Thursday, May 29, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. Let's go Hawks!!!
Adam and I went to the Blackhawks-Kings game last night, which ended up going into double-overtime.

Pregame warm-ups

The players put on a gutsy and heart-poundingly high-octane game, filled with show-stopping skill, talent, and perseverance. Both teams threw everything they had at each other. The fans gasped and roared with every shot, every hit, every movement up and down the ice.

I have been to a lot of Hawks games at the United Center, but I've never experienced an atmosphere as explosive as last night. The crowd was so fired up that one could surmise that everyone was living on a diet consisting entirely of espresso beans and Red Bull.

Waiting for the first overtime to begin. See how relaxed we look on the outside?

Another diehard Hawks fan sitting to my left during the game spent the entire night spewing his anguish over Michal Handzus's play. Given his targeted distress, I joked that it would be funny if Handzus ended up scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. Ask and you shall receive. ;-) As Adam described it, the guy hugged me like a long-lost sister afterwards! Hee hee hee.

As you might imagine, it took me a long time to unwind after getting home from the victory.

I need to use one of these today:

2. Quotable
Speaking of my sports fandom, remember when I posted about visiting the Chicago Sports Museum? A reporter named Mike from the Sun-Times Media Group contacted me about it. He was writing a story about Luci Creative, the company that designed many of the exhibits at the museum, and wanted to talk to someone who had visited. You got it, buddy.

The article went live today! Check it out here.

3. Black is the new brown
This is totally random, I know, but my latest food obsession is black rice. I was at a Thai restaurant a few months ago where they had a yummy dessert on the menu made of black rice, coconut milk, and mango. I've had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to try recreating it at home.

This is not the actual dessert from the restaurant, but it gives you an idea of what it looked like:

At home I generally only cook brown rice, but I'm always on the hunt for new foods to incorporate into my cooking regimen. I recently used the magic of Amazon to order a bag of black rice. It's been fun experimenting with it!

I am a believer in the rule that the more colorful your food is, the healthier it is. And I love how visually stunning the black rice can be - especially when mixed with other ingredients.

This is a photo of a recipe that I plan on trying soon!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Soldier Field 10-Mile race recap

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

This past Saturday, I was up before sunrise to prepare for my first-ever running of the Soldier Field 10-Miler.

This race is very popular in Chicago. It has always drawn consistently rave reviews for its stellar organization and cool finish on the 50-yard line at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. After so many years of not being able to run this race due to being out of town over Memorial Day Weekend, I was pumped to finally be able to participate this year.

Marcia picked me up just as the sun was rising (thanks again for the lift, Marcia!) We zipped down to Soldier Field (no traffic at that hour!) and took advantage of the free race-day parking. Then we headed into the stadium. I was absolutely thrilled that we were able to use the indoor bathrooms and then grab seats in the stands afterwards. I am so used to either finding a patch of grass to sit down, or having to stand the whole time before lining up at the start line. Sitting and relaxing felt so luxurious!

Here's a picture of the field from where we were sitting:

We even got to see the race organizers setting up the finish line:

Weather conditions were excellent - temps in the upper 50s/low 60s, clear, and no wind.

Marcia and I met up with a lot of other friends running the race:

Upper left from L to R: Anne, Bobbi, me, Marcia, and Chris
Lower left from L to R: Marcia, Bobbi, and me
Bottom center from L to R: Chris, Bobbi, me, and Marcia
Right from L to R: Bobbi, Marcia, Kim, and me

We watched the singing of the national anthem as part of the event's opening ceremony. We made another visit to the indoor restrooms, then dropped our bags at the super-efficient gear check. We then headed off to the starting corrals. It was super crowded in the corrals, but again very organized. I was grateful to have the company of Marcia, Bobbi, and Chris while waiting to start.

Unfortunately during the wait time, I began feeling the need to use the restroom again. I cursed the fact that there were no portapotties in the starting corrals. I still haven't gotten my hydration strategy down!

We crossed the starting line about 33 minutes after the official gun. The course was very crowded, which made it hard to run the tangents. I focused on staying with Marcia, Bobbi, and Chris. We went through the McCormick Place tunnel during the first mile, which I thought for sure would throw off my Garmin. When we hit the Mile 1 marker, I was surprised to see that my Garmin measured the distance almost exactly on par. Hooray!

