Thursday Things

1. I got my Broadway fix on Saturday with a trip to Waitress!

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I’ve wanted to see Waitress for awhile, so when I found out it was coming to Chicago, I made it a priority to get tickets. One of my coworkers is very into Broadway and called me during the middle of last week specifically to tell me she went to Waitress, that it was amazing, and that I must go. I already had tickets to the show, but that made me even more excited!

I thought it was a great musical. It was a lot funnier than I expected (though it certainly has its emotional moments, too), and the cast did a fantastic job. You know who else did a fantastic job? Eli’s Cheesecake (yes, really).

Pies are a big theme throughout Waitress, and to play off that theme, the concessions at the theater included a package that included one itty bitty blueberry pie and one itty bitty strawberry pie for $6. I had to get one, obviously, and they were SO GOOD. I also loved that there were made by Eli’s! I don’t really associate pie with Eli’s, but I loved that a local company made the pies. It was such a fun touch!

2. It’s been awhile since I’ve updated you all on my garden, and I have much to share.

When we last left off, my garden had been ransacked by squirrels out for (plant) blood. My begonias were eaten, my Virginia Bluebell chewed down to the roots, and my phlox completely gone. I was less than pleased, to say the least.

A few weeks later, I noticed that nearly everything had started to grow back! Take that, squirrels! You won the battle, BUT I WON THE WAR. I mean, look at these before and afters!

Before
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After
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Much better.

My regrown Virginia Bluebell has definitely seen better days, but according to Google, this is normal summertime behavior for Virginia Bluebells and not a cause for concern. I wish I had looked that up before right now, because now I’m concerned I may have overwatered it in an effort to bring it back to life. I guess I’ll find out next spring!

My other native plants–the sedge in particular–have been thriving. One of my phlox plants didn’t survive the squirrel rampage, but the other did and has grown back nicely. I thought only one of my Jack-in-the-Pulpits was growing, but when I checked in on them on Monday, the one on the left side of the garden had absolutely shot up out of nowhere, so I guess it must be doing all right.

I’ve kept my weeding to a bare minimum in the native plant bathtub, mostly because I’m not sure what’s a weed and what’s something I intended to plant. As I’ve started to become more pro-native planting, I’ve also started to become more anti-weeding. I want the bathtub to grow whatever Illinois wants it to grow (so long as what Illinois wants it to grow isn’t invasive, which is admittedly my problem with this: I don’t know what’s invasive and what’s not), so by and large, I’m letting it sit and do its own thing.

As for the Great Squirrel War of 2018, the squirrels opened up a new front either last week or the week before, launching an assault on my tomato plant.

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Stupid rodents.

My tomato plant has produced nine tomatoes thus far (I planted a more mature plant a month earlier than last year, hence why I’ve gotten tomatoes so much earlier this year compared to last), and the squirrels thus far have claimed four of those tomatoes as their own. I caught one red pawed (well, green pawed, technically) in the act on Sunday, and went out to my patio to give it a VERY stern talking to. It didn’t come back again until Tuesday, and even then only finished eating the tomato it had already taken off the plant and left behind (at least, I assume it was the squirrel – the tomato was gone on Tuesday, regardless), so I think I made my point. I’ve also started harvesting my tomatoes as soon as they start blushing rather than allowing them to ripen fully on the vine in an effort to get to them before the squirrels do (though the squirrels seem to have little concern for the ripeness of the tomato). So far, I’ve managed to get two. It’s a good thing I don’t do this because I actually need tomatoes! I’ve been fairly unimpressed/slightly concerned about my plant’s fruit production this year. It’s put forth dozens and dozens of buds, but barely any of those have actually turned into fruit. I don’t know why so many buds are dying without becoming tomatoes: is it the weather? Is it the size of the pot I planted it in? Have I been too lazy about watering/feeding it?

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3. I’ve done it again!

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I have, for the I’ve-lost-count-th time in a row, successfully convinced the Chicago Marathon to put me in Corral G, this time by merely updating my expected finish time to fit within Corral G’s parameters and sending a just-in-case email to the start corral account, noting that I had updated my expected finish time. You’d think by now I’d be used to this, but it continues to BLOW. MY. MIND. how little the marathon seems to care what anyone does as far as non-Wave 1 corrals go. They make SUCH a big deal about the strictness of the corrals in Wave 1, how even if you are one second off the qualifying time, you don’t get in, how you have to prove your worthiness to run in Wave 1, but then for Waves 2 and 3, it’s like a free for all. Just tell us where you want to run and we’ll make it happen if we still have room, regardless of if you have any business being in that corral or not! You want to walk the entire marathon but start in Corral F? That’s fine – tell us you’re going to finish in under four hours, and we’ll put you there anyway.

I suppose the effort of verifying that all 45,000ish runners “should” be in the corral they request is not worth it, and might even be impossible–some people do run their first race ever as the marathon, after all–but it’s still crazy to me that everything seems so strict and regimented and This is an Abbott World Marathon Major and Will be Treated as Such, but you as long as you’re not expecting to run the marathon in under 3:45, you can be in whatever corral strikes your fancy.

Thoughts on squirrel deterrents? I am, once again, all ears.

