Monday, January 30, 2017

What does 2017 have in store?

I don't even know where to start. I think I'll just let January go down as the worst month of my life (if you would like to pretend this is hyperbole, go ahead. It's not.) and leave it at that. Yes. Worse than the month my dad died, as awful as it is to compare. But true.

I don't know if I'll ever post all of the things that happened, but I know there are a few people sitting out there who know and you're probably nodding along, and you understand why I'm saying that.

That's part of why I haven't posted almost all month. Because of all this stuff going on.

But anyways.

To that post. Something slightly more positive. The post I've been saying I'll post about races and goals for the year, because what better to distract me than preparing for race season? Here you go.

2017 'Goals'
I use the word 'goals' loosely, because really I'm not trying to break any records. Not even my own - although it will be awesome if that happens by accident.

I can tell you the races I've signed up for, and I'll be honest, there aren't a ton of them. Because of the whole house-buying thing I have to be really careful about money right now, and I can't go tossing it all at races.

I'm looking at you, Half-Ironman.

I won't lie - that was going to be my A goal this year. Steelhead 70.3. But nearly $300 to register, not including any lodging, travel, or time-off expenses? Well, that's probably not going to happen. I have a while to make up my mind, but let's be realistic. Planning for a half IM would cost just as much as having a house inspected and appraised, and I can't be throwing money like that around right now.

Does it suck to realize that? Yes. But I'd rather get a mortgage with a good rate than have someone asking me what I'm dropping that money on when I'm trying to buy a house!

I also want a new bike before attempting a half, so there's that to factor in.

The good news? Races will always be there, so I'll come back to this one at some point.

2017 Races
All that said, I have registered for a few races. Here goes;

The Lincoln Presidential Half (April 1)
Again, no real goal. I'm running this with my friend Steffi (from 2016's Shamrock Shuffle and the Hot Chocolate 15k). It will be her first half, and she'll probably school me at it since I've spent the last few weeks sucking at training.

BUT...the fun things about this race??

  1. We get to stay with Mama and Papa Bender since they live near Springfield.
  2. Race with a friend, and my stalwart Sherpa (that'd be Anthony!) accompanying us.
    1. We run through all the hot Lincoln spots in Springfield!
    2. 13.1 miles of fun, educational sites
    3. You can wear top hats.
    4. Either Jennie will come to spectate or I get to guest blog! So for the first time ever I promise course pictures!
    5. The medal is a giant penny. If that doesn't sell you on it I don't know what will.
    6. Oh yeah, it's affordable. I registered today and it was $50.
I can't wait. I am quite excited. Here's to my second half!

Ragnar Chicago! (June 9-10)
This is a big one. I'm preparing for this to be the most fun race of the season because people who do Ragnars always say it is.

If you don't know (and I don't expect you to if you're not a race-nut like yours truly), a Ragnar relay is a 200 mile, 12 person relay race from point A to point B. Ragnar Chicago starts in Madison, WI and we will run in relay fashion to Chicago over two days. Each person runs three legs during that time, and each leg is between three and twelve miles long, totaling 11 to 22 miles per runner for the two days.

You run during the day. You run at night. You run in whatever weather you're blessed or cursed with, through hills and bluffs and flats. You just run your leg, and pass off the snap bracelet at exchange points. When you're not running, you're driving/riding between exchange points, supporting your team and other runners.

For me and my team, we initially came together through the Hogwarts Running Club Midwest chapter. About half of us are die hard Potter fans, and we recruited the other half of our runners elsewhere (though we still love them just as much). #TheTeamThatShallNotBeNamed is getting ready to crush Ragnar, and we're all stoked.

That said...organizing a Ragnar is another beast to tackle. I'm technically Captain of my team, but I have to say I have some amazing ladies who have helped me while my life got flip-turned-upside-down last month. I owe them everything, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

So...that's all happening.

Lake Zurich Triathlon, Olympic distance (July 9)
I registered to LZT shortly after it opened, and I'll start training soon-ish.

