Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015 Race Schedule

I celebrated the start of 2015 with almost nothing on my race calendar. I was thinking that maybe I'd take it real easy with racing this year. But, as is frequently the case for me, that changed pretty quickly over the last week.

I read about Marcia's 2015 race plans and link-up with Erica, Patty, and April for Tuesdays on the Run. I'm going to join in the festivities!

This year, I am not very focused on setting new PRs (even though doing so is always nice, of course). Right now, my theme is: Runcation and all the fun races I've always wanted to do. =D

With that, here's what's on the agenda:

Already Registered
January 24 - F^3 Lake Half Marathon
March 14 - Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon
March 29 - Shamrock Shuffle
April 18 - CARA Live Grit Lakefront 10-Miler

With the exception of the CARA 10-Miler, I will be running all of these races for the first time.

I've already talked about all the great things I've heard about the F^3 Lake Half Marathon. I have read raving reviews about Rock N Roll DC. The Shamrock Shuffle is enormously popular and a favorite of many, so I am pumped to finally run it this year.

Bring on the green people!

Normally, the CARA Live Grit Lakefront 10-Miler would not have been on my radar screen since I've already run it twice. However, I received a discount code from Live Grit for 50% off of registration (50LGLF1014). The 10-mile distance is my favorite so I couldn't resist the ridiculously low price.

Waiting for Registration to Open
June 14 - PAWS Run For Their Lives

This race is a done deal for me every year. End of story.

I really love this logo from the 2013 PAWS Run For Their Lives race.

99% Certainty
May 9 - Cinco de Miler
July TBD - BTN Big 10K
August 23, 2015 - Fort2Base
November 1 - Hot Chocolate 15K

All four of these races would be new to me this year.

I am a huge fan of races that celebrate holidays of any kind, and the Cinco de Miler race shirt and swag look awesome this year.

A prior running of the Cinco de Miler.
There are the green people again!

I've had my eye on the BTN Big 10K for years, also because I like the race shirt and medal. The unique Fort2Base course and distance are huge draws for me. The Hot Chocolate race has always appealed to me because of my sweet tooth, and it sounds like their organizers have made a lot of improvements.

Rock N Roll Series
When plans worked out for me to run Rock N Roll DC this year, I decided to purchase the TourPass 3-Pack. DC's registration prices are already very high, and the TourPass protects you from the price increases. I figured that I could also run Rock N Roll Chicago, then I'd pick a third race at a later point.

Upon later development, Rock N Roll Chicago may not end up working out in my calendar. There is so much going on that weekend! I had originally been planning to go to the Blackhawks fan convention. But, I just found out that my friend Jenny is getting married that weekend, too - and her wedding definitely takes priority over everything else!!!

I guess technically I could squeeze everything into one ginormous party of a weekend. I did think about doing so for a little bit.

The aftermath would be too disastrous, though. I want to focus on having a good time at Jenny's wedding!

With that in mind, here are my top considerations for my other two Rock N Roll races:

September 6 - Rock N Roll Virginia Beach
September 20 - Rock N Roll Montreal
October 25 - Rock N Roll Vancouver
November 14 - Rock N Roll Las Vegas

Virginia Beach and Vancouver would be more great opportunities to visit family and friends while enjoying the ocean; I love Montreal's fabulousness; and Vegas needs no further explanation.

Since we're talking about Vancouver and since I've obviously got green people on the brain today, here you go:

The green men at a Vancouver Canucks game.

Under consideration:
May 2 - Wisconsin Half Marathon
May 3 - Pittsburgh Half Marathon

I would also like to do a marathon relay.

What about you? What race plans do you have for this upcoming year? Please share!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Currently feeling: Cautiously optimistic. I'm in the initial stages of my busiest time of the year at work. Knock on wood, things have been going smoothly. This is my second go-around in this role, and my experience from last year has been a gargantuan help. Praying that the smoothness continues!

Currently nervous about: The F^3 Half Marathon on January 24. Given the subzero temps we've been having in Chicago this past week, I am terrified for what race day might bring.

This picture was on the front page of the Chicago Tribune website this morning.

My training has been subpar, too. I only ran about 40 miles TOTAL in December. Almost all of those miles took place during the first half of the month, since I was participating in the Nike "Choose Your Winter" Challenge. My last double-digit run was on December 14.

Call me a wimp, but I am already contemplating whether I really have the chutzpah to do this race.

Currently listening to: Thisthis, and this. I've heard all three at various fitness classes over the past few weeks. (These days, fitness classes are one of the few opportunities for me to get exposed to new music.)

