Sunday, October 28, 2012

Living under a Franken-rock

I got buried at work this past week. So buried, in fact, that I wasn't just living under a proverbial rock.  I was living under a boulder.

Things were so busy that I didn't even hear about Frankenstorm until just a couple of days ago.  Now, I am reading/hearing about literally half of the U.S. population buying out entire hardware stores and grocery stores, barricading themselves in their basements, and fleeing westward.  Yikes!  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Frankenstorm's path.

Thankfully Chicago should be spared from the brunt of the storm.  However, I'm unfortunately dealing with my own Franken-effects right here at home.  Not anywhere near the scale of the real storm, of course, but devastating to me a-plenty.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I went for my first true post-marathon run this morning. 

I ran 5 miles.  A few weeks ago, 5 miles would have been a walk in the park for me.  But today, by mile 3, I was already calculating how much time I had left to go and contemplating cutting things short.  It was a rude awakening to find out how much conditioning and mental strength I've already lost in just a few weeks.

[Add your best nosedive sound effects to this]

I knew that I wouldn't be able to maintain my conditioning forever, let alone after taking almost 3 weeks off.  But it was so unsettling to actually feel the decline for the first time.  It was such a sudden deterioration that now it's hard for me to believe that I ran 26.2 miles just three weeks ago.  Was that really me that did that!?!?


On the optimistic side, my injuries are starting to show some improvement.  Over the past few weeks, I've upped my cross-training efforts to help reduce some of my lower-body muscle imbalances.  I had read that biking is one of the best cross-training exercises for runners since it works many lower-body muscles that running doesn't.  Therefore, I've been riding on the recumbant bike a few times a week.  And WOW, do I ever feel it in my hips and glutes.  My muscle imbalances are apparently a lot worse than I could have ever imagined.

Has anyone ever noticed that Popeye has huge forearms but tiiiiiny little biceps?
Apparently he's got some muscle imbalances, too.

I'm planning to try to go on the stationary bike two or three times a week until my hips and glutes feel better.  And hey, the timing couldn't be better for this plan as I've got a nice long winter ahead of me to work on cross-training.  Chicago winter and franken-rocks be darned.

Aside from strengthening my hips and glutes, I would also like to get back into weight-lifting, both upper- and lower-body, and maybe even get back into swimming.  I don't currently belong to a gym or have access to any strength-training equipment, save for a set of 10-pound dumbbells that I have at home.  Therefore, I am starting to consider joining a gym, preferably one with a swimming pool.  But, I am balking at the cost and also at having to deal with impossible-to-cancel membership contracts (of which I have heard many horror stories).

If anyone has recommendations for fitness centers in Chicago with good value propositions, I would very much appreciate your suggestions.

Now, on a more positive note.  I did take my new running skirt (first mentioned here) for an inaugural run.  I am a fan.  I even wore green compression socks and a green shirt with the skirt.  This was a completely new look for me - I usually just wear black or gray shorts or pants, white no-show socks, and various shirts or jackets.  So dare I say that this new outfit actually even made me feel the slightest bit trendy?

As seen on the fashion runway - the usual runner's suit

It was nice to get a bit of a mental boost to be running in what I considered to be a cute outfit, especially when I was passing people (i.e. walkers) on the sidewalk.  (It's pretty rare for me to pass other runners in training.)  Lesson learned that there really is something to the mentality that you feel better when you look better, even in running.  Why did it take me so long to figure this out?  Once again, I've apparently been living under a franken-rock.  (The bad part about this discovery, though, is that I've found yet another type of running gear to spend more money on!  Sigh.)

OK - I'm off to prepare for the upcoming workweek.  To everyone in Frankenstorm's path, stay safe!  I will close by sharing some great advice that Adam's friend Filoni posted on Facebook today (slightly edited):

" friends Heather and Jon are visiting from eastern Pennsylvania.  Despite my offer of refuge, they have duties and responsibilities to attend to and are bravely going back home tomorrow to brave Frankenstorm. We made sure to stop at Home Depot and Giant Eagle to stock them with provisions.  This included the usual assortment of batteries, lanterns, bottled water etc., but also Oreos and Chips Ahoy because who really wants to face the Armaggedon if there are no cookies at least?"

