Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicago Marathon Spectating Report

As I'm not yet ready to take the plunge and run another marathon (first experience recap here), I'm having quite a fun time spectating this glorious event. I'm not new to spectating this event. As my cousin ran it a few years ago, I spotted her a few times along the way and had a blast cheering. In more recent years as I've become more involved in the local running community, I love going out to see my friends out there complete their goal(s)! (Report from spectating the 2012 event)

This year was no different! I headed to the expo on Friday and got the chance to meet Olympian Nick Symmonds. If you don't follow Nick on social media, you should. He's pretty active and always thankful to fans (he was the first one to "like" my pic on IG after I posted it). I got a signed copy of his new book and I'm excited to read it. He was someone who moved from the giant Nike train to Brooks. As an ambassador for Oiselle and seeing some of our own athletes move from more giant sponsors, I'm interested to read about Nick's perspective and experience. Thanks for the photo opp!
Patsy was mostly interested in some free samples

I also got the chance to meet fellow Mommy Blogger Danielle at the expo, who came in from Maine for the event!  Spoiler alert--she BQed! Go say hi and tell her congrats when you get a chance!

Don't mind the blurs. We were excited.

Now, onto the main event! I went downtown with Patsy, parked at our usual spot, and walked to my favorite spectating spot. Mile 17.
I wanted to have a special cheer zone for all of my fellow Oiselle teammates running the race. I wasn't extremely clear with the EXACT location so I think I ended up missing some folks. Now I know for next time! Cindi met me and we had a blast cheering on our teammates and friends. Kim also came all the way from Wisconsin with her husband and daughter to cheer on friends as well.

The Oiselle cheering crew at mile 17, cowbells included

One cowbell wasn't enough for Patsy. She needed more.

My favorite little spectator

Patsy was SUCH a trooper and loved having fun cheering on everyone! She was pooped afterwards and slept most of the afternoon. I missed the post-race party because it started much later than I thought and we were ready to head home.

Thanks for the inspiration runners! That Chicago Marathon medal is still something that I want to have some day. We'll see you again next year, on the sidelines, at mile 17!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Super Spartan Race Recap

Last year when I was pregnant with Patsy, I was contacted and asked if I was interested in free entry to the Spartan. Looking at the course and the intensity, I didn't feel it was the right race for me at the time, but I was interested in the future. Earlier this year I followed up with my contact and he offered free race entry to me and a friend. Meghan won the entry and this past weekend we tackled the Super Spartan together.

In my mind I had a great plan laid out of how to train for this race. I was going to do lots of burpees, lift weights, lots of trail workouts, and become a badass before race day. Well, life kind of happened and I didn't do nearly as many burpees as I probably should and holding and lifting Patsy was the only weight training that I did. I was thankful that Meghan’s training sounded similar to mine so we were heading into this thing in the same place.
Meghan and I, pre-race

Logistics for the race were pretty straight forward. Parking was easy to get to. A path to the start was clearly marked, despite the fact that we were climbing through the forest. We got to the race with plenty of time to spare and we were able to scope out the festival beforehand. Part of the course wound out and around back by the finish so we got to see some of the elites work through the obstacles. My friend Kate had a start time 2 hours earlier than us and we happen to catch her going through one of the obstacles. Glad I got to see her in action as she is quite the badass and finished the race in less than 2 hours. I kind of went into this with an “ignorance is bliss” mentality as I didn't want to scare myself by looking too much into some of these obstacles. Meghan had sent me some tips earlier in the week and that was about it. In retrospect, maybe this wasn't the best plan.

After stretching, buying some gear, checking our bags and getting hydrated, we headed to the start line. As some great foreshadowing, we had to climb a giant wall before even getting to the start. There were tons of people in tight quarters so it was interesting to say the least. I won’t go through each and every obstacle (as I definitely lost count early on), but some were harder than others and some were more terrifying than others. There were lots of walls to climb over, lots of waist-deep mud holes to wade through and lots of steep cliffs to walk down and walk up. Some of the obstacles appeared less challenging than they were. (I LOVED the monkey bars as a kid and was always awesome at it. Turns out if you don’t do the monkey bars for 20 years, you should expect to be less awesome at it.) What time Meghan and I lost on the obstacles, I feel like we made up for it on the run. Whenever there was a flat surface where you could run, we did.

Lots of barbed wire to climb over and mud to slosh through

The scariest obstacle for me--that view from the top on a cable as other people are shaking the net as they climb too

The only obstacle I flat-out skipped.

I will say that I’m proud of myself for trying all but one of the obstacles. I might not have been great at all of them and some took me longer than they probably should have, but I did my very best. And now I know what to expect for next time. Yes, you read that right. There is going to be a next time.

