Thursday, December 17, 2015

VBAC Hopes and Dreams

If you don’t want to read about pregnancy or some of the details associated with it, this post probably isn’t the right post for you. This is something that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a little while.

My pregnancy with Patsy was “normal” without complications or problems. I didn’t have swollen feet or stretch marks. I didn’t have gestational diabetes or pre-clampsia. I did test positive for Strep B and that was about the only thing. My regular doctor visits were pretty uneventful. Chris and I took the child birth class and were prepared for a normal, vaginal birth. I was very against having a c-section and I was ready to defend myself and fight to not have one if necessary. Then, at 38 weeks exactly, I tripped and fell. I fell to my knees and then fell forward. Because I was so pregnant, my belly hit the ground. I was instructed by my doctor to go to the hospital to be monitored for the next 24 hours. Upon arrival, they performed an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay with the placenta because of the fall. “Oh, your baby is breech.” Errrrrr *screeching brakes noise*… This was like a punch to the gut. I had so many questions. How did we not already know this? What does this mean? What are my options? My due date was 2 weeks away and everything I was planning and prepping for was now completely out the window. My doctor instructed me that she did not do a versions (manually flipping the baby around) and that my c-section would be scheduled in 4 days. I didn’t really have time to process what was about to happen. I didn’t really have time to handle the emotions that went along with this change. I didn’t know I would have so emotions about the fact that I would now have a c-section.

Patsy was born (birth story here) and she was a beautiful, happy and healthy. As far as c-sections go, I was still able to hold Patsy immediately after birth for the “golden hour”. My husband and I were able to cherish those precious first moments together as a new family. My doctor was comforting and held my hand as she could tell I was nervous. The nurse during the surgery was fantastic. BUT, that was not my ideal birth situation. I knew when I wanted to get pregnant again, I wanted to try a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).

In the OR, our first photo as a new family of 3

Unfortunately, based on the area of Illinois in which I live, there are 3 practices that are specialists and have high VBAC success rates. (If you go to a state like Oregon or California, VBAC rates are very different than Illinois.) I chose a midwife practice and I’ve been very happy with my decision so far. All of the midwives I’ve met with continue to tell me the same thing. “You are a perfect VBAC candidate.” It just makes me that much more hopeful. We’re also working with a doula to help provide additional birth support. Having a VBAC is very important so I want to try and give myself all available tools for success. Because I’ve had a previous c-section, a medical induction (Pitocin, etc.) is off the table so my body needs to go into labor on its own. That hasn’t happened before so it’s back to playing the waiting game! I’m assuming I’ll go past my due date, like a first time laboring mom but we will see! The holidays have been a great distraction throughout December and we are running full speed through the rest of 2015. January will be her before we know it and the baby can come just about any time in January! (Actual due date is February 3.)

I’ve kind of been in denial about how much will change in being a parent of one child to a parent of two. Part of me doesn’t want to over think it because then I get emotional, etc. and I think I just need to take it as it comes. I have a few ideas and suggestions to make the difficult early days/weeks easier and I’m hoping to really utilize the support of our friends and family during that time. Well, this is what has been consuming my thoughts and time lately. Please wish me luck as I embark on a new and different type of challenge, that I feel hard training sessions, difficult half marathon and marathon races have mentally prepared me for.

Monday, December 14, 2015

12 Days of Oiselle - Recap

If you've been following me on Twitter, you probably saw that I was doing a fun little "12 days of Oiselle" game where I wore some of my favorite Oiselle items and tweeted about it for 12 days. Honestly, it wasn't really a challenge since I own so much Oiselle at this point, but I thought I would do a fun little recap of the items I posted. 