I ran with Bobbi while Marcia and Chris began moving ahead. We saw Xaarlin spectating near the Mile 2 marker with her camera. It was so great to see her!

Photo of Bobbi and me, courtesy of Xaarlin
It's a bit more subdued than my usual race photo body spasm, but not too bad.

We saw Xaarlin again maybe another quarter mile down the course. I didn't see her run ahead of us, but it was a very welcome surprise to see her again. (Xaarlin is unfortunately dealing with some ankle issues right now. We were joking that even despite her ankle, she is such a fast runner that she still ran by in a blur to the rest of us. =D )

Going into the race, I had been concerned at how my left hamstring/piriformis and right IT band would hold up. Initially, things felt a little wonky but nothing serious. Thankfully, after a few miles, things settled in and I nearly forgot about any injury worries. I was more concerned about the impending need to use the restroom.

The course includes an out-and-back on Lake Shore Drive, with one side closed to vehicular traffic. The runners were spreading out more at this point, so I was trying to run the tangents. Bobbi and I chatted about the Blackhawks, Grandma's Marathon (which she is running!), and various other topics. We were also keeping an eye out for Kim, Chris, and Marcia. Kim had started in an earlier corral than us and she was running with her friends Gina and Steve, who were visiting from Texas. With so much to focus on, the miles flew by.

Before we knew it, we were at the turnaround point near the Mile 5 marker. I hit Mile 5 in 51:10.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I had ideally wanted to run a sub 1:40:00. However, going into the race I wasn't very focused on time goals due to my injury pain. Based on my time at Mile 5, I knew it would require a pretty serious negative split to achieve it. However, I felt good so I thought I would give it a shot. I told Bobbi and she said to go ahead. So I began trying to speed things up.

The course was on the lakefront path at this point, which was much narrower than Lake Shore Drive. I was passing a lot of people, but the path was more crowded and more difficult to navigate. My splits for Mile 6 and Mile 7 came in right around 10 minutes per mile.

I told myself to push a little more. But then, my Mile 8 split again came in right around 10 minutes. I began thinking that I was ready to be done. At that point, I knew that a sub 1:40 finish wasn't in the cards for me for the day. But I knew that I was going to achieve a negative split and I was happy about that.

The final stretch of the course runs alongside Soldier Field and past the far end of the premises before entering the stadium. It then runs through the stadium before heading out onto the field. Thankfully I had studied the course map and knew this in advance. However, it was still a bit challenging to see the stadium and know that there was some distance left to go before getting to the finish line.

View of Soldier Field from the lakefront path

When I made that final turn onto the field, I looked for the scoreboard and was ready to watch it while crossing the finish line. Unfortunately, a few runners in front of me stopped - literally STOPPED - to take some pictures of the field. Grrrrr. Everyone had to run awkwardly around them to get to the finish line.

I did not see myself on the scoreboard as I crossed. But, my official time was 1:41:15, which is a 5:17 PR for me. Yay!

Service men and women wearing their military uniforms gave us our medals. It was very humbling and I thanked them profusely. Dozens of folks were stationed on the field to hand out water. We were then herded back into the stadium. We re-passed gear check, and another large crowd of volunteers offered us Gatorade and snack bags.

I met back up with Marcia. We went to check out the post-race tailgate party for a bit. Then we met back up with some others for a post-race picture:

Top from L to R: John, Bobbi, Kim, me, Marcia, and Chris
Bottom from L to R: Gina, Luca, and Steve

Final thoughts:

  • This race is supremely well-organized with outstanding volunteers. Based on everything I'd heard about the Soldier Field 10, I had high expectations going in. Yet, the race organization still exceeded my expectations. There were over 12,000 finishers and it definitely felt like a big race - but I never had to wait in line for anything.
  • Would I do this race again? If I knew for certain that I would be in town over Memorial Day weekend and could take advantage of the super early-bird pricing, yes. Otherwise, the registration fee is a little too high for my taste.
  • Before starting the race, several of us were saying how happy we were that it was only 10 miles and not a half marathon. This race really cemented the 10-miler as my favorite race distance. Psychologically it is so much easier than 13.1 miles. I wish there were more 10-mile races out there.
  • I wasn't really hampered by my injury issues while running (although, I definitely do still need to focus on rehab). I was more hampered by needing to go to the bathroom the whole time. I didn't want to lose time towards making a stop along the course, so I ended up holding it until after I finished! I really, really, really need to get my hydration strategy figured out.
  • One of the biggest highlights of the race, amongst many, was how fantastic it was to see so many friends. It gives me even more to look forward to at these events and it helps keep running fun. I am truly blessed to be part of such a wonderful community of runners.

