Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shamrock Shuffle Strategy

Every year, it is no secret, that the Shamrock Shuffle is my favorite race. The crowds, the excitement, the Irish theme, getting to run on closed Chicago streets, fun times with my friends, and free beer at the finish line. It really doesn't get any better than this. (If you haven't run this race before, I highly recommend it.)

Last year I was gung-ho on a PR. I had run throughout the winter and I was looking to beat an old PR set back in 2009. I achieved my goal by a larger margin than I thought I would, even without my trusty Garmin.
Just past the finish line, with the "famous" green guys

Enjoying a post-race beverage
I even wore my Hunger Games shirt in honor of the movie opening that exact weekend! (Oh, and I also got a wicked awesome sunburn in the gap between when my t-shirt sleeve ended and my arm warmers began. CLASSY.)

The expo for this race is always fun too. Lots of swag, samples, and other cool things. Even if you're not running the race, it is a fun expo to attend. I also am interested to see which route they go with the shirts. Last year they went with red (??) so it looked like it was a Christmas themed race with all of the people wearing the race shirt and the green.
History of the Shamrock Shuffle shirts.
2007 (upper left) through 2012 (bottom right)

In years past, I've always tried to start off the racing season strong and bust my butt for this race. This year, however, I'm doing something a little different. One of my friends asked me if I would run with her. I know she normally is a run-walker and that sounds right up my alley right about now. Especially since the race has been moved to April again (like 2011), it may be a bit warmer than usual. (In 2011 I had to buy a green tank top the week of the race because I had nothing that was weather-appropriate to wear.) Plus, a side goal would be to try and meet my buddy Dathan again to, hopefully, get a better photo this time around. We'll see though. This year, the race is all about having fun. I've taken the pressure off myself and I'm looking forward to hanging out with all of my friends, whenever I cross the finish line! :) Have you run the Shamrock Shuffle before? Are you running it this year? Last year we orchestrated our first ever Chicago Running Blogger meetup. Hopefully this year we'll get the chance to do the same thing!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Year of the Volunteer

While on my little break from running, I've had some time to reflect on what is important and why I like to run. Something that is important to every race is the volunteers! I've volunteered at the Ragnar Relay to help out a friend (each team requires 3 volunteers) last year. Although my experience with Ragnar was mixed, if my friends needed me, I would do it again.
Meeting Kate at the finish line of her ultra Ragnar relay
And being able to give her a medal!
(That was my task, distributing medals)

Watching the sunrise as we set up the finish line

I've decided that this year I want to take on more volunteering responsibilities. I haven't shied away from volunteering in the past and I think this will be a great way to give back to the running community. I already have a few opportunities in mind for this year but am also looking for more. If you help run a race or know an organization that is looking for some volunteers, let me know. If it fits with my schedule, I'll do my best to be there and help.

Have you volunteered at races before? How have your experiences been? I know some folks have had problems with rude runners with an attitude, but that seems to me in the minority versus the majority. Do you have any plans to volunteer at some races in 2013?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hanging with Dathan: Chicago Marathon Kickoff Event

When I got an email to see if I wanted to come to the Chicago Marathon kickoff event and meet Dathan Ritzenhein, it only took me a short amount of time to come to my answer. YESSSSSSS. In case you didn't already know, I'm a huge Dathan fan and was really excited at the chance to meet him!
Watching Dathan fly by as he grabs the 3rd fastest American marathon time
at the Chicago Marathon 2012.

I drove downtown on my day off work to meet up with Maggie at a super awesome $2 lot just about a mile away from the House of Blues, where the event was taking place. We made it just in time to see Shamrock Shuffle and Chicago Marathon race director Carey Pinkowski award Dathan with a ceremonial first registrant and first bib. (Dathan will be running both races in 2013.)

They briefly talked about his proposed strategy before we headed out for our our fun run. We ran into Lindsay as we were trying to get a closer photo and she joined us on our run too. We took it slow and easy as it was icy and windy out on the river path but we had a fun time while doing it! This was actually my first run in about 3 week so I was excited at the chance to run with some friends in the city that I love. I felt great and it was nice to feel the pavement under my feet and the wind in my hair (although, preferably not that much wind in the future). After just less than 3 miles, we were back at the HOB. We grabbed some water, Gatorade chew samples, and headed to the food line.