 

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 6

Sunday, July 8: 75 minutes cross training (30 minute circuit + 45 minute bike)
No basement floods at the gym this weekend, so I was able to get in my Sunday workout. I wasn’t feeling overly ambitious, so I did a pretty simple 30 minute NTC circuit workout and followed that up with 45 minutes on the bike. I’ve been biking a lot easier lately, which may not entirely defeat the purpose of biking to cross train, but probably doesn’t yield the same benefits that, you know, trying would yield. Things to work on.

Monday, July 9: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6 miles in 1:12:49 for a 12:08 (lol) pace
Monday’s strength training workout was a quick but sweaty one. It was SO warm in the gym! Not exactly what I normally seek out in an indoor workout. Just doing single leg deadlifts was enough to make me drip with sweat. Now that I’ve done three full weeks of consistent strength training, I’m trying to push myself a tiny bit more and step up the weight I’m using. Doesn’t make things much easier, obviously, but hopefully it’ll make me stronger!

Back to reality on this run. It was a balmy 90+ degrees when I headed out for my afternoon six miler on Monday, and boy did I feel it. The humidity wasn’t bad at all compared to last week, so I incorrectly assumed this run would be fine. As my pace shows, I was definitely wrong. I actually forgot my Garmin and had to rely on my Fitbit to track this run, but that turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. My Fitbit didn’t show my pace, so I wasn’t able to beat myself up over how slow I was running. I was REALLY feeling it by the last mile, though honestly almost all of this run was a shuffle rather than a run. My body diverted a substantial portion of blood away from my GI tract in an effort to keep me moving/alive, and I will allow you to draw your own conclusions about the outcome of that fun physiological phenomenon. I probably should’ve taken this run inside, shortened the distance, or moved it to another day of the week.

Tuesday, July 10: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
OMG THIS STRENGTH TRAINING. It was no. joke. Erin had me to an AMRAP of 20x*insert various upper body exercise here*, and I severely misjudged how difficult it would be. I’m used to doing 15 reps of anything at the most, so 20 was a lot, and I was already exhausted after one exercise. Hooray upper body work. I got through two rounds of everything, though, and only had to rest approximately forty billion years between each pushup 😛

OMG DANCE. Last week was apparently a fluke in the attendance department (not that that’s all that surprising, given that it was July 3), and nearly everyone from the first week was back this week. That meant the room was way overcrowded–overcrowded to the point where my teacher, who rarely offers up commentary on anything, noted that there were too many people in the room–and also that it was SO HOT. Twelve adults dancing in room that is maybe 200 square feet makes for some very steamy conditions. I was sweating by the time we got through the first half of our warmup, and it only went downhill from there. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever gotten so sweaty during any other dance class in five and a half years of doing this. We kept running the combos we’ve learned over and over and over and over. On the plus side, the song to the combo we learned last week was featured in So You Think You Can Dance on Monday, so reviewing it on Tuesday gave me the opportunity to pretend I was on So You Think You Can Dance, which, embarrassingly, made me work a lot harder than I would have otherwise.

Wednesday, July 11: 5.9 miles (2 mi WU, 5x.5 mi (4:55, 4:59, 4:56, 4:56, 4:50) w/.25 mi recovery) in 1:04:48 for a 10:59 pace
This six miler brought to you by my inability to do math. My Garmin is never accurate when I run commute, so I looked at my watch when I finished my last .25 mile recovery lap, saw it was at 5.65 miles exactly, and thought, “.65 + .25 = .8” Turns out that’s not actually the case! Haha. Oh well. I’m still counting it as a six miler.

Anyway, this run was amazing! I am oddly in love with 800s?? That is truly something I didn’t expect to come out of marathon training. I think I like it because it’s challenging without feeling like it’ll kill me (comfortably hard, as they say), and because it gives me the chance to get away from the usual madness that is trying to run commute on the Lakefront Trail during the summer. My 800 splits were roughly 10 seconds slower than the last time I did this workout, but I also ran one more 800 and it was 11 degrees warmer, so I’m not losing any sleep over it. I’m very happy with my consistency with my splits once again (my third and fourth 800s were 4:56.2 and 4:56.3 – I mean, come on *pats self on back forever*), although I am kind of annoyed that my last one was so much faster than all the others. Of all the things to be annoyed about 😛 I felt SO GOOD on that last rep, and was honestly really bummed out that my workout was over. I wanted to keep going! WHO AM I?!?!

Thursday, July 12: Strength training – legs (AM) + 45 minutes elliptical (PM)
This was a quick strength training session with no plyometrics to finish things off, and that alone made it feel easier than I’m used to. The highlight of the workout, though, was doing leg presses with 100 and 110 lbs. I’ve never done any strength training with anything over 60 lbs (at least that I remember), so I was super proud of myself for surpassing that.