Current favorite new-to-me food: Cookie butter! Why did it take me so long to try it!?!? I got a jar of Speculoos from Trader Joe's and I am addicted. It's all I can do to not eat the entire thing straight out of the jar using a soup ladle.

I totally get the hype.

Currently looking forward to: So many things! Three upcoming cooking classes (topics: soup, pierogies, and pasta). Three upcoming Blackhawks games at the United Center (opponents: Penguins, Bruins, and Rangers). Running the Shamrock Shuffle this year for the first time. Going to Washington, DC in March to visit family/friends and to run the Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon. Going to Korea in May to visit Helen. The list goes on and on.

Current new product find: Dry shampoo. Another item where I can only ask why it took me so long to try it! In the wintertime, I don't want to shampoo my hair every day since it gets so dried out, but my roots beg to differ. Dry shampoo has been the perfect solution.

Current indulgence: Breyer's Gelato. I warned Adam that he wasn't going to like it, and that I would take one for the team and eat it all myself. If you look in the dictionary under the definition of courageous and sacrificial, you'll see my picture.

Warning: danger ahead.

Current fashion obsession: Scarves, scarves, and more scarves. Can't stop, won't stop.

Current fitness modification: I am always working to contain a case of piriformis syndrome caused by weak hips. Recently, I've been doing a LOT of strength work for my glutes. Despite these efforts, I was mystified to still be experiencing piriformis pain on my left side.

I remembered that my PT had once suggested doing single-leg squats so that one glute didn't compensate for the other. I started trying it a few weeks ago, and BINGO! It is working!

Currently giggling at: This video of Benny the Bull, which went viral earlier this week.

I know it was probably staged, but it still makes me crack up. Tommy Hawk looks like a complete angel by comparison. ;-P

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon race recap - Part 2

Continued from here.

Since the rain was picking up in intensity and showed no signs of stopping, I made the executive decision that I wouldn't be taking pictures during the race. It made me sad, since Disney races are beacons for photos. But, it wasn't worth the risk to destroy my phone. Tonight would just be a night to keep the scenery stored in my mind's eye.

I will share pictures taken by others, instead. ;-)

Here are pictures from the starting line:


The corrals crossed the starting line quickly. I felt better once I got going. My rain-induced chill began to dissipate. I was thinking, "This isn't so bad. Look at all of us bad-ass runners! And maybe the rain will only last for a little bit?"

Many runners were still wearing trash bags or ponchos. Plenty of folks were wearing costumes. Some costumes looked like they would eventually become quite cumbersome in the rain (e.g. big, poofy tutus; long capes; mouse gloves).

Ooooh... stylin'!

Last year, I had reveled in all the amazing character photo opportunities, music, and other merriment all throughout the race. There were still some characters out taking photos in spots where there was protection from the elements. But unfortunately, the weather forced a lot of the characters and entertainment off the course. It was fairly quiet, except for the sound of the rain and some of the runners talking to each other.

5K split - 31:48

I was trying to keep my phone protected (I had it wrapped up in a Ziploc bag). However, I had signed myself up to track my own splits and estimated finish time. I snuck a quick peek at my 5K split when it buzzed through. It said that my predicted finish time was 2:14:10. That would be close to my PR! For a brief moment, I considered trying to go for it. Then, I mentally slapped myself over the head and told myself not to be ridiculous. Nobody should try to PR at a Disney race, in my opinion. Especially not in driving rain conditions.

We entered Disney's Animal Kingdom. I enjoyed seeing the serenity of the park all lit up amidst the darkness. Long-distance visibility was poor and there were no animals to be seen, of course. The terrain was slippery and uneven so I slowed down to be careful.

I am not exactly sure where this picture was taken, but let's go ahead and imagine that it was at Animal Kingdom. Check out my photobombing doppelganger!

The course exited Animal Kingdom around Mile 4.5. Next stop - Disney's Hollywood Studios near Mile 9.5

10K split - 1:05:59

I started seeing various discarded costume pieces strewn along the roadside. (No Mickey gloves, though.)

I knew that the stretch between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios would be the toughest of the night, mentally. There wasn't going to be much entertainment so this might take some gusto.

The rain was coming down progressively harder. Here's a picture of the runners pounding through:

I was wearing a pair of red Mizunos that I love and which had less than 50 miles on them. Going into the race, I had been babying those shoes, wanting to keep them "new." I was unhappy to be wearing them in the storms. They were holding up really well, though. Rain-induced blisters had been a big concern, so I was thankful to have no issue.