Truer words have never been spoken.

Actually, I think I'm going to take Filoni's advice on the cookies, myself.  One never knows what else can happen while living under a franken-rock.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Volunteering at the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon and 5K

As I'd mentioned here, I went to the Lake Geneva area this past weekend with over a dozen of my closest running/blogger friends for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon and 5K.  As I'd also previously mentioned numerous times, I was dealing with too many lingering injuries after the Chicago Marathon to run ZOOMA myself.  But in the spirit of participating, I decided to volunteer for ZOOMA as a course marshall.

As I'd mentioned here, with less than 18 hours to go prior to the race start, I had not received my assigned location or any other information.  I had followed up with the race organizers twice, both times only to be told that they would provide more information soon.  The race organizers had indicated that they were short on volunteers.  Even so, this wasn't a good sign.

My gripes:
  1. The race started at 7:30 AM on Saturday.  I finally received my assigned intersection at about 2:15 PM on Friday afternoon.  However, beyond my location and report time, I was given almost no guidance on what to do. I had to specifically ask where to park, and I asked several other logistical questions that were never answered.
  2. The course map on the ZOOMA website was not nearly detailed enough for me to be able to identify the location of my intersection.  I was told that I would receive a course map and instructions, but I never did.
  3. Given the lack of instruction, I had to look up the location myself, try to figure it out, and cross my fingers that I was right.  My spot was in a somewhat complex intersection, but nobody ever came by to check on me or make sure I was set.  (Little do they know that the words "Walking compass" have never been used in the same sentence as me.  Ever.)
  4. The website indicated that I would receive a goody bag, which I didn't.  The only thing I received was a "race crew" t-shirt.
  5. I had no opportunity to go to the bathroom, no food, and no water. I basically ended up standing out in the cold for four hours with no reprieve.   It got tough, especially towards the end.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.  But I couldn't and didn't go.
  6. The website also indicated that I could attend the post-race party.  However, by the time the sag wagon cleared my spot, the post-race party had already shut down so I wasn't able to attend.  (I did, however, arrive just in time to see them deflate the finish line balloon arch.)
The white balloon arch looks much cooler when it's in a state of wrinkled semi-shrunkenness.

I did email the race organizers afterwards to share with them my poor experience.  To their credit, they responded quickly and apologized, said they were taking my feedback seriously, offered to mail me a goody bag, and indicated that things would be much different in the future.  That helped.

OK - enough about those frustrations!  Moving on to the actual course marshall experience itself - it was an eye-opening experience.  I remembered my own experiences from being on a race course and tried to put into action what has worked best for me from the other side.  I cheered all the passing runners as much as I could, give them high-fives, tried to give them the clearest directions that I could.

The half marathon and the 5K only had a combined total of about 600 participants, so it was a small and spread-out group of folks.  Even so, it required a lot of energy to cheer everyone on and my voice was pretty hoarse afterwards.  But, it was especially fun for me to look for all of the dozen-plus runners that I knew and personally cheer them on.  A good number of folks expressed their thanks for me being out there, which made me feel good.  It was also very intrinsically rewarding to see so many runners smile when they passed me.

This was NOT taken at the ZOOMA Great Lakes race, but it epitomizes some of the great smiles I saw from runners passing by me on the course.  How could you not feel good when you see something like this?

There were some surprises, though:
  1. In general, I told everyone that they were awesome (which they all are) - and that I could see the finish line from where I was standing (which I could).  However, quite a few runners told me, some quite emphatically, that I was a liar!  Now, myself having been lied to many times during a race about the proximity of the finish line, I understand how they might be skeptical.  But to yell this at me outright in passing?  Ouch!
  2. A number of runners completely ignored my cheers and outstretched high-five hand.  Some looked like they were just in a fog - which I completely understand, having been there myself many times.  But there were several who purposely looked the other direction as they passed me and/or purposely distanced themselves from my high-five hand.  Yikes!
  3. The roads were supposed to be closed off to cars, unless we motioned them to go through during a break in the runners.  However, a few drivers completely disregarded the race and just drove right through, some without even slowing down.  To quote Keyshawn Johnson (and with as much gusto as I can muster), "C'MON MAN!!!"