I neither wanted nor intended to cross train on the elliptical Thursday afternoon, but when I arrived at the gym to see one of the two stationary bikes already occupied, I didn’t have much of a choice. I suppose I did, technically, but the bikes are all of maybe eight inches apart, and since literally every other piece of cardio equipment was empty, it just felt too awkward to cozy up next to a stranger when I had plenty of other options. I haven’t been on an elliptical since 2016, so I suppose I was due. I discovered it’s much harder to read on an elliptical than it is on a bike, so here’s hoping no one else has the gall to want to bike on the same Thursday afternoon I want to bike moving forward 😛

Friday, July 13: Rest

Saturday, July 14: 8.14 miles in 1:33:24 for an 11:28 pace
This was one of the most pleasant runs I’ve ever had, long or otherwise, marathon season or not. The radar looked iffy when I woke up, but CARA didn’t say that the run was cancelled by the time I needed to leave, so off I went. I was the only 11:00 pace runner who showed up on Saturday (#dedicated) and no 11:30 pacer, so my usual 11:00 pacer got bumped down to the 11:30s, and one of the 10:30 pacers got bumped down to me. Hooray for personal training! Haha. I thought it was very nice of them to do that, especially since it was just me, and I clearly could’ve run with the 11:30s. But it was cool to have my own pacer, and I enjoyed our conversations. It rained for the entirety of the run, but it was the most perfect running rain ever – not too heavy, not too light, not too cold, not too windy. It made the whole run very comfortable (though I suppose the 11:28 pace we ran probably helped in that department as well) and definitely turned out to be one of my all time favorite runs.

 

As I’m writing this Sunday afternoon, I’m feeling a bit under the weather–kind of sinus pressure-y headache-y. One of my coworkers was out for part of last week with sinus crap, and I’m hoping whatever I’m feeling today is just some weird sleep deprivation-induced funk (yeah – still not doing great in the sleep department 😦 ) and not the start of something un-fun like an infection. I am very excited for the forecast for the coming week, given that at the moment it’s fairly positive. I’ve seen plenty of long range forecasts change, but it’d be nice if this one held true and I only had to suffer through one extremely hot run this week!

 

 

Thursday Things

1. Continuing my now well-established Fourth of July tradition, I went to the Cubs game last week to celebrate the Fourth!

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I didn’t necessarily plan on continuing the tradition this year, but once I found out the Cubs were playing the Tigers on the Fourth, going to the game became non-negotiable. My favorite team playing my other favorite team in Wrigley Field on the Fourth of July? I was not going to miss that. My dad and brother came in from Michigan to go to the game too, since they’re Tigers fans, and that made the whole experience extra special.

I’ve gone to three Cubs games this year and have experienced what feels like the entire range of weather possibilities, from cold and windy and rainy and thunderstormy  to perfect to boiling hot and humid on the Fourth. I’m not entirely sure which was more miserable: the game against the White Sox or the game against the Tigers. I’m inclined to say the game against the Tigers, though. Even though the weather was horrific for the White Sox game, at least you could bundle up against the elements. There was no escaping the crushing heat and humidity on Wednesday. We had seats in the shade two rows from the very top of the stadium, but the air was stagnant and oppressive, even though we weren’t in the sun. I spent most of the fourth inning in the air conditioned Cubs store and ended up getting a baggie of ice from outside the first aid station to help keep me comfortable. It actually made a big difference, which was a nice surprise.

The Cubs won, so at least all the sweating was worth it.

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2. One of my friends is getting married in October, and her maids of honor organized a whole bachelorette party extravaganza for this past weekend. I was happy to attend what I could, especially since it gave me the chance to cross a couple longstanding items off my Chicago bucket list. Up first: a late morning/early afternoon in the Playpen.

playpen

The Playpen, for the non-Chicagoans out there, is the area off Ohio Street beach where a bunch of boats anchor for the day during the summer. It has a reputation for being where you go to party on the lake–assuming, of course, you have a way of getting there in the first place (i.e.: access to a boat).

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I suppose the only reason I had any interest in spending any time in the Playpen was due to the fact that I thought it would never happen. I don’t know anyone with a boat and I most certainly don’t own a boat. I don’t even like being on boats, which made the chances of me ever getting in the Playpen seem that much more remote.

But then the maids of honor rented a yacht for the party on Saturday, and when we got on the boat, the captain said she’d take us to the Playpen for the duration of our rental, so off we went!

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Like I said, I don’t like being on boats, mostly because I don’t like being on or in water unless it’s 1) warm and 2) easy to escape, and being on a boat presents the possibility of having to be in water that is neither of those things. After an enjoyable-as-always panic attack that lasted until we got on the other side of the break walls, I finally calmed down enough to enjoy myself. I did not enjoy myself by going into the water (see aforementioned requirements for water I like to be in), but rather pretended I was the group’s lifeguard and “supervised” from the boat while everyone else floated around.

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I also played with my iPhone Photos filters, as one does. If you look closely, you can see the moon about an inch to the left of the Building FKA the John Hancock Center.

3. The bachelorette party continued on for the remainder of Saturday (and into Sunday morning), but I begged off at 11 p.m., pleading my long run from that morning and my long-since depleted supply of interest in interacting with other humans. I went through my normal Sunday morning routine while the rest of the party attendees recovered from their hangovers, and met up with everyone that afternoon for another bucket list item: afternoon tea at the Drake.

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Oh, you guys, it was so fancy. SO FANCY. I loved it! I had afternoon tea when I went to Scotland seven years ago, so I kinda sorta had an idea of what to expect, but this was still way fancier than I anticipated. There were all sorts of delicious treats: scones, bread, tiny little sandwiches, an impressive assortment of desserts. And then there was the tea itself, of course, which was also just so delightful. The whole experience was wonderful, and I highly recommend it! (Even if I did have to basically be rolled out of the Drake, since I was so full afterwards.)

