Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

As I've mentioned before, I am knee-deep in my studies right now. This next month I'm not going to be making as many updates so I've asked for the help of some fellow bloggers both in Chicago and from Team Oiselle to help out with some guest posts that will be coming up in the next few weeks. Special thanks to all of you that are helping me out during this crazy time!

In the spirit of today, Pepper wanted to share her excitement of all the Beggin Strips she hopes to get today!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Thoughts on Doping

There has been a lot of chatter over recent days/weeks/months with some athletes coming forward about doping and other scandals being released.

  • Women's shot put gold medalist stripped of her title days after receiving it (Source).
  • Lance Armstrong has been pinpointed in one of the largest doping rings in history (at least, that has been discovered). This included names of several other cyclists who have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs.
  • Christian Hesch confessed to using EPO (performance enhancing drug) to compete and win road races for cash throughout the globe.
The Boring Runner recently put a post together asking if you would use it and under what situation. This question and post got me pretty fired up. Maybe it is the way I was raised, or maybe it is my need to always follow the rules... But I really don't see why someone would ever, under any circumstances, use a performance enhancing drug. I know there are various types of drugs that do different things, but I think it is shameful and deceiving.

In the case of Christian Hesch, he admitted to using and the whole thing seemed very cash-motivated. He did a lot of road races, won a lot of money, and even screwed over a friend in publishing his confession to make sure he earned more money. Our society is driven by greed in many ways and I believe Christian Hesch did what he thought was necessary to win the cash that he wanted. I'm sure as he continued to get away with it, it became easier. (You can read Christian's New York Times article confession here and an article about his friend's perspective here.) I though this interview on The Trailer was really interesting, hearing things directly from Hesch, live and unedited. This whole Christian Hesch thing is like a train wreck. I'm so disappointed with the situation, but I just have to read all the articles and listen to all the interviews. He says that he acted alone, but it just seems more logical that he would have others with him. In my opinion, it is much easier to do something you know is wrong, if someone else is also doing it.

As you probably have figured out, I really love running. During the Olympics, it became evident that not many others around me love running or take it seriously. They just assume people are doping and that is why they are fast (this was actually brought up a couple times in conversation). I feel incidents like this taint the purity of the sport. I know in previous years there have been several doping incidents in the sport of Track and Field. I know there are strict doping tests but some athletes continue to get away with it and I'm not quite sure how (if you can find an article describing this, it would be helpful). I mean, some of those that won medals were previously suspended for doping. Is it like prison where you serve your time and come out and get to come back? Should there be more severe consequences for any kind of doping to help "clean up" the sport (kind of like a zero tolerance policy).

But then again, I feel the lines that constitute doping are not always black and white. Or are they and I'm misled by the circus of the Lance Armstrong investigations? Is the world of performance-enhancing drugs constantly changing with different technology available?

This is a topic that really intrigues me, and I'm interested to hear what you have to say. Do you think that the lines for doping are black and white? If not, please explain. What do you think the image of Track and Field--is it tainted by doping? If you have any suggested articles or books on this topic, I'm interested to know more.

Sorry for the text-only post folks, but I don't want to use any images due to copyrights.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chicago 50/50 Spectating & Ghost Runner Report

As some of you may know, I've completed 1 marathon in my lifetime. It is a difficult distance, no matter who you are and how long it takes you to complete it. When some of my friends decided they wanted to run a 50k, the thought of that distance is unbelievable to me. I didn't get the chance to see my friend Kate during the marathon, so I thought I would help support her during this beast of a distance. The Chicago 50/50 was a looped course (10 mile loop to be completed 3 times for the 50k) so I could stay in one spot and see them go by a few times. I packed up my general store and headed downtown.
sleepy eyes, ready to go!

When I arrived, I had just missed the start and the temperature were freezing. (But perfect for running 50k.) I headed to the start line anyways to investigate and figure out my strategy. I was having trouble converting their estimated pace and placement on the course to a time frame, so I just waited at the start for awhile because I didn't want to miss them! When I saw the bright yellow FNRC shirts, I was jumping up and down, knowing it was them. I took some quick photos before hopping in with them.
They looked great and were feeling great after loop 1. I ran with them a little bit, got some more pics and tried to exert some of this energy everyone always says I have. :)

Self portrait on the way back to the start.

After arriving back, I waited in my car and tried to stay warm. There were plenty of port a potties at the start (that were replenished with TP) so that was helpful. I did a quick post to the running group to give everyone an update before heading back out.