All in all, though, this experience really did give me a much bigger appreciation for all race volunteers.  Now I understand first hand the very, very hard work they put forth to make sure a race runs smoothly.  It takes a lot more effort than many would ever realize.  You better believe that in my future races, I'll be high-fiving and thanking every single race spectator or race volunteer that I possibly can!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

ZOOMA Great Lakes Weekend Getaway

Words can't even begin to describe the experience that was this past weekend in Fontana, Wisconsin with over a dozen of my closest running/blogger friends:

Front: Erin
Second row (L to R): Kim and Kelsey
Third row (L to R): Amy, Kelly, Jackie, Marcia, Jenny
Back row (L to R): Maggie, Bobbi, Kelly, Sierra, me, Katie, Kayla

Instead of trying to describe the festivities in words, I'll just share pictures and themes (reminiscent of a project from one of my high school English classes where we had to visually depict a story).


There was food.  A LOT of food. 

Yummy yummy!
"How far can a runner run into the woods?"
"Halfway.  Beyond halfway, a runner would be running out of the woods."

We all own stock in bagel-manufacturing companies.
No explanation needed.
Yummy yummy!
Disclaimer: Between all of us runners, I estimate that we ran a collective total of about 3.1415 MILLION miles at the ZOOMA race on Saturday morning!
Oh wait, everyone ran except the lone race volunteer (that would be me).  But I gallantly proclaim that race volunteering and cheering takes a lot of energy!  (More about my volunteer experience coming soon.)
In short, we all EARNED the mass quantities of food that we had on hand.  No questions asked.
These ladies are all awesome and were a huge blast to hang out with. 
Believe it or not, we did not spend the whole time talking about running, either.  Although there were certainly plenty of references to things that only those close to running would understand, such as simply "Mile 22."
Post-race lunch

Playing "Loaded Questions"
It looks a lot more tame than it really was.

Playing Taboo.
Concentrate, concentrate!!!
I just Tweeted!!!
We were in a safe environment, so we could let our guard down in front of our castle fortress.  Literally and figuratively.

Ever after
(It took us about 10 tries to get this picture to work.)

Disclaimer: Surely I jest.  The castle in the above pictures was actually just an entrance to the neighborhood that we stayed in.  I'm not sure of the castle's historical significance, if any, but it made for some fun pictures. 

And never mind that we had to move out of the street every few minutes to allow passing cars to go through the castle entrance.  I'm sure everyone thought we were wreaking mischievous havoc.  (It's a good thing that we were only there for the weekend.)

In front of the house.
The big character in the middle in all brown was a great photo model - not a single muscle movement or even a blink while we were taking this picture!
The famous picture of the Beatles shows them walking across Abbey Road. 
The weekend group did the ZOOMA Race at the Abbey Resort.
Here, we're just walking.  (Some with more swagger than others.)

BONUS THEME: The indescribable

Obligatory pillow fights

Kim deflating an air mattress
To be honest, I'm not even sure what this was myself since I wasn't there when it happened.
But anytime you get a blurry action photo you know something good was going on.

In summary, what a great weekend!  It would have been fun for me to actually run the race with everyone else, but for the sake of my injuries it turned out to be a good thing I didn't run.  I so wish that I had not been battling sleep deprivation, work commitments, and a cold while I was there, too.  But all in all, it was so much fun to hang out with amazing friends and to meet so many incredible new friends.  I can't wait for our next running/blogger getaway!

Coming soon to my blog near you: A recap of my experience volunteering at the ZOOMA Great Lakes race.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Running hiatus, Jose Garces, and ZOOMA weekend getaway

It's been another ridiculously busy week for me.  Workdays ranging from 12-14 hours, back-to-back-to-back meetings and deadlines, early-morning PT appointments, catching up with out-of-town visitors.  I am STILL trying to fend off a stuffy nose and cough, too.  I said a week ago that I thought that I would be 100% in a couple of days, but my recovery has been painfully, frustratingly slow (and I don't think the stress of work has helped).

