Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching up and the spirit of aloha

I hope everyone has been enjoying their holidays! I've got a lot to catch up on from the past few weeks.

Holiday Party Pic
I had mentioned here that I would post a group picture from the Chicago Running Bloggers Holiday Party once I got a copy. Voila!

From L to R: Kim, Anne, Katie Eric, Erin, Emily, Kelsey, Lauren, LindsayEricaBethany, me, MaggieZenaida
What a great gathering of bloggers! I truly wish we could all get together much more often. Maybe at least once a quarter?

A New Winner
The holiday headband giveaway prize has gone unclaimed. Therefore, I have selected another recipient. Congratulations to ArmyAmy!!!

ArmyAmy, please email me at by Friday, January 3, 2014, and we'll get you set up with your new headband!

Aloha 'Oe
I had a really great time in Maui. Lots of beach time and water activities intermingled with the classic Maui tourist haunts like the road to Hana, Haleakala National Park, whale watching, and a luau. (I did not end up doing the Purple Christmas Fun Run in Kahului.)

I've said for years that I wished I could BE Hawaiian and this trip was no exception. Every time I go to Hawaii I am reminded how much I love the way of life there, the friendliness of the people, the Polynesian culture, the spiritual respect for the land and the ocean, and of course the stunning scenery and perfect weather. The islands are enchanting and truly magical.

The view from my daily runs

It was extremely difficult to return to Chicago afterwards. I've never thought so seriously about not coming back. Ever. Adam and I were half-joking that the Hawaii airports should have counselors available at all departure gates for travelers suffering post-Hawaii travel depression (of which there appeared to be many). 

It didn't help that upon return, I came across a show on HGTV called Hawaii Life and got sucked into watching a few episodes. I learned that real estate prices in Hawaii, while high, are not as outrageous as originally anticipated. Who knew that it was potentially so doable to live in Hawaii? Sigh...

In any event, I am already trying to figure out when I can go back.

Celebrating Adam's birthday with an alfresco dinner at Morimoto Maui.

Not surprisingly, the 2014 Honolulu Marathon is looking more and more appealing. It's a good thing that the Honolulu Marathon is in December and has no registration limits. This means that I have plenty of time to think about it and build up my motivation!

Other Notes:

  • I finally signed up for my first road race in 2014: the Esprit de She 5K/10K on July 24. This was one of my favorite races in 2013. It was like a night out on the town with a few hundred of my closest running friends (read my recap here). I am super excited to run it again. Ladies, if you have a chance to attend this or any of the events from this race series, they are a blast. Highly recommended.
  • I am still going strong on my Runners World daily run streak! I'm up to 40 days as of yesterday and still feeling really good. I was concerned that the run streak would exacerbate my niggling running ailments, but my legs actually feel as solid as they ever have. Cheers to that! 
  • Unfortunately, since running the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in mid-November, I've only done two runs longer than 5 miles. I'm pretty sure I've lost much of my long-run endurance by this point, and I am daunted by the prospects of having to build it back up. UGH.
  • Speaking of being daunted, I am becoming more and more of a cold-weather running wimp. These days I'm reluctant to run outside if the weather dips below about 25 degrees. Now I am becoming more and more content to slug my runs out on the climate-controlled comfort of the treadmill. What's happened to me?
Two feet of snow. Literally.
  • I had read about how switching running shoes every so often helps strengthen your foot mechanics by diversification, thereby reducing the risk of injury. I've been focusing nearly all of my runs on a single pair of shoes these past few weeks, particularly while I was on vacation. Then, I finally switched things up when I got home. I realized that I did indeed have certain pronating tendencies in the one pair of shoes that I didn't experience in other pairs. How's that for justifying multiple pairs of running shoes?
  • And even with this added justification, I will not be buying any more running shoes for awhile. I SWEAR. But - that doesn't mean that I can't identify what my next planned purchase will be. I've been hearing absolutely rave reviews about the Brooks Pure Flows and I am very eager to try them out. My targeted purchase time, based on estimated current running shoe retirement rate, is next summer.
The Brooks Pure Flow collection. Such great colors to pick from!

Once again, happy holidays! I'm working to get back on track with all of your blogs!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Chicago Running Bloggers Holiday Party and a Winner

Quick post today. I am departing early tomorrow morning to head to Maui, and am trying desperately to get a few things in order before then.

This morning I attended the second annual Chicago Running Bloggers Holiday Party. It consisted of a group fun run (where many of us dressed in holiday-themed attire), followed by a potluck brunch and a gift grab bag.

