Thursday Things

1. It’s Chicago Flower and Garden Show time!

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Hooray!

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I went to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show with my mom for the first time last year and really enjoyed it. She wasn’t able to come along this year, but that didn’t stop me from visiting.

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I particularly liked the tulip and hyacinth displays, just like last year, but my FAR and away favorite part of the show this year was the brand new butterfly garden!

The garden–which was more of a mesh tent surrounded by tables than a garden, at least compared to the other gardens at the show–gave out free seeds for plants that attract butterflies and had monarchs emerging from chrysalises. But the best part in my opinion was inside the mesh tent itself, where for $2, you could walk in with a foam paintbrush dipped in orange Powerade (a butterfly’s flavor of choice, I learned, since they enjoy citrus) and feed the butterflies!

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These are painted ladies. There was a monarch in the tent, but it was tired and didn’t want to socialize, so it hung out with the (human) lady associated with the group that organized that particular garden.

I eventually coaxed the butterflies off the paintbrush and onto my finger, which you’ll have to imagine, since my hand was obviously too occupied for me to use it to take pictures. HOWEVER. The #1 highlight of my time in the butterfly tent, without question, was when I was just standing around minding my own business, feeding the butterflies on my paintbrush, when another butterfly, apropos of absolutely nothing (other than the fact that I was standing there) landed on my FACE. On my EYEBROW, to be specific. As you may or may not recall, this is the second time in two years a butterfly has landed on me without being bribed with Powerade or other sweet treats to do so, which further confirms my suspicion that I am a fairy princess.

The Chicago Flower and Garden Show runs through this weekend, and if you’re at all interested in flowers, I definitely recommend going. It’s not terribly expensive, and the displays are so pretty. It always gets me pumped for gardening later on in the year!

2. I finally, finally made it to the Museum of Science and Industry this weekend (well, Monday, technically, but I took PTO on Monday, so it was still the weekend as far as I was concerned ๐Ÿ˜› ). I last visited MSI during the summer of 2002, so while some things have stayed the same (like the train by where you buy tickets), a LOT has changed from what I remember seeing on my last visit.

One of the special exhibits right now is Brick by Brick, which features recreations of architectural wonders (the Golden Gate Bridge, Fallingwater, a variety of skyscrapers and Cinderella’s Castle among them) built using Legos. I’ve thought gigantic Lego creations were pretty cool since the first time I visited a Lego store–which, now that I think about it, was probably right around the same time as my last trip to MSI–and I’ve thought architecture was pretty cool since, like, ever, so I was really fascinated by this exhibit.

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Right outside Brick by Brick is a huge model train set that travels from Chicago to Seattle–it’s like it was built with me in mind! Travel by rail, Chicago, Seattle: all of my favorite things. I liked the model of Chicago, but I did find it a little strange that the model isn’t accurate (like putting the Daily News Building and Union Station immediately across the street from each other, when in fact Ogilvie and the Daily News Building are immediately across the street from each other, or putting El tracks next to the Sears (Willis) Tower, when in fact the El is a block away). But regardless, it was still pretty cool.

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I have no recollection of ever seeing the genetics exhibit before, but I knew they had baby chicks there, and those were probably my favorite part of the whole museum. They were SO CUTE! So fluffy! So tiny! So perfect! I loved it.

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3. And, while we’re on the topic of “Things I Had Not Done/Experienced in Chicago,” I had a particularly bizarre experience last Tuesday that seems like something that could really only happen here.

As you may or may not know/recall, last Tuesday, Chicago got slammed with lake effect snow. It was cold. It was gross. It was lame. But, fortunately, it was also before March 31, which meant the heat lamps were still on on CTA platforms. On my way home from dance, I huddled under one and noticed a pigeon to my right had the same idea.

pigeon

It always amuses me when I see pigeons under heat lamps. Obviously they’re cold just like the rest of us, and even though they’re dirty, flying rats, etc., I think seeing them react to the cold just like people react to the cold “humanizes” them a bit, if you will. So, entertained by this annoyed pigeon, I opened the camera on my phone and took a picture of him. I continued reading whatever article I had pulled up, and noticed the pigeon had decided he was no longer happy where he stood. He took flight, headed in my direction, and flew right into my backpack!