I still have not done any running since the Chicago Marathon.  Not a running step for almost two weeks (unless you count when I had to sprint for half a block to catch a bus that was about to pull away).  There was a period of a few days last week when I was getting the urge to run again, but that has now dissipated in its entirety.

For now, I am just content to enjoy the beauty of autumn without my running shoes.

A lot of folks have asked me if I have the post-marathon blues.  My honest answer is that I don't.  I do not miss the rigorous training schedule or the enormous amount of time involved with stretching, doing physical therapy exercises, foam rolling, etc., etc.  I still do want to run more marathons in the future, for sure, and I'm already thinking about running Chicago again next year.  But for right now I am really, really enjoying the mental and physical break from running that these last two weeks have afforded.  It's a little addicting to NOT run, actually.  Bad, I know.

Moving on from the post-marathon talk!  The next 36 hours are going to be quite the whirlwind for me.  For any Food Network fans out there, Iron Chef Jose Garces is hosting a cookbook launch party tonight at Kendall College (he is an alum).  He'll be doing a meet-and-greet, serving appetizers and drinks from his new cookbook, and then doing a cooking demonstration (hopefully with some samples for the audience!)  Adam and I have tickets to attend and I can't wait.

Iron Chef Jose Garces

It'll be very cool to meet Jose Garces in person.  I have all kinds of burning questions to ask him about being an Iron Chef (e.g. Do you REALLY find out about each show's secret ingredient completely on the fly?  Is Alton Brown really as much of a walking food encyclopedia in person as he is on TV?  Does the Chairman really make wind-whipping noises when he turns his head?)

Immediately after the conclusion of Chef Garces's event, I am heading up to the Lake Geneva area.  As I'd mentioned here, a big group of the Chicago Running Bloggers have rented a house for the weekend for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon.

In lieu of running the race, I decided to volunteer.  This will be my maiden voyage as a race volunteer and I have been asked to be a course marshall.  It should be fun since I'll get the chance to cheer everyone on as I'm marshalling.  Although, unfortunately my excitement about the festivities has been dampened by my lingering cold and crazy-busy workweek.

Additionally, I am frustrated because as I type this, the race organizers still have not provided us any information on when or where I should report tomorrow morning.  I don't know yet where I'm supposed to park, how I'm going to get to whatever point I'm assigned on the course, how much time to allow myself, or anything.  I've followed up with the organizers twice now.  Both times have been told that they would provide more information soon.  But we are less than 18 hours away from the start of the race now, so this is not cool.  It's really not my style to dishonor a commitment.  But given everything that has been transpiring this week, I have to admit that I'm getting more and more tempted to cancel as a volunteer and just go be a spectator.  Sigh.

In any event, I am looking forward to a great weekend hanging out with other inspiring women and enjoying the beauty that Lake Geneva has to offer in the autumn.  (And who knows, maybe it'll finally inspire me to lace up my running shoes again in this lifetime?)

More to come soon.  Happy Friday!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Runner's Quiz

After a week of not working out at all, my post-marathon legs are feeling as good as new.  I'm actually starting to get the hankering to go running again.  I'm still trying to battle the remnants of this stuffy nose and cough, but I do think I'll be ready to try pounding the pavement again in a few days.  I'm so excited to go for a run where I don't have to worry about working towards any training goals!

Since I finally had a little bit of extra time on my hands this weekend, I updated my "Races" page to include all of the races that I am considering/planning to do in 2013.  I also finally compiled all of my race recaps from 2012.  Please let me know if you have any thoughts on any of the races I am contemplating, or if there are any races in particular that are not listed but that I SHOULD be contemplating.

Until then!  In my second post inspired by the gorgeous Irina, I took this Runner's Quiz that has been floating around in the blog world.

1. FUEL: Shot Bloks, GU, Energy Chews, Candy or Other?

GU all the way.  My favorite flavors are the Mandarin Orange and Mint Chocolate, although I've liked every one of their flavors I've tried.  The only flavors I have NOT tried are the Just Plain, Espresso Love, and Peanut Butter.