We got several inches of snow last night and all day today, which unfortunately knocked out a few of the planned attendees. However, it was still fun (albeit challenging!) to go running in the freshly fallen snow. There were only six of us that went running, and we felt super hard-core taking on the elements!

Here are a couple of pictures (both courtesy of Maggie):

L to R: Lauren, me, part of Anne, and Maggie

L: me, and Anne
NOTE: We got some comments from passing cars about our sweet matching green socks. =D

Erin hosted the gathering for the second year in a row. After the run we all headed back to her place, where several others had arrived, to share in food and gifts.

One of the things that I love most about running blogger gatherings is that the potluck food selections are always super healthy! Lots of fresh veggies, salad, bean dip, hummus, kale chips, salsa, quinoa muffins, and vegetarian chili were just a few of the many options available. Delicioso!

The gift exchange was fun, too. Not surprisingly, many of the gifts were running- or fitness-themed like handheld water bottles, GU, Luna bars, running gloves and headband, running ID, and a yoga mat. I received a two-pack of Vapur foldable water bottles and a Salted Caramel GU (which I have never had before and will finally get to try!)

As usual, it was great to see and catch up with so many fellow bloggers. We took some group pictures which I haven't gotten a copy of yet. I will definitely post them when they become available!

Finally - thank you to everyone who entered the holiday headband giveaway from earlier this week. Congratulations to Amy for being selected the winner via the following entry:

Amy, please email me at by Friday, December 20 and I will get you set up with your prize.

Happy holidays, everyone!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holiday giveaway!

Happy Monday, everyone!

I recently won a spandex headband from Shinianen, courtesy of BellasBoutiqueMN (an Etsy business owned by her sister, Elizabeth). In addition, Shinianen told me that BellasBoutiqueMN would provide another headband for me to give away on my blog!

Here are pictures of Shinianen modeling the headband:

Check out the Etsy listing for all of the product specs. In addition, here are the colors available:

  1. Disco ball
  2. Peacock
  3. Purple and black damask
  4. Paisley
  5. Peace sign
  6. Pink, red, and orange stripes (with sheer gold insets)
  7. Blue and white stripes
  8. Burgundy and white stripes
  9. Navy blue solid
  10. Pink textured
  11. Black solid

In addition to the great color selections, these headbands are all handmade, super versatile, and would make a great gift. In case you were wondering, I selected the disco ball pattern for myself - and I am super excited to rock it out (no pun intended) at an upcoming race. =D

BellasBoutiqueMN Spandex Headband Giveaway Rules
  • One reader will receive a spandex headband of their choice.
  • This giveaway is open until 5:00 PM CST on Friday, December 13. I will announce the winner on Saturday, December 16.
  • To enter the giveaway - leave me a comment telling me which headband color is your favorite.
  • For bonus entries: 
    • Visit BellasBoutiqueMN and leave a comment telling me what other items you like.
    • Share this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and let me know what you did (one bonus for each share).
  • You can leave all entries in one comment if you like.
  • This giveaway is open to all U.S. readers.
  • You do NOT have to be a blogger to enter! Just be sure to provide a way to contact you.
Happy holidays to all!!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Things Friday: shuffling, losing, purple-ing, et al

1. Every year I'm NOT shuffling...
Yours truly has never run the famed and insanely popular Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago. I was finally going to end this non-Shuffle nonsense and go inaugurally Shuffling in 2014. I was really, really excited to finally find out what all the hype was about. But then... I looked at the race date.

Would you believe that for the gazillionth time, I will not be able to Shuffle next year?

I have to work one weekend per quarter, and Shamrock happens to fall on that particular weekend. Talk about bad timing. What a bummer!

So... maybe in 2015?

2. Speaking of not shuffling...
I definitely wanted to be more selective about the races that I run in 2014. I've made the mistake several times of registering for a race very far in advance to take advantage of an early-bird discount, only to regret it later. I told myself that it would be worth paying a little extra to have more flexibility.

So yeah, I am currently in the unfamiliar position of having exactly zero races on the calendar right now.

It's gotta be the shoes.
It's a little weird. But it is also kind of nice to have a completely blank calendar slate to work with.

3. Run-Streaking
I hit Day 20 of my Runners World Run Streak yesterday. Knock on wood, it has not been too challenging so far to maintain the streak and my body is feeling good. For the most part, I've been slugging out most of my streak days on the treadmill, often doing just the minimum 1-mile requirement.

