5k x2: A Weekend of Racing

Race ready! This is actually NOT me this weekend, this is me back on Sept 8, getting ready for my half marathon. I was not that put together this weekend...

It was a racing weekend! I wanted to run two of the 5ks that I ran last fall, but one of them was moved back a weekend so they happened to fall back-to-back on a Saturday and a Sunday this year. I've never run two 5ks in a row before, but... why not? It turned out to be a great experience! Running both days kept me on my game all weekend, and the Saturday event was very family-friendly so it gave us all something to do.

The first race was to benefit the PTO of a nearby school. There was a kid's fun run, a raffle, and the school playground was nearby for playing while the grown-ups ran the 5k. The race course started with a lovely plunge downhill, then a picturesque run down a dirt road and back. Coming back up that hill was really hard, and the last half mile of the race was winding trail through the woods. I finished with a time of 24:00.

The second race was to benefit a local adult assisted living center and held near the center, which happens to be on a lovely (paved) country road that I've run in part many times. It was a gently rolling course down and back. There was a bit of a hill at the end too, but not as steep, especially when compared to the day before. I finished in just under 23 minutes (though my Garmin is not sure it was technically 5k... still it was faster than Saturday pace-wise).

When it was all over and I was home and relaxing, I was struck by the generous nature of the events and their sponsors. Maybe it was just these particular races, but they gave away a LOT of stuff. I made a list just for fun of everything we consumed or brought home from both events:
  • 1 box of 18 Rabbits organic granola bars, plus 1 additional bar
  • 1 box of Emergen-C packets
  • 8 Quaker granola bars
  • 2 kid's fun run medals
  • 2 stuffed animals (kid's prizes)
  • 2 metal water bottles
  • 1 tote bag
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 6 bottled waters
  • 1 pair Brooks arm warmers*
  • 1 $50 gift card to a local running store*
  • Half a bagel with cream cheese
  • 1.5 bananas

*These were my prize for winning women's first place in race #2

All this, plus the camaraderie, beautiful days, good-hearted race volunteers, and great exercise, added up to much more than the combined entry fees.

I must also note how grateful I am for the running club members that I've gotten to know in the past months. It's so nice to have someone to talk to at a race, and in both cases I ran with or near someone from the club almost the whole way, which really helped spur me on. These people are super kind and supportive! If you like to run and tend to run alone, I highly recommend making at least one of your workouts with a club. I was too shy to go for about a year, but I finally made myself do it and I'm so glad I did.

Radio Playlists for September 2013

The name of the show: Blackbeard's Delight
Your host: Prof. Kitty
The station: WVEW 107.7 Brattleboro, VT

September 5, 2013

  • Dog & Butterfly: Heart
  • Mexico: The King of France
  • The Henny Buggey Band: Sufjan Stevens
  • Lawyers in Love: Jackson Browne
  • You Make Me Feel: Milosh
  • Stop Being Perfect: The LK
  • St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion): John Parr
  • Henri: The Heavy Circles
  • Everywhere (Fleetwood Mac cover): Vampire Weekend
  • Bron-y-Aur Stomp: Led Zeppelin
  • What's a Girl to Do?: Bat for Lashes
  • Harvest Time: The Clientele
  • Incredibly Drunk on Whisky: Memphis

September 12, 2013—Movie Music (a John Hughes block is in Salmon)

  • Maniac: Michael Sembello (from Flash Dance)
  • Cleaning Rooms with Ines: Mark Mothersbaugh (from Bottle Rocket)
  • In the Truck: Peter Best (from Crocodile Dundee)
  • Kingston Calypso, from Dr. No
  • Weird Romance: Ira & the Geeks (from Weird Science)
  • Wouldn't It Be Good: Danny Hutton Hitters (from Pretty in Pink)
  • We Are Not Alone: Karla DeVito (from The Breakfast Club)
  • Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In): Kenny Rogers & the First Edition (from The Big Lebowski)
  • 2:1: Elastica (from Trainspotting)
  • To Live & Die in LA: Wang Chung (from To Live & Die in LA)
  • Concerning Hobbits: Howard Shore (from Fellowship of the Ring)
  • Gonna Love You Anyway: Tanya Tucker (from Hard Country)
  • A quoi sert de vivre libre: sung by Fanny Ardant (from 8 Women)
  • Susanne: Weezer (from Mallrats)
  • I've Heard that Song Before: Harry James, written by Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne (from Hannah & Her Sisters)
  • Women of Ireland: Derek Bell (from Barry Lyndon)

