Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunny-side up!

I'm on the edge of my seat. Why, you ask? In just two days, I'll be able to check the 10-day forecast for weather on the big day!

Running-wise (and also boot- and fall jacket wearing-wise), the weather next week looks pretty good! Here's to hoping it continues through October 10!

10-Day Forecast

High /
Low (°F)
Precip. %
Sep 30
AM Clouds / PM Sun 62°/47° 10 %
Oct 01
PM Showers 63°/54° 40 %
Oct 02
Few Showers / Wind 63°/48° 30 %
Oct 03
Showers 56°/45° 40 %
Oct 04
Partly Cloudy 61°/47° 20 %
Oct 05
Few Showers 62°/53° 30 %
Oct 06
Showers 67°/50° 40 %
Oct 07
Sunny 63°/47° 10 %
Oct 08
Showers 64°/48° 40 %
Oct 09
AM Clouds / PM Sun 63°/48° 20 %

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Four Years of Runner's Blues

For some time, I've been searching for words to describe how I feel about running these days. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, I am a runner that fell out of love with the sport and stayed away for many years until a few months ago when I began training for this year's Chicago Marathon. 

I found those words last night reading "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami, described by its publisher as "a beautiful memoir about the author's intertwined obsessions with running and writing." It journals his progress training for the New York City Marathon and is an interesting mix of funny and philosophical musings about life, running and writing.

Here goes:

For the first time in a long while, I feel content running every day in preparation for the next marathon. I've opened a new notebook, unscrewed the cap on a new bottle of ink, and am writing something new. Why I feel so generous about running now, I can't really explain systematically... maybe this is simply a matter of time passing. Maybe I just had to undergo an inevitable internal adjustment, and the period for this to happen is finally drawing to a close. 

To tell the truth, I don't really understand the causes behind my runner's blues. Or why now it's beginning to fade. It's too early to explain it well. Maybe the only thing I can say about it is this: That's life. Maybe the only thing we do is accept it, without really know what's going on. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Catholic Guilt

Ever heard of it? Thought so. I have a tough case right now and need to fess up real quick.

I've neglected this blog quite a bit lately (understatement).

Keeping up a blog is much harder work than I ever imagined. I like to write -- I do it for a living -- and, while I thought I'd enjoy a putting finger to keyboard (?) a few times a week on something I enjoy, sadly, I found that the last thing I wanted to do after eight or 10 hours at the office was open up my laptop. On top of work and marathon training, I've become more involved in volunteering at my church and other organizations in Chicago this summer, further scaling back the amount of free time on my hands.

I considered for a brief period giving up this whole blogging thing; however, I realized how much I enjoy reading other blogs, particularly those written by people I know and especially those I'm not able to see on a regular basis. Via Facebook and blogs, I have a much better handle on where high school, college and other friends are and what they're doing than ever before and, in some weird way, I feel closer to them as a result of the virtual connection. In fact, I wish more of you guys spend time blogging. It's much easier to comment on a post or respond to a Facebook status update than sit down and craft a thoughtful e-mail.

Rest assured that I'll be back with more frequent posts soon! In the meantime, please accept my sincerest apologies! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brain Tumor Claims Another

After my dad died, it was years before I heard of a friend, family member or neighbor that knew someone suffering from or passed away as a result of a brain tumor. But that since that time -- and since beginning my marathon training began -- I've heard of learned about more and more about friends that have loved ones suffering from the disease: Ted Kennedy, a friend's mom, my running buddy's dad and today, brain tumor claimed the live of syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

The disease is undoubtedly tragic and becomes deadly quickly. My dad was sick for less than a year and half; Robert Novak was first diagnosed July 2008.

As I wrote in my initial blog post, running the Chicago Marathon this year -- for more -- is about more about achieving a personal best and rediscovering my love for run. It is a tribute to my late father and dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of individuals suffering from the disease, as well as their loved ones. This year alone, the National Cancer Institute is estimating that approximately 22,100 new brain tumor cases will be diagnosed, and the disease will claim the lives of nearly 13,000 individuals.

Today is a painful reminder that life is short. We must all band together to find a cure for brain tumors, as well as other diseases that claim the lives our family and friends.

On that note, please consider donating to Team TPM, the team I formed with my brother to run the Chicago Marathon and raise money to support the American Brain Tumor Association. Your support -- at any level, even just $1 -- is appreciated.

Thank you.

Donating to Team TPM Online:

1. Visit
2. Click on either Erin Serkaian or Greg Serkaian (Our team’s goal is collective, so it doesn’t matter who you choose!)
3. Click on Support Erin!/Support Greg!
4. Provide gift and payment information

Donating to Team TPM by check/mail:
1. Determine gift
2. Make check payable to ABTA/Path to Progress team, and include Team TPM in the memo line. (The later is very important to ensure the donation counts towards our team goal!)
3. Mail check to:
ABTA/Path to Progress Marathon Team
2720 South River Road
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018

Sunday, August 16, 2009

17 Miles... The Day After

I ran 17 miles yesterday. 17 miles. As in one-seven. Wowza!