When arriving at loop 3, some of the smiles and energy had faded. They had over 20 miles under their belts and they were starting to feel it. I tried to be positive without being too energetic as I headed out with them (into the headwind) of the last loop. I ran with them until the next aid station where I waited for them to come back before running back with them. The excitement was gone and the pace was speeding up. The feeling of just wanting to be done was in the air. They all finished with smiles on their faces and talk of this whole 50k thing being a "one and one" type of thing. I was happy to have gotten the chance to share in such a monumental event for these runners!
FN Done

The Chicago 50/50 has been going on since 2000. It is obvious that they know what they're doing as the race is pretty well-organized. As the course is looped, there are officials keeping track of everyone's loops as there isn't a timing pad. The aid stations were well stocked with water, Gatorade, and lots of real food (cookies, chips, pretzels, pickles, bananas). Kind of says something about the impact of real food versus the chemicals in the synthetic stuff. (This next training cycle, I plan on giving more real foods a try to help give me energy and settle my stomach.) The only spectators on the course were those folks at the aid stations and fellow runners. There is definitely a huge sense of camaraderie among the ultra distance, and everyone is so cheery, respectful, and friendly towards other runners. It isn't serious and all about the pace, and every person for themselves... it is about completing something that not that many people would attempt to do. I would say that I would run this race, but I don't plan on ever tackling an ultra. I'm happy with the marathon distance and don't have the desire to go beyond... :)

Congrats to my friends that completed their first ultra!

Have you ever completed an ultra distance? Do you know folks that have? Have you ever been to spectate an ultra race? Did you have the same sense about the race?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pace Calculator and Thunderstorms

The Macmillan pace calculator is a funny thing. Have you ever used it before? I know it isn't an exact science but it sure is a nice guide. Based on my 5k PR (22:53), it says I'm capable of a 1:45 half marathon. Considering that is what I was working towards earlier this year, it is nice to know that a computer program has my back, in addition to all of my friends and coach. The calculator also gives projected paces for long runs, mid-week runs, and tempo runs. If you aren't sure what your tempo pace should be, this site is a great guide/start.

I think it is interesting that I ran a better time at Zooma than I did at the Rock N Roll half that I worked my tail off for. It is funny how detrimental heat and self destruction can be. Running a 2:02 at Zooma while having a fun, easy going, and conversational race really gave me the mental boost that I didn't know I was looking for. I haven't been training as hard because of my exam, and I just went out there to run a fun race. (Fun is relative here because no one was having fun on that giant hill.) I worked hard for a 1:45 and I feel like now that goal is achievable. My next goal race is the F^3 Half Marathon and I'm really looking forward to it. I think that I'll be able to PR without a doubt and hopefully get something in the 1:4X range. I just know I can do it. :)

Have you run a race where things turned out better than you expected?

Last night we canceled our Thursday night group run for the first time ever. The weather conditions were actually dangerous with lightening and high winds, so we decided it wasn't smart to be out there. Despite the weather conditions, we still had 6 people (including me) come for the run, hoping things would clear up by the time they got there. I think that is pretty outstanding and shows the dedication of the runners in our group. Rain or shine we will be out there! With the desire to still get our sweat on, I headed to the gym with Amanda and Genevieve. We were able to get adjoining treadmills and had fun running and then doing some planks together.
Don't be jealous of my photography skills...

I really love this running group. Do you usually run in the rain or hit the gym?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Coffee Assessments

I need to talk to all of you about an important topic--my opinion of pumpkin flavored things! Fall is my favorite time of year for many reasons: cooler temps, beautiful scenery, Thanksgiving food, so many amazing races, aaaaand pumpkin flavored everything. Is it just me or does the marketplace seem flooded with all things pumpkin? I'm not complaining by any means, this is simply an observation.

Coffee is something I just can't get through my day without. Pumpkin coffee is something I have to have all the time during the fall (and even into winter). No negotiation. Here are my thoughts on the pumpkin coffees that I've tried.

1) Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte:
By far the most famous fall drink, it is available in September through the winter. When I first started to like coffee, these were a must. When I had a Starbucks in my old office building, these were a special treat. I don't know if they've changed their recipe in recent years, but either way, it just doesn't do it for me anymore. They are expensive (over $4 for a small) and not really worth it, in my opinion.

2) Dunkin Donuts pumpkin flavored coffee:
I only discovered that this existed last year and that is when the elusive PSL at Starbucks began to loose it's luster. The Pumpkin flavored coffee is much milder while still having that delicious pumpkin flavor. I think it even has more "spice" to it than normal brews, something that gives it a little extra "umph" so to speak. You can add sugar and/or milk yourself, according to how you like your normal coffee. The price is much more in my range (coupons are always available and the small is about $1.25). Also, there are Dunkin Donuts pretty much everywhere (except in Seattle, I think).