To whine for a second: For the first time in months I actually want to swim and I can't. Why? Because swimming is solitary. You can disappear in the water and be alone and no one is going to bother you. But as soon as I want to do it I can't. Yay.

Anyways...I don't know if I'll change my training plan from last year (last year's had so.much.swimming). I'll probably switch it up, tbh. That's a decision for a later date though.

I do have a goal with this (even though I'm not in a goal setting mood) and I'm going to put it here: I'd like to beat my Chicago Triathlon time. My official time for Chicago was 3:21:21. How will I do that?

  1. Admittedly transition was HUGE for Chicago, but I spent 17:26 in transition. That's so.long. Transition for LZ is way smaller (and doesn't include a half mile run to it), so I'm hoping I can bring all that down and firm up my transition times to scrape a good 10 minutes off that time.
  2. Run more. I feel like the run for Chicago was such a weak spot for me because of the heat and GI issues. It will still be super hot for LZ in the middle of July, but I'm hoping all of the running I'll be doing for the half and Ragnar will even the playing field for it a bit more.
  3. Steady bike. Just like last year for Chicago I'll do my bike workouts and aim to excel like I did last year.
A three pronged approach. What could go wrong? (I'm saying that super sarcastically. Everything could go wrong. I have learned from January that life likes to suck like that.)

The Chicago Marathon (October 8)
The list is short and this is the last thing on it but... The Chicago Marathon is happening again this year. For me, I mean. It'd be happening with or without me.

The 40th anniversary is on it's way, and I'm running for #TeamRMHC again. I'm not-so-secretly hoping that there's a giant medal and huge crowd. I can't wait.

Also, though not all about goals, it'd be cool to cut 20 minutes from my time and come in under 5 hours. Just throwing it out there. Guess it's time to up the speed work I do.

Stay tuned to this space for more on that, because I hope to make a bigger deal out of fundraising this year than I did last year. So yeah. Watch out.

So there you go.
2017 races and goals, out there for all of you.

I'm not on my game today so I'm sorry if all of this seems lackluster. The lust will come back, I promise...I just need some time. Thanks for understanding

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Running: Your Knees

So in the midst of all the crazy things that have been happening around here (house buying and more!) that have distracted me from writing in my good ol' blog, I did get an article from my company's health newsletter that I thought would be cool to share.

When I got to work on Tuesday I had this article in my inbox. It was very well timed, given that the day before I had someone telling me I should stop running 'because it's bad for your knees and I knew a guy once who (fill in ailment here).'

I'm sharing a screenshot of the article since I'm fairly certain the link won't work:

I think the last sentence is interesting: "...this study suggests exercise can be a type of medicine."

I don't really think this part is news. I think it's something a lot of people - particularly those of use who are routinely active, including logging hours and hours at the gym every week - will verify, at least anecdotally. I have no qualms talking about how I use the gym as a "crutch" to help my mood, just how much better I feel when I run or lift (or whatever), and that I really start to get grumpy if I don't.

But anyways, back to the main point! Running may not be bad for your joints!

YES it is high impact exercise, but that doesn't necessarily make it bad for someone who's healthy, and I think it's great that this is being studied.

To throw in my own anecdote: After getting the MRI of my knee (just before my half marathon at Thanksgiving) Dr Gent told me my knee looked great. All parts of it. Bone, cartilage, ligaments, etc...everything looked just how it should and perfectly healthy. And that was after a season of triathlon and marathon training. The verdict? Muscular imbalance, easily addressed with PT exercises, stretching, rolling, and perhaps crossing my legs less at work. *She says as she uncrosses her legs...*

This doesn't mean you can just go and run miles and miles with no consequence. You still have to take care of yourself. Stretching and strength training are an integral part of running, and throwing in an ice bath after a long, hot run is a good idea too.

I guess my whole point with this is not to let some random people with their uninformed opinions detract you from doing something you want to do. I like running, I want to keep doing it as long as possible, and I'm fine ignoring people who tell me I shouldn't keep running marathons because it's "bad for my knees".

You know what else is bad for your knees? Sitting all day! (Don't get me wrong though, I do plenty of that too :P)

Another anecdote to go along with that: At the end of December/beginning of January I was sick and very tired, so I took almost two weeks off from everything. Not being active made my other knee start hurting! It felt like a strain behind my knee and in my hamstring, and a bit like I was hyperextending when activating my hamstring (bending my knee). So weird.

When I started running again I babied it a little. I did yoga for a few days up to my run, including a lot of stretching and foam/RockBall rolling, which I continued before and after runs once I started up again. By the time I finished my third three-miler, all of that strain/pain was gone. It still amazes me the amount of pain and discomfort we can end up in from not being active! No more two week off stints for me! Active lifestyle is the way to go!

I know I don't often ask for opinions and comments here, but I would really be interested in what anyone has to say about this! Have you ever had someone tell you to give up a hobby because it's "bad" for you? What was your reaction? I'm curious!


PS...I promise to post an actual update about stuff at some point. I'm honestly waiting for some stuff to go through with the house so I don't have to knock on wood every five seconds!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2016 In A Nutshell

Everyone out there has talked about goals for the New Year in their blog posts, and I haven't even completed my recap of last year!

And what a year it was!

Professionally: I was promoted at work (and we moved into our swanky new building)! It was a great move for me personally and professionally. I'm on a much younger team now, and I can say my coworkers are friends as well as colleagues. It's also fun to note that we are definitely a team. The other day I was talking to someone who was trying to get me to take my lunch early/slip out early for the day and I kept saying I couldn't. He asked me if it's because my department monitors our time that closely, and I said, "No. It's part of being on this team. They wouldn't leave me alone on the phones so I'm not going to do that to them." Though it has been insane and crazy and sometimes stressful, I'm glad I made the move. I have learned a ton, will continue to learn, and it should be an interesting 2017!

Personally: Well a lot happened there...! I completed my first two triathlons and I ran my first marathon - things I am unbelievably proud of. I've been bitten by the bug, and it's not going to stop!

I can also honestly say I am very happy right now. Even with the whirlwind of changes that happened this year, I came out of it better. A better person and in a better position personally. I haven't gone all crazy-braggy here on the blog (though I know there are at least a few inquiring minds) but having Anthony enter my life was a complete game changer, 100% for the better. I cannot explain it and I won't bother trying, but 2017 is looking to be a really fun, crazy (and slightly stressful) year for the two of us.

I plan on blogging (probably more towards the end of the month, at the rate I'm going) about 2017 plans and goals, but what I really want to do here is recap my 2016 race season!

So here goes...2016 in all it's glory!

February 28th: Hustle Up the Hancock
The Hustle has been on my bucket list ever since I knew it was a thing, so CHECK!

April 3rd: The Shamrock Shuffle
My first race of the season, run with one of my best friends! The 5 mile route for the Shamrock Shuffle is almost step-for-step the first few and last few miles of the Marathon (both done by Bank of America). My toes were numb for two miles, but it was a great way to start the season, and I'm excited for more races with my dear Steffi in 2017!

April 9th: Illini Veteran's Memorial 5k
The second weekend in April I had the honor to run this small race at the University of Illinois with my Papa Bender - his first 5k in 25 years. It was cold and drizzly, but I wouldn't change the experience at all!

My first active effort at a PR was this race. My best 5k time prior to this race was at the 2015 Chase Corporate Challenge, and I was determined to beat that time. I did so at Busse Woods (where I ran my last race of the season/first official half marathon too!).

I crushed my time, coming in at 30:16 for a new personal best.

This race also wins the "coolest t-shirt" award!

July 10th: ET Lake Zurich Triathlon (sprint)
My first for-real triathlon experience! It was a good one, and far too short. I completed the course in just over 1 hour and 30 minutes, I felt amazing afterwards, and it got me fired up for the distance I would train for an cover in the Chicago Triathlon just over a month later!