  • Day 1: Vintage "iRun Without Tee" that was given to me by The Nest when I first became pregnant with Patsy. It is a size large and extremely soft. Best pajamas around
  • Day 2: Lux headband (new this season) and Katron jacket (currently available for those cold winter days). It was a chilly winter day in Chicago and I was properly prepared for the weather
  • Day 3: Power Stretch Mittens (new this season). I absolutely love that they are warm, fleecy, and come in a size L/XL for my super long fingers. My only wish is that the thumb was cellphone compatible.
  • Day 4: Go Mac tee in honor of Ms. Sarah Mac as she was on her quest for an Olympic Trials Qualifying Standard. Patsy wanted to send PJ some smiles too.
  • Day 5: Portman Pants are my new favorite warm pants to wear as leggings. The waistband is super comfy for this growing belly and black goes with just about everything.
  • Day 6: I'm obsessed with the new violet color that came out this fall. I needed to get the classic Flyte Tee in this new hue. Oh and the Starbucks Holiday Flat White is my new jam.
  • Day 7: Men's American Runner Tee. Had to support my Oiselle teammates that tried for that OTQ and got it! Although it is the mens tee, I love how comfy and soft this American Runner tee is. It is a staple in the pregnancy wardrobe.
  • Day 8: Gwen Tank paired with jeans and a cardigan. We have a casual dress code in the office but this tank covered my belly and I dressed it up with a cardigan and necklace. Comfortable and office-appropriate
  • Day 9: Holiday shopping in my vintage Mac jacket. With the unseasonably warm temps, I'm glad I had this one hidden at my desk!
  • Day 10: Heads Up Wings Out Full Zip Hoodie. I've been waiting for a zip up hoodie for the past 2 years. When it was released, I obviously absolutely had to get it. I live in it just about every day. Best purchase ever.
  • Day 11: LF Sweatpants. On Fridays I work from home and these sweatpants were perfect for when I don't have to make my long commute in!
  • Day 12: I didn't buy this feather tee when it first came out (I was pregnant with Patsy at the time) and it was my biggest regret. I searched the internet high and low and found it on a discount site. I made the purchase and absolutely love it. Oh and don't mind the Elmo phone that is 15 years old. Patsy only wants one thing for Christmas--an Elmo phone. This is the phone she has at the babysitter's house and it is her favorite toy. Thanks eBay!

I hope you enjoyed my recap of 12 days of Oiselle. I had so much fun doing it, I just might do it again next year! If you have questions about any of these items and want to know more (how they fit, is it worth the price, etc.) feel free to leave me a comment.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How to Train for Your First Spartan Race

I completed my first Spartan race back in 2014 (full race recap here) and I had an absolute blast. I didn't really know what was in store for me and I think I was fine with being in denial. I figured I had the run part down. I knew how to run so an 8 mile run would be the easy part. I also assumed that since I was carrying around my 20 pound toddler all the time that I was set in the upper body department. Let's just say that I may have been a bit undertrained for the event. As a result of my mistake(s), I would like to offer some tips to help those of you training for your first (or second, etc.) Spartan race.

Train on hills. Not like dinky "hills" around your subdivision. As I live in the nice and flat midwest, my definitely of hills is a bit different than someone that lives in PNW. When training, go to a real trail, like a hiking trail, with sharp inclines. Do your long runs there. I'm not kidding. That is how the terrain will be on race day so why not train in the thick of it. If the terrain in training is more grueling than on race day, that will just make things seem easier, right?
Out for a run with Patsy, trying to train on some hills

Hiking in Leavenworth, WA.
We don't have this type of terrain in Illinois!

Don't Underestimate the Obstacles. Spartan usually posts photos of their obstacles the week before the race on their FB page, but check out some of the obstacles from events in other cities or events in previous years. This will give you an idea of what to expect and what to train for on race day. As a reminder, for each obstacle you don't/can't complete, you have to pay the toll of 30 burpees. Yes, 30. It eats up a bunch of time and burpees suck. I saw there were monkey bars and I thought, since I was awesome at these at the age of 9, that this would some how translate 20+ years later. Spoiler alert, it did not. I shouldn't have been surprised by this. Also, you should give every obstacle a try. Even if you don't think you can do it and you think 30 burpees might be easier, you never know what you're capable of until you give it a try.

Here is a preview obstacle from Spartan's 2014 Illinois race

Think About Your Race Day Outfit. As the Spartan super is a longer race, I was worried with what to do on race day. I ended up buying an inexpensive pair of capri pants so I could have some leg coverage for the woods. They definitely came in handy. I also opted for the short sleeve shirt versus tank top for some of these same reasons. Although the 2016 race is in June so capris and a short sleeved shirt may not be a smart option, given the probably temperatures. I also ran with an Ultimate Hydration pocket to hold a mini bottle of water and Picky Bar. If you don't wear pants with pockets, I highly recommend something like that. There is mud and water to climb and wade through. I do not recommend ziplock bags if you plan on eating these items. Get something factory sealed and if you usually only eat half, just bring 2. That opened item probably won't be good when you go to eat it later.