NEVER in 26 and a half years of existence, have I EVER had a bird FLY INTO ME. In fact, I presumed this was a thing that COULD NOT happen, at least to birds that have the ability to fly, given that they have 1) eyes 2) wings and 3) the ability to change direction quickly, should something get in its way. I have had played many a game of Chicken with pigeons before, daring them to stay in my way as I continued moving straight forward, and I have ALWAYS won. In fact, I didn’t even consider the possibility that I could lose. I have a clear size advantage, and figured that’d always be enough to push me over the edge.

Apparently not.

Have you ever visited the Museum of Science and Industry?
Do you garden?

A Good Night’s Sleep

For as long as I can remember, I have been extremely protective of my sleep. I never pulled an all-nighter in school, and to this day I try to make a point of going to bed on time. I do this both for my own sake and for the sake of others. When I don’t get enough sleep, especially when I don’t get enough sleep over consecutive nights, not only do I have a hard time focusing and staying motivated, but I also get extremely cranky. The speed at which my internal Patience-o-Meter goes from “Understanding and Forgiving” to “DO NOT CROSS ME” is directly related to how much I slept the night before, and if I’m tired, it’s bad news for everyone involved. On top of all of that, I’m also significantly more prone to anxious moments when I’m not well-rested, particularly to ruminating to the point of nearly giving myself a panic attack. If all of those things aren’t enough reasons to make an effort to get enough sleep, I don’t know what would be.

Except, perhaps, for the added benefits a good night of sleep has on athletic performance as well.

At the beginning of marathon season each year, my group leaders ask those of us who’ve run marathons before to share some advice with those training for their first go at 26.2. When it’s my turn to share, I like to tell the newbies–and, let’s be honest, remind myself–that marathon training is not just an 18-week exercise program. It’s a lifestyle program. If you want to have a good race, you need to live your life throughout training in a way that will maximize your chances for success on race day. You need to do your workouts, or modify them if you’re hurting, you need to eat healthfully to give your body fuel for the run and the nutrients it needs to repair afterwards, you need to wear good shoes when you’re on your feet, and you need to make sure you get enough sleep, particularly as your mileage gets higher. I’m an especially big advocate for getting as much sleep as possible during taper and the week leading up to race day. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise last year found that several nights of good sleep in a row can help diminish the effects of a bad night of sleep the night before a race, in fact. I’ve had plenty of pre-race restless nights over the years, so I, for one, find it really comforting to know that the sleep I get the week before can help make up for the sleep I miss the night before!

Training for fall marathons in particular can lead to some sleep challenges. Training for those marathons takes place during the summer, when we get the most daylight. I don’t know about you, but I find it nearly impossible to sleep when the sun is up (and, conversely, to get up when the sun is down). Even though I have blinds on my windows, as soon as light starts filtering through, I’m up for the day. While this is nice if I planned to run in the morning, it can also be a big hassle when trying to go to bed early enough to accommodate an even earlier alarm.

During marathon season, I usually try to call it a night around 8:30 when I have a long run the following morning. In June and July especially, this can be really tricky. Daylight lasts beyond 8:00 during those months, and, if you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, you may recall that my neighbors view all summer weekend nights as permission to play their music as loud as possible, regardless of when the sun sets. On top of all of that it is, obviously, a lot warmer both in my house and outside during the summer than during the winter, which can make sleep even harder to come by. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few ways to handle these obstacles to make it easier to get shut-eye before a long run:

Use a noise-cancelling app
There are a variety of noise-cancelling apps that you can download for free on the App Store. I personally use Sleep Pillow. These apps allow you to choose from a variety of sounds that you may find calming–I’m a big fan of rain sounds–to help drown out the drunken antics of your middle aged neighbors (or just to lull you to sleep, if you don’t live in my house ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

Maintain a comfortable temperature
I don’t like to pay an arm and a leg for electricity any more than the next guy, and I try to keep the air conditioning off in my house as much as possible. However, there are times where the higher bill is worth it, and nights during marathon season are one of those times. Blackout blinds can help keep the bedroom insulated all year round, but if you constantly suffer from night time overheating, you may want to consider investing in
breathable sheets or a cooling mattress. I have a difficult time sleeping without something covering me, so I like to keep the house cool enough that I won’t wake up drenched in sweat if I’m still burrowed under my blankets.ย I have a difficult time sleeping without something covering me, so I like to keep the house cool enough that I won’t wake up drenched in sweat if I’m still burrowed under my blankets. Speaking of blankets…

Create a cocoon
Hygge is the coolest trend these days, it seems, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been practicing this in my sleeping habits well before it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. I get my best sleep when I’m as cozy as possible. Cool temperatures help make this comfortable, but I’ve found that what I sleep on also makes a difference. I sleep with two pillows under my head, one pushed up against the wall for extra burrow-ability, and have a mattress pad on top of my mattress for added softness. If youโ€™ve never used them, or havenโ€™t replaced yours in over 5 years, youโ€™d be amazed by what a difference a decent topper and great pillow can make to your quality of sleep. I like to cozy up with the stuffed doll I’ve had since I was two (#noshame), and usually within a few moments, I’m drifting off to Dreamland.

