Wednesday, April 29, 2015


I had no breathing problems during the Ravenswood Run on Sunday, but I started coughing and wheezing later that day, and that lasted on into Monday. So although my breathing wasn't as bad as usual during and after the race, it still wasn't fun.

After about a month of breathing problems, I finally was able to make an appointment and see my doctor. And I now have an answer to all of my breathing problems. That's right. It turns out that I have asthma.

My doctor thinks that my regular allergies haven't been helping matters, so I can't occasionally skip a day of my regular allergy medication anymore. In fact, she said that it is possible that a lot of my coughing and congestion that I've always assumed were due to allergies may have actually been related to asthma. She gave me a prescription for an inhaler, which I tried out last night before an easy run.

My new best friend.
Although it was strange using the inhaler last night, I had no problems during or after my run. In fact, I felt as though I could take a full breath for the first time in a long time. The real test will be this weekend's long run, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Hopefully, this will continue working and I won't feel as though I'm suffocating during every run anymore. It is nice knowing what is wrong and knowing that there is a way to fix it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Ravenswood Run 5k Recap

The Ravenswood Run 5k is definitely one of my favorite races, and this year's race was just as good as I hoped it would be. Better even.

Why? Because I have a new 5k PR! I may still be slow (official time 33:39), but I'm not as slow as I was last year (offical time 35:22)!

The Ravenswood Run is always a well organized neighborhood race that winds through the streets of the Ravenswood and Lincoln Square neighborhoods. The race is great for a lot of reason: a flat course fully on city streets, awesome volunteers, easy packet pick up, happy runners, it benefits a good cause, etc. I could go on and on about how much I love this race.

Sunday morning dawned to truly beautiful weather. It was sunny and clear, but still had just a bit of a chill in the air.

Spring is finally here!
One of the more selfish reasons that I love this race is because I can walk to the starting line. Instead of having to wake up super early and rushing out the door to wait for a bus or train, I was able to roll out of bed around 6am, shower, have a leisurely breakfast (half a bagel with cream cheese and half a banana), feed Hannah, get dressed, watch an episode of Bob's Burgers, and then go for a nice morning stroll through my neighborhood on my way to the race. One of the major benefits of having a race in my neighborhood is not needing to take stuff with me or use gear check. All I needed was my keys and phone. 

Although I know that you are not supposed to try anything new on race day, I went ahead and wore a new pair of shoes. It was only a 5k, so I wasn't too worried about it.

I like my shoes bright.
My new Saucony shoes have been okay, but not great. There is some stitching on the inside of the shoe that is causing me some problems (hello, blisters), so I decided to try out a different pair of shoes. I got this pair of Mizuno running shoes at a great price at DSW, so I figured it was worth a shot. Long story short, I still haven't found the perfect pair of running shoes for me. They weren't bad, but they weren't great, either, and I don't really want to try them for a long run. So they will be relegated to shorter runs or "walking around the city" shoes. 

It was fun seeing everyone setting up and blocking streets as I walked to the race. I saw them setting up the water station and getting ready to put up barriers to block traffic on some of the streets. Since I was wearing my bib number, I even got a couple of high fives from some of the volunteers setting up as I walked by. 

Once at the starting area, I made a pit stop at the bathrooms, then I picked up my pancake ticket from the help desk (I forgot to get it when I picked up my packet Thursday night). I took a quick turn around the race area to see all that there was to see.

Dunkin Donuts, Fleet Feet, Chicago Endurance Sports...everyone was out and ready for a great race.
I then made my way to the starting line for a quick photo and to wait for a couple of folks from my pace group with Chicago Endurance Sports. Deb, Shelia, and I decided to run together, since we were all registered for the race, anyway. Normally, I run races alone, but I was excited to have a couple of friends to run with this time.

Let's do this!
Once we had found each other, we lined up according to our anticipated race and chatted a bit and discussed our plan for the race while we waited for the official start. We agreed that we would all run the entire race if at all possible. I was worried about my recent breathing problems, so I made sure they knew that I may need to walk if it became too hard to breathe. We wanted to stay together as much as possible, but we also agreed that if one of us needed to slow down, then the others would keep going on ahead and we would meet up again after the race.

I was towards the back, as usual.
Happy for the sunshine and gorgeous weather.
The race started and we were off! We started out a little slow. Although runners had seeded themselves pretty well, we still had to do a bit of weaving in and around the crowd immediately in front of us. It was very crowded for the first chunk of mile 1, but things spread out a bit and were more comfortable once we hit the first mile marker.

I was feeling great! I wasn't wheezing or gasping for breath. I felt good. And having a couple of friends running with me was fantastic!

Before I knew it, we hit the 2 mile marker. We were still going strong, and were actually running a little faster than planned. Deb and I managed to stay together. Shelia fell slightly behind us around the time that we turned onto Lawrence, but she was still very close, so we pressed on.

I was starting to feel tired and having a little bit of pain in my left leg during the last mile, but Deb helped motivate me to keep running. We were so close to the finish line! It wasn't time to stop and walk! We sped up a little at the very end and crossed the finish line together.

It was great! We ran the whole thing! And I could still breathe!

I grabbed a bottle of water from one of the friendly volunteers, and we waited for Sheila. She was at the finish line just a few seconds after we were. We found a quiet place to rest, enjoyed some post race snacks, and chatted about the race and our upcoming group runs.

Banana and chocolate milk - delicious and nutritious.
I wanted to get home to stretch properly and ice my left leg, which was really starting to hurt. I don't know what I did to it, but whatever I did, the pain wasn't enough for me to miss out on a second post race snack. Mmm...sweet rolls.

Anne Sather Cinnamon Rolls = Favorite Tent at Any Race
Do you know what else is great after a race? Pancakes. All money from the pancake breakfast went to Ravenswood Community Services Food Pantry.

Pancakes are best when they benefit a good cause.
Bananas, chocolate milk, sweet rolls, pancakes...I was full and happy as I slowly walked back home. Yes, I overdid it on the post race treats, but sometimes a girl needs to splurge a little bit. After I got home, I stretched, showered, and iced my aching leg. It felt great to finally have a run not plagued by breathing problems. It felt even better to have a new PR.

Ravenswood Run, I'll see you again next year.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ravenswood Run Excitement

I'm starting to get excited for this weekend's Ravenswood Run. I'm worried about my recent breathing problems and what that will mean for my race day experience, but I'm trying to be positive. I was hoping to PR this year, but that probably won't happen, especially if I have to take a lot of walking breaks to remind my lungs that they are supposed to fill with oxygen without me having to consciously think about it. That doesn't mean that I can't have a great morning on Sunday, and I may go ahead and plan on using run/walk intervals for the entirety of the race to try to keep my breathing under some sort of control.

I already picked up my race packet and was super excited that my shirt actually fits. I ordered a women's large, and it fits perfectly! I try not to get too caught up in sizes and weight and all of that business, but seeing a L as my shirt size, as opposed to the XL or XXL that I've had to wear in the very recent past makes me surprisingly happy. I'm not a huge fan of the pink shirt for women. I love gender specific sizing, but I'm not a huge fan of gender specific colors. This year, women get pink shirts and men get blue shirts. Last year was similar, with women getting light blue shirts with purple writing and men getting dark blue shirts with yellow writing.

Much like last year, packet pick up was a breeze. I was already at Fleet Feet Chicago's Lincoln Square location on Sunday night for spring training with Chicago Endurance Sports, so I quickly ran upstairs, showed my confirmation email, and was handed my bib number, shirt, and a Clif bar sample. I did forget to pick up my pancake breakfast ticket (it costs extra, but the money goes to the neighborhood's food pantry, so it is worth it), but a quick question about that on Facebook led to a surprisingly swift response that they would set a ticket aside for me and I could pick it up on race day.