The course itself was beautiful with all of the leaves changing color, the spring water falling over pebbles and rocks, the flowers growing in pockets off of a steep cliff… The Spartan race is on the pricier side but I really do feel like you get what you pay for. There are a TON of volunteers to cheer, motivate, pour water, and police the different obstacles. Every inch of the course was VERY CLEARLY marked. I can’t emphasize this enough. We were going through winding trails in the middle of the forest and there was a clear pathway marked with Spartan plastic tape. It really did make things easier when you didn't have to think about where to go during the race.
These mamas are SPARTANS!

Another great thing I’ll say about the race is the sense of community that Meghan and I felt during the event. Some of the obstacles were hard but we had help. As one example, there was a rope ladder that we had to climb over. I went first and thought it was much scarier at the top than I thought it would be. Megan followed after me and shouted down from the top “What do I do next?” and I tried my best to explain but the guy next to her, also at the top, coached her on what to do. I cheered for her “Come on Meghan, you can do it!” Others heard her name and cheered for Meghan too. It was exhilarating to complete these obstacles by helping each other out. I never felt alone during the race and I never felt like there was something that I couldn't do. I know some people do this on their own, but I think this was much more fun with a partner. Thanks Meghan for signing up and sticking with me during the entire race!

In summary, if you’re looking for a race that will test your limits and challenge you in ways you haven’t been challenged before, I highly recommend the Spartan race. I’m very happy I did it and I plan to do it again! As I’m still hobbling around, sore and bruised, you’d think that I would be done with the Spartan. Buuuuuut the competitor in me would like another try to tackle this beast. Maybe not the Spartan Super though, perhaps the Spartan Sprint is more my speed. If you have any questions about the race itself, the logistics, or anything else, please let me know in the comments below. If there is interest, perhaps I can put together a "Do's and Don'ts" list for obstacle course racing and the Spartan specifically.

Thanks to the people at Spartan for offering me free race entry. Thanks to Oiselle for sending us t-shirts and sweatshirts to destroy during the race. Until next time...

Don't mind me as I enjoy a beer in my finisher tee

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fleet Feet Shakeout Run aka I Met Lauren Fleshman

As some of you may know, I have quite an admiration for Lauren Fleshman. We both run for Oiselle, and we became first time moms within a few months of each other. I was very jealous of my fellow Oiselle Ambassadors that they got to spend a week with her at bird camp earlier this summer. When Lauren announced that she would be coming to the wonderful city of Chicago for the Mag Mile Half Marathon, I just knew I had to meet her! As the race was on Sunday over Labor Day weekend, we had plans to go to Michigan. I adjusted our plans so we were able to meet up at Fleet Feet Chicago (South Loop) for a fun run/shakeout run along the lakefront path.

We got downtown on Saturday morning pretty easily and the South Loop store is in a really cute area. I brought Patsy and the jogging stroller with me and we were ready to go! Patsy made lots of friends while waiting for the run to start. I ran into Erica and some of the Oiselle Flock too.
Pre-run shot at the Fleet Feet South Loop store. Source

We headed out from the store to the lakefront path and did some stretching exercises and warm ups. Patsy decided that she didn't want to do the stretches and warm ups so I held her during most of them. (Eh, a moms gotta do what a moms gotta do.)
Can you spot me in the back with Patsy? Source

When it was time for the run to start, I started in the back and chose the 3 mile option. It was nice to see some new faces and the fasties on their way back.

Starting off in the back with another stroller mom. Source
Can you spot Erica?

After the run, on the walk back to the store, I spotted LF and took the time to say hi, introduce myself, and chat her up a bit. She recognized me and thought we had met before. I told her how I run for Oiselle and we were pregnant at the same time. I told her about that time I posted, with my big ole pregnant belly, in a "Lauren Fleshman is my Homeboy" shirt. She remembered that. Haha. We got the chance to talk about our babies, child birth and nursing, and other various topics. She is so down to earth and was amazingly easy to talk to. I'm so thankful that I got the chance to meet her and I hope we get to hang out again someday! Patsy slept for most of the run, which was awesome. She woke up right when we got back to the store, perfect timing to take some photos with LF!
Patsy and I with THE Lauren Fleshman!

Lauren then asked if she could hold Patsy. Obviously I said yes, she picked her up, and kissed her on the cheek. It was so cute and made me love LF even more (as if that were possible). I'm so glad that Patsy got the chance to meet such a wonderful and empowering female athlete (and someone who's poster is hanging up on her wall). I'm looking forward to following LF's career as a family in the years to come. :)

I had an absolute blast spending my Saturday morning in the city. It was totally worth delaying the trip to Michigan for the experience. I hope LF makes it back to Chicago again soon!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Country Choice Oatmeal Review

As a breastfeeding mom and runner, I eat a lot of oatmeal. It has been proven that oatmeal can help aid in milk production. I've gotten into the habit of eating it every single morning for breakfast, during the week before I leave for work or before I leave for the long run. When the folks at Country Choice reached out to offer me some samples of oatmeal, I couldn't help but say YES! When I'm making oatmeal, I usually go with the regular old fashioned oats and add my own stuff.

