Sunday, May 31, 2015

New Shoes, Part 2

You may or may not remember my disappointment with New Balance last month. Long story short: I ordered a replacement online for my worn out New Balance 860s directly from New Balance, my package never arrived, New Balance didn't care and told me it wasn't their problem, so I was simply out the $120 I paid for the shoes.

The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, and I swore to never buy anything made by New Balance again. So, off to Fleet Feet Chicago I went, in search of new shoes. My only request: no New Balance, please. I ended up buying a pair of Saucony Omni 13s with high hopes, convinced that they would be the answer to all of my problems.

Sadly, they just didn't work for me. I tried to make them work. I really did. I had paid a lot of money for my new shoes and wanted them to work out so badly. I convinced myself that I was doing something wrong. I had worn the Omni before, but that was several versions ago. In the end, I had to finally admit that they just weren't the shoe for me. They were never comfortable, especially on long runs, and they left me with horrific blisters along the sides of my feet and tight, uncomfortable calves.

After finally giving up on my new shoes, I made my way back to Fleet Feet Chicago. I was fitted for new shoes, and guess what shoe was not only the first one recommended to me, but was also the most comfortable of the six or so pairs I tried on? You guessed it. New Balance 860.

I have a complicated relationship with these shoes.
I really struggled with whether or not to buy these shoes. My April encounter with New Balance had me prepared to actively boycott the company for the remainder of my days. In the end, however, I couldn't deny that these were the best shoes for me at this stage in my life as a runner.

Am I a hypocrite? Yes. But I'm a hypocrite who is once again running blister and pain free, so I'm not feeling too terrible.

And although I hate to admit it, I will probably be running in New Balance shoes for the foreseeable future...or at least until I can find and afford a decent replacement.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Goals and Upcoming Fun

I had a great time on Saturday running the Soldier Field 10 Mile, but now it is time for new goals to keep me running through the summer.

I recently signed up for one of Chicago Endurance Sport's summer training programs because I enjoyed training with them so much this spring and they really helped me improve as a runner for the first time in years. There were some early weekend mornings when I really didn't want to get up and run, but knowing that there was a group expecting me to run with them got me out the door and moving, so I'm hoping the training program will help keep me motivated when temps and humidity start to climb this summer.
Image Source
And the training program won't be my only motivator. I figure that I've successfully run 10 miles, so three more shouldn't be a problem. That's right! I'll finally be tackling a half marathon in September.

In the more immediate future, I've arranged a few weeks each month to leave work early enough to run at Fleet Feet Chicago's Chick's Night. I've discovered that I really enjoyed running with others, so why not earn free gear for my miles?

Image Source
I also have a few shorter races that I'm signed up for this summer that I'm running just for the fun of it. The one I'm most excited for is PAWS Run for Their Lives 8k. I'm running the race to raise money for PAWS Chicago, which is where I adopted Hannah.

Hannah is excited, too. She loves PAWS because they rescued her and helped her find me.
If you have even a dollar to spare, then please consider donating via my fundraising page. Every dollar raised helps PAWS save and care for more homeless animals.

Finally, a non running goal for the summer (sort of): get my eating back under control. I've had a lot of success adopting healthier eating habits this year. I thought my battles with junk food and binge eating were finally things of the past. The last few weeks, however, have seen my eating spiraling out of control. My favorite snacks of either fresh fruit with almond butter or vegetables with hummus have given way to packages of cookies and candies. I want to once again regain control of my eating. It is fine if I have the occasional cheeseburger or slice of cake, but lately, these things have comprised the entirety of my diet. Also, I just don't feel all that great lately. I'm feeling tired and run down, and I think all the junk food is part of the problem. I'll be heading to the grocery store of tonight's run to stock up on some healthier options.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 Soldier Field 10 Mile Recap

I ran the Soldier Field 10 Mile. It feels good to type that. I RAN THE SOLDIER FIELD 10 MILE! 

I was super nervous, more so than usual, leading up to the race and on race day, but I ran it and finished it and it was amazing and I can't wait to do it again next year.