There are many things that could go wrong over the course of 17 miles; I couldn't have asked for a better run. I felt great, experienced almost no IT band issues and ran and met with a new gal in the group -- we're even planning to meet for a run on Monday morning! The weather was hot and muggy and, due to Chicago's Air and Water Show, the Lakeshore Trail was more crowded than usual. But plenty of quick stops for water and good conversation pulled me through and, afterward, several of us runners headed into freezing Lake Michigan to use our legs.

And how to I feel today? Surprisingly, great! I mentioned I swore by ice baths in the path; now, I really do. I feel virtually no pain, stiffness or soreness in my legs - as if I could go run another 17! (Not really, but you get the point.) I'm encouraged and ready to take on 18 miles next week.

After the long run and savoring my scrumptious bagel, I headed to Diversey Harbor. A friend from Michigan was in town with his boat, and virtually no cloud cover made it a great day to watch the Air and Water Show. A small group of us watched the planes in the harbor before heading onto the lake. I've never seen so many boats in the water -- with some many dropping anchor, the lake itself looked a gigantic harbor!

By around 6:30 p.m., I started to crash on the boat, and when I finally returned home around 7:30 p.m., tried my best to find energy to meet up with friends. In the end, I just couldn't. B. whipped me up a delightful scrambled egg sandwich before kissing me goodnight before continuing with his Saturday night (like a normal person). I popped in an episode of True Blood -- Season 1 (I'm obsessed! But that's a subject for another post on another day) -- and fell asleep less than 15 minutes into it.

I'm absolutely in love with marathon training but, with all/most things in life, it comes with give and take. It's hard for those who don't live in Chicago to understand the difference between summer and winter here. In short, winter signifies boots, down jackets, cozy bars, movie nights and, at times, weeks without seeing friends because its too cold to play. In the summer, there's something to do every night of the week. From a walk on the lake to watching a Cubs game in the friendly confines or in a Lakeview beer garden to party dresses to alfresco dining, there's no better time to be out and about. While marathon training has cut down my "playtime," I'm happily satisfied with the trade I've made.

**Thanks to so many of you for your advice and wisdom about IT band issues! I'm on the mend, but not without your insight and support!**

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How I'm Holding Up

It’s been awhile since I last updated this blog… and even longer since I discussed my marathon training. Here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been up to

  • In addition to the Saturday morning runs with CARA, I’ve been making a strong effort to attend the Wednesday night runs. For the most part, I’ve succeeded. The group on Wednesday is much smaller – about four or five runners in my pace group, versus 50 or so on a Saturday morning – which paves the way for more intimate conversation. We typically run a little harder/faster, so these runs have been a real confidence boost.
  • I ran the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago on August 2. It was my first experience running a half marathon, and I'm so glad I did it. Not only because I not only achieved, but also beat, my goal time (stats here: Erin rocked the Rock n' Roll Half), but because it allowed me to experience Chicago from a perspective I have before. For example, I rode my bike down Lakeshore just before sunrise. A beautiful surreal sight, indeed!
  • Our weekly long runs are continuing to get farther… and farther… and farther. This week, we’re up to 17 miles! Yikes! I’d be kidding if I didn’t say I was a bit nervous. I’m not nessecarily worried about being able to run 17 miles – I know I can do it – I’m worried about how I’ll feel after. Will I have any energy for the day? This weekend is the Air and Water Show in Chicago, and I’d hate not being able to enjoy watching it. Will I be able to stay awake past 10 p.m., or even 9 p.m.? And how will my legs feel? Will I be able to walk?

My concern about body pains brings me to my next point: my iliotibial (IT) band. IT band syndrome is an extremely common running injury, and I think I have an acute case. A number of factors can cause it, but my self-diagnosis is that a combination of running a lot of miles, running on pavement, overpronation and genetics is causing pain on the outside of knee (the most common symptom) to occur. I’m trying not to freak out. In my four years as a high school runner, one year as a collegiate athlete and the 18 or so weeks I spent training for my previous marathon, my most serious injuries included shin splints and blisters.

For now, I’m resisting the urge to attend the CARA run this evening and am going to hole up at Bally’s for a low-impact cross-training session on the elliptical. I’m also icing two to three times per day, taking anti-inflammatories and doing stretching and strength-training activities. I’m determined to kick this.

Come on, body – hold yourself together for nine more weeks!

P.S. If any of you runners out there have any advice/tips, let me know! I’m all ears!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mid-Week Inspiration

A common response when I tell people I'm running a marathon is, "A marathon? Like 26 miles?!?! I could NEVER do that!"

For those of you who think you can't, you're wrong.

Look no further than an entry in today's NYT' Well Blog "An Injured Soldier's Two-Week Marathon," for proof. The post tells a beautiful story of a British army officer that was paralyzed in Iraq during a February 2008 rocket attack. Once told he would never walk again, the relentless soldier underwent aggressive rehabilitation, took his first steps in February 2009 and completed the London marathon in April. His time? Two weeks.

Running a marathon may not be fun. Beyond that, it may be painful, agonizing, sweaty and uncomfortable; however, whether you believe it or not, you CAN do it!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On the Bright Side...