All The Oatmealz!
However when I was sent lots of options from Country Choice, I figured I would give the instant steel cut oats packets a try. Apple spice and maple were the two flavors and they are both delicious! I really like that steel cut oats are a nice break from my usual old fashioned oats. They cook up great in the microwave but make sure you follow the instructions and use a deep bowl. (Speaking from experience, this can lead to a messy microwave...)

Perfect for pre-race fuel or breakfast while breastfeeding. 

I had never heard of this brand before but I definitely enjoyed my free samples! The next time I see them in the store, I will definitely make a purchase. 

Full Disclosure: I was sent these packages of oatmeal for free but I was not compensated in any other way for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Zooma Half Marathon Race Recap

So this recap is coming a bit later than I usually would have written something up, but work has been crazy, I've been planning Patsy's first birthday party and I've been trying to enjoy the last few days of summer as well. Wow.

The plan for this race was to survive. I did a few 8 and 9 mile runs beforehand so I thought I had this thing in the bag. Boy was I wrong (<--foreshadowing). I think I forgot how hard half marathons can be, and I went into this cockier than I should have been.

I headed to the city the night before for packet pickup and a mocktail party. Packet pickup was easy and the drinks were delicious. The mocktail party, however, coincided with dinner time. I enjoyed my evening hanging out with the other ambassadors, but by the time I got home, it was 9pm and I hadn't eaten anything since lunch. That isn't really conducive to great pre-race nutrition.
Enjoying a mocktail with Patsy at packet pickup

The morning of the race, I decided not to take the shuttle. They said there wouldn't be parking at the start but I found a spot. The race started south of the city so I didn't want to drive past the start, to get to the loop, then to take a shuttle back south, etc. etc. I found parking about a mile from the start but it made for a great pre- and post-race walk.

Before the race with fellow Zooma ambassadors!
Meghan and I had planned to run the race together so we started off by the 2:20 pacers, hoping that we would finish before then. Something that I don’t think I was very prepared for was the course. It was out for 3 miles, back for 3 miles, out for 3 more miles, back for 3 miles. We started off the race with a solid 10:30 pace and we were feeling good. We ran with Amanda W for most of the beginning of the race. We also ran into Amanda C (adorable mother-to-be runner) and Emily while out there too. The first few miles were solid and I had confidence that things were going to go well. That is, until, we reached the halfway point and the end of the 10k. The crowd began to thin, the sun warmed up, and we were heading out for the 2nd and more challenging half of the race. I asked for a quick walk break to recharge and then we started on the 2nd half.

Something that I don’t think I was prepared for was how the course required us to still be going out at the 8 and 9 mile markers. Mentally, that really did me in. Any miles beyond that were a real struggle. I’m so thankful that Meghan was there to offer some words of wisdom and motivation. The sun got to be too much and I lost the singlet at around mile 9. That was a freeing moment where I felt a second wind coming. That didn't last long as I was hit with a wave of nausea around mile 10. By this point I felt that I hadn't fueled properly. I had only had water and Picky Bars during the race and I needed something with salt. Water just wasn't quenching my thirst the way I needed it to. At around mile 11, I took some Cytomax for the first time during the race and it seemed to work out well. But by this point, the race was just about over. When we hit the last mile, I still felt like I was dying. Meghan pushed me to run to the end and finish strong.

I crossed the finish line with my hands in the air, extremely humbled. Our official chip time was 2:22:43. My body was beat up and done. I now realize that I was probably a little undertrained for the half marathon, so I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. Getting back on the running saddle after having Patsy has definitely been an interesting ride. Now I know what I need to work on for next time!

Hanging out with fellow Oiselle runner from the Flock, Mary

I had a fun time being an ambassador for the Zooma race. I got to meet some more great local Chicago bloggers and hang out with old friends too. As far as the race goes itself, I enjoyed the course for the most part, but I think it would have been better to just have an out-and-back course as opposed to the out and back, out and back. Mentally, that was quite challenging, especially with the 10k runners disappearing at the halfway point. The wine after the race was delicious and I like that they still had a wide selection, even after we stumbled in as late as we did. Depending on how next year goes, I just might sign up to be an ambassador again!

Next on the race calendar is Spartan. What have I gotten myself into??