3) Caribou Coffee Pumpkin Latte
For experiment purposes, I decided I absolutely needed to pick up a Caribou Coffee pumpkin latte on my way to work today. Traditionally, I'm a fan of Caribou over Starbucks because of Caribou's plethora of dark chocolate options compared to Starbucks. (Plus, I think Starbucks can be much more hype and brand recognition than actually delicious products. But that might just be me.) It definitely had the strong coffee/latte  flavor, but I still enjoyed it. However, for the price tag of over $4 for a small, this isn't a treat that I will be getting all that often.

4) Green Mountain K cups, Pumpkin Flavor
I discovered this gem last year when I had a 30% off Kohl's coupon (yes, Kohl's sells K cups). I can never pass up something pumpkin flavored so I had to give it a try. As far as K cups goes, it was (and still is) delicious! It is similar to DD with the more mild coffee flavor while still giving you the needed caffeine that comes with coffee. They also sell these at Target (where you can find a great deal using coupons and your 5% off Target card), and I imagine other large grocery store chains as well.

5) Pumpkin flavored coffee creamer
Since these coffee creamers are heavily sweetened it can sometimes be easy to overdue it, especially if you're pouring it out of a bottle versus opening one of those mini cups at the gas station. For every day at the office, this is basically how I get through the fall with money still in my wallet. Free coffee at the office + on-sale-with-coupon coffee creamer = a delicious and satisfactory combination. I haven't found the differences between brands to vary the taste. They are sweet and they taste like pumpkin. Is there anything else we need? I didn't think so.

Have you tried any/all of these options? What is your favorite fall beverage? If you don't Instagram your coffee purchase, did it even happen?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rowing 101

As I have mentioned a few times before, we have a rowing machine in our basement. My husband's aunt and uncle were going to get rid of it and asked if we wanted it. We agreed and I've enjoyed it ever since. I really love it for cross training as it keeps the impact on the knees and feet low as you're working out your arms and back. I think it helps with toning in general, especially if you don't always have time to lift weights. Now that rowing is part of some cross fit workouts, it is definitely getting more press and most gyms have a few machines. I highly recommend checking it out, if you haven't already. Our glamorous rowing machine is pictured below. It has seen better days, but it gets the job done.

I have been using it for the past year, not really thinking much about form and just trying to mimic the form of those on Biggest Loser. However, it never once occurred to me to look up correct rowing form on YouTube until Monday.

Turns out, I've been doing it wrong this whole time. Oops! I guess that's what happens when you guess on something instead of looking it up. Since watching an intro video, I feel like a pro when I use the terminology (that they explain in the video). "Those last few drives were tough." etc. Lol

What is your favorite type of cross training? I usually get bored so I have to switch it up. How many days a week do you cross train? I try to do it once a week, but sometimes I'll fall off the bandwagon for a few weeks...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Zooma Half Marathon Race Recap

Over the weekend, I drove up to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with some fellow Chicago area running bloggers for a weekend full of fun, games, food, and running (of course). The drive up on Friday took longer than expected but we were able to make it to the expo on time (after briefly stopping at the rental abode).
En route with Maggie (left) and Kelly (middle)
The expo had some vendors but nothing major (I think I'm spoiled with the expos in Chicago).

After picking up our messenger bag packets, we headed to a different conference room and caught the end of a presentation on Trek Bikes. To be honest, since I don't own a bike and don't have much interest on picking up cycling, I was more interested in the food selection available for snacking.

After the presentation (and snagging some free Sock Guy socks that I'm excited to try), we headed back to our house to start prepping dinner. We wanted to keep it simple so we cooked up some runaroni pasta and took some horrible food photos. (More to come on that later.)

Back L to R: Maggie, Bobbi, Kelly, Sierra, Emily, Jenny (?), Kayla
Middle L to R: Amy, me, Jackie, Marcia, Katie
Front: Kim, Kayla, Erin

Race day morning, we snapped a quick group shot before heading to the finish line where there were shuttles to take us to the start. (The race was point-to-point.) I feel this was pretty efficient way to start the race. Sara Hall gave some words of encouragement before we were on our way. I even ran into Jess who was running the Half Marathon as a training run for her marathon later this year. Erin and I started the race together with the 2:10 pace group. After a few miles and some ridiculous hills, we knew we were in for an interesting race. We got the chance to run along the lake and it was absolutely beautiful. It was hard to keep your eyes on the road with such beautiful scenery.
Thanks for letting me steal your photo, Amy

As we continued on, we would periodically pick up the pace, walk a few steps through the water stops and continue on our way. At the half way point, I turned to Erin and asked "I wonder if the best or the worst is behind us?" The hills seemed never-ending, but we tackled each one without walking and I felt great throughout the race. And then, we reached about the 10 mile marker and we saw the finish line party. We just had a 5k left and we made a right turn for the only "out and back" part of the course. Well, little did we know that this would by far be the worst part of the race. The elevation map gives you some detail, but the hill we had to climb up was steep and it Just. Kept. Going...

