Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Saturday Night Sneakeasy

Life has been pure madness over the last few weeks. On top of me hitting the 22-week mark in my pregnancy last weekend, Adam and I recently bought a new residence while simultaneously selling our current one. We are now preparing to move to a new neighborhood next month. And since life always hurls everything at you all at once, we've both also been slammed with work while having to deal with a plethora of other rising "adventures." Hence, why blogging has taken a backseat for me yet again these days.

On a most positive note, my pregnancy has been progressing smoothly, which has been an enormous relief. More on that later. For now, my gratitude is growing for any moments when I can take a deep breath!
Let's shift gears and talk about some running soirees. Nike Chicago has a history of hosting some of the most amazing events I've ever experienced (e.g. the Nike Unlimited Decathlon, getting to meet an elite marathoner, and an NFL-inspired workout at Soldier Field). Whenever the word comes out that they've got something up their sleeves, they always get my full and undivided attention.

Two weekends ago, I learned through the Windy City Bloggers Collective that Nike Chicago was hosting a Sneakeasy party (clever name, eh?). The occasion was to commemorate the launch of Nike's new Air VaporMax running shoe. I was intrigued that the festivities were scheduled to start at 9:30 PM on a Saturday night. It had to be a blockbuster event for a timeslot like that, right?

I arrived at Nike Bucktown that Saturday night to see hordes of runners gathered around socializing amidst a deejay blasting music. It already felt like a party.
The group would be going on a 2-mile fun-run to an as-yet undisclosed location, where a post-run party would be taking place. All the attendees were given the opportunity to wear-test the new Air VaporMax shoes, so I definitely took advantage.

Check out the soles on these babies:
Nike's Air shoe series were previously designed with midsole between the air and your foot, as well as a sole underneath the air pockets. In this new design, the midsole and protective bottom sole have both been removed so the shoe is all Air. (Who comes up with these concepts!?!?!?)

As we were waiting to depart, lots of runners were taking photos in front of this tongue-in-cheek backdrop. I joined in:
Admittedly, I had been hesitant about participating in the run due to being pregnant and having barely logged 10 miles during 2017. To put it bluntly, I no longer felt like a true runner. Being surrounded by that crowd made me feel like a complete and total fraud. But since I was dressed in full running gear and runners come in all shapes and sizes, I tried to remind myself that nobody could pick me out as a laggard.

While the group was filing out into the street, I still considered surreptitiously breaking away and either taking public transit or riding a Divvy bike to the post-run party. But ultimately I got swept up in the excitement of the crowd. I genuinely did want to test the new shoes, and I figured I could probably handle two miles. So I gave in and joined the forces, albeit nervously.

The group of runners hit the streets in a big way. We drew lots of stares as we passed countless Saturday night revelers. Lots of cars honked their horns at us, and many folks yelled, "Run, Forrest, run!" or other similar sentiments at us. It was comical and everyone took the comments in stride (literally).
I won't kid you, at the outset, the running felt awful to me. Almost immediately my out-of-rhythm body was screaming at me for putting it through the now-foreign exertion. Normally during a run, I get frustrated when I have to keep stopping for traffic or red lights. This night, I was grateful for every break I could get to catch my breath.

I didn't talk to anyone during the run because I was too out of breath. But I did listen to the runner-chatter surrounding me, mostly about upcoming and past races. Again, it made me feel like an outsider. I had been worried about being the slowest runner in the pack, so I was glad the group spanned a wide range of running capabilities. I never found my rhythm during the entire two-mile run, which seemed to take forever. Thankfully I did start feeling a little better after the first mile. As I've said before, running while pregnant is truly no joke.
All of my running imperfections aside - the Air VaporMax shoes were fun to wear! They felt very light and springy. The upper was very form-fitting, and were as close to wearing socks as I've ever experienced in a pair of running shoes. The design would take some getting used to since it's so different from what I currently wear, but I loved the cushioning. You are literally running on air.

I had gear-checked my own running shoes in exchange for the wear-test pair. Since the new shoes were so fun, I will admit the thought crossed my mind to just nonchalantly walk out in them and leave my old shoes behind. ;-) But of course, I did reluctantly give the Nikes back.

The post-run party took place at a venue in West Town named Event Creative. The space featured running-inspired designs and art from local designers. Here are some of my favorites:

Being that this was a Nike-hosted event, there were lots of product displays and photo/shopping ops:

When I say party, I should really describe the event as a nightclub. There was an open bar, plus passed drinks and hors d'oeuvres. (Obviously I didn't partake in any of the alcohol, but when it came to the food I stuffed myself!) There was also a stage with live entertainment.

