Las Vegas

This year’s trip to Vegas was a bit abbreviated compared to those of the past two years. I’m penny pinching my PTO to roll over the maximum I’m allowed into 2019 for a trip I have planned in the spring, which meant I couldn’t take more than a day off for Vegas. We packed more than enough into the little time we had there, though!

bellagioseasonalroomfall2018

I arrived in Vegas around 10 p.m. Friday night and originally planned on going straight to bed as soon as I arrived at Harrah’s, but ended up hanging out with the other people along on the trip in the casino for a couple of hours. I didn’t bring much money to gamble (only the $10 I had left in my wallet that never got spent at the farmer’s market this summer), so I watched while they played video craps for awhile, then realized it was nearly 3 a.m. in Chicago and WELL beyond my bed time. I went upstairs and called it a night.

It turned out that a mutual friend of the other people in my group was also in town that weekend for a conference, so we all met up with him and his girlfriend for lunch after the expo Saturday. That was a lot of fun! We wandered through a few hotels, including the Flamingo.

flamingos

Visiting the birds at the Flamingo was easily one of the best parts of the trip, in my opinion (I know, I know. Very out of character for me πŸ˜› ). I liked seeing the birds, obviously, but I particularly liked learning about them during the 2 p.m. pelican feeding!

flamingopelicans

These are Bugsy and Virginia, two pelicans injured by fishing nets off the coast of California. Their wings were damaged to the point where they can no longer live in the wild, so now they live at the Flamingo. I learned a lot about pelicans and other waterfowl, and I was especially excited to see the Mandarin Ducks.

mandarinduck

Aren’t they beautiful?! There’s been one floating around Central Park in New York recently, and even though seeing one that lives at the Flamingo isn’t exactly the same as seeing one in the wild in New York, I’ll take what I can get.

It is a hallowed Vegas tradition among this group to have dinner Saturday at Hugo’s in Four Queens. I have no problem with that, since it’s fun to get all dressed up and have a fancy meal where I’m treated like a princess. (Though I will admit that I don’t like getting my nice clothes all smokey. If Vegas ever outlaws smoking inside casinos–something I can’t imagine is coming any time soon, but one can dream–I think I’ll find the entire experience of being in Vegas a billion times more pleasant.) However, Hugo’s was a bit more of a challenge this year, because the restaurant doesn’t open until 5 p.m., and we had a 7 p.m. show to attend at MGM: way, way far away (like 15-20 minute drive away) from Four Queens. The person in our group who made the reservation told them during the reservation process that we had a 7 p.m. show and would be on a tight schedule, and the staff was more than accommodating. I was so impressed! They got us in and out in 75 minutes: bread, drinks, salads, intermezzo, entrees, bill, done. We were offered fruit and fresh cream for dessert, too, but declined in the interest of time. I’ve always been impressed by the service at Hugo’s, but my experience there this year was truly next level.

After dinner, we hopped in a Lyft and headed back to the Strip for our show: Jabbawockeez at MGM!

jabbawockeez

*squeals*

I’ve wanted to see the Jabbawockeez since the first time I walked through MGM and realized they had a permanent show there. Having taken hip hop for six (!) full years now, the opportunity to see a professional crew was obviously very appealing to me. They did not disappoint.

jabbawockeezjreamz

The show, JREAMZ, was awesome, both from a dance standpoint and from an overall show standpoint. It was a cohesive show that told a story rather than 90ish minute of strung together dance pieces, and I LOVED IT. They danced on the stage and in the audience, and even pulled a few audience members to participate during the show (tragically, I was not one of them).

I think anyone can appreciate the difficulty of spinning on your head for a literal minute (or longer?), like one of the Jabbawockeez did, but I feel like my background in breakdance gave me an even bigger appreciation for the tricks they did during the show. One of the marks of a talented dancer, in my opinion, is that you walk away thinking, “Well, that didn’t look so hard. I could probably do that,” because they perform the moves with such ease that you can’t begin to wrap your mind around how challenging they actually are. That is 100 percent how I would’ve felt leaving Jabbawockeez if I hadn’t taken break for two and a half ish years. I am very well aware of how hard some of those moves are, and to see them do them as if they were nothing: wow. So much respect. To say I left inspired would be an enormous understatement!