My next race: the Michelob Ultra 13.1 Half Marathon on June 7

Friday, May 23, 2014

JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge race recap

Last night I ran the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge for the first time.

This race, which is a 3.5-mile course, draws enormous participation. I read that there were almost 600 companies participating this year, sending over 25,000 registrants. In terms of drawing participants who are not seasoned runners, this race has to be the largest in the area.

Unfortunately I'm still having some injury issues. I'll get into more details another time (I did end up sitting out the Chicago Spring Half last weekend). But with the injury bug lurking, and with the Soldier Field 10 taking place tomorrow, I planned to take this race easy. This was further cemented by many folks telling me that this race was not a PR-attemptable race by any stretch of the imagination, given the crowds. They said it would feel like this:

They were absolutely right. I've run some very crowded races in my time, but I truly didn't realize how packed-in it would be. The whole area was chaos. I know the race site pretty well, and my company gave us instructions as to where its hospitality tent was located. Even so, with all the road closures, public transit route diversions, and sea of people/tents/portapotties, it took me some time to find my company's tent.

After waiting in line to use the portapotty, I literally squeezed into the starting corrals. Participants had been given bibs in different colors corresponding to where they were supposed to line up. Nobody paid any attention to that, though - it was a complete mishmosh. The corrals were so packed that I had trouble bending down to put on my knee straps without hitting the people around me.

While waiting to start, I randomly ran into an old friend from college named Jason. I hadn't seen him in at least five years! Unfortunately, the emcee was announcing a seemingly endless list of companies participating and the speakers were set at a very high volume. It was hard to converse. But it was still nice to catch up with him for a few minutes.

I finally crossed the start line about 22 minutes after the gun went off. It was like a traveling mosh pit and there were so many people walking in tandem groups of up to five people across. Originally I was not intending to bob and weave through the crowd. However, there were so many walkers that I didn't have much of a choice.

Since I wasn't trying to race, I had wanted to enjoy the downtown course scenery. Unfortunately, it was too jammed in to do anything but focus on how to navigate the sea of people. I saw many participants wearing jeans and sandals and other non-typical running attire.

The course covered a lot of distance on Lower Wacker Drive and Lower Columbus Drive. For those of you not familiar, these are double-decker roads. To illustrate, here's a picture of Upper Wacker:

And here's a picture of Lower Wacker:

As you can tell, it is not a good thing to be running on the lower-level roads. It was stuffy and claustrophobic, my Garmin lost signal, and the limited lighting made it even tougher to battle the crowds.

The course was an out-and-back that included several interim loops. The loops went in and out of the lower-level roads a couple of times. Each time we emerged into open sky, I took a deep breath to revel in the fresh air. Then, I gritted my teeth every time we went back down.

I saw dozens of folks blatantly cheating by bypassing some course loops altogether, and/or cutting the out-and-back short. I even saw some folks turning back at about a half mile in, which would mean they only covered one total mile round-trip. That made me shake my head. I can only imagine some of those folks were inexperienced participants who must have been thinking something along the lines of this:

I didn't see a Mile 1 marker, so I didn't think there were going to be any markers on the course. But then, I did see markers at Mile 2 and Mile 3. Since my Garmin had lost signal several times, my splits were all over the place. At the Mile 3 marker, my Garmin was only showing a distance of about 1.7 miles.

The course remained packed and filled with walkers to the very end. I finished in 34:52.

More crowds were jammed in right at the finish line trying to get water and bananas. It took several minutes just to exit the finish line area, then another 10 minutes to get back to my company's tent. Once I got there, though, I did enjoy the hospitality offerings and getting to meet/hang out with coworkers in a non-office environment.