Many other folks who hadn't run with the group were lined up outside the venue waiting to get in. I saw groups of them coming in, and they were all dressed to the nines in their Saturday night club attire. The place was so packed that it became challenging to walk around.

Nike Chicago really knows how to throw a party for a new product launch! They obviously have quite the loyal following to draw such an enormous crowd on a Saturday night. Many thanks to them for hosting yet another incredible event and treating all the attendees like VIPs. I am already looking forward to their next event (and hopefully next time I'll feel more like my old self)!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Life lately - 19 weeks pregnant

I hit the 19-week mark of my pregnancy yesterday. Many pregnancy resources describe the baby as now being the size of a mango.
As I mentioned previously, I do not intend to turn this blog into a baby blog. I certainly understand not everyone wants to read about it. Today, however, please humor me as I wanted to share a few details on my experience so far.

How have you been feeling?
Over the last month or two, I've been feeling really good. Many times I feel so normal that I forget I'm pregnant! I do get tired more easily, though. I've been sleeping longer hours and taking more naps than usual. I have occasionally experienced increased shortness of breath during physical activity - most notably when I am climbing stairs.
Did you have any morning sickness?
No nausea or vomiting, thankfully. However, between Weeks 6-9 I had major loss of appetite, which is extremely atypical for me. I also had a heightened sense of smell, upper body soreness, and got a little lightheaded if I had to stand up too quickly or for too long. I was happy when all of these symptoms started dissipating around Week 10.

Are you showing yet?
I would say no, or at least not to the untrained eye. My pants are feeling tighter but I can still fit into all of my clothes. So far my total weight gain has been about 7 pounds. I've consistently been at the low end of the recommended weekly weight gain ranges (note that this has NOT been for lack of eating, especially after Week 10).
Are you still running/working out? Do you plan to run throughout your pregnancy?
I'm trying to stay as active as possible, and have been working out in some capacity at least 4-5 days a week. I've been walking, lifting (lighter weights than before), stationary biking, and doing yoga, Zumba, and barre classes.

Running has become a no-go. It feels like too much for my body right now. One exception was a few weeks ago when the weather was VERY unseasonably warm. The nearly summer-like temperatures motivated me to break a then-5-week running drought. I ran 3 extremely slow miles (i.e. at a pace between 90-120 seconds per mile slower than my pre-pregnancy pace). It was truly all I could handle. I haven't tried again ever since. I am doubtful about trying again until after I deliver.

Kudos to all of you who continue running during your pregnancies. It really is no joke.

Do you have any food cravings? Do you miss anything?
I've gone through phases of craving watermelon, cream cheese, chips and hummus, lemon, and pizza (although, pizza is nothing unusual). There was a time period during which I couldn't get enough bread or pasta - yet that has surprisingly waned. I'd like to believe my body is naturally regulating my carb intake since I'm not running these days. But who am I kidding - my historic dietary patterns strongly suggest otherwise. ;-P

I really miss eating sushi. Every time I walk by my favorite neighborhood sushi restaurant, I feel wistful. I've had to be careful about the cold deli meats whenever my office brings sandwiches in for lunch. Recently, I've had several instances where I unhappily avoided poached eggs.

Are you feeling any movement?
Yes!!! I feel lots of little flutters and twinges. They are most noticeable when I'm sitting at my desk or on the couch, or when I'm lying in bed at night. When I put my hand on my belly, I've caught some little kicks against my palm. Adam has managed to catch a few of them, too. It's exciting! And since my belly hasn't grown much, the movements are also very reassuring that things are happening in there. =)
What are you looking forward to right now?
Adam and I are heading out soon for a babymoon! Plus, I am anxiously awaiting my next ultrasound in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to see how much progress has occurred since our last "look-in" around Week 13!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Museum Hacks

Before I get started today, thank you to everyone for the wonderful comments and responses to my pregnancy news! I am humbled and grateful for all of your heartwarming support!
I had full intentions of getting back to at least a semi-regular blogging schedule, but that obviously hasn't happened yet. I have been slammed with work and various baby-related preparations, among other things. But I'll talk more about all of that another time.

Today, let's talk about some cool city explorations! Two weekends ago, my friend Helen was in town from Seoul, and came to visit. We had a great time scurrying around town amidst some unseasonably warm weather.