Graphical depiction of my running log

One mile is pretty easy to do from a time standpoint, as well as both mentally and physically. I am really enjoying the consistency that this streak challenge is giving me in my running, too.

I can't say that I will for certain maintain this streak after the goal date of January 1, 2014. However, I do think I will be more likely to run more frequently in the future than my usual historical practice of 3 days a week (or less). That's a step in the right direction!

4. Less is more
I haven't talked about it on the blog, but a few months ago I had gotten to the point with my body where I basically couldn't stand myself any more. All of my clothes were tight, I had to loosen my belts a notch or two, and I had bulges in places I didn't bulge before. I was still working out and running, so it was tough for me to comprehend that I could have gained a lot of weight. But, I have a hearty appetite - and I wasn't holding myself back from indulging pretty much whenever I felt like it.

Over the past few months, I have put forth a concerted effort to improve the quality and quantity of my food intake. It has really paid off for me. I've lost some weight, my clothes are fitting much better, and overall I am feeling a lot healthier.

I can feel the difference in my running, too. It might be a combination of both training and the weight-loss, but running feels noticeably easier now than it used to. It makes me even more motivated to continue training consistently.

5. Turning Purple
Adam and I are headed to Maui for vacation later this month. I have been searching for some kind of a race that takes place while we are there. This is the only one that I've seen:

I am debating on whether or not to sign up. On one hand, it's just a fun run so it is not timed. Plus, it is a little bit of a distance from where we are staying. But on the other hand, it goes towards a good cause, and how many opportunities do you have to participate in any kind of running event in Maui?

Decisions, decisions...

Linking up with Running Bloggers Fitness Friday!!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2013 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot race recap

Sorry this race report is coming to you on such a delayed basis! I had a wonderful Thanksgiving but when I came back to the office I got completely slammed with work. It's been a crazy time.

On Thanksgiving Day I ran the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh for the second consecutive year.

In both years, the organizers have offered a 1-miler, a 5K, and a 5-miler, and both years I opted for the 5-miler. You can read last year's race recap here.

I felt more prepared this year going into this race compared to last year. In 2012, I had barely run at all between the Chicago Marathon in early October and the Turkey Trot. This time around, I had run a few races in November so I had been training more consistently.

My biggest concern going into this race was the weather. I had started monitoring the weather forecasts a week and a half in advance. The entire time, the temps were forecasted to be in the teens with wind-chills in the single-digits. I packed tights and the warmest base-layer shirt and running jacket that I owned, plus a vest, hat, balaclava, and gloves.

I was hoping that the forecast would change as race-day drew nearer. No such luck. The temperature was at a balmy 15 degrees on race morning. When I got my race shirt, I even decided to wear it during the race as an additional layer (I know, I know, breaking the runner's race-shirt code).

Here's a picture of me masquerading as a bank robber in my full winter-running attire:

Pretty sharp, eh?

By the way - one of my favorite Blackhawks players, Antti Niemi, wore number 31 on his jersey. Therefore, I was happy to get race bib number 31. =)

Former Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi
Since Niemi and I are both wearing masks, there's some resemblance in the two #31 pictures, yes?

Once we got outside, it was definitely cold - but not as unbearably cold as I had anticipated. Adam and I found parking within a few minutes. On our way to the starting line, we saw many, many runners and spectators camped inside some of the parking lobbies trying to keep warm.

I stopped at the portapotty (no lines!) The portapotties actually shielded you pretty well from the elements. Normally I get in and out of portapotties as quickly as possible. But, on this day I actually lingered for a few extra moments because it was so much warmer inside the portapotty!

Adam and I met up with friends Molly, Julie, Brian, Cristin, and Laurel near the starting line. We chatted for a few minutes before lining up. For good measure, I choked down a pre-race GU and some water.

I never heard any kind of starting airhorn, but the crowd gradually started moving. As more and more people began running, I looked around for the usual balloon arch or overhead sign denoting the starting line, but never saw one. Then I heard a soft buzzing noise and looked down to see that I had crossed a timing mat. I hurriedly started my Garmin a few seconds late.

Even though the cold was not as bad as anticipated, it was still very cold. I hadn't done any warm-up prior to starting, and for the first mile or so I couldn't feel my toes or my fingers. I thought, "Wow, this is going to be a long five miles." There weren't very many spectators so I tried to distract myself by really taking in all the scenery and following those course tangents.

