Friday, November 28, 2014

Turkey Trot Failure

I'll make this short.

I didn't meet my goal at yesterday's race.

I failed.

I'm starting to get really frustrated. I feel like I'm not making any progress. In fact, I feel like I'm moving backwards.

I don't have a time or average pace for the race. They had a glitch with their timing chips, so there are many runners, including myself, who don't have chip times. I have my gun time, but that isn't accurate because based on the gun, I started at 9:29am, when I was really still standing in the corral waiting to get to the starting line at 9:36am.

I'll post a full recap of the race in the next day or two. I need a little time to lick my wounds and reevaluate my goals and plans.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey Trot Goal

I'm running the Chicago Turkey Day Run 5k tomorrow morning to celebrate Thanksgiving and my birthday. Initially, my goal was to PR at this race. I was sure that I could achieve this goal. Now, I'm not so sure.

The last couple of weeks have been good, but not great. Sure, I've been running regularly, but I've also been struggling with both pace and distance. At the beginning of the month, a PR tomorrow seemed easy. As of today, well...I just don't know.

After a lot of thought, I've decided to set a new, simpler goal: Run the whole race. I've been taking too many walk breaks during my regular runs. Tomorrow morning, I want to run the whole time. It is only a 5k, so this should be doable.

Wish me luck!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hit or Miss

This past week has been a little hit or miss. I had one amazing run, one terrible run, and two runs that I would classify as "meh". On the bright side, I was having a terrible morning one day last week, and my day was instantly brightened by the discovery of a tiny Stonehenge in someone's front yard in my neighborhood.

Mini Stonehenge? Thanks, Chicago. I needed that today.
I'm still loving the cold weather, but I have not been loving the rain that has accompanied the cold temps the last couple of days. This morning was a real struggle. Kind of. Okay...not really. I slept in and snuggled with Hannah and basically stayed in bed until I had to get up to go to work. At the time, it felt like the right decision. It was cold and rainy outside. And it was warm and cozy inside.

Image Source
The only problem is that now I have to run tonight. Blerg.

I'm really not feeling it today, but I'm going to suck it up and go for a run anyway. If it is still raining/snowing when I leave work, then I'll be heading to the gym to run on the treadmill. I made sure to bring my gym bag with me to work so I have no excuses, where all my will power is drained the moment I sit down.

It is a struggle to get going each day, but I genuinely enjoy myself once I'm out the door and actually running. I keep reminding myself that I have a 5k this Thursday and an 8k in December. I'll never be fast enough to be competitive, but races still keep me motivated to keep running, even on days when I just want to nap.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Love the Cold

This may come back to bite me in the ass later, but I feel I have to say it....I love the cold weather!

Or, more specifically, I love running in the cold weather.

I was scared to run in the cold and was convinced that I would freeze. But having run outside for the past week in 20 degree weather, I'm kind of in love with winter running right now. My runs this week have all started out freezing, but my body quickly warms up and before long, I'm nice and comfy. As long as I'm smart about what I wear to run, I'm fine. And the best thing is that I've been running faster and longer than I did even a few weeks ago. It is like magic!

I know my tune may change when the snow and ice hits. And I've been lucky that it hasn't been super windy during any of my runs, yet. Even so, things are looking up. Weeeeeeeeeee!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Need New Shoes

I'm in need of some new running shoes, but I don't know what to do.

Last year, when I first started running, I did what you are supposed to do. I went to one of my local running stores and was properly fitted for a new pair of running shoes. They measured my foot, watched me run on a treadmill, and asked questions about what I would be using the shoes for and what my goals were. I was told that I was an overpronator. Of the shoes that were suggested, I went with the Saucony Omni 11. It felt good and was what I stuck with until they were basically falling apart.

My first ever race wearing my first ever pair of running shoes.
When I went in search of new shoes, I was again made to run through hoops (not literally, of course), even though I had my old shoes with me and was looking for something similar. This time, I was told that I was an underpronator. Of the shoes offered, I ended up choosing the New Balance 860.
My first run with my New Balance shoes was great, but they aren't as comfortable as they once were.
The New Balance have been my primary pair of running shoes this year, and they have served me well. Recently, however, I've noticed that they just aren't as comfortable and are really starting to show some wear and tear. 

I've had pretty good performance from both the Saucony and New Balance shoes that I've worn over the past year and a half. I was gifted a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 earlier this year, and they didn't work too well for me - I just didn't find them comfortable and the fit wasn't quite right.

