Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Michael Myers would like to come to your Halloween party:

Halloween 2011

He makes the most delicious desserts

Halloween 2011

And he's married to Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas

Halloween 2011

And friends with Dr. Who, Dr. Who's companion and Captain Pollution(not pictured: Captain Planet)

Halloween 2011

Today's to do: carve pumpkins. I'm too big of a wuss for horror movies, so The Nightmare Before Christmas is my Halloween movie of choice.



So maybe I haven't changed out of my pajamas today ... but at least they are festive

Dia de los Muertos PJ pants

Finished! Mine is on the left, The Sailor's is on the right.


Trying on her Halloween costume:

Trying on her costume

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Creating My Own Local Running Resource

I've come to realize that there is a lot of information out there on the vast interwebs about running. And there seemed to be pockets of a running community down here in these parts south of Chicago, but it was all a bit fragmented on the internets and I would find myself constantly combing through various web sites and Google searches to find info, and keeping track of it all via Google documents and delicious bookmarks.

So, like the good communication professional that I am, when I identify a communication need to be filled ... I fill it. I decided to create Run Chicago South, a resource for runners down here. I launched it on Tuesday and it's attracted a few folks so far. I'm hopeful that it can become a real resource for people (more than just me at least).

Anyway, last night, The Sailor and I went even further south to his parents house for dinner. I won't tell you how many bottles of wine were consumed and how late we stayed up chatting, but it was later than I've been up in awhile. And probably more booze that I've consumer in awhile. But, staying up late drinking with your parents? That's gotta be a sign that we're getting old.

I packed my running gear in my overnight bag because they live about a mile from the Kankakee River. This morning afternoon, I went for a lovely 6 mile run.

Yes, many "living in a van down by the river jokes" happened.
Maybe not so much jokes as just repeating that phrase. We won't quit our day jobs.

Also, it seems like it takes me 4 miles to feel really warmed up. I assume that's normal. I've never really looked into it. Here are splits from today's run and last Monday's run:

For the record, today's run was hillier and sunnier and I was dressed for about 10-20 degrees cooler than it actually was. (I thought we might get out to run around 9am, but it ended up being around 12 noon when I started running.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Running Puts Me In Control

My very first half marathon. I DID THAT.
No coach, no running group, no race buddy,
no one even waiting for ME at the finish.
Just a Hal Higdon plan and my shoes. 
I think one reason I've latched onto running is because with it, I am in control. It's hard to find that in other areas of life.

I enjoy team sports and activities. I've played on recreational soccer leagues, in community bands, and led a 30-person volunteer planning committee. Sometimes coming together as a group to create something is a very fantastic, exhilarating feeling. And you can meet some pretty great people along the way.

But there is also something to be said for individual activities, especially objective ones, like running. If I don't reach my goals, I have no one else to blame. The results I achieve are directly related to the effort I put in. It's not like gymnastics or ice skating or dancing where your depends on someone's judgement. In running, the clocks starts and stops when you do. There is no getting around it. (Unless it's a cloudy day and it messes with your Garmin, or you're doing a chip-timed race and something malfunctions. Such is life! Nothing is perfect!)

So when I reach a running goal, or even just see improvement, it is so satisfying. I did that. I achieved that on my own. I didn't do it with a team. And I didn't have to wait for the opportunity to come along, or for someone else to give it to me.

In our work lives, we often have to rely on someone else to give us a job, an opportunity, an approval. Most of us can't move forward without our boss's approval, or without someone else offering us a job, or without someone else approving the budget dollars, etc. There is somewhat of a loss of control over your own destiny. Sure, you can work hard, and go after what you want, but at the end of the day, you are still waiting on someone else to give it to you.

In team sports/activities, you have to work on a team. I'll use soccer because that's my sport. You could have a fantastic goalie, who blocks 99% of the other team's shots, but if you don't have a offense who can hold onto the ball, it doesn't matter how great your goalie is. You're still relying on the 10 other people on the field to come together for a win.