I don't know if I own enough green

30 burpees is a lot. 30 of any type of exercise is a lot. If you miss one obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees. There are a lot of obstacles out there. You probably will end up doing much more than 30 burpees on race day so you best be prepared. If you have to do less, that's great too. As much as they suck, practice doing burpees. That's really all there is to say about that.

Have you run a Spartan race before? Do you have any additional tips you'd like to add to the list? Is there anything I missed?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Meet Me at the Barre

The more I hang out with Meghan, the more I've been wanting to give barre a try. She really enjoys the workout and knows some of the local studios and what might be a good fit. A few (or several at this point) months ago I FINALLY took her advice and went to my first class at The Dailey Method. Your first class is free so I figured I had nothing to lose. I booked the class online through their website and I had heard that they offered child care for only $5 extra per class. They said they usually don't offer that option on the weekends but they would make arrangements for me so I could come. I arrived at class, ready to go and Patsy was just NOT HAVING IT with the babysitter. She just cried and cried. I ended up leaving the class after barely getting started and called my mom. She was able to watch Patsy for a little while so I headed back to the studio and they let me take another, full class, without a screaming and crying toddler in the background.

Once I got into it and was able to pay attention to the instructions, I absolutely loved it. The instructors are helpful, clear with directions and aren't shy about correcting you (off mike, not in front of everyone) if you're doing something incorrectly. As someone who is overly flexible, I really appreciate when the instructor corrects my form. I want to get the most out of my workout so I'm open to whatever it takes to get there!

Meghan and I after a workout, posing in the studio

As I've gotten farther and farther along in this pregnancy, the farther away all of my running dreams seem to be. I find myself struggling when I have to run across the street. When March comes and I'm cleared to run again, I know the road will be slow moving. But I'm REALLY enjoying these barre workouts and it makes me feel like much less of a lazy bum. Not to mention that it is a really great form of cross training that I definitely plan to keep up in the months to come.

The owner of the studio is even trying to plan some special pregnancy and mommy & me classes with some of the instructors that have children and have practiced barre through pregnancy. I am so grateful that I found a space to channel some of this athletic energy during this pregnancy! If you ever want to take a little drive out to Orland Park, I'm happy to meet you there.
Posing for some photos in my newest fall Oiselle items
Flash long sleeve and Meter tights

Monday, October 12, 2015

Chicago Marathon 2015 - Spectating Recap

Over the weekend was my favorite day in Chicago; Chicago Marathon Day. The fun actually started on Friday when we headed to Spacca Napoli for pizza to meet up with a bunch of Oiselle teammates that were in town for the race, as well as new members of the team! Despite the long drive for me, the pizza was delicious and it was really nice to meet some new faces and hang out with some internet friends IRL. Patsy even had some fun too and made a new friend!

Oiselle Team right here guys!
Oh and this pizza was pretty delightful

I skipped the Saturday morning coffee and shakeout run to attend a barre class at The Dailey Method. It was totally worth it because I got a great workout and won a pair of barre socks during a raffle. Win-win.

Sunday morning I had coordinated the cowbell corner meetup. I had been to this exact location a few times before and I felt it was a good spot for spectators and runners. We were by UIC so we had access to bathrooms and a blue line El station. You could park in South Loop, avoid street closures and easily walk to your car. For the runners, mile 17 can be a dark zone. You still have 9 miles left to go and your body is starting to feel it. It really is a great spot, I think.

Selfie time!

Anyways, I met up with some team members bright and early (around 8 or 8:30) to get set up and wait for the elites to go by. We had our cowbells, healthy snacks, and cheering signs. Special thanks to Beth Gillespe for getting those signs made. They were perfect and I think they were easy to spot in the crowd! Even Patsy got really into the spirit and was waving around her cowbell, saying “go runners.” Seeing Deena Kastor go buy in a crowd of dudes and just being her awesome self was pretty amazing. I’m also a big fan of Sara Hall so I loved seeing her go by and PR by 15 minutes. Tera Moody also rocked it out and we got to see her. Since she is from Illinois and we met once at half marathon in January, we’re practically best friends. That’s how that works, right?

