Monday, September 30, 2013

What a Brother

To steal a quote from the news: "Every now and then you find one of those kids; one who validates your faith in future generations."

This story just made my heart swell to 10 times its size. 

Can you imagine being 10 years old and wanting to help your sibling like this?  Don't get me wrong, I was a pretty good kid.  But, when I was that age, I think I was busy punching my little brother and "pantsing" my little sister (she's nodding her head right now saying "true story"... I can just see it). 

Granted, I didn't have a disabled sibling, but I'm betting even if I did, I'd have never asked the world to help me get them into a 5K.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Tobias's dream will come true.  Let's just hope his training is sufficient:

Here's to hoping he can some day achieve his stretch goal - completing a full ironman with his brother.

Read his letter to the news asking for help here.

See the source story here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hydration = Peeing

Some of you have already heard me say this, but I've decided...

Hydration is just fitness speak for drinking so much water you have to pee every 20 minutes.

Seriously.  I am going crazy with keeping myself properly hydrated lately.  How the hell do professional athletes drink enough water to keep their systems happy without living their life in the bathroom?! 

I barely drink half of what I need for the day, and I still feel like the whole office is wondering why I'm walking to the bathroom - AGAIN. 

And even better, if I drink two glasses of water at dinner (read: post workout), I get a 2am wake up call.  Ugh.

Don't get me wrong, I know I need more water, especially lately.  And my lips tell be so because of the endless applications of balm I've been doing (not to mention my muscles aren't recovering post workout like they used to).  Plus, I'll be the first to admit, I'm terrible about drinking as much water as a should.  Especially given how active I am.

So, what's my problem?  Easy out - I blame my parents. 

Ok, ok... maybe that's not really fair to do ... most of the time.  But this time, it's a fair charge.  Growing up as a kid, my parents were very firm about the fact that we drank at meals.  Or, if we were thirsty, we went to the kitchen and drank a glass of water right then.  That's it.  They were very adamant that we not keep a glass of water on the coffee table as we watched TV, or have a cup with us at the table if we were playing a game, etc.

I'm not sure if this was because I came from a family of 4 kids, with a mom who did in home daycare... you know, lots of potential spilled messes?

Or maybe it was because I came from a long line of overweight Germans, and my parents thought if I was constantly putting something in my mouth as a kid (even if it was just water), it would train me to want to drink/eat more?

Who knows.

What I can say is, as an adult, I now have this terrible habit of waiting until 4pm to drink anything besides a cup of coffee at breakfast, and maybe a glass of water with my lunch.  At which point, all help is lost, because how can I make up for a gallon of water by my 5:30 workout?

Well... not really a gallon. 

In fact, I'm not sure exactly how much I DO need.  Just for fun, lets try this calculator.  Plug in my weight, my average daily workout... and the answer is... (drum roll): 96.5 ounces or 2.9 liters.

OMG!  That's 12 cups of water!!!!!!!  Which is 12 cups of pee!!!!!! 

Just kidding.  I know I won't pee ALL that water out... but a fair amount, yes.

Better start that bathroom tally sheet.

Well, time to start breaking another bad habit.  Let's lead this horse to water and get drinkin'!

What are you doing to stay hydrated? 
Are you drinking the amount of water you should each day?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Help a Runna Out

Just a quick one today...

As most of you know, I often find myself running my shorter weekday runs at the local community center track.  Call me crazy, since it's a 10 loop to the mile, short track.  But, it works for me.

Truth alert: I think I like it because mentally I know it will be "easier" running an air conditioned flat track.  Whatever, I'm lazy efficient.

Anyhow, the last two weeks I've been seeing this guy that just makes me burst at the seams with pride.  Whenever he's on the track with me, I feel this need to cheer him on. 

Of course, I don't.  That would be weird.

But he just reminds me of ... me, 4 years ago.  Overweight but trying to do something about it.  And he's running... with all of his spirit put into it. 

Well, spirit, aaaannnddd super uncomfortably hot looking sweatshirt, and a pair of Adidas that are likely straight out of the 70s and totally worn out.

I am lead to believe, based on my limited interactions with him, that he is not fluent in English and not in a position to spend money on good running shoes. And I so badly want to just walk up to him one day with a gift certificate to a running store so he can buy himself a pair. 

But again, I don't.  Because that would be weird.

Instead, I just keep mentally wishing him the best... let's hope that's enough to encourage him to stick with it.  Because every time I see him hit the track again, it inspires me too.

