory of this game is going to be the weather. But that aside, it was a unique experience getting to be a part of 62,000+ screaming hockey fans gathered under the outdoor lights. Blackhawks fans have the long-time tradition of cheering and clapping as loudly as they can during the national anthem at home games, and to see that tradition in action at Soldier Field was cool. It was also fun to see the masses celebrating, singing, and dancing to Chelsea Dagger whenever the Hawks scored a goal.

Hawks win! Hawks win!

The final count for the night?

Zero discussions of the doom scenario (believe it or not), despite the game being played by...
Two of my favorite NHL teams
Five degrees Fahrenheit (the real-feel temperature during the game)
Six goals scored by Hawks players, including one in the wrong net
45 minutes, give or take, that I spent huddling for warmth in the ladies room over the course of the night
62,921 rabid fans in attendance
97,836,523,314 gallons of hot chocolate that I consumed when I got home

O come, all ye hot chocolate...