I could not sleep at all the night before the race, so rather than stay in bed worrying, I chose to use the night to do laundry, read, watch Netflix, and generally try to take my mind off the race. When 3:30am finally rolled around, I hopped in the shower, had a quick snack (half a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee), and got ready for the race - I changed into my running gear and double checked that I had everything I needed to take with me to the race (sunscreen, id, inhaler, water bottle, a snack for pre race, etc). I had signed up in advance for race day packet pick up through Chicago Endurance Sports (one of the perks of doing spring training with them), so I wanted to get to the race site good and early to find the CES area and get my packet.

One of the few benefits of being up so early is getting to watch the sun rise.
Soldier Field wasn't the easiest location to get to on public transit, but it was easier than I thought it would be. I took the brown line to Belmont, transferred to the red line, took the red line to Roosevelt, and then walked to the stadium. The walk helped calm me down a little, and as I got closer to Soldier Field, my nervous energy started to change to excitement.

Once at the stadium, I quickly found the bathrooms and then made my way over to the CES area to check in and get my packet. Soldier Field was the goal race for spring training, so I had access to the CES tent and area. This was a pretty great perk for me, as I basically had a home base where I could hang out before the race started and after the race ended. I also had the chance to reconnect with some of the other folks who trained or paced this season, and it was fantastic being able to congratulate other runners and thank the coaches and pacers.

Chicago Endurance Sports = awesome. I had a blast during training and highly recommend them.
Even though I was there really early, there were already a ton of people hanging out, stretching, and warming up for the race. Some people were already lining up in their corrals, but I was assigned to one of the last corrals that didn't close until 7:30am, so I still had over an hour before I needed to start worrying about finding my corral.

It was a gorgeous day! Sunny, but not too hot. The race was very well organized, with everything clearly marked and easy to find, plenty of friendly and helpful volunteers, and regular announcement made to let everyone know what was happening, including when corrals would be closing.

There was plenty of music and fun and excitement pre race, in addition to a few ceremonial matters. The Soldier Field 10 Mile is always Memorial Day weekend and honors military service men and women. The official race charity was Salute Inc, and there were some pre race ceremonies to honor and remember the men and women who have served their country. There would be active duty members of the military at the finish line handing out finisher medals. Having grown up in a military family, it was a pretty great way to kick off the weekend.

Let's get excited! 
I tried to use my time to relax. I packed what I needed in my race belt (phone, inhaler, and some gummi bears if I needed some energy during the race), pinned on my bib number, applied an extra layer of sunscreen, checked the rest of my gear, and chatted with some of the other CES folks who were also assigned to some of the last corrals while I ate my pre race snack (the other half of my bagel with cream cheese and some water). We talked about our race goals and strategies and whether or not we wanted to run with some of the official pacers for the race or run on our own.

Traditional pre race selfie.
I decided to start with the run/walk (5 minutes run, 1 minute walk) pacer for a two hour finish. It was a slower pace than what I had trained for, but I have a tendency to let my excitement carry me away and start out too quickly during races. My plan was to run the first half of the race with the pacer, and if I was still feeling good, then I could pick up the pace and finish the last half on my own.

Soon, it was finally time to head to my corral. I made one last stop at the bathroom when disaster struck. The drawstring in my running capris broke! There was nothing I could do so close to my corral closing, so I just resigned myself to 10 miles of pulling my pants up repeatedly. I sure hope there are no pictures out there, but what else was I going to do? Not run?

I made my way to Corral 14. There were sooooooo many people! I politely forced my way to the front of the corral in order to find the pacer I wanted to follow.

As we inched our way to the starting line, my nerves kicked in again. I breathed and reminded myself to trust my training. Before I knew it, we were off!

The course was nice and flat, running for the first half on a closed off Lake Shore Drive, but it didn't offer much shade, so the sunshine that was so beautiful before made things feel warmer than they really were. Everyone seemed really happy to be running, though, and there was plenty of support on the course in the form of volunteers and aide stations. There were a total of 5 aide stations on the course, and although I carried my own water, I was very happy to have some gatorade available towards the end of the race.

The pacers that I was running with were amazing! They helped keep spirits up and feet moving for everyone around them. Chatting, singing, and cheering their way through 10 miles must have been exhausting, but they never seemed to tire. I actually ended up running with them longer than I had planned to because they were so awesome and their energy was wonderful and infectious. 

At the turn around, we moved over to the lake front path and had a gorgeous view of the city to run towards. 

