Catching Up

Been awhile, hasn’t it? I guess technically it’s only been a week, but it feels like awhile. I had a crazy busy and stressful week last week, and since I think we can all agree that it’s silly to contribute to legitimate stress with unnecessary stress (i.e.: putting up a blog post just because “it’s what I always do,”), blogging had to take a back seat to real life last week.

So! Let’s see. What do I have to tell you about?

Blaze has dethroned Potbelly as my favorite fast-food-that-doesn’t-feel-like-fast-food place in Chicago. A couple of weeks ago a friend wanted to get dinner, and since I wanted to go somewhere both easily accessible and cheap, I suggested Blaze.

blaze pizza, blaze pizza chicago

At Blaze, you can either order one of the pizzas they have on their menu, or you can go through the line and build your own pizza (think Subway or Chipotle-style ordering) for the STUPID low price of $7.45. Unlike, oh, just about every pizza place in the world, Blaze doesn’t charge you per ingredient. You want to put exactly one item on your custom pizza? $7.45. You want to put literally every single topping they offer on your pizza? $7.45. (Unless you get the vegan cheese or GF crust, as those cost more). They build the whole thing right there in front of you on freshly made dough, stick it in an oven, and it’s cooked and all yours within three minutes. Insane, right?? AND this isn’t some itty bitty baby pizza. Oh no. I got two meals out of this pizza, which means I essentially paid $3.72 for dinner and dinner a few days later ($4.08 after Chicago tax). Where else are you going to find that kind of awesome deal in Chicago? Right. Freaking nowhere. My red sauce/ham/chicken/black olives/mushroom/pineapple pizza was amazing, in case you were wondering.

After Blaze, my friend and I went to my other favorite right-of-the-Belmont-El-stop location, Forever Yogurt.

lentfrozenyogurt

For the third year in a row, I gave up sweets for Lent, but I tried to not make “giving up sweets” quite as blanket of a statement as I have in years past. Basically, if I would, under normal circumstances, eat fill-in-the-blank as a dessert/treat, I haven’t eaten it since March 4. Under normal circumstances, I fill my frozen yogurt cup with a decadent, definitely-sweet frozen yogurt (or several) and top that with all the candy I can fit in the cup. Exhibit A:

foreveryogurt

(But don’t worry guys: I always put blueberries on there as well, because blueberries are magical and counteract everything else, thus making this a health food. #science)

So when we went to Forever Yogurt a couple weeks ago, I opted for plain frozen yogurt (and a little coconut frozen yogurt) topped with fruit, granola, and coconut. Dessert? Eh, maybe by some people’s standards, but again, I would never do this under normal circumstances, so I felt like it was fair game. And, as it turns out, not bad at all!

Other recent happenings…

bettywho

I saw Betty Who at Lincoln Hall on Saturday! Betty Who is a delightfully poppy, happy, upbeat artist, whose debut single, “Somebody Loves You,” you may know from this video:

I’m normally a huge hater of openers, but I really, really liked Betty Who’s second opener, Zak Waters. Overall a very fun night :) Lincoln Hall has great shows.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I loved how HLB-cliche Sunday’s dinner turned out to be, so I had to take a picture of it.

mexicanquinoa

 

Quinoa? Check. Spinach? Check. Meatless? Check. All it needs is kale, chia seeds, and maybe some greek yogurt, and it would be picture-perfect HLB meal :P (The quinoa, btw, is fabulous, and I definitely recommend it!)

What have you been up to lately?
Best concert you’ve been to? Fall Out Boy is still my #1.

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Chi Town Half Marathon Race Recap

A few months ago, I mentioned that I wanted to PR my half marathon. This has been a goal of mine for quite some time, and as such I intended to put myself in a situation where PR-ing would be almost inevitable. I know, overall, that I’m a faster runner than I was when I ran my first half marathon, but I wanted to set myself up for success, both by training hard and by strategically choosing a race that would likely yield ideal-for-me race conditions (which is to say: cold.).

The Chi Town Half, also known to just about no one but myself (until these past couple of days) as the biggest goal race I’ve had in a long time, turned out to be exactly what I needed it to be.

chitownhalf2

While I was happy to talk in general terms about what I hoped to accomplish at Chi Town (a PR), I kept the specifics to myself until about a week before the race. My primary goal was always to PR, period, but I really wanted to run a 2:05 or faster. Last year, runners with a sub-2:05 half marathon qualified for Corral E at the Chicago Marathon, which was the final corral in Wave One. I know, realistically, that the color of a person’s bib does not determine his or her worth as a runner, but man did I want the chance to wear a red bib. Though I don’t know what the qualifying standards for Wave One will be this year–nor do I know if I’ll even want to run in Wave One–for my own sake, I wanted to prove to myself that I could qualify for Wave One (or at least 2013′s Wave One).

