Friday, May 27, 2016

Runfessions - gym edition

Happy Friday of Memorial Day weekend! I am linking up with Marcia for another edition of Runfessions.
Today we're going to talk about three gym-related runfessions.

Locker Roulette
I've seen some folks who are extremely routine-oriented at the gym. They use the same locker every day, use the same fitness equipment every day, pick the same spot in class every day. 
I am endeavoring to keep things diverse so I try to change up all aspects of my workout as much as possible. 

My "diversity" initiatives have gotten me into trouble with the gym lockers. There have been a couple times where I was in a hurry and/or distracted, so I just picked a random locker and ran out as quickly as possible. 
Then I come back after my workout... and can't remember what locker I used. ARGH!

I runfess the "locker search" has created some awkward moments for me. Especially when there are a lot of other people in the locker room in various stages of dress, so to speak. Clearly I need to be more mindful.

Clean-Up Time
I'm very fortunate that my company's gym includes a bevvy of free fitness classes throughout the day. There are several classes that appeal to me, but are scheduled at 11:15 AM. I would be thrilled if these were low-impact workouts like yoga, but in this instance I am talking about mega-sweat-bucket classes like spinning.
I find 11:15 awkward because it is only a few hours after I showered and got ready for work. I'm not exaggerating when I say "a few hours" - these days I've been getting out of bed at 8:15 AM! (I arrive at the office around 9:00.) It feels cumbersome to either a) have to do it all over again at noon, or b) feel unkempt for the rest of the day. I runfess that I tried skipping the before-work shower once or twice, but then I felt unkempt all morning. 

Basically, I'd rather find another time/format to work out than deal with the awkward timing. Convenience is a much higher priority. Wah, wah, wah.
Flying Earrings
Earlier this week, I was wearing a pair of stud earrings with backings that are a little on the loose side. I went onto the treadmill without removing them. Mid-run, one of the earrings came off. I saw it hit the console in front of me, bounce off, then ricochet onto the (occupied) treadmill next to me. The earring came to rest on the track surface in between the moving belt and the base, i.e.:
I couldn't actually see the earring, so I couldn't tell if it had fallen through the cracks.

The woman on my neighboring treadmill had her headphones on and didn't notice what had happened. She was in a groove! I felt bad about interrupting her workout for my plight. I decided to wait until she was done, and then I'd go search her treadmill. But wouldn't you know it, she ended up staying on the mill for quite some time.
I didn't want to stray too far away for concern that someone else might take her treadmill as soon as she got off. I runfess that I tried to manufacture nonchalant ways to stay close by. Stretches! Planks! Rowing machine! Yes, it felt a little creepy.

Of course, after the woman finished her cooldown, she still wasn't quite done. She did a couple of stretches, stood on the mill typing on her phone, drank from her water bottle several times, then wiped off the machine very thoroughly. The agony! The good news was that once she did finally step off, I was able to dive in and recover my lost earring very quickly. =) 

Lesson learned - do NOT wear earrings on the treadmill!

Do you have anything to runfess?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Things Thursday

1. Introverted, Extroverted, or None of the Above?
I've been seeing a lot of graphics, quizzes, and other social media fun to help you identify as either an introvert or an extrovert. (Of the two, I see a lot more materials depicting introverts.)

My Myers-Briggs personality type is ENFJ, with the "E" standing for extrovert. However, in recent years I've started trending more closely to INFJ, with the "I" obviously standing for introvert.
I've never felt like I fully related to the characteristics associated with either side. While I enjoy solitude, I also enjoy social interaction. I like large social gatherings, but I also like spending time with friends one-on-one or in small groups. Sometimes I proceed cautiously, other times I am spontaneous. I am happy working alone, but working in teams sits well with me, too.

Recently I came across this Forbes article describing "ambiverts" - which are folks that don't identify strongly either way. The article lists 9 signs of ambiverts - and almost every single sign applies to me! My one exception is "Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don't like it to last." In my case, I do NOT like being the center of attention. At all.