I had my camera out and ready to go. Special thanks to Charlyn and Paulette for recommending that I put my fancy camera into “moving subjects” mode. I was able to get some awesome photos of the elites and a bunch of our Oiselle team runners! Finding people in the crowd is definitely hard but it helps when there are lots of other folks helping spot out the Oiselle singlets with you! Knowing the product line as well as I do for the past few years, definitely helped in spotting some of those folks not in their singlets. Some of the earlier runners that were only running in a bra and shorts (where the bib number takes up most of the bra surface area), it was definitely more of a challenge. Shouting out “that was a Lesko bra with mac rogas” after they ran by isn’t as good of a photo.

Patsy was an amazing spectator and such a trooper.
I think she had fun out there cowbelling for all the runners!

Seeing everyone run by got me really excited and I may or may not have teared up while watching the Snapchat story… But seeing the sweat, pained faces, and having a friend drop out of the race, reminded me of the fact that running a marathon is hard. I really, really want to run and complete the Chicago Marathon someday. It is kind of my white whale. Although with the amount of work and effort involved, I would really like to wait until I’m done having children and I can really dedicate the amount of time and energy to be successful. I don’t want to run a marathon to finish the distance. I’ve done that already. I want to run a marathon to push myself and get a time that I know body is capable of doing. The PR bar for that distance is set pretty low so if all else fails, I’m hoping that I’ve at least got a PR in these old legs.
Twinning with local Oiselle team leader, Beth Gillespe

Congrats to all of the finishers out there and special thanks to all my fellow Oiselle teammates for being as crazy as me to get up super early to go watch some folks run by for several hours with me and my daughter out there on Cowbell Corner! Next year I won’t be running it, but I’ll try to be out there again to cheer everyone on!

To check out some of my experiences with the Chicago Marathon in previous years, check out the links below!



Thursday, September 24, 2015

20 Weeks, Now & Then


How far along? 20 weeks

Baby’s size/development this week: weighs about 10 1/2 ounces and measures 6 1/2 inches long; about the size of a banana

Maternity clothes: wearing them? Yes. I've been wearing maternity clothes since about the 9th week. With how nauseous I was, it was just so much easier. Plus, maternity clothes are basically like pajamas. They are the best. When people knock maternity clothes, I just don't get it. They are amazing.

Miss anything? I'm sad to miss pumpkin beer season this year. With Patsy, I had her in September so I was still able to enjoy some Pumking before the last keg was empty. I guess I'll just enjoy my PSL and suffer in silence until 2016 season comes around!

Food cravings? Nothing really. I've been craving a lot of ice cream lately and I've tried to curb that craving but I'm thinking a pumpkin pie blizzard is a necessity before the end of the month.

Anything making you queasy or sick? Strong cologne and perfume is especially disgusting.

Sleep: Meh. Sleep has been kind of sporadic. I can no longer sleep comfortably on my back so I've had to sleep on my side. Patsy still makes her way into our bed most nights and she likes to sleep horizontally between us (while also requesting that we "scooch over")

Best moment of the week: I was away for a work trip and I called my MIL to see how Patsy was doing. Patsy answered the phone and said "Hi Mommy!" and we proceeded to have a 2 minute conversation about where she was and what she had done that day. Sometimes having a 2 year old can be exhausting, but most of the time she's the sweetest kid around!

Nursery: The new baby and Patsy will be sharing a room. The new baby will sleep in our room for probably the first 6-12 months so I'm not in a hurry to make any drastic changes to the room at this point. We will probably need to buy Patsy a new bed so we can move the baby to the crib, but... baby steps.

Wedding rings on or off? on

Movement? The flutters and mini kicks come and go throughout the day.

Weird pregnancy thing of the week: My skin is soooo dry. I remember having this problem last time and it has come back with vengeance! Luckily I have some awesome skin cream that really help keep the dryness at bay. Thanks Kiehl's!

