Thursday Things

1. This past weekend, Brooklyn Boulders, a climbing gym/workspace in the West Loop, celebrated its grand opening with free climbing. As I think I established quite firmly during my month of ClassPass, I am ALL about insane deals. I also love climbing (though I rarely have the opportunity to go), so naturally I had to check this place out.

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HOLY SMOKES YOU GUYS. Granted, my climbing experience is limited to a relatively small facility in my hometown, a wall in Winter Park, Colorado, and the summer camp where I worked during college, so maybe I don’t have a lot to go off, but this place was mind boggling.

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Do you see how little people look against those walls? I have never before seen a climbing gym–or, you know, facility in general–as impressive as Brooklyn Boulders. That photo only shows like half of the climbing walls, by the way.

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I only bouldered while I was there, which was actually totally new to me but was a surprisingly enjoyable experience (until that night, when my forearms were so sore I couldn’t sleep haha). They have two different bouldering walls with approximately one bajillion different routes, so there’s really something for everyone. And then in case all of that wasn’t enough, Brooklyn Boulders also has studio space for things like yoga classes, regular gym equipment, and workspace for those who don’t have to go to an office every day. Tragically, this is another one of those if-I-win-the-lottery sort of situations for me, because it ain’t cheap to climb there by any means, but it was a lot of fun to be there on Saturday to see and experience the facility!

2. Can we get some snow up in this joint? I’m having an extremely difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that Christmas is in ONE WEEK, and I blame that on the lack of snow. I’m not requesting a Polar Vortex or anything — just a nice three to five inches will suffice. What we have right now is Ugly Winter, and I don’t like Ugly Winter. Ugly Winter belongs in March and nowhere else. Or, if we can’t have snow, can we at least have some sunshine? I’d be down for that as a backup plan. I’m done with this oppressive greyness, and folks, that is a BAD place to be in freaking mid-December when we’re staring down like three more guaranteed months of this.

3. Even though I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas, the fact is it is almost Christmas. I don’t plan on being around Blogland a whole lot next week, so in case I don’t pop in at all between now and then, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas :)

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Do you like climbing?
Do you think you’ll have a white Christmas? AccuWeather gives me a 25-50% chance, which does not seem very promising :/

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Jingle Bell 5K Recap

Once upon a year ago, I spent two months in physical therapy after the Chicago Marathon with one goal: rehabbing my hip strain to the point where I could defend my third place age group title at the Jingle Bell 5K. An ill-timed snowstorm thwarted that dream, and ever since then, I’ve had my age group hopes and dreams pinned on the 2014 Jingle Bell 5K.

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I opted to pick up my packet before race day this year, which proved to be a wise decision.

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Yikes. I don’t remember the setup inside the Nature Museum being nearly this…crowded…last year, and I hope in the future, they’ll move day-of packet pickup somewhere else, since this (right by the entrance to gear check) was stressful, and I didn’t even need to pick up my packet.

Because I wanted to do quite well at this race, I spent a fair amount of time warming up. I even did a few strides, which I had never done before (since, as we all know, the best time to try something new is immediately before a race you care about :P). They didn’t have any pacing signs in the start corral, so I lined up near the very front and hoped for the best.

Per usual, my grand plans to hold back at the beginning and gradually increase my pace over time immediately went out the window once the race began. Someday I’ll develop self-control. My Garmin, which I could have SWORN was all set and ready to go, never started, so I don’t know my actual splits. I passed the one mile mark somewhere around a clock time of 8:08, though.

My one and only priority for this race was placing in my age group, so the only competitors I really cared about were women who appeared to be between the ages of 20 and 24. As we approached the turnaround, however, I realized I didn’t see that many women, period, heading back towards the start line. I didn’t count them, but there were so few that I figured I may have a decent shot at cracking the top 10.

I ran an 8:01/8:02ish second mile and pretty much felt like dying, but hung on as best I could to the finish. Jingle Bell has both a 5K and a 10K, and right around the 6 mile sign for the 10K (so .2 miles left in the race total), I just about caught up with a girl in front of me. I really did not feel like I had much more to give, but I worried that beating her could be the difference between 10th and 11th place, so I forced myself to run as hard as I could and passed her (though not in nearly as dramatic fashion as the girl I passed at the Santa Hustle last week :P ).

I finished in 25:12 for an overall 8:07 pace. Since I ran the Santa Hustle in 25:10, I think I have a pretty solid idea of where my 5K fitness is at the moment haha. A small part of me is frustrated that that’s the best I can do at the moment, since I ran a 24:17 earlier this year, but I need to remember that I have now only run six times since the marathon, and when I ran that 24:17 in April, I had been training hard, including weekly tempo runs and intervals, since January 1. It’s probably not at all fair to compare the two situations.

I heard my name as I crossed the finish line (!!), and as I panted my way through the finish area, an older gentleman came up to me and said, “I tried to catch you, but I just couldn’t do it!” I’ve never felt so legit in my life! Haha. I assured him I wouldn’t have minded if he passed me, because I was really only concerned with my age group, and as it happens, he was only concerned with his, too, and wanted to know if I had seen any other 60-year-old men ahead of me :P

I was pretty sure I had at least placed in my age group, so I headed back into the Nature Museum after the race, where they were printing out receipts with your results, to make sure. And sure enough…

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:D :D :D :D :D

While I was quite excited about my second place finish in my age group, I was absolutely OVER. THE. MOON. about finishing in the top 10 women. I’ve managed to squeak out an oddball age group placement every now and again, but I’ve never finished in the top 10. I…may or may not have almost cried. Haha. (But only almost!)