You thought it was over and then PSYCHEEEEE... there was more! It was an evil, evil trick to have at the end of the race! When the turnaround point came, all I could think about was going down the giant hill (where I was nervous I would fall as gravity kept me moving pretty quick). There were a few more teaser uphills as we made our way down, but we knew the worst was behind us. I shouted to Erin that we could make it under 2:05! She said that she'll meet me at the finish line as I sprinted off. I heard the cheers of some of my fellow blogger friends as I zoomed to the finish line as fast as I could go.

I happily finished in 2:02:34. They even announced my name as I was crossing the finish line! I knew I wouldn't PR during this race given the amount of speedwork completed (not much) and my fitness level hasn't been what I'd like given my study schedule... but I'm still REALLY happy with this time. I still had plenty of gas in the tank at the end and this was one hell of a hilly course. I just know I have a 1:4x time in these legs... I'm looking forward to getting there in January! :)

After I finished, I HAD to get a photo with Sara Hall. She was so sweet and nice and she even responded to my tweet (that makes me famous now, right??) Sara's mom crossed the finish line soon after this photo was taken. :)

Overall, here are some of my pros and cons about this race
Beautiful scenery course
Well-stocked aid stations (complete with adorable little girl scouts, happily helping out)
Enjoyed the out and back portion, just wish it wasn't on a ginormous hill

Post-race food (I think it was a good idea poorly executed. The wraps were soggy and I just kind of wanted some pretzels and a bagel.)
Course was on the side of the road, seemed dangerous as cars were still driving by
Seeing the finish line and then having to do the most challenging part of the course

I think my pros and cons mirror some of the other folks' thoughts as well. I'm not yet sure how I feel about the necklace versus medal. I like the thought of being able to wear my race bling any day of the week, but I also kind of wish I would have gotten a medal.

Overall, I had a ton of fun at this race, but I think it was mainly due to the great company. If there wasn't a group of some of my favorite people from the internet to hang out with, I'm not sure if I would have had as much fun.
Who wouldn't want to hang out with these gals in a house for an entire weekend??

Will I do Zooma in 2013? TBD. Will I run another race with these fab ladies? Absolutely!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Zooma Par-Tay

So today is another day where I am a bad blogger. I studied all day and Maggie will be arriving to my house any minute. We are then loading up my car, picking up Kelly, and heading to the Chicago Runner Blogger Party House in Lake Geneva, WI where we will all be running the Zooma Women's Half Marathon this weekend! Tons of Chicago Running Bloggers along with Run with Jess and Skinny Runner will be there too.

To follow along with our antics, check out #CRBZOOMA on Twitter. :)

Happy Friday and Happy Fall Racing this weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Crockpot Chik'n Enchilada Soup

Yesterday was a cold and rainy fall day in Chicago. On my way to the train station as I was cold and wet, I was happy to know that I was coming home to a hearty crock pot meal. This is only the 2nd time I've ever used the crock pot and I'm loving it so much. My cousin had made this recipe for chicken enchilada soup so I decided to give it a try. Of course, I had to make some modifications based on what we had on hand, as well as making it vegetarian (and vegan) friendly.

Here is what the recipe calls for, with my modifications listed as well...

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup chicken broth (used vegetable broth instead)
2 cups milk (used almond milk instead)
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained (used reduced sodium)
1 can (14.5 ounce) Rotel diced tomatoes and jalapenos (used 10oz can instead)
1 package (10 ounce) frozen corn (used 1 can of corn instead because that is what I had)
½ cup onion, chopped (we hate onions so I left this out, probably could have quartered an onion for flavor and taken out the big chunks before serving)
½ cup bell pepper, diced (didn't have any of these on-hand so omitted)
1 can (10 ounce) Enchilada sauce
2 whole chicken breasts (used 2 fake meat chicken breasts from Garedin)
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (optional)

I did everything else according to the instructions. I prepped the dish the night before and popped it in the crockpot the next morning. I left it on the "low" setting all day. To serve, I added some shredded cheese, sour cream, and crunched up tortilla chips on top of the bowl.
Photo taken before almost forgetting to add the tortilla chips

The sour cream helped cool off the dish and made it extra delicious. (If you're looking to make this vegan, you could use margarine instead of butter, fake/soy shredded cheese or just omit, and Tofutti Sour Cream.) I was nervous about using the almond milk but it tasted just fine (and didn't require an extra trip to the grocery store). I have the leftovers for lunch today and I'm looking forward to when I can eat this again! I'd say this recipe made about 4 servings so it was perfect for me and my husband.

