Monday, April 29, 2013

Ups, downs, and NHL first round playoff predictions

The state of my life can be summed up with one great picture:

(I used to love Calvin and Hobbes!  But more on that another time.)

On an unhappy note, I've been fighting a cold since last Thursday.  I have a stuffy nose and a scratchy throat and I just feel lethargic and blugh.  This cold came just in time for me to travel to Maryland this past weekend for my stepmother-in-law's 80th birthday party, too.  The festivities were really fun, but sadly I was dragging Kleenex wads around and choking down Alka Seltzer all weekend.

I had packed my running gear with me with full intentions of doing two runs in Maryland.  Instead, I managed to only get out once on Saturday morning for three of the most craptastic miles I've ever done in my running life.  I've heard that if you have a cold that is limited to the neck or above, that you can still run.  But after this experience I'm not sure I'm ever going to try running with a cold ever again.  It is not fun to run when you can't breathe through your nose and the air hurts going through your throat.

On a different note, both positive and not positive, I found out yesterday that the Rock N Roll Pittsburgh Half Marathon has been cancelled for 2013. 

I was disappointed because I was looking forward to this race, especially having had a great experience at the Rock N Roll Chicago last year.  However, I actually had been concerned about the timing of Rock N Roll Pittsburgh in August.  It was scheduled to take place just two weeks after this year's Rock N Roll Chicago, as well as the weekend prior to the 2013 NAAAP National Convention in Toronto.  So from a timing standpoint, maybe it's just as well.  Next year, though, watch out!

BUT!  When one door closes, another door definitely opens.  The Canada Running Series will be hosting the Toronto 10-Miler the same weekend that I'll be in Toronto for the NAAAP convention.  Now that I no longer have Rock N Roll Pittsburgh on tap, I would love to run a race in Toronto!  The only thing is that the convention weekend is always super busy, and I may be biting off more than I can chew by trying to add a race to the weekend's plans.  So I have to consider if I should be realistic about my body's capabilities that weekend, or if I should tell myself that I only live once and shoot for the moon.  What to do?  What to do?

Speaking of favorite Canadian pastimes, the 2013 NHL playoffs start tomorrow night!  Taking a page from Adam's book, I am going to share with you my heavily biased predictions for the first round matchups.  I am certainly no NHL hockey expert, but it's still fun to spin the brackets!


#1 Chicago Blackhawks versus #8 Minnesota Wild
Yes, I am a rabid Hawks fan.  But the Hawks dominate every category of this matchup (offense, defense, goaltending, special teams, coaching, intangibles).  The Wild also saw themselves in a precarious decline towards the end of the regular season, just barely making the playoffs.  Sure, the Wild have a lot of newly acquired talent this year in Zach Parise and company, and I know that first-round matchups can be a doozy.  But with all due respect to Wild fans, I am obscenely biased and I don't think it's going to happen for Minnesota.

Prediction: Hawks sweep

#2 Anaheim Ducks versus #7 Detroit Red Wings
Nobody talked much about the Ducks and their amazing regular season this year (it got overshadowed by the Hawks).  I don't know a whole lot about the Ducks, but coach Bruce Boudreau unfortunately has a history of his other teams flaming out in the playoffs.  Even though Hawks fans embue the vicious rivalry against Detroit, I do have a lot of respect for the Red Wings and their amazing 22-year playoff streak.  The Wings have great playoff experience, leadership, and coaching.  Despite being without Nicklas Lidstrom and having some injury issues, I think they have the potential to make this an upset.

Prediction: Wings in six

#3 Vancouver Canucks versus #6 San Jose Sharks
Once again being the rabid Hawks fan that I am, I do not root for Vancouver, given the bloody rivalry between the two teams.  This is also not to mention that the Sharks have my all-time favorite goalie of all time, former Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi.  But in all seriousness, I think the goaltending controversy in Vancouver is going to leave its mark.  I don't think Cory Schneider will be able to get it done in the end amidst the mounting pressure in Vancouver.  While the Sedins and Ryan Kesler have great talent, I believe that the Sharks will squeeze this one out in the end.