I love Chicago! I rarely get to see the city from this perspective.
I felt good for most of the race. I struggled a bit shortly after the 6 mile marker, but I managed to maintain my pace and keep moving forward. By mile 7, I had left the pacers and group and set off on my own. Although I sped up, I did keep the run/walk intervals consistent. Just when I though I couldn't run anymore, the stadium was in sight and I found a final burst of energy to get me to the 50 yard line and finished strong. I even got to hear my name called out over the loud speaker as I got close to the finish line! It was great!

My official time? 1:56:33. It may not be a great time, or even a good time, but I'm pretty happy with it. I finished and I finished strong. After last year's dreams of 10ks and half marathons were shattered, I had started to think that I just wasn't capable of running anything more than 3 miles. To finish 10 miles has given me the confidence needed to start training for a half marathon this summer. I know that I can run. I may run slowly, but I will finish.

And I can count it as a PR, right? Sure it may be my only 10 miles race, but that means it is still my best time for a 10 mile race.

Post race selfie. I finished!
At the finish line, I was given my finisher's medal by young man in uniform, a bottle of water by a very enthusiastic volunteer (high five, buddy!) and was also offered gatorade. I made a beeline for the bathroom for a much needed pit stop, having not wanted to stop during the race at any of the aide stations. 

All around me were runners celebrating their accomplishments. It was fantastic! Everyone was happy and excited. I was feeling okay, though I was a little shaky and ready for some food and drink. I also really badly needed to stretch. After exiting the stadium, I was given a bag of goodies. These bags are genius! No moving from table to table to get recovery food. No struggling to carry a bottle of water and a piece of fruit and a bag of pretzels. Everything was in one convenient, easy to carry bag. I loved it! 

Bag of recovery snacks - apple, pretzels, cookies, fruit snacks, water...lots of goodies and easy to carry.
The post race party was in full swing when I finished. There was music and food and drinks and everyone appeared to be having a great time. I made my way back to the CES area to reconnect with some friends, stretch, foam roll, and rest a little.

Once I was feeling a little better, I took advantage of my free beer. I don't know which I was most excited to have, the beer or the medal. I stayed a while and enjoyed the post race party, but I was soon ready for some real food and a shower, so some of the ladies I trained with and I left in search of brunch.

Would I run this race again? Yes. 100% yes.

It was fantastic. I loved the challenge that this distance gave me, and the race was a lot of fun. Fleet Feet Chicago puts on some really great races, and this was no exception. Everything was so well organized and ran so smoothly that there was really nothing to worry about, and if I had any questions, then it was incredibly easy to find someone who had answers. The shirt and medal are great, the post race party was great....Basically, the whole experience was great.

Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm Freaking Out!

As I've mentioned before, I always get incredibly nervous the day before a race. My anxiety just shoots through the roof, even for smaller, shorter races. Well, this week I learned that the longer the race, the more nervous I become.

Tomorrow morning is the Soldier Field 10 Mile. This will be my longest race ever. This is the race that I've been training for this spring. I've made it through 12 weeks of training with tomorrow being the end result.

And guess what? I'm terrified!

I haven't been able to sleep for the last couple of days because I can't stop thinking about the race and everything that could go wrong. I know that I'm not going to sleep tonight, so I'm trying to calm myself by preparing for tomorrow morning - laying out my race clothes, planning my breakfast, reviewing my race plan (do I run with one of the pacers or try to run the race on my own), figuring out how to get to the race site (Soldier Field isn't the easiest place to get to on public transit, especially early morning on a Saturday), etc.

My goals for the race? Make it to the race site on time and finish the race within the time limit. That's it. I was initially planning on setting a specific time goal, but I think that doing so will only stress me out even more, so I'm keeping it simple. And if I reach my goals, then I plan to reward myself with a cheeseburger and beer after the race.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Back to the Real World

My vacation is over, so I'm back at work and living in the real world once again.

I'm glad that I had the chance for a vacation. I loved seeing the ocean and walking on the beach and just generally unplugging and relaxing. I want to try to find ways to relax and unwind on a more regular basis, even if it means just means going to a movie with friends. After all, one of my goals for this year was to take more days off. Working seven day a week with no breaks wears a person down and isn't healthy, physically or mentally.