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Have you ever had afternoon tea?
How did you celebrate the Fourth?

Chicago Marathon Training Week 5

Sunday, July 1: Rest
I had every intention of doing the 75 minutes of cross training my schedule called for: downloaded a workout that morning, brought all my gym clothes to church so I could go immediately after, etc. Then I checked my phone right before I left church to find a text alerting me to the fact that there had been a basement flood in my gym’s building, and the entire building was closed for the day. Since I had neither the means nor the desire to do 75 minutes of cross training outside or anywhere else, Sunday became an accidental rest day. I did think about doing something at home–a short NTC workout, perhaps–but I had so much work to do Sunday afternoon and evening that I ran out of time to do anything that wasn’t directly related to my mile-long to do list.

Monday, July 2: Strength training – legs (AM) + 8 miles in 1:24:37 for a 10:35 pace
The gym was open on Monday, so off I went to get in my first strength training workout of the week. It felt better than last week’s strength training sessions, which was nice, but holy cow, are single leg hamstring curls on a stability ball HARD. I would not be surprised if I feel those on Tuesday.

As for the run: blah. By all accounts, it should’ve been a good run. The weather was nicer than it had been over the weekend, and I apparently ran a much better pace than I realized. But about three and a half miles in, I got catcalled, and not, like, a passing, “Hey baby,” by one creep as I ran by or whatever–not that that’s any more welcome–but an ongoing commentary on how “she’s lit” and “look at that butt” and “THOSE BUTTOCKS” as I ran through a loitering bunch of assholes on the Lakefront Trail–and not some backwards, oddball, dead corner of the Lakefront Trail, but right in the middle of all the action (including all the tourist action). It just…ugh. It’s so unnecessary, so unhelpful, so unproductive. I assume catcallers do what they do to feel powerful, but I cannot imagine an instance where anyone subject to catcalling was walked away from the situation thinking, “Wow, what a strong, levelheaded, intelligent individual. This experience improved my opinion of that person’s demographic and has helped me overcome the racist, classist, ageist, and/or sexist stereotypes I associated with that demographic. This has been a productive encounter, and I hope it happens again so I can continue to grow as a person.” It’s such a waste of everyone’s time and mental and emotional energy. The whole situation just made me angry and ruined what should have otherwise been a perfectly pleasant run.

Tuesday, July 3: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
Tuesday’s strength training session was one of the easier and shorter ones I’ve had in a while, which was a welcome change of pace. I was a big girl and switched to heavier weights when the ones I initially choose were too light, which I don’t normally do *pats self on back*

Unsurprisingly, barely anyone showed up to dance on Tuesday (five people total compared to 11 the previous week). I worried that meant we would spend the entire class going over what we had done the previous week, but nope! We moved on to a way more challenging and fast paced combo that I’m sure we’ll spend the next handful of classes reviewing. Thanks goodness – I was so lost on Tuesday and could use all the review I can get!

Wednesday, July 4: 4.09 miles in 45:01 for an 11:00 pace
Despite having the day off and no plans until around noon, I drug myself out of bed at 6:45 (which, fine, was technically sleeping in even if it doesn’t feel like it) to do a 45 minute tempo run before it got obscenely hot. In my hurry to get out the door, I forgot to set up my watch for intervals like I normally do on tempo runs, so I had to check my watch what felt like every 30 seconds to see if it was time to speed up or slow down. I have no idea how well I executed each five minute segment, since even though I forgot to turn on intervals, I did remember to turn off manual lap, so I couldn’t get my splits. Oh well. Miles one and four were slower than miles two and three, so I assume I did good enough on pacing. Another runner wished me a good morning while I was out running, which was exciting! Two positive interactions with other runners in two weeks!

Thursday, July 5: Strength training – legs (AM) + 45 minutes yoga (PM)
Given the multiple times I was jarred awake by people setting off fireworks throughout the night and the fact that I had had Wednesday off, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to wake up Thursday morning to get to the gym before work. Thursday’s workout was pretty straightforward, but the 50 jump lunges at the end…oof.

For cross training this week, I did this yoga:

And it was delightful. I’ve been stressed for approximately eleventy thousand reasons over the past couple of weeks (she said, as if that weren’t her normal state of being) and obviously have been pushing myself a bit in the workout department, so it felt nice to take things easy for a change.

Friday, July 6: Rest

Saturday, July 7: 10 miles in 1:47:07 for a 10:43 pace
OMG THE WEATHER! It was a delightfully comfortable 64 degrees for this run, which was SUCH an improvement from last week, when it was 79 (both according to Garmin). It felt one billion times better than last Saturday’s long run. We did go a bit quicker than I wanted on this run, but I felt fine the whole time. A woman who normally runs with the 10:30s ran with us this week, and she and I had such a nice chat for almost the entire run! I can’t remember the last time I had a running buddy that was so easy to talk to for so long, and I really enjoyed it. Another interesting thing to note: I ran .88 more miles on this week’s long run compared to last week’s long run, but it only took me five additional seconds. If that doesn’t sum up how much nicer the weather was on Saturday, I don’t know what does!