One of the weekend's adventures included attending a Museum Hack tour at the Art Institute of Chicago. The tour was an incredibly fun and unique experience and I have been wanting to talk about it ever since!
The Museum Hack website describes the tours as "...not your grandmother's museum tour" and "Museum tours... for people who don't like museums." Excellent descriptions. I would also describe the tour as an expertly thought-out blend of history/culture, interactive/improv games, and discovery.

The tour groups are limited to a maximum of nine people per tour guide. In my opinion, this is the perfect size. It's small enough to allow personal group interaction without being overwhelmed, but not so small that you feel like you are under a microscope. Here's a picture of our group as we were getting underway:
Our guide, Mark, is the gentleman just to the right of center wearing the dark jacket and glasses. Mark is an improv artist in Chicago (incidentally, he and I know several of the same folks who perform at ComedySportz and Second City!) His demeanor was perfect for the festivities - he was energetic, humorous, knowledgeable, engaging, understanding, and enthusiastic.

Mark began by describing how there were thousands of underground or background stories behind the museum's artwork displays. He had spent countless hours researching and learning these stories, and would be sharing a few of them with us.

For example, these pieces generated stories about the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright:
We learned about how Wright's home was destroyed by not one, but two fires, one resulting in the death of his mistress and two of her children.

As another example, we learned about how the images conveyed in this piece inspired actor Bill Murray to forgo a planned suicide attempt (!!!!!!):
All of the stories were very interesting, of course. However, I was thinking the entire 2-hour tour would consist of us going from painting to painting just listening to different stories. Admittedly, I wasn't sure I had that long of an attention span. Being pregnant, I was also concerned about being able to keep up with all the walking, stair-climbing, and standing involved.


The tour went WAY beyond listening to stories. We started having fun group discussions and playing a variety of interactive and interpretive games. There were way too many to describe here, so I'll share just a few examples.

In one gallery, Mark had everyone pick out our favorite character depictions in a painting, then try to physically copy them as a group. The gallery was packed, but he told us not to worry because the crowds would eventually move aside and let us pose together. He was right! Here's our masterpiece:
In a quieter display wing, we were asked to look at painting titles, then come up with a dance to illustrate a title of our choice. I chose a painting entitled "Head" (unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it). My illustration was a personal reprise of the SNL Roxbury Guys dancing to "What is Love." E.g.:
(Do you all remember those skits? I had forgotten how hysterically funny they were and still are!!!)

The rest of the group came up with similarly comical moves and we took turns demonstrating and duplicating each other using some quietly-played music from Mark's phone. (A security guard in charge of that wing saw us, of course, but didn't say anything. We noted she was clearly trying to hold back her laughter. =D )

We found a creepy statue and humorously theorized on all of its elements, what it represented, and what precipitated the artist to come up with the design. We also noted the statue bore an eerily similar likeness to Mark:
One last example - we went into a wing of statues which Mark entitled "the goddess wing." We were each asked to find the statue that most spoke to us, then pose with it. Here are the pictures that both Helen and I took with our respective choices:

Again, there were so many other examples of fun activities we did using the museum's displays that I'm not sharing here for sake of brevity - but you get the idea on how interactive it was!

Mark told us, "This is YOUR museum. When you hack a museum, YOU control the experience you have inside and the fun you want to have. You make it out to be whatever you want it to be!" You got it, buddy. Truer words have never been spoken. =)

After our tour, Helen and I went back to a couple of the places we discovered as part of the tour group. For example, the group had visited the Ando gallery, which is a dark room with 16 columns as a traditional element of Japanese architecture. This gallery is intended to be a transitional space to help visitors relax:
Mark mentioned many visitors bypass this gallery, but those that do find it tend to go back multiple times. True to his word, Helen and I both wanted to enjoy the quietness of this gallery in more detail the second time.

Of course, Helen and I couldn't resist popping into a few other exhibits, too, like the paperweights exhibit (who comes up with ideas for these types of exhibits!?!?!?) Here's a shot of us in front of one of the display cases:
All in all, the Museum Hack tour was a blast! I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but I thoroughly enjoyed being able to visit and enjoy a museum in a whole new way. I've mentioned many times how much I love exploring the depths of my hometown Chicago, and this tour was exactly the type of local, get-under-the-surface, off-the-beaten-path experience that I am always looking for.

Many thanks to Museum Hack for such an awesome experience! Big cheers to learning that museums do NOT have to be boring or stuffy if you know what approach to take! I'll never visit a museum the same way ever again. =)

Monday, February 20, 2017

The wheel in the sky keeps on turning

Hello, friends!