Mile 1: 10:02

Around the 1.5-mile mark, we crossed over the Roberto Clemente bridge. It was my favorite part of the course last year and it was still my favorite this year.

Around this point, I was starting to feel warmer and the feeling was coming back to my fingers and toes. I had started with the front of my balaclava pulled up to my eyes, but it kept fogging up my glasses. As I got warmer I pushed it below my nose, then my chin.

We started seeing some of the elite runners coming from the opposite direction. Runners all around me began incredulously saying things like, "Oh my gosh, we've barely started and they are already on their way back?" The elites were all wearing shorts and tank tops, too. Brrrrr. (I have a theory that the more elite the runner, the less clothing that is worn - even in Arctic temperatures.)

After crossing the bridge, we entered downtown Pittsburgh.

Mile 2: 10:03

Other than the runners and volunteers, the streets were quiet. I was imagining what the streets would be like on a normal workday. I was still focusing on those tangents and I exchanged some high-fives with a number of oncoming runners.

Mile 3: 9:57

Somewhere after the 3-mile marker, Brian and Laurel caught up to me on the course. I had never met Laurel before this day, so she and I chatted a bit while trying to keep pace with Brian. As we were crossing back over the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the way back, I could feel its incline. I told Laurel that I was very Midwestern and that I wasn't used to these hills, er, inclines.

Laurel: "But the the hills keep things interesting!"

Me (gasping): "Boring is good! I like boring!"

This is more of what I am used to.

I walked through a water station around 3.75, which I believe was the third one available (I skipped the first two). Brian and Laurel kept charging ahead. Once I resumed running, I tried to gradually increase my pace to catch up with them.

Mile 4: 10:07

Given that I had only walked for about 30 seconds through the water stop, it took me longer than I had anticipated to catch up with Brian and Laurel - probably almost half a mile. By that point, we were in the home stretch. I started pushing the pace more and more. I saw Adam at the final turn, waved to him, then gunned it as best as I could to the finish line.

Mile 5: 9:03

My official time was 49:12. About 20 seconds slower than last year. Not bad considering the frigid temps and no warm-up.

Post race group picture
From L to R: Laurel, Julie, Brian, Cristin, Molly, and me
Adam and me
Last year this race had some logistical challenges with parking and crowdedness. E.g., last year we had waited in line for nearly half an hour to park (and to pay for parking), and runners had been packed in elbow-to-elbow for the first few miles. However, this year the race organizers made many modifications based on everyone's feedback. This included staggered starting times based on race distance and providing free parking at designated lots. Sure enough, both went MUCH more smoothly this year. It was great.

This race is becoming a classic for me. Once again it felt great to have the race under my belt before heading back for Thanksgiving celebration. Also, I really do love the variety this race provides from all the Chicago races that I am so used to. I look forward to running it again next year.

...and that, my friends, is my final race of 2013!!! What a fun year of racing it has been!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Frames From The Weekend of 11/22/23

Linking up with Irina on her weekly "Frames From The Weekend" posts to summarize the happenings of the weekend!

My weekend began got off to a great start with a date night on Friday with Adam. First, we went to our favorite local neighborhood sushi joint for dinner:

Then, we went to see a performance of Wicked in the theater district. I had never seen Wicked, but Adam had seen it once before and wanted to see it again.

Left: The Wicked playbill and my Broadway in Chicago ticket stub
Top right: The gorgeous and very ornate foyer at the Oriental Theater
Bottom right: Looks like s
omebody illegally photographed the view from our seats while waiting for the show to begin (the theater ushers sternly informed everyone that no photographs were to be taken at any point while inside the seating area). 

Wicked was an incredible production! I didn't know much about the plot, other than it was the "untold story of the witches of Oz." I had heard many others say that the story was unexpected and very surprising, and that it would make me look at the Wizard of Oz in a whole new light. Given this, I was mentally prepared to be shocked when I went in. Even so, I still walked out with my jaw dragging along the ground. The story is ingenious. Now I want to rewatch the original Wizard of Oz to more closely understand some of the details.

On Saturday, three awesome ladies came over for a facial/potluck party:

L to R: Me, Kassia, Jen, and Vanitha

These women are the most amazing, inspirational, and supportive friends. I don't get to see them nearly as much as I would like so it was fantastic getting to catch up with them. As is usually the case whenever we all get together, our conversations make the hours fly by.