Sidenote: This sentiment about being in control might have to do with the fact that when I do play my team sport of choice, I'm usually playing defense. Throughout years of soccer, I have only scored one goal, and that was on a penalty kick. So perhaps my lack of satisfaction in scoring in soccer is another reason why I've taken to running like I have. 

In your love life, it's the same deal. You need the other person to be your partner. Otherwise the relationship isn't going to be satisfying. I won't elaborate on this, because every relationship is different, but it takes two (or more, if you're into that sort of thing) to make it work.

If you have pets, you know that no matter how many things you do right for your pet, they still might decide to piss on the floor. Sometimes you just can't control that. (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, CAT.)

I would add in an analogy for children, but I don't have any. I assume this all holds true for parenthood though. You just can't control their bodily functions. Or how they turn out as adults. (Sorry for not going to church, Mom. You tried. It just didn't stick for me. I'm still a good person though, so let it go.) 

But not with running. With running, it's just me. I don't have to wait for my teammates to show up. I don't have to wait for someone to offer an opportunity for me to go out and run. I just put on my shoes and go. There is no asking permission. There is no waiting on anyone else.

And when things go wrong, I have no one else to blame.

But when things go right, I can take full credit. And no one can dispute my results.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Obstacle Racing Career Is Over

I mentioned in my last post - my report/review of the Monster Dash Haunted Obstacle Course 5K - that I landed wrong coming off of the very first obstacle. But I kept running (for 3 miles) and nothing bothered me, so I didn't think much of it. Until later in the day, when my right ankle felt more sore than anything else. I wanted to go for a run this morning, but between sleeping in and making omelets and hosing down our muddy shoes, I didn't get a chance to get out for a run before the business of the day commenced: going to the pumpkin farm.

Dream big kid
the lady knows what she wants
So tall
The Sailor with our niece
My pumpkin picking a pumpkin (gag, sorry)

So yeah, despite a sore ankle and an occasional slight limp, we spent the afternoon walking around the pumpkin farm. It wasn't until we were walking back to our car - across a vast parking lot, carrying large and heavy pumpkins - that my ankle started to really bother me.

When I got home, I took off my boots and socks and sure enough, my right ankle was noticeably swollen. Luckily, I live with my own personal nurse (you may recall from a previous post that we live with my parents - my mom is an RN) so she took one look at my ankle, said I probably sprained it, and wrapped it in an ace bandage. She also told me no running, but things like yoga and swimming are fine.

No more obstacle course races for me
Forgot to take a picture before she wrapped it, and I'm not about to unwrap
the work that 37 years of nursing and a masters degree prepared her for.

My own personal prescription - no more obstacle races. Sure, the Monster Dash was fun, but it's sidelining me from what's really fun - running. But at least we recently rejoined a gym with a pretty sweet pool. Time to get reacquainted with until I no longer have a cankle.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Race Report/Review: Monster Dash (Haunted Obstacle Course 5K)

Alternate title: The only time I'll wear a skirt while running. Maybe ... because if I can convince someone to wear one with me, I'd still like to get a sparkle skirt.

Waiting at registration.
See the pirate in the middle of this shot
with the red headband? That's me.
This morning, The Sailor and I (and a couple friends - Tiny and Tiff) did the Monster Dash in Crete, IL.

Not to be confused with the Monster Dash half marathon and 5K in Chicago next weekend. No, our race was like the Warrior Dash, but haunted. I think this is the second year they've done this race.

A while back, there was a Groupon for the Monster Dash, so we were able to do it for about half off ($30 instead of $50 early bird / $65 later price). I'd say we got a pretty good deal for the price.

At the start. We are just to the right of the start sign.
Like other races of it's kind, you sign up in waves. Not ones for waking up early, we signed up for the 10:30am wave. We live in the south suburbs, so it only took us about 15 minutes to get to the race, but our group was running a little late, and I think left the off-site parking area via shuttle a few minutes before 10:30.

It only took a few minutes to get to the start area, and there was a pretty long line for registration, so we were still in line when the 10:30 wave started. By the time we got our bibs, it was a few minutes from the start of the 11am wave, so we started with that group.

