Thursday, July 28, 2016

There's more to the story (part deux)

Awhile back, Katie wrote this post sharing extra details for a few of her Instagram photos. I absolutely loved the idea and posted my own rendition. Today I am back with another round of realities behind my Instagram.
Actual caption: Tried the Blackhawks Swap with the Corey Crawford poster. The results were... interesting.
Reality: Let's not kid ourselves, this face swap is just plain awful. Who the heck comes up with the concept, let alone develops the requisite software capabilities??? I know almost nothing about Snapchat so I had to ask Kayla to show me what to do. When Adam saw the photo, I seriously thought he was going to vomit. He turned a very special shade of green.

Actual caption: Southwest Michigan sunset (at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, MI)
Reality: Earlier that evening, Adam and I had waited over an hour for a table at a nearby restaurant. We weren't sure we were going to make it to the beach in time for the sunset. After dinner, we darted to the car, did our best impression of Mario Andretti enroute to the beach, and ran out to get pictures. The sun was under the horizon within mere moments! Three minutes later, we left almost as quickly as we arrived. Why? Because we wanted to get to a local frozen yogurt place before it closed. (Yes, it was quite the action-packed night! ;-P )

Actual caption: Latergram from Giovanni Zucchi's Flavor Your Life master class last week on blending olive oil. (at Quartino Ristorante)
Reality: One of the event photographers asked us to stage this photo. That night was the first time I'd ever met the two ladies I am pictured with. Sadly, I don't remember either of their names. =(

Actual caption: No further words necessary. (on Lake Street)
Reality: This mural is located on a semi-busy intersection right next to the elevated train tracks. I used my phone's self-timer to take the photo. In order to get the right angle, I had to prop my phone along the base of the track's cement pillars. It took about 10 attempts before I got the photo right, and each time I made adjustments I had to run back and forth. I am certain the dozens of cars and pedestrians passing by were considering calling the cops to report me for suspicious activity.

Actual caption: I'll be moving office buildings sometime in 2017. This is one of the river-facing views from my new building. (at 10 S. Wacker)
Reality: I am hoping to remain in my current office building as long as possible. Once I move, I'll lose my free access to the onsite fitness center, cafeteria, and other very nice perks. Normally I'm all about efficiency, but this is one of those very rare instances where I'm hoping the process takes much, MUCH longer than originally anticipated.

Actual caption: Indoor succulent garden workshop. Vanitha, Dina, and I are trying to develop green thumbs! (at Greenstreet Gardens in Alexandria, VA)
Reality: I flew back to Chicago a few hours after the workshop. My terrarium did not accompany me since I wasn't sure how I would get it through airport security, et al. Dina (who also lives in Chicago) ended up bringing both hers and mine back a few days later when she flew home. I subsequently learned she went through an enormous debacle trying to explain the contents to TSA. Mass misunderstandings, confusion, and near-disaster ensued enroute - but somehow Dina made it happen. Thanks for going through all of that, Dina!

Your turn! What additional details would you share from your photos?

Linking up with Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 18-24 training recap and where I run (part 2)

Happy Tuesday! I'm a little late recapping last week's training, so here it is:

TUESDAY - 10 minutes on stationary bike, 30 minutes of upper-body strength work
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class
THURSDAY - 10 minutes on stationary bike, 40 minutes of lifting (full-body, but focus on lower-body)
FRIDAY - Yoga class
SATURDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill, 20 minutes strength work on shoulders, chest, back
SUNDAY - Yoga video

Workouts aside, Chicago got hit with apocalyptic thunderstorms over the past weekend. On Sunday during one of the worst stretches, I was in the living room doing yoga. At one point, the wind was so strong I was worried the windows were going to break. The storms even knocked down the canopy on a train station located a couple of miles away from my home:
Other notes from the week:
  • I was scheduled to run the PAWS Run For Their Lives 5K on Sunday, but opted to pass. The run was untimed; I knew the severe thunderstorms the day before would result in course flooding; we were under a heat advisory; and the location was logistically very difficult in conjunction with other things I had going on that day. Plus, I had signed up purely for the charitable cause, and Adam and I had already made a large donation for the event. Hopefully that more than made up for the DNS. =(
  • DNS aside, what a difference it makes to run because you want to, not because you have to! I was surprised when the urge to log a few miles hit me on Saturday. The temperatures were in the 90s with triple-digit "real-feel" temps so I opted to stay on the treadmill - but it still felt good.
  • I am going to be in Pittsburgh in September the same weekend as the Great Race. This is apparently one of the largest 10Ks in the country. Very cool! I haven't signed up yet, but am about 80% certain I will.
I'm also linking up with Marcia, Patti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.
This week's topic is: Summer scenes from my run.

On the overall topic of where I run, I previously shared some photos/details in this post. Therefore, today I will approach this topic from a different angle.

I am constantly amazed by the vast array of beautiful, creative murals and street art in the city. Here are a few from around my local neighborhood:
Soho House at Washington and Green
Lake and Morgan
(This photo is actually an outtake, but I ended up liking the way it turned out.)
Bridgeford Foods at Lake and Green
Lake and Racine
Randolph and Peoria
Bridgford Foods at Lake and Green
The Palace Grill at Madison and Loomis; this got updated to
"We Won The Cup" after the Blackhawks' 2015 Stanley Cup victory.
(You know I wouldn't miss an opportunity to share this one!)
Lake and Racine

Tell me more about the scenes from where you run. What running atmospheres do you like? Have you come across any unusual sightings or events during a recent run?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon race recap

Remix Challenge recap continued from here.

As some of you already know, I have a rain jinx when it comes to running races. This year my race weather has gone smoothly, though. So smoothly that I was allowing myself to think that perhaps I'd finally kicked my rain jinx to the curb!

I was feeling good because the weather forecast for the morning of the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon was showing 0% chance of rain. ZERO. Zilch. No chance at all.
I told Kayla that if the meteorologists were THAT confident there'd be no precipitation, you could blame me in the impossible event it did rain.

Lest I get too carried away with abolishing my rain jinx, the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon proved I've still got it!!!
On half marathon race morning, Kayla and I rode Divvy bikes down to the starting area. As expected, the scene was significantly more crowded and frenzied than the 5K the day before. This was one of those days I was grateful for chip-timed races and being in a later starting corral.

In the nick of time, we ran into Marcia!
From L to R: me, Kayla, and Marcia
Then we all split to head to our respective starting corrals. 

For a mid-July half marathon, the weather was about as ideal at the start as anyone could have asked for. The temperature was in the low 70s, and it was overcast with some mild breezes. I thought, This is really good! I can actually go out and really enjoy yourself!
My view as I was approaching the starting line
I crossed the starting line and started at a comfortable pace. Almost right off the bat, I had trouble getting fired up. The streets were comparatively quiet compared to my past runnings of Rock N Roll. I was still wearing my sunglasses despite the overcast skies, and it made the streets look very dark. There weren't a lot of spectators, and I don't remember hearing any music for at least the first few miles.

Somewhere around Mile 2.5 I remember seeing a stand with a guy dressed up as Mike Ditka. This made me smile. In retrospect, I should have stopped to take a picture!
Da Coach in all his glory
Around Mile 3, I was already doing the math in my head as to how much time I had left on my feet. Adam said he would try to spectate around Mile 3.5, so I focused on getting to that point. Sure enough, I did see him on the course, which lifted my spirits briefly.

Afterwards, I went back to thinking about how much time and distance I still had left. The course was making all kinds of turns back and forth through downtown streets. I knew at some point it would exit downtown and head south, but it felt like we would never get to that point.
I tried to remember all the mental tricks I'd heard over the years for getting through the mind-numbing miles. I told myself to take it incrementally. At Mile 5 you can take a GU! Around the 10K mark you'll pass by the Hilton Chicago where the Blackhawks Convention is taking place! 

Around Mile 6, I saw a runner collapse onto the pavement. She was holding one leg and writhing in agony. It was scary. Half a dozen runners stopped to help her, and others shouted to some nearby police that she needed medical assistance. The police immediately got onto their walkie talkies and radioed for help. It brought tears to my eyes to witness the scene.