Please let me know if you try this recipe. Do you have any crock pot vegetarian favorites? I'm always looking for easy recipes to add to my rotation!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Running on the Lakefront and Procrastipacking

When I heard fellow Oiselle ambassador and blogger Lisa at Yo Momma Runs was coming to Chicago for a few days, we decided to plan a run together! Since she had never been to the city before, I knew we had to do it up right and made plans to head to the lakefront path. (Those of you unfamiliar with the path can check out some great photos on these blogs here and here.) Due to my short "lunch break" time frame, I jogged to Lisa's hotel and we headed to the lakefront from there without much haste. (I wanted to get the most out of the run.) It was so nice chatting about life and some of the differences between the south and Chicago. Once on the path, it was not at all crowded so we really got to experience the view of the lake and the city in some of the best ways possible. She's thinking about doing the Illinois Marathon (which I helped Amanda run earlier this year) so I gave her some ideas about the course, etc.

When setting up the self timer on my phone, we realized we had on the same capris... I guess that is what happens when you run for the same great brand! :) On the way back, my navigating skills were not as great as the way out so thankfully Lisa had remembered a short cut from her explorations earlier in the day. (You can check out some of her explorations here.)

I know I've said it before but I'm really lucky to be an ambassador of such a great organization and I get the chance to meet other runners and bloggers from across the United States!

Speaking of other bloggers around the United States, a ton of us from the Illinois/Wisconsin area will be running the Zoom Women's Half Marathon (and 5k) this weekend. I'm really excited to spend a whole weekend talking about running with some of my favorite internet pals IRL! So excited, in fact, that I was (procrastinating) packing on Monday night... I had to make sure I laid out all possible outfit ideas for all possible weather conditions.
You never know how it could be on race day morning, especially if you're racing away from home! Thankfully I've already packed most of the things on my checklist! :)

Have you done a destination race? Do you tend to overpack (like I already know I'm doing)?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Delicious Pizza and a Hilly Cutback Week

Over the weekend I went to visit my grandparents with my husband. They live in a pretty rural area almost 2 hours away, so we don't get to see them as much as we probably should. It was shocking when we found a weekend with no obligations (even the Bears were on a Bye week), and we had to take advantage. We arrived Saturday morning and visited some antique stores in town. My Fiestaware collection grew slightly as we found a good deal on some mismatched pieces. (The best thing about Fiestaware is that it doesn't have to match.) While out shopping, we worked up an appetite and made a pit stop for a pumpkin pie blizzard at Dairy Queen.
Yes, that is a size medium.

If you live around the Peoria-ish area, you need to stop in Princeton, IL and the amazing pizza shop we discovered over 10 years ago: Pizza Cellar. It is some of the best pizza I've ever had. (And this is coming from someone that lived in the city of Chicago for 7 years.) My husband and I were really adventurous with our choice. PLAIN CHEESE! I say, you don't mess with the original. If a place can't figure out how to make good cheese pizza, they're not a good pizza place.

No such thing as too many slices

My grandparents have lived on the same lake for about 12 years. Despite running parts of it here and there, I've never made it the whole way around (roughly 5.5 miles) until Sunday morning. I knew it would be hilly so I packed my ProCompression socks and I was glad I did. When I started out, the first mile seemed to go on forever. I'm not quite sure why but the next few went by fairly quickly. I stopped to take a few photos of the gorgeous fall scenery but the photos just don't do it justice...

I even met a few "deer" friends along the way (pun intended). It was a great 6 mile run, but not without a little bit of a challenge. I knew that there would be hills, but I didn't quite know how many hills.

That elevation map is no joke! I like that you can tell my speed slowed when going up hill. It was a really fun way to enjoy the weather and fall scenery at a place I've been a million times before, but seen through a different perspective. I thought the hills would be good training for my next race, the Zooma Great Lakes Half Marathon this weekend! I'm looking forward to having fun with this race and completing it with some of my Chicago Running Blogger friends. If you're in the area running the race or cheering, look for us in our green compression socks! :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Code Name: Fraidy Cat

On my way home from my grandparents' house, Kim called me and asked if I wanted to meet up with her and a few other bloggers (Erin and Sara) for a little haunted experience. We were going to go on a hayride to shoot some zombies with paint ball guns and explore a corn maize. (Get it? Maize?) I got home from my grandparents house and hit the books so I could have a fun evening out. I missed dinner but met everyone at the park. On my way out the door, I didn't have time for a full meal so I grabbed a Picky Bar to hold me over.