My thoughts: "Push on, push on, push on through the rain. Clif Shots will be handed out around Mile 8.4! Focus on getting to that next point!"

Speaking of which, I absolutely need to acknowledge the race volunteers. HUGE kudos to all of them for bolstering on through those weather conditions. After my own experiences as a race volunteer (in good weather, at that), I know just how much hard work it is. I always thank the volunteers along the course - but this night, I was even more wholehearted than usual.

The best!

I was so happy to see the Clif Shot station! I took two, stuffed one into my race belt, and gulped down the other one. Excellent. It was just what I needed.

Last year, the one and only character photo I took was with Lilo and Stitch around Mile 9. I had really been wanting to take another photo with them! As I approached that same spot, I anxiously hoped that the rain didn't make them take cover. No such luck. I saw their photo backdrop (the surfboard and lifeguard chair were a dead giveaway) but it was empty. Sadness!

15K split - 1:41:23

Time to enter Disney's Hollywood Studios, woo hoo! This park has what I consider to be the biggest highlights of the course. Between the Clif Shot boost and the new scenery, I perked up. I reveled in seeing the Tower of Terror, the Rock N Roller Coaster, Mickey's Sorcerer Hat, and so much else.

I believe this photo of me was taken along Sunset Boulevard:

Then, came my very favorite part of the course - the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights! This picture so does NOT do the scenery justice.

After enjoying all the great sights in Hollywood Studios, we ran through Disney's Boardwalk. Last year, this had been an area completely packed with spectators roaring with cheers. This year, the boardwalk was nearly empty. It made me a little sad to see the comparison. But I did my best to take advantage of the handful of spectators who were there. I read their signs and exchanged as many high-fives as I could.

Final stop before the finish line - Epcot. There were more spectators there, but still a drastically lower number than last year.

I took in the sights of the World Showcase around me. Simultaneously, I combed through the spectators, looking for Adam. When I passed him, I screamed a hello at the top of my lungs. He didn't see me approaching, so I think I startled him (and everyone around him).

Soon after entering Epcot, I began keeping my eye on Spaceship Earth (aka the giant golf ball). That was near the finish line! Here's a picture of me in that final stretch:

Final Time: 2:24:38

After crossing the finish line, I picked up my Wine and Dine medal and my Coast to Coast medal (yee-haw!). Then, I got a water-logged snack box, some beverages, and a space blanket (new this year and VERY much appreciated) before heading to pick up my gear bag.

The lines were surprisingly long. Last year, I didn't have to wait at all to claim my bag. Obviously the rain made everything more challenging this year. Perhaps things were shortstaffed due to weather-weary volunteers bailing? I bet many runners (myself included) abnormally rushed to finish, as well.

After working through some bag check issues, I headed back into Epcot for the post-race party. Again, the crowds and lines were very heavy compared to last year. Eventually I met back up with Adam.

It never felt so good to change into dry clothing. Adam also gave me the most considerate gift I could have ever asked for - a poncho!


Adam and I did what we could to enjoy the post-race party in the still-lingering rainfall. We walked around a little bit and rode a couple of rides, enjoying the very short lines. Then we got into the long lines to catch a Disney bus back to our resort. I think we hit the sack around 3:30 AM.

Epilogue: When we woke up the next morning, the rain had stopped and the sun was out! It really is all about timing and luck when it comes to Mother Nature. Sigh.

Adam and I made the most of our last full day in Orlando. We had a blast visiting Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom. Here's a fun photo from lunch at the Sci Fi Theater:

  • It was a terrible, awful shame that the weather was so uncooperative for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Having run this race last year, I know how amazing the event could have been. I felt really bad for all of the folks who were running Wine and Dine for the first time, or who were running their first-ever Disney race. I also felt really bad for all the race organizers and the volunteers, who still worked so hard to put on the event. This night was so NOT representative of a Disney race. I can only hope that everyone realizes that.
  • This is fodder for a whole other discussion, but I probably would choose to stay "off-campus" the next time we visit Disney. Staying in a Disney resort certainly has its perks, but it also takes away a lot of flexibility.
  • Now that I've completed the Coast to Coast challenge, I'm ready to take a break from Disney races in 2015. As much as I love them, they are really expensive! But I do look forward to running more of them further down the road. I will definitely be back. =)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon race recap - Part 1

I almost decided not to write a recap for the 2014 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon from last November. This was for various reasons. Namely, my blogging mojo was in the dumps; the entire race got plagued by torrential rainfall; and things were busy at work. As of this point, I've run a total of three races that I haven't yet recapped. #BloggerFail

Over the past week, I started thinking about how it's been valuable for me to have those old recaps, especially as time goes by. You live, you remember, and you learn from all of those past experiences. Plus, it was at this race that I did finally achieve my goal of earning my Disney Coast to Coast medal! That is certainly worth some reflection, no?