 

I didn’t come remotely close to my goal of getting more sleep this week, and I continued to let the marathon runger beast have its way with my meals and snacks rather than even attempting to eat appropriate amounts of food. I’ve been shocked by how much training has impacted my hunger levels this year. In the past, I would use long runs to justify indulgent meals (post-long run breakfasts in particular) but that was always more of a, “Well, I ran 18 miles this morning, so I can have as many chocolate chip pancakes as I want,” sort of situation rather my current situation, which is more along the lines of, “I THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING, AND NOW I AM MERE SECONDS AWAY FROM DYING OF STARVATION.” It’s surprising to me that I’m experiencing that now when I made it through five years of this before without having that issue, and when my average weekly mileage (right now) isn’t that much higher than it was while I trained for my half marathons earlier this year (across the past five weeks, I’ve averaged 19.6 mpw. From February through the beginning of June, I averaged 17.5 mpw). This coming week is a cutback week, so I’m hoping to use that reduction in training to kickstart healthier eating and sleeping habits. Of course, goodness knows how many times I’ve said that going into any other week of marathon training, so we’ll see what actually happens 😛

Thursday Things

1. It’s been quite some time since my last Thursday Things post! I suppose having forty thousand (or, you know, four) West Coast trip-related blog posts to get up will do that to one’s blogging schedule. But now that that’s all taken care of (…and the trip has been over for just shy of a month), back to your regularly scheduled programming!

2. My gym normally switches up the music pretty regularly, but for the past two weeks, its been on a serious Hits of the 2000s kick, and oh man. ALL OF THE NOSTALGIA. I’ve heard so many songs I haven’t heard in ages (Listen to Your Heart, Every Time We Touch, Damaged, It’s Not Over, among others), and since I was in high school during the mid-late 2000s, it has obviously stirred up some of those memories. It stirred them up so much, in fact, that over the weekend I dug up the DVD I have from homecoming my senior year to reminisce.

Some background: homecoming at my high school was not the football game/semiformal dance affair it is at most high schools. For one thing, we had homecoming in February, so our the sporting event associated with homecoming was a basketball game. We had a dance, but it was a jeans-and-a-t-shirt sort of affair, not a dresses and button-up shirts type of occasion. We built floats, but they were tiny and never designed to be in a parade (according to my brother, who was in high school more recently than I was, they stopped doing floats after his freshman year). While the floats were a big deal, and the inter-class competition mattered, the big event of homecoming was a lip sync contest held the Friday night before the basketball game (the basketball game was on a Saturday back then, though I think that’s changed now, too.). The DVD from my senior year is of the lip sync contest.

It has literally been 10 years (almost 10.5 years) since the contest, and I still got angry and defensive when the juniors explicitly made fun of my class during their performance. I still got giddy and excited when the boy band portion of my class’s routine came on (our sophomore year, part of our contest routine involved five guys lip syncing to Bye Bye Bye, and every year after that they did a different N*Sync song during the contest. This is what the juniors explicitly made fun of, because they’re low lives with no creativity, OBVIOUSLY.). I still got annoyed at the popular people being front and center in every class’s routine, not just ours. The whole thing proved to be much more of an emotional roller coaster than I anticipated 😛

3. Speaking of high school: I went to the eye doctor the other week for my annual checkup/contact reorder. I only had a few contacts left in my supply, so when I made my appointment, I took the first one I could find that fit my schedule, without any consideration for which doctor I’d see.

The doctor I ended up seeing was not the same one I saw last year, and when she sat down in the room to do my exam, we reviewed the contacts I had been wearing (Acuvue Oasys). She commented on how the Oasys had come out “when we were in high school,” and then told me that since my last appointment, a new kind of Acuvue contact had come out (the Acuvue Vita), which were made to last a month rather than two weeks like the Oasys.

I’m sorry. When WE were in high school? Not when I was in high school, but when we–suggesting we are peers–were in high school??

I looked her up after the appointment, and sure enough, she graduated from optometry school in 2015, which means she most likely graduated from college in 2011, which means she most likely graduated from high school in 2007. I graduated from high school in 2008, so yep, it was when “we” were in high school.

I suppose it shouldn’t really surprise me that my peers are medical professionals–I’ve been out of college for six years now, which isn’t enough time to be a full blown, non-resident MD but is plenty of time to be a different kind of medical professional–but man, I do NOT feel old enough to have my peers as medical professionals! The idea that any part of my well-being could be in the perfectly qualified hands of someone my age is so bizarre. How are we old enough for this?? And more importantly, how are people younger than us old enough for this?? I thought the grownups were supposed to be doing that kind of stuff, not us!

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 4

Sunday, June 24: Rest
I was in Wisconsin for most of the day and knew I wouldn’t have time for an actual workout. I did a decent amount of walking, though, and actually hit 10,000 steps: a rarity for me on Sundays.

Monday, June 25: Strength training – legs (AM) + 7 miles (with 4 hill repeats) in 1:12:58 for a 10:25 pace (PM)
After getting up at 4:30 on Saturday and Sunday morning over the weekend, I will admit I wasn’t overly enthused about getting up earlier than usual for a morning workout. I made it to the gym anyway and did the leg workout Erin prescribed for the day. It was heavier on the plyometrics than any of last week’s workouts, but I know those high intensity intervals will help build my fitness, so bring on the jump squats.