I had to say good bye to the beach. I hope I'll be able to visit again.
I scheduled myself a transition day, so after arriving back in Chicago Saturday evening, I had all day Sunday to decompress (flying terrifies me), run errands (I had no food in my refrigerator), and try to get back on my usual routine (including my weekend long run) before returning to work yesterday.

I already miss seeing the ocean each day, but there is one thing I missed while I was in North Carolina. My silly cat Hannah.

I missed this furry face.
The best part about being back home is being with Hannah. She was not please that I went away, but she seems to have forgiven me.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Visiting Family at the Beach

Greetings from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina!

I'm visiting family this week in North Carolina. I was a bit unsure about coming here, as spending so much time with my family isn't always as nice as it sounds. Don't get me wrong - I love my family. But seeing them can still be stressful. I was also worried about leaving Hannah while I was away. She has a couple of my co-workers looking after her, but kitty is scared of strangers, so I feel bad about leaving her. Yeah...I'm a little too attached to my cat.

But I needed some time off, and if that means leaving Hannah for a little while and spending time with family, then so be it. And a trip to the beach makes everything seem a lot better.

It is beautiful here! I take a long walk on the beach every evening before dinner. And every day after lunch. And sometimes again after dinner. Or in the morning. What can I say? I just can't get enough of the ocean! I love the way it sounds and smells. I love seeing the sun rise over the water in the mornings.

My family rented a house right on the beach for everyone to stay at during the week, which is awesome because I wouldn't have been able to afford this trip otherwise. Since they are paying for the house, I just had to get myself here. 

I've done a little bit of shopping. Money is a little tight at the moment, but I can afford a new swim suit and a small foam roller. I was super excited to find a sports store that had foam rollers. It may be painful, but I really notice a difference on days that I use the foam roller. My legs were missing it, and this one should fit in my bag when I head back home. I'm not really thrilled with the swim suit, but I didn't have much choice. It was the only one I could find that fit me, and I can't go back to Chicago without going in the ocean at least once.

I'm getting my workouts in each day. I have to force myself to do strength training. I just hate it so much! But I know it is good for me, so I do it. I have a couple of body weight workouts that I use when I can't get to the gym and have no equipment at my disposal. It is just weird doing the workouts outside, in front of other people who don't always know what I'm doing. I've gotten some weird looks doing lateral lunges and oblique plank dips. 

Running is easy, though. I can run anywhere as long as I have my shoes. Most mornings, I hit the streets to get in a few miles, though I do like to finish the last bit of each run right on the beach.

I'm heading back to reality in a few days. I'm a bit worried about making it back home to Chicago in time for a 10k I'm registered to run this weekend. I have some awesome friends picking up my race packet for me, just in case. Even so, I'm considering deferring my entry due to a variety of things, and not just my flight schedule. 

The race also conflicts with my last group long run for my training program with Chicago Endurance Sports. I wasn't initially concerned about this, but I missed last week's long run because I was stupid and forgot to set an alarm and overslept. I really want to see my pace group one more time before training ends.

Until then, I'm going to do my best to enjoy the rest of my time at Wrightsville Beach. I don't know if I'll be able to afford the time or the money to take a trip anytime soon, so this may be my last time visiting...well, visiting pretty much anywhere for the foreseeable future.

For now, I'm going to walk on the beach, listen to the ocean, and try to memorize as much about this place as I can.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fleet Feet Chick's Night

 My leg is feeling better already! I was told that I probably just had a slight strain and that my calf was full of knots. A pretty painful massage helped work the knots out, and as long as I am more careful about stretching and foam rolling, then I'm good to keep running, though I should take it a little easy for the next week or two.

I decided to put it to the test and went for a short run last night by attending one of Fleet Feet Chicago's Chicks' Night. I hadn't run in several days, so I was a little nervous and was prepared to walk, if needed. Luckily, everything went very well.

Chicks' Night is pretty awesome. It is a women only fun run that happens every week at each of the Fleet Feet Chicago locations. The Lincoln Square location has Chicks' Night on Wednesdays at 6:30pm. There are also other fun runs that leave from the different Fleet Feet locations, so if you are looking for people to run with, you might want to check out their schedule.