Unfortunately, after Jabbawockeez I hit my stimulation wall for the day with a ferocity put all of my marathon walls to shame. I was DONE. Done with other humans, done with noise, done with lights, DONE. Like, swearing-at-strangers-in-their-face-at-the-Bellagio done (come on, Bethany. If you’re going to swear at strangers, at least don’t do it at the Bellagio. Have a sense of propriety!). While the rest of the group went out for the night, I went back to my room and introverted. I don’t normally actively need to be alone, but I’ve found that Vegas does that to me big time. The whole city is just too much, and I definitely can’t handle a full day of all the much-ness.

bellagiofountains2018

Sunday was a bit more low key, thanks to the race. We got breakfast and went to M&Ms World (my only demand on any Vegas trip. You can keep your gambling and alcohol, but I will not be denied my bulk M&Ms!! Haha πŸ˜› ) and then chilled until the race. We got pizza and gelato after the race, and then it was time to pack up for the trip home.

On Sunday, I was informed us that the plane that would take us back to Chicago had changed, and I’d need to update my boarding passes. I updated mine but was still assigned to the same seat, so I didn’t think anything of it until arriving at my gate Monday morning and looking at the seat map on the screen. Turns out, I was going to be flying on a big plane – one with a middle aisle! I haven’t been on one of those since a long-ago trip to Seattle (like, probably a 1999 or 1997 long ago trip to Seattle), so that was quite the surprise! I don’t understand why we had been put on that plane–our plane came to Las Vegas from Chicago (I checked) and then went right back to Chicago. I’m not sure why that round trip warranted a 767, but it was still really cool! (After arriving in Chicago, the plane continued on to Paris, which made more sense for an aircraft that size.) My usual middle seat turned into an aisle seat, which was a nice treat, and there were super fancy seatback screens! My flight to San Diego in June had seatback screens (of the non-super fancy variety), and that was the first time I had seen one of those since I went to Scotland in 2011. I certainly didn’t expect them twice in one year, especially all on domestic flights. The part that I thought was especially cool about the whole situation, though, was that there were a TON of Europeans on our flight from Vegas to Chicago, and the Europeans sitting around me (in front of me, in the middle aisle next to me, behind me) were all DUTCH!! *dies* My Dutch isn’t good enough for me to have the guts to talk to them (or to be able to understand a single thing they said, womp), but I was enamored nevertheless. I may or may not have set the language on my seatback screen to Dutch in an effort to fit in, HA. I kept my screen on the flight map the whole time, so I now know the word for “tailwind” in Dutch (I learned lots of other words, too, but have already forgotten all of them).

All in all, it was a nice little vacation before things get holiday crazy over the next few weeks πŸ™‚

Have you ever been to Vegas?

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Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Recap

Boy is this race tough.

I arrived in Las Vegas late Friday night (well, late Chicago time), long after the expo had closed. I went to the expo Saturday morning as a result, which proved to be good decision. It was the least crowded I’ve ever seen that expo (I went in 2016 and 2017, even though I didn’t run the race in 2016 due to my booted foot) and it made the whole experience 100 times more enjoyable than usual. 10/10.

rnrlasvegas2018packet

Having learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons the hard way during last year’s race, I made a point of trying to be more intentional about my nutrition and hydration leading up to Sunday night’s run. I carried a water bottle with me everywhere in Vegas and kept it light at breakfast (around 11 a.m.) with two small pancakes and two scrambled eggs. At 3 p.m., two hours before I thought I would start running, I had a bag of off-brand Pirate’s Booty (“Sailor’s Loot,” lolololol) and a bag of animal crackers I got at the expo that added up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 calories. That all worked out WAY better for me in the stomach department than last year’s pancake binge at breakfast and couple of handfuls of Munchies as I headed out the door to the race, so I’ll file that away for any future late afternoon/early evening half marathons πŸ˜›

It was much colder in Vegas than I expected based on the past two years (I don’t think it ever got out of the low 60s while I was there, and at night it was down in the 40s. There was actually a freeze warning on Monday!). I figured I’d be fine for the race in shorts and short sleeves, but when Rock ‘n’ Roll sent out an email a few hours before the race warning about high winds, I started to panic. I didn’t have any throwaways, anything that I could adjust while running (a jacket, arm sleeves), and I was in the second wave, while the other person from this year’s group who was running the race (four of us went to Vegas, but only two of us ran) was in the first wave, meaning we’d arrive well before I started running. I worried I’d be overly cold. I ended up begging a long sleeve shirt off my running buddy, but once again, lesson learned. I can’t forget to pack my arm sleeves in the future!