We always have obscene amounts of food/drink at our gatherings, too. Here is a very, very small sampling of what we had on hand:

Upper left: Mimosas courtesy of Vanitha
Bottom left: Homemade cookies made by me using this recipe.
Bottom middle: Grapes and Jen's homemade cheese spread (similar recipe here) on baguette slices.
Right: Gourmet Belgian chocolate squares courtesy of Kassia

Later that night and as is usually the case in my household between October and June, Adam and I watched ample amounts of hockey:

Upper left: Penguins versus Canadiens
Lower left: Hawks versus Canucks
Right: A little memento that Adam recently picked up while visiting Hartford on business (if you're interested, you can read more about the history of the Whalers here). 
Ever since picking up the Whalers shirt, Adam has been humming their theme song:

Since we're talking hockey, a couple of quick notes on the Blackhawks:

  • I was thrilled to see the Hawks score two goals in 9 seconds to defeat the bitter-rival Canucks on Saturday night. It was very reminiscent of the Hawks scoring two goals in 17 seconds to clinch the Stanley Cup this past June. To quote Patrick Kane, "That's hockey, baby!!!"
  • I am also thrilled that Kris Versteeg (aka "Steeger") is back as a member of the Blackhawks. I think he is going to provide the team a huge boost both on the ice and in the locker room. But hey, if nothing else, the Hawks just improved their weaponry in rap battles:

By the way, Adam doesn't think the video is as funny as I do. He proclaimed Steeger's rapping even worse than this video:

(For what it's worth, I thought both of those videos were hilarious. But, I digress.)

Throughout the weekend, I continued progressing on my Runners World run streak. I am up to 9 days now and feeling good!

Left: Running shoes and physical therapy equipment, all heavily used over the weekend.
Upper right: The weather conditions during my outdoor run on Saturday. T
he PNC YMCA Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day is currently forecast to have similar conditions. Therefore, I wanted to acclimate myself a bit to the elements in preparation (I've been wimping out and using the treadmill a lot this week). It was brutally cold and it took me quite awhile to warm up after I got back.
Lower right: Me dressed in my winter running garb. I opted not to wear my balaclava, but it will be making its first appearance of the season soon if this weather holds up.

I'm starting to get really excited now about the upcoming holidays. I've also been looking at Black Friday offerings and contemplating my dining strategy. Here are some pictures honoring my anticipations of festivity:

Upper left and lower right: A life-sized gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian in Orlando (these pictures were actually taken last weekend when I was still in Orlando)
Upper right: Watching lots of Food Network in preparation for the Thanksgiving cook-a-thon coming up next week. I think that the Food Network folks truly, truly live for this time of year. They were positively giddy on their broadcast of Thanksgiving Live!
Lower left: Mickey bag clips from Orlando, which will be a little gift for my in-laws in Pittsburgh when I see them later this week. Who couldn't use some hidden Mickeys in their pantry?

Who else is running Turkey Trots? Do you have a plan of attack for Black Friday, or do you plan to avoid the shopping attack?

I won't kid you, it's going to be a challenge for me to get through the early part of this workweek. Must. Stay. Focused...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bulu Box review, ohana, and RW streak

I've heard a lot about the box subscriptions where each month you receive a box of themed goodie samples. There are all kinds of these boxes out there covering dozens of themes - food, health, fashion, art, sports, pets, you name it. I happen to love getting packages (or really any kind of mail other than bills, advertisements, or dumb product solicitations) so I was looking for an opportunity to try a box subscription.

A few months ago, I saw a Living Social deal for 50% off a 3-month subscription to Bulu Box (premium health products). Bingo! I signed up and was never so excited for those little boxes to arrive. I had a choice between a standard Bulu Box or a Weight Loss Bulu Box, and I chose the standard box.

I wanted to share some thoughts on my subscription. Here's a picture of the contents from my November box (my third and final one):

To summarize, the box included some kind of coupon for workout DVD products, a code for a one-month virtual assistant membership, some "energy" chocolate, a hangover preventer, PMS treatment pills, and two energy bars.

Out of the entire package, the only things that I will consume are the two energy bars. The "energy" chocolate is borderline, since I am sensitive to caffeine and try to avoid it where possible. I don't intend to use any of the remaining products.

Even so, for me this month's box is actually probably the best assortment of products out of the three boxes that I've received. For the prior two boxes, I might have tried just one item out of the entire contents. One month I think there was some sour-gummy vitamins that I tried, and another month there was some pocket protein fruit thing. But other things that were sent in prior months included some nasal health package, some super-caffeinated energy gel, some antacid, and a couple of metabolic pills. All of these things are just sitting in a bin on my kitchen counter right now collecting dust.