So... tell me - what are you doing to encourage healthy habits in the people who surround you?

Monday, September 23, 2013

They Put What In Where?

Ok - it's been awhile, so I suppose it's time for another food post. 

Today, let's talk about something really ... interesting.  (That's Minnesota nice for absolutely disgusting).

Ever wonder what is really in that pre-made meal you're having?  Or that can of pop?  Read the label some time and see if you can decipher any of that garbage they call "ingredients".

I'm assuming at this point that you already know that added sugar/corn syrup, salt, and preservatives aren't so good for you.  So I won't talk about that.

But, did you know that some of the below might be in there too?  Mmmm, yummy!

Maybe you'll consider making your own food from scratch more often now?


Most commonly used in: Any food with pink or reddish hues - from sodas to yogurts.

What it is: Carmine can also be identified on food labels as Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470 or E120, and is made from ground-up cochineal insects (or in layman terms, mashed red beetles).  The insects are killed by exposure to heat or immersion in hot water and then dried. Since the abdominal region which houses the fertilized eggs contains the most carmine, it is separated from the rest of the body, ground into a powder and cooked at high temperatures to extract the maximum amount of color.  Food manufacturers are well aware that word has gotten out about carmine, so a number of manufacturers have resorted to labeling as just "natural color".


Most commonly used in: Processed or cured meats.

What it is: Bacteriophages are a set of six viruses which are sprayed onto meat products in an effort to kill foodborne microbes.  Bacteriophages have hollow heads that store viral DNA and tunnel tails with tips that bind to specific molecules on the surface of their target bacteria. That viral DNA is then injected through the tail into the host cell, thus killing the microbe.  In a nutshell, as bacteriophages are thrusting their hollow, viral DNA-filled tails into their host cell, you are jamming the whole nasty battle right down your gullet.

Titanium Dioxide

Most commonly used in: Paints, sunscreen... oh, and processed salad dressing, coffee creamers, and icing.

What it is: A component of the metallic element titanium, a mined substance that is sometimes contaminated with toxic lead.  The food industry adds it to hundreds of products to make dingy, overly processed items appear whiter.


Most commonly used in: Vanilla or raspberry flavoring.

What it is: Simply put - this is beaver anal gland juice.  In nature, it's combined with the beaver's urine and used to mark its territory.  But this musky excretion has made it into food as well.  Unfortunately, manufacturers using this typically list it as "natural flavoring", so good luck figuring out if it's in your meal or not.


Most commonly used in: Glossy candies, pharmaceutical pills.

What it is: Shellac is derived from the excretions of the kerria lacca insect, most commonly found in the forests of Thailand.  The kerria lacca bug produces a sticky excretion to stick to the trees on which it lives. Harvesting the bug excretion is a pretty simple: harvesters just scrape the excretions right off the tree. But there is little room for quality control during harvesting, and most times the insects themselves are harvested as well. So, the insect simply becomes part of the shellac-making process. And the candy-making process. And the candy-eating process.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Leave No Question Unanswered

After running the Chicago Half a few weeks back, I stumbled across a bunch of fun new blogs to read.  One of which, written by Emmers712, featured a post with the following questions.

Being that I'm never one to leave questions unanswered, I thought it might be fun to use this as a post myself.  So, here goes nothing!

1. Who is your running shoe twin?
Blech - no one wants to admit being my twin and I can't blame them.  I pronate really badly and wouldn't wish that on anyone.  Not to mention, it makes shoes hella more expensive!  (When was the last time I used hella?  God, I feel like I'm in junior high again).  Anyway, I recently graduated down from Saucony Hurricanes (expensive) to Saucony Guides (slightly less expensive), so at least that's a plus.  Funny enough, though, my sister and I have very similar feet - so I guess she is my sort of twin.  Must be genetics, right?  The running store suggested I try her preferred style, Mizunos, but they weren't quite my style.  So, I've stuck with my Guides, and recently bought my second pair:

2. When do you pause your watch on a run?
I never pause my watch.  I suppose technically if I stop at a water fountain or porta-pot, I could consider it but... whatever happens on a training run is what will likely happen on course, so why tinker?  I don't want to start cutting out things that happen mid run, all that does is pump me up for a better finish time that I might not be able to replicate on race day, thus encouraging me to beat myself up more for not hitting some imaginary gold standard.