(I've struggled with fuel in the past so I'm trying out some different types of fuel on this next training cycle. I will let you know how it goes.)

Upon arriving, I met up with the girls and their respective significant others before heading towards the zombie hayride. Walking into the hayride tunnel, I heard some screams and immediately regretted my decision to come. I'm pretty much the biggest baby when it comes to most things scary. Turns out the screams were just from some guy trying to scare his girlfriend. I was a little jumpy. How am I going to get through a whole hayride if I can't even get through the tunnel?

Once on the hayride, I saw that there was an industrial sized grate keeping us in, and the guns were securely stationed on the side of the grate. We were given military-style instructions while some "hard rock" music played in the background. After a few practice areas, we were off. Some of the "zombies" were definitely more zealous about their current profession than others. It was fun being with a group as various members offered snarky remarks, and I had more than one back to hide behind when I got scared (which was often). I fully admit to not really committing to the gun and leaning back, daintily pressing the trigger for most shots.
Thanks for the photo Kim! (Photo editing done in Pic Monkey)

If these were zombies from the Walking Dead, we would have totally been overrun based on the amount of noise we were making. (Giant generator, tractor with trailer, screaming drill sergeant) After the hay ride, we headed to the corn maize (which I was assured wasn't haunted). Various spouses led the way while us ladies talked about running, marathons, coaches, and everything in between. (Running bloggers talking about running? What?)

Getting close to the end of the maze, a guy in a mask and an employee sweatshirt walked up to us, staring and making weird grunts/noises. He surveyed the group, looking for a weak link as I was trying to sheepishly hide behind whoever was close by me. I chose Kim and that was a mistake. When he went up to Kim she told him "Don't get me, get her!" He then tried to come towards me as I screamed and started running as fast as I could the opposite way, except I got tangled up in a corn stalk and just about ran Erin over.

It was not one of my proudest moments, but I was absolutely terrified. Then the guy started to walk towards me again, so I ran the other way. He just kept following me as he knew I was the weakest link and was the most scared. Kim felt really bad afterwards as I don't think she was expecting me to be as afraid as I was! Lol! When he finally went away, we were at the end of the maize. Upon exiting, one of the employees asked us how it was. We said we had fun and mentioned that there was an escaped zombie! She said that there shouldn't  have been any zombies in the maze and asked for a full description of the guy that we saw. Apparently it was supposed to be a "family friendly" maze so this guy was in trouble (and he was apparently not an employee). Either way, it led to a fun story and I had a fun time with my friends and their spouses!

Are you someone that likes haunted things around Halloween? Haunted houses, haunted hayrides, creepy cemetery tours... (If you haven't guessed, I am not a fan.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lunchtime Run and Unnecessary New Shoes

After my super running weekend, I rested on Monday but decided to go for some miles during my lunch break on Tuesday. My evenings are filled with studies so I don't really have time for much in the evenings.
I took this quick photo along the Chicago River before heading back to the office. My pace was a bit quick, but I'm enjoying the chance to go a little quicker now that the weather is nicer! It seems so much easier! :) I said it before and I'll say it again. I am LOVING these fall temperatures!! :)

This weekend my husband and I are going to visit my grandparents where we don't get good cell phone reception. It should be a fun weekend and I hope to get in some good studying time! The lake that they live on is really hilly 5 mile loop. I'm hoping to go around it once in preparation for the Zooma Great Lakes half marathon that I'll be running next weekend!

As you may know, I'm a huge fan of Asics and have been for years. The Kayano brand has gotten me through a full marathon training cycle without pain.
GR Marathon, 10/2011, Kayano 17s

I recently purchased a pair of Brooks Adrenaline and I have really liked running in them. However, when I switch back to my old Asics, it just feels like the glass slipper. I was looking on Twitter yesterday and saw an article that a new version of the Kayano is to be released in November. I am super excited to test them out, even though I'm not really in the market for a new pair of shoes. When the day comes for me to run another marathon, I just wouldn't trust any other shoe.

Do you have shoe loyalty as well? Have you ever gotten really excited about a new shoe version coming out?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meeting an Olympian

Although I didn't run the Chicago Marathon this year, I headed to the expo anyways. Why? For the free stuff aaand.... The chance to meet Desi Davila!!! You may remember that I am a bit of an Olympics nerd. When Maggie mentioned that her contact at Brooks was able to set up a meet and greet for some of her Chicago Blogger friends, I cleared my schedule and made arrangements to be there.