The Bulu Box subscriptions are definitely not for me. I've found very few of the samples pertain to me, and some of the samples (like the metabolic pills) were so small that you wouldn't be able to ascertain how well they worked for you even if you did try them. I will not be renewing my Bulu subscription.

I don't have mail.

Despite being disappointed in my Bulu Box experience, I am open to trying other box subscriptions. Any recommendations?

No More Jane Doe
After first mention here of needing a runner's identification, I finally ordered a Road ID via some pre-Black Friday sales!

I debated for awhile on what color to get, but finally picked orange (one of my alma mater's colors). I also debated what info to include on it in addition to my name. Based on recommendations, I went with my birth year, city/state/country, and two emergency contacts.

There was one more line that you could personalize with "a meaningful quote or slogan." Suggestions included the usual things like "One more mile" and "Believe in yourself" and "Practice makes perfect."

I decided to go with something a little different: "Ohana means family." This was inspired by one of my favorite Disney characters - STITCH! =)

And finally...
My Runners World Run Streak (first mentioned here) has been going well. I completed Day 6 of the streak today.

Thus far, I have done every run on the treadmill purely for convenience. Two out of the six days I've done the bare minimum - exactly one mile. One other day I did a whopping 1.3 miles (woo hoo!). Nonetheless, the 6 consecutive days of running is already longer than I've ever maintained in my entire running life.

I won't kid you, there have been days where I've gotten out of bed and the thought of trying to find a time to run that mile sounded awful. But I've found that the single mile really isn't very much of a time commitment. My hips and knees seem to be holding up okay, as well. So right now, the goal of maintaining this streak through the new year seems like it will be reasonably attainable.

We'll see how things go as we enter some of the more challenging days next week. (Thank goodness for Turkey Trots!!!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I don't like beer. Never have, never will. I don't get excited about the beer being served at post-race parties or being handed out by spectators. At races I always bypass the beer tent altogether. I am probably the only runner who will ever attend a beer run purely to socialize, not to drink. (I can already hear the collective gasps of horror spreading rampantly across the Milky Way Galaxy.)

I am prepared to get kicked out of the running union (and perhaps even the human being union) for this. I am also prepared to be served my papers:

While we're at it...

I don't like coffee, either. I don't understand how so many people can drink such bitter stuff. I will never understand the Starbucks craze. Nor will I ever understand the need to have coffee first thing in the morning in order to function properly.

More horror of horrors, I know. Bring on my severe flogging and more papers:

My apologies to all of you that I have offended with my anti-alcohol and anti-caffeine words. But on a reconciliatory note - if anyone ever wants to ensure that my allotted drink coupon doesn't go to waste at races, I am always happy to give it away to the first person that asks for it!

Moving right along...

I don't like seeing my reflection when I am running. It doesn't matter if it's via store windows, in a mirror, whatever. I get self-conscious of my form, especially when I am tired.

For the same reason, I don't particularly enjoy looking at my race photos. It's pretty rare for me to find a race photo of myself that I like. Probably four times out of five I cringe when I see the evidence of things like my strangely supinating feet and my t-rex arms.

On that note, I am a running hypocrite. If anyone else said about themselves what I just said about my own running form or other things, I wouldn't hesitate to tell them that they were being absolutely ridiculous and that nobody notices these things or cares. But somehow, it's very difficult for me to believe this myself.

You all already know that I have a problem with collecting running shoes. I've got eight pairs of running shoes in my closet right now. Two pairs are effectively retired, meaning that I don't run in them any more but will still wear them to bike, attend fitness classes, etc. One other pair has been downgraded to "junk" status, meaning that I will only wear them to run in crappy weather. Recently I have been trying to pile the miles onto a single pair of shoes so that I can move them out of rotation. However, that doesn't change the fact that I still have five active pairs of running shoes. Yet, every time I hear about an online running shoe sale or pass by a store that sells running shoes, I am always still tempted to add to the collection.

Sadly, this isn't too far from the truth.

I often wonder why I am a runner. Running is extremely challenging in so many different ways. It drives me to sacrifice social time and/or sleep. I've run in blizzards, searing heat, pouring rain, through numerous injury pains, and at all hours of the day or night. It's a much more expensive activity than most people realize. I'm not even that good at it! Yet I keep plugging away. (By the way - I completed Day 4 of my Runner's World Running Streak today.)