I'm a glass half-full kinda gal... as cheesy as it sounds, I do believe every cloud has a silver lining. So, as I've found myself complaining about the weather A LOT lately, I thought it'd be a good exercise to think through the positives of a cooler-than-average summer.

  • Cooler weather is undoubtedly better running weather. Sunny, muggy days are brutal for runners, even at 6 o'clock in the morning. I definitely picked a good summer to train for a marathon.

  • Like many residing in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, my apartment is OLD (read: radiator heat, no central AC). As such, my roommate and I purchased window AC units last year and have run them significantly less than last year, equating to electric bills I don't feel nervous opening.

  • I'm pretty saddened my lack of a solid tan and being able to count on at least one solid day in the sun each week. However, decreased sun exposure should lead to reduced risk of skin cancer, right? (Not sure about this one; I'm still pretty sad about my pathetic tan.)

  • While my walk from home to the el and the el to work is less than four blocks total, I've definitely worked up some pretty solid sweats during the hottest days of the summer. This summer, I've enjoyed sweat-free commutes, avoiding the need to practically towel off when I arrive in my cube and curse myself for spending the time to blow out my hair. File this into the "the little things in life" category.

  • Being at work isn't as depressing as usual. Don't get me wrong -- I have a fantastic job with great colleagues and enjoy what I do. But in the summer, one can't help daydreaming about the days when summer meant daylong (or more) play dates with friends, afternoons at the pool, watching The Price is Right EVERY morning... This weather actually makes me grateful that I'm not a kid -- I'd be pretty frustrated!
Phew. I feel much better now.
Sort of...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sometimes, You Just Need a Marg

Suffice to say, it's been a stressful two weeks. So much so that I've been running sans-iPod, deep in thought and entirely focused on finding the answers to life's questions. (Too deep? You're right, that was a little over the top.)

Running is a great stress reliever, but after trading a few messages with a dear friend and sorority sister today, it became clear that what we both needed was a pitcher of margaritas, a plate of Mexican food and at least one uninterupted hour to catch up on eachother's lives, say "why are boys like that?" countless times and gossip about mutual friends. With a belly full of frozen lime margaritas, a shared plate of cuisine -- including a GUACAMOLE BURRITO -- and a number of our troubles fully hashed and analyzed, I felt better than the therapy session of a five-mile run.

Though I'm separated from family and many of my close confidants -- who thankfully, are only a phone call, text message, IM, Facebook message, e-mail, etc. away -- I'm lucky enough to live not only in the same city as some of my best friends, but in the same neighboorhood and, in some cases, on the same road. I've also been fortunate to meet new friends that I trust, and colleagues that really do care about my life outside of work. While running is great, I'd be lost completely without all of my Chicago friends -- both old and new -- that I can rely on to grab a margarita when I need it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Great 11 Miles

With some pretty major plans for the weekend -- a Cub's game, BBQs gallore, fireworks and more -- I REALLY wanted to get my long run out of the way on Friday morning.

Thanks to an e-mail sent out by my pace leader, I was able to find a buddy to run with and am pleased to report a hefty 11ish-miles has been run. What's more, I felt great during the entire run. The weather was party cloudy and high-60s with a slight breeze. Towards the end, the clouds began to break, signaling the start of a good day. To top it off, I met a new friend and running partner.

Eleven miles is pretty far... in my opinion. It's almost half the marathon, and continuing to feel strong throughout the long runs is building my confidence. I think my strength -- at least in part -- is due to genetics and my strong cardio base, but I'm convinced that running with others is adding to my success.

And apparantly, I'm not the only one who feels this way. I read an article in the NYT a few weeks ago about the benefits of running with others. Check out this exerpt:

"When Ms. Kislevitz decided to run her first marathon, a friend elected to help her get through the unknown of the long run. She was hesitant, not wanting to sacrifice her private time where she wrote many of her articles in her head. But then she and her friend started the run.

'We fell into the same pace, and before I knew it, the ten miles were over,' she said. 'We were talking about our kids and our marriages and I thought, ‘This is amazing, how could I ever run a long run alone again?’'

She added: 'You don’t really notice the pain. If you start whining, someone is going to tell you to shut up.'"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Finally... Time to Blog!

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic, to say the least. But with a major project at work our of my hair, I'm finally in the mood to spend some time in front of my computer outside of work hours.

Though I may not have updated this blog, it hasn't been out of my mind. In fact, there have been many things I wanted to write about but didn't have time or energy to do so. Here's a glimpse of what I WOULD'VE written about, if I've wouldn't have been so busy working, running, working enjoying the 90-degree heat, Chicago festivals and working:

  • #1: First and foremost, I have to shout out to my virtual training buddy -- my big bro. This past weekend, he played in a golf outing sponsored by our dad's fraternity. In recent years, my dad's brothers -- many of whom were also were his fraternity brothers -- have set up a longest drive competition at a hole in his honor. My bro took it upon himself to raise funds at the event. Woohoo! Here's a link to his post on the event: Sig Epps Golf Outing.
  • #2: I've eaten some pretty good food lately. For example, the Sinfully Healthy Sandwich from neighborhood cheese and wine shop Pastoral -- roasted turkey with mango chutney, whole grain dijon mustard, field greens, avocado and D'Affinois -- is darn near a religious experience. B. and I celebrated five years of dating bliss a few weeks back, and the fried calamari and bruschetta from Mia Francesca was melt-in-your mouth good. I almost died when eating skirt steak and fried plantains at local BYOB Las Tablas when out with some friends last weekend. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • #3: I am utterly and completely obsessed with running, especially my running group. So much so, that I'm thinking about dropping some serious cash on a Garmin watch:
Yes, I realize they aren't sexy and actually are quite dorky. HOWEVER, they have some pretty sweet and serious features -- i.e., "continuously record your time, distance, pace, calories burned and heart rate." Being the frugal franny that I am, I doubt I'll pony up for one of these... unless I get some pretty serious feedback.