Running and pancakes? What more can a girl ask for out of a Sunday morning.

The Ravenswood Run was one of my favorite races last year. I love running through my neighborhood and seeing my neighbors outside cheering for everyone. I like that the charity partners are also located in my neighborhood. And, more selfishly, I really like not having to wake up super early and being able to walk to the start line of the race.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Running Takes My Breath Away

Training has been going well, for the most part. I'm getting stronger and faster. My form is still a mess, but it is not nearly as bad as it used to be. And I'm happy to say that I successfully completed my longest run (nine miles) to date last Sunday. I'm no longer worried about finishing my upcoming 10 mile race. Yes, I will probably run the race very slowly. But I will cross that finish line.

Sure, I've had a few aches and pains, but most of my problems have been a result of either not stretching properly or ignoring rest/recovery (not refueling properly after long runs, running too often, skipping rest days, not getting enough sleep, etc).

My main concern at the moment has to do with my breathing. Breathing has become incredibly difficult during runs. I get winded much easier than usual and can never seem to catch my breath. Even slowing down and walking doesn't seem to help very much. I end up wheezing and gasping for breath and feel as though I'm drowning because I can't seem to get a full breath of air in my lungs.

At first, this only seemed to happen during speed work. I thought that I was just pushing myself too hard or was just too out of shape.

Lately, however, it has also been occurring during my long runs and my easy runs and even just walking up the stairs at work. To make matters worse, I continue having trouble taking in a full breath up to a day after one of these incidents. The breathing problems have made me nervous about running, and I'm not enjoying my runs nearly as much as usual because of this.

Although I was able to finish my run last Sunday, I did have to stop for a moment during the last three miles because I felt as though I couldn't breathe and I started to panic. Thankfully, I was able to get my breathing back under control pretty quickly and was able to complete my run - I just finished those last couple of miles at a slightly slower pace.

My breathing problems have gotten bad enough that I've managed to overcome my intense fear of the medical profession and make an appointment with my doctor to try and find out what is happening. Wish me luck! I'm hoping for some answers. And I'm hoping the answers are that this is something simple that can easily be fixed. Just for the record, not running does not count as a solution.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New Shoes, But For Real This Time

Today is pay day, so I went ahead and bought a new pair of running shoes. For real this time.

Running is great because it is, or rather it should be, an inexpensive sport. You don't need a bunch of fancy equipment, though it is easy to spend a lot of money really quickly with race entries, fun gadgets, and specialty running clothes. None of those things are necessary. The only thing you really need is a good pair of shoes.

I had other plans for my money. I was going to make a decent payment on a credit card and be one step closer to be completely out of debt (I'm almost there and will soon owe no money to anyone). Instead, I went to Fleet Feet Chicago and bought a new pair of shoes to help me forget about my failed attempt to buy running shoes online.

My new shoes (Saucony Omni 13) are hopefully going to be my new best friends, especially because they pretty much cost double when you factor in the money I spent ordering a pair of shoes online that never arrived. As you can probably tell, I'm still angry and bitter that I gave New Balance $120 for a pair of shoes that never arrived, but at least now I can run my anger away.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New Balance, You Disappoint Me

I finally broke down and bought a new pair of running shoes. I've been running in my current shoes for way too long, and they were well overdue for a replacement.

So why am I still wearing the same terrible, broken down shoes? Because I stupidly ordered a new pair online instead of going to a real store.

I order things online all the time and have never had any problems with receiving my orders, so why would shoes be different? It would save me the time of having to go to the store, and knowing the exact brand, model, and size I needed/wanted meant that I didn't need a fitting.

Hannah loves it when i get deliveries.
I went online to New Balance's website and placed my order. I also ordered a new pair of shorts in preparation for the summer. The order went through. I got an email confirmation. I got one shipping confirmation for the shoes and a second shipping confirmation a day later for the shorts.