Everyone has their own preferences for creating the perfect sleep environment, but regardless of what makes you most comfortable, getting enough sleep can make a big difference in your day. Interested in learning more? Casper created this helpful infographic with lots of great stats about the benefits of getting enough sleep, particularly for athletes.

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How much sleep do you get each night? I usually average in the low 7:00 range, somewhere between 7:15-7:30, according to my Fitbit weekly stats.
What do you do to help yourself get a good night of sleep?

Thursday Things

1. While actual St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, Chicago St. Patrick’s Day–the real St. Patrick’s Day, for all intents and purposes, if you live in the city–took place last Saturday. In past years, my MO has been to avoid downtown at all costs on Chicago St. Patrick’s Day, because the stress of Drunk CTA and Tourist Downtown just is not worth it. This year, however, some friends wanted to fully participate in the festivities, and since I’ve really never done anything for St. Patrick’s Day other than complain about it, I figured I’d go along for the ride.

We “went” to the parade, by which I mean we showed up at 12:45 or so and caught the last couple of entries. It was my first time seeing the parade in any capacity, and what surprised me most of all was how many people were simply milling around in Grant Park, not even attempting to watch the parade. Like, why? Since when do people hang out in Grant Park? And why would you on St. Patrick’s Day, when the place is crawling with police just waiting to catch you with an open container? So many questions.

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After the parade, we headed north to see the river. When I did my internship in Chicago a lifetime six (*sobs*) years ago, one of my roommates and I went to see the river some time in the afternoon, and I remember being shocked to see how green it actually was. That feeling was magnified substantially this year, when I saw the river only a few hours after it had been dyed from Michigan Ave. on a sunny day (as opposed to 2011, when I saw it from…Wabash, maybe? Or State Street? on a cloudy day long after it had been dyed).

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So green! So pretty!

We tried to go to a couple bars downtown, but that, unsurprisingly, was an exercise in futility, so eventually we headed away from the center of the action to where you could walk into bars and get seats and not be surrounded by drunk madness. Given that I had taken my last (!!!) antibiotic pill that morning and still didn’t feel confident about my stomach’s stability, I refrained from drinking at all – though that’s hardly a change from my normal life, I suppose.

I didn’t hate the whole experience nearly as much as I feared I would, which was a nice surprise. I suppose when you participate in the madness, rather than trying to live your life around the madness, it’s substantially less frustrating and annoying.

2. March Madness starts today! Yay! I love filling out brackets and following along with the tournament, so I’m really excited for the next few weeks. I do, however, feel an undue amount of pressure to perform well, given that last year I correctly predicted the freaking national champion.

Ah, memories.

I fill out multiple brackets every year because I find the tournament more fun when I’ve got my eggs spread out across several baskets. That way, one upset hurts a lot less than it would otherwise. Of course, I’m only allowed to enter one bracket in my family pool, which is the one that I care about the most (this year, at least). However, I’m allowed to enter multiple brackets into other groups on ESPN, which I found particularly delightful when I discovered that Nick Viall–he of Bachelor(ette) (in Paradise) fame–has one of the celebrity groups on ESPN! God bless Disney for owning both ABC and ESPN. Not only did that mean that I could play Fantasy Bachelor on ESPN this year, which was an absolute delight (except for the many times I’d forget to fill out my weekly answers. That game was a commitment, let me tell you!), but it also means I now have the opportunity to CRUSH NICK in March Madness. Or at least that’s the goal.

Speaking of March Madness, I have been shockingly invested in my high school’s boys’ basketball team this month. In Michigan, the boys’ basketball tournament has three rounds: districts, regionals, and quarter/semi/finals. Growing up, it was a given that my high school would win districts. We won our district every single year from at least 1999-2008, possibly longer (I can’t find 1998 stats online). That was third grade through my senior year. Needless to say, I assumed districts were just a thing that always happened, a small hump to overcome before getting onto the real tournament and seeing how far we’d go once the games actually started. I went to the district finals in 2009, even though I was in college at that point (though possibly on spring break?). We lost that year, which was definitely a shock. After that game, though, I stopped paying attention entirely. It’s been nine years since I was in high school, and my school has gone through a lot of changes in those nine years (like enrollment falling by nearly 50%, for one thing), and since I neither live in Michigan nor am in high school anymore, I just didn’t care anymore.