  • #4: I had an amazing run last Saturday morning at CARA. It was only a six-miler, and I strongly considered sleeping in an running later on. But I committed to some fellow running friends that I'd be there, so there I was at 6 a.m. Because of the shorter distance, my group pushed the pace a bit and, for the last mile, a few of us really pushed it and ran the last mile HARD. The kicker? The 36-year-old geezer in the rabbit group beat us all to the finish. In any case, it somehow made waking up ridiculously early and by choice on a Saturday worth it.
So there you go. A shortened verion of what the last week or so would've looked like in this blog.

Thanks to everyone for your feedback, comments and encouragement. It means the world.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Donations Galore!

It's after midnight and I can safely say this is the latest I've been awake for more than a week. Ugh. A major project at work is forcing me to work lawyer-like hours (at least I can work from home?), but before I nod off for the night, I wanted to report that I raised more than $200 tonight at a fundraiser I held! A local watering hole, Vaughn's Pub, hosts guest bartenders each Monday, with 50 percent of proceeds donated to charities. Thanks to a group of supportive friends, a small group of rowdy regulars and softball leagues, the event was a success!

On top of this fundraiser, I'm also collecting my own change and socking away $5/week throughout my training. I'll contribute these funds to the ABTA just before the marathon. Though I'll be reaching out more aggressively to friends and family in the near future (be forewarned!), I also believe it's important that I do my part to raise funds.

BTW... I HATE asking for donations, so if you're interested in supporting me, click here, then click on my name and make your contribution. As always, thanks to everyone who is following me on this journey!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Goals

Even though summer doesn't officially begin until this Sunday, June 21, I already feel like the season is getting away from me. Lately, I've thinking about a few things I'd like to accomplish this summer in the self-improvement area and thought this blog would help keep me honest.

Here goes:

  • Go to church more. I grew up in a very religious family that attended mass every Sunday, prayed before dinner, before bed, during road trips... you get the picture. I still love my faith and religion but become sloppy in the church attendance department. While I'm not certain I can commit to weekly attendance, I think every other week is a reasonable goal. Plus, I really enjoy besting myself so if I make it three out of four weekends, it's a win-win for me and God.
  • Eat more ice cream.Yup, that's right. From church to ice-cream. But in all honestly, a soft serve cone with sprinkles is right up there with cake to me. Plus, there's a Baskin Robbins less than two blocks from my apartment, and the chain offers cones for just 88 cents! Let me know if you're game for helping me make this one happen...
  • On the top of budgets, I'm going write one for every pay period and really, really try to stick to it. Enough said there.
  • Leave work at a reasonable time, the majority of the time. Obviously, with little control over my workload and the unpredictable nature of PR, this one's going to be a challenge. What I do have control over, however, is what time I go to bed/am able to peel myself up in the morning and how efficient I am at work (i.e., amount of time spent using social media, grabbing lunch, reading non client-related news, etc.). Yea, this might mean I'm forced to work from my couch at night, clock in before 7:30 a.m. or set up camp at Starbucks for a few hours on a Saturday morning, but I'm convinced reasonable "outs" will make me a happy and more sane person.
  • Embrace baseball. B. loves baseball as much as I love my celebrity gossip. Case in point: a few weeks ago while at a bar, he actually flipped opened his phone to a Web site, loaded up the box score for the Tigers' game on his cell phone and pressed refresh every few minutes in order to stay up to date. We've both vowed to take in more baseball games this summer both at Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular, but beyond that, I'm going to make a better effort to read the sports section of the RedEye, pay attention to players, etc. Maybe he'll take an interest in Us Weekly...?
Am I forgetting anything?

With this off my chest, I'm out for a five miler!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

How Did This Happen???

Remember a few weeks ago when I said I was starting to feel like a runner again?

Since that time, I've turned into a full-blown running nerd. Or back into one, I should say.

My alarm buzzed at 5:55 a.m. (which is actually 5:40 a.m., since I set my clock 15 minutes fast) and, after stuffing my face with an egg sandwich, I threw on running clothes and hopped on my bike to my first CARA marathon training run at Montrose Beach.

Montrose Beach, looking north

Montrose Beach is north of my apartment near the edge of the border between the Lakeview and Uptown neighborhoods. The beach is generally less crowded and "tamer" than North Avenue Beach, which on a good day, can rival the beaches of Panama City during spring break season. It's also considered a great beach for dogs, since they're free to roam without leashes.