It's been a long time since I last published a blog post - almost 11 weeks, to be exact. Today I am finally back and ready to explain my nearly 3-month absence from the blogosphere. Are you all ready for a boatload of lame excuses and the awards that come along with those lame excuses?
I'll just cut to the chase.

I am pregnant. Adam and I are going to be first-time parents this summer.
Many times it's hard for me to believe it. I am feeling a lot of emotions, but most predominately I am an ever-changing mixture of extremely excited and eye-poppingly terrified.

When I've shared the news with folks in person, here are the first questions I've usually been asked (along with my responses):

How far along are you?
As of yesterday, I was 16 weeks. The time has gone by both quickly and slowly for me, depending how I think about it.

When is your due date?
August 6, 2017. Hurray for summer babies! (Incidentally, I have the exact same due date as Amanda - how cool is that!?!?!?! We've already been sharing and comparing notes. =) )

Do you know the baby's gender and/or are you going to find out?
Adam and I just found out a few weeks ago that the baby has a Y-chromosome. Translation: There will be a lot of blue in the near future because...
Going back to the early weeks...
The pregnancy came as a TOTALLY unexpected surprise. I found out in early December and was in complete shock for several days. The reality didn't truly hit me until Adam and I went to our first ob-gyn prenatal check-up and saw the live, moving image on the ultrasound.

The body's ability to create life is amazing. My entire perspective on life has now changed.
About my blog silence...
I wanted to follow suit with the common practice of keeping quiet until reaching the second trimester. Needless to say, it was difficult. There was and is so much to think about how drastically the baby is going to change our lives. It will impact family, friends, health, career, finances, where we're living, etc., etc., etc. I couldn't bring myself to blog without talking about any of these things - it felt so disingenuous. Therefore, I opted to step away for awhile.

I once heard a friend say that anytime someone is unusually quiet on social media, it's always because they are trying to hide something. Yes, this was true for me.
In any event - I am happy to finally share the news with all of you! It is not my intention to turn this blog into a baby blog, but I will definitely share some updates here and there.

On that note - in the past several of you have previously undergone and blogged about your pregnancy journeys, and at the time I always skimmed through those posts. NOW I have been going back and rereading all of your pregnancy posts in enraptured delight! =) Funny how life changes, eh?

Much more to come!!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot race recap

This year marked my fifth consecutive running of the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh. It has become an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition.
Admittedly, I came close to breaking the streak this year. I didn't arrive in Pittsburgh until very late the night before. I considered not even signing up due to the quick logistical turnaround required. Then, the meteorologists predicted rain on race morning, which made me consider DNSing. However, I've always enjoyed this race and I think it sets a good tone for the day- so ultimately I followed through.

The festivities include a 1-miler, a 5K, and a 5-miler. I did the 5-miler only.

On race day, Adam and I arrived just as the 5K was getting underway. It was fun to watch. Unfortunately, I eventually had to Frogger my way through the running masses since I needed to do race-day packet pickup.
Packet pickup was a breeze, and there were no lines at the portapotties. Excellent.

As I was waiting for the 5-miler to start, I noticed the organizers were blasting fantastic 80s music over the loudspeakers. It helped energize me. When this old classic came on, I shamelessly broke into the best Wahlberg-esque moves I could muster:
Next, I got a couple of pre-race photos:
One of the ever-iconic bridges
With the Bill Mazeroski statue
Time to start. Shortly after I got underway, I saw Adam stationed at the side of the road with his phone. This was an opportunity for a jumping pose. Yeah!!!

The result wasn't horrible. But again it didn't come out quite the way I hoped:
Do I look like I'm doing Wahlberg-type moves while on the run?
Ah well.

Having run this Turkey Trot so many times, I knew the course well. I elected to run without my phone, which felt surprisingly invigorating. It enabled me to focus entirely on all the sights and sounds without thinking about photo opps, text messages, etc.

This was the first running I'd done since the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half, so I wasn't sure what the paces would feel like. At the very least, I wanted to break 50 minutes.

Within the first half-mile, my Garmin said my pace was around a 9-minute mile. The idea momentarily crossed my mind that if I kept the pace up, I could attempt a sub-45. Then, a 9:00 pacer blew by me, which immediately brought me back down to reality. He passed with so much alacrity, it reminded me of this:
Either the pacer was going way too fast, or my Garmin was off-kilter. Either way, it was an easy decision to slow down and refocus on enjoying the course atmosphere.