I'm on the left
The race is a 5K through a wooded area with lots of obstacles. We had to climb up and over hay bales, half walls, robe ladders, run/walk/jump over planks, logs and bridges (some less stable than others), swing on ropes, crawl through tubes (we didn't, because it required crawling through muddy water and, um, we didn't want to) and crawl under nets and run through a lot of wet, muddy grass. By the end our shoes/socks were pretty soaked with muddy water. Also, being in the location it was, the ground was uneven, and jumping off the very first obstacle (a six foot tall hay bale), my right foot landed on an uneven patch (and then I ran 3 miles on it) and now it's a little sore. 

There were also lots of "monsters" throughout the course. I'll be honest. I was a little nervous about that. As much as I love Halloween, I am a huge wuss when it comes to haunted houses. Even the ones made for kids at pumpkin patches freak me out a little bit (I think it's that it's dark, enclosed, and something could jump out at me).

But anytime there was a monster on the course during the race, we could usually see it far enough in the distance, and only one of them surprised us (he was underneath a log that we were jumping over). Luckily no one really jumped out at me. Also, by the time we passed them, the course had been open probably 3 hours and they were probably tired.

Tiff, the Sailor, Tiny, me
I finished in 39:10 minutes. The guys finished about a minute behind me, Tiff finished way before us because she actually got there on time.

Post-race, finishers got a free beer (they had Miller Lite and Modelo available). We stuck around long enough to drink those and then took a shuttle back to our car.

Overall, it was a great event. There was ample free parking and the shuttles ran frequently.

Other than the long line for the registration (which if we hadn't been late wouldn't have been a big deal for us), everything went really smoothly. There was also a long line for gear check (and everyone had to check their swag bag because parking was off-site), but Tiny's wife was there and she held our stuff for us.

Monster Dash medalMonster Dash shirtBecause of the waves spaced every half hour, the course was not crowded, I think we only had to stop and wait at one of the obstacles (the rope swing). We expected mud, so we wore old shoes and I wore an old costume. It definitely felt like a Halloween race without being too scary for wusses like me.

There was a water station on the course (normally I don't take water for 5Ks but did this time - the course was hilly, and also grassy and muddy so it took more effort to get through than a road race, and the obstacles were challenging) and also bottled water at the end (and beer of course!). Our swag was a t-shirt (cotton), a medal and a free beer ticket. I love the medal!

Being the cheapskate that I am, I don't know if I would do it again at full price. But, we definitely had fun this morning. If you like obstacle-course races like the Warrior Dash, definitely check out this race.


39:10, 12:38 pace
AG: 31/171
OA: 167/714

The Sailor:
40:16, 12:59 pace
AG: 51/128
OA: 187/714

Friday, October 21, 2011

Am I a bad person for buying mascara to run in?

Applefest Half Marathon
Just let me have my mascara and don't judge me.
So today, I bought waterproof mascara.

For one purpose.

To wear during races.

Yes. I bought make-up just to wear while running. In races.

I know.

How sad am I?

Annual Style Show
OK so maybe those are fake.
BUT, in my defense (cause, you know, this is my blog and I can defend myself), I have long glorious eyelashes. But they are blond. So you wouldn't know, unless you were close, or (as I am 95% of the time I leave the house) I'm wearing mascara.

And honestly, I feel naked without mascara. I rarely wear any other make-up anymore, but I always wear mascara.

My brothers? Also have long glorious lashes. But their lashes are black/brown. JERKS.

My niece? Long and glorious baby lashes [even without the falsies] but also blond. I know what I'm getting her for every birthday starting with age 13. (Who am I kidding, I started wearing make-up at 10.)

So anyway. Back to the waterproof mascara.

I like looking at my race photos (both official and ones I take myself). But I hate that my face looks so ... naked in them. Mascara-less. Yes I know you are supposed to look ... rough in race photos, because, you know, you just ran a race, but I need a little help. Just to bring me up to par with all you lucky ducks that don't have blond eyelashes that make your eyes disappear into your face.

So. Yup. Mascara purchase. Problem solved.

But I feel like I just lost a lot of runner cred.

What do you think?