It was at that point that Lauren found us and introduced herself. She had sent us the invitations so it was nice to get the chance to meet her. When we had originally walked into the HOB, we were tagged as "media" and had to sign a release form. I felt really official and wished I had been wearing a shirt that said "I'm kind of a big deal," Ron Burgundy style. We were awarded a fancy drink token that I didn't end up using because I was driving, but it still felt cool either way.

After being hydrated and fueled, it was time for the main event, to meet Dathan! I could barely control my excitement as we waited in line to get his autograph. He seemed nice and down to earth in the little bit I got to talk to him. I was telling him how I watched him both of his Olympic trials in 2012 and during the Olympics as well. And that I cheered really loudly as he ran past during the 2012 marathon. He said that the cheering from folks really does help. I was a bit star struck so I probably came off like a major dork. That's okay though, I am a major dork so if the shoe fits...

After walking away with our autographs, I realized that we didn't get a picture! I thought I would give Dathan some time to recover from my nerdiness before going back for a photo. In the mean time, I tried to channel my inner Kelsey and took this photo. I'm holding the autographed photo of Dathan with him in the background. (I think he's mid-bite so it is super classy.)

After saying goodbye to Lindsay, Maggie and I continued our mission to get a photo with Dathan. He was ever-so-gracious as we came back, explaining that we didn't get a photo the first time around. I had asked someone standing by to take the photo. As we thanked him and walked away, I reviewed my photos only to see that they turned out suuuper dark.

Turns out the guy taking the photo was not an iPhone user and didn't realize that his finger was blocking the lens and absorbing all the flash. BUT, thanks to the magic of friends with Photoshop, Maggie was able to doctor up the photo, turning it into a true gem.

Thanks Dathan for coming to Chicago to hang out with all of us runnerds as we gawk over your speed and treat you like a celebrity! Thanks to Lauren to inviting me to such a wonderful event. And thanks to Maggie and Lindsay for staying back with me as I gingerly got back into the running ring. :)

Are you registering for the Chicago Marathon this year? I don't plan on it but I know I have another Chicago Marathon up my sleeve... some day...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Anyone Fancy a Runch?

The other day on Twitter, a fellow blogger had asked for some tips on running during your lunch break. Since I am a huge fan of this activity, I thought I would share my tips with all of you!

1) Take your lunch hour later. On days when I plan to run, I will usually eat lunch at my desk and give it time to settle before heading out. I will usually take my "lunch" hour around 2pm or 3pm (my workday ends at 5pm). I think this just helps look a little gnarly for only a few hours of the afternoon instead of the entire afternoon.

2) Plan out your route ahead of time. If you work in the city, you know that GPS watches do not like the big buildings. That way, you'll still have a good idea of how far you've gone, even if your watch signal is a bit goofy. If you work in the suburbs, are there sidewalks the entire way on your route? Check these things out on your next drive in. I also recommend the "walk" feature on Google Maps. It notices pathways and such that are not accessible via car. (Not sure if this is common knowledge, as I only recently discovered it.)
About to head out for my planned route in the busy Chicago streets

3) Bring a few outfit options in case the weather has changed since your way to work. I hate being underprepared for a run! I won't let it stop me, but it can lead to some discomfort. (I may or may not have forgotten a sports bra on a Thursday night run. Your normal bra may "seem" fine, until you're actually moving. Oops!)
Out on a lunch break run, trying to take a selfie.

4) Pack your gym bag with a few extra items. I would say pack an extra pair of underwear or tank top (whatever you would wear under your work clothes) just in case you feel uncomfortable putting back on the same thing after a workout. It helps me to "feel" clean even if I only showered from the neck down. Fake it until you make it, right?

5) If your office doesn't have showers like mine does, I would recommend having some baby wipes or other clean wipes nearby to help with the "spot-check shower" you'll need to take. I would recommend having some sort of towel (or cotton tee) to help wipe the sweat of your brow. Extra deodorant (for before and after the workout) as well as some perfume (those free travel samples are perfect) can also help mask any leftover sweat smell that may be lingering.