I’ve run enough Rock ‘n’ Roll races over the years (eight, counting Sunday) to feel comfortable saying that Rock ‘n’ Roll is, hands down, the worst race organizer when it comes to corral enforcement. Even after Ironman bought Rock ‘n’ Roll, your corral assignment seems to be a weak suggestion at best. While other Rock ‘n’ Rolls I’ve run have been laughable when it comes to corral enforcement, Vegas truly set the bar for unbelievably terrible corral management.

Vegas has a pre-race party, and my assumption, especially since I was never told otherwise, is that the pre-race party is optional. In my entire running career, no one has ever made attendance at any events surrounding the race (other than packet pickup, of course, but that was taken care of at the expo) mandatory, and when attendance at any event surrounding a race is mandatory, you’re informed well in advance, usually multiple times.

I had no interest in going to the pre-race party. I didn’t need to check any gear. There are abundant bathrooms in every hotel up and down the Strip with running water and flushing toilets, making a pre-race portapotty stop unnecessary. The last thing I want to do immediately before running a half marathon is attend a concert. Why on earth would I prioritize going to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s pre-race party when there is literally no reason for me to be there?

My running buddy didn’t have interest in the pre-race party either, so we left our hotel (Harrah’s) around 3:30 and started walking south to get to the start line, which was slightly north of MGM on the east side (the MGM side) of the Strip. When we got to Harmon, we saw a stream of runners heading towards the start line, so we, along with everyone else walking south on the Strip with us, joined the stream.

WHAT. A. MESS.

As we walked, it became quite clear that most of the people in the stream were in the blue (first) wave of the race. My running buddy had been assigned to the blue wave, so that was fine, but I was technically in the green wave. As always, Rock ‘n’ Roll was bold, italicized, red font serious about not allowing people into corrals that did not correspond with the color on their bib, but was there anyone checking our bibs where we got in the stream to make sure we all belonged there? No. So I was able to sneak into the blue wave 1) without meaning to and 2) without realizing I was getting into the wrong wave.

Eventually, it occurred to us that all of the bib checking/”security” to get into the corrals must have been located somewhere in the pre-race party, but if that was the case, that was never communicated. This is what my pre-race information sheet said:

rnrlasvegasgreenraceday

Now, I will concede that it says to arrive at the Start Line Village by 3:30. Fine. But NOWHERE in this document does it say that you have to go to the Start Line Village prior to the race. It’s commonplace for races to suggest that you arrive by a certain time, but to my understanding, unless that time is when your corrals close, you don’t actually have to arrive then. I’ve read that whole document through several times, and I cannot find anywhere where it says that you must go to the Start Line Village (aka the pre-race party) in order to get into the corrals. It’s pretty obvious that Rock ‘n’ Roll has no problem highlighting text they don’t want you to miss, so if going to the Start Line Village was a requirement, why wouldn’t they put that in this document?

On top of that, the document does specifically say that “Entrance to the GREEN START CORRALS will be on Las Vegas Blvd north at Harmon Ave.” Now, call me crazy, but when I read a sentence like that, I assume that I enter the corrals on Las Vegas Blvd. (the Strip), not from the pre-race party.

“But Bethany,” you argue, “you were getting into the blue corrals. Maybe they had different instructions!”

They did, but those instructions still didn’t say anything about mandatory attendance at the pre-race party to enter the corrals:

rnrlasvegasblueraceday

Once again, the instructions here are to enter the corrals “on Las Vegas Blvd.” That’s not the Start Line Festival. That’s not Harmon, where we found the stream of people. That’s the Strip.

So, fine. Let’s give Rock ‘n’ Roll the enormous benefit of the doubt and say that their pre-race documentation was accurate and clear, and I’m just an idiot who makes too many assumptions and can’t read for comprehension. Putting all of that aside, the corral situation was STILL a disaster, even if you followed the directions about entering them, because they filled in from the back, with no delineation between any of them. There were no gates, no ropes, no volunteers, nothing. The entire thing was completely self-policed, and you know how THAT always ends up going. My running buddy was supposed to be in Corral 10, but by the time we reached what appeared to be Corral 12, it was so crowded that we couldn’t have moved up any farther even if we wanted to.