September 19, 2013

  • Head Over Heels: Tears for Fears
  • Keep the Car Running: Arcade Fire
  • All the King's Men: Wild Beasts
  • Fast Cars: Tracey Chapman
  • The Phone Call: Memphis
  • Romantic Comedy: Stars
  • King of Pain: The Police
  • Use It: The New Pornographers
  • Whirring: The Joy Formidable
  • The Fawn: The Sea & Cake
  • Finish Line: Fanfarlo
  • Steppin' Out: Joe Jackson
  • Freedom Dance: Lionel Loueke

September 26, 2013

  • Black Swan: Bert Jansch
  • Someone Great: LCD Soundsystem
  • Dormir dans ton Lit: Valerie LeMercier
  • Casio Fight Song: David Shouse & the Bloodthirsty Lovers
  • Heart of Gold: Neil Young
  • Mongrel Heart: Broken Bells
  • Don't Change Your Plans: Ben Folds Five
  • Chrome: Joe Jackson
  • Feeling Sad & Lonely: Bush
  • Run: Vampire Weekend
  • Curran Curran: The Nocturnes
  • Stars Shine So Bright, Sun Rises So High: Color Filter

First Day of Fall, 2013

 "Fire"-- front-yard installation by our 7-year-old. Media: grass, twigs, flame-colored leaves

It was a very full summer. I'm ready for the next season to begin, and it starts today! Here's to days of jackets, leaves, cider, Bach, stew, pies, jack o' lanterns, clouds scudding across the blue blue sky, school routines, new books, darker evenings, costumes, boots, crafts. I love it.

I had an unexpectedly nice Long Run today, my first since The Event. I ran 8 miles, mostly down backcountry roads.

 Goodenough Road, you underestimate yourself

After slogging up and down and up several hills I was rewarded with this amazing view. Behold Vermont!

In the afternoon we went apple picking. The orchard was very family friendly, with apples cascading all the way to the ground. It took us about 5 minutes to pick half a bushel, which is a LOT. And it only cost $10. High-time for pie-time!

Happy Autumn to you! Happy equinox and one of the two Balanced Days of the year! What do you think of fall? Were you ready for summer to end?

Chicago Photo Essay

Besides a review of running extremely long distances (for me) and eating delicious foods, here are some other visual notes from my Chicago trip.

You can't bring water through the TSA check, but you can bring an empty water bottle and fill it up afterward. I found this special fountain with a dedicated water bottle faucet, which I used twice because it was so fascinating.

My Chicago connection set us up at the Mart Plaza Holiday Inn, which is right on top of the Chicago Sun-Times building located at the crux of the Chicago river Y-shaped branch. Here's the view out our window, right down the stem of the Y.

I like the label-maker aspect of this sign, seen in a Chicago taxi.

View of downtown as seen from the el leaving the Chinatown area.

The Walgreens in Wicker Park is very fancy, built in a former bank. I love that the vitamins section is in the old downstairs vault.

Evening in Wicker Park

"Cowlileo" sculpture

Looking north on State street, downtown

I think these are bulrush-shaped lights

Crown Fountain, which is a wading pool with mini skyscraper fountains

Sculpture park near the Art Institute of Chicago

Volute krater display at the Art Institute, with ipad for interactive learning

Ancient Greek seafood mosaic. This would be a great subject for a hooked rug!

Part of Chagall's American windows ("literature")

The Shelton with Sunspots, NY - Georgia O'Keeffe

I never knew this portrait by Pierre-Auguste Renoir is not of a little girl, but of his son Jean Renoir, later to become well-known in cinema. Apparently papa Renoir loved Jean's golden red hair so much he wouldn't let it be cut short until it was required for school when Jean was 7.

Monet's wheat stacks, "End of Summer" version. This was in a room full of Monet that made me very emotional. There were 6 different wheat stack paintings. So gorgeous.

Lion outside the Art Institute. I took this photo for my Leo child.

What I Ate in Chicago

I have a maybe-not-so-secret love of eating in restaurants. At home I cook a lot, so when I travel it's fun to eat someone else's cooking, and try some new things. It's time to share... What I Ate in Chicago!

Grange Hall Burger Bar—Adorable Hipster Bistro

Pre-race fueling (for the Chicago Half Marathon) was Grange Hall Burger Bar on West Randolph Street. I loved this place! It had a perfect hipster vibe, and delicious locally sourced food and housemade condiments.
Grange Hall Burger Bar has a nice patio, but it was muggy out so we sat inside in the AC. There's an adorable living room feel in there with oil cloth wall hangings and various homey items. There was also an awesome 80s mix going on, including the immortal "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money. I also heard Huey Lewis & the News.

Plenty of great burger combos on the menu, but you can also build your own. I put together a 6 ounce grass-fed beef burger on gluten-free bun with dijon aioli, blue cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. My sweet friend and guide shared a side of fries and and an order of slaw with me. The fries were AMAZING, especially dipped in my aioli. If you like burgers and a farm-to-table aesthetic, I highly recommend Grange Hall Burger Bar.

Cai—Real-Deal Dim Sum in Chinatown 


Shrimp & Tofu

Har Gow. This is one of my favorite foods in the world.

Shrimp stuffed tofu and eggplant. Delicious! A crispy-golden exterior to the tofu, and melting hot inside.

I had a whole order of bao to myself, and my companion had a whole order of curried squid. We were both very satisfied.

This here is a spring roll wrapped in a rice roll. It was too crazy to resist, but a little chewy and also a bit sweet in flavor, not our favorite.

Cai was the perfect food for a perfect day--it was our lunch after the half marathon where we probably each burned about 1300 calories. I'm adding it to my international list of dim sum places to rely on!

Big Star—Wicker Park's Coolest Tacos


Here's the big star hanging outside of this stellar establishment, Big Star. Choose from sit-down tables or walk-up window. We picked the huge & lively patio area on a busy Sunday night. We shared a large and excellent salad spiked with crunchy pumpkin seeds.

I had my first Michelada, which is described as salsa and lime juice in a salted-rim glass, served with a Tecate. You mix the beer in to the rest of the cocktail as you go. It was spicy! I read about Micheladas in Bon Appetit so was eager to try one. And now I have.

Big Star tacos are totally delicious. They are small, soft-corn tacos, with a variety of fillings. I ordered 3 upon a local's recommendation. I tried the chicken leg (Taco de Pollo), the braised pork belly (Taco de Panza), and the potato (Taco de Papas con Rajas). They were all scrumptious, my favorite was the pork belly. Meltingly savory. Gah! So good!

Wormhole—Geek-Chic Koopa Troopa Cafe


The Wormhole Coffee on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park is a great spot where I stopped for a latte. Lunchboxes around the walls, life-size cutout of Han Solo, video game motif on the chalkboards. I think I spotted a Castle Greyskull nestled among the Chemexes and Bodums for sale. A delight.

Smith & Wollensky—Living the Good Life on the River


After hours of walking and shopping and museum-enjoying, I needed to sit down, rest my feet, and eat something significant. I decided to stop at Smith & Wollensky and treat myself to a steak-y lunch. Here's the amount of bread they bring to one lady sitting on the patio.

I've never paid $13 for a glass of wine before, and this also seemed like the shortest pour ever. (I think the higher the price, the smaller the wine seems.) It was yummy though! Nothing like a Provençal rosé on a sunny Monday afternoon.

I ordered the Wollensky Salad, which is chopped romaine with tomato, mushroom, bacon lardons (obscured by steak), and the most amazing "potato croutons" which were both crispy and soft, so much better than bread croutons. I had sliced tenderloin added to treat myself. And refuel my muscles of course!

Part of the attraction for me was Smith & Wollensky's location at the bottom of one of the Marina City towers, aka "The Corncob Buildings." They were completed in 1964--look at that modern shape! This was the view looking directly up from my seat on the riverside patio.

Pops for Champagne—Wine Bar for Those With More


After several more hours of shopping I met up with my Chicago hostess and we decided to treat ourselves to bubbly and appetizers at Pops for Champagne. Meet my second $13 drink of the day! It did hit the spot.

The appetizers were OK. My companion had Scottish Salmon and some lovely fries. I chose a vegetable Crostani thingy that turned out to be a blended dip of olives, peppers, artichokes, and ricotta salata. It was not great. This modest turnout plus 2 glasses of wine was the most expensive meal of the whole trip! And more power to them—if you're running a champagne bar off the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, you are within your rights to get the most for everything!

Do you like to dine out when you travel? Any Chicago favorites of your own to share?

Half Marathon Recap

I did it! I ran the Chicago Half Marathon. But did I also meet my goal of completing the race in under 2 hours? Read on to find out!

The Half Marathon is actually the first in what I hope will be a long tradition of adventurous reunions with my college buddies. My amazing friend JM and I kicked off the tradition by ourselves this year, with the idea that each year a group of us will get organized and do something crazy together. Reason? We don't really have any more weddings to look forward to among our peeps, but we still want to hang out. JM and I happen to prefer running, but I think we could do anything, including paddling or hiking or lounging-about-a-large-rented-villa or parasailing or crepe class or whatnot. Anyway, this was a very successful Adventure Reunion Year One.

I've been training for this thing since January, so I was very excited to actually do it. It's my first destination race, and my first race over 10k (and I only ran that by mistake back in 1996 because I didn't know how long that was).