2. Race Length: 5k, 10k, 1/2 Marathon, Marathon, Ultra or Other?

Out of the choices listed here, I'd say the half marathon.  But I think this is my true favorite: 

10-Milers are long enough that they requires some training and endurance, but not so long that you fear bonking... and also short enough that you can run at a brisk pace the entire team, but not so short that you run fast enough to fear vomiting.  It's a delicate, delicate balancing act.

3. Workout Bottoms: Skirts, Running Shorts, Capris, Pants or Other? 

Pants, definitely.  I have major issue with running shorts creeping up on me, necessitating the use for major quantities of BodyGlide. Capris are okay, but there is a pretty limited temperature range in which I'll wear them.  So running tights are my favorite, for sure.

Notice I said running tights.  NOT "yellow Zentai suit (full-body) that is two sizes too small."

I've actually never tried a running skirt.  Although, I did buy my very first running skirt at the Chicago Marathon Expo.  I got it from the National Running Center (Frank Shorter's brand).  I am very excited to try it out.  But unless the weather is abnormally warm the next few weekends, I probably won't get to give the running skirt a real road test until next spring.

4. Sports Drink: Gatorade, Powerade, Cytomax, you stick to water when you run or Other?

In training, I only drink water during my runs.  However, I will mix up some powdered Gatorade afterwards.  I do also occasionally indulge myself in coconut water after long runs (ZICO is my favorite brand so far).  However, coconut water is pretty expensive so I try not to go overboard with it. 

Plane ticket to tropical destination not included.

5.  Heat or Cold?

Without question, cold.  When you are running in cold you can always bundle yourself up more and then take layers off as you warm up.  But when you are running in heat, there gets to be a point where there's only so much you can do to keep yourself comfortable.  We had such a brutal summer in Chicago this year that for the first time ever, I could not wait for autumn to arrive!  In general, though, temps in the 40s or 50s are what I consider to be perfect running weather.

6. Running Shoe Brands: Saucony, Mizuno, Nike, Brooks, Asics or Other?

Over the past year, I've experimented with Nike, Asics, Brooks, Mizunos, and Sauconys, trying to figure out what works for me the best.  At this point, I'd say Asics are my favorite.  I am on my second pair of the Gel Cumulus 13s.   I wore them during the Chicago Marathon and during my longest training runs, and they have been incredibly solid and dependable for me.

My workhorse shoes.

Aside from the Asics, though, I do also love my Saucony ProGrid Kinvaras for a more minimalist shoe.

7. Pre-race meal: Oatmeal, Bagel, Banana, Eggs, Cereal or Other?

Cereal, a banana, and a big glass of diluted orange juice.  Although, I'd like to start experimenting with eating a little more protein before running.  Sometimes I get hungry during long runs, and the cereal/banana seems like it's not enough to hold me over for very long.

8. Rest Days: 1x per week, 2x per week, never ever ever or Other?

I strongly believe in rest days.  I usually run only three or sometimes four days a week, and on other days I try to do yoga and cross-train.  But I always take at least one planned rest day a week, and sometimes I'll take a second unplanned rest day due to work commitments, etc.

9. Music: Have to have it or go without it?

Up until very recently, I had to run with music because I thought it would be too boring without it.  But then I heard that music could be used as a training boost, and decided to try it.  I worked to get myself acclimated to running without music, which took some time.  But now I actually enjoy running without music.  Now I use music just when I need some inspiration or a little jump to get or keep myself going.

10. #1 reason for running: stress-relief, endorphins, you love to race, so you can eat all the cupcakes you want, weight-loss, love running for social reasons or Other?

But first and foremost because it makes me feel good.  Or at least because it makes me feel better.  (I actually wrote an entire post several months ago devoted to this very topic.  Check it out here.)


I would love to hear all of your own responses to this Runner's Quiz!  Please do share either in the comments or in your own blog!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Alter ego

My alter ego is out there.  A search through Marathonfoto brought up this revealing picture from the Chicago Marathon.