Is it so bad that I want to do one little thing to make me look slightly better in race photos? (or not even in photos, but just in public?) I don't dye my hair. I don't fake-bake or wear bronzer. I don't wear fake nails (actually other than maybe 2 pedicures per year, I don't get my nails done). I barely even wear heels anymore. We all have our one (just one? yeah right) little secret vanity. I'm proud of my eyelashes (and hair, and legs ... and I'm full of myself, sorry) but without mascara, it's like they are not even there.

OK this is a really long post about eyelashes. Sorry. Peace out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How many times can a turkey trot?

Is it just me, or are there a lot of Thanksgiving-themed races in your neck of the woods?

Down here in the south suburbs of Chicago, we have:

Sat 11/5: Palos Park Turkey Trot 5K
Sat 11/12: Bourbonnais Turkey Trot 5K
Sun 11/13: Tinley Park Turkey Trot 5K
Sat 11/19: New Lenox Drumstick Dash 5K
Sat 11/19: Orland Hills Turkey Trot 5K
Sat 11/19: Give then Gobble 5K
Sat 11/19: Beecher Turkey Trot 5K
Thur 11/24: Running For Kicks Turkey Trot 4mi
Thur 11/24: Joliet Poultry Predictor 4mi
Thur 11/24: Orland Park Turkey Trot 2.5mi
Fri 11/25: Homewood Butterball Burner Fun Run
Sat 11/26: Beverly Hills Turkey Trot 5K

And this isn't even that race-heavy of an area (compared to other parts of Chicagoland).

I'm tempted to see how many of these I can do. Some of them are pretty cheap (under $20). I'm already signed up for two of them. But I can only talk The Sailor into so many races, and races are so much more fun with friends. (I need more running friends, but why does everyone else insist on meeting at 7am for weekend runs? When it's not hot out?)

Anyway, the important question is, should I get some kind of themed hat or costume?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"GI Issues"

I can't believe I'm writing about this. But this is mostly a running blog. And this is an important topic to runners. If you're not a runner, you'll probably think I'm really weird for writing about this topic. If you are a runner, you'll probably think "yup, been there."

At least the world record holder for the women's
marathon stopped on the side of the road.
Anyway. Introduction:

I've always been fascinated/confused by the fact that it's common for marathoners to pee (or worse) on themselves during a race. Given that most longer races have port-a-potties along the way, I never understood why someone would rather go on themselves than stop.

(However, I was reading a recent Chicago Marathon recap post, and that runner did pee on herself near the end, but she was on track for a fantastic race - she Boston Qualified on her first marathon. Plus she said with all the water she drank before/during the race, her pee was pretty diluted. So I started to understand a little bit more why someone would do that.)

Also, I love how runners refuse to use the word "poop" and instead use the phrase "GI issues."

Well, during today's run, I had "GI issues." (Spoiler alert: it ended well.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

That In-between Feeling

Bristol Renaissance Faire
Running keeps me from getting phat and juiceee.
For the past six months, I have always been training for a long-ish race. In May, I ran the Soldier Field 10 mile. In August, the Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon. In September, the Fort2Base 10 Nautical Mile. In October, the Applefest Half Marathon.

Now what?

I'm already making plans for 2012. I'd like to run the Southwest Half Marathon - in 2010 that was my very first half marathon. I'd love to run the same course and see how far I've come in two years. And ... SHHHH STILL A SECRET (not really) I think I'm going to run the Chicago Marathon next year. When I started running, I never thought I would do a marathon. I continued to feel that way, especially after I slogged through my first half.

Then last October, I watched my cousin run her very first road race - the Chicago Marathon on 10.10.10. And I started feeling that urge ... that "hey this looks pretty awesome" feeling. That "hey who cares if it takes 5.5 hours, you still finished!" feeling. But I kind of dismissed it. 26.2 miles is a long way to go. At once. Running for 5 hours sounds like a long time.

But then I started following lots of other running bloggers. (See list on the right side of this blog.)

You people are inspirational.

You prove that anyone can run a marathon, all you need is the motivation and courage to do so. That's it. That's the hard part. Once you have that, you'll find the time. You'll find the energy (in goo form). You'll actually enjoy it.