Daddy is feeling: excited to start feeling kicks soon.

Mommy is feeling: good and exhausted. It is tiring growing a human and chasing after another!

Workouts this week: I had plans for a barre class but Patsy came down with a nasty virus. I cancelled all plans and snuggles with my little nugget all night until she felt better. Thankfully I was able to reschedule something for this weekend!

Looking forward to: Dad being able to feel the kicks next!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Happy 2nd Birthday Patsy!

This past weekend we celebrated Patsy's 2nd birthday. It is hard to believe that 2 years have passed since she was born! (Patsy's birth story, Patsy's 1st birthday) We had a huge event for her first birthday so this year we kept it low-key with just friends and family. Here are a few pics from her birthday. She is in a big Elmo phase right now so that was the theme for the party. I think she had a fun time! It was fun to see her expression while opening presents and really having fun for the day.

Happy birthday Patsy! Our lives are better now that you're a part of it! So happy to spend the past 2 years with you and we're looking forward to many more!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

JournalMenu Winner Announced!

The winner of the JournalMenu free custom journal is:

Alexandra @ My Urban Family

Please email me at runningkellometers at gmail dot com for more details!

For those of you that missed out but would still like a journal of your own, check out this link to the JournalMenu site where you can use code: KELLOMETERS for 15% off your own journal. Thanks to all of those that entered!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Oiselle Bra Reviews (for those of us with a bigger bust)

As some of you may know (and I’ve talked about this before) I’ve had trouble over the years finding the right sports bra for me. I am around a C/D cup (more of a D these days) and there is really only 1 company right now that I can go to consistently to find bras that I know will do the trick. As Oiselle has recently gotten into the bra game and most of them are listed as A/B or kind-of C cups, I thought I would talk about some of the bras that I’ve tried and give a little review of each. I thought it might be helpful to create a scale for comparison purposes. From a scale of 1-5 stars (*), where 1 is the least supportive and 5 is the most supportive. I've included links to the Oiselle website where you can purchase all of these bras. There are other bras in the Oiselle lineup right now (OP, Tracktion, Go Time) but I have not yet given them a test run.

Classic Verrazano with a glass of rose wine, enjoyed before I was pregnant.
1) Verrazano (*) – This one is super comfy with removable cups. I love this bra for lounging around the house or doing yoga or barre. However, even if I run to the mailbox at the end of our driveway, I don't think this bra has the right amount of support. When it comes to comfort though, I highly recommend it! I plan to purchase another (one or two) before I have baby #2. For the purpose of running, I think this is best suited for A or small B cups.

Oiselle image taken directly from their website
2) Charcoal Strappy (**) – This bra is a soft cotton type of material with removable cups. I love the width so it has a nice range of coverage. When it comes to capacity, I wouldn’t recommend this bra for running as the support is not as strong as I would like. It would definitely be great for a cardio or barre class, but I wouldn’t put it on for weekend long run or race. It has a little more support than the Verrazano, but this is best suited for A or B cups.

The back of the Runway bra with Birds of a Feather tank
3) Runway (***) – This is one of the newer styles. I like the unique strap design. I think part of my problem with this bra is that I ordered a size that is a little too small. I felt the compression was good but the coverage was not what I need. I felt like I was popping out over the top of the bra. I would say that it is a sturdier bra than the Verrazano or Strappy, but I would need to double up for more support for anything longer than 2-3 miles. Because this is a thicker bra design, doubling up is not as easy as with other bras. I would say that this is best suited for A, B and small C cups.

Doubling up on the Lesko
Don't mind my red sweaty face
4) Lesko (***) – This is one that I felt was much sturdier and it also has the removable cups. I like the criss-cross back pattern so it fits nicely within a racerback tank. I like that the coverage is fuller and the thicker straps definitely help. However, one Lesko just isn’t enough for me to keep the girls in place. I have a tank with the built-in Lesko bra and if I also wear the Lesko bra with it, I’m in good shape. I really like this bra and I’ve been wanting to get another one. Next time there is a sale, you can bet this will be in my cart. It is a thinner type of material so wearing 2 of them isn't too cumbersome. I would recommend 1 of these bras for A, B and small C cups. If you're going to double up, I think that it could work for a C or maybe small D cup.

Brazen modeled by Heather Stevens
Oiselle image taken directly from their website
5) Brazen (***) – This is one of the newest styles of Oiselle bras, marketed towards B/C cups. It is made of comfy seamless fabric and doesn’t have padding or removable cups. (I haven’t had any issues with nipage yet, but I haven’t worn it in any freezing cold weather.) The straps can be traditional over-the-shoulder or racerback. I’ve worn it both ways and I find the racerback design to be preferred. It actually fits nicely between the shoulder blades. I wore it for the 5k at Oiselle Bird Camp. It was fine for the 5k but I wouldn’t recommend it for enough support during a run longer than 4 miles. Out of all of the bras available, I believe this one is the most supportive. However, I would recommend this bra for A, B and small C cups.

At Bird Camp, Sally (CEO of Oiselle) said that it is has been challenging for them to create a bra that works for larger cup sizes. They are continuing to work on it, but they don’t want to release a sub-par product. They want to wait until they have it right before putting something out. I respect their integrity in their design philosophy. I had a long talk with a few of the designers at camp and gave them some of my thoughts and ideas on what would make a great bra for C/D+ cup sizes. Hopefully this will come to fruition for the 2016 line! Until then, my best advice for those that want to wear Oiselle bras and are bigger than a B cup, I suggest doubling up or waiting it out. Personally, I have a feeling it will be worth the wait.

Note: I was not compensated in any way by Oiselle for these reviews. I purchased these bras with my own money, with a team member discount. All ideas and ratings expressed are simply my own.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

JournalMenu Review and Giveaway

I was contacted by someone at JournalMenu about customizing my own journal. Once I checked out their website and saw what they had to offer, I knew I wanted one of my own! Here is the journal I chose.

The website has lots of great options. For the cover, you can choose your background image and cover text. I chose the "spring chevron" pattern and one of the Oiselle mantras. For the inside, I went with the running journal (for obvious reasons). As I don't train every single day of the week, I went with the blank day option. You can also set something up for weekly training, if that is what works better for you.

You can plan out your races, goals, and then note how things went as well. In the appendix, there is also a pace planner that shows how different paces will lead to times for specific events. As of right now, I'm not really running or training all that much, but I'm excited to have this waiting for me after Baby #2 comes and spring is here! You'll be seeing more of this in 2016, for sure.

They also have journals that can be catered towards other things other than running like yoga, weightlifting, crossfit and life. The website has tons of extra features to choose from too. You can add a pocket, include nutrition information, etc. To find out more about JournalMenu, feel free to check out their website to see all they have to offer. As a special gift to my readers, I'm going to raffle off a journal from JournalMenu to all of you! To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget below to track your entries. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, September 9. Good luck!

For 15% off your order, check out my link and use code "KELLOMETERS".

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Guest Post: Spartan Race Review 2015

As many of you know, the 2015 Chicago Spartan event was over the weekend. As I was sipping on iced chais in Leavenworth, WA at Bird Camp, my friend Brian was busy busting his butt out on the Spartan course. He's been gracious enough to put together a blog post describing his experience. I hope you enjoy things from his perspective! (My review from last year's race can be found here.) Special thanks to Brian for taking the time to type up such a thoughtful post on a great race! I don't know what my race schedule will be next year, but I plan to make room for Spartan!


I love the Spartan Race. Let’s just start off there. While I’ve run numerous road races of varying distances, I’ve more recently been captivated by CrossFit (a whole other topic that I won’t try to tackle here) and have essentially given up running for anything other than as part of CrossFit workouts.

That said, nothing gets me out and running quite like the opportunity to run through the trees, mud and water, tackling obstacles and basically just acting like a kid again. Warrior Dash and the like are fun opportunities to get muddy with your friends, but to me Spartan Race represents a true challenge, both physically and mentally. So, when Spartan Race comes to the Chicago area, you can pretty much be sure that I’ll be there. Of the three Spartan Races I’ve run (one Sprint, two Supers), this was by far the most challenging, but also the most rewarding.
Team CFNL Pre-Race – Julie, Betsy, Brian, Jared, Brian (me) and Andy

For my first time ever, I talked some of my friends into joining me for a little Saturday run through the woods, ravines, creeks and obstacles Spartan set up at Cliff’s Terrain Park in Marseilles, IL. Of the six members of Team CrossFit New Lenox, only two of us had run a Spartan before, so with four Spartan virgins we made an executive decision to start together and finish together, no matter what. Certainly a different approach than I’ve taken in the past, but also certainly worth it.

As always, Spartan Race is incredibly well organized, from the time you get to the parking lot (I highly recommend shelling out the extra $40 for the “VIP” parking on-site to avoid the need to park a mile away and either walk or ride the school bus shuttle), through registration, bag check and into the starting areas. While waiting for our start time, there was plenty to keep us busy, including pull-up challenges (not my forte!), rope climb practice areas, slack line challenges, etc. as well as the merchandise and sponsor tents. As one who tends to get nervous as race time approaches, it’s nice to have opportunities to keep busy as the time ticks by.

Unlike Warrior Dash and other races, Spartan Race is fairly strict about enforcing start times, checking each racer’s wristband for the appropriate start time. You are allowed to move back to later heats, but cannot move up to an earlier one without paying an extra fee (Spartan is big on these extra fees). I personally like this as it keeps the start groups to relatively manageable numbers, which is highly important on a course like this that included several stretches of single track that made it very difficult to pass other racers.

In true Spartan Race form, there’s an obstacle to clear before you even get into the starting pen in the form of a five foot high wall. Doesn’t seem like much, and while some needed help getting over, we all made it in safely (although one of our team, to remain nameless, did fall on his first attempt…we’ll just blame it on nerves and the slipperiness of the top of the wall with all the mud from previous start heats). After a rather entertaining “fast” mandatory reading of the safety precautions, which finished with the essential caveat…”You signed the waiver, don’t blame us,” and a few cheers of AROO, AROO, AROO and I AM SPARTAN, we were off.

With the thunderstorms that rolled through the night before the race, the trail was most definitely muddy for much of the race, with the mud the consistency of wet concrete at times. If you’re thinking about taking on Spartan Race, I’d highly recommend investing in some trail shoes. I found some Salomon FellRaisers on a discount site ( for about $50 on clearance, well worth the investment as they’re very comfortable, provide great traction and can be run through the wringer, both literally and figuratively, washed out and be ready for the next race. You may also want to invest in some duct tape to keep your shoes on in the muck, several people lost, or came close to losing, their shoes at various points during the race.

The early parts of the race mainly involved a lot of trail running through the woods, across and through creeks, and up and down plenty of ravines, at times very slick, muddy ravines. Obstacles were fairly well spaced out throughout the approximately 8 mile course, with some grouped together in clusters and others spaced individually. As I mentioned earlier, I think the obstacles are what set Spartan Race apart from other obstacle races…some of these obstacles are seriously challenging, and if you fail, you’re required to do 30 burpees, which we all know suck so try to avoid at all costs.

I lost track of how many obstacles we actually had to tackle, and most are fairly straight forward, but a few highlights (lowlights?) include:

  • Spear Throw – throw a “spear” into a standing haybale target about 20 feet away. Simple, right? Judging by the number of people doing burpees after this obstacle, not so much. Luckily, for the first time in three races, I stuck one so no burpees for me!
  • Rope Climb – pretty straight forward, and something we do at CrossFit fairly regularly, climb a rope about 20’ and ring the bell and move on. However, in this case you have to start from a mud pit about 2-3 feet deep and the ropes were slick with mud. Some ropes have knots to assist you, but as these seemed to be the most popular, and therefore slickest, I recommend trying the non-knotted ropes if you can. No burpees here either!
  • Traverse Wall – basically a wall with blocks of 2x4s placed at varying intervals for hands and feet. Spartan Race threw a curve this year and added two 90 degree turns to the wall, making it that much harder. Unfortunately, my foot slipped off a block about five feet from the end, so 30 burpees for me there.
  • Monkey Bars – something we all probably loved as a kid, but haven’t tried in 20 or 30 years. These bars go up and down as well, traversing about 20-30 feet. Grab some dirt to dry your hands, and just hang on for dear life. As these were nearing the end of the course, there was no way I was dropping for more burpees!
  • “Ninja” Crossing – new to the Chicago Spartan Race, similar to American Ninja Warrior type obstacles where you have to cross approximately 20-30 feet, using rings, ropes and a horizontal bar. Make it across, ring the bell and no burpees.
In addition, there were plenty of wall climbs (where having a team definitely helps as we were allowed to boost each other up when needed), cargo nets, barbed wire crawls, moving heavy objects (sleds, stones, logs, sandbags, etc.) and other challenges. In most cases, we were allowed to help each other when needed, making the course achievable for just about anyone who wants to give it a try.
Team CFNL – The Final Obstacle