I may not have loved the Brooks shoes, but Hannah sure loved the box they came in.
I began searching for new shoes this week, I went to three different running stores. One told me I overpronate, one said I underpronate, and the third said that I neither over nor underpronate and that my gait was normal. 

In the past, I've always just gone with the suggestions of the folks who work at the running store. After all, they know more about running and running shoes than I do. But now I've gotten vastly different recommendations from different people. One person was shocked at the shoes I'd been wearing and insisted that they were terrible shoes for me and would never have been suggested by anyone who knows anything about running. Ummmm...okay.

So now I'm confused and don't know where to go or what to buy. All I know is that it is time for a replacement pair of shoes. Running shoes aren't cheap. I don't have money to throw away on something that will only be worn once or twice. Does it really matter what type of shoes I wear? I've thought about just searching online for the shoes I'm currently running in and seeing if I can order them again. They've worked well for me so far, so they should continue to be fine. Right? Right!?!

Does anyone have any suggestions for a good pair of running shoes?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Welcome to Winter

In the span of a single day Chicago went from a beautiful warm fall day to "Holy crap! It's cold!"

Or at least that is what I was thinking this morning. Ladies and gentlemen, winter is officially here!

I don't completely hate winter the way other people do. I love piling extra blankets on the bed and enjoying mugs of hot tea and cocoa and wearing cozy sweaters. I'd much rather feel too cold than too hot. That being said, I really hope that I'll get used to running in the cold.

My running was really improving last year until the winter hit. As soon as it was cold outside, I just stopped running. I don't want that to happen again this year. It isn't even that cold, yet. But what happens when it starts snowing? What about when there is ice?

Does anyone have any advice about running in the winter? I want to continue running outside as much as possible.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Running in the Dark

I often find myself running in the dark. Sometimes it is before sunrise, but more often than not, it is after sunset. There are a lot of extra things that I have to consider when running in the dark. There are a lot of safety issues to be aware of when running super early or late.

1. Being visible. In my regular life, I usually try to fade into the background and disappear. But when I'm running, especially when I'm running in the dark, I try to make myself as visible as possible. I'm talking about bright colors, tons of reflective detailing, lights, etc. The more visible I am, the safer I am. It is getting easier to find good reflective gear, as almost every brand now seems to offer reflective detailing on their running clothes. There are also plenty of vests, belts, arm bands, etc. that offer lights or reflective accents to help keep you visible.

I've been wearing a top from ASICS Lite Show line. It offers 360 degree reflective detailing. L
ike most of my gear, I found it on the sales rack at one of my local running stores. (Image Source)
2. Seeing where you're going. The routes I run at night are very different than the ones I run during daylight hours. At night, I try to stick to better lit paths or streets. This helps with cars being able to see me, but it also helps with me being able to see where I'm going. I'm clumsy under the best of circumstances, so I try to make my path as safe as possible, and that means being able to see what is coming next, whether it is a pot hole, a tree root, or another person. If I really want to run along a poorly lit street, then I'll break out the head lamp to help light my way. The headlamp lets me see where I'm going and also helps me be more visible to traffic and other pedestrians.
I use the Sprinter Headlamp from Black Diamond. It isn't cheap, but I got mine on sale. (Image Source)
3. Personal safety. Let's be real, folks. I'm a woman who runs alone (I don't have any friends who run, which is why I need to find a good running group or club). I also live in a big city that isn't a stranger to crime. All that being said, I refuse to change my life or live in fear. I do, however, understand the world can be a dangerous place, so I take as many precautions as I can.
  • I am always aware of my surroundings when I run, and I trust my instincts. If I'm uncomfortable or don't feel safe for any reason, then I head back home.
  • I love running in parks and on running trails along the river or lakefront. I love the cute little side streets in my neighborhood. But late at night, I stick to the well lit and well populated main streets where I should be able to find assistance if I need it. 
  • I love listening to music when I run, but I'll usually leave the headphones at home when running in the dark. The less distractions, the better off I am.
  • In addition to my id, my phone, and just enough cash for a cab (only to be used for an emergency), I have been known to carry pepper spray with me when I head out for a late night run. Better safe than sorry.
  • I also always let someone know that I'm heading out for a run. It could be a simple text to my mother or to a friend letting them know where I'm going and either saying I'll check in with them when I'm done. If I'm heading out super early in the morning, then I'll let someone one the night before.
Chicago is beautiful at night.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Future Races and Goals Check In

Soooo...I signed up for some more races to help keep me motivated and running on a regular basis.