Finally, I have found my place on the "-vert" scale. This realization was like a light bulb going off in my head!!!
2. Walking in Memphis
I want to travel somewhere next month for a weekend and have been searching high and low for the right destination. Some of the candidates: Colorado, Santa Fe, Memphis.

I could talk at length about the considerations for all three - but today I'm going to focus on Memphis.

Cue the obligatory music:
I've heard a lot of folks compare Memphis to New Orleans, which is one of my very favorite cities. Cities along bodies of water are my favorites, and the Mississippi River holds a strong allure to me from all of its storied history. I love cities with great live-music scenes. I've heard a lot about Memphis barbecue, Beale Street, the Peabody Hotel, Graceland, etc., etc., etc. There's so much to see and do!
On a related note, I am on a mission to visit all 50 of the United States, and I've never been to Mississippi. A visit to Memphis would allow me to sojourn across the Tennessee-Mississippi border and cross Mississippi off the list! =D

The catch is that airfare to Memphis is surprisingly high, especially considering the distance is not very far. I can get decent fare if I take horrible flight times (e.g. 10:55 PM on Friday night, 5:50 AM on Sunday), but not much otherwise.

The airfare search continues!

3. Old favorites
I am hosting my book club's meeting in July, and I get to pick the month's book. Here is my selection:
When I was growing up, Judy Blume was one of my favorite authors. After hearing In the Unlikely Event is the first new book she's written for adults in 17 years, I was excited to check it out. I just downloaded a copy from the library onto my Kindle and will start reading this weekend. (By the way, e-readers like Kindles are one of the most wonderful inventions made in recent history!)

There are several movies I watched as a child that I later rewatched as an adult, only to realize how much I didn't understand the first time around. Similarly, reflecting on Judy Blume's works made me want to go back and reread some of her books that I read during my youth. I'm most interested in this one:
Has anyone else read Tiger Eyes? I just read the synopsis, and am already amazed at how much obviously didn't resonate with me during my young age.

Would you describe yourself as an introvert/extrovert/ambivert? Any Memphis aficionados out there? Are there any books you'd like to reread?

Linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Adventures with Mother Nature

I am linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.
Today's topic: What is your ideal temperature/conditions for running or race day?

If I could order up the perfect weather from Mother Nature, it would consist of temperatures in the 50s, partly sunny, low humidity, mild breezes. Hello springtime and autumn!
A lot of my fellow runners like overcast skies, but I really appreciate some sunshine. Maybe not a full-out blast of sun, but patches of blue skies are great. I enjoy wearing sunglasses to run.

Weather perfection aside, I am happy to run outdoors in temperatures ranging anywhere from the 30s to the 70s.

My upper-temperature threshold is probably higher than average. Typically I like to dress more warmly than others. I might be wearing capris, a long-sleeve shirt, and gloves while others are wearing shorts. For example:
Kim and me at the 2014 Prairie State Half Marathon
On a side note... I have a theory that the more elite of a runner you are, the less clothing you wear (which definitely applies to Kim's running prowess versus mine). Case in point:
Let's flip over to the other end of the climate spectrum. My low-temperature running threshold has gotten weaker in recent years. A few years ago, I would run outdoors as long as the temperature was in the teens or higher. Now I'll draw the line if the temperature is below about 30 degrees. I don't mind running in the snow or in a "warm" rain, but cold rain (e.g. when the temperature is 33 degrees) is the worst, in my opinion.

I have definitely learned to appreciate the beauty of the treadmill.
I used to hate the treadmill for the boredom factor. These days, if I have the choice between the treadmill and battling Mother Nature's challenges, I won't hesitate to pick the treadmill.

Now, please allow me to reflect on my running weather history. I have run in all kinds of weather extremes. 

The coldest race I've ever run was at the 2013 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot where it was a balmy 15 degrees.
I have run in blizzards and ample snowfall:
Anne and me at the 2013 Chicago Running Bloggers Holiday Party
The windiest race I ever ran was the 2011 Chicago Spring Half Marathon. I wasn't blogging at the time, but in short, this is a lakefront race where there is exactly zero protection from the elements. That day, the winds were gusting at 30 MPH and up and it was raining horizontally.