When I arrived at Montrose Beach with a friend, we easily found the group of CARA runners. There were a number of stakes in the ground with various paces, and "master of ceremonies" was on a short ladder with a microphone telling us to stand by our pace for the day. A few minutes later, paceleaders arrived at our stakes and divided us again -- into those using the novice, intermediate and advanced programs. CARA definitely has its sh*t together.

Despite the slightly cool weather and drizzle, my first run with CARA couldn't have gone any better. Even though my "jogging" pace is slightly faster, and my "moving" pace is even speedier, I ran with the 8:30-minute pace group. (Marathon experts recommend a slower pace for weekly long runs.) Like Goldielocks, the 8:30-minute group was "just right." For starters, the actual pace felt great. We moved along at a good clip, and I easily passed the talk test. Water and Gatorade were provided twice along our-and-back route on Lakeshore Drive.

Socially, the experience was more than I could've expected and hoped for. I randomly knew my pace group leader from my summer serving job near home, and the group of five or six of us -- including the pace leader, another gal my age and a few dudes -- that ran up front were chatty throughout the run. We stuck together for all eight miles, stretched afterwards and made plans to meet at Montrose Beach on Wednesday for a workout of hill repeats -- something I haven't done since I was a college athlete! Yikes! Like I said, I'm easily turning into a huge running geek.

For those of you running the Chicago Marathon or any other and may be considering CARA or another training group, do it. Less than a week into things, I'm realizing the training and social benefits that I wouldn't have on my own. On top of that, CARA is encouraging, and adding to, my love of running rediscovered.

I'm so glad I'm doing this.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Marathon ROI

I'm not going to lie, one of my motivations for doing this marathon was to save money. Summer in Chicago -- more than any time of the year -- is expensive. On top of $5/beer anywhere in Wrigleyville, street fests, Cub's games, farmer's markets, beer gardens and more just eat up most of my paycheck almost immediately after it's dropped into my account.

Just think, I thought, of all the money I'll save NOT going out all weekend long, for happy hour, etc. I'll have other things to do on Saturday morning than enjoy an indulgent brunch, I said, and I'm sure there will Saturdays when I'm simply too tired to play with friends. And the month of September when I drink nothing but water? Hundreds -- literally -- of dollars saved.

Despite this mentality, it wasn't until today that I began realizing the ROI of this venture. In fact, all had done was spend money on it. In sum:

  • Marathon Entry: $125
  • CARA Membership: $25
  • CARA Marathon Training: $129
  • New Running Shoes: $89
  • New Bike to Transport Myself to Saturday a.m. CARA runs: $70
  • Bike Lock: $30
  • Band-aids for blisters: $10
Go ahead and total it. I'm not going to do it!

In any case, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals is tonight, and I received a large handful of invites to various bars to watch the game. However, tomorrow morning is my first run with CARA... at the dawn-breaking hour of 6:30 a.m. The run is a few miles away, so I'll be leaving my apartment around 5:45 a.m. Before it had even started, my buzz was dead, and I opted to stay home and watch the game with B. and his roommate.

Outside of the obvious mistake of missing, or a hangover jeopardizing my weekly long run, the cornerstone of marathon training, I had little motivation to go out. I mulled the possibility of meeting up with friends throwing back brews at a bar literally steps from my apartment, but it didn't sound appealing. It's not that I didn't the trust the night not to turn into an all-night bender; my body seemed aware of the challenge before it, and it craved rest and relaxation, not booze and nachos.

Eighteen Fridays like this stand before more. I'm sure there will be one or two where I say screw it and put on my party shoes, saving the long run for Sunday morning. No one's perfect. But for this week, I'm putting on my angel wings while thinking of the coin I'm pocketing in by cooking dinner and spending some QT with B.'s couch.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Navy Pier and Back

On a beautiful Friday night in Chicago, street-side patios and rooftop bars are typically calling my name. Not yesterday, however. Instead of a date with the pubs, I had a date with my running partner, and our plans were to run a long one.

Though I've only run a few LSDs (long slow distance runs) lately, I've come to look forward to and enjoy them. The sense of accomplishment in saying, "I just ran nine miles" is incredible and, rather than feeling exhausted and worn out, I feel energized and motivated. Last night was no different.

Our route began at her apartment just west of Wrigleyville, and we headed west to the lakeshore. Once at the lake, we ran south, past dozens of teams playing beach volleyball, Castaways, the Drake Hotel, The John Hancock Building, Oak Street Beach and finally, stopping for our turnaround at Navy Pier. Suffice to say, it was a scenic and very "Chicago" route, filled with some of my favorite sites.

At the turnaround, we stopped at a fountain for water and refueled with Clif Bar's Shot Bloks. Essentially, these are gummi-bear like cubes, filled with fast-burning carbohydrates and electrolytes. When training for my last marathon, I used gels and goos for nourishment during long runs, but I'm sold on Shot Bloks. The textile and taste is superior and, though water is definitely required during digestion, less was needed.