My company’s version of summer hours is to give us one free half day per summer month (no need to use your PTO to take it, or to make up those four hours elsewhere in the week), and due to Monday afternoon obligations, I decided to take my June half day on Monday. I still wanted to run commute, but because I left at noon, that meant run commuting at noon rather than later in the afternoon. I was surprised how many runners I encountered! I can’t imagine running during my lunch break. I don’t run in the morning because I feel too stressed out about the time it’ll take, and in the morning, you can get up as early as necessary to give yourself as much time as necessary – not so at lunch! More power to the people who can pull it off. I admire you! Anyway, the weather was mercifully pleasant, making my run less miserable than I feared. In addition to 800s, I also decided to incorporate hills into my training roughly once every three weeks as part of my weekday long run, starting with this one. I did four repeats, and they also were less miserable than I feared?? I don’t know why workouts I expected to be challenging (the 800s, the hills) are going smoothly. While part of me wants to believe this is indicative of having a higher fitness level than I realized, another part of me worries that this is all a fluke and that the wheels are going to fall off sooner rather than later. I’m trying to not overthink it too much.

Another thing to note about this run: after I finished my hill repeats and was about halfway between the hill and my apartment, I encountered another runner coming in my direction, who held up his hand and yelled, “High five!” as I ran past him. That was the first time I’ve ever received a mid-run high five from another runner, and it was so delightful! It made me really happy 🙂

Tuesday, June 26: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
Oof, this strength training. Today’s upper body strength training was very shoulder focused, and it was a tough one. My shoulders have never been particularly strong, and I will admit that I tend to shy away from shoulder strength training because it’s challenging. But that’s the whole point of this! So even if it wasn’t very much fun, I know I definitely needed it. I also did a much better job of picking appropriate weights–I tend to either go too heavy or too light–and that made me happy.

A new session of dance started on Tuesday, and there was a suspicious number of people in the class. In the past, the class was limited to eight people (which is about as many as you can fit in the room), but 11 people showed up on Tuesday. We’ll see how many stick around in the coming weeks. From the very first move my teacher demoed, I knew that I had learned this routine before (here), so it looks like I’m going to need to dig out my knee pads again.

Wednesday, June 27: 4 miles in 41:13 for a 10:18 pace
This was supposed to be a race pace run, but it definitely wasn’t. I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to running the marathon at a 10:18 pace (a 4:30 marathon), but given my past marathon performances, I find it highly unlikely that I’ll be able to run the marathon at a 10:18 pace. My goal for the race is 4:45, which translates to a 10:52 pace. That’s what I tried to do on this run, I promise! I ran really, really easy–my average HR on this run was 10 bpm lower than what I normally get on a run–but I just wasn’t able to go slower. I always struggle with marathon pace vs. easy pace runs, mostly because if anything, what has worked out to be my marathon pace (11:08 on the day I PRed; 12:23 on my slowest marathon) is generally equal to or slower than what I consider an “easy pace” (which is highly weather dependent, but generally falls in the 10:30-11:30/mile range). I feel like when you’re on the survival end of the marathoning spectrum rather than the competitive end–and I would firmly put myself in the “survival” category–the whole “marathon pace is one minute faster than easy pace” rule no longer applies. But maybe I just want to be a special snowflake and feel like I’m the exception to the rule.

Thursday, June 28: Strength training – legs (AM) + 45 minute bike (PM)
I had mixed feelings about this strength training. As expected, my starry-eyed enthusiasm for waking up early wore off (though I am a bit disappointed it wore off so quickly!), and I was a tired grump when I got to the gym. The workout took longer and made me sweatier than I anticipated, which threw a monkey wrench in my normal get-to-my-desk-on-time order of operations–and that obviously did nothing to improve my mood. On the other hand, I felt like the exercises involved in this workout were very runner focused, and I appreciated that even if I was tired and grumpy, at least I could console myself with the fact that what I was doing was important.

I went back to the gym after work on Thursday for cross training on the bike. I started to have some intermittent foot pain on Tuesday that bothered me more Thursday afternoon than it had before (though I also couldn’t stop thinking about it Thursday afternoon, so I’m sure that didn’t help), so I welcomed a low-impact workout with open arms. I hadn’t biked at all in about six weeks and appreciated the change of pace – though I will admit I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about going to the gym twice in one day.

Friday, June 29: Rest
Thank goodness. I became increasingly focused on my foot ache as Thursday wore on, and decided I’d spend all day at work on Friday icing my foot (and by “all day” I mean “once an hour for the eight hours I’m there.”). Then, I woke up to discover I had slept on my neck all wrong, causing one of my neck muscles to spasm and preventing me from turning my head all the way to the left, so I got to spend my entire day icing that instead. And because clearly all of that wasn’t enough, I also was sore from Thursday’s strength training. Went to be 27, woke up 85. Yay marathon training.