3. What is worse, being called a jogger or hearing someone call a 5K a "marathon"?
I'm not a super fast runner, so calling me a jogger is technically kind of accurate.  However, it drives me nuts that people call 5Ks "marathons".  Seriously!  With the ever growing popularity of running, and all the races happening on any given weekend, I'm clueless as to how people DON'T know the difference by now.  All I can figure is some people live with their head in the sand.

4. What is your preferred running shorts inseam length?
If you read my running fashion post, you'd known the answer to this trick question.  (Pssst - it's capri length).

5. Spitting when you run - gross or necessary or neither?
Totally gross, and for me, totally unnecessary.  And if you're the kind of person who HAS to spit for whatever nasty reason, make sure you watch where you're spitting.  Move off course and out of the way of others.  There is absolutely NO reason to spit on anyone on course.  Let's add spilling water/sports drink to that category, too.  Seriously!  Some runners need some basic etiquette lessons.

6. What is more exciting, randomly seeing a friend while running or hitting a goal pace/workout?
Well, I'm going to guess I won't randomly see a friend while running since I've either planned to run that day with my friends (or they've told me they want to spectate), or they're not running that day (or they have no desire to spectate).  I'm also highly competitive with myself.  So, let's just say hitting a goal pace or workout blows my hair back - both literally and figuratively.

7. What has been your worst running injury?
Oh god, knock on wood.  The worst on course injury was I missed seeing a pot hole on a downhill stretch to the finish line and literally belly flopped on the pavement when I stepped in it.  I fell so hard I ripped a 3-5" hole in my compression tights, and ended up having to finish the final 0.25 mile stretch with blood gushing down my knee to my ankle.  I think the first aid tent's exact quote was "well, I'm just going to leave that flap of skin on there for now... ". 

8. What is your perfect running temp?
I'm from Minnesota.  My idea of cold is much different than yours, and I've run in some very interesting conditions.  That being said, I prefer to run in the 50/60 range, but as long as the humidity is low even 70 isn't the end of the world.

9. Do you follow a running plan or make your own?
I break all the rules.  (That's Badassish for "I'm not the most dedicated runner out there and usually just hope whatever combination of base miles and long runs I do gets me across the finish line.")

10. Preference - treadmill, road, groomed trail, or technical trail?
Gah!  So NOT a treadmill runner.  I have a REALLY hard time running straight lines.  Also, given my answer to #7 above, you can tell I'm kind of a klutz.  So, obviously, road running is my thing.

So, now it's your turn!  Care to answer?

1. Who is your running shoe twin?
2. When do you pause your watch on a run?
3. What is worse, being called a jogger or hearing someone call a 5K a "marathon"?
4. What is your preferred running shorts inseam length?
5. Spitting when you run - gross or necessary or neither?
6. What is more exciting, randomly seeing a friend while running or hitting a goal pace/workout?
7. What has been your worst running injury?
8. What is your perfect running temp?
9. Do you follow a running plan or make your own?
10. Preference - treadmill, road, groomed trail, or technical trail?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Deep Thoughts While Running #2

If you keep up with me on this blog, or know me in real life, you know that about a week or so ago I ran the Chicago Half.

Oh!  Fair warning: don't read this if you don't like poop jokes.  Also, time to leave now if you get sick easy.

Anyhow!  While running the Chicago Half, I encountered my first ever blow out.  And I don't mean a spectator was pushing a 2 month old in a stroller and had to change their diaper as I passed by.  I mean, a grown woman at around mile 5/6 had literally messed herself and you could see it running down the back side of her running tights. 

Lucky for me, after passing the woman, I was left with not only some very bad mental images... but was also granted 7+ miles on course to contemplate what I had just seen.  So...

Deep Thoughts While Running, #2 (do you see what I did there?):

At what point on course do you say "I just pooped myself, but I think I'll keep going"?

First - a preface.  Obviously, there is a great awareness in the distance running community about the issue of the "poop monster" (affectionately called runner's trots).  For example, there's a reason why I wake up at least 2 hours early on race day even though it makes me hate life: because you literally can't eat and run.  Or rather, you can eat an run... but you'll live to regret it. 

However, it came to my attention after mentioning this woman to some family/spectators post race, that they were very unaware of the issue ... let's just say their "deer in the headlights" response queued me in.