Throughout the run, the path was sprinkled with runners and bikers also choosing to take advantage of the nice weather (it was sunny and around 70 degrees with a slight breeze). It was a perfect evening, and a great way to kick off the weekend. I'm really enjoying having a running "partner in crime." Though marathon training is individual-focused, the comraderie is making a huge difference. My lack of running buddies over the past few years has definitely played a role in the decreased amount of time I've spent with the sport, but I'm hoping this continues to change. Training with CARA, I'm hoping to not to meet some other gals to run with!

This morning, my running buddy and I attended CARA's marathon training clinic. I received my training packet (!!!), and there were several sessions that offered advice for marathon training. The speakers were incredibly upbeat and motivating. Now, more than ever before, I'm pumped up about training and running to run a marathon in this great city!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fitness Food Face-off

I just stumbled upon this fantastic article in Women's Health that's perfect for every Runner Girl -- or any gal or guy -- looking for the "right" foods and liquids to drink before, during and after a workout. Muy important factors, such as convenience, effectiveness, taste, calories and cost were considered before crowing the victors. Click on the Egg McMuffin (a clue to the first face-off) to see some of the surprising winners!

My favorite? The 5-hour energy/espresso showdown, in which good old-fashioned espresso wins by a landslide.

I'm kicking my weekend off with a long run with my training partner and will stopping by 711 to pick up a coffee. A great run is in store!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Lakeview Loop

I woke surprisingly refreshed this morning and, rather than running to the lakeshore as I have been more recently, I decided to run my favorite route. It's a 2.5 to 3 mile loop throughout Lakeview and Wrigleyville, and I ran it twice, as I've done many times before.

The route offers a scenic view of my neighborhood past some of my favorite sites, restaurants and bars.

It starts out running through the streets of Lakeview that -- for the most part -- look like this:
It continues through the neighborhood, past my church, St. Alphonsus:

(isn't it gorg?)

... as well as my FAVORITE take-out restaurant, Pockets. Then, I run north through the Southport Corridor. It's a cute area filled with restaurants, bars and boutiques.

Then it's west on Addison to Wrigley Field...
... and of course, south on Clark Street through the infamous Wrigleyville bar scene. I always wave to Ian's Pizza, where they have my favorite late-night eat, mac & cheese pizza:

Honestly, one of the most delicious morsels I've ever tasted. Don't hate if you haven't tried. The pizza crust is thin but not crispy and the perfect salty/sweet combo, and the pasta and cheese create a smooth and creamy treat. MMMMMM.

After daydreaming about Ian's, I continue south on Clark Street, past a number of boutiques, countless restaurants, including Bolat, a sketchy-looking African restaurant that recently burned: least two Starbucks, a DSW, hot dog stand and a soon-to-be-open kefir shop.

Overall, it's not a bad run. I've probably run it 50 times, and I'm not sick of it tired. Perhaps its because I love the sights, sounds and smells of my neighborhood; the pictures here don't do it justice. Plus, there's always people out walking their pooches, running or entertaining their children at playgrounds, so I always run across something new and interesting.

Do you know of any fun running routes through Chicago's northside? I fear the Lakeview Loop and Lakeshore routes getting "old" within the next few hudred miles... I'd love some fresh ideas!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Training Notes

It's about time I update ya'll on my training that's occurred over the past week or so. Gather 'round for a rundown:

After an elliptical session at Bally's on Friday, I headed home to Pure Michigan for a long weekend with me and B's family. Though I planned a long run on Saturday, my mom informed my sister and I that on Saturday morning, we were to go on a long walk with her. During the run, I managed to convince my mom that she should become a bikram yoga studio in the small office building she and my dad own. She totally ran with the idea. Plans TBD, and probably will be for the rest of time...

Sunday, I used MapMyRun to plan a 9.25-mile run around my hometown. I felt strong for the most part, but the last 1.25 miles was tough. Not thinking, the only three major hills were planned for this part of the run. Mental note: Don't do that.

Mental Note #2: Don't do this.

After a two day hiatus from the gym, I was ready for the hamster wheel-like workout and headed to the gym with my mom and sister, where we ellipticalled (that's a verb, right?) and attended a yogilates class. Yogilates is just that -- yoga + pilates -- and I enjoyed the combination of strength and conditioning exercises with stretching. It made me realize that I'm missing the good sweat and stretch of a bikram yoga class. I'm hoping to get one in later this week; however, I'm none too excited about the $15/class fee at my local studio.

Back in Chicago, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in the confines of Bally's on the elliptical. Yes, I said I would run today, but between the wind and cool weather Chicago has experienced lately, I wasn't in the mood. I also said I'd update my blog, so one for two isn't bad.

In any case, I'm planning to celebrate tomorrow with an a.m. run. They're not my favorite, but I need to log a few miles and have an evening event to attend. Stay tuned for more (and more frequent) updates...

In Honor of...

Today is National Running Day! I'm planning to hit the pavement this evening to celebrate (and put finger to keyboard and update this thing!) but in the meantime, I thought you might find inspiration in this NYT interactive feature that ran last week:

Though there's something to be said about the journey, I couldn't agree more with the reporter's thought: "Whether they began running to get into shape, to fulfill a lifelong dream or simply to have a good time, most runners share this: nothing feels better than crossing the finish line."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Already?!