Saturday, June 30: 9.22 miles in 1:47:02 for an 11:37 pace
I desperately wanted CARA to cancel Saturday’s run so I could bail on it without guilt. The forecast for Saturday was atrocious, and the idea of being outside, never mind running outside, sounded horrible. But CARA didn’t cancel, and since it was only (“only”) 80 degrees with a Real Feel of 85 when I woke up at 4:30 (*sobs, for temperature and time of day reasons*), I decided I’d go and do my best. As much as I LOATHED the end of last marathon season, when it was unseasonably and relentlessly hellish outside, I learned a lot about how to physically and mentally deal with hot runs during that stretch, and I found the lessons I learned during that period to be quite useful on Saturday. Lesson #1: forward motion counts as a pace. CARA recommended that we do our runs five to 15 percent slower than normal, which for my 11:00 pace group meant anywhere between an 11:45 and 12:51 pace. In general, we did a good job of running that slow. There were definitely times where the group took off too quickly after a break (we took LOTS of breaks on Saturday – the entire run took 2:10, even though we were only running for 1:47 of it), but I stuck to my guns about running slow, and eventually would rejoin them once they slowed down. I think all of my fast finish (and, consequently, slow start) runs this summer helped with that a lot. I got very used to running S.L.O.W.–much, much slower than I would normally consider “easy”–and that made it easier to dial in my pace on Saturday, even when starting after a break. Lesson #2 from last year: day-before preparation. I hydrated like a BOSS on Friday. I lost count of how many glasses of water I drank at work. Normally I’ll let my water glass sit empty at my desk for a stretch, since getting up and going to refill it is so much work (<–sarcasm font). Not on Friday. As soon as I finished my glass, I was up to get another one. I also salt loaded like crazy (such a burden). I had pretzels for my morning and afternoon snack, salted the burrito bowl I had at lunch, went to TOWN salting my pasta Friday night, and even salted my peanut butter toast Saturday morning. I even forced myself to have Nuun at Fleet Feet’s water stations, which I normally avoid. I think that, plus all of Friday’s hydration, plus my dramatically lowered expectations and effort, are what allowed me to have, as far as I’m concerned, a highly successful run on Saturday. We started the run with six people in my group: by the end, it was only me and one of my group leaders (even the other group leader didn’t make it all the way through). In what is clearly shaping up to be the theme of this marathon season (or at least the theme of June of marathon season), this run went infinitely better than I expected, and that made me quite happy.

 

Sigh, the weather. What can you do? It doesn’t look like we’re in for much relief in the heat and humidity departments this week, so I have a feeling it’s going to be another slow one. I’m trying to focus on staying on top of my hydration, particularly after my runs, since that’s when I tend to slack off. I felt decent, but definitely not 100 percent, on Sunday, and I’m sure it’s because of how little I drank for the rest of Saturday (one and a half bottles of water and one pint glass). I also know I NEED to be more intentional about going to bed on time, especially if I plan to keep up these morning strength training sessions. I averaged 6:54 last week (according to Fitbit), and that’s just not sustainable as the mileage goes up, particularly when I’m getting extra drained by hot runs.

 

Traveling on the Coast Starlight Train

As I mentioned in my Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle recap, I’ve wanted to run Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle for the past year. When I found out I’d need to be in San Diego the week before Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, I briefly worried that would thwart my plans, particularly since the idea of flying Chicago to San Diego to Chicago to Seattle to Chicago in the space of roughly a week did not appeal to me. The idea of flying from San Diego to Seattle was moderately more appealing, but flying isn’t my favorite mode of travel and I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea of adding another flight to my trip. In thinking about this, it occurred to me that one can travel up the entire West Coast via Amtrak, and thus the last piece of my epic West Coast trip fell into place.

After I wrapped up work on Wednesday, I hopped on the California Surfliner from San Diego to Los Angeles. The trip lasts about two and a half hours, and BOY do I recommend making this trip on the 6:43 p.m. train in early June. Doing so gets you to the coast right as the sun is setting over the Pacific, and that was a beautiful thing to witness.

I spent the night in Los Angeles, and then the real part of the trip began: my journey from Los Angeles to Seattle on the Coast Starlight train!

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(Side note: I could not get over how beautiful Los Angeles Union Station was. I could’ve spent hours just staring at it.)

Long time readers may recall that I made a similar journey two years ago when I took the City of New Orleans train from Chicago to New Orleans. This ride was a bit longer–scheduled to be 30, ended up being 35 for reasons I’ll get into later–so instead of taking coach, I decided to ride in style in a bedroom. Now, I will admit that traveling in the sleeper car with a bedroom reservation is not the most economical way to go, but it was MORE than worth the splurge. The bedroom came furnished with a couch/bench that folded down into a bed, an upper bunk, a separate seat, a fold-down table, a toilet and shower (WHAT) in each compartment–this proved to be far handier than I had hoped it would be, given the stomach bug situation–a sink, REAL TOWELS, and in-room controls for the temperature, lighting, and audio announcements. On top of that, all your meals in the dining car are included in your fare: in this case, two lunches, two dinners, and one breakfast. The food in the dining car was actually really delicious–airplane food this was not–and also not particularly cheap, so that was an amazing added benefit. On top of all of that, the car also had an attendant assigned to it, who was happy to help with whatever you could need during your trip: turning down the bed, providing you with hot coffee, getting you extra blankets.