So I trained. I trained hard and I trained intentionally. I did intervals once a week (I hadn’t done any intervals at all in two years). I did a tempo run once a week (I had never done a tempo run in my life). I did my long runs. I stretched, I strength trained (…occasionally), I practiced yoga, and I foam rolled every. single. day. (literally. The last day I didn’t foam roll was December 31, 2013.) But even with all that, 2:05 still didn’t sound realistic. When I would talk about running a 2:05, I always said conditions would have to be absolutely perfect to hit that time, and even then I still didn’t actually believe I could actually run a 2:05. It was my pie-in-the-sky goal. My best long run was at a 9:49 pace, and that was only a seven miler. Ultimately, though, my #1 goal was just to PR, and anything better than a 2:22:34 would get me that PR.

I laid low and carbed up on Friday and Saturday, only leaving my apartment for a hair cut and to pick up my “packet.”

chitownhalf1

Pictured: the entire packet. Honestly, I can’t complain. Who needs all the junk that comes in race bags, anyway? Also, love this race shirt. This is my first tech hoodie, and I think this will be a VERY handy base layer on future cold runs (hood up + hat over hood = improvised balaclava, yes? That’s what I’m telling myself.).

I got to the race site (good ol’ Nature Museum. I do enjoy racing out of there) about 45 minutes before the race began, which gave me plenty of time to check my gear, use the portapotties, warm up, and observe those around me, wondering if I were underdressed for the occasion. Most of the people I saw wore full tights and a long sleeve pullover, while I was rocking crops, a short sleeve shirt, and arm sleeves. I was a bit chilly while we waited for the race to begin, but once we got running I warmed up quickly, and MAN. I don’t know how those people in tights and long sleeves survived. I took my arm sleeves off at mile 6 (woooo first outdoor run in short sleeves of 2014!!), and even then I was still toasty. But I digress.

Late last week, I was talking with a coworker who also would be running the race, and casually said, “I’m never going to break 2 hours.” (I think he thought I meant at Chi Town. I meant…ever. As in, at any point in my life). He, however, was convinced I could break 2:00 (perhaps he didn’t know my current PR was 2:22:34?), and you know how it is once people get those ideas into your head…. He told me, especially in light of my performance at Shamrock, to line up with the 2:00 pace group. I thought that was insane, but decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to find a pace group I could stick with. When I got to the race, however, all the pacers were holding minute/mile signs rather than finishing time signs, so I put myself a bit behind the men holding “9:32,” having absolutely no idea what 9:32 translated to in terms of finishing, and hoped for the best. I wanted to start the race a bit slow so I’d have enough left to give at the end, and 9:32 seemed like a good enough group to have in front of me.

chitownhalf3

The race started right on time and took us out to the Lakefront Trail to head south towards North Ave. (Side note: I’ve heard that last year there were issues with volunteers/course markings. The course could not have been better staffed or more clearly marked this year. A++ to All Community Events — I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Lakefront Trail race so well marked). I hit my first mile in 9:05, which seemed way too fast, so I tried to hold back a bit. Those trusty 9:32 pacers were still in front of me, so I figured as long as I stayed put, I’d be fine.

The course was a bit crowded for the first few miles, what with all of us half marathoners and 10K runners traipsing along the trail together (which undoubtedly thrilled everyone else on the trail Sunday morning), but again, I was trying to hold back, so this was fine by me. We continued on our merry way back into Lincoln Park, where I generally just kept hangin’ in there behind that 9:32 group. After taking the first three miles to settle into the pace, those pacers were spot on. 9:26, 9:33, 9:30 — I’ve never run a race so evenly in my life.

After we headed under Fullerton, someone approached one of the 9:32 pacers, who had ended up a little closer to me after a water station and asked the pacer what time we’d finish in. He said:

“2:05.”

Huh. Well then.

So as it turns out, I had, entirely unintentionally, found myself running with a pace group that was not only going to get me a PR, but was going to get me my ultimate goal time. I’ve never really run a race with a pace group before, so I guess my opinion may not count for much, but GOOD HEAVENS. I cannot say enough about these pacers. They were consistent, they gave us course info on the run (“Take water here: we don’t have another water station for another 1.5 miles!”), they watched out for us (“Huge pothole coming up!” “Muddy trail!”). They were perfect. I mean, seriously. Check out these stats:

Screen shot 2014-04-06 at 6.27.00 PM

Unbelievable.