L: My Disney Coast to Coast medal
R: My 2014 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon medal

With that, here is Part 1 of an extremely belated recap of my weekend at the 2014 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon (even if for nobody but myself).

Adam and I flew down to Orlando very late on Thursday night of race weekend. We had decided to stay at a Disney resort, as I'd heard the perks were good for Disney races. All race weekend transportation would be provided for runners and spectators. Plus, RunDisney was providing special room rates for all runners. All the more reason to give them a whirl!

Disney World resort guests receive Magic Bands for use during their stay. These little wristbands are your key to pretty much everything. They serve as your room key, credit card, park tickets, Fast Passes, dining reservation check-ins, etc., etc. The only thing these Magic Bands can't do is read your mind (I think).

Guests get to select what color they want their Magic Band to be. I, of course, selected red and black, since they are the colors of the Chicago Blackhawks. For Adam, we selected black and gold, since they are the colors of all three Pittsburgh pro sports teams.

Unfortunately we ended up having to wait for a long time to catch a Disney bus from the airport to our resort. We had landed in Orlando around midnight. I thought we would be the only ones trying to get transported. It was a surprise to find quite a crowd of folks already lined up. Many were already donning their mouse ears. Apparently the Mouse is like the city - he never sleeps.

During the bus ride, I exuberantly watched the Disney cartoons being shown on the in-bus televisions (yes, I am an adult well in my 30s). We finally arrived at our resort around 1:30 AM. I made a mad dash to the front desk to check in. I promptly received a room in the remotest corner possible at the resort. No joke, it was about a 10-minute walk from the front desk to our room. I guess that's what happens when you arrive in the dead of the night. The long walk was reminiscent of the enormous resorts in Las Vegas!

The next day, Adam and I spent the afternoon at Disney's Animal Kingdom. After dinner, we hopped over to Epcot to watch the amazing fireworks. We had a really, really great time. I just love the parks! Some of my favorites from the Animal Kingdom included the Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Festival of the Lion King, and dinner at the Tusker House restaurant. And of course, no visit to Disney is complete without seeing the most famous mouse duo in the Milky Way Galaxy.

From L to R: Mickey Mouse, Adam, me, and Minnie Mouse

On Saturday morning, I met up with Zenaida, who had flown in from Chicago that morning. She was staying at the same resort that Adam and I were at, which made it very easy to catch up. (Check out her race recap here.)

Zenaida and I caught a Disney bus to the race expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports. On the way in, we decided to get into the "wine and dine" spirit of things:

We also couldn't resist taking some goofball photos at one of the vendor booths:

We picked up our packets and wandered around for a bit, collecting free giveaways (Fruit! Snacks! Socks!). We headed back to the resort for lunch. Afterwards, I went back to the room to relax and take a nap.

As bad luck would have it, the weather forecast was predicting rain starting that evening around 9:00 PM and lasting throughout the night. This was the absolute worst possible timing for a race with a 10:00 PM start and a post-race party scheduled to go until 4:00 AM. My experience with Chicago weather forecasters shows that they are wrong about 57.31% of the time. Therefore, I was hoping and praying that the Floridian weather forecasters would be just like their Midwestern brethren. Much to my dismay that afternoon, the skies were already starting to darken and the wind was already starting to pick up. Curses!


Adam and I had an early-evening dinner reservation in Downtown Disney. I was originally planning to come back to the resort after dinner to change clothes before heading to the start village. However, at Zenaida's suggestion, I decided to bring all my gear to dinner, just in case. This turned out to be a lifesaving decision.

We left the resort with what we thought was ample time to get there on Disney transport. Enroute, we got caught in horrific traffic and construction delays. I am not exaggerating that it took us a good HOUR to get door-to-door from our room to the restaurant. Good lord!!!

By no means would there have been enough time to stop at the resort after dinner. Instead, I made the best of my post-dinner time crunch: I commandeered one of the restaurant's bathroom stalls to change into my gear. It was a good thing nobody was waiting in line behind me.

Nope, nothing for you to see here. Nothing at all!