Late last week, though, my mom texted me to tell me that the boys’ basketball team had beat our #1 rival in district semifinals, after losing to them twice in the regular season. Then, she texted me the following day to let me know they had won their district, and that they’d be playing our #2 rival (who had won their district by a horrendously lopsided score…80something-20something) in regional semifinals this week. I figured that’d be the end of it, but lo and behold, they pulled it off and won in overtime! What I didn’t realize, though, was just how big of a deal this is. Apparently, my high school hasn’t made it past districts since my senior year. After winning that round for nine years straight, they they went on a nine year losing streak, snapped just a few days ago. I never really thought I’d care about high school sports, particularly after moving to Chicago, but man, I am so caught up in all the excitement! I really hope the team keeps going. They weren’t expected to make any sort of run at all, so this is a wonderful surprise ๐Ÿ™‚

3. A non-wonderful surprise, however, has been all this snow we’ve gotten lately ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I know I really don’t have a right to complain. It was nothing short of miraculous to make it three months and 13 days into 2017 without an inch of accumulation, and probably should be wildly concerning from a climate change and global warming standpoint. BUT. It made running outside so much easier! I won’t lie, I was a bit concerned about trying to train for a spring half marathon, knowing half the training cycle would take place prior to Daylight Savings Time AND in January/February, when the chances for dark nights and icy sidewalks were sky high. I really figured I’d be in the clear once we sprung forward ๐Ÿ˜ฆ How you betray me, atmosphere!! Why must you be so cruel??

In other running news, I have all but scrapped my hopes and dreams of breaking 2:00 at my half in six weeks. I missed as many workouts as I completed during the last two weeks, and I haven’t done a lick of speed work in a month. Unsurprisingly, my sub-10:00 miles have all but disappeared, leading me to think that running a 9:00 half marathon, when I have never once in six years of running ran substantially faster at a half marathon (or marathon) than the paces I hit during my training runs, is a pipe dream at best. Maybe a miracle will happen, but I’m not really holding my breath.

Do you fill out brackets for March Madness?
What are you/did you do for St. Patrick’s Day?

Thursday Things

1. I think I’ve spent more time in doctors’ offices over the past two weeks than ever before in my life.

It all started not this past Saturday, but the Saturday before that (Feb. 25), with swollen lymph nodes in my neck and tonsils that looked more like what you’d hope to find at your local butcher if you planned to serve guests you wanted to impress steak rather than, you know, boring ol’ tonsils. After experiencing no improvement on Sunday and feeling generally miserable on Monday, I went off to my doctor, who told me I probably had strep, wrote me a prescription for azithromycin (#penicillinallergyproblems), and sent me on my way. Within 24 hours of taking my first two doses of azithromycin, I was good as new, with lymph nodes that didn’t hurt anymore and tonsils that once again looked like tonsils. Being the good patient that I am, I continued to take the rest of my prescribed therapy of azithromycin, because if there’s anything you shouldn’t do with antibiotics, other than taking them for a viral infection, it’s stopping taking them as soon as you feel better rather than finishing out your full course of the medication. I took my last dose on Friday, and looked forward to moving on with my life.

When I woke up Friday morning, I had, what we’re going to call for simplicity’s sake, a cyst on my inner thigh. Now, this is nothing new for me. I’ve had cysts on and off in that area since I started the very first stage of puberty. I’d get a cyst, it’d make me miserable for a few weeks, it would, eventually, somehow, stop existing (either by taking care of itself all on its own or with some help from my obviously medically trained, definitely sanitary preteen hands) and I would continue living, usually forgetting that this was something I experienced until it’d flare up again. This continued through middle school and high school, tapering off in college, and the last time I remembered it happening was during my last summer as a camp counselor, which was 2011. I had a minor flare-up or two over this past summer, but nothing at all like what I woke up with on Friday.

I was annoyed at this turn of events, but figured it’d be like every other time where I’d simply grin and bear it for a few weeks before it took care of itself. when I got ready for bed that night, though, I noticed that the area around the cyst (not the cyst itself) had started swelling. That sent me into a spiral of panic over two things: 1) What was wrong with me? and 2) What would this mean for my planned eight mile run the following morning? (Priorities, people).

On Saturday morning, I thought my swelling might have maybe gone down, so off I went to run eight miles along the lake, as one does when they think they worry they might have an infection in their leg. I returned home, and, during my shower, noticed that my swelling had gone from being perhaps the size of a credit card to being the size of my entire hand. Now in a full-blown state of anxiety, I rushed off to urgent care, where I met a friendly PA who told me that she couldn’t do anything about the cyst at the moment since it wasn’t fluctuant (a sebaceous cyst needs to morph from being hard to soft before you can drain it), but also told me it was infected. She gave me a prescription for clindamycin, which prompted the still-continuing saga of If You Give a Hypochondriac a Powerful Antibiotic That Comes With Warnings About Making You More Susceptible to GI Diseases That Can Kill You, with instructions to take it three times per day for the next week at eight hour intervals, and told me to talk to my regular doctor about getting the cyst removed.

PRO TIP: If a doctor gives you medication you need to take at eight hour intervals, start taking it at 6 a.m., 2 p.m., or 10 p.m., or somewhere in those hours. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, take your first dose at 4:30 p.m., because then you will be stuck getting up at 12:30 a.m. every. single. morning, and you will hate your life and the circumstances that brought you to that point. The only way you can avoid midnight (or mid-night) doses is to start at 6 a.m., 2 p.m., or 10 p.m., so DO THAT. Do not be like me!

Though none-too-pleased about facing ANOTHER week of antibiotics and the prospect of cyst removal, I emailed my regular doctor on Sunday night, and Monday morning made an appointment with the surgeon she recommended. I went to see the surgeon on Tuesday, but which point I was nearly beside myself with anxiety for two reasons: 1) my swelling hadn’t gotten worse since Saturday, but hadn’t subsided either, despite taking the antibiotics and 2) I had, absolutely, totally, and completely convinced myself I was going to die at the hands of clindamycin. I first saw a resident, who eventually returned with the surgeon I with whom I had made my appointment.

(Unrelated side note: I have a friend who’s doing her medical residency right now, so having a resident come in freaked me out not from a “he’s not a real doctor!” standpoint, because I’m perfectly confident in his capabilities and education, but rather from a, “Oh my gosh, I bet this guy is relatively close to my age,” standpoint.)

To my INCREDIBLE surprise, the surgeon did not think I have a cyst after all, or at least not the sebaceous cyst everyone up to that point had told me I had. Rather, he had three possible explanations: hidradenitis, an ingrown hair, or MRSA (which, apparently, you can carry around asymptomatically for years. Who knew!). However, he really needed a culture to find out what exactly was going on, and since my cyst was not, ahem, “relieving itself,” as it were, there was nothing available to culture. So, instead of walking out of the doctor’s office with stitches like I expected, I left with instructions to return the next time it flared up and to go about my life as normal in the mean time.

Because I have finally gotten to the point in my life where I’ve realized it’s maybe better to tell doctors I have crippling health anxiety rather than pretend I’m fine, I asked him about the continuing swelling (edema, possibly from a lymph node that my cyst-or-whatever-it-is could’ve blocked from draining), and whether or not I could quit taking my clindamycin because I was terrified I was going to get the bacterial infection it makes you more susceptible to and die (“No, you need to take the full course, and you’re not going to get it and die.” LIKELY STORY.)

So, in the past two weeks, I have seen three different doctors at three different practices, visited two different pharmacies, taken one day off work, and missed/altered three of four scheduled runs and three of three cross training workouts. Yay. I would very much like to not get sick for the rest of the year/my life, please and thank you.

On the bright side, I imagine I’ll be pretty darn close to hitting my deductible on my health insurance by the time my bill for the surgeon and my bill for my appointment with my regular doctor come through, which means I’ll have nearly nine months of free health care! Hooray!

2. I made it all of six days into Lent before breaking my sweets fast. Oops.

I usually give up sweets for Lent, and this year was no different. I had my fill of chocolate, etc. last Tuesday, and then said sayonara to sugar until Easter. Then this past Tuesday, my boss bought me this as a, “Yay, you’re not dead!” gift:

dessert

and there went my fast.