I fall into the comparison trap far too often. It's hard for me not to compare myself to others and wonder why I am not more talented, stronger, faster, etc. For this reason, I get upset at myself a lot. This goes beyond running into many other aspects of my life. I am trying to focus just on controlling what I can control and letting everything else go. But, it is by no means easy.

Thanks to Marcia for inspiring me on the topic of runfessions. If any of you have any runfessions to share, I would love to hear them!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Holiday season fitness goals

It's hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. With that in mind, I wanted to set forth a few holiday-season fitness goals for myself:

1. The Runners World Holiday Running Streak
I first heard about this from Lauren. The challenge is to run at least one mile each day between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

I do love the idea of this challenge, as well as the personal incentive that it will create to keep the streak and the momentum going. However, this streak is intended for runners who are not injury prone, for which I consider myself borderline.

In any event, I am going to give this streak my best shot. I'll even up the ante by starting the challenge yesterday!!! (I ran 5 miles yesterday, so might as well take all the credit for it, right?)

Too bad the Chicagoland area is under a tornado warning/severe thunderstorm warning today. (To put things in perspective, there is a Bears game at Soldier Field today and all morning the newscasters have been flushed with rampant discussion about potentially delaying the game due to the weather. You know it's bad outside when THAT becomes a consideration, LOL!)

Check out this shot from my TV:

Given this, it's probably not the best day to run outdoors. I guess I'll be completing Day 2 of the challenge by hitting up the treadmill.

Here we go!!!

2. Plank-a-Day
Out of all of the exercises in my physical therapy routine, the planks are the ones that get skipped the most because I dislike them so much. This is not a good thing for me. I really need to get back on track with strengthening my core muscles since they are so key towards overall improvement. Therefore, I am making it the goal to nail my planks every day between now and New Year's.

At one point, I was able to complete a 2:15 forward plank with relative ease. However, after weeks and weeks of plank inactivity, yesterday I struggled to hold a forward plank for 60 seconds. My goal now will be to do a total of at least 2 minutes worth of forward planks every day, whether they are completed in a single set or multiple sets. Similarly, I will also strive to do at least a combined total of 2 minutes in side planks, either in a single set or multiple sets.

Get ready for lots of this:

3. Squatting
Behind my planks, my squats are second-in-line for physical therapy exercises that I tend to skip a lot.

I know that I could do a lot to strengthen my hips and glutes. I will never forget going to a physical therapist for an initial assessment a few years ago. She told me that she could tell right away that I had hip weaknesses since I "don't have much of a butt."

Yeah, I need to work on that. My goal will be to do at least 30 squats of some form every day. E.g., this can be done with or without hand weights, on a bosu ball, while using an exercise ball against the wall, whatever.

In the meantime, check out these fashion fixes for people like me with, uh, visible hip weaknesses:

Gotta love how clothing designs can help, eh?

In summary, my three holiday-season goals are to streak on, plank on, and squat on! =D

That's all from me today. I hope everyone has a good Sunday - and to those of you in the Chicagoland area, stay safe amidst the inclement weather!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Another runner's quiz

Happy Friday!

I am coming back home from Florida tonight. By the way, lest you all think that my week away from Chicago was all warm sunny beach weather, let me tell you that it really wasn't. Two days ago, my mom and I took a day trip from Orlando to the Daytona Beach area. We ended up getting literally whipped around by coastal gale-force winds.

Here are some pictures (which do not do those weather conditions justice):

OK - moving on to the topic of the day. I recently came across another runner's quiz and thought I would tackle it here.

1.  On average how many races do you run a year?

The number keeps growing each year. I have run 15 races this year so far, with one more still to go. I had too many of them this year. It was to the point where some of them started feeling burdensome on the calendar. Therefore, I hope to be more selective of the races that I do next year. If I were to extrapolate or estimate my ideal future average annual race count, I would say 10-12 races per year.

2.  Head accessories, things you have to run with: a hat, a visor, sunglasses, headband, ponytail, braids, sweatband?

I usually pull my hair back in a ponytail, and if it's bright out sunglasses are a must. If it is very sunny and/or warm out, or if it is about 45 degrees or colder out, I will wear a weather-appropriate hat.

Side note since we are talking about head gear: when it's cold out I try to carry some Kleenex. I personally don't like snot rockets and I shudder at the thought of being hit by one.