Prediction: Sharks in seven

#4 St. Louis Blues versus #5 Los Angeles Kings
This is going to be a very interesting matchup.  Everything comes back to being a Hawks fan for me, of course, and I don't like the Blues.  Not just because they are a division rival to the Hawks, but also because of their antagonistic, grinding, brutally physical style of play.  However, the Kings are a very physical team, too, so this series is going to be like cannibals pulling each others' kidneys!  The Kings have had their ups and downs with goalie Jonathan Quick, and the Blues have had their share of injury problems with goalie Jaroslav Halak and others.  But in the end, I think that the Kings are a little bit more deft offensively.

Prediction: Kings in seven


#1 Pittsburgh Penguins versus #8 New York Islanders
My second favorite team in the NHL is the Penguins, thanks to Adam's influence, so I am not unbiased when it comes to the Penguins.  When they are healthy, the Penguins are a scarily talented and dangerous team (one that I hope for the sake of my marriage does not end up meeting the Hawks in the Stanley Cup Finals - but that's a story for another day).  The injury to Sidney Crosby, as well as the recent injuries to James Neal, Paul Martin, Kris Letang, and Brooks Orpik (among others) do scare me.  But even with the injuries, I think that the Penguins are much more talented than the Islanders in pretty much all categories.  Kudos to the Islanders for breaking their nonplayoff streak, though, and it'll be interesting to see Evgeni Nabakov's performance in goal.

Prediction: Pens in five

#2 Montreal Canadiens versus #7 Ottawa Senators
This is a tough one.  After a fiery start, I was surprised to see the Canadiens slump in the later weeks of the regular season.  I was also surprised to see how well the Senators fared all season despite massive injuries to very key players like Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson.  All in all, this one is a wildcard for me.  But I think the Canadiens will eek this one out in the end.

Prediction: Canadiens in seven

#3 Washington Capitals versus #6 New York Rangers
Another tough one.  The resurgence of the Capitals during the latter half of the regular season was nothing short of astounding.  From everything I heard, Alex Ovechkin found his jump out of nowhere and looked more like his old self than he ever did in recent years.  Alas, I don't think that the Caps will be able to keep up their hot streak throughout the playoffs - especially against a physical team like the Rangers with solid goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist.

Prediction: Rangers in six

#4 Boston Bruins versus #5 Toronto Maple Leafs
I don't know a whole lot about the Maple Leafs, but on paper I think Boston is the second-most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference behind the Penguins.  However, it was surprising to see Boston losing their competitive edge towards the end of the year, which is never a good sign.  Toronto also appeared to be trending downwards towards the end of the regular season, too.  In the end, I think that Boston will pull this one out.

Prediction: Bruins in six.

If there are any other NHL fans out there, I would love to hear your thoughts!

In the meantime, it is only appropriate that I close here with a picture of one of the Blackhawks' oldest and biggest fans - brachiosaurus Sue from the Field Museum of Natural History, donning her Jonathan Toews jersey.

Go Blackhawks!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Race photo body spasms

The photos from last weekend's CARA Lakefront 10-Miler are up.  Check out this action shot of Erin and me:
Erin looks all smooth and calm and happy.  And me?  I am generally a very enthusiastic person, yes.  But here I think my body is just spasming.

Actually, the race photo body-spasm seems to be a recurring trend for me:
Kim and I at the Chicago Half Marathon

Me at the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot
Wow.  Just wow.
New immediate goal for 2013: Practice striking different (and nonspasmatic) poses for race photographers.  (This might be my biggest running challenge yet.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rainy Runner Photo Challenge and Take Time Tuesday #4

In the interest of very limited time today, I'm going to take care of both Maggie's Runner Photo Challenge and Katie's Take Time Tuesday in one fell swoop.

Let's start with Maggie's Runner Photo Challenge.  This week's theme is: RAIN.  Very apropos!

For this, I'll share a quick before-and-after picture.

Happy soccer players!

Happy seagulls!

On a side note, I chuckled to myself when I wrote the "before and after." It reminded me of my friend Peter, who once said that one of his hobbies is being a "before" model.  LOL.

Next, we'll tackle Katie's Take Time Tuesday, where each Tuesday you list things that you are grateful for.