Here’s what I figure: the main benefit I get from practicing Lenten disciplines, whatever they are, is an awareness of the fact that it is Lent. Knowing that it’s Lent helps me prepare for Easter, and I think, ultimately, that’s the point of a Lenten discipline in the first place: to interrupt your normal day-to-day life to turn your attention to the liturgical season, as opposed to blowing through it until one Sunday you show up in church and there are palm branches all over the place, and you think, “Oh, guess Easter must be next week.” I don’t think I earn any points of favor with God for giving up something for Lent, and I don’t think it makes me a better Christian than someone else. On the other hand, I did think throwing away the dessert, or even giving it away to someone else in the office just because it’s Lent, would be rude, disrespectful, and ungrateful, none of which I file under “ideal Christian ways of behavior.” I also think there’s a difference between buying myself bags of chocolate at Trader Joe’s, or scavenging Panera cookies from the kitchen after an over-order of boxed lunches for a meeting, and accepting a gift someone gave you. So I ate the chocolate mousse, and now will resume my no-sweets-until-Easter policy.

3. In other office-related news, last week I became the proud owner of a terrarium.

terrarium

This friendly little ecosystem now lives on my desk at work, where there is space for it, as opposed to in my room at my house, where there most definitely is NOT space for it. I’ve thought about getting succulents for my desk for quite some time, and this certainly fits the bill!

My only concern with the terrarium is how I’m supposed to keep it alive. When I got it, I also got a little spray bottle, and was instructed to give it four sprays per week. What I don’t know, and have not been able to find out, is if that means I’m supposed to to spray it four times in a row one day per week, if I’m supposed to give it four sprays spread out over four days, or if it even matters at all. The internet has been less than helpful in my quest to figure out how to approach this situation thus far. I just don’t want to kill it! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It’s one thing to kill a plant at my house, where I can bear my shame in solitude, but if I kill a plant at the office, everyone who’s noticed and commented on my terrarium will also, I presume, notice that I murdered it, and I would prefer to keep that from happening.

Have you ever owned and/or maintained a terrarium? How do I keep it alive, and how should I be watering it?
Did you give up anything for Lent?

Goals for 2017: February Check-In

Alternatively title: In Which Bethany is Humbled.

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
I started writing an essay I thought about pitching, and then realized I didn’t really know where I was going with it, so I stopped a quarter of the way through. BUT! When writing that essay, I came up with another essay idea in a somewhat similar vein that I think would stand a better chance of getting published. I haven’t written or pitched it yet, but at least I have an idea. I’m still not progressing on this like I’d like to, but at least I’m making some progress.

I did do some concrete things related to this goal, including attempting to network with a writer I’ve met before and writing into a site I thought I could write for. To my enormous surprise, I didn’t receive any response from either email. I, admittedly, have not followed up on either email, and perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so surprised, because once upon a time when I I received a bunch of unsolicited emails to my work, I’d often leave them unread, telling myself I’d come back to it later, and then “later” would turn out to be six months later, by which point I’d figure it was too late to respond, anyway. Nevertheless, I did find the silence surprising. I expected an abundance of silence once I started pitching, but I definitely didn’t expect silence from reaching out to individuals/sites I considered to be a sure thing.

Goal #2: Get rid of 50 things
I lost of bit of momentum on this goal. I got rid of seven more things this month, bringing my total to 30. I’m still certainly more than ahead of pace if I want to get rid of 50 things in 2017, but since I got rid of 23 things in January, only getting rid of seven things in February feels unimpressive. I think two things worked together to create a perfect storm of non-minimizing: 1) I had less free time in February than January, and therefore most of that free time got spent doing things that fell higher on my priority list than reducing the number of things I own (grocery shopping, working out, cleaning my apartment, doing my taxes, etc.) and 2) I felt so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of crap I have that I didn’t know where to start, and therefore didn’t start at all.

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
Finally, something good to report! I made it through five lessons in February: only 19 more to go! I didn’t struggle with verbs as much this time, either, which made me happy. My determination to get through the entire course has kept me from reviewing previous lessons, which makes me wonder how much other knowledge I might be losing. I’d love to see Duolingo introduce review lessons that encompass everything you’ve covered up to that point, rather than focusing on one concept at a time for the duration of the course. Obviously as sentences get more complex, each lesson includes words you learned in previous lessons, and occasionally verb forms you learned in earlier lessons, but I’d like to have an entire lesson (or several) that don’t follow one theme. That’s how language works in the real world, after all.

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
I am currently healthy and not in physical therapy, so yay. Beyond that:

– Strength train once per week, minimally, during running season: ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I didn’t intentionally drop strength training from my schedule. Things just got weird in the last week of February between my therapy schedule and getting sick. Normally I strength train on Thursdays and do yoga on Sundays. On the last Thursday of February, my therapy appointment started too close to when I got out of work to give me time to get in as much strength training as my schedule called for. Because I wouldn’t have time to do yoga on the last Sunday of February (since I went to Total Body Run instead), I decided to do a hard yoga practice on Friday morning and call it strength training. Then I got tired and decided to sleep instead >.< The following day was when I came down with strep/whatever bacterial infection I had, which threw my entire training schedule into disarray for the remainder of the month. In summary: I went two weeks without strength training in any capacity. Hopefully, the rest of my half marathon training will have fewer monkey wrenches thrown in and I’ll be able to get back on track soon.
– Stretch after every run: check!
– Foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji roller rather than a full-blown foam roller: Well, I did foam roll twice this month, which is twice more than I’ve foam rolled in…who even knows how long…but neither time as after a run. Sigh.
– Do at least three PT exercises twice per week: Why do I always forget that my goal was three exercises, not two? I did a lot of clamshells and leg raises, but that was about it. I need to start incorporating more variety into my PT exercises so I don’t get bored and/or plateau.

I won’t lie: I’m not particularly happy with how I did on any of these goals this month. I imagine it’s normal to hit a slump with annual goals/resolutions/whatever you want to call them in February, but I didn’t set these goals as pies in the sky I never dreamed I’d actually attain in some constant quest to be perfect or whatever: they’re things I genuinely want to accomplish. In reflecting on my progress (or lack thereof) in February, I think my biggest roadblock last month was not making any of these goals an actual priority. Whenever I’d have free time, I’d always tell myself that I need to get through A, B, C, and D, and then if I have time left over after all of that, I’d sit down and write, or work on pitches, or clean out a drawer, or my closet, or a shelf, or whatever. Unsurprisingly, I’d rarely get through A and B, never mind C and D, so I certainly never got around to any goal work. This month, I’d like to work on both more effectively managing my time and on making my goals a priority rather than an “extra” that I only do when I can convince myself to get around to it–which, clearly, means that it will never happen. On to March!

Total Body Run at CrossTown Fitness

I attended a free Total Body Run media preview class at CrossTown Fitness. All opinions are my own, as always.

I love CrossTown Fitness, as you may have noticed by now. While I haven’t visited every studio in Chicago, I have worked out a decent number of them, and CrossTown has consistently been at the top of my list. I’ve never had a disappointing workout or subpar trainer there, and I truly think it’s great place to work out.

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Historically, CrossTown’s workouts, at least in my experience, have been particularly geared towards the HIIT or strength training enthusiast. You could usually count on one or two of the several circuits during a Total Body class putting you on the treadmill or a rowing machine, but cardio, never mind running specifically, certainly wasn’t the focus of the class. Total Body Excursion Runs gave you the opportunity to get outside and concentrate on running, but it did, obviously, require being outside, which isn’t always ideal in Chicago. To fill that gap, CrossTown recently added a Total Body Run class, a quick, 30-minute workout entirely based on the treadmill.

Now I, admittedly, am not the treadmill’s biggest fan, and will generally choose an outdoor run over an indoor run any day for one reason in particular: I find treadmill running to be crushingly boring. No amount of music, TV, podcasts, nor books on tape have ever been able to make me enjoy my time on the ‘mill. Because of that, I was really curious to see how I’d feel about CrossTown’s Total Body Run class.

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Kiersten, a new-t0-me trainer, led our class at CrossTown’s NorthSide location at Addison and Halsted. (Tori, whose classes I’ve taken a few times at various locations, also leads the class at the West Loop.). After a few minutes of gentle warmups on the floor, doing things like squats, high knees, butt kicks, and burpees (only five, so nothing unbearable), we hopped on the treadmills. Kiersten had set all of them at 5.0 to get us started, but made it very clear from the get-go that we would call the shots in terms of our own pace for the class. She instructed us based on effort percentage rather than specific speed, so we could all work as hard (or take it as easy) as we wanted. Our base pace, where we started, was supposed to be an easy, manageable pace we could hold for a long time, about 60% effort. I normally wouldn’t consider 5.0 to be 60% effort for me, but since I had done my long run the day before and had come down with an undiagnosed-at-the-time illness (since diagnosed as “maybe strep?” I have all of the classic symptoms except for a fever, and my in-office throat culture at the doctor on Monday came back negative, but my doctor was fairly certain I have strep, since I got a Centor score of three out of four.), I thought it would be in my best interest to take it super easy, so I stuck with a 5.0 as my base pace.