The warmest race I've ever run was the 2013 Strike Out ALS 5K where the temperature was in the 90s. Luckily/unluckily, I don't have a good action photo from that race. Therefore, to demonstrate my "meltdown" look, here's a picture from last year's Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon (temps in 80s, humidity of 372%):
Thanks to my rain jinx, I've run so many races in torrential rainfall that I've lost track of them all. Here are a couple of examples:
The 2014 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon
The 2015 Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon
The closest I've ever come to running in a veritable monsoon was at the Chinatown 5K. The rain came down in such torrents that there were ankle-deep puddles everywhere. This picture doesn't even begin to do the conditions justice:
Natalie and me approaching the finish line
What is that expression, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?

What are your perfect running weather conditions? Tell me about some of your most extreme weather experiences?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekly recap: May 16-22, 2016

I hope everyone had a terrific weekend! As usual, it was tough for me to get back into the swing of the work routine this morning. However, I walked to work without a jacket today for the first time since last fall! That made me really happy.
Here are my workouts from last week:
MONDAY - HIIT Core class, strength work on biceps, triceps, and chest
TUESDAY - Run 4 miles on treadmill, yoga class
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class, strength work on quads, hamstrings, and glutes
THURSDAY - 3 miles of speedwork on treadmill (10 minute warm-up, 7 intervals at 2:1 tempo/recovery ratio with tempos done between 7.8-8.0 MPH (7:30-7:41 pace) and recovery at 3.5 MPH (17:08 pace).
FRIDAY - 10 minutes on stationary bike, lift for 40 minutes
SATURDAY - Run 6 miles

The HIIT Core class was killer. It was one of the toughest fitness classes I'd ever taken. The entire 50-minute class was comprised of 40-second core exercise intervals with (only) 10-second rest intervals. I was ready to die about halfway through. It hurt to get out of bed the next morning, and my abs were on fire for two whole days. Good lord. If I ever have the courage to do this class again, I'll definitely be bracing myself big-time!
Running notes:
  • My left knee has started acting up. I've been experiencing twinges of pain when I bend or straighten my knee in certain ways. Over the past few weeks, I haven't been logging very many miles. However, I have stepped up my speedwork. The pain may also be attributable to running in shoes that are close to retirement. This week I'm going to try wearing newer shoes and taking the running down a notch.
  • I'll be in the DC area over Memorial Day weekend. I was planning to run the MCRRC Memorial 4-Miler on Monday. It's a super low-key race. Registration (which is a mere $10) is available only on race-day starting an hour before the event. This is really convenient, especially because I am now considering skipping the race. I want to play it safe with my knee, plus the weekend's forecasted high temps will be in the upper 80s.
  • The weather was gorgeous for my 6-miler on Saturday morning. I originally planned to run 5, but decided to add an extra mile since I felt good. Then, I ended up having to push myself in that last mile, much more than expected. It is amazing how quickly things can change.
From a nonrunning perspective, here are a few noteworthy occurrences from the week:

Red Square
I had heard that Artemi Panarin likes a local restaurant called Red Square. This is a Russian and Turkish bathhouse/spa and restaurant/bar in Wicker Park that serves traditional Russian food. I'd been wanting to check it out for a really long time, and last week I finally crossed it off my list!
Top: The dining room is designed like a Ukrainian railcar,
and the "windows" show video footage of the Russian countryside.
Bottom Left: The most amazing cheese blintzes I've ever had,
served with sour cream and cherry sauce.
Bottom middle: Veal pelmeni
Bottom right: A "small" bowl of hot borscht
Not pictured: A giant platter of lox
The food and service were both fantastic. I am now inspired to find a blintz recipe and try making them at home. There were several menu items I eyed but ended up being too full to try, including the chebureki (deep-fried turnovers) and varenyky (dumplings). Also, I have heard much about the bathhouse/spa facilities, but didn't get a chance to check out those out, either. All things to keep in mind for next time!