We ran all the way up to Foster, and once we turned south were greeted by a lovely headwind. Not necessarily the ideal conditions for the last fourish miles of a half marathon, but it wasn’t the worst wind I’ve ever run into. I spent most of this time trying to figure out when I wanted to really kick it in and attempt to ditch my pace group (I had not, mind you, been running with them, per se, for this race. Though they kept me on pace, I was generally about 20-30 feet behind the pacers and the group of runners immediately surrounding them). With the headwind, I figured I’d wait until the last mile or so and see how I felt before attempting anything.

And then, out of absolutely nowhere, at about mile 10.5 I found myself passing the 9:32 pace group, and I never saw them again.

Never once in my running life have I gotten a second wind, but BOY OH BOY did I get a second wind on Sunday. I didn’t want to freak myself out, so I told myself I couldn’t look at my watch. Buttttt then when I hit mile 11, I couldn’t help myself. 9:13. All right. Better than I had been doing, so, for the love of God, Bethany, do not look at your watch anymore! Don’t think about it! Buttttt then when I hit mile 12, I couldn’t help myself. 9:06. Who am I?? Where was this coming from??

I snuck another peek at my Garmin just beyond the 12 mile mark and saw I was at 1:52. Running a sub-8:00 mile for the last 1.1 seemed a bit out of the question, so I knew I couldn’t be hitting sub-2:00, which, honestly, was totally fine. I had NO intentions of actually running that fast, regardless of what my coworker thought I could do. But being beyond mile 12 at 1:52 did mean a 2:05 seemed completely reasonable. My legs were killing me, my feet hurt, I was sweaty and tired, but doggone it, I did NOT run intervals into the wind, I did NOT suffer through treadmill hills, and I did NOT bundle up for long runs in sub-zero wind chills to quit with 1.1 miles left. I stepped up my game as we headed back onto the limestone trail and knocked out an 8:53 (which included seeing my coworker, who was happy to  yell at me, “Come on! You can do better than that!”) and a 7:41-pace last .08 miles (by my Garmin; .1, officially), for an overall official finishing time of:

2:02:50.

I was exhausted, but I crossed that finish line with an enormous smile on my face. I took almost 20 full minutes off my previous PR (19:44, technically). I not only PRed, but I destroyed the time I realistically expected to run (2:10-2:15) and smashed the goal I never, ever, EVER really dreamed I would hit (2:05).

chitownhalf4

Hard work pays off.

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Thursday Things

1. I need advice. I’m a running hoarder, and as such never throw away race-related things. Shirts, medals, bibs, safety pins: I keep it all.

racepins

You thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

Anyway, while my safety pin collection is doing just fine, and I still have plenty of room to display my medals, the bib situation is getting a little out of control.

racebibs

I think the B-Tags are primarily to blame, since they add extra bulk to the bibs. It’s getting to the point where my bibs (clearly) don’t come close to lying flat against my corkboard anymore, and I’m concerned that sooner rather than later, I’m not going to be able to pin more bibs onto my collection. Since I’m currently registered for six more races in 2014, this is a problem. I’m not about to throw them away, but I’m in the market for a new, creative, and cheap (ideally, free) way to display the numbers I paid so much money to wear. Any ideas?

2. Our bag of post-run food at the Shuffle included belVita Breakfast Biscuits. While these were all the rage around Blogland awhile ago, I had never had one before (and have yet to eat the one that came in my bag, but never fear: I’ll get around to it ;) ). I was looking at the packaging, however, and thought this was strange:

belvita

Natural flavor with other natural flavor? What does that even mean?

3. So I’m running a half marathon this weekend, and in hilariously predictable fashion, I am starting to FREAK. OUT. over every itty bitty thing that could possibly point to inevitable race day failure. Minor lingering soreness in my right quad on Monday and Tuesday? DISASTER. Slightly twingey left Achilles tendon after dance? HORRIFYING. A small tickle, perhaps scratchiness, in the back of my throat on Wednesday? DOOM. Hahaha. Everything is a crisis when I have a goal race. I’m such a joy to be around this week :P

Do you keep souvenirs (bibs, medals, etc.) from races? What do you do with them?
How do you stay sane when you have an upcoming race? I’m all ears…

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