The resemblance is uncanny!
  • Same color-combo outfit
  • Similar-style sunglasses
  • Check out the complex web of knee tape. Very reminiscent of my own ongoing knee wonkiness!
  • My hair looks JUST LIKE THAT when I get out of bed in the mornings. 

If this isn't my long-lost, evil running twin, I don't know what is!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sunshine Award

Post-marathon recovery continues in full force.  I very, very rarely get sick, and this week I've been battling the worst cold that I've had in recent memory.  Lesson learned that marathoning wreaks havoc on your immune system.  Wah, wah, wah.

That being said, the gorgeous Irina nominated me for the Sunshine Award last week!  Many thanks, Irina - your timing is spot on as I really do need some sunshine right now while battling this cold!!!

  • If you are nominated you must include the link in a blog, linking to the person/blog that nominated you
  • You must answer some questions and nominate 7 fellow bloggers and link their blogs in your post
  • Let the people you have nominated know that you have nominated them!

1.  Who is your favorite philosopher?

After much consideration and in a nod to my Chinese heritage, I would say Confucius.  One of my many favorite quotes from him is, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."  I truly believe that character and strength are not defined by success - they are defined by how you respond to adversity.

2.  What is your favorite number?

Number 3.  There are so many things in life that come in threes:

Three blind mice
Three wise men
Rock, paper, scissors
Three musketeers
Three ring circus
Three laws of motion
The good, the bad, the ugly
On your mark, get set, go
Three strikes and you're out
Three hockey goals for a hat trick
Three stooges
Third time's the charm
Gold, silver, and bronze

I could keep going but you get the idea.

3.  What is your favorite animal?

It's so hard to pick just one.  But I'd say dolphins because they are so intelligent and social, and they always seem to be having fun!

Honorary mention goes to penguins and cats.

4.  What are your Facebook and Twitter?

Here is my Facebook page, and my Twitter handle is Emmers712.  I am very hot and cold when it comes to tweeting - I go through spurts where I will tweet a lot and then other spurts (including now) where the only thing I tweet are links to my blog posts!  I should work on being a better Tweeter.

5.  What is your favorite time of day?

On weekends, I love the early morning when the whole day is ahead of me to do things I enjoy. 

On weekdays, I love the evenings after getting home from work, when I have the rest of the night to do things I enjoy.

Notice a pattern here?  =)

6.  What was your favorite vacation?

The best vacation I ever took was a solo trip to Bali, Indonesia.  It is truly a magical place. 

Traveling by myself in Bali, I took some travel risks that resulted in incredible experiences and memories.  Being of Asian descent, I was mistaken for a local many times and I took full advantage of it.  I haggled at the local markets.  I took surfing lessons and learned first-hand how unbelievably powerful the ocean is.  I visited artist studios and watched artistry in motion.  There was so much opportunity to get to know the locals and their customs and traditions. 


I made some wonderful friends in Bali that I am still in touch with to this day. I very much want to go back and see them someday!

7.  What is your favorite physical activity?

It goes without saying that I love running.  I also really love inline skating and ice skating, especially on beautiful days or nights.  Snorkeling is very high on the list, too (and I have been saying for years that I want to get scuba-certified).

8.  What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

ORANGE JUICE.  It's my cure-all for everything!  Since I find it too sweet straight from the carton, I drink it diluted with water.

If any orange juice manufacturers out there are looking for someone to endorse their product, please give me a call!!!  I will be the best spokesperson you could ever ask for!!!!!

9.  What is your favorite flower?

Orchids.  Love love love them.  They remind me of some of my favorite travel destinations, including Thailand and Hawaii.

10.  What is your passion?

Creativity.  I believe that creativity cannot be taught, and that it has to come from within.  To me, true creativity is a form of genius.

Your turn!!!  In alphabetical order, I nominate:

Amy at Army Amy
Erin at Eri-Thon
Kayla at Running: My Anti-Drug
Kim at Ilax Studios
Maggie at Mag Mile Runner
Shannon at I Survived and Now I Run
Xaarlin at Pain is Nothing