I’m not aiming to break any world records at any of these Rock ‘n’ Roll races, least of all at Vegas. But it bothers me to no end how Rock ‘n’ Roll talks such HUGE game about being strict about their corrals and then not only doesn’t enforce them, but at this race in particular, doesn’t even make an effort to show where one corral ends and the other begins. Inflatable corral markers only show you the general area associated with your corral, not its actual boundaries. It’s abundantly clear to me that Rock ‘n’ Roll does not care one little bit where anyone actually lines up at any of their races, and I just hate how they talk about corrals like it’s The Biggest Deal, and then do nothing to follow through on that claim.

Now that I’ve gotten those 900 words out of the way…

rnrlasvegas2018startline

I knew this race would be a challenge from the get-go, so I had extremely low expectations for myself. I kind of wanted to do better than I did in 2017, but I also kind of didn’t care. I was quite surprised to hit the first mile in 10:46, since I assumed I’d be running mostly in the 11:xx range. I came through the second mile in an 11:29, however, which was much closer to what I expected.

I thought about really getting into the spirit of just enjoying myself and taking pictures along the course whenever I felt so inclined, but I ultimately decided I didn’t feel like stopping at any of the big photo ops (the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, anywhere along the Strip, etc.) and just kept chugging along. Even though I started well before I was supposed to, based on my corral assignment, I passed a decent number of people and never felt like I was in anyone’s way (though having the entire Strip just for us did help in that department).

You run past the finish line (on the other side of the road) around mile five-ish of the half and full marathons at this race, and I was THRILLED to see the 10K finishers wrapped in heat sheets in the finish area. Knowing I’d get one of those after the race and not have to shiver the whole way back to Harrah’s was a huge relief. I also noticed that the finish line had a smoke machine, the “smoke” from which was blowing all over the road. I had a bad reaction to that at a race once (like, hard-time-breathing bad reaction) and was worried that would happen again, but I made it through all right.

We made it up to Fremont Street and then turned south onto Las Vegas Blvd. again a bit past mile nine, which, in my opinion, is when the race really gets tough. I said this last year, too, but the most deceptive thing about Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas is that the entire course is on a barely-perceptible incline. You can’t see it, but you can certainly feel it, especially when you start going up again on the southbound trip to the finish line.

rnrlasvegaselevationmap

When I hit mile 10, it occurred to me that I could play my 5K game from the marathon again. I had checked my watch at the 5K mark, which I came through in 35:xx. When I hit the 10 mile mark, I added 35 minutes to my time and got to 2:28:xx. I decided I’d try to run the last 5K faster than the first 5K: a bigger challenge than I think I realized when I set it, due to the incline situation.

My mile times weren’t dropping quite like I wanted them to, especially for how hard I felt like I was working. When I got to mile 13, I realized it was going to be awful close to cross the finish line before 2:28:xx, so I did what I could do find another gear and managed to get in at 2:27:52. That counts! (And is around seven minutes faster than I did this race last year, so yay.)

The smoke machine situation was not ideal at the finish line. Due to the wind (which wasn’t even half as bad as Rock ‘n’ Roll’s email made it sound–my Garmin logged an 8 mph wind, compared to the 18 mph wind it logged during Hot Chocolate the week before), the smoke blew into the finish chute rather than up harmlessly into the air. I felt it irritating my throat (not too badly, thankfully), and a bunch of people around me were coughing. You’d think, if they sent out an email threatening to not even put up start/finish line signage (which they did use) or course clocks (which they did not use) due to the wind that it would occur to them that perhaps smoke machines would be a bad idea, but apparently that didn’t cross anyone’s mind.

I hobbled through the finish area on achy legs, gathered my food, hydration, and heat sheet, met up with my running buddy, and returned to Harrah’s to thaw out.

rnrlasvegasmedal2018

(For all my criticisms of Rock ‘n’ Roll, I do have to hand it to them in the medal department. I love this one. The “cards” fold in, which I think is cool. You can’t really see the black detail at the bottom in this picture, but it’s a bunch of buildings from the Strip.)