Honestly, I don't know the exact reason why people get running induced GI distress.  I think it has something to do with the leg muscles pulling all the blood away from the stomach muscles, and the result being a system purge in the intestines.  What I do know is you can save yourself lots of issues if you wait to run until a few hours post eating.  Makes you want to start running, right?  Gooooooodddd tiiimmmeeesssss.

 Anyhow, preface over.  Back to my deep thoughts.

So, as I see this woman, the first few thoughts I have are:

(1) OMG, it's happened.  I thought this was the stuff of legends.
(2) Ok, what is etiquette here?  Do I pretend it didn't happen?  Do I just try not to look? 
(3) Maybe if I don't look, it will be like it didn't happen.
(4) Nope, it definitely happened, as is evidence by the girl a few up from me who is now just seeing it and reacting to her friend.
(5) Does she know what's going on down there?  Do I tell her? 
(6) No, don't get closer.  A - gross.  B - how could she not know..??!!

After I finally pass the poor woman, reality sets in.

First of all, how did this happen?  Did the woman eat something bad for dinner last night?

Did she think she was letting out a fart an instead ended up with a bit more?

Does she really not realize what's happened?

So many questions pass through my head.  And I honestly can't imagine how she would NOT know it had happened.  I finally accept the reality that the woman has accepted her fate and is continuing the course. 

Which brings on a whole 'nother train of thought as I continue on.  Mostly, I begin to wonder at what point do you say "No big, it's just some poo... let's keep going."?

Is it ok if you're this guy, about to get a record time, with the finish line in site?

Is it ok if someone else is encouraging you on course to continue on?

Maybe, at the end of the day, it's just ok to do it and talk about it if you're Al Roker?

As of this post, I still haven't wrapped my head around it.  All I can think is, at what point in life do you say "You know what, maybe today's just not my day.  Maybe I should bow out."? 

I guess I hope I'm never in the position to have to make the decision myself. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself

In the last week or two, I've been getting kind of down on myself.  You know how it is - we've all been there. 

You want to see this in the mirror:

But what you actually see is this:

Instead of wallowing, when I have moments like this, I remind myself where I've been and how far I've come.  This is what I want to remember - that I am working HARD to get where I want to be. 

I remember that I started in 2009 at 240 lbs.  Today, I am 60+ pounds less.  Yes, I don't see that "number" change much anymore.  Often, I tell myself not to focus on that "number", which is harder to do than you think. 

I remind myself that the changes that are happening now are more subtle.  I can see my collar bone becoming more defined.  The wobble under my arm is starting to shrink.  All the while, I keep working on my strength training and now have muscle in places I never knew possible.

I think about how I am a certified group fitness instructor, and that I regularly hear my students say things like "I don't know how you do that, it's so hard!".  I reflect on my other physical achievements as well, like the fact that I just finished my 3rd half marathon at a personal best of under 2 hours 30 minutes.

Some days thinking about all my achievements works, some days... well, like I said.  We've all been there.

But almost as if the cosmos knew I needed a boost, I had to go in for a check up on Friday... technically, it was just to a minute clinic to get my blood tests run before my insurance slapped me for not getting it done prior to open enrollment, but it was a checkup all the same.  That's where something amazing happened.

I passed every metric my health program put out for me.  Every.  Single.  One. 

That is something I have never done before!  Even as a kid the doctor always had something on the chart that made me put a black mark on my mental list.

And not only did I pass all the metrics (including hitting suggested BMI targets which you know I hate), I had some amazing improvements since the last time I had the same test run at the end of 2010:

     - I am down almost 10% in overall body weight, and also in BMI points.
     - I have increased my HDL (good cholesterol caused by exercise and healthy weight) by 39%
     - I have MASSIVELY reduced my triglycerides (cholesterol caused by eating refined foods, sugars, alcohol).  In fact, this number was so low that the machine struggled to calculate my total cholesterol and I had to have my blood drawn TWICE to get a result. 

And even better - I FINALLY had a nurse who told me that I should forget my BMI, because what she was seeing based on my blood tests and physical appearance was an extremely healthy person.

Finally, it's like I flipped a switch in my head.  I realized I was being way too hard on myself.

And to that point I want to say...

When you are having a day like this - stay strong.  Remember where you started, where you want to go... and don't worry about how quickly you get there.  It will come in time.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Deep Thoughts While Running #1

I've been having a lot of odd thoughts while running lately.  Well, always, actually.  So, today I've decided to start a tradition and document the thoughts I have. 

In the future, whenever I have a deep thought while running that I deem worthy, I'll share it here.