Wedding bells are tolling
Many congratulations to Helanne and Ravee on their wedding this past weekend! What an amazing celebration. Great friends, great festivities, great music, and great food. So. Much. Food.

Here are a few action shots from the night:
The head table
First dance
Me with the beautiful bride
Sunday Funday
My mom's birthday is today! Yesterday, Adam and I went to visit my parents and do a birthday celebration. Happy, happy, happy birthday, Mom!

Last night, I met up with my friends Myhien and Jules for dinner. Myhien moved out to California several years ago and is in town for a few days on business.
From L to R: me, Myhien, and Jules
I hadn't seen Myhien in nearly two years, and I can't even remember the last time I saw Jules. It was awesome to catch up with these two fabulous ladies and to welcome Myhien back home (albeit temporarily)! Terrific way to close out the weekend.

Tell me about your week or weekend? Did anyone race? Do you have big plans for Memorial Day weekend?

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Currently looking forward to: My friend Helanne's wedding this weekend, along with a host of other celebrations coming up! The springtime is one of my favorite times of the year for all the graduations, weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries on the calendar.

Currently focused on: Trying to be more mindful of my eating. I've let loose over the last few weeks and allowed myself to go a little overboard on desserts, dining out, and portion size. Not surprisingly, the scale has crept up a couple of pounds. Time to get back on track.
Current travel plans in the works: Last week, Adam and I found a fantastic airfare deal to eastern Europe in September. We'll be going to Budapest and Vienna for sure, and are also considering Prague, Bratislava, Salzburg, and Ljubljana. (Shout out to Rob for all of his helpful thoughts during the planning phase!) There are so many great destinations in the vicinity, but not enough time!!!

As I've said many times before, these 1-2 week vacations are never enough. I want a minimum 6-month vacation!
On a related note, I am...

Currently waiting for: My Global Entry application to be reviewed. There have been a lot of recent reports about horrifically long TSA airport security lines. I can personally relate, as I nearly missed my last two flights out of Midway because I was stuck in line (sweating bullets). Talk about stressful situations and wasted time!

I submitted my application earlier this week and am hoping it gets processed quickly. Anna and Maureen both shared positive experiences with me, so I am optimistic.
Funny you should ask... =D
On another semi-related note, I am...

Currently bracing myself for: Renewing my driver's license, which expires in July. (Basically, it's all about governmental ID reviews for me these days.) I'm going to be one of the first to undergo the new Central Issuance process that Illinois just started phasing in. Fingers crossed for the new process implementation to be as painless as possible.

Currently snacking on: Baked chips with spinach and kale greek yogurt dip. I first learned of this dip from Xaarlin, who had some on hand from Trader Joe's at a gathering awhile back. Now I am hooked! I've seen a few copycat recipes floating around the internet which I want to try soon.
Currently considering: Buying racing flats. My company brought Fleet Feet reps in earlier this week to help folks get fitted for running shoes. During my appointment, I mentioned my current focus was speedwork for an upcoming 5K. I received three suggestions: the Nike Lunar Tempo, Adidas Adios Boost, and New Balance Zante.

Racing flats would be a luxury purchase for me. In general, I consider them something only super hard-core speed runners wear. I also tend to shy away from sprint-type races. But at the same time, it would be cool to try something new.
Currently getting inexplicably militant about: Unsubscribing from mailing lists that no longer interest me, and clicking "dismiss" on all the irrelevant advertisements/news articles that clog my social media feeds. (The raging Blackhawks fan in me has spent the last several weeks X-ing out every single mention of any rival teams. With great vindictiveness, I might add.)

My ad avoidance techniques probably make no difference since there are always more where those came from... but what the heck. Market segmentation be gone.
Currently wishing: Spring weather would make up its mind on whether to come or go. I find it hard to believe Memorial Day is next weekend because summertime feels really far away to me. For the first time in my life, I am not mentally prepared for summer. It's weird. Honestly, I'm not sure what seasonal state of mind I am in?