(And for those concerned: the man who couldn’t catch me found me at the awards ceremony and was happy to report that he got third in his age group. Happiness all around!)

The funny thing about all of this is that I had every intention of never running Jingle Bell again after this year. The 25-29 age group is always so much more competitive than 20-24, and I really only run this race for the chance of nabbing an age group place. Well. This year, not a single 25-29 year old woman even made the top 10. Soo…guess it looks like I’ll be back at Jingle Bell again next year ;)

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Thursday Things

1. Last week, a bunch of family members came to town, so I took Tuesday off work and had the most delightful Chicago Christmas day EVER.

We started at Macy’s and went in hard with the Marshall Field’s nostalgia with lunch in the Walnut Room.

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I had never had lunch in the Walnut Room before, and oh MAN, you guys. I was just over the moon, can’t-wipe-this-smile-off-my-face giddy over the whole situation. I, of course, had to get the classic chicken pot pie, and we all split part of the Frango mint ice cream pie (and cheesecake with blueberries) for dessert. It was all delicious and wonderful, but the best part was that they had fairy princesses walking around granting wishes. It was like Disney World, except in downtown Chicago. I assumed these fairy princesses would only approach little kids, but OH NO. They came up to my table, and my family was more than happy to let them know that I wanted my wish granted, so she sprinkled me with fairy dust and my life should be turning into a land of permanent sunshine and rainbows and unicorns any day now, I imagine, because HELLO. A FAIRY PRINCESS sprinkled me with FAIRY DUST. That ish is bound to come true.

(I swear I’m 24.)

We also ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the tree in the Walnut Room for awhile, because it was gorgeous.

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(Please note the fairy princess in the lower right hand corner.)

After spending a ton of time at Macy’s, we all walked over to Christkindlmarket, which is oh-so easy to navigate at like 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. We were all still super full from lunch, so no mulled wine or bratwurst consumption occurred, but it was still fun to wander around.

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With then trekked up to Crate and Barrel, per tradition, where my mom told me she’d buy me something, because my mom is the best. Personally, I really wanted a tipsy penguin cocktail glass, because it may or may not be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Though you can’t quite tell here, the glass first features a penguin mixing a drink, then progresses to the penguin sipping on its drink, then moves to the penguin seeming to really enjoy its drink, and it concludes with the penguin with a lampshade on its head. Bahahahaha. (Crate and Barrel, in case you’re wondering, also had a variety of other penguin-themed New Year’s decorations, because Crate and Barrel is THE BEST.)

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Tragically, my mother did not want to give off the impression that she condones drunken sea birds, so she refused to buy me one of the glasses. Instead, to counteract the near-nudity of my apartment’s Christmas tree and to cater to my penguin inclinations, she bought me an ornament instead.

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Eep!

2. A few weeks back, I was at Whole Foods for work (I promise it’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds), and I needed to grab some dinner. Because I didn’t plan to eat my dinner immediately, I opted to “hack” Whole Foods, if you will, avoiding the hot and salad bars and instead picking up a bagel from the bakery, a cheese stick from the dairy section, and a small handful of dark chocolate covered almonds from the bulk food area. (Arguably not the healthiest meal ever, but I needed something portable and fast.) My grand total for this and a Luna bar for an afternoon snack came to $4.03, which was easily the smallest bill I’ve ever had at Whole Foods. I bragged about this success to my coworkers as I put on my coat–my long, down coat–and, in my bliss, caught my coat on an edge of a table, tearing a hole in it.

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DISASTER. After frantically Googling “How to fix a rip in a down coat” on my way out of Whole Foods, I learned that you can’t really stitch up a hole in the fabric, because it’s too thin, so it’s best to repair it either with Seam Grip if the rip is small (which mine wasn’t) or with repair tape. Apparently they sell these things at REI, so I promptly headed there, dropped a little more than $5 on repair tape, and now have a fixed–though not prettily–coat.

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Moral of the story? Whole Foods will always make you spend more money than you intended, even if it has to go out of its way by ripping your jacket in punishment to do so.

3. Remember how I talked about kicking it at the very end to beat that girl who seemed intent on beating me at the Santa Hustle last Saturday? WELL. They had photographers at the race, including at the finish line, and my finish line photos are PRICELESS. This girl is giving me the most serious side-eye of my life, and it’s hilarious. She looks so annoyed with me, while I look so smug. Bahaha :P

Being the creep that I am, I obviously had to look up her race results, now that I know her bib number. As it turns out she not only wasn’t in my age group (she’s in the age group above mine), but she also actually ended up beating me by seven seconds, since this was a chip-timed race, and therefore the order in which you cross the finish line makes no difference in the overall results. I guess this way we both win: she gets the satisfaction of knowing she technically beat me, and I got the temporary satisfaction of passing her.

What fun things does your town do for Christmas?
What’s your favorite ornament? Last year my grandma gave me one with my Chicago Marathon finishing time written on it, and I think that’s my #1. The penguin gives it a good run for its money, though…

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