With that being said, here is my official first post!

Deep Thoughts While Running, #1:

What would happen if someone competed in a duathlon or triathlon on a unicycle?

I mean, aside from if race organizers would even allow it, what would it look like?

Would it be just some normal schmoe?

Or would the person go ballz out and wear a costume?  (I personally hope so).

Would it be some super speedster nerd who souped up their bike?

So many questions about how the event would unwind!  So many things to consider!  So many chances that this may have happened somewhere, and I need to find the documentation about it!!

And after you start thinking about how the technicalities of a race would work out, then the mind wanders even more, and all sorts of other unicycle possibilities start to blow your mind, too.

Unicycle commuting (how wrinkled would your suit get?):

Recumbent unicycling (would it be easier on those with joint problems?):

Tandem unicycling (I bet Ace & Gary would enjoy this concept):

Monster Unicycling (are those 22s???):

Unicycling the dog (how would one poop scoop?):

And then, when you REALLY start to overthink it, other non traditional options for bikes in race events start to surface...

I think my brain is broken.  I'm thinking about some really stupid stuff.  Anyone know a good repair shop?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chicago Half Marathon 2013 (Best Pizza Ever)

Chicago Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
2:28:04 PR!
Average Pace 11:18/mile

Sometimes when people hear me say I'm going to run a half marathon, they look at me like I'm crazy.  The first few times I got that reaction, I was so surprised... because, really, if you train in increments for a race of this distance, it's really not that hard to achieve.

But then, somewhere in the last few months ... well, summer happened, and some days I really understand those people.  Do you know how much it sucks to run in hot weather?!  Especially when doing long runs?

Plus, if I don't just get up out of bed right away in the morning and go on these summer long runs, things get even worse.  I start over thinking everything: the distance I have on the schedule for that day, the heat/humidity that is continuing to rise, how my XYZ hurts ... given enough time pre-run, I turn into a whiney mess!

And unfortunately, that's how my training was for this race overall.  Every time I had a long run on the schedule, I just started to procrastinate and whine.  Which is why my training building up to this race was pretty ... uh ... untraditional, as you can see:

Week 1 - Mon 5, Wed 5, Sun 10 - week: 20 miles
Week 2 - Tues 3, Wed 5, Sat 3, Sun 9 - week: 20 miles / accumulative: 40 miles
Week 3 - Wed 10, Sat 3 - week: 13 miles / accumulative: 53 miles
Week 4 - Wed 5, Thurs 3, Sun 7 (split) - week: 15 miles / accumulative: 68 miles
Week 5 - Tues 3, Thurs 3, Sat 3 - week: 9 miles / accumulative: 77 miles

Week 6 - Wed 5, Sun (race) 13 - week: 18 miles / accumulative: 95

Notice my sporadic long runs, and how none of them exceed 10 miles?  Yeah, I'm not a novice anymore.  I don't have any excuse for that, regardless of how much cross training I do.  The only plus in this schedule is the fact that I put in way more base miles than I have for any other race.  I guess that's a win...?

So begins my race weekend.

With a shaky long distance training program under my belt, last Friday night I hopped in the plane with my husband and flew off to Chicago.  All I could say at this point was: at least one thing in this scenario started out well - a stable atmosphere meant riding Bubba down to Chicago Executive went off without a hitch.  Zero turbulence, hooray!  (Have I mentioned we named the Cessna Bubba?  I can't remember if I covered that in the Gandy Dancer race summary.  Well, now you know!)

Despite the fact that I was excited to be in Chicago, I reigned myself in and had a very low key Friday evening followed by an early(ish) wakeup Saturday morning.  Had to be ready for packet pickup, you know?

Which means Saturday morning I woke up fresh and ready to go! 

Being such a large race in a big city, I had somewhat high hopes for this race expo.  Unfortunately, upon arrival to the expo, I was a bit let down.  There were maybe 20 exhibitors or so, but nothing all that cool was there.  Minute Rice?  Three different stands selling the same elastic glitter headbands?  The local running store selling last season's clearance?  Not impressed.  The only exciting thing was the running store sale - they were clearancing out the shoe I run in, so I did get a good deal on a new pair, which was badly needed.

With a somewhat disappointed face (due to the bummer of an expo), I picked up my shirt and bib, and home I went. 

