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:

...at 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."