6) Have some nice hair accessories in your gym bag or at your desk. Extra hair-ties, bobby pins, fancy headbands, etc. Or, a sockbun is a perfect after-workout hairdo if your hair is long enough. (Right now my hair is actually TOO LONG for a sock bun. Yikes.) It also helps to have some backup makeup in your gym bag or at your desk to reapply part of your face. I keep some in my purse

Before: hair in a ponytail, ready to run
After: bangs up in a poof and ponytail in a sockbun. Don't mind my red face

7) A little accountability always helps too. Try meeting up with a pal on your lunch break if you can. I know there's been talk of some CRBs meeting in the loop to run sometime. That would be a treat, for sure. I've even met up a fellow Oiselle team member for a lunch time run!

Do you run on your lunch break at work? If so, what are some tips that you can add to this list?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Last night when I went to bed, I knew today was Valentine's Day. However, when I woke up this morning, I completely forgot. Only when I got a text from my mom did I remember. I've been so busy with work lately that I had even forgotten to pick up a card for the hubs! Luckily I was able to stop at Walgreen's on my way to work and hit up the card aisle before it was too picked over. Nothing like waiting until the last minute! Thankfully, though, I had some time to put this photo together for all of you.

Happy Valentine's Day from me and your favorite furry friend, Pepper!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Homemade Crunchwrap Supremes

As my little break from running continues, I thought I would share a fun recipe that I put together this weekend from Pinterest.

Homemade Crunchwrap Supremes

Yes, you read that right. This is not a healthy living blog so I'm going to share this recipe with all of you! It actually wasn't too difficult to make, but kind of time-consuming to make more than one at a time. (Perhaps that is a sign not to share??) Here is a link to the original recipe.

Taco meat (we used refried beans that I flavored with taco seasoning)
Nacho cheese (this is surprisingly hard to find so I used salsa con queso instead)
Corn tortillas
Large flour tortillas
Sour cream

1) First, you cook up the meat or beans as this step probably takes longest. We used refried beans with a little taco seasoning for a vegetarian version.
2) Next, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and crisp up the corn tortilla. Mine didn't get super crisp so I wonder if a toaster oven would work better? I was worried about them burning in the toaster oven (but I ended up leaving one in too long in the regular oven anyways...) Please let me know if you try this out.
3) Next, heat up a little bit of the cheese so it is easy to spread around. I poured out a little into a ramekin and popped it into the microwave for 15 seconds
4) Assemble your crunchwrap as follows:

Beans/meat on the bottom
Crisp corn tortilla
Sour cream
Lettuce (I omitted lettuce on mine and used avocado instead. Delicious!)
For those visual learners, here is a lovely picture guide. (Not drawn to scale, obviously)

When it is assembled, fold over the sides and heat in a small frying pan (with a little Pam cooking spray), face down. The directions said medium heat with 3 minutes on each side. This didn't crisp them up enough for me so I left them on a little longer. (Just be careful you don't burn them in this step or you'll have to start all over again!)

And voila. Homemade crunchwrap supremes! They were delicious! And since you are in charge of the ingredient distribution, it was evenly distributed from start to finish. I will probably make these again the next time the craving hits.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fashion Friday: Closet Consultation with Erin @ Loop Looks

I got my first real job downtown about 6 years ago (yikes, that's a long time) and I would like to say that I've gotten my own sense of style over the years. However, lately I feel like I've been in a bit of a clothing funk. I don't like to spend the money on clothes that I used to so therefore, I have very few new pieces in my wardrobe. The same old outfits are worn time and time again and I'm getting ultra bored with my wardrobe. In lieu of starting over from scratch, I thought it would be a great idea to have a closet consultation with none other than Erin at Loop Looks! I've known Erin for about a year now.
After lunch at Native Foods Cafe with Kim and Erin

Erin and I finishing strong at Zooma Great Lakes

I love her blog posts, especially the way she solicits ideas from readers while putting together new and interesting outfits. I was absolutely ecstatic at the idea of her coming to take a look at my drab wardrobe. 