I disgress. This post really isn't about the 2012 Chicago Marathon. (I'll save that for some kind of January 1 New Years Resolution type post, so just forget I'm even mentioning it now ... honestly I'm still gathering the courage for it. Yes, over a year out. This takes a lot of courage.)

The point of this post is that right now the only races I am signed up for is a 5K haunted obstacle course later this month (which I'm pretty sure I'll do in a pirate costume) and a Thanksgiving 4 miler. That's it until maybe next spring.

I feel kind of ... aimless. I could skip runs if I'm feeling lazy, and still finish those races. Maybe not as fast as I could if I didn't skip runs, but it's not like there is money on the line. I miss having that motivation. That feeling of "if you skip today's run, you'll feel it out there on the race course." You don't really need that motivation quite as much for 4 miles or shorter.

Wah wah wah, right? I should enjoy this "free" time. And realize that even 4 mile races need training, especially if I want to kick ass at it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Race Report: Applefest Half Marathon

Originally, my trip to Boston was supposed to be centered around Vera and me running the Boston Half Marathon. Sadly, due to a work conflict, that weekend didn't work out. I ended up scheduling the trip for Sept 28 - Oct 4 because I wanted to go in the fall and Southwest had the cheapest fares on those days. We still wanted to run a half marathon together, and decided on the Applefest Half Marathon, since it was only an hour away (so we wouldn't need to book a room at a hotel or B&B) and not sold out (unlike the Smuttynose Half).

Anyway, I was nervous about the Applefest Half. I didn't check it beforehand, but the elevation was a bit hillier than what my Midwestern legs are used to. I was scared.

This would be my third half marathon. My first two were slow (2:48 at my first because I didn't really know how to train [um ... run more than once a week] and 2:34 at my second since I was gun shy after my poor showing at my first half). So I was hopeful that I could run a personal record for this race. This year I've done two 10+ mile [flat] races at a pace below 11:00.

Vera runs ultramarathons, so going into the race, I told her she could run at her own pace if she wanted, but she wanted us to run together. And I didn't want a time that would completely embarrass her, so more motivation to do well.

The race started at 10am, but parking was remote with buses, so we got there around 8am and got to the start around 8:30am. The start was at a high school, and after picking up our bibs and shirts, we hung out in the gym until start time. Because it was raining. Yay.

Applefest Half Marathon
Good thing our Garmins are different colors. What if we swapped them
and I downloaded her data to my Garmin connect? RUNNERD DILEMMA.

By the time the race started, the rain had stopped. The start of the race was a small loop back by the high school, and then a bigger loop. Eventually it started raining again.

Applefest Half Marathon
Start of the race. See those hands up? That's me.

The course was beautiful. Up and down rolling hills, through heavily wooded sparsely populated residential areas. The volunteers were very friendly, especially at the water stops. Despite the rain, they had a lot of energy.

I tried to keep our pace slow, knowing we had some hills to tackle. For me that meant keeping our pace at the low end of or below my half marathon effort. I did a good job of that more or less, but running with Vera did push me to go a bit faster than I would have had I run alone.

Also, I kept chatting during the race and Vera told me that meant we should go faster. I quickly stopped talked (we also hit the biggest hills around that point).

Just past mile 8, the biggest uphill climb starts, and lasts until past mile 10. We ran the entire thing (well, the entire race), and passed a lot of people who were walking at that point. We passed one guy who we chatted with during the first or second mile, and he admitted he didn't know the course was so hilly. I don't know if ignorance would help you out in this case. Probably not.

Photo by Steve Wolfe

The course was not closed, but for most of it either one lane was blocked off, or it wasn't a busy street. Except for the last two miles. Those were along the local highway / main street, and were completely open to traffic. It was a little weird running on the side of the road, mostly in single file.

We finished in 2:22:38, which was actually my goal time for the Rock 'n Roll Half in August (our time for that ended up being 2:34). Overall I was 736/859; in our age group I was 83/95. So yeah, I'm still slow, but not as slow as I used to be. This was a personal record for me!! Like I said, I did so poorly/mediocre at my first two half marathons, that I was pretty sure I would PR at this race. Even with the hills. It was probably a personal worst for Vera ... she runs ultramarathons. At a 9-something pace.