 

Thursday Things

1. I got my flu shot on Sunday after Hot Chocolate, and boy, what an ordeal!

Due to my history of fainting as a result of needle-based procedures, I have to lie down when I need a shot, blood draw, or anything else involving a needle. This makes things that should normally be simple (like getting a flu shot) a bit of a headache, because I can’t go just anywhere. I can’t get my flu shot when the office brings nurses on-site to administer them at work, and I can’t just pop into Jewel or whatever and get it from the pharmacist while sitting in a chair. I tend to utilize CVS MinuteClinics for my flu shot, then, because I know they’ll be able to accommodate my demands.

I went to a MinuteClinic on Sunday, where they had posted a sign that wait times were longer than normal due to computer issues. I figured this meant five minutes instead of the usual zero minutes. After inputting my information, it told me to expect a 90 minute wait. Yikes! This MinuteClinic was in a Target, so I went shopping. I swung by MinuteClinic after I finished and saw that my wait time had jumped to 115 minutes–after I had spent at least 30 minutes shopping! I had no desire to spend my entire afternoon in Target, so I left.

Quite some time later, I got a text from MinuteClinic letting me know they could see me in 30 minutes. I was running other errands that would require going past Target to get back home, so I returned to Target and finally got to see the nurse, nearly two and a half hours after I signed in.

The nurse was SUPER nice and more than respectful of my manifold requests (that I must be lying down, that she had to follow these specific instructions from my allergist regarding cleaning the injection site prior to vaccination). She gave me plenty of time to recover and made sure I got my $5 Target coupon when I left as a reward for getting my shot (though I did not get a sticker like the six year old who went before me. Such injustice! πŸ˜› )

I had already done my Target shopping for the day, but I wanted to use my coupon, darn it, so I went shopping again, this time walking away with a pair of adorable penguin socks.

I went to a checkout aisle and put my socks down on the belt, along with my coupon. Someone in front of me was wrapping up his transaction, and in the process of doing that, the cashier picked up my coupon, scanned it, and took $5 off the bill of the guy in front of me.

None of us really realized what had happened until the guy in front of me had paid for everything, at which point the cashier began apologizing and trying to figure out how to undo it. While he was doing that, the guy in front of me opened his wallet, fished out five $1 bills, and handed them to me “to make everything simpler.” How nice of him!

So, after nearly three hours, I got my flu shot and a pair of socks that only cost me 51 cents (the tax). Like I said, what an ordeal!

2. I lost my half marathon ring 😦

halfring1

RIP.

I bought that ring after finishing my first half marathon six (!) years ago and had worn it just about every day since. Last Tuesday, I was emptying my backpack out after I got home from dance and realized my ring was missing. I figured I must’ve left it at work (I took off all my jewelry before leaving, because I changed into my dance clothes at the office and don’t wear jewelry during dance), but it wasn’t there when I arrived Wednesday morning. I have no idea what happened to it, but since it hasn’t turned up, I assume it’s gone forever. Sad day 😦 A replacement is on the way, but I’m bummed to not have the original anymore. I’m also shocked I managed to not lose it for so long, given how often I take my jewelry off in a setting where I could easily lose something (the gym, the office).

3. An unexpected side effect from the marathon is the strong (positive!) association I now have with songs I identify with the race.

A few weeks before the marathon, High Hopes by Panic! at the Disco came on at the gym, and I thought, “This would be the perfect theme song for the marathon.” I added it to my marathon morning playlist, and it was the last song I heard before leaving my house that morning. I ran the marathon, had the best day ever, and then didn’t hear the song in its entirety again until I went back to the gym last week to get back into my strength training routine. I was smiling like a fool doing lunges, because the song made me think of the marathon and how amazing that day was.

Then on Tuesday, I was at the gym strength training again, Despacito came on, and it was the same situation all over again (though this time with V-ups instead of lunges). Someone was set up on the course close to mile 19, in between Little Italy and Pilsen on Loomis, absolutely blasting Despacito when I went by. I think I will forever associate that song with that part of the marathon now, particularly with how happy and great I felt.

Do you have songs that remind you of specific events?Β I can’t tell you how many songs now remind me of my dance class, haha.

Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Race Recap

I ran the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K on Sunday, logging my first 15K (in a race setting) in the process.

Like I said a couple of weeks ago, there are multiple reasons why I had never run Hot Chocolate. Timing was a big one, since the race falls soon after the Chicago Marathon. The bigger reason, though, is Hot Chocolate’s reputation for royally screwing things up. It’s been years since the debacle that was Hot Chocolate D.C., and while that was likely Hot Chocolate’s biggest screw-up, when I was more actively involved in the behind-the-scenes part of the Chicago running world, Hot Chocolate Chicago was also notorious for having nightmare packet pickup situations. I have very little patience for races that can’t get their act together, and even less patience for races that can’t get their act together when they’re put on by a for-profit company whose only purpose is to put on races (i.e.: RAM), so I thought it would likely be in my best interest to stay away.

However, I am not immune to the siren song of cool race swag. I started toying with the idea of running Hot Chocolate last year, and started taking that idea more seriously at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago expo when I saw the race’s sweatshirt for the first time.

hotchocolate15kpacket

I LOVED it, so at that moment I decided if I could make it through the marathon in one piece, I’d sign up for Hot Chocolate.

I have no idea how the expo was this year, because my cousin was in town at the end of last week for a conference at McCormick Place and offered to pick up my packet for me to save me the trip. He didn’t seem to have any complaints, though, so I guess it must’ve been fine. The contents, however, were less than helpful:

hotchocolate15ksafetypins

That is a zip tie that has already been zip tied. Good luck getting that to attach your gear check tag to your gear check bag!

Another small detail that was perhaps not messed up, but certainly confusing? My packet came in an plastic, opaque white drawstring bag. Additionally, other participants did get clear plastic bags for their packets. I also saw some people with black plastic packet bags. What gives?? The gear check rules online specifically indicated that I needed to use a clear plastic bag for gear check. If you’re going to require that I use a clear plastic bag for gear check, then you need to provide a clear plastic bag for gear check, like every other race that has that requirement.

hotchocolategearcheck

Please note the line at the end about the zip ties, too.

The forecast had called for rain on Sunday all week, so I was pleased to wake up to dry skies. It was fairly chilly and quite windy, though. I donned my Goodwill throwaways and headed out the door around 5:45 for the 7 a.m. start.

I know Hot Chocolate usually has oodles of participants (there were 29,702 timed finishers on Sunday. For those of you keeping score at home, this year’s Shamrock Shuffle had 20,899 finishers. Based on that, I would like to reiterate my belief the Bank of America should sell the Shuffle to RAM: a company much better suited to put on a race like the Shuffle.), so I wanted to arrive with plenty of time to check my gear and use the portapotties. As it turned out, there were ample portapotties for the size of the race, and I waited less than five minutes to get into one (a non-smelly one, no less!). I will certainly give Hot Chocolate credit for that. If I had to pick between an unusable zip tie and plenty of portapotties, I’d pick the portapotties every time.

15K gear check was quite a hike from the Wave One start corrals, but I got to my corral with 15 minutes to spare. I found myself a nice spot on the leftover blue line (not that it mattered, since this obviously wasn’t the marathon) and watched the pre-race ceremony on a video board they had right by the start line. The race supports Make-a-Wish, and they had a couple Make-a-Wish kids up on stage with their parents to talk about what the foundation means to them. One of the kids wants to skate with the Blackhawks, so they brought Tommy Hawk up on stage and had Jim Cornelison sing the National Anthem! That was really cool. They also used the board to display race etiquette, both for runners and runners with children, and to show how the 5K would split from the 15K. I thought it was excellent use of technology, and something other large races should definitely consider using.

hotchocolate15kstart

And then we were off! Hot Chocolate involves a lot of running in the Loop (if you do the 5K, you run almost exclusively in the Loop) and used a different course than the usual Loop-based races, which I enjoyed as a nice change of pace (heh puns). While we’re on the topic of the course, though, I would like to air my biggest grievance with Hot Chocolate: the online course map.

hotchocolatecoursemap

This is what was provided in the online participant guide: the only place I could find a course map for the race. At first glance, it looks just fine. Shows you the start/finish lines, shows you where you’re going to run, shows you all the race courses, even includes a detail with the 5K/15K split: what more could you want?