We started looking through some sweater and pants combos, perfect for the current temperatures. I had some burgundy pants that I got from Loft that I wasn't quite sure what to wear with them (top and middle row, middle photos) and now I have quite a few ideas!

I have a skirt that I got on clearance from J Crew that I absolutely love but it is too long. I never thought to get it hemmed until now! I'm looking forward to wearing it in the spring, after I drop it off to the seamstress first...

Erin was also able to work in some fun spring looks as I brought out some floral skirts and dresses, as well as my baby blue pants (bottom row).  She also gave some great tips that I plan on incorporating in the months to come. (She also helped encourage me to get rid of a pair of gauchos that I had been holding on for way too long. Remember gauchos? The pants that look like a dress/skirt? Mine were from the spring of 2007. YIKES!)

I kept bringing out things I didn't wear and Erin always had an outfit in mind with the items I had. I mean, she really has a talent for this stuff! I'm so glad she has a fashion blog (in addition to her running blog) so I can follow along and maybe come up with some decent ideas on my own. If you are feeling tired and bored with your wardrobe (which seems to happen more often in the winter), I would highly recommend a closet consultation with Erin! Thanks again to Erin for coming all the way to my neck of the woods, giving my wardrobe a breath of fresh air and a fresh set of eyes! Pepper loved having you too. :)

Now that I have some actual ideas on outfits, I may be doing some more "Fashion Friday" posts! That is, on weeks where we don't wear jeans every day (like this past week). Have you ever had someone come over to help you with outfit suggestions? I did this a lot in college and when I had a roommate. But these days, not really. I was happy for the advice and help!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Inspiration: Part 2

Since my little "funk" continues, I thought I should embark on another "inspiration" post talking about all those that inspire me.

Today I'm going to talk about the running community. I first started running as part of the track team in high school. There was definitely a huge sense of community as you were part of a team and all that jazz. When I started running again in college and afterwards, I did it by myself. I would run on the treadmill, around the city, just because I liked to run. I would run with a few friends here and there but I did the majority of my training on my own (including my first half marathon).

It wasn't until I decided to tackle the marathon that I realized I wouldn't be able to do this on my own. I signed up for the local CARA group and started training.
With some of my training pals at the CARA compound before the Chicago Marathon 2011

After the Illinois Marathon (and half marathon) 2012

After the training for my first marathon was over, I didn't know what to do. I had all this extra time on my hands and I had made all these new running friends! The training group kind of dispersed afterwards so I decided to get in touch with my local running group, the FNRC. I had run with a few of the folks a few times, but over the winter, we really got the chance to do some bonding over the weather conditions and general running talk.
My first long run with the FNRC

First time meeting Maggie

After the marathon was over, I also decided to start this old blog. That opened me up to a whole entire world of the running blogger community. Some of these folks started off as acquaintances but have become friends over the months we've known each other. We do meetups, race, drink, eat and do all other sorts of things together. I really am lucky to be friends with so many great ladies.
My first ever  blogger meetup before the Shamrock Shuffle 2012

Girls weekend at Zooma Great Lakes 2012

Oiselle teammate meetup on the Chicago lakefront path

Chicago Blogger Holiday meetup

To me, all of these runners are inspiring in so many different ways! Whether it is my pace leader and pal Jeanne qualifying for Boston for the first time; Maggie PRing all the time getting faster and faster; Amanda W PRing when not planning it while overcoming injuries along the way; Amanda TTF who somehow manages to run marathons, complete triathlons while also raising a family at the same time; Kim who works full time, helps run a company with her husband, and maintains a vegan lifestyle; Sara who loves running marathons more than I ever thought possible; Erin who always looks adorable whether she is or isn't wearing running clothes; and Kelly who (has an awesome name) always shares great recipes and goes after her dream of becoming an Ironman, something I can only imagine in my wildest nightmares... And all the other ladies who I didn't mention but who continue to inspire those around them without even realizing it!