Closing thoughts
The event is definitely much more about company team-building than the actual race. Despite the fact that there were so many companies represented, it seemed that pretty much everyone defaulted to running with their own coworkers and hanging out in their own respective company tents afterwards. (Comparatively, I've run Race Judicata in the past where the companies would mingle across each others' tents and trade food offerings, etc. Not the case here.)

This is an expensive race, given the 3.5-mile distance. (On a side note, I heard a lot of folks referring to this race as a 5K. Folks, a 5K is 3.1 miles. The Chase Corporate Challenge is NOT a 5K!)

Registration fees were about $50 per individual. This is not to mention that each company (not the race organizer) provides its own race shirts and hospitality tent. Thankfully, my company covered my registration fee. I understand that the race proceeds go to charity. However, if I had to pay for registration myself, I would not participate in this race again.

My next race: the Soldier Field 10 tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An unwanted potential first

Going into this calendar year, my intention was to be more selective about the races that I signed up for. There have been so many times where I signed up a race far in advance because of an early-bird registration rate, the lure of a PR-attempt-able course, all my friends are signing up, etc., etc.

There are a lot of mantras, pictures, t-shirts, advertisements, et al, about how to stay motivated when the couch calls (loudly and incessantly). Comparatively, there is less material out there addressing what happens when you overcommit yourself and/or when you are battling injury.

I took an entire week off from running due to pain in my left hamstring/hip. In fact, I didn't work out very much at all last week, period. I did some short workouts on the stationary bike and rowing machine, and walked a couple of miles on the treadmill. I spent a lot of time with my foam roller and The Stick. That was it for an entire week. Towards the end, I felt like a slug.

Bringing back the shapeless red blob that was first seen here

Yesterday, I went on the treadmill to test things out. I was so excited to end my running hiatus. I ran an easy 3 miles and felt fine while doing it. I thought, "Great! I'm all set to get back on track!" But shortly afterwards, the pain came right back.

It didn't have the same screaming vengeance as it did early last week, thankfully. But nonetheless, it was still announcing its presence with authority.

This comes at an absolutely terrible time for me. I've got three races on the calendar in the next 10 days: the Chicago Spring Half Marathon this Sunday, the Chase Corporate Challenge a week from tomorrow, and the Soldier Field 10 a week from this Saturday. All of these races seemed like good ideas when considered on an individual basis. But committing myself to so many within such a compressed timeframe is now coming back to haunt me. This isn't even including the Michelob Ultra 13.1 Half Marathon that I've got coming up on June 7.

I am not a beer drinker, but:

Out of these races, the one that is highest on my radar screen is the Soldier Field 10. It draws consistently rave reviews, but I'm usually out of town over Memorial Day Weekend when it takes place. I really wanted to take advantage of being in town this year to run it for the first time.

The others? I've run the Chicago Spring Half before and it's fun. But at the end of the day it's one of many races that run along the lakefront path. The 13.1 Half Marathon is also fun, but I've run it twice before and I also have family in town that weekend for my nephew's graduation. And while I'm excited to run the Chase Corporate Challenge for the first time, my coworkers have made it abundantly clear that they are much more excited about the post-race festivities than the actual run.

Let's focus on one race at a time. At this point, I am seriously considering not running the Chicago Spring Half altogether. The thought of trying to push through that distance sounds awful right now. I shudder to think about the pain it could generate. The last thing I want is to knock myself out of commission for an extended time-period (hopefully I haven't already done that). The Chicago Spring Half does have a 10K option which I could switch into, but right now even that distance sounds daunting.

I've never DNS'd a race before, nor have I ever chosen to downgrade a race distance. I have had a few instances where I should have done one or the other, but I stubbornly refused. (Ironically, my most glaring instance was the Chicago Spring Half Marathon back in 2011. What is it with me and this particular race?!?) I'm not eager to think about getting my first of either, but it is what it is.

My plan is to go to bikram yoga both today and tomorrow, and to continue foam-rolling like it's my job. On Friday I'll do another test run. If the run goes okay, I might try to squeeze in another bikram session on Saturday. But unless there is a lot of improvement between now and Friday, the odds are pretty high that I will indeed post my first-ever DNS this Sunday. Blugh.

To be continued.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Run clubbing, the Great Western Trail, and fall targets

My left hamstring is still bothering me. I can walk fairly normally now, although my range of motion is still a bit limited. I went on the rowing machine yesterday, thinking it would be a good cross-training activity. But when I got up from the machine and started walking towards the locker room, my hamstring screamed bloody murder for a few moments.

I haven't done any running since last Sunday. My original hope was to get back on track today, but it looks like I will need to take at least a few more days off. Blugh.

In the meantime, let's channel all positivity and healing vibes while we talk about a few fun things.

West Loop Run Club
I've lived in Chicago's West Loop for about four years. There were never any running groups in the neighborhood. The city's north side is chock-full of running groups, and the south side and downtown have been dabbling a bit, as well. But up until recently, the West Loop has always been a venerable run-club desert.

Through Erin, I learned that a newly-opening triathlon store named Live Grit was starting a Tuesday night running club. Folks meet at 6:00 to do an easy 3 miles around the neighborhood. Then, Bare Feet Power Yoga, which is right next door, leads about 10-15 minutes of runner-focused stretches.

The group doesn't have quite this artistic of a silhouette, but you get the idea.

I've been to two of the group runs so far and really enjoy the down-to-earth atmosphere. I also appreciate that the runs are short, so there isn't a big evening time commitment involved.

Everything that anyone has ever said about it being easier to get motivated for a run when you're surrounded by other runners? Completely true.

Little Runs on the Prairie
Now, as much as I love living and running in the West Loop, and in the city of Chicago in general, I do enjoy mixing up the running scenery. A few weeks ago, I did a 12.5-mile training run in the western suburbs on the Great Western Trail. It was very peaceful and serene, with a couple of gentle hills. It was also a refreshing change to not have to make frequent stops for traffic lights or stop signs.

Here's a glimpse of what the trail looks like:

There are so many gorgeous trails in the Midwest. I am feeling like I need to take more advantage of the beautiful prairie landscapes available within such a short distance of my home.

Maybe I should start keeping a bag of running gear stowed in the trunk of the car. You never know when the urge to run will coincide with the discovery of a new trail.

Going to Fall
Not to bypass the upcoming summer, but I am already starting to think about some target half marathons for the fall.

I've mentioned before that I have a special fondness for southwest Michigan. I got married in St. Joseph and I have enjoyed many great visits to the region over the years.

Cue one of those great "Pure Michigan" commercials:

With this in mind, the Grand Rapids Marathon/Half Marathon is high on the consideration list. I've heard rave reviews about its excellent organization and stunning scenery. How could you not be inspired by a view like this?

I'd love to either run the half marathon, or get a team together to do the marathon relay. The only drawback is that registration fees for Grand Rapids are surprisingly high, even for early registration. It's more expensive than some of the Rock N Roll half marathons!

If I don't end up pulling the trigger on Grand Rapids, here are other fall target half marathons currently under consideration:

  • Hero Half in Indiana
  • Holland Hospital Park2Park
  • Indianapolis
  • Indianapolis Monument
  • Prairie State again (after a good experience last year)

As you can tell, I'm primarily eyeing races that are outside of the Chicago metro area, but are within driving distance. Any other suggestions? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Some (but not all) weekend ugliness

Happy Monday, everyone!

I did not end up doing the last-minute entry into the Wisconsin Half Marathon this past weekend. After debating back and forth and back and forth, what finally sealed the deal was that I didn't get very much sleep on Thursday night. Running Wisconsin the next morning would have involved another night of minimal sleep. I decided not to push things.

I still wanted to get in a double-digit training run over the weekend, though. I'm running the Chicago Spring Half Marathon on May 18. Under normal training circumstances I would have taken this past weekend easy, but next weekend I'll be in Pittsburgh with a packed schedule. Therefore, I slugged through 10.2 miles yesterday. And when I say slugged, I really do mean slugged.

My left hip and hamstring started feeling very sore and tight afterwards. I spent a lot of time trying to stretch things out last night, but the discomfort still remains today. It's to the point where I'm walking with a slight limp right now. Ugh.

When I made the decision on Wisconsin, I was lamenting that it was really too bad the race was Saturday, not Sunday. If it were on Sunday, I would have gone for it. But in the end, it turned out to be the right decision for me not to run Wisconsin. Given how things are feeling today after just a long training run, the potential for uncomfortable ugliness would have been off the charts if I had raced.

Speaking of discomfort...

Congrats to everyone that did run Wisconsin, though, as well as all other races this past weekend! I've read about lots of strong performances and PRs. Woo hoo!

Now, getting back to the ugliness that was yesterday's long run. I had an uncomfortable incident with a passerby which has been weighing on my mind.

I was about one mile into my run and I ran past a random man on the sidewalk. He stopped me and asked if he could have some water from my handheld bottle.

I hesitated for a moment, thinking it was a bit of an odd request. I've only had one other incident in my life when someone had asked me for water from my bottle - and that was by a homeless girl when I was in Myanmar. This guy didn't really look homeless. But I figured it was just water, and I certainly know what it feels like to be thirsty. So I popped up the sports cap on my bottle, then handed it to him.

Personally, when I use a "shared" water bottle, I try to keep things sanitary. No facial contact with the bottle. I will hold the bottle a few inches away from my face and squeeze the water into my mouth. Kind of like this (but not exactly):

What is wrong with this picture?
(You get the idea, though.)

I figured the guy would do the same. Instead, he put the bottle into his mouth and sucked out of it the way a baby drinks out of a baby bottle.


He then made a racially-charged remark towards me.


I tried to respond calmly. (I grew up in a very non-diverse town and I've had plenty of racial comments hurled at me throughout my life. Sad to say that I'm somewhat used to it.)

But then, instead of handing me back my bottle, he dropped it onto the ground and started walking away. No words of thanks, nothing.


I picked it up without saying anything. Then I ran away in the other direction, shaking my head. My pace was fueled by anger, disgust, and annoyance. You try to help someone out, and this is what you get. Not to mention that I certainly wasn't going to be drinking from the bottle again after that incident. Way for that guy to throw a nice hydration wrench into my run at Mile 1, too.

People really amaze me sometimes, and not always in a good way.

Hey! I can't end this post on such an ugly note, so let's talk about some things that are making me happy.

My Blackhawks are up 2-0 in their series against Minnesota! There were so many great highlights from the weekend, but in particular, I loved seeing:

  • Kaner's highlight-reel goals in Game 1 followed by his proclamation of "SHOWTIME!"
  • Hoss's breakaway move on Bryz in Game 2, followed by Tazer's rebound clean-up
  • Saad's megawatt smiles in Game 2 when he talked Stoner into a penalty and when scoring two goals
  • Bicksy flipping the switch into playoff mode, big time!

Bryan Bickell in sideways celebration mode.

I've also been having fun participating in a newly-formed neighborhood run club. Plus, I'm starting to think about target half marathons for the fall, when there are some really great options. More about both of these topics to come in another post.

I hope everyone has a great start to the week. For those of you that raced, I love hearing the details so keep those recaps coming!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dunking, mousebears, and NHL 2nd round playoff predictions

Thank you to everyone for your kind words regarding the Illinois Half Marathon last weekend! After a few days of lingering soreness, I am fully recovered now and already looking forward to my next race.

I've actually been going back and forth on doing a last-minute entry to the Wisconsin Half Marathon this Saturday. Just for fun. I know a ton of folks running and I really, really loved this race when I ran it last year. Unfortunately online registration has already closed, and I can't make it to packet pickup to register in person. Although, Kim has graciously offered to help me get registered when she goes to packet pickup herself tomorrow.

If I did decide to go for broke and do the race, it would be quite hectic... but it is doable...

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

In the meantime, I had a couple of things from the past few weeks that I wanted to share. First, being the crazy sports fans that we are, Adam and I recently went to visit the Chicago Sports Museum. It's got some cool memorabilia and skill challenges. I enjoyed testing my sports prowess at some of the interactive games available. For example, you could do video simulations of quarterbacking a football, hitting a baseball, shooting a basketball, and being a hockey goalie (Adam's favorite). You could also channel your inner Haray Caray and do a recorded simulation of a baseball color broadcast. They even send you a link to your recording on Youtube. (Our recording was too embarrassingly bad to share here. Sorry.)