August 28: The Chicago Triathlon (international distance) - Part 1, Part 2
I spent all summer training for the Chicago Tri, and it was one of the highlights of my season. It was huge and fun and quite an experience - every triathlete in the area should try it at least once, and see the city from every angle you can imagine. From the lake, to flying through the underbelly of Lower Wacker drive, to the (hot and ridiculously humid) scenic Lakefront - it was fantastic. It's on my list to do again!

September 18th: CARA Ready 2 Run 20 Miler
I don't think I ever blogged about this run (I did mention it briefly here) but oh my god. It was so hard. It wasn't a race, it was a "supported training run" meant to mimic the marathon conditions (mostly the aid stations and pacers). It was so hot, so humid, and in full sun. It was brutal. I was tired and jetlagged from my Europe trip. After 2 weeks of travelling I was toast. At Mile 16 I wanted to cry, and almost did until I realized how painful it was to do so.

Oh, and it was actually 20.2 miles long. -_- Funny, guys.

I made it through - barely. I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to finish the marathon after that race though. The thought of another 6 miles on top of what I'd already done?? WHAT?

The greatest lesson I learned from this run? You taper for a reason.

October 9th: The Chicago Marathon
It finally came! Marathon day! The day I wasn't sure I would make it through (especially after the CARA run). It ended up being one of the best runs of my life. I made it through all 26.2 miles. I hurt towards the end, but I embraced every ounce of hurt and knew I would finish. I knew I'd be doing it again. I loved the day, the crowd, the atmosphere, my friends and family who came to see me...I have done many things I feel proud of, but crossing the line of the marathon is at the top of the list, for sure.

October 29th: The Hot Chocolate 15k
Only 20 days after the marathon I laced up and ran this one with some friends. I was "undertrained" in that I hadn't run much since the marathon, but it ended up being a good, strong "shake out" run. It was a gorgeous day, especially considering it was the end of October in Chicago. I enjoyed all 9 miles and reminisced on the marathon only a few weeks before (was that all? In some ways the memory was so distant, and in others so fresh...!). I ran it with a great group of ladies - Steffi and her sisters - and Anthony got to practice his growing spectathelete skills :P

November 26th: The Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon
My first OFFICIAL half marathon distance, and last race of the season! It was chilly to start, warm to end, and I PR'd the distance by TEN MINUTES over any half-distance I'd run during training. Woot! I also got to see my friend off for her first 5k ever, which was quite the honor! I love welcoming new runners to the fold!

So now some fun roundups:

Favorite Swag: Chicago Triathlon T-Shirt
The Hot Chocolate 15k sweatshirt is a close second, but the ChiTri shirt fits SO well, matches the medal, and is pretty much my favorite t-shirt so it wins!

Favorite Medal: Chicago Marathon
Not just out of pride for having completed my first marathon, but because it has the famous Picasso sculpture on it that I have always believed looks like a weird, giant duck! Next time you're in Chicago give it a visit!

Favorite Race: The Marathon
Why did I give myself such tough choices??? I loved every race this year, but the Marathon takes the cake. Seeing the city on foot and running for RHMC made it amazing. Hands down I will do it again because I have only good things to say about it (even with how much my feet and knees hurt the next day)!

Favorite 'Experience': The Chicago Triathlon
Doing it with a friend, the expo, spending all that time downtown flying through the city, the course, my support crew (my mom and Papa Bender), the amenities, the satisfaction of completing a longer distance in three disciplines...just everything. It made me so proud of myself.

Best Crowd Support: The Marathon
It's just awesome to have an entire city come out to support something you've worked so hard for. The signs, the people who bring their living room and dining room furniture's pretty sweet. Seeing my own family and friends at the half way point (and Anthony, every time I saw him), and having them at the was awesome. Run Chicago, see the city, see the made me want to do it again before I even finished the first time.

 Truly, I had a fantastic season. 2017 will not hold as many races (spoiler alert) but I'm still excited for the ones I will run, and I'll work just as hard every day of training this year - if not harder.

So stay tuned! I have some fun and exciting things planned for 2017, and I can't wait to share them with you!

Farewell were awesome (race-wise) and it's time to usher in a new year of fun and personal challenge!