Everything seemed normal until I went online yesterday to track the progress of my packages. I don't have a lot of money to spend right now, so buying this pair of running shoes was a big deal to me, and I was anxious for them to arrive. I was already imagining what it would be like to run in my new shoes. I was super excited!

My heart sank when I saw the tracking information. The post office claimed they delivered my shoes already. In fact, the tracking information said the shoes had been delivered three full days ago. Hmmm...I never got a delivery. I asked my neighbors in my building if they remember any packages being left. I asked my building's maintenance man if he was holding a package for me or had seen a package for me. The answer was "no". No one remembered any packages or deliveries for me.

I contacted the post office, but they were no help and insisted that if the tracking information says the package was delivered, then it was delivered. They told me to contact the company from which I ordered, so I sent an email to New Balance's "Customer Care". New Balance pretty much told me that once the packaged was shipped, then it wasn't their problem anymore. I asked New Balance for either a refund or a replacement, because I never got my order and can't afford to simply give them my money for...well...for nothing. Their response? "We are unable to ship merchandise, free of charge."

I don't know what to say. I'm trying to see things from their perspective, but the whole interaction left a bad taste in my mouth. Any show of concern, no matter how small, that I didn't receive my order would have been nice. Even if they can't offer a full refund or replacement, a small discount on another pair of shoes or any show of goodwill, would have been better than nothing and very much appreciated. I have never encountered such indifference before, especially from a company who goes on and on about their values and commitment to their customers so often.

Maybe I just have too high of expectations? Maybe I've been placing online orders with more customer friendly companies? There has only ever been one other time I didn't receive a package that I had ordered, and that company offered my choice of either a replacement or full refund the minute I contacted them about not receiving my order. I didn't even have to ask for one.

I've posted this picture several times before. These are my beloved New Balance 860s from when they were all shiny and new and super comfortable. Sadly, I won't be buying New Balance ever again. I'll be heading to the store as soon as I can to find a new pair of shoes to love in any other brand.
So...yeah...I paid full price for a pair of shoes that never arrived. I'm still waiting to see if the shorts ever show up or not.

I've also learned a few important lessons today:

1. I'll never spend that much money online again unless a company actually offers some sort of guarantee. 

2. I'll never order from New Balance again because I don't trust them to actually get my order to me.  

3. I'll always buy from my local running store from now on, which is what I should have done in the first place. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

CES Spring Training Check In

Spring training with Chicago Endurance Sports (CES) continues, and so far I'm really enjoying it.

I was initially worried that I would have trouble sticking with the training plan, and it was a little tough at first, but has gotten easier and has become just a regular part of my life. In fact, it is pretty great having all my workouts planned out through the end of May. I wake up knowing what I need to do each day (run, cross train, or rest), which helps me plan appropriately. I have to say, I'm in love with rest days. I usually use rest days as an excuse to take a yoga class, though I did use one rest day to go home and watch a movie after work.

The best thing so far has been the twice weekly group runs. Since I'm running out of the Lincoln Square location, the group runs are Thursday nights and long runs are Sunday mornings. It has been surprisingly nice running with other people, especially during our long runs on Sundays.

My pace group has a couple of wonderful pacers who are there every weekend, and knowing that I am expected at a certain day, time, and place has helped keep me accountable and showing up, as folks really do notice when you're not there. It is also nice having coaches and pacers available when I have questions.

My goal race, the Soldier Field 10 Mile, still seems far away, but I know that it is coming up quickly and will be here before I know what is happening. Although I'm still a little nervous, I feel that I'm much more prepared than I would have been without the help of CES. Although I'm still struggling with some things (the runs I do on my own are still very much hit or miss), I've noticed a lot of improvement when it comes to pacing, and I feel that my form is also slowly getting better. Best of all, I feel that I can easily apply the same training plan to future races.