There were also some unique exhibits where, for example, you could compare your hand size to that of various NBA players, or compare your vertical leap to Michael Jordan's. Here's me comparing my wingspan to that of Scottie Pippen's:

It's pretty clear why I've never been able to come anywhere close to dunking a basketball.

Adam and I also recently went to go check out the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Museum of Science and Industry. This exhibit was originally only scheduled to be in Chicago until early May, but it looks like they just extended it through August. It must be very popular!

The exhibit included a wide range of sentimental artifacts, artwork, and videos covering the history of Disney. But, the highlight of the exhibit was the Disney Animation Academy! Here, attendees could learn how to draw some of the Disney characters.

Adam and I started first with an attempt at Donald Duck:

From L to R: Adam's sketch, an official Donald, and my sketch. 

What do you think of the resemblance? I think Adam's Donald is much better than my version. My sketch makes Donald look kind of flat. Comparatively, his Donald has more energy and jumps off the page a lot more.

Next, we drew Mickey Mouse. After all, you simply cannot go to any Disney event without celebrating the likeness of the mouse who started it all.

From L to R: Adam's sketch, an official Mickey, and my sketch.

I was reasonably happy with my sketch. Although, I see now that I did make Mickey a little lopsided. He looks as if he'd just had some wisdom teeth taken out on one side, perhaps?

On the other hand, Adam was NOT pleased with how his drawing turned out. He posted his sketch on Facebook and asked friends to weigh in on what they thought it was. The poll results were, uh, interesting. But collectively, they were pretty consistent with how Adam himself describes his finished product. To illustrate, here is his sketch zoomed out:

"Fat Mickey the Bear"
By Adam

Lead pencil on paper
April 2013

Personally I think Adam's sketch is highly recognizable. I mean, how many characters have those famous ears!

Now what do you all think?!?

NHL Second Round Playoff Predictions
Time to shift gears. There were three Round 1 Playoff Game 7's last night, and oooh, the drama! As a result, I am rushed in making my NHL second-round playoff predictions before the next round starts tonight. We'll keep it short this time. 

Before I start, I will go ahead and mention that I went only 5-3 in my first round playoff predictions. Hey, if it were that easy to predict these things, we'd all be millionaires, right? But as usual, please feel free to comment or contact me if you want to let me know how wrong you think I am this time, too.


Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens
I love Original Six match-ups and this is one of the all-time classic rivalries. While Montreal enjoyed their romp over Tampa Bay in the first round, I think that Boston's stellar defense and depth is going to be dominant in this series.

Prediction: Boston in 6

Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
The Penguins have a stronger top line of superstars, but questions still linger over their depth and their goaltending situation. Plus, they looked unfocused and tentative in their first round. Comparatively, the Rangers have more depth and are widely regarded as having some of the best goaltending in the league. I think this one could really go either way. But my biases prevail.

Prediction: Penguins in 7


Anaheim Ducks vs Los Angeles Kings
Ahhh, yet another match-up between a fast-paced, offensively-talented team against a brutally physical defensively-talented team. Duck coach Bruce Boudreau has been making some last-minute changes that I would describe as being unnecessarily panic-driven. That's never a good sign. Plus, after the Kings came back from an 0-3 deficit to win their first-round series in 7, you have to respect their resiliency.

Prediction: Kings in 6

Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
I think I speak for a lot of Hawks fans who were rooting for Minnesota to win their first-round series against Colorado for various reasons. Most notably, the Hawks get home-ice advantage against Minnesota. There is some drama to this series given that it's a rematch to the first-round series last year. But Chicago's strong depth, talent, and experience is very hard to top. Not to mention that Minnesota is facing some serious, serious netminder questions with a seemingly unending string of goalie injuries. This one's a no-brainer to me.

Prediction: Hawks in 5

And finally... 

My Obligatory Cool Blackhawks Picture of the Day
The vicious fan rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox is truly the stuff of legends here. It's bitter, it's ugly, and it's personal. There is much talk about how nothing can bring the two together to unite for anything. Ever!!!

But, one should never say never. 

Enter: the Blackhawks and a Stanley Cup:

The Blackhawks flanked by the Cubs and White Sox during a Crosstown Classic at Wrigley Field
Love it!!!