Although I'd love to run faster, I've realized that I'd rather work my way up to longer distances. Don't get me wrong. I'd still love to PR at the Turkey Day Run 5k on November 27. I've just realized that my naturally slow pace may be better suited to longer distances (I'm hoping - fingers crossed), and knowing that I have to work on adding mileage tends to motivate me more than speed work does. I'm looking at a couple of 8k races, as well as a couple of 10k races. I'm excited about running the Rudolph Ramble 8k next month, but I'm a little nervous about how quickly it is coming up.

So far my goals for the month are shaping up pretty well. I've added my runs to my schedule to help stop me from making excuses, and last night's run was short (only 2.5 miles), but it felt great. I love the cooler weather! I want to continue running outside as long as possible, though I know that I'll eventually head inside to the treadmill once the frigid Chicago winter weather hits. Although healthy eating is posing some challenges (mostly due to poor planning on my part), I have had breakfast every morning, so far.

So far, so good. I fitting all my runs into my schedule, even if it means running at night after work on days I oversleep (like yesterday). I'm just going to have to wait and see what happens at the 5k on Thanksgiving to see if I accomplish that goal or not, though I still think it is possible as long as I keep working. I may not have run as far as I should have last night, but I made excellent time and was able to keep my pace up the entire time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Carrera de los Muertos 5k Recap

After eating my weight in candy on Halloween, I woke up super early on November 1 to make it to the Carrera de lost Muertos 5k in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. I wasn't excited about waking up at 5am, but I was excited to run what sounded like an awesome race and start off the month of November on the right foot.

I had assembled my bag for gear check and laid out my clothes and shoes the night before, so it was easy to get ready. Half a bagel with pumpkin cream cheese, a banana, and a cup of coffee served as breakfast as I got dressed, fed Hannah (kitty was not happy about the early start to the day, either), and did a final check that I had everything I needed before heading to the train.

It was easy enough to reach the race. I simply took the brown line to the loop and transferred to the pink line. After exiting the train at the 18th Street stop, I simply walked around the corner and there was the race!

Race of the Dead! Let's do this!
I quickly made the rounds to check out the area and figure out where everything was. It was all contained in a tight area, which made it easy to find everything, albeit a bit crowded. Bathrooms, gear check, corrals, food tents, stage...everything was well labeled and easy to find. I was happy that I had picked up my packet in advance, as the line for the race day pick up was very long and moving somewhat slowly.

Gear check was underneath the train tracks. A bit strange...but it worked.
I have to say, this was easily the most colorful and joyous race I have participated in! I loved all the decorations and the displays.

Part of the altar display.
In addition to decorations, there was also music and people in costumes.

Love it! These folks were along the race route and at the after party.
It was cold out, but I was happy and having a good time and knew that I would warm up as soon as I was running. The only real problem I encounter pre-race was when I made my way to the bathrooms to discover that not even one of the port-o-potties had toilet paper! None of them! 30 minutes to race time and everyone was hopping from toilet to toilet in search of TP. Luckily, word got to the race organizers, and rolls of toilet paper were soon being placed in each port-o-potty. Crisis averted. Note to self - always remember to bring a pack of tissues to a race.

Anyone want to take their picture?
I took off my coat and scarf and shoved them into my bag and handed it over to one of the volunteers at gear check. I liked having different gear check tables based on bib number - it kept things moving quickly and helped make it easier for them to find people's bags after the race. Gear check was under the train viaduct, so it was a little odd and dark, but it was also sheltered from the wind, which was blowing cold and strong.

These papier mache skulls were amazing, but I don't know how they managed to run in them.
I made my way over to the corrals and got into my assigned one - corral C. Now that I didn't have my coat and scarf, I was freezing. I was ready to start running for the sole reason of becoming warm again.

Hello, happy skeleton.
More and more people started getting into place for the start of the race.

That's the starting line way up there. People were ready to get moving.
Everyone was there to have fun and a lot of people were there to show their support for their neighborhood and schools, but that meant that this was the first race for a lot of folks. It was good that so many people were out there to do something healthy and have fun, but I had to do a lot of weaving once the race started, as there were many people who did not adhere to their corral assignments and jumped into corral B even though they were there to walk the course and had been assigned corral D.