My favorite parts of the course, as always, were the bridges. In previous Turkey Trot renditions, I've felt the bridge inclines quite acutely. With this in mind, I braced myself each time I approached. What a pleasant surprise to find the inclines didn't bother me at all. The hill training I did earlier this year apparently had stronger staying power than anticipated, woo hoo!
This Pittsburghese, as seen on several runners' shirts, just seemed appropriate to say here.
Around Mile 3, I spotted Molly and Julie on the course and shouted a hello. I saw them a second time around 4.25, and shouted another hello. Always so uplifting to see friends on the course!

With about a half-mile to go, I saw Adam again. Time to attempt another jumping pose. Check out the action stream he captured:
Still not quite there yet, but getting much closer - especially with #3!!! =D

With less than a quarter mile to go, I saw a man ahead of me wearing a banana suit. I instantly decided I didn't want to be beaten by the banana. I turned on the jets as best as I could and did manage to pass him shortly before crossing the finish line. It's funny what kinds of random encounters end up motivating you, eh?
My official finishing time was 48:01. Had I known how close I was to 48 minutes flat, I would have pushed a little harder to break 48. Even so, my time ended up being a course record for me by exactly 30 seconds. More importantly, my legs and lungs both felt really good throughout the duration. That was a nice morale boost.

Adam and I ran into several friends afterwards, including our friend Jared (who we didn't even know was running!) It was wonderful to catch up.
L to R: Adam, me, and Jared
Jared actually finished just a few seconds after I did, but surprisingly we never saw each other on the course!
Brian, Laurel, Julie, Adam, Hudson, me, Molly, Jacob
In summary, I was very happy to run this race again. I love the festivity, the atmosphere, and the backdrop. It was a great way to close out my 2016 racing season. Let's get the streak to six next year!

With that... I now have exactly zero races on the future calendar! Let's see how long this lasts...!

Linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday festivities, Nov 21 - Dec 4 training, TV binging

Hi friends! I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend.

I've been thoroughly enjoying the beauty of the winter holidays in Chicago. For example, earlier this week after work, I stopped by the Christkindlmarket, which I adore. I was walking around like a wide-eyed child in a winter wonderland.
Seeing all the German and Austria vendors reminded me of visiting Vienna a few months ago. So much nostalgia! I even saw a vendor selling apfelstrudel, which was my favorite dish in Austria. I didn't buy any (not enough time), but you better believe I'll be back soon to indulge. Maybe multiple times!
Flashback from the Naschmarkt in Vienna
Also coming soon - I want to go ice skating at one of Chicago's outdoor rinks, see Lincoln Park Zoolights, visit the Holidays Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, and go window shopping on Michigan Avenue. Time to make a list and check it twice... ;-)
Once again I am behind a week in recapping my workouts, so here are the last two weeks:

Nov 21 - Nov 27
MONDAY - Yoga class, 30 minutes strength-training
TUESDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling
WEDNESDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
THURSDAY - PNC YMCA Turkey Trot (recap still to come)
SUNDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling

Nov 28 - Dec 4
MONDAY - Rest (lots of walking in DC)
TUESDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class, Mobility 101 class
THURSDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
FRIDAY - Yoga class
SATURDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill
SUNDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling

Last night was Adam's company's holiday party. The celebration was a blast. His colleagues are really good people and his company really knows how to rock out the night! The party was a much different atmosphere than what we were both accustomed to after working at accounting firms for a combined 25+ years.

Here is a picture of us:
Here are a few fun "photobooth" shots from the night:
The party venue was just a few blocks from where we live, so we had some of Adam's colleagues over beforehand for pre-party festivities. It was then that someone suggested we do a mannequin challenge. Yours truly volunteered to do the camerawork.

If I do say so myself, I think the video turned out pretty decently. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present my triumphant debut as a mannequin challenge film director!
Thank you, thank you, please hold applause. =D

Speaking of excellent videos - Adam's colleague, Deepthi, mentioned that the NBC show "This is Us" was fantastic.
The only thing I'd heard about the show was that it was devoid of the overscripted drama, violence, or action scenes that have become typical. Sounds good to me.

On Friday night, Adam and I pulled up what was originally supposed to be a single episode via On Demand. It quickly degenerated into us binge-watching four episodes.
I think there are five more episodes before we are caught up. I fully anticipate getting through all remaining episodes by tomorrow at the very latest, and very possibly before tonight. It's so addictive!

Who else is watching "This Is Us"? If so, please let me know so we can talk about it!

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, and with Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup.