Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Corporate Challenge

I knew I was setting myself up for a bad race day. I had a very solid feeling down in the pit of my stomach that Thursday's race was not going to be anywhere near my best run. I was pretty sure I would feel like crap for most of it. Let me summarize why:

My sleep was off.

I planned to go in to work late, but then I also overslept so my whole work day was thrown off.

I was nervous and anxious all day.

I was going to start running three hours later than I was used too.

Just...nothing felt right. I felt okay...I didn't feel bad, but I didn't feel right.

And apparently I run great in those circumstances!

I will back up now and explain:

So the Corporate Challenge takes place in several cities around the country on different days. The Chicago event that my company participated in was this past Thursday - and apparently it was the single largest event that will be held! It turns out New York has two consecutive days for their event, which is why it's not larger.

I mentioned earlier that I was going to be flying solo this time...but it turns out I didn't have to, which ended up being a really good thing because it served as motivation in the end! I found out that my friend Travis (who works on my floor) was going, and he was planning on running way slower than he normally does because he'd had a very persistent headache the last few days. So I told him I normally run at an 11:00 min/mile pace, and he said that sounded good. Of course, with the adrenaline of the crowd and the whole race atmosphere, we ended up going a bit faster.

And then...I ran the entire race, which my Garmin clocked at 3.69 miles, which was .2 miles longer than the stated course (3.5 miles). Given that I have never run for more than 2 miles without walking, I am so super proud of that.

You see, on the way to the race I felt pretty good, and I was determined to run at least the first two miles without stopping. Then I started thinking, 'Well, I could probably run which case I might as well just run the whole thing.' And then Travis suggested we run together, and I couldn't be seen a a wimp, so my ego solidified that, unless we got separated, I would run the whole thing.

Hah. Easier said than done! But honestly, I felt pretty good for the whole run, apart from the stitch in my right side that I've had trouble with lately. Once I settled into my stride and got used to dodging and weaving through all the people on the course I felt like I could do it. I stopped thinking about taking a walk break and just pushed myself through it, and by 2.5 miles in I realized that because I'd been running so much faster with Travis, that I was probably going to PR a 5k...and that thought gave me the motivation I needed to finish out the race!

Now, I didn't realize it at the time, but during the Cinco de Miler Cam and I PR'd our 5k time at 33:34, which was a huge improvement on my time from the Runs for Cookies Virtual 5k in January (which, as a reminder, I ran inside on a treadmill in 36:24!):

CdM was also our longest distance run!

And then on Thursday, I killed that PR! So for the second time in less than three weeks I PR'd a 5k, and I rang this one in at 31:40.8!!!!!!!!! I beat my last 5k time by almost TWO MINUTES!

It's pretty cool and fulfilling to see that, and I'm hopeful that at some point this summer I will be able to achieve a sub-30 5k time!

Here are my splits for the rest of the race:

Obviously this shows that I need to work on pacing, but it was honestly very hard to stay consistent during this race because there were so many people, and they were doing weird (and incosiderate) things like stopping to walk in big groups in the middle of the track, and we had to figure out how to wind through or around the groups.

Anyway, my official race time was 37:34, and I am more than happy with that. Here I am at the end of the race, looking proud as a peach, and ready for some food!

I gotta say, I'm glad I was wrong. I'm glad I had a great race day, that I PR'd, and that I met a few new people from work. The Challenge was a great experience overall, even if I did have to shake things up with my work schedule to make sure I got enough sleep and everything. I was really happy to be able to go in to work the next day (even if I did have to go in early...blahhh) and say that I had a good race and did well.

And you know what? Even though yesterday was not the best work day (I was tired from going to bed late and getting up early, and I encountered some major last minute frustration during the day), the happy and proud feeling lingered through all of it.

It even served as a reminder that I am more than the things that happen during the day, or the forces that act on me from outside. I am my experiences, my challenges, and my efforts.

And that was the thought that pushed me through my frustrations with yesterday and helped me end my day with a smile.

With that...I hope you have a great weekend!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mental Challenges

For once I feel like I actually have a good excuse for not posting!

I did intend to write something last night after our workout, but I didn't realize Cam had other stuff he needed to do. He left for Summer Camp today (the music festival in central Illinois...not an actual summer camp) and had to get his packing list ready and get a bunch of stuff ready to throw in his car after work today. But we also had to get to the gym (because I demanded it), so right away when we got home we changed and headed over to get our workout in.

So to divert a little (it will all come back together, I promise), I haven't mentioned yet, but a friend convinced me to sign up for our company's team for the Chase Corporate Challenge...which is tomorrow in Chicago!

I feel like this is a big step for me...I debated long and hard whether to include a photo with my company logo...but there you have it. There's every chance of me being photographed in this shirt anyway, and with minimal sleuthing you can find out my last name and where I work, so why not just own it here too? So this is the company swag...a shirt, a shoe lace (for the left one), a shoe dazzle thingy, and then the race bib from Chase.

So, there's a lot that I didn't realize about this race, and I feel like it's putting me a bit on edge. First up, it's 3.5 miles - I actually thought it was a 5k. Not a huge difference, but still. I keep thinking I won't be able to do it, which is honestly a totally silly thing to think because I just ran a 5 mile race a few weeks ago. That said, up for #2 is that the race doesn't even start until 7:00pm. Hah. 7:00? I'm basically in bed at that point on a normal day! And number three: I'll be on my own for this one.

As far at the first point...of course I'll be able to do it! I can move myself for 3.5 miles and I know it. For the second: I talked to my (new) manager and she agreed that it's totally fine for me to come in an hour late tomorrow, though I had to be at work early today (I normally start at 6:30 but today I started at 6:00). But I still feel like I'm not setting myself up for optimal performance with this thing.

And finally...being alone. Well, there's no real remedy for it, and I feel like that's where the real insecurity is coming from. Not only am I really used to running with Cam now, but the friend who convinced me to sign up has since decided not to do it, and I only know one or two other people who are going (one of whom is walking it). And to top it off, neither of them will be on my bus too or from the race.

Bu...oh well. It's just another mental challenge. It won't be the first thing I've done by myself, and it won't be the last (I'll be doing that half alone, afterall!). At the end of the day, it's my own two feet that will carry me across the finish line...not the fact that someone I know is or isn't participating. And who knows, maybe I'll make a friend on the bus!

Anyways...gym last night. Because of the Corporate Challenge (and for my own sanity) I needed to get a run in. This meant that even if we had to truncate it, I wanted to get at least 1.5 solid miles of running in on the treadmill. Which I did. It may have been 1.65 though...I can't decide. My Garmin is definitely not calibrated to the treadmills at our gym, but I figure after 2 months of running outside it knows my cadence enough to judge distance (or not? I don't actually know how that bit works). But the treadmill said I went 1.5 miles, my Garmin said 1.65, so it had to be somewhere in between! And a little extra obviously won't kill me at this point.

We followed up our run with a pretty solid (but quick) upper body workout. We did three sets per exercise at 5-5-10 reps, and I used the following weights per set:

I'm happy to say that I didn't lose all the muscle I gained early in the year. While it sucked not having a gym the last 2 months, I'm happy with these weights, especially for my Bench and Tricep extension. I'm also happy to report that my form for Bench Press is getting better and more comfortable...and it's because I'm taking advice to heart!

You see, the other day when I was doing the leg press Cam said he noticed that I slow down during the down motion of certain exercises (mostly with leg and bench press). I told him I do it because I'm afraid I won't be able to push it back up - another mental challenge! He pointed out that I was wasting energy with my resistance during the slow down, which is why it felt hard to push it up. So yesterday when I did my bench I let the bar come down to my chest a bit faster and more naturally, and I made a conscious effort not to slow it down with resistance.

Guys, it made SUCH a difference. The upward "push" was much easier, and I told him at the end that the bar will always have to have weights on it from now on, because those 10 reps with 45lbs (just the bar) weren't "enough".

The other thing I didn't mention yesterday day is that I went on Amazon and got this book about weightlifting for women that I'd heard about on Reddit Two-X Fitness. I'm excited to see what I can learn from it. I also went ahead and bought the journal companion, so hopefully that will help me see my progress as the days and weeks go by. Hopefully I'll be able to do an update post in a few months!

I've been taking selfies for Instagram when we leave the gym...I love the faces he makes!

When we got home from the gym I showered and made dinner while Cam started to get his packing list assembled. There was enough of all that to keep us both busy and running around until almost 7:30, when we decided it was in both our best interests to sit down and watch some TV since we won't see each other again until Monday (excepting when Cam drops off King Ned the Lizard at my house tonight...I'll be watching him all weekend since Cam's parents are leaving for Idaho on Saturday). We put on The Inbetweeners (which I promised Cam he'd love) and made it through one episode before we both fell asleep, exhausted.

Today has been another long day - extra hours at work combined with unpacking cars and setting up lizards and the like, and tomorrow's Challenge weighing on my mind just a bit. I'm looking forward to heading off to bed and getting a little extra sleep tonight, and even more looking forward to my company's Summer Hours, which start on Friday (we get to leave work 2 hours early and still get paid for the full 8!).

I have so much planned for this weekend - movies and cleaning and stuff - but I'll see what I can do about posting...because this blog is always in the back of my mind!

So Happy (end of) Hump Day, and see you sometime this weekend!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Back at it...and a half!

Holy hell am I sore. But I am happy, so that must count for something!

I apologize for the sporadic nature of my posts lately. I'll spare you the "I've been busy" mumbo jumbo and just get on with it!

It's been a good and eventful week - my American Express will certainly tell you that. Next month's statement will be 100% ridiculous for all the random things that were thrown on it in the past 10 or so days.

First up - plane tickets to Idaho: Yay! It's finally on the horizon! Cam and I are heading to Boise the second week of July (11th-18th) to visit his grandparents and his brother. We are both so excited! I've never been to Idaho (so I get to check another state off the list) but I'm mostly looking forward to a week filled with camping and mountains and the beauty of the great blue yonder. Cam's brother (whose name is Henry Brennan and is referred to by various names...Henry, Hen, Brennan, Henry Brennan, etc) moved to Idaho in November, and likes to send pictures of himself doing fun stuff that I wish I was doing. July is our chance to do those things, and it can't come soon enough!

Next on the Amazing AmEx Bill: Mother's Day Brunch. My brother and I took our mom for brunch at a restaurant called Montara Grill, known in the area for their mouth-watering, prime cut beef. Their brunch has everything from Crème brûlée French Toast, biscuits and gravy, and a variety of morning rolls and muffins, to a seafood platter (scallops!), meatloaf, mac and cheese and pork roast. It costs $37 per person, and is totally worth it. So that's on there.

Thing #3: Entry for 4 into the Illinois Special Olympics Color in Motion 5k! It's a color run, and I've never done a color run, and I convinced Cam and two of our friends (Eric and Sarah) to do it with me. The registration until Monday night was $27.50 (going up to $50 the following day) so I ninjaed that deal. Sarah and I are going to make skirts for it too! Woot! But before you think I'm a super generous friend...they're paying me back for their entry.

Then came the big ones (because plane tickets aren't big...?). I feel as though these are pivotal moments for me in terms of self confidence.

While I was sitting at work on Friday I decided to throw all caution to the wind. I was (still) feeling good and accomplished after the Cinco de I put my money where my mouth is and registered for a half.


I spent a few days looking at some different halfs...debating..deciding...and decide I did.

I registered for the Women Rock half marathon in Chicago on September 19th. There are a few races and different race challenges, but I picked the half because in January I said I would. And now I have all summer (123 days) to worry and prepare...eep!


I know to some people out there that's like nothing - done a million of them and whatever. But for me it's pretty big! And it's the one goal I set for myself this year so I want to make it happen, damnit! My mom and Cam promise to be at the finish line, and even my brother implied that he'd try to get the day off for it. So I'll have at least a few people there for me when I collapse at the end!

I decided at the same time to register for the Beat the Blerch virtual race. We all know I just want the swag...but perhaps I'll use that for an "official" 10k? Why not.

And that's not all! One of the things I'm most excited about is that Cam and I finally signed up at a gym! He finished his physics class (and passed! Wooooooooooooooooot!) so I pushed him out the door to the gym on Thursday. We had guest passes for an LA Fitness near his house, and were going to try there and an Anytime Fitness slightly further away. That plan went to pot because we both really, really like the LA Fitness. I wasn't sure because the reviews were kind of iffy (I feel like that happens with every gym...) but we were both very pleasantly surprised, and the membership includes multiclub access so I can go to the one closer to my house as well. We signed up right away, and because I have a love affair with getting American Express points, I put it all on my card...including the recurring monthly payment for our "couples" membership...weird!

We've been twice already (killed our legs on Saturday, as it happens, still hurts to walk) and it's definitely a good fit for us. I'm actually looking forward to going back this evening! Perhaps (hopefully) I'll post some workout details and progress stuff here...Cam and I are focusing on lifting more, and I'm hoping to find a good balance while I train for the half.

The funny thing is, I've got some other ideas for posts, I just really need to get better about posting them. Which means I need to get better about falling asleep right after I eat dinner...and mostly not do that.

I'm hoping to write something up to post again tonight. Maybe writing that down means I will actually do it...but we know how that always goes... ;)


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Cinco de Miler

Today was it! Race day!

I woke up and couldn't believe I'd actually be running a race. I've never run a "big" race before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. As a matter of fact, the other actual race I've run is the 5k my company hosted in September, which was just employees and friends/family. I think there were about 500 participants for it.

So this was definitely different than that!

Cam and I got up at about 5:45 to start getting ready, and Dan showed up at Cam's at 6:30 so we could carpool to Soldier Field together. I made some vanilla protein pancakes to fuel us up before heading out. (Side note: Those pancakes are awesome. My friend posted a picture of them on Facebook a few weeks ago and I tried them out last week. The only changes I made were to add 1/2 a mashed banana, and decreasing the egg whites to 1/4 cup. I tripled the recipe for the three of us, and we had them with syrup.)

I don't have any pictures of the race site because we left everything in the car, but I did snap these right as we pulled in to the parking lot:

Dan whipped his shirt off right before this photo. Don't quite know why...
We were out of the car by 8:00 and spent our pre-race time wandering around the starting area. There were a lot of people (about 4,300), but it wasn't super crowded. We watching some people try out the mechanical bull and went and watched the Mariachi band for a while. It was pretty cool out though (mid 50's) so we kept moving.

The race officially started with corral A at 9:00 am (after the singing of the Mexican and US national anthems) but we were in corral F, so we didn't start until almost 9:20.

The race itself wasn't too bad. I was a bit worried about how it would go because last week's 5 miles were kinda tough for both me and Cam. The first two miles had dragged...but it was a totally different feeling this week (for me, at least). I felt good and strong through all 5 miles. Perhaps it was the race crowd or the adrenaline...or both!

I think the coolest part of the race was the first quarter mile - it took us under McCormick Place through this was dark and people were dodging puddles left and right, and there were times when it was difficult to see...but it was FUN. People talking and everything echoing through the tunnel - it got me thinking that it'd be cool to run an entire race like that!

The next two miles took us south down Lake Shore Drive, and were fairly easy. We saw the Mariachi band again after Mile 1, and at 2.4 got to the half way turn-around. For about 20 seconds we ran towards the lake, and then turned north to head back up along the lake.

And we were greeted by a nice headwind for the trip back. Nice and blustery. I'd been wearing a jacket while we waited for the race to start but took it off after the first mile...right around Mile 3 I was considering putting it back on. I feel like we were lucky because it could have been way windier...but it was still chilly for those few miles back!

Cam and I planned to stick to our Run 1:Walk .1, as we've done for most of our training runs to this point, and I can honestly say we did so again today! But our mile times were consistently 20-30 seconds faster than they have a result we crushed our sub 1:00:00 goal...

We finished in 55:01.

Our splits, for anyone interested:

Hello and check out those sub 11:00 miles! Our usual pace when running is between 11:00 and 11:20 min/mile (walking included they're between 11:50 and 12:10 min/mile), so I'm super happy with these mile times. And I'm also quite happy with that (significant) negative split for Mile 5.

I have to mention - Dan finished in just under 45 minutes. He started with us (he was supposed to be 2 corrals up) and absolutely killed it, even though he's never run more than 3 miles, and didn't train for the race. Not fair? Not fair. But well done, Dan!

When the race ended, the hand-out line up after the race was hilarious. First were the medals, then the gatorade, then water...then churros (!) (ate half and gave the rest to Dan) and then we headed over for beer (didn't get one because blech), and food. I gave Cam my tamale and he gave me his chips and salsa (!), and we both enjoyed some horchata too. Then we peaced out to avoid the traffic.

Overall...very successful and FUN experience.

And I gotta was pretty cool to hear my name called as I neared the finish line. I felt very proud of myself...and totally understand why people keep running races. I think I'd really like to pick a half marathon event to run. I still want to do the Blerch, but I want to go to a race and get those good-race vibes too. I mean, I've run 5 miles before today, but today's felt better than all the other days.

And, just so I don't leave anyone we are back at the car, medals in hand, ready to head home:

Check out that sombrero medal!!!!! It doubles as bottle opener too!
I gotta say, I'm proud of all of us, and I can't wait for the next race!

I hope you all have a great rest of your weekend! Peace out!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Garden Tales and Guacamole

A few weeks ago I mentioned (and Instagrammed!) that we (Cam, Mom, our friend Dan ,and I) got a nice start on our garden. Well, now I'm back to say that I can't wait until next weekend!

Here's what we managed three weeks ago...

First, the prep work! Between the two cars we managed to fit all the soil, manure, and wood, but boy were they weighed down! I couldn't even push the flat bed it was so heavy:

This wasn't even enough...but it was a good start!

Holy. Moly. I never want to go wood shopping with him again. He was so picky!

Just about to start! Here's our "blank canvas"
In the hobby craftsman at work. He was amazing and did a great job...ordered me and Dan around like a pro!

And the finished product!
The only snag we hit during the construction was that we forgot to call JULIE (they're the ones you have to call to check for power/cable/etc lines before you dig). So we altered our plans and did not anchor the bed in with's just sitting there. Might blow away if there's a tornado...but other than that I highly doubt it's going anywhere. Because dirt is h.e.a.v.y.

Next week we'll resume this project. We still have to add a bit more soil and two trellises (in the back corners) but other than that, the frame is complete. There will be chicken wire and netting atop the structure to ward off any curious critters as well (bunnies and squirrels and birdies, oh my!).

After we finish the frame, it will be time to plant! And that is the plan for next Sunday. Many of you are probably aware that next Sunday is Mother's Day in the US, and my mom and brother and I have a great day planned!

We're going for the Best Brunch Ever at a local restaurant called Montarra Grill. It's $37 a head (broseph and I are treating), and worth every penny. They only have their brunch twice a year (Easter and Mother's Day), and I certainly wasn't going to miss it this year.

After brunch, we'll head to the nursery/garden center and pick up all the vegetables for our garden. I have a nice little list to get us started, but there's room for some spur of the moment additions. We've decided to transplant the things we want, instead of growing from seedlings because w don't really have a convenient place to allow for seedling growth around our house. There will be a few seeds that are planted (Scarlet Runner Beans!) but after brunch on Sunday, we will head out and buy plants to stick in the ground. Hopefully next weekend I'll have some pictures to share!

This may all seem very matter-of-fact- but I am so excited that last night I had dreams about huge red peppers and fat, juicy tomatoes growing everywhere I looked. I've definitely got some great winter hobbies (yarn crafting being the main one) but I'm really excited to get a good, active summer hobby going.

Speaking of activity - next weekend isn't just about gardening! It'll been be a bit of a doozy, actually...

There's the gardening on Sunday, and Saturday afternoon I'm child-minding, but the big thing is that Cam and I will be running the Cinco de Miler (with our friend Dan as well)! That's right...we have one week until race day! Five miles to earn some chips and salsa! Cam and I ran our last long-training run (5 miles) yesterday and then we have two shorter runs during the week, then we put ourselves to the test.

Here's the round up of yesterday:
We went to a forest preserve near Cam's to do the run. I wanted to go somewhere unfamiliar to both of us since that's exactly what the race course next week will be. The race starts near Soldier Field, then goes south along the lake and loops back up. As long as it's not super windy (and hopefully the sun is out) it should be a pretty nice run since it's all along the lakefront:
I may have to run to Party City today and buy a sombrero as well...but aside from that...

Overall, I'd say our runs have gone okay. We didn't do a long run last week, but we can both obviously finish 5 miles, so we'll be okay for race day. We're gonna do a run/walk of 1 mile/.1 mile for the race (which is what we did yesterday).

D'aww. Look at us and our shoesies.
I was a bit bummed that it took us over an hour to finish this 5 miles. Two weeks ago when we ran 5 we finished in 59:09, and I was really hoping to have a similar (sub 1:00:00) yesterday. But I suppose this is what we get for skipping three of our last 6 runs...(whoops). Lesson learned!

After this race, I'm not sure we'll be doing any more together this summer. Cam wants to keep running as part of our workout routine, but he doesn't have the same goal as I do (running that half...).

And actually, I think I may be altering my "goal". I still want to do a half, I'm just not sure I want to do the rest of them. Well...okay. So I already did the 5k (Runs for Cookies Virtual in January), and the Cinco de Miler is 5 miles, which is close to a 10k, so I feel like if I get up to 6.2 miles then I've already run a close enough race distance. If I find a 15k/10 mile race that I can run for charity then I will, but I'm not holding my breath. I just don't like paying race fees, which is why I'd only do it for charity.

As for the half...I still have to decide. Again, race fees. BUT...The Oatmeal has a virtual event for their Beat the Blerch, and it has 10k/half/full marathon distances. And LOOK AT ALL THE MERCH IN THE RACE KIT. That's a steal for $45. Maybe I'll just register and do the virtual run as a test run for an actual half. Plus, if I can't find a half I want to do, I'll have it covered anyways!

So many decisions....

Including deciding on a new gym. I'm excited! We'll be making that decision within the weeks after Cam finishes finals, and should be signed up somewhere by June 1st. Here's to hoping!

Anyways, off I go! I've got some yoga to do, then I've got some shopping with my Mom-a-trons and it's off to packet pickup before I head home.

I hope you have a great rest of your weekend, dear reader!