Currently thinking about: Signing up for more races purely because I want the race shirt/swag. I'm looking at the North Shore Classic Half Marathon, the Chicago Bears 5K, the Tiki Run, and the Bucktown 5K.
If anyone is up for doing any of these races, let me know!

Linking up with Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Weekly recap: May 9-15, 2016

Happy Monday, everyone! I am linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.
Here are my workouts from last week:
MONDAY - Power 45 class
TUESDAY - 15 minutes of lower body strength work, yoga class
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class, 3.5 miles of speedwork (10-minute warm-up, 8 intervals at 1:30-1:00 tempo/recovery ratio. Tempos done at 7.8-8.0 MPH, recoveries done at 3.5 MPH recovery. Cooldown 0.5 mile)
THURSDAY - 45-minute circuit training session, 10 minutes of lifting
FRIDAY - Yoga class
SATURDAY - Run 4.1 miles on the treadmill
SUNDAY - 35 minutes on the stationary bike, strength work on shoulders and back
Workout notes:
  • After so many weeks focused solely on running, yoga, Zumba, and weight-lifting, it felt good to mix up the routine with the Power 45 class and the circuit training. 
  • My current workhorse running shoes (Saucony Ride 7) are 40 miles away from retirement. I got new running shoes last week - the Saucony Ride 8 - and now I don't feel like wearing my old shoes anymore. 
  • Speedwork on Wednesday went well. Normally I do my recovery intervals at a slow run, but this day I elected to walk. It made a WORLD of difference - I felt a million times stronger. I talked to one of the fitness instructors about recovery interval strategy. He said the magic of speedwork occurs during the tempo intervals rather than the recovery, so there was nothing wrong with walking during recovery. I will definitely continue this practice going forward. It will keep me much more motivated to do speedwork on a regular basis!
  • Today I am going to try a HIIT Core class for the first time. I've heard this class is very challenging so please wish me luck. Afterwards, I very well may end up looking like this:
Here are some other nonworkout highlights from the week:

Go Cubs go... Go Cubs go... Hey Chicago, whadya say...
Last Tuesday, my team and I had the company's Wrigley Field suite tickets to watch the Cubs versus the Padres. I enjoyed the atmosphere very much. Cubs games are pretty much just one big party, no matter what. But since both the Cubs and the White Sox are playing so well right now, there's quite the increasingly palpable baseball buzz around the city!
Clockwise starting from upper right:
My awesome team and me in front of the Wrigley marquis; me from our seats
(sorry for the bad picture quality); our view of the game; and the dessert cart
Graduating and birthdaying!
On Saturday afternoon, Adam and I went to a graduation/birthday party for our friend, Jocelyn, hosted by our friend Rose. Congratulations and happy birthday, Jocelyn!!! It was a blast catching up with old and new friends, and there was enough food to feed an army.
Top: The crowd singing Happy Birthday to Jocelyn
Middle right: Adam, me, and Jocelyn
Bottom right: Cheryl and me
Bottom left: Me with Jocelyn and Annie
That's the Chicago way!
Saturday night, Adam and I went to see Chicago the Musical. It's very appropriate to see Chicago the Musical at a theater in Chicago, yes?
The show was entertaining and of course I left humming the melody to "All That Jazz." I got a kick out of all the local city references thrown in to the plot. I've never seen the movie, but Adam has and said the musical was a different interpretation. He thought Richard Gere played the role of Billy Flynn more dramatically than John O'Hurley. And for all you Seinfeld fans out there, Adam said he could still see the J. Peterman character in John O'Hurley. =D

Progressive Partying
Last night, our condo building's social committee organized a progressive dinner. A total of six units participated, and Adam and I hosted the salad course.