Our first two intervals of class had us climbing hills on the treadmill, working our way up to a 6.0 incline while keeping the pace easy. After that, we did a few sprint intervals, working our way up to a pace we should only be able to hold for 45 seconds. We played around a little with inclines on the sprint intervals, but not at all like we did with hills. We cooled down for a couple minutes on the treadmill and finally moved to the floor for some stretching to finish out the workout.

I really enjoyed Total Body Run. Since the class only lasts 30 minutes and we never spent more than one minute at the same incline/pace (unless we were recovering), I didn’t get bored at all. The class changes every time, so just because I did hills and sprints doesn’t mean that’s what you’d always get at each class. Regardless, I think this class is a great way to mix up your running workouts and take advantage of the treadmill’s offerings to get some more variety in your running than you may get if left to your own devices, either on the treadmill or outside. You can find the current class times online.

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Have you ever taken a group treadmill class? I certainly haven’t, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out I didn’t mind it nearly as much as I thought I would!

Thursday Things

1. The running shoe gods smiled upon me on Sunday. I usually go to Fleet Feet around this time each year for my annual shoe purchasing, which makes me happy because I leave with the two pairs of shoes I expect to get me through the rest of the year, but also makes my bank account very sad, because buying two pairs of shoes at once is not cheap.

I don’t know when Asics turns over all of their shoes, but I do know that they traditionally release the newest model of the Gel-Nimbus, which I’ve run in for the past two years, towards the beginning of the year. If I get lucky, I’ll get into Fleet Feet when they still have the old AND new models in stock, and if I get reallylucky, they’ll have enough of the old models in stock that I can buy two pairs in my size, and if I get really, really lucky, they’ll have the old model on sale.

Guess who got really, really lucky on Sunday?

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*does a happy dance*

The MSRP on the Gel-Nimbus 19 (the 2017 model) is a painful $160, but Fleet Feet had the 18s marked down to $105 (!!) AND they had two pairs in my size, so I saved myself a cool $110 AND I get to run in a model that I already know I like. Win win. Plus, when I ran with an 18 on one foot and a 19 on the other, I truly couldn’t feel any difference at all, so I figured I may as well go with the cheaper version since I could.

2. In case I wasn’t already having a fantastic trip to Fleet Feet on Sunday, when I went to the counter to check out, who was buying gear at the other register but one of my CARA group leaders! This, much like my Rick Bayless encounter a couple weeks ago, shouldn’t have really been all that surprising, considering we were at Fleet Feet, after all, but I’ve never run into anyone I know there before. More coincidentally, she was shopping with a friend of hers and in the process of attempting to convince her to run with us this summer, so I became the living, breathing testimonial to the greatness of training with the 10:30 Awesomes, using my ever-reliable sales pitch, “I hate running marathons. Like, absolutely hate it. But I love training with these people, so here I am, going on five years of running marathons so I can run with the 10:30s.” I mean, if that doesn’t convince you to train with us, I don’t know what would ๐Ÿ˜›

3. And finally, since I’m already talking about running/people I know as a result of running: I’ve had a Fitbit since June, and while I love the data and insight into my activity it gives me, to my great surprise, the thing I like most about Fitbit are the weekday and weekend challenges. I find them so motivating and I have definitely gotten a bit competitive about them once or twice (or maybe a few more times than once or twice ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

While I’ve done Workweek Hustles/Weekend Warriors with some of my friends I know from outside running for months, this past weekend, Maggie invited me to a new Weekend Warrior challenge. Upon seeing the email invitation (and before checking to see who else was actually in the challenge), I’ll admit that my first thought was, “Ha! I’m going to CRUSH IT in this challenge.” I knew I was going to run seven miles on Saturday and had a good feeling I’d get in a lot of walking Saturday afternoon as well, so I was totally confident I’d win the entire thing.

Then I joined the challenge, and realized it was composed entirely of current and/or former Chicago Running Bloggers.

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You guys. I had 34,000+ steps on Saturday, between my run and all the walking I did that afternoon, and I logged over 10,000 on Sunday, and I STILL didn’t win! I came in a solid second place, but to put the insanity of the CRB Fitbit challenge in perspective, here was my other Weekend Warrior challange from last weekend:

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So, I was appropriately humbled, and will never again assume that I’m going to win a Weekend Warrior, particularly when I don’t know who else has joined the challenge.

Do you have a Fitbit?