When Desi first walked up to our group, all of our faces all lit up with excitement. I mean, we were meeting one of the most famous women in current American distance running! It was really hard not to geek out too much when talking to her.
L to R: Amanda, Sara, Jeni, DESI!!, Maggie, me

I read the Runners World article about her so I felt like I already knew her! I did get some one-on-one chat time where I asked her what kinds of things she has been doing since London (water running? elliptical? etc.) She said that she has been completely resting and not putting any pressure on her leg. Complete rest! Sometimes, that is what our bodies need despite what we want to do. She only just got cleared to ride a bike a few weeks ago and she explained how great it felt to just sweat. While we were chatting, lots of people were taking walk-by photos of her and it was a little strange (I am for sure in the background of a few). If she had the chance, she would ask them if they wanted to be in the photo too. You can just tell that she is a genuinely sweet and down to earth person who just happens to have this amazing athletic ability and complete focus and drive to get stuff done. And she is so tiny! It was really great meeting her so thanks to Maggie and Brooks for helping set this up!

After meeting Desi for a little bit, we got our gait analyzed to find out what pair of shoes would best fit our running style. Turns out the Brooks Adrenaline are a good fit for me. Next, we went for a fun run along the lake with some of the Brooks ambassadors. It was such a beautiful fall day and the view was wonderful!

When we were back at the expo, we ran into Nicole Fritz and snapped a quick pic!

All of the Brooks people were so surprised that we all knew each other and that we kept running into people that we knew. All I have to say is that the running community in Chicago is small and big all at the same time!

Have you ever met an Olympian? Was it hard to keep from geeking out? I know it was for me!!! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Old Plank Trail 5k Race Recap

A little while ago I signed up for a local 5k the day before the marathon. I was taking my time while eating my breakfast and took this great photo:

When I showed up to pick up my packet, in downtown Frankfort, most of the people walking around were wearing the race shirts (and quite a few folks had their bib numbers on the back). The area where everyone was congregating was close to nice public bathrooms and a grassy area with plenty of space to stretch (including a decent amount of parking).

Due to the date in proximity of the marathon (and the fact that there was another 5k in the next town over at the same time), I thought I could escape with an age group award. As I haven't had the time to focus on speed work as much, I wasn't aiming for a PR. Instead, I was aiming to start slower and have my last mile be my fastest. This race was gun timed so I settled in close to the start line. (For a start line photo, checkout #22 on this photo stream. Don't want to post due to possible copyright issues.)

Of course, my Garmin went back to the home screen by the time the gun went off, so I started it a few seconds afterwards. The first mile I tried not to go out too quick as people were blazing by. My Garmin beeped at a pace of 7:30 for mile 1. I felt good and thought this was going well.

I tried to pick it up a bit for the second mile and passed some folks ahead of me. I know the trail we were on pretty well (it is the same trail we run on every Thursday) and there is a big bridge/hill along the way. Before reaching the 2 mile marker, the course shifted and I saw were were going to head up and down the big hill. Since this part of the course was "out and back," I was mentally preparing to do it again as soon as it was over. Mile 2 (including the first hill) was a 7:35 pace.

After mile 2, I didn't really pick it up. I knew the hill was ahead so I tried to keep it steady and save my energy. Once reaching the top of the hill, I kicked it into gear on the way down. I read somewhere that most people go uphill too fast and downhill too slow. I tried to reverse that and use the downhill portion to propel me forward finish strong! I saw a teenager ahead of me, I visualized that he was pulling me, and I focused on trying to pass him. I didn't pass him, but I'm happy with my finish as my last mile was 7:23... And I broke 23 for the 2nd time this year with a time of 22:59. (I'll take it.) Considering the 2 hills and my lack of speed work in recent weeks, I'm very happy with this time!

With the out and back course, I could see that there was only 1 female ahead of me... That means that I was the 2nd female to cross the finish line! I hung around for the awards ceremony in hopes of winning an age group award. While I was waiting, I munched on some of the post-race snacks including bananas, donut munchkins, bagels, and coffee. I gotta say that the thing I love most about local 5ks is the coffee they always have post-race! It was delicious and helped keep me warm while I was waiting. I did end up winning first in my age group and I'm very excited about it!
1st Place, Female 20-29

After I received my award and had a local spectator take this photo of me on the Old Plank Trail, I headed home to clean around the house and get ready for a full day of marathon spectating! I really enjoyed this race!

Nice long sleeved t-shirt
Cheap entrance fee ($15 if you preregistered)
Beautiful course (out on the trail)
Fantastic support from local police to make sure runners were safe
Well-marked course

The course with that hill, twice (I guess it makes for a challenge)
It would be nice if they had awards for 2nd place too instead of just 1st

Would I do this race again? Absolutely! I also highly recommend it to other runners! Although, if they changed the weekend of this race to not be so close to the marathon, I bet they would have a lot more folks enter.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chicago Marathon Spectating Report

Wow. This past weekend was pretty much a runnerd's dream so it will take me a few days to talk about everything that happened! First, I'd like to talk about spectating the Chicago Marathon.