This post has got me feeling all warm and fuzzy... and very fortunate to have such great ladies in my life! I may be taking a little bit of a break but I know when I'm back at it, these ladies (and a few guys) will be there for me, no matter what. Who do you run with and how do they inspire you?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I'm Not Running a Spring Marathon

As some of you may know, my first marathon experience was no cake walk. (Well, I don't know if anyone's marathon existence has been "easy.") After watching my friends train through this past summer and run the Chicago Marathon, I gotta admit I was a little jealous. I know that it was the right decision for me to sit it out (because of the exam I was taking in early December). I was still able to go downtown, spectate and even run part of the race with my friends without worrying about the entire 26.2 distance.

Chicago Marathon 2012

Anyways, the point of this trip down memory lane is that I made a decision while I was studying. I wanted to try running another marathon. I had taken a year off and that made the desire that much greater. Using last year as a guide, I decided to run the Illinois Marathon. I was going to keep it a secret from most of my family and friends and run the race for me. But then, I told a few people about my secret (it was too hard for me to keep that big of a secret from my running friends). I trained through the winter last year... What would make this year any different? I could do my training just like last year and be ready to go by the end of April.

Training through the 2012 "winter"

Well, the return of "normal" Chicago winter temperatures is what's different. My heart and lungs feel like they're working double time when the temps are in the single digits (and the "feels like" temp is in the negative double digits). And the fact that someone left our group at work and we all have to pick up some slack until a new employee is hired (aka a fair share of late nights at the office).

A marathon is a huge deal. It is a big commitment both physically and mentally. I thought I was there and ready, but instead I've decided to sit this spring out. I'm already dying of boredom at the mere idea of doing any of my runs on the treadmill.

The thing about marathons that is so wonderful is that they'll always be there for you, when you're ready for them. There are so many of them and they're everywhere. It looks like spring 2013 isn't the time for me, but that doesn't meant that fall 2013, spring 2014, or fall 2014 will have the same answer...

Have you ever committed to a race and then decided not to do it? I waited to register for the Illinois Marathon so this decision doesn't leave me with an unwanted bib. Although, I am disappointed I won't get the chance to meet Kathrine Switzer at the expo.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mission Impossible: Finishing a 5k Race With My Dog

As some of you may know, my dog Pepper is my favorite running buddy.

We love to run together as often as we can. She also absolutely loves all types of people (adults and children) and would never hurt a fly. (Well, maybe a fly. I've seen her try.) She is really great when she comes to our group runs, behaving well within the group (even if people are running ahead). She is also really great with other dogs and is non-confrontational while we're running. She is so focused on going forward, she doesn't stray (unless there is a rabbit or squirrel, taunting her)
Can you spot the happiest dog in the world? The center of attention?

Because I think she is such a great dog (although, my opinion may be biased) and she has so much fun when we're out there running together, I've been dying to sign us up for a 5k. I've seen dogs at races before, and I just know it is something that Pepper would absolutely love. She would love the excitement on race day, the attention from other runners, and the running too (duh).

However, time and time again, I keep coming up to road blocks when finding a 5k for us to participate in. Looking at different websites for small, local 5ks, there isn't usually a policy on dogs. I've emailed 4 different (small, local) races to find out about their policy on dogs. Some have said "We'd rather not" or "No"... While others never responded. If there is going to be a policy, I wish that more races would publish this policy on their website so it becomes common knowledge.  I understand not all people are dog people and there are certain liabilities with having dogs at races.

I've even emailed race directors, received a "no" response, and then shown up on race day only to see dogs (plural, more than 1) participating in the event. Being a strict "rule follower" by nature, I was upset by these "rule breakers." The defensive part of me thinks... Why have a rule if it is not going to be enforced? Another part of me thinks... Should I be a rule breaker like these other folks? Quit asking questions and just start showing up to races with my dog? Have you ever seen dogs when running races? Did it make you think one way or another about the race, or dogs in general?

Maybe this is an untapped market for a new type of race? A dog-friendly 5k! I've seen it done in other states (California mostly) but I haven't heard of anything around here. Would you participate in a dog friendly race? Perhaps the FNRC needs to put together a "grass roots" kind of thing where all dogs are welcome. Have you ever participated in a race with your dog? What race was it? Did people treat you differently, during or after the race?