At times, four-day weeks are more of a curse than a blessing. With one day less to work, the stress of cramming five days of work into a limited time frame doesn't always seem worth it. Fortunately, I've been been able to manage my workload this week, so the minus-one-day has worked out quite nicely. Thursday is here already, and the weekend will be here before we know it!

I've had a decent week of training. Here's a rundown:
  • Monday: 6-mileish run. B. ran three miles with me before he went home to throw the baked sweet potato fries in the oven, and I continued on. On a non-training related note, we watched Kung Fu Panda, which I highly recommend.
  • Tuesday: Off day. Having completed Bikram Yoga's 30-day Challenge a week ago today and jumping right into pre-marathon training, I realized it had been more than a month since I took a day off exercising. In any case, I had a major case of the "Mooondays" on Tuesday since it was the first day of the week, and the weather was crummy. The combined reasons were enough for me to park on the couch for the evening and consume a random dinner of sweet potatoes, oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs and nutella, as my grocery money was spent on running shoes. Ahhh...young, fabulous and broke in the city, am I.
  • Wednesday: Elliptical at Bally's. Though I'm enjoying the variety of my workouts, I miss my "friends" at Bally's that had been used to be coming in nearly every morning. These "friends" include Basil, the security guard, and Steve, the door attendant. When I walked in to Bally's that day, Steve said that he and another staff member had "just been talking about me!" and "wondering where I had been!" In any case, I had a great workout and got caught up on some of the magazines I've been neglecting, like the May issue of Shape (June has already arrived... I'm THAT behind) and People Style Watch.
  • Today: I forced myself up at 6:15 a.m. and went for a 6-mile run. This was my "usual" route that consists of running south on a trail along Lakeshore Drive to North Avenue beach, north up Lakeshore Drive and back west to my apartment. Overall, I'd say the run was "meh" -- not good or bad. Though I can easily force myself into a brainless elliptical session, running is a bit harder on the body and therefore not as fun first-thing. I'm definitely filing that note.
What's surprised me the most in my training is how quickly I'm molding back into runner shape. I have blisters on my ankles from the new shoes (not fun), and the stopwatch on my iPod is encourages me to kick up the pace. I'm more concerned about how much water I'm drinking, and I'm pre-planning when I'll run how many miles.

Moreover, I'm starting to get pumped for CARA training to begin. The first run is in two weeks, but we can pick up our training "packets" a few days before. Pretty sure I'll feel like this:

... except maybe a little more in control.

It's a toss up whether tomorrow will be a running day or an elliptical day... but I'm thinking elliptical. I can't have my friends at Bally's worrying about me!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Adventures at Sports Authority

When I asked my mom what she thought about me running the Chicago Marathon, the first think she said was, "I think you need a new pair of running shoes."

I'm not sure when the last time I bought new running shoes was, but I know was I living in my old apartment at the time. Athletic shoes are expensive, and I'd rather spend my hard-earned money on a pair of party shoes.

Knowing I couldn't put off the inevitable much longer -- and that'd get an earful if I wore new running shoes during my upcoming trip to the mitten -- I dragged B. to the local Sports Authority.

After weeding through a maze of sports bras, Cubs T-shirts and rollerblades, I landed in the running shoe aisle. Immediately, a salesman globbed onto me and began firing off questions: How many miles a week do you run? How often do you buy new shoes? Can you bend your knees, please?

"You see that, her ankle bending, in?" he asked a very confused-looking B. "She's pronating."

The salesman directed me towards the Asics on the wall and pointed at four possibilities. I picked Asics Cumulus 10 for one reason: On sale for $69.99, they were cheapest.

It gets better, my friends. Sports Authority offers a Footwear Plan, which covers "defects in materials and workmanship, including those experienced during normal wear and tear." This includes everything from major tears in the mesh to just a few measly dirt sports. The cost of the plan is based on the price of the shoe, and I paid only $9.99. Amazing! A few months and a few hundred miles from now, I'll cash in my warranty for a brand spanking new pair. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying the rest of Memorial Day by fixing B. Parmesean and Sage-Crusted Pork Chops for dinner and indulging in junk TV. (Extreme Pig Outs is currently on the tube.) A casual run is, as always, a possibility.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sweet Treats

Every girl -- especially this one -- needs to make room in her diet for indulgances. My favorite? Cake!

I've always loved cake, especially frosting, but my love affair has grown throughout the past few years. I always ask for a corner piece or one with a flower, and I have no shame in eating the frosting off the plates of crazy people who either 1) don't like it or 2) are trying to be healthy. I paid my way through college working at a restaurant that held wedding receptions, and after every event, my mom knew to ask, "How was the cake?" She KNEW I couldn't bypass a taste!

Yesterday's weather was perfect for a stroll outside, so my boyfriend "B." and I decided to take a stroll throughout our hood. On the last leg of our trip, I begged him to walk over to a new "cupcakery," Phoebe's Cupcakes. I may love cake, but I love, love, love! cupcakes and feel this way for the following reasons:

  • The perfect size
  • The mountain of frosting typically on top
  • The opportunity to try more flavors
  • They often have fillings -- it's like frosting times two!
  • Not having a huge cake staring me in the face, just begging for a fork to be stuck into it

Chicago is loaded with cupcakeries, and more seem to be popping up lately. I've been meaning to try Phoebe's since it opened about a month ago. The shop was a bit out of the way, and about halfway there, B. warned, "These better be worth it."