I really do love my neighborhood.
I was fortunate enough to be finished with work earlier than usual last night, allowing me to run with Chicks' Night. In fact, I was so early that I had time to take a walk around Lincoln Square and enjoy the lovely spring weather after getting off the train

The Fleet Feet flag was beckoning to me, showing me the way. 
Once at Fleet Feet, I changed into my running gear and headed upstairs to the meeting area. I found my log sheet in the file and set it out so that I could log my miles after the run. Chicks' Night is completely free, and it allows you to earn free gear by running. How cool is that? After 50 miles running, you get a Chicks' Night short sleeve tech shirt. 100 miles earns you a long sleeve shirt. 200 miles? Well, you get a running jacket. And the big one, 300 miles, earns you a $50 gift certificate to Fleet Feet. You can run anywhere from three to six miles at each run, and all levels and paces are welcome. Since the runs start at Fleet Feet, you have a place to change and store your gear while you run.

Run with some cool women and earn free gear? I'm in!

It was a perfect evening for a run! It was sunny and beautiful, but still comfortably cool. Chicago can really be beautiful sometimes.

I decided to run at least three miles, and then add more if I was still feeling good. I soon fell into a comfortable pace with a few of the other ladies running that night. After three miles, I was still feeling good, with no pain, so a couple of ladies and I went ahead an extra mile to finish four miles for the night.

These ladies are awesome!
Once back at the store, I grabbed some water and stretched, taking advantage of the foam rollers that are available to use after these runs. I felt good and even stopped at the gym for a quick strength training session before heading home. I still have no leg pain this morning, so things seem to be okay. I should be good to run my long run this Sunday.

I love running with Chicks' Night. It is awesome seeing so many women running and being active and supporting each other. These ladies really do inspire me to be better and keep going. I just wish that I was able to run with them more consistently, as I'm only able to run with them about once a month right now, thanks to my weird work schedule.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Missed Run and Possible Injury

I was super excited about my group long run on Sunday.

Or I was until I ended up with a nasty case of food poisoning Saturday night and wasn't feeling well enough to do much of anything on Sunday. I missed what was supposed to be my first 10 mile run, and I'm still a little bummed about it.

To make matters worse, I think I did something terrible to my leg. My left leg was aching and just generally not happy after the Ravenswood Run, but a little ice and stretching had it feeling fine within a day, so I didn't really think anything of it and continued training as usual.

By Friday, however, it was really hurting again. I've been icing and stretching my leg, and, thanks to the food poisoning, I've also been resting, but it still hurts. I'm hoping that it isn't something serious, because I don't want to miss anymore group runs OR my big race at the end of this month.

I think that I may have done this by running a bit too hard in recent days. I've been using the inhaler I was prescribed, and my breathing problems seem to have disappeared. As a result, I've been pushing myself a bit more. I think that my breathing has been holding me back longer than I ever knew, because I'm suddenly able to run faster and farther in the span of a single week. I need to remember to reign myself in and allow my body the time to adjust. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

15 lbs

When I saw my doctor earlier in the week, she weighed me, which always happens at doctor appointments. However, I asked not to be told the number and requested only to know if it was higher or lower than my last visit.

She said that it was lower, and she was pretty happy to see where my weight currently was. This was good because at my last visit we had discussed how, as a health professional, she would really like me to lose a little weight, especially with my family history of things like high blood pressure. If I could lose the weight now, she explained, then it could help me avoid some of the health problems that have plagued other members of family as they aged.

This morning, I finally got up the courage to step on a scale and weighed myself at the gym. I'm not a fan of weighing myself, as too often the number staring back at me just makes me upset and angry. This morning was different, however. The number on the scale made me pretty happy and just a little proud of myself.

Thanks to regular exercise and good nutrition (well...better nutrition - I still fall off the wagon from time to time, especially when confronted with donuts), I've successfully lost 15 pounds since January.

I try not to get too tied up with my weight, as it can make me a little crazy and obsessive. Also, there are many things that are so much more important than weight by which I can measure my fitness and health - strength, endurance, speed, etc. I also try to go more by how my clothes are fitting than what the scales says. If my pants are suddenly getting tighter, then I know I need to work harder.

And it has been great being able to buy clothes that don't have any X's in front of the size for the first time since college. Seeing and L on a shirt instead of an XL or XXL is pretty exciting, but there was something about seeing that number on the scale this morning that really drove home the fact that what I'm doing is working. It was also a nice little ego boost at the end of a long and tiring week.