I headed downtown bright and early because I wanted to see the elites run by. One of my running group friends, Diane, carpooled with me as we parked and walked to our designated spot: Mile 17. After watching some of the speedy wheelchair racers go by, it was time for the elite men. Diane had never spectated a marathon before so I told her she was in for a treat! The first pack sped past us in a blink and Diane grabbed a quick pic (better than mine).

Not too far behind was the elite I was most excited about seeing, Dathan Ritzenhein!
I absolutely love this photo. Dathan looks like he is literally FLYING. He ended up finishing 9th overall in a very tough field and shaved 2 minutes off his previous PR, finishing in 2:07!! This interview video from Flotrack is great. Dathan talks about some of the mistakes he made (even elites make mistakes) and how he struggled with the "Roosevelt Hill" (just like the rest of us)!

After the elite men went by, it was time for the elite women!

After the elites, we had some down time before our first group of friends came by. We decided to make the most and take some more photos!
Diane and I at mile 17
My general store was quite the site.
Diane was meeting her friend Jeni at the halfway point so she hung out as long as she could at mile 17 before making the walk to mile 13 (due to logistics of the course, this walk was actually less than a mile). Due to the wave start, my friend Kate S. passed Maggie so I walked to try and run with Kate! I walked to try and meet her but with the wave of runners and spectators, I totally missed her and a bunch of our friends that she was running with. I was so upset!!!! :( I was so worried looking for Kate (and obsessively checking my phone for the next update) that I almost missed Maggie! Thankfully, she spotted me in my bright FNRC shirt and we were on our way! Maggie was running this at her own pace and just enjoying the scenery. (You can read her full recap here.) I took a lot of pics but this one is my personal favorite.

I ran with Maggie from mile 16-23. It was nice to sing along to Gangham Style (complete with the dance) as well as cheer for the runners while they were running. People looked at me as if I was crazy and that I had too much energy! That was why I was there! To help boost the energy of those that didn't have it anymore. :) I hopped out at mile 23, knowing that Maggie could finish this race at ease (and she totally did). Next up, I hopped in with Amanda and ran with her until they pulled me off the course.

I think Amanda was smiling much more here, at mile 24 than when I left her at 25.5. Either way, I'm glad I was able to help her reach her goal! Amanda got a shiny new PR and finished under her ultimate goal time as well. You can check out her race recap here.

Afterwards, I walked to the Congress Hotel to congratulate all my Yankee Runner friends. The FNRC was pretty split up after the race so it was hard to get together.

Either way, I had an absolute blast out there cheering for all my pals along the way! I'm surprised I still have a voice, to be completely honest. It was a great day and this only fuels my desire to get out there and give the Chicago Marathon another attempt. We have some unfinished business! (To read about my Chicago Marathon experience the first time around, you can check out my post here.)

CONGRATULATIONS to all the finishers, whether you PRed, completed your first marathon, or just crossed the finish line with a smile on your face. You are all awesome and I hope to join you out there again some day! :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

ZOMG More Marathon Talk?

I knew I would be excited for my friends running the marathon this year, but I didn't think I'd be this excited... A chill remains in the air. Banners are up throughout the town. Street closure warning signs are posted. Plans for the expo are coordinated. Marathon fever in the city of Chicago is in full swing and I'm soaking it all in. I have to admit, it is really nice to be on the spectating/support side of things. (My previous marathon regret has passed with all the studying I've been doing these last few weeks.) This time of year always gets me excited! I have to admit, I fully plan on wearing my GR Marathon tee to casual Friday.

Yes, it is lime green and may be a bit much but I don't care. I am a member of the "finisher" club and I will be wearing my shirt with pride. :) When walking to work this morning and remembering the course, I got a little choked up. I guess this will always be an emotional time for me, until I'm able to tackle and finish the Chicago Marathon. In the mean time, I'm suuuper pumped to cheer on my running friends as they tackle this beast of a distance!

Do you ever get emotional thinking about a certain race? If you live in Chicago, are you sporting your marathon gear this week?

My guest bedroom has been completely taken over by running gear. Outfits and necessities are laid out for both Saturday and Sunday.

Thankfully the guest bedroom is rarely used so I can lay out all my running stuff and not feel guilty about it! :)

So, my strategy for the 5k on Saturday is to take the first mile easy-ish, and get progressively faster so my last mile is faster than my first (this rarely happens for me, so that is what I'm going to work towards). Pepper and Toph may be there to cheer us on! Yahooo!!!