It was unreal. I had no problems traveling in coach before, but this was on a totally different level. Also, while I would not particularly recommend traveling on a long haul train the day you come down with a stomach bug, if you do happen to come down with a stomach bug the day you’re scheduled to leave, at least a bedroom allows you relative privacy and comfort compared to a coach seat 😛

Onto the journey!

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The train leaves Los Angeles Union Station at 10:10 a.m. Breakfast is not provided, so you’ll either need to eat beforehand or bring food with you on the train, which is what I did. If you keep your eyes peeled as you leave the station, you’ll be able to see Dodger Stadium up on a hill! You head through the hills and into the valley, stopping in Van Nuys, Simi Valley, and Oxnard before the main event: the Pacific Ocean.

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I had heard that this was one of the most scenic train rides in the country, and the rumors were correct. From Oxnard until just south of Santa Maria, the train tracks hug the coast line, giving you uninterrupted views of the oceans and beaches. It was stunning.

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When the train stopped in Santa Barbara, two volunteers associated with the National Park Service got on the train as part of Amtrak’s Trails & Rails program. From Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, they gave a talk in the lounge car about the areas we passed through. I missed the majority of their talk due to my lunch seating time, but I caught the tail end and found it very interesting!

Another cool part about this portion of the trip is that you go through Vandenberg Air Force Base. Obviously you can’t normally travel directly through an Air Force base, but since since the tracks do, you can see features of the base, including SpaceX launch pads. The terrain is relatively untouched compared to the other parts of the coast as well, and it was cool to see the uninterrupted landscape.

We stopped in San Luis Obispo for about ten minutes, which was plenty of time to get out and stretch your legs, and then headed further into the Central Coast area.

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I was disappointed to only spend a few hours right along the Pacific until I realized how beautiful the rest of the landscape of the West Coast is as well. Prior to this trip, my only experience with California was limited to a weekend in San Francisco. I had no idea how much the terrain changed as you headed north, nor did I have any idea how so many different kinds of landscapes could be equally beautiful.

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We spent awhile in San Jose, though I was eating dinner at the time and didn’t have a chance to get off the train, and then continued north to Oakland as the sun set on the first day of travel.

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I didn’t get the best sleep of my life on the train, but again, I had extenuating circumstances that made the entire trip less pleasant than it should’ve been. I was in bed and asleep-ish through the rest of the train’s California stops: Emeryville, Martinez, Davis, Sacramento, Chico, Redding, and Dunsmuir.

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Northern California at sunrise.

If you’d like, you can ask your car’s attendant to come knock on your door at a particular time to wake you up in the morning. This ended up being more important on my trip than it will hopefully be for most people taking this trip, because my train made its last stop in Klamath Falls, Oregon around 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. About a week and a half before my trip, a tunnel between Klamath Falls and Eugene partially collapsed during maintenance. No one was hurt, but it did make the tracks impassible. Because of this, we all had to get off the train and onto a bus that drove us three hours from Klamath Falls to Eugene. While it definitely was a bummer to have the train trip interrupted like that, the bus ride was stunning. The vast majority of the ride was through National Forests and Parks, and it was absolutely beautiful. I even saw a BALD EAGLE hanging out by a lake. Amazing!

We arrived in Eugene around 12:30 p.m., and then had five free hours to do whatever we wanted in Eugene. We couldn’t head north until the train that travels from Seattle to Los Angeles arrived, and it wouldn’t get into Eugene until around 5:30. Had I felt not-terrible, this would’ve been an awesome opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Hayward Field, a mere 1.5 miles from the train station, or if I was feeling really adventurous, to Pre’s Rock, 2.5 miles from the station. Alas, I was unable to wander too far from a bathroom (and feeling too sorry for myself to want to wander anyway), so I spent most of those five hours in the train station. I have to admit that I’m especially disappointed that I wasn’t able to go to Hayward Field, 1) because it would’ve been my last chance to see it as-is before the planned renovations that will dramatically alter the historic venue and 2) because the NCAA Track & Field Championships were going on right then, and it would’ve been really cool to see some of that. Curse you, stomach bug!!

By the time the southbound train arrived in Eugene, the VAST majority of the passengers who had been on the northbound train with me had given up the ghost and found some other way to get to their final destination. In all, only 16 of us got on the train in Eugene to continue north to Seattle, and nearly all of us were sleeper car patrons. That made for a very different vibe for the second leg of the trip. There were no seating times for dinner that night – anyone could go whenever they wanted. In fact, everyone on the train went at the same time! We watched the Oregon countryside pass by (I saw an osprey at one point during dinner!), and eventually we arrived in the last major city we encountered with daylight: Portland.

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After making it through Portland, I laid down and took a bit of a nap while we continued north to Seattle. We pulled into King Street Station (also gorgeous) just after midnight, and the trip was complete.

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While I, once again, would perhaps not recommend making this trip with a stomach bug, assuming you are in good digestive health, I CANNOT recommend this trip enough. It was a truly amazing way to see the West Coast. I loved watching the landscape evolve from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest and seeing all the different ways nature can be beautiful. Making the trip in a sleeper car was a particular treat. I loved getting to chat with new people at each meal, and it was nice to have space to spread out and relax. I really think Amtrak is an amazing way to travel, and traveling on the Coast Starlight is a trip I don’t think I’ll ever forget.