Prerequisite pre-race selfie.
The race started, with corrals being released one at a time. This was great, because the course never felt too crowded. The route was easy to follow and pretty wide, so it was easy to weave around people who were slower than me, and each mile had a very clear mile marker, which helped you know exactly how far you had to go. The volunteers and spectators along the route cheering everyone on were great, as was the music. The mariachi band was my favorite. Yes, there was a mariachi band playing at one point on the race course, and they were fantastic!

I knew I was running slower than usual, and I had to walk for a bit around mile two, but I was having a lot of fun.

When I saw the finish line, I picked up the pace a bit. It was super crowded immediately after the finish line, as folks slowed down or stopped to  grab water, so there were clumps of people blocking the street and making it hard to navigate back to the parking lot that served as home base for the pre and post race events. I ended up having to push my way through groups of people in order to get a drink and make my way out into a less crowded area.

All the beverages shall be mine!
As soon as I stopped running, I started to get cold. I quickly made my way to gear check to grab my bag so I could get my coat back on. The festivities continued after the race. There was music and dancing and food and fun. I loved watching the dancers on stage.

The dancers were great, and I loved their outfits.
If you were hungry, then there was plenty of food to purchase. You could trade in cash for food tickets that could be redeemed for the various offerings: tamales and soup and tacos and all sorts of delicious items. Beer was also available for purchase with cash. Everything smelled amazing, but I had forgotten to bring any cash with me, so I couldn't partake. This is a mistake that I will never repeat again.

There was a costume contest, and then the awards were announced. The winners in each age group got hand painted skulls instead of medals, which was awesome. They all seemed excited about their prizes.

Those skulls are sooooooo much better than a medal.
As things started winding down, I was freezing and ready to head home for some food and a warm bath. 

I had a blast at this race!
I made my way back to the pink line station to wait for the train. There were quite a few other race participants crowding together under the warming lamps on the train platform.

Even the el stop was festive.
I had a blast at this race. It seemed well organized, the course was great, and the festive atmosphere was contagious. This was a wonderful neighborhood race that really seemed to honor the neighborhood's heritage. I can't wait to run this race again next year!

My advise for anyone interested in running with me next year:

1.) Bring cash for food. I still regret not having money for some tamales and a beer.
2.) Bring a pack of tissues in case there is no toilet paper. This is really a good idea for any race.
3.) Pick up your packets in advance, if possible.
4.) Know that this is a neighborhood race, so there are a lot of non-runners and/or runners for whom this is their first race. Not everyone will know to line up at the back if they are walking. Not everyone will know to move to the side of the course if they are slowing down or stopping. And please don't bring people down by disparaging other participants for any reason.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November Goals

I'll be posting a recap of yesterday's race either later today or tomorrow. But first, I wanted to take a minute to set some goals for the month of November.

1.) Run regularly. This was a goal from way back when that I've been failing hard at in the last few weeks. In November, I want to run a least 4 times a week.

2.) I want to PR at my next race, which happens to be at the end of the month on Thanksgiving. I had been making progress and was slowly but surely getting faster, but then I back slid and am back at my original slow pace. As long as I stick to my first goal, then I should be able to get my pace to a slightly more respectable place. There is nothing wrong with running slowly. This is bugging me because I know that I am capable of running faster than I currently do.

If you want to join me and are in Chicago, then I'll be running the Turkey Day 5k on Thanksgiving.
3.) In addition to my running goals, I also have a couple of food goals. First up, I will eat breakfast every day. I tend to skip breakfast and then go overboard with snacks the rest of the day because I feel like I'm starving by the time I get to work. So far, I've started out strong, having had breakfast yesterday and today.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
4.) I also want to generally start eating better. This one is going to be the hardest for me because I love candy and soda, but I've fallen into the trap of fast food and vending machine lunches at work followed by take out for dinner and realized when I stepped on the scale last week that I am at my heaviest weight ever. I'm not going to completely give up my beloved junk food, I'm just going to switch it to the occasional treat as opposed to an every day meal/snack.

I need more of this - side salad, rice and lentils, and roasted cauliflower - and less burgers, fries, pizza, and wings. 
Weeeeee! Aren't goals fun? Seriously, though, I need to make some changes and reinforce some good habits while breaking some bad habits. I may as well start now.