Race expo on Saturday at Navy Pier

At the hotel room, I laid out my race gear the night before like my fave running blogs said to do. Visor, heart monitor, Garmin GPS watch (plugged in to charger), Road ID bracelet, tank top, sports bra, compression socks, sport undies, Lululemon capris, gear check bag, race bib, deoderant, anti-chafe balm, sneakers, waist pack, water bottle, Clif shots & gels, breakfast, warm throwaway fleece, room key-card, race shuttle ticket, cash, cell phone (plugged in to charger).

We got up at 4 and started getting ready. I brought my breakfast all the way from Vermont because that's what I trained with: Ezekiel 4:9 english muffin with almond butter and Bonne Maman jam. Plus lots of coffee to get my system moving. (I brought instant coffee which I had in addition to the hotel room coffee.)

Before we left I checked the weather and learned it was already 73 degrees out.
I started reconsidering the knee-length purple compression socks. I figured if I was
already in doubt about being too hot in them, I should probably change them now.

Shortie ankle socks instead. Good choice! Lesson learned: Take action with any little variable, don't leave it to chance because even little things get major after 13 miles.

I also left the warm fleece behind, no need for it.

We took a cab to the shuttle site, then the shuttle to the race site. It was a there-and-back race, so the post-race party was already being set up as people milled about getting ready to start. See the rosy fingers of the dawn over the Michelob tent.

Everyone (wisely) decided to use the potty before the race. Lines!

I've never been in a big race before so couldn't even imagine how thousands of people would start at once. Turns out it's kind of a human funnel effect, where all of the people stand, then shuffle, then walk slowly forward, then gradually each starts to run and passes through the starting gates where the computer picks up your chip signal and your clock officially starts. I crossed the starting line about 8.5 minutes after the race began (there was a red clock showing the race time). So every clock that I passed after that I would subtract 8.5 minutes to figure out my actual time.

The race was... interesting! We ran about 4 miles on city streets before hitting Lakeshore Drive. First we ran up it, then we crossed an overpass and ran back down the other side. I pulled out my phone around mile 5 to snap a pic of how close we were to the lake. I don't know who that lady is.

Here's the info from my Garmin! I pressed the start button too soon so all of my splits were a little off. Also I was so excited to cross the finish that I forgot to turn the watch off for about a minute after finishing. That's why it shows .17 extra miles. But in general the mile splits are accurate pace-wise.

You may note several trends: For instance, miles 1 & 2 are slow times in the 9's because I was negotiating many many slower people that I was gradually and persistently trying to pass. I had planned to go out with 9s for at least 3 miles, so was surprised but not disturbed to get down to a high 8 by mile 3. 

Another trend that shows very well here is that I started to get tired around the halfway point. Part of this seemed to be the psychology of the out and back course. After mile 7 I kept waiting for the turnaround to come, and seeing so many people running back on the other side of the road, but the turnaround wasn't until around mile 8. I was hot. The pavement was relentless. I'd been eating my gels as planned but they weren't magically keeping me energized. The race started being a slog around mile 8, and you can see it as my paces start dropping further and further into the 9s with every subsequent mile. 

At this point the race had become a pure test of endurance for me. I wanted so much to not be doing it anymore, but I was NOT going to stop, and I would be DAMNED if I was going to miss a chance of running it in under two hours. I knew that I needed an average pace of 9:09 to do that, and with several 8s under my belt (and keeping an eye on that race clock minus 8.5 minutes), I thought I still had a chance. At the end I did somewhat let go of the 2-hour idea just because I absolutely could not give anything else than what I was already doing. The numbers looked promising, but if that was not enough, I would still know that I'd done my absolute best.

But it was enough. All those 8s that I managed to put down in the middle of the race paid off. Here's my preliminary result that I got post-race, and it matches my later, official results. I made it in under two hours, with 56 seconds left to spare! YAY!! I was really really really happy to see that 1:59.

My very first finisher's medal!! I'm so proud of this thing.

Final thoughts:
  • This race didn't go as I'd planned, but I don't think they ever do so that's OK! I'd been hoping to lay down negative splits the whole way rather than slowing down halfway along. I don't think I went out too fast. I think I was maybe just tired/too-tapered/too hot that day. And I did meet my goal, so I'm not going to complain or analyze too much.
  • If I run another half marathon, I don't think I will taper as much as I did this time. My body was used to a long run every Sunday, and when I skipped two of them maybe I got off track. I didn't really have a tapering plan, life just got in the way those two weeks so I put it down to tapering off my training. Next time I may plan to just keep training but do shorter long runs.
  • If I run another half marathon with gear check, I would like to plan ahead and check some dry socks, clean shirt, comfy shoes, maybe some wipes to mop my brow. At this race, after sweating and pouring water on myself for 13 miles, I was soaked and disgusting at the end. But since I love to travel light and avoid lines, I didn't check anything or even consider what I'd need after the finish. It worked out fine, but I might pamper myself more next time.