I am grateful for:
  • Having no flood damage
  • Adam's wealth of levelheadedness, knowledge, and patience
  • The unconditional support of all of my friends and family
  • Having better days to make up for the crappy days
  • A great session on the recumbant bike last night where I felt a noticeable improvement in glute strength
  • NOT training for a marathon this year
  • The fun of buying a new and different ingredient or food to try every time I go to the grocery store.  I tried a bottled green smoothie last week and liked it much more than I thought it would, considering it looked like green sludge.
  • Setting personal goals for which I am accountable only to myself, and therefore being able to change those goals as needed!
  • Clearing out a lot of household items, clothing, and shoes for donation to a good cause.  I love reducing clutter and getting rid of excess stuff.
  • Getting enough sleep, yet waking up before the alarm clock goes off.
  • Seeing glimpses of spring weather today, even if only for about an hour!

Live Half Full

Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013 CARA Lakefront 10-Miler Race Recap

Yesterday was my second running of the CARA Lakefront 10-Miler.

I ran this race last year and found it to be very well-organized, not to mention very affordable.  The best races, I think, are ones that are organized by runners themselves.  And this race definitely takes the cake in that aspect. 

Going into this race, I did not have as strong of a training base as I would have liked.  Up until this past week, I have only been running twice a week - one 3-mile speed session during the week and then a long run on the weekends.   Even with this, I've still taken several more stepback weeks and rest days than I normally would.  This is due to concern over my left ankle, which is starting to get wonky.  So I wasn't sure how this race would go but I was just hoping to get to the finish smoothly.

Erin was using the race as her last training run before the Illinois Marathon next weekend, so she offered to run with me.  She and Jason came by to pick me up enroute to the race.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we were greeted by this:

(All race photos courtesy of Jason and Erin unless otherwise noted)

Yes, folks, that was the biggest pothole I've ever seen in my life, big enough to swallow a garbage bin.  At what point does a pothole stop being a pothole and start turning into a sinkhole?  After seeing this video chronicling the attack of the giant sinkhole, we decided to avoid parking or lingering near the scene.

Here are some pictures of Erin and me pre-race.

The race weather forecast called for temperatures in the low- to mid-30s.  It had also snowed the night before, as you can see.  Maybe someday spring will really get here.

The race itself was pretty uneventful - no unusual runners/spectators and no unusual observations.  Erin let me set the pace with a 9:1 run/walk ratio, while walking through all of the aid stations. 

Here is a picture of us that I think was taken close to mile 2:

Around mile 2.5 was the infamous Cricket Hill.  Here's a picture of us coming down it:

I was nervous about how my ankle would hold up.  I did roll it a couple of times along the course, but it didn't bother me too much.  Instead, my conditioning ended up being more of the limiting reagent.  I started getting tired during mile 7.

I was trying not to think about it, but I started getting that feeling of dread for what the last few miles had in store for me.  Erin helped pull me through it.  She did a great job keeping our conversation going, even though I was having some difficulty talking.  It helped distract me from the fatigue.

Despite not being able to see the finish line until we were nearly upon it, I did manage to pick up some speed in the final mile.  My official finishing time was 1:46:32.

The medal.
Picture from CARA's Facebook page

Here are our splits.  I thought for sure that we'd end up with a majorly positive split, but in the end it actually ended up being pretty even.

Mile 1: 10:45
Mile 2: 10:50
Mile 3: 10:50 <---- Cricket Hill
Mile 4: 10:31
Mile 5: 10:26
Mile 6: 10:40 <---- GU
Mile 7: 11:00 <---- Fatigue
Mile 8: 10:52
Mile 9: 10:34
Mile 10: 10:01

It was nice to shave off about 2 minutes from last year's time.  Admittedly, I did think that my recent 8 weeks of speedwork would make a more visible difference.  But no complaints.  I enjoyed the festivities and the energy of my fellow runners, and it felt good to get the first race of 2013 under my belt.  Many thanks to Erin for running with me and keeping me going during those tough miles.

My next race: the Wisconsin Half Marathon on May 4.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Running Blogger survey

Kelly is hosting a Running Blogger survey linkup.  Here are my responses!

Best Run Ever
It had been a lifelong goal of mine to run a marathon, so the Chicago Marathon was an absolutely amazing experience.  The most fun race I've ever done was the 2011 Home Team Charity 10K run.  I also loved the PAWS Run For Their Lives 8K and I am super, super excited to run the Mad Dash to Madison for the first time this year.

In general, though, my best runs are those where the running feels effortless, the scenery is great, and I wish I didn't ever have to stop.  On average, I'd say that probably one out of every four or five of my runs feels really, really good.
Three Words That Describe My Running
Out and about.  (Am I cheating by using my blog title to answer this question?  Perhaps.  But I did have a method to my madness when I chose it!  ;-) )

My Go-To Running Outfit
When it's cooler out, I'll default to tights and a long-sleeved shirt, then I'll modify any additional layers (i.e. jacket, vest, etc.) as needed. When it's warmer out I default to running shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

In general, I do tend to dress more heavily than many runners.  I think this is because I prefer to feel too warm when running versus feeling too cold.  I am always amazed when I see people wearing shorts and tank tops to run when the temperatures are below freezing or whatnot.  Yes, I'm a Chicago girl but unfortunately that doesn't mean that I'm immune to the cold weather.  =(

Quirky Habit While Running
I don't think I have any (or at least I'm not aware of any...?)

From a bad habits standpoint, though, I am not as good as I should be about carrying ID with me when I run (bad, I know).  I do get paranoid about carrying stuff in my pockets unless they are zippered.  I also hate having things bounce or jingle so I usually carry my keys in my hand when I run.

Morning, Mid-day or Evening
When I was in college I used to love late-afternoon running, but these days it's not usually a very practical time for me to go.  On weekends I like going in the morning, and on weekdays it's easiest to go in the early-evening.  When I can muster the motivation (i.e. an early-morning running buddy!), it is nice to do early-morning runs on weekdays.

I Won’t Run Outside When It’s
Lightning, tornado-ing, hurricaning, monsoon-ing, hailing, earthquaking, tsunami-ing, volcano-ing, icy, or the temperature is lower than about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take.  I do consider myself to be a reasonably hard-core runner, but I'm certainly no match for Mother Nature.  In a battle of wills she will always win.  Always.

Worst Injury – And How I Got Over It
I've had a lot of problems with my left knee, which were primarily the result of IT band syndrome.  At its peak it was so bad that I couldn't even ride a bike, go on the elliptical, or walk without pain, let alone run.  It sidelined me from running for several painful months.

Thankfully the knee problem is under control now, relatively speaking. This is due to a ton of ongoing physical therapy exercises, stretching, strengthening, foam-rolling, and the wearing of a ridiculously stylish Cho-pat strap. 

Ooh lah lah!!!

Unfortunately, I wouldn't say that I've gotten over this injury completely.  To be honest, I don't know if I ever truly will.  But just having it under control is a huge step for me.

I Felt Most Like a Badass Runner When
I would get up before sunrise on a weekend morning to knock out a double-digit run, then get home before most people have even gotten out of bed.  Yesssssssss!!!

Potential Running Goal for 2013
Honestly, I'd be so happy if I could just stay injury-free.  I've already got five half-marathons on the docket this year (with a sixth one in mind), along with a number of other race distances.  I am hoping and praying that I will be able to run all of my races without issue, or with as minimal issue as possible. 

Further along the line, I hope to be able to run with truly no fear of re-injuring myself.  Maybe someday!

My Next Race Is
The CARA Lakefront 10-Miler this Saturday!  It'll be my first race of 2013.  Unfortunately, I'm not feeling as prepared as I would like going into it.  But at least the weather forecast is looking nice, especially after the torrential downpours of rain we've had here the past two days.

(On a tangential note, did you all hear about the giant sinkhole that swallowed three cars here in Chicago?  It was the result of a water main breaking from the mass rainfall.  Scary stuff.)

Your turn - I'd love to hear your answers!  Feel free also to link-up with Kelly and check out other running bloggers' answers from her page!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Close encounters of the bird kind

With all of the uneasiness and sadness engulfing the running community and beyond after the Boston Marathon explosions this past Monday, today I thought I'd share something on the lighter side.  (Thanks to both Erin and Adam for their input on the title of this post.)

When Adam and I went to the Blackhawks game at the United Center this past Monday, we got a little bit more than just the viewing of a great hockey game.  We also interacted with a prominent member of the Hawks' auxiliary staff!

Chicago Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk

Let me back up a bit to divulge some history.  A couple of years ago, Adam and I were at another Blackhawks game at the UC, this one between the Penguins and the Hawks.  (You can read his full recap of the game here.) 

To put things into context, the Pens are the only team that Adam will root for above the Hawks, and the Hawks are the only team that I will root for above the Pens.  As such, I was wearing my Hawks jersey and Adam was wearing his Penguins jersey.  Suddenly, Tommy Hawk came by and sat on my lap for a few minutes to take a picture with a kid that was sitting next to me.  Adam wasn't thrilled with Tommy Hawk sitting on my lap to begin with.  But, as Adam describes it, Tommy Hawk stared at him and his jersey before he did it, "clearly mocking the superior fowl." 

To quote Adam directly:

"For a moment I ponder going Brent Johnson on him and throwing a right cross to the beak. I mean what’s my worst case scenario for premeditated avian assault? Five for fighting and a four day suspension?"

Ever since that incident, Adam has not been eager to brush with Tommy Hawk again.  End of story. 

Or so we thought.

Fast forward to this past Monday night.  We were in our seats enjoying the game.  All of a sudden, Tommy Hawk came by out of nowhere to give a birthday greeting to a woman sitting right behind us.  He whipped out a giant can of silly string and began spraying her into oblivion. 

While doing this, Tommy Hawk noticed that Adam and I were enjoying his antics (OK, maybe more so me than Adam).  Not to be outdone, Tommy Hawk turned and at point-blank range he barraged Adam with an enormous plume of silly string.  He then proceeded to vigorously rub Adam's head with his wing.

It's a good thing that there are smartphones around to take pictures in the heat of these types of moments.  Check out this action shot!

As you might imagine, Adam was resigned after his second encounter with Tommy Hawk. 

Me?  Not so much.

Much to Adam's chagrin, I immediately proceeded to post the picture onto Facebook and onto Twitter.

Shortly thereafter and thanks to the magic of Twitter, I soon received this notification:

That's right, ladies and gentlemen.  The United Center retweeted my picture to over 19,300 followers.

I know that Adam is thrilled to receive such publicity!  How could he not be!?

Go Blackhawks!!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In solidarity

Yesterday when I heard the news about the Boston Marathon explosions, I was fighting back tears.  This is my sport, my friends, and my running community out there.  This tragedy felt like a personal attack, and one that hit very close to home for me.

Thanks to Shannon for this picture

Many consider the Boston Marathon to be the most prestigious in the world.  I will probably never qualify to run it.  But I know firsthand how much sacrifice and dedication goes into ANY marathon, let alone Boston.

During my own marathon journey, I underwent months and months of grueling training, sacrifices, and physical therapy, laced with countless periods of self-doubt and fear.  But in the end, it was all worth it.  I will never forget the feeling of being buoyed for 26.2 miles by an unbelievably supportive crowd all uniting for one goal.  It was one of the greatest moments I've ever experienced to approach and cross that finish line.

I can't possibly imagine how it must have felt for the Boston runners/spectators and the entire city of Boston to have their hard-fought accomplishments, goals, dreams, and day of celebration marred by such unspeakable tragedy.  It is literally heartbreaking that someone could commit an act of such senseless cruelty in ANY time or place, let alone the Boston Marathon finish line.

My prayers and thoughts go out to all of Boston and all of its marathoners/spectators.  Also, my very heartfelt thanks go out to the first responders, paramedics, police, firefighters, and other public safety officials that were running towards the scene of the tragedies while everyone else was running away.

Last night Adam and I went to the Blackhawks game at the United Center. As you might expect, they had a moment of silence to honor what happened in Boston. There is also a tradition at all Blackhawks home games that the crowd cheers and claps as loudly as they can during the national anthem. Last night's anthem was no exception, and it is during times like these that the national anthem feels more meaningful than ever.

It made me think of this national anthem singing at the NHL All-Star game in 1991.  The crowd was so loud that they nearly drowned out the singing.

Runners are uniting today by wearing their race shirts or the Boston Marathon colors (blue and yellow).  Thankfully, my workplace allows us to dress casually if we so choose.  Today I am wearing the most meaningful-to-me race shirt that I own:

To me, this race shirt symbolizes the struggles, the tumult, and the seemingly unsurmountable challenges that we all face in running, as in life.  This shirt also symbolizes to me the resiliency, strength, and triumph that we feel once we do meet life's challenges head-on.  When we fall down, we get back up, we dust ourselves off, and then we keep pushing forward.  Similarly, we will NOT be defeated by the tragedy in Boston.  This will only serve to strengthen our resolve further.

I am very proud and thankful to be a part of a running community that is so incredibly strong, close-knit, and supportive.  May we all continue to work together and unite to always move forward in solidarity, both as runners and as human beings.

Live Half Full

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Golf balls and Girl Scout cookies (again)

I think I jinxed myself when I mentioned here that I had recently been running pain-free. 

I had been dealing with some very minor ankle aching after my runs for awhile.  However, it was so minor that I wasn't too worried about it, plus it usually went away within a day.  Unfortunately, during my long run last weekend my ankle started really twinging.  I had a 10-miler planned, but it was bothersome enough that I considered cutting the run short around mile 8.  Instead, being the stubborn runner that I am, I started pausing every few minutes to stretch my calves and shins.  It did help.

Those last two miles were not fun.  But I pushed myself to finish anyways.

I know, I know.  Not very smart of me.
Believe it or not, I felt perfectly fine after I got home and stretched out.  I had no issues for the rest of the day, either.  I thought maybe I just needed to be better about stretching in general.

The universe wouldn't allow me to get away with such blatant displays of tomfoolery, though.  Nooooooooo!!!

The next day, my ankle was definitely not 100%.  It hurt to sit or stand with my foot or ankle at certain angles.  Parading around in high heels at the office sure didn't help matters, either. 

The pain lingered for a few days, causing me to take a couple of unplanned rest days (along with wearing flat shoes in the office except when I was in meetings).  We've been hit with some torrential downpours of rain this week, too, which gave me another reason to rest (sorry about our run getting rained out this morning, Erin). 

Unfortunately, the ankle aches were making me nervous.  I have my first race of the year coming up on April 20, followed by my first half marathon of the year coming up on May 4.  Talk about bad timing.

Last night, in the mode of "I'll try anything that might help," I pulled out the old golf ball and started rolling my heels over it.  (You may recall my adventures with golf ball therapy in the office.)  Wow, did it hurt.  I was taking deep breaths and trying not to curse or emit any guttural grunts that might terrify any of our neighbors or their small pets.

The results?  Whether it's due to the golf ball, the extra rest days, or the three-quarters of a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies that I've consumed unassisted in the last three days, my ankle feels nearly 100% today.  Whew!

I'm sure I'm not out of the woods yet, of course.  But this weekend is the last opportunity to do a solid long run prior to both of my two upcoming races.  I should probably take it easy, as I know it's most important just to get myself to the starting line in one piece.  I do hate the feeling of toeing the line feeling unprepared from cutting your training short, though.  Sigh.

Either way, the golf ball will probably be making featured nightly appearances for awhile.

Plus I do still have another quarter-box of Girl Scout Thin Mints to work through.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Take Time Tuesday Part Deux

Aloha, Tuesday!  This also means Part Deux for me of Katie's Take Time Tuesday linkup, where each Tuesday you share some things that you are grateful for.

Live Half Full
In today's episode of Take Time Tuesday, I am grateful for the following: 
A reasonable commute
Throughout my career I've had a few instances where I had to do some really brutal commutes.  Now, I have the option to either drive or bus to work, which is fantastic.  If I drive it takes about 20 minutes.  If I bus, my door-to-door is between 35-45 minutes - but on the bus it's nice to be able to just zone out and listen to music or surf the net on my phone. 
Although, on a side note, I cut down on surfing the net on my phone while riding the bus because it gives me motion sickness.  My MP3 player ran out of battery this morning, though, so today I rode the bus without anything to keep me "occupied."  I was sitting in one of those sideways-facing seats, too.  So I was sitting there a little awkwardly, not wanting to accidentally stare at any of the folks sitting around me but not sure where else to look.  Ahh, bus-rider protocol.
The great running shoe debate
Oops, I did it again.  Last week Road Runner Sports hosted a Chicago Running Bloggers party.  (Since I haven't had time to write about it myself, check out Erin's terrific event recap here.)  While at the event, I indulged myself in yet another pair of running shoes. 
Yes, I need another pair of running shoes like I need a hole in the head.  But just look at them!  How could anyone resist anything so fabulous?
The Mizuno Wave Rider 16
While we're on this topic, I've been trying to build mileage on my Brooks Glycerin 8 shoes as I hope to retire them next from my rotation.  I've generally found them to be a bit too soft for my liking, but had been sticking with them anyways the past few weeks.  This past Sunday on a whim I decided to wear my Asics Gel Cumulus 13 shoes instead - and wow, what a world of difference.  The Asics really do work so much better for me than the Brooks.  I'll probably only wear the Brooks for short runs now.
All in all, I am grateful to be able to indulge myself on running shoes and to be able to have fun experimenting with different kinds.  (I am also grateful for all of the places/races that allow you to donate your used running shoes for a better cause than just taking up space in landfills!)
The best times of my life are always ahead of me
Finally, I am grateful for having so many things to look forward to right now.  There are several upcoming trips to visit family, several big milestone birthday celebrations in the works, the weather is getting more and more springlike by the day, I've got some super fun races on the calendar including a trip to Disney in November, and my beloved Blackhawks just punched their ticket to the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Life is good.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Runner Photo Challenge - Signs of Spring

Maggie at Mag Mile Runner has brought back her Runner Photo Challenges

This week's theme: Signs of spring.


The first thing that came to mind for me on this theme would be pictures of flower buds rising out of the ground.  While those are certainly glorious images, I thought I'd take this a slightly different direction.

I'm a hockey girl, through and through.  But I have to admit that I've been undergoing a mild state of shock this past week that baseball season is already underway.

Check out some of these ads I saw for the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox.   You know it's springtime when these start popping up on your screen.

I'll go ahead and address the age-old question in Chicago whenever the topic of baseball comes up: I don't have allegiances to either the Cubs or the White Sox.  Really, I don't.  But I do find it somewhat entertaining to watch the animosity between the two fan bases.

I realize this has nothing to do with running so far.  So I'll mention that I had a blast running the Strike Out ALS 5K last summer, which took place at US Cellular Field.  I also had an awesome time running the Home Team Charity Run in 2011, which at the time started at the United Center and ended at US Cellular Field (now it starts and finishes at the Cell). 

Chicago White Sox mascot South Paw and me after the Home Team Charity Run in 2011

On a side note, Adam and I went to a local sports bar last night to watch part of the Blackhawks game.  The Bulls were also playing, so I mentioned to him that this was pretty much the Chicago sportsfan's dream to have both teams on at the same time.  He mentioned that the Cubs and White Sox had both played earlier in the afternoon, as well.  This means the Bears were the only team missing!  So I asked him if it were ever possible to have the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and Sox ALL playing on the same day?

Adam: (chortling) No, because it would only happen if the Cubs and the Sox both made the playoffs in the same year.

Me: But it is theoretically possible, right?

Adam: (still chortling) No.  It's impossible.  It will never happen.

(Don't ask.  And no further comment from me.)
Happy spring and happy Friday!!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Post: A Runner's Life in Chicago and in New York

Thinking about living in, traveling to, or running in Chicago or New York?  I am super excited today to share a guest post from Erica over at Erica Finds on what it's like to live the running way of life in both cities!

Erica is originally from New Jersey and now lives in Chicago.  Here she shares her thoughts and perspectives on the regional differences she's experienced while participating in the two running communities. (And wow, does it make me realize some of the things that I shouldn't take for granted.  Who knew?!?!?)  

Many thanks go out to Erica for this post.  Enjoy!

One of the first things people learn about me is that I love running. I try not to be a “runnerd” (spewing splits, coaching advice and nutrition tips). I just love to run and am so energized about it that I have had many a friend or co-worker give it a try despite “not being a runner.” I have proudly helped many a friend train for and pace a first race (or first distance). I have many happy memories (and tons of friends) found on the run.

I have also run 200+ races in the last 18 or so years. Last winter, I was selected for a “real runner” campaign by Fleet Feet Sports for their inaugural Women's Half Marathon last June. They dubbed me “the Expert”! (I also got made up, put on cool posters and flyers, got free New Balance gear and shoes and 15 minutes of “fame.”)

That being said, I consider myself more of a blogging runner than a running blogger. I do write some posts on running including one this week.

Emily and I were chatting and she asked me a question that I have thought about, but that no one had asked explicitly before. Having always lived here, Emily asked, “What is the difference between runners here and in NYC? And other places you have lived or run?” I moved to Chicago from Brooklyn, NY in mid-2006.

I immediately started regaling Emily with stories and agreed to write this post.

Key differences between Chicago Runners and New York Runners (in no particular order):

1. In the rat race that is NYC, each runner believes that he/she should start at the front. (Read: Get out of my way.) In 2006, I signed up for the Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon. It was a beautiful cool morning. I went to the starting line and there was NO ONE standing near the 7 minute mile pace signs. A while later, 2 people came up. They were also from New York City. This is a true story. Here, people are polite – even in races they “stay where they belong.” I noticed this again at the Egg Shell Shuffle this weekend. I once had someone in the New York Marathon start to try to get ahead of me in the first women’s corral. I was number 600-something and she was number 500-something (it was in the top 1000 female corral) – I kid you not.

2. It takes a long time to become “real life” friends with your New York running friends, but in Chicago people just want to be friends – full out from the start. I ran with a group in NYC for years before we started going for coffee, inviting each other to parties, etc. In Chicago, I met runners in Fleet Feet Boston Bound training in 2007. When folks learned that my husband is not a runner, they invited us to a BBQ or beers or something. And then introduced us to their social circles. This is a key difference between Chicago people and NYC people but I found it with runners especially. Please note: New York runners are some of my closest, dearest and most loyal friends. It just takes longer for them to let you in. Once they do you’re family. Note: the one exception to this is in races. See #3.

3. Ironically despite the rat race in NYC, I have found that runners in Chicago are more competitive and less likely to become race companions. Again, this is only my experience, but in NYC, I ran countless races with my running partners and we finished together time and time again. Occasionally, we’d split up if someone was having a great day or a bad one, but in general we were in it together. Here, despite folks being Midwest nice, folks like to come in ahead when they can. No offense intended to any Chicago runners – again – just my observation for me!

4. You may have noticed, there are NO hills in Chicago. People here have to drive out of town to run hills. It’s just strange! I am still not used to it.

5. Runners in Chicago are obsessed with the Boston Marathon and the Boston Marathon jacket.
The Boston Marathon jacket
I ran Boston five times. Four when I lived in NYC (or Philly) and one when I lived in Chicago. I never considered buying a jacket or any gear at all. When I trained here, that was all people talked about and I think almost everyone I went with purchased the jacket. The BQ is a prominent discussion topic and worry for many more Chicago runners that I know than NYC. If the NYC people want it, they keep it to themselves more.

6. Everything is more expensive in NYC than Chicago except races. Races here focus on premium giveaways and locations. The races here cost more (except NYC ½ and NY Marathon which both cost an arm and a leg.)

7. This may be a result of the advent of many more running blogs and sharing websites like Daily Mile, but runners I know in Chicago seem much more obsessed with the numbers. People share and compare stats of all kinds. How far? How fast? How much speed work? How many calories? How many rest days? What was your heart rate? How many rest days? And on and on. I have never been asked, “was that a PR?” more times than since I have lived here. “No, it was not. Not likely. Not anymore.” (In case you are wondering!) In NYC, in running as in life, people keep the details to themselves.

I will acknowledge that New Yorkers are generally known for thinking that they and their city are the center of the universe. Even former NYers like me can be guilty of that, so please excuse me Chicago friends if it happens! I met someone in the Egg Shell Shuffle who was also a transplant from NYC. We were discussing the differences between life and running in NYC and Chicago and we both agreed. Life and running are great in Chicago – especially after you stop comparing them to NYC!

What is your experience with running in Chicago versus other cities?