After dinner, there was more traffic and long shuttle bus lines to the start village. Even before any precipitation, the weather was already on the cool side. This made me apprehensive. I was thankful that the buses were heated. It made the lengthy ride feel more worthwhile.

It started drizzling while I was waiting to check my gear bag. Several folks were wearing trash bags and ponchos. I instantly regretted not having anything waterproof for myself. The rain was gradually intensifying. There was no protection anywhere from the elements. I joined the masses and sat on the ground in my starting corral. During the hour or so that I was waiting for the race to start, I was already getting pretty soaked. When the corrals started moving, I got up and was somewhat amused by the dry spot that my butt left behind on the asphalt.

Coming up next: Neither rain, nor wind, nor cold, nor dark of night stays these runners from the completion of their Disney race.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goals and resolutions for 2015

Happy New Year, everyone!

I have to work on New Year's Day, so these days I don't usually paint the town red on New Year's Eve. Also, over the past few days I've been feeling like I'm on the brink of catching a cold. My throat has been feeling ever-so-slightly raw. So Adam and I spent the night relaxing at home.

Party on, Taz!

Here are my goals for 2015:

Run at least 750 miles
This averages out to 62.5 miles per month. During my peak training months, I consider this pretty doable. However, it's the off-season months (e.g. right now, in the dead of winter combined with my busiest time of the year at work) that will make this goal a challenge for me. My hope is to chip away at this as best I can. An extra mile or two here and there will eventually start to add up!

Do some form of resistance training at least twice a week. This can mean anything from using hand weights, weight-training machines, or fitness bands to just good old-fashioned body-weight exercises like planks and push-ups. I was very happy with the positive changes I reaped from increased strength-training in 2014. I am motivated to keep it up.

Yoga and Stretching/Foam Rolling
Do yoga at least once a week. Thankfully, my office gym offers fantastic free yoga classes for all employees at least three times a week. Therefore, this goal shouldn't be hard to achieve.

I also want to get into the habit of doing some stretching and/or foam rolling on a daily basis, or at least five times a week. My IT band, piriformis, hamstrings, and calves seem to be perpetually tight. I can really feel the difference, on so many levels, when I've taken the time to stretch out.

Set a new 5K PR
Ahhh, the 5K, my nemesis. This is the only remaining distance for which I have not been able to break my longstanding PR from well over a decade ago. I think I made four attempts in 2014 (I'm embarrassed to go back and count the exact number)!

Last year, my preparations included some interval training and shake-out runs. This year, I'm going to also try doing some runs at or slightly faster than goal pace.

Read more books
I generally don't have a lot of patience for reading books. My reading usually consists of periodicals like magazines. (Due to lack of patience, I don't watch many movies, either.) However, whenever I do take the time to plow through a book (or watch a movie), I almost always enjoy it. Therefore, my goal is average at least one book per month, if not more. It would be terrific to surpass this goal, of course. All book recommendations are welcome!

I am attending a new-to-me book club starting this month and couldn't be more excited. The book club will be an enormous boost to achieving this goal. I already finished reading this month's selection, weeks in advance!

Explore new cooking avenues
For someone who has over two dozen cookbooks at home and who watches a lot of Food Network/Cooking Channel, I don't branch out with new recipes nearly as often as I could. I am very fortunate to have convenient access to several places offering amazing grocery selections. Time to take more advantage. I'd like to try at least 18 new recipes/ingredients this year.

Things are already well on track towards this goal. In a few weeks, I'll be attending a pierogi-making class. I also just bought a Groupon for Adam and me to attend a pasta-making class!

Enjoy Chicago
The city has an infinite amount of things to see and do. While it's difficult to put forth a measurable goal on this, I do want to put forth the effort to enjoy more of the city's offerings. This could include spending more time exploring the museums (using my MSI Chicago membership more!), the park district, theaters, music venues (inspired by my experiences in New Orleans), neighborhood joints, fitness groups, the list goes on and on.

  • Focus on quality instead of quantity, in general
  • Drink more water
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
  • Brush my teeth after meals (I keep a case with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss at my desk in the office, but have rarely ever used it)
  • Reduce my consumption of sodium and added sugar
  • Walk or Divvy as much as possible
  • Cut down on mindless Facebook usage
  • Comment on every blog that I read at least once every few weeks
  • Try to be on time for every meeting/appointment that I attend

Cheers to 2015 being a fantastic year for all of us! I look forward to all that the new year will bring, and to following everyone's journeys along the way!