3.  Where do your workouts come from? A training plan, a coach, whatever you feel like doing that day, or what your training partner is doing that day?

In an ideal training week, I would run three days a week: usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then a long or longer run sometime over the weekend. The weekday runs are usually a leisurely 3-4 miles, maybe 5, and I try to do at least 6-7 miles on my weekend run. I'll tweak things based on whatever races might be on the schedule that require specific preparation. Otherwise, these days I really just do whatever I feel like. There's not a lot of decoration with me.

4.  How many miles on average do you put on a pair of shoes?

I try to log 300 miles on a pair of running shoes before retiring them. However, some pairs get an early retirement based on how much I actually like the shoes and/or if they start feeling worn down before they reach 300.

On that note, does anyone know if the more minimalist running shoes are supposed to have lower mileage expectancies? My Saucony Progrid Kinvara shoes only have about 115 miles on them, but the soles are already showing a lot of wear. I am thinking I might take those up only to a max of 200 before retirement.

5.  Cell phone - do you bring it with you on your run or leave it at home?

Leave it at home. I like to be carrying as little as possible when I run. The only exception to this is if I'm running a big race and would need to use my phone afterwards to reunite with friends or family, or if I plan on taking a lot of pictures along the course.

Related thought: at races that offer runner tracking, I've heard that some runners track themselves so they can receive notifications of their own progress on a real-time basis. I've never done this, but plan on trying it soon.

6.  What was your last running-related injury or have you been an injury-free runner?

I've mentioned many times that I have a wonky left knee from IT band syndrome.  I've also been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome and muscle weaknesses in my hips and glutes, which have resulted in some pretty bad groin pain and hip flexor pain. I have done a lot of physical therapy, yoga, stretching, and strength-training to keep things under control (although recently I haven't been as good about keeping up with my preventive measures as I should).

Sadly, I've started feeling some aching behind my right knee. I also have occasional twinges of plantar fasciitis in my left heel. The end of racing season definitely couldn't come at a better time for me to focus on all the rehab efforts.

7.  Is your current running goal about running a farther distance (adding more mileage) or getting faster or both?

Right now, I'm pretty happy with my endurance. These days I feel like I could pretty much go out and run a half marathon on a whim, which to me is a big accomplishment. I would really love to improve my tempo, though. In my experience, speed is much, MUCH harder to build than endurance. I have definitely been making progress, but ironically it has been a long and slow process for me to build speed.

8.  Speedwork - at the track, on the treadmill, on the roads, or don't do it?

When and if I do speedwork, it's on the roads. The exception is when the weather is horrible and I have no choice but to use the treadmill (I don't like treadmills). Unfortunately I don't have easy access to a track.

9.  Stretching after a run: hit the ground after a run and get stretching, stretch in the shower, stretch once you get to work/school, skip the stretching?

I always try to do some fundamental stretches right after I get home from a run. I used to be much better about doing my entire stretching/foam-rolling routine after long runs (which can take at least 30 minutes). These days, immediately after a run it's usually just about quickly working over whatever is sore - usually my piriformis, hip flexors, and IT band. More thorough stretching and all other focus areas usually wait until whenever I have enough downtime.

10.  What was your reason(s) for starting to run?

When I was in high school, I first began running recreationally as a way to try to lose weight. I would huff and puff through a mile maybe once or twice a week. It wasn't until the summer after I graduated from high school that running became a more regular practice for me. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me and I was hurt and angry. I was determined to whip myself into shape for when I started college that fall. It motivated me to get out there and run as often and as much as I could. Somewhere along the way the practice stuck.

Funny how these things happen, no?

Your turn! I would love to hear your responses to these questions either here or on your own blog!

1.  On average how many races do you run a year?
2.  Head accessories, things you have to run with: a hat, a visor, sunglasses, headband, ponytail, braids, sweatband?
3.  Where do your workouts come from? A training plan, a coach, whatever you feel like doing that day, or what your training partner is doing that day?
4.  How many miles on average do you put on a pair of shoes?
5.  Cell phone - do you bring it with you on your run or leave it at home?
6.  What was your last running-related injury or have you been an injury-free runner?
7.  Is your current running goal about running a farther distance (adding more mileage) or getting faster or both?
8.  Speedwork - at the track, on the treadmill, on the roads, or don't do it?
9.  Stretching after a run: hit the ground after a run and get stretching, stretch in the shower, stretch once you get to work/school, skip the stretching?
10.  What was your reason(s) for starting to run?