I'm pleased to report that Phoebe's did not disappoint. At $2.50/each -- try to beat that price for a gourmet cupcake in the city! -- we sampled Death by Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cream Pie, Red Velvet (my favorite flavor of cake, tied with carrot cake) and Salted Caramel (probably my third favorite flavor of cake now). Each had almost as much cake as frosting (score!) and were culinary masterpieces. The cake was moist, and the flavors were spot on.
My tour de cupcakes will continue this summer. I'm hoping to try The Bleeding Heart Bakery, Sweet Mandy B.'s and Foiled Cupcakes as soon as I wipe the frosting off my face!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Checking the Box

I awoke this morning to a special gift: A $15 donation to Team TPM! Encouraged, I laced up my kicks, grabbed my 'pod and headed out for my eight-mile run.

Running on Lakeshore Drive is amazing in the summer. Countless runners, walkers, bikers and bladers are out on the trail early in the morning. The energy is contagious, and there's no better feeling than starting off the weekend in a healthy, productive way.

This morning, the sun was shining brightly and the air was crisp with a slight breeze. The run went surprisingly fast, and I felt strong the entire way. I was tempted to tack on a few extra miles but held back. I have a tendency to overdo things and want to avoid injury or overtaining, and I wanted to finish strong and feel encouraged. Mission accomplished. With my first eight-miler down, I'm already getting excited for my next challeng: nine or ten next weekend!

Lakeshore Drive in the Summer

Run High Point: Mile five -- feeling strong while running north past Belmont Harbor
Run Low Point: Minor side cramp just before reaching Castaways at North Avenue

Friday, May 22, 2009

I Feel Like I'm in High School

In high school, I lived and breathed running. I gave up social events, soda, sweets... anything to help me run a few seconds faster. I won a lot of races and broke a few school records, but most importantly, I loved the sport. It only seemed natural that I'd run competitively in college.

After being courted by various colleges and universities that waved thousands of dollars at me, I chose to attend and walk onto Central Michigan University's Track and Cross-Country team. I loved Central -- and always had -- and was thrilled when I was invited to join the Division 1 MAC Championship team. Though I wouldn't receive any monetary assistance, I was guaranteed a spot on the roster. I was confident that, with hard work and persistence, I'd rise to the level of competition and eventually become a scholarship athlete, competing alongside some of the fastest runners in the nation.

I remained focused throughout my first season on the Cross-County team. Though I wore a red shirt, I worked hard and ran some solid races. It's hard to put into words what happened after that. Maybe it was the distraction of parties and boys, or the frustration that came after falling ill and missing the first two important weeks of Track season, or seeing others my age excel faster. In any case, I did something after my freshman year of college I never had done before -- I quit.

Not knowing what to do with myself, I signed up to run a marathon. It was a small race in the suburbs of Detroit, Mich., and I trained and ran the ENTIRE race by myself. I did pretty well. But after and without a goal or reason to train, I felt little motivation to run. As a result, I've sprinkled casual runs into a mostly mundane routine of 45- to 60-minute sessions on the elliptical machine. Deep down, I knew running would always be there for me when I needed it. So here I am.

Though marathon training hasn't officially started, I'm officially in pre-official training mode, which means up and atom for an eight-miler in the morning. It will be the furthest I've run since running 26.2 miles more than four years ago. So here I am, a Friday night and staying in, while most I know are out at the bar, realizing that this is the first of many Fridays when I'll feel like a high-schooler again: anticipating and excited, yet a bit nervous, for tomorrow's run.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Let the Training Begin!

I like a good challenge. So when my older brother, Greg, told me he was planning to run the Chicago Marathon this fall -- a goal I've been harboring for the past two years -- my competitive spirit starting kicking, and I thought about running it this year, too. Then, we both learned the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) was forming a team for runners to race 26.2 miles and raise funds to support its mission, I knew I had to do it with him.

Fifteen years ago, my biological father died after loosing a 20-month battle with a brain tumor. I was eight-years-old when he died, but I very much remember everything from the moment we received the call learning that he was sick, to his last days at home. His death shaped my life in many ways, but most importantly, it made me a stronger and more compassionate and positive individual.

Every step of my training and race will be dedicated not only to him, but to the millions of those who have are suffering from or have died from a brain tumor, as well as their loved ones. Greg and I have formed Team TPM (Terry Paul Moore was the name of our dad) and will be raising at least $1,600 to fund brain tumor research and provide resources for patient and caregiver programs. Though we're separated by distance (he lives in Kalamazoo, Mich.), we'll be maintaining a similar training schedule so we can motivate and encourage each other from afar.

I'm incredibly excited to take on this challenge and help benefit a cause I am so passionate about. Furthermore, I'm thrilled to enter the blogosphere! I'll be journaling the trials and tribuations of my training while sharing other details and thoughts here. I'd love to hear from others who are running this year's Chicago Marathon -- especially those running for charity and their stories.

Happy trails!

Runner Girl & Dad