I kept pushing on through the miles. Physically, I felt fine, but mentally, my heart just wasn't in it. My mantras: There will be a day when you can't do this, but today is NOT that day. Just get to the finish line. You'll get some sweet medals at the finish line!
Around the Mile 9 mark, there was an awful half-mile out-and-back along Martin Luther King Drive. All I could think about was how the race organizers had to somehow find a way to add an extra mile onto the course, and this was it.

Then, the course ran through the dreaded McCormick Place tunnel around Mile 11. It was stuffy and extremely dark with very rough pavement. I had to be very, very careful of my footing.

The course is set up so you can see the finish line from literally almost a mile away. The vision is deceptive because you think it's a lot closer than it really is.
Can't remember where this photo was taken, but I think it was around the Mile 12 area?
Around Mile 12.5, one of the deejays suddenly stopped his music. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make." Then there was dead silence for such a long moment that I thought it was a joke. He finally came back and told us the race had been suspended due to approaching storms. He (correctly) noted it probably wouldn't change much for the runners who could hear him at that point on the course, but that everyone should seek shelter immediately.


Granted, the skies looked like this:
All I could think was, Please don't turn off the timing mats! I didn't come this far to not get an official time! Am I still going to get my medals? Please, please, please keep the timing mats on! Other runners near me echoed my sentiments out loud. That last half-mile felt like it took an eternity.

When I crossed the line I was happy to see volunteers were still handing out medals. Meanwhile, more announcements were being made warning everyone to take cover somewhere downtown, not under the tents. They told us that based on the size of the pending storms we wouldn't want to be there in a few minutes. I managed to collect some refreshments before the skies opened up and rain started coming down in torrents. Within a few seconds I was completely soaked.
I scurried towards gear check. It was chaos. I ran into Erica along the way, who had come down to spectate. We wanted to get a post-race picture with Marcia, but it was raining so heavily that we couldn't.

After reclaiming my bag, I took cover in a tunnel walkway, all the while worrying about Kayla still being out on the course. I later found out that Kayla was around Mile 10 when the rain and lightning started, but hadn't heard the race was suspended. Therefore, she just kept on going until she finished. Way for her to push through! From Kayla's race recap:
That says it all right there, doesn't it??? =D

Thankfully the rain didn't last long. Many thanks to Erica, who had given me a VIP wristband which she had received from PowerBar. While I was waiting for Kayla, I went to check out the tent.

Oh my goodness, what a privilege that area was! They had an extensive catered assortment of food including various breakfast/lunch offerings, fruit and veggie trays with dip, cookies and brownies, you name it. This picture doesn't even begin to do the offerings justice:
They also had ample beverage options, a full bar, a phone charging station, massage tables and foam rollers, private portapotties, a changing area, and plenty of tables and chairs to sit down. They literally thought of everything.
It was an enormous treat to enjoy the generous offerings for a little bit. Huge thanks again to Erica and PowerBar for the wonderful experience!!!

I met back up with Kayla, who looked terrific considering the weather conditions she had just run through. Here we are post-race with our medals:
Below is the total haul from the weekend. Once again, the Rock and Roll race series does the medals incredibly well.
Finally, this is how we celebrated the successful completion of two races and 16.2 miles in one weekend:
Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza for the win!
And that concludes my 28th half marathon! The race organizers and volunteers really did a terrific job, especially amidst all of Mother Nature's challenges.

All in all, the weekend was a lot of fun. I had a terrific time hanging out with Kayla and the time went by so quickly! I am very relieved the Remix Challenge is over, though. Now I am excited for a few weeks where I don't have to worry about any long runs. =)

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap (even though this recap is technically from last week), and with Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rock N Roll Chicago 5K race recap

Many thanks for your support and encouragement in response to my last post. I really do appreciate your kind and thoughtful words!

Quick update: I have almost completely kicked the cold now, save for an occasional lingering cough which I expect will be gone soon. I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with my current busy period at work. And I haven't run a single step since completing the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon last Sunday! It's been glorious. =)
With the recent craziness of work, I'm falling behind on blogging. I've got both the Rock N Roll Chicago 5K and Half Marathon to talk about, plus I'll be running the PAWS Run For Their Lives 5K this Sunday (purely for the charitable cause). So let's recap some races, starting with the Rock N Roll Chicago 5K.
Just after the starting line at the Rock N Roll Chicago 5K
I was very excited to welcome Kayla to town for the weekend! I think the last time I saw her was at the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon, so I was looking forward to catching up. Kayla was also tackling the Rock N Roll Chicago Remix Challenge. After picking her up from the airport on Friday night, we grabbed some food at Ram Brewery before heading home to hit the sack.

On Saturday morning, the weather was absolutely gorgeous for a summertime 5K. The skies were clear and sunny, and the temps were in the 60s when we got up. It was cool enough out that Kayla and I both wore jackets as we rode Divvy bikes to the course.

While we were walking towards event-day packet pickup, we saw a runner who was busily puffing away on a cigarette. WOW. Never, in my entire running life, have I ever seen a runner smoking! I overheard him telling someone how he was hoping to improve his race times. I told Kayla, "Maybe it would help if he stopped smoking???"
After going through event-day packet pickup, gear check, and the portapotties, we headed towards the start line. Here's a picture of Kayla and me pre-race:
While making our way through the starting corrals, I heard a familiar voice. That familiar voice belonged to Tracey, a friend and colleague from a prior firm. What a wonderful surprise to run into her! I haven't seen Tracey in probably 4-5 years. She was also doing the Remix Challenge. =)
Photo by Tracey
I am borrowing this snapshot of the starting line from Kayla. Look at the beautiful clear blue sky!
The starting airhorn blew. A few minutes later, Kayla and I crossed the starting line and settled into a comfortable pace. We both wanted to keep things easy, knowing we both had a half marathon to cover the next morning.

The course started north on Columbus, initially following the same route as the Chicago Marathon, Shamrock Shuffle, and the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon. We then headed east on lower Randolph before merging onto the southbound lakefront path.

Kayla and I were both bracing ourselves for a crush on the narrow path, which was still open to the public. While it was indeed crowded, thankfully it was quite manageable. I don't remember seeing any oncoming bikes swerving through the crowds, et al, which is a rarity on a Saturday morning!

The lakefront was beautiful and serene. This picture gives an idea of what the view looked like:
Kayla and I walked through a water station around Mile 1.5, then picked things back up. The course wound near the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum before heading back northbound.

Close to the turnaround point, we observed not one, but two men dressed as Elvis, holding plastic guitars, and running barefoot! One of them was displaying an Instagram handle so here's one of his post-race snapshots:
Apparently there was a third Elvis that we missed out there?
In the final half-mile, Kayla and I came across some official event photographers. Race photo body spasm time! I tried to do a leap in the air while clicking my heels, but 1) the photographer didn't catch it, and 2) I wasn't able to achieve the leap with even the slightest hint of grace. We did get this quality snapshot, though:
Joint race photo body spasm attempt turned out very well!
Then, it was around the corner to the finish line. Here's an action shot of us crossing:
and here is our triumphant post-race finisher's photo:
My final finishing time was 34:00 on the nose. Interestingly, Kayla had entered a predicted 34-minute finishing time when she registered, so that worked out very nicely! =)

Admittedly, I feel a little silly for getting a medal at any race distance shorter than 15K, but I do love the beautiful Rock N Roll medals. Kudos to their medal designer for a fabulous product this year:
I loved the 5K race shirt, too:
This woman knows how to represent with the matching Chicago-flag running shorts!
All in all, it was a really fun, laidback run with Kayla, and a perfect shakeout for the next day's half marathon.

After the race, Kayla and I headed to the expo at McCormick Place to pick up our half marathon packets. The expo was better than usual this year! The goody bag had an unusually nice assortment of samples (including a packet of probiotic prunes! ;-) ), and the vendors were ample with their giveaways.

We ran into Erica (who very generously gave me a wristband to the half marathon VIP lounge - thank you so much, Erica!):
and Kayla and I enjoyed some of the fun photo opps:
You knew I wouldn't pass up any opportunity to rep the Blackhawks, yes?
Humana did a very nice job with the market-segmented photo props. =)
Then it was back home to relax and prepare for 13.1 more miles the next day!

Coming up: The Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon