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!


  1. How fantastic that there is a running group close to you now! Awesome! I totally hear you on being more likely to run if you are meeting someone (oops, not what you said, but how I interpreted it).

    Not so fantastic you are still in pain! Are you going to get a massage? And are foam rolling it? Are we talking about the HM in a week and a few days, or not yet? ;)

    I think having a bag in your car is a fantastic idea for getting those runs in. Especially if you visit Lake County! There are so many fantastic trails!

    1. Yes, the run club is great! It's easier to get motivated when you know there will be others there to talk to, and I really do love that the runs are nice and short. It's definitely one of those situations where the hardest part is just getting started - but once you get going it's all good!

      I have been stretching out and using the Stick. I might try to uptick my yoga workouts, too. No sports massage yet, but my friend Anthony did give me a recommendation for a good masseuse awhile back. Indeed, it might be time to pick up the phone! And you have a good memory as I am starting to get a little nervous about the Chicago Spring Half on May 18. I've got 10 days to heal. =)

      The Des Plaines River Trail is really amazing! I didn't realize until last year how far the trail runs. We are truly blessed to have so many great trail resources as runners/bikers. Three cheers for the Lake County Forest Preserves!!!

  2. Yikes prices have gone up! When I did the GR full in 2008 it was $65. Gosh I hope your hammy calms down. Be careful with it in yoga though. Mine was bugging me so I went to yoga to try to stretch it out and ended up partially rupturing it.

    1. Wow, $65 for the full marathon in 2008!?!?!? So prices have gone up at least 50% in 6 years. Ouch! I saw that they offer a "lifetime registration" program to the event for about $850. At the rate that they are increasing their registration rates, the $850 could actually be a really worthy investment!

      Yikes on your hammy getting ruptured, that sounds VERY painful. I hope that it healed quickly for you. Hamstrings are ridiculously stubborn to being stretched out, aren't they? Sigh. Thanks for the heads up on being careful in yoga!

  3. Fellow Midwestern runner here, found your blog searching for half-marathon advice (I ran my second last weekend)! As a native Hoosier, I would highly recommend the Monumental. I haven't personally run it but have heard that the course is flat, scenic, and full of spectators (the Indianapolis Marathon, less so). Another great option would be the Mill Race Marathon, in Columbus (about 45 minutes south of Indianapolis). Columbus is known worldwide for its architecture, and I thought last year's inaugural race was a great combination of excitement and small-town friendliness -- including easy logistics like parking close to the start. I'm not affiliated with the race at all, just enjoyed it immensely. So many great Midwestern races to choose from in the fall!

    1. Kristen! Congratulations on your second half marathon last weekend, WOO HOO!!! I went to your blog because I wanted to read more about it, but didn't see a recap yet. Please do share more details!

      Thank you so much for this insight on Indy vs Indy Monument! I have heard good things about both, but haven't been able to pinpoint the differentiating factors between the two. So I really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks also for sharing about the Mill Race Marathon! I'd never heard of it it until now, but I really do love the more community-oriented races. I did a quick google search and Columbus looks so charming! I also read some great feedback from past participants. Yay!

      So many great Midwestern races to choose from in the fall, indeed! Nothing better than to enjoy the gorgeous foliage offerings in the area. Is it bad to be already looking past summer towards fall races when summer hasn't even begun? LOL

  4. I think I'm going to do the 10K again at the Hero race. MAYBE the half marathon. My Oak Park running club is going to Monumental but I haven't decided if I want to run that one or not. I mean, I hit my PR for the year so I'm kind of feeling lazy :-) Good thing I have Run Group on Tuesday nights to keep me accountable!

    1. Yay for Hero! I have been making very good use of last year's Superman-themed race shirt that I got from the clothing swap. It's one of my favorite race shirts, ever!

      Totally hear you on feeling kind of lazy about trying to set another PR now that we've already gotten one for the year. I'm really excited to run the next few half marathons on my schedule purely for fun, no guilt. Thank goodness for Run Club indeed, otherwise I'd probably be tempted to phone it in until late summer!

      And actually, I just noticed that Monument takes place the same weekend as the Carrera de los Muertos. So that's something to consider.

  5. Did I ever tell you that I hail from Michigan? Well, I do. I'd love to do a race there sometime. I'm envisioning pretty scenery and perfect weather. I also like that you are already thinking about fall races. Me, too!

    1. Amy! I do remember reading about your travels to Michigan to visit family up there, but I don't think I ever put two and two together that you hail from Michigan! Where in Michigan are you from? I think it's an amazing state for races - every single one I read about makes me want to sign up on the spot. Keep me posted on any potential Michigan races for you in the future - I would so love to meet up with you there!!!

  6. Girl, your hamstring better be in running condition for the half marathon in June. :-)

    Have you been to a Bare Feet Power Yoga class? I just checked out their site and would likely try out their new student offer.

    This past Saturday I ran at Brookfield Woods by Brookfield Zoo. Pretty cool place! The only downside is that there is no water along the route.

    1. Zenaida, I could use all the positive healing vibes that you can give me on the hamstring! June 7th is approaching much more quickly than I could have imagined!

      I've never been to Bare Feet. So far I've only gone to Bikram Yoga West Loop, but I'm going to try out 105F this week. Have you been to either of those places yourself? I'll have to look up Bare Feet!

      It would be awesome to run at Brookfield Woods. Any path outside of Chicago city limits sounds ripe for exploration right now!

  7. I haven't been to either place. Let's go to Bikram Yoga River North. I have a pass for 5 more visits. I want to finish it so I can go to another place. :-)

    I guess you can't run on Saturday since you have the race on Sunday right? Another time then.