Once home, I discovered the shirt is long sleeved - this will be nice for fall, so that's cool:

I also discovered the race bibs were f-ing HUGE!  WTH!  When I pinned it to my shirt, it looked like I was going to be a friggin' walking billboard for this race.  You can see what I mean about being a walking billboard in the photos below.  (And, I guess the fact that it fit my Lucy shirt perfectly doesn't say much for the Lucy shirt... since every other bib I've tried on it has been too small.  That's some 30+ bibs, people! )

Whatever, I put my thoughts about the expo and bib aside, and spent my afternoon enjoying the sights of Chicago with my husband - and my brother in law, who's a local and graciously put up with us all weekend, btw.  Shout out to the BIL and his GF!!

If they read this blog, they'll appreciate the inside joke of that photo. 
Perhaps while drinking tea.

Eventually, our exploring lead to us to downtown Chicago and in the general vicinity of our dinner reservations.  When we got within about 3 blocks of the restaurant, we stumbled upon a ton of stanchions and police... and I started to worry something was seriously wrong.

Instead, something was seriously right.  Mark Walberg walked by!  *Swoon*

Luckily, BIL had his camera and snagged a shot:

I think Mark even saw me in the crowd, I swear he winked at me.  *Ahem*

While it was all very exciting to see Mark, it quickly became quite annoying.  They had several blocks up and down the street stanchioned off and we couldn't even cross the street to get to dinner.  No pedestrian or car traffic allowed!! 

As we wandered the streets looking for a point where we could cross, we saw this and realized they were filming Transformers:

OK, ok - I admit, it was pretty cool to happen upon this, despite the annoyance.

Finally, we made it to our dinner reservation, where I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of bread, roasted corn soup, sweet potato/spinach/fresh herb risotto ... and Sprite.  I know, gross.  I can't even remember the last time I drank Sprite.  But I knew I was way too low on my carbs for the day, having eaten fairly light all morning, so I figured it would be good to have something in my system on race morning...  down the hatch the Sprite went (with dinner and plenty of water as well, of course)!

With a fantastic dinner in my belly, and having seen Mark just prior, I thought it was a good sign for my race.  But of course I could not leave well enough alone, and I started checking the weather report as I lay in bed:

Son of A - !!!  Shoot me now.  90% humidity, seriously?  It's like the Minneapolis Du all over again.  UGH!!!!

With the pending doom of terribly warm weather, and a somewhat tight/achy hip (that I need to see Podium Therapy for again - man, she knows how to stretch me out and make me feel like new), I fell into a restless sleep.  You know the kind - where you wake up every hour in a panic.  Yeah, I felt great for my 5am wakeup call.

Obviously my husband was feeling great, too, because as I suited up and got ready to go, his parting words of advice were "Cookie Monster ran the Chicago Half in 8 minutes, so you should run fast." 

LOL, whuuuut?!  I think he was a little out of it.

Although, now that I see this random Google image...
maybe Cookie Monster would be fast given all the cookie stealing...?

Regardless of my husband's odd pep talk, my cab driver had enough energy to make up for it.  I think he was from Africa, because he spoke with an accent when he cheerily greeted me with a "What are you doing up so early on a Sunday morning?"  I suppose it was a bit odd for a young woman to be catching a cab alone at 5:45 am. 

Of course, I mentioned the race, and he quickly asked if I was doing the 20K or the 5K.  After a short discussion, we determined a 20K was about the same as a 13 mile half marathon, after which he was genuinely impressed and asking questions.  His good nature made for great company on the cluster-f of a drive that was getting to this race.  (BTW, I wonder how many people were late to race start because of the jam up?  At least I got a cab plenty early.)

Eventually, despite the traffic jam, I made it to the park where the race started.  We'll just not talk about the cab driver's creative park job and the associated honking.  Sorry, Chicago.

As I walked into the park, I happened to walk along with a very cute and excited older woman, who chattered away at me.  I learned all sorts of good gossip about previous years races, how getting old sucks and slows your pace down, and how her training consisted of walking home every week day from downtown to the park we were in (apparently she lived nearby).  I didn't get a word in edge wise, but she was cute, so I got a kick out of it.

With the traffic jam and my unexpected walk to get to the start, there was about 5 minutes to spare when my chatterbox friend and I finally arrived.  Although I would have liked one last potty stop, once I saw the line, I was afraid there just wouldn't be time.  Besides, I figured if I really had to go, there would be porta-pots on course (which thankfully, I never had to use).  I crossed my fingers, said goodbye to my new friend, hopped in at the 2:15 pace group, and wished for the best.

After the gun went off, everything became a blur.  I remember at mile 3 feeling pretty great, and also remember still having enough energy to do some stupid poses for photographers around the 7-10 mile marks.

I also had an interesting encounter around mile 5/6, which will be discussed in a future post.  Stay tuned... (hint: there's a reason why my 5th mile was at a faster pace than miles 2-4).

In regards to the running route: although the course seemed exciting when I registered, due to the idea that the city closes down Lakeshore Drive, in actuality the course wasn't that interesting.  We were so far south that we didn't see a whole lot of quintessential Chicago landmarks.  However, I will concede that the first view of the lake after coming out of Jackson Park was pretty breathtaking - especially with the winds, because the waves were rolling in almost as if we were running along an ocean.  Here's a map so you can see where we ran:

While I'm at it, I'll throw in my splits:

Aside from a less than scenic course, there was certainly plenty of activity going on to keep me distracted.  Not only were there tons of people on course, there were also lots of spectator areas with cheer sections, various points on course with music playing, aid stations just about every mile, and tons of funny signs on course.  A few of my favorite read:

"Yeah, I run... when the ice cream truck is doing 60."

"Fast girls have good times."

And, who can forget the young boy with the "Run faster, I just farted." sign?  LOL!

Amazingly, I made it well into mile 11 before I even felt like I needed a break, thanks to my conservative pace and walking the water stops.  Even then, the only brief break I took was to walk up a very small incline (not even worth calling a hill).  Hence the 12 minute pace on my 11th mile.  Other than that, I felt great.  My knees weren't hurting, my hip was OK, and my ankles felt tired but good.

Eventually, I did start to hate life a little around mile 12, but only because it was hot, I was sweating, and I just wanted to be done.  Fortunately, that was when spectators became thick, and I REALLY didn't want to wus out at that point and walk in front of so many people.  It was also about at that time that I realized the 2:20 pace group was about 1/4 mile ahead of me, and my chances of an epic PR were in site, so I decided to just push for it.

My final push to finish backfired for me right before mile 13, though.  I had a brief moment where it felt like my lungs weren't expanding when I took a breath in, and thought I was having a first time ever asthma attack. 

Thinking I was going to die, I began contemplating the meaning of life...

Just kidding, I swore at myself a few times and started breathing like a woman in labor.  After a few seconds of making a general ass of myself, I felt fine.

And just in time, because:

 (Keep in mind I started 10 minutes after the clock started)

Whoop!  Good thing Mark Walberg and I were now fast friends!  He helped pace me to an epic PR finish. 

What??  Don't you see him in the photo?  Sheesh!  Do I have to draw it out for you?!

Ok, ok.  There was no Mark on race day.  Boo.

As soon as my foot hit the mat, I had two things in mind: find my husband/BIL&GF, and get pizza.  You can see what I was focused on first and foremost:

                  Whew!  Glad that's over.                  Do I smell Chicago deep dish pizza? 

While I was searching for the exit, a gold medal was slung around my neck, and I proceeded to be trapped in a heard of people.  (The silver medal was for the 5K racers).

Exiting the chute, I quickly proceeded to teeter on the edge of a full on melt down.  I was exhausted, I was shoulder to shoulder in a sea of 500+ sweaty people, I couldn't figure out where to meet my family, and there was no place to sit down!!  Not kidding - I was soooo close to turning into a temper tantrum throwing 2 year old.  To make matters worse, there were too many people in one place trying to use their cells, so the network was not allowing my phone calls to go through.

While trying to calm myself, I stumbled upon the results tent, where they printed out a receipt with my time.  If I really wanted to be an idiot, I could shell out $20 then and there to have my medal engraved with the info... 

Luckily, I am smart and thus $20 richer today.  However, the free print out was neat:

Finally, I found the VIP tent (which I was put on "the list" for, holla!), and I found my family.  Thank god!

What followed was easily the most delicious piece of pizza I've ever had in my life:

And what happened to my friend, you ask?  I never saw her again, but when I was surfing through the race photos, I found a few of her on course.  I discovered her name was Mariann Zoretic, she was 68, and she finished in an amazing 3:15.  I only hope that when I'm her age, I am this awesome:

And that's the story of how race bib # 35 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... which Facebook promptly reminded me on the shuttle ride home was 40 days away (the Mankato Half).  Ugh, I'm insane!