I was happy to get a silver mylar blanket at the end. I felt like a Serious Runner.

Applefest Half Marathon
Serious Runners

Vera suggested keeping it and bringing it with me to keep warm at the start of my next race, and then discarding it. I'm posting that here because I think it's a great idea.

The finishers medals were also bottle openers:

Finishers medal is a bottle opener.
Adorable AND practical

The post-race food was good: apple crisp, bagels, bananas, apples, yogurt, cookies, Powerade, pretzels ... possibly more.

All around it was a good race, and I'm happy with my performance. I kind of want to sign up for another half (or similar distance race) sooner rather than later (later would probably be May 2012) just to see how much better I can do on flatland. But these races are expensive. I'm planning to do a 4 miler on Thanksgiving, and I might just focus on training for that distance for the next two months. More speed than endurance. And then I can focus on running an awesome half in May (which is the first half I ever did).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New England trip! Lots of photos!

I just got back from a week in New England. My friend Scott and I visited our friend Vera. I've known Vera since kindergarten and we've known Scott since junior high. In high school we became a besties trio. After high school, Vera moved out of state (for college and then for work) and every so often Scott and I take a trip to visit her (which was much easier when she lived in Indiana, and then Cincinnati).

Now she lives in Boston. We were there from Wednesday - Tuesday and tried to pack in as much of New England as we could ... photo time!!

The day we got there, we took a drive to Marblehead and had lunch/dinner at The Barnacle, right on the harbor.


While in Marblehead, we spent a lot of time sitting here, staring at the ocean.


On Thursday, Vera had to work. I went for a 5.25 mile run around Boston. Ran to (and over) the Charles River, past M.I.T., back over the river, through Beacon Hill, wound up by the Cheers sign, went through the Public Garden and back to her place. Such a pretty town.

Beacon Hill

That evening we met up with two of my cousins who live in Boston (one is a sophomore at BU, the other lives here with his wife and two daughters). Sadly, I forgot to take a picture! It was really great to see my cousins though. I have such awesome relatives.

On Friday, we went to Newport, RI. Had lunch by the water:

Newport, RI

Then toured two of the Newport Mansions. First was The Breakers, summer home of the Vanderbilts.

The Breakers

Next was The Elms, summer home of some other rich family. The house was smaller but had awesome grounds with gardens and fountains:

The Elms

On Saturday, Vera and I ran the Applefest Half Marathon in Hollis, NH. We finished in 2:22:38, which is a personal record for me!! But probably a personal worst for Vera. She runs ultramarathons. The course was hilly, and it rained on us. I was soooo happy to take off my socks as soon as we got to the car.

Applefest Half Marathon

After the race (and showers), we went out for dinner at a delicious and hip Mexican restaurant. It was so hip that the menus were on iPads. I'm not kidding. Each of us had our own iPad to view the menu. Anyway, this was the view from our table:


The food was so good and despite the smallish-seeming portions, I literally stuffed myself. I was quite uncomfortable afterwards. I think there was some moaning and rubbing my belly as we walked down to the street to find this uber-trendy bar Scott wanted to check out. (We found it, there was a line, we were all full and tired so we got a cab and went home. DO WE KNOW HOW TO PARTY OR WHAT?)

On Sunday, we went apple picking:

Smolak Farms

Then we decided to drive to Maine. It was wet. The sea was angry.


After we got home, we made apple crisp:

Apple crisp

On Monday, we drove down to Cape Cod

Cape Cod

It was really pretty, and reminded me a lot of the west coast of Michigan.

On the way out of Cape Cod, we stopped for dinner at The Bee-Hive Tavern, which was adorable.

Bee-Hive Tavern

We talked to some locals and our waitress was super friendly.

Bee-Hive Tavern

I took a bazillion more pictures (421 total on my actual camera, even more on my Droid) and edited them down to 206 photos on Flickr.

And now it's back to the real world. Work tomorrow.