I had never heard of the progressive dinner concept until just a few weeks ago - but now I really wish I had known about it earlier. I had so much fun getting to know so many of our neighbors! Here are a few snapshots from the night:
The event format reminded me of living in the residence halls in college when we would go from room to room to hang out. It was a blast seeing everyone's beautiful homes and trying everyone's delicious culinary creations. The group was essentially a giant traveling party! It was an awesome way to close out the weekend.

How was your week/weekend?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Nobody asked me, but...

Credit to Bob Smizik, long-time columnist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for inspiring this format.

Nobody asked me, but...

...Since the Blackhawks season ended, I am appreciating not being stressed out of my mind these days. I always want them to win, of course. But if they weren't going to be champions this year, they might as well get some much-needed and well-deserved rest. The mental break has been good for me, too.
That aside...

...It's great to see how well the Penguins are playing. As I've said many times, the Pens are my second-favorite team behind the Blackhawks. If the Hawks can't win the Stanley Cup, I definitely want the Pens to win. I think it's always hard to watch a successor get crowned, but some successors can be easier to live with than others. In 2010, the Pens were probably thrilled when the Hawks were their Cup successor over Pittsburgh's rival Philadelphia. On the flip side, it would be really cool if the Pens could be the Hawks' Cup successor this year.
Wildlife photographer fail.
"Should I tell him I'm here?"
...I love this candid-looking photo with Artemi Panarin. What is it about black and white photos that always looks so artistic? On a humorous note, some folks joked that they couldn't tell which of the two people in the picture is older.
...Animal crackers are weirdly addictive. While I do love crunchy snacks, normally I prefer the salty variety to the sweet. But since animal crackers aren't overly sweet, they don't trigger my sugar overload flags the way things like chocolate chip cookies do. I wonder if animal cracker design labs realize this and play this up on purpose?
...Strength training works well in bits and pieces. Earlier this week, I had a yoga class but went to the gym 15 minutes early to knock out some lower-body lifting. It worked really well. 

This made me realize how strength work can be done effectively in short bursts. In my opinion, fitness activities like running or yoga require at least 20 minutes to be worthwhile. But with strength work, you can easily pick a muscle group, do 5 minutes of focused strength work, and move on.
I am going to experiment with trying to add 5-10 minutes of incremental strength work to my cardio/yoga days in the future. As many of us say, you can do anything for five minutes, right? Hopefully the little things will add up over time.

...The umbrellas are multiplying. There was a lot of rain in Chicago this week. Each day, I brought an umbrella with me from home for my walk to the office. Then, I'd forget to bring it home that evening. The next day, I would bring another one. This is on top of the fact that even when it's not raining, I've always kept an umbrella at the office just in case. The end result: A sizable umbrella collection at my office cube. My current count is four.
...Orange is the new black. Yesterday I saw a man wearing a very nice 3-piece black suit and tie. He was carrying a leather attache, and he had the Wall Street Journal tucked into one of the pockets. All in all, he looked like the perfectly polished businessman... save for the fact he was wearing neon-orange socks.
I find a lot of humor in the minute character details like this!

It reminded me of another similar incident from a few years ago because...

...Seriously, what is it with things that are orange in color? I once saw a nattily dressed businessman striding purposely down the street. I imagined he was on his way to leading a high-powered board meeting. He just oozed that kind of executive presence, you know? At the same time, he also had three orange parking tickets sticking out of his briefcase.
Parking tickets are a great accessory for adding a little pop of color to your outfit (business professional OR casual).
Hey, even the most executive of executives still need to find a place to park, yes?

...Races that offer free race photos automatically get ENORMOUS ratings boosts from me. Many thanks to RAM Racing for providing free Cinco de Miler race photos again this year! Here is my favorite of this year's action shots:
and finally...

...I want to up my race photo body spasm game. By my standards, my recent race photos have been on the tame side. I think it's time to start practicing some new body spasm poses (in private, of course). My new goal is to get a race photo posed like this:
Confession: I've never been able to gracefully click my heels in the air. Therefore, if anyone has suggestions on heel-clicking training plans, I would be most obliged!

Linking up with Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.