One of the great things about Spartan Race is the positive vibe you get from other racers. As soon as you stop along the way, you’re bound to be asked if you’re okay or if you need help. If you’re running alone and need help on an obstacle, someone will always step up to help. When someone is dragging, passersby almost always give at least a positive shout, and often times stop to walk with you or otherwise assist (who knew that mustard packets are a great cure for cramping?).
Team CFNL - Post Race 

Team CFNL - Post Race 

Overall, it was a great day. While certainly not my fastest time, the fact that the six of us started together and finished together as a team made the day that much more fun. I think the fact that one of the “virgins” said immediately after crossing the finish line that she’s ready to sign up for next year says it all. I know I’ll be out there again, hopefully talking more of my friends into joining us on another adventure next year.

Well-earned post-race refreshments!
The Post Race meal at Fergy’s in Seneca…highly recommend!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reflections on the First Trimester... The 2nd Time Around

I've been pretty quiet on the blog and social media lately. Why? Turns out that growing a tiny human can be pretty exhausting. I found out I was pregnant with Baby #2 on Memorial Day Weekend, when I was up to my ears in my CFA studies. I was so worried that the stress of the exam might harm the little nugget baby in some way. The day of the exam I saw at least 6 women that were very pregnant. That made me feel a bit better.

Studying away

And that's a positive pregnancy test

With Patsy, we got pregnant right away. The first try in fact. When we felt it was time to have another baby, it took a little longer than expected. I was still nursing which I think acted as a form of birth control. Many women have gotten pregnant while breastfeeding so it definitely is not a fool proof form of birth control, but for some women it can be. Anywaysssss once the exam was over, I was really excited to focus on enjoying my summer with Patsy. We told my mom and cousin about the pregnancy but my SIL was getting married in a few weeks and I wanted to wait until after the wedding before we told my husband's family. The day of the wedding I took empty shots of fireball and drank O'Doul's out of a champagne glass to keep suspicions at bay. Something I learned after being unable to keep the secret very well the first time around.

When I was around 6 weeks pregnant, I started to feel the symptoms of pregnancy within the first trimester. I hope this isn't TMI for you. If so, feel free to click the close box.
  • Nausea - oh wow, the nausea. I'm 14+ weeks now and I'm still nauseous
  • Fatigue - chasing around an almost 2 year old helps with this one too
  • Tender and sore breasts (oh yes, this is for real)
  • Increased amount of trips to the bathroom
  • Food aversion
That last one really goes hand-in-hand with the nausea. I can no longer drink coffee; thank goodness Starbuks offers the refresher drinks that include a dose of caffiene. I've also now fallen in love with the white tea lemonade with ginger puree at Argo Tea. Seriously, it is THE BEST.
Starbucks Very Berry Hibiscus, light ice & extra berries

For about 1 month straight, I ate nothing but grilled cheese for dinner every night. I think Chris and Patsy are now officially sick of grilled cheese. 
And of course you can't loose with a combo mac and cheese grilled cheese. Yes, you're seeing that right.

The nausea has made it really challenging to get any motivation to workout. I tried a Barre class for the first time and had to leave in the middle of the class so I could go throw up. I'm telling you guys--first trimester nausea is no joke. I haven't been able to run as much in this pregnancy as I did with Patsy. But I'm still having fun and trying to workout when I can!

So this is what's been going on in my life!
Oh and here's a fuzzy pic of our new little baby on the way!

I hope you enjoy the ride the second time around, just as much as the first time! If you have any questions about pregnancy, babies, Patsy or anything, don't be afraid to ask!