I don’t know, maybe mile markers? And while we’re at it, aid station locations?

COME. ON. I complained about Rock ‘n’ Roll’s bizzaro map issues back in July, but this makes Rock ‘n’ Roll look like they had their act together. I’d rather have misplaced mile markers on the course map than no mile markers at all! It especially bothered me that they didn’t put the aid stations on the online course map. I fuel every five miles for runs seven miles or longer, which meant I needed to fuel during this race. Because no one at RAM could be bothered to give us any information on the location of aid stations, neither in the participant guide nor in the course map, I had to carry my water bottle for the whole run to ensure I’d have water to chase my chews at mile five. As it turned out, there was an aid station at like mile 4.8, which would’ve been MORE than sufficient for my fueling needs.

Did this completely screw up my race, a race I only needed to finish to PR? Of course not. The miles were all marked on the course, which is all I really needed. It didn’t put in me in danger or anything serious like that. But like I said after Rock ‘n’ Roll, the devil is in the details when it comes to these sorts of things, and when you combine it with the other detail-related issues (a pre-zipped zip tie, an opaque bag), all of those little problems make RAM look sloppy, especially when there are other event management companies that get every detail right, every single time. If all you do is organize races, you should be getting every detail right, every single time. Period.

Anyway.

As it turned out, the primary challenge of Hot Chocolate was not running blind in terms of mile markers or aid stations, nor was it having a pre-zipped zip tie, nor was it having to find a clear bag for my gear: it was the wind. Holy cow, the wind. There were 18 mph winds out of the southeast for the duration of the race, and you know the only two directions you run between emerging from Lower Wacker around mile one all the way through mile 6.a little change? South and east. Oof. Hot Chocolate marked the first time in my running career where I saw used aid station cups before I got the the aid station, because the wind was so strong downtown that it blew the cups up the course. It was nuts, and I was very thankful that we only had wind to deal with, not wind and rain.

The course was definitely one of the more unique ones I’ve run in the city. Not only did it not follow the typical Columbus-to-Grand-to-State Street route, but it was hilly by Chicago standards?? That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write, but there were a bunch of inclines on the course: up to get off of Lower Wacker, up to get onto the 35th St. pedestrian bridge at the southernmost portion of the course, up to get off the Lakefront Trail onto Fort Dearborn Drive, up from a dip around Soldier Field, up to get back up onto Columbus for the finish. It was quite the experience for a Chicago race!

I finished in 1:34:33, which was perfectly fine by me. I hoped to run close to a 10:00 pace and ended up averaging a 10:09. No complaints here. I’m ran a steady pace for most of the race (my 5K and 10K splits were both 10:14 exactly) and felt like I ran comfortably hard for all 9.3 miles.

The real highlight of the event, of course, is the post-race chocolate (there was also candy at the aid stations, but I skipped most of that). The finisher’s mug is really something else:

hotchocolate15kfinishermug

Yes. Please.

It started to rain a little after I got my mug, but it didn’t seem feasible to travel with it, given the chocolate fondue situation. I certainly wasn’t about to let any of my treats to go waste, so I chowed down while watching the awards ceremony. Everything was just as delicious and wonderful as I hoped it would be!

hotchocoalte15kpostraceparty

I don’t expect that I’ll do Hot Chocolate again, mostly because I don’t expect that it’ll be as convenient for me as it was this year moving forward. I’m glad I gave it a shot, though, and that I got a super comfortable, well-fitting zip-up sweatshirt out of it πŸ™‚

hotchocolate15kmedal

Thursday Things

1. Is it just me, or have the trees been way prettier this fall than they’ve been in awhile?

fallcolors

Maybe I forget how vibrant the fall colors are from year to year, but it seems like this fall has been better than ones in the past. I’ve been surprised by how many beautiful trees I’ve seen all around the city. I love it! If only the constant grey of winter didn’t have to follow 😦

I’m getting antsy (not in a good way) about winter and am really dreading falling back an hour on Sunday. The sun is already setting plenty early for me (5:44 today in Chicago), and the idea of that happening an hour earlier does not thrill me.

I know I’ll almost certainly be fine through the holidays, but I’m worried about what will come after that. My SAD last year was by far the worst it’s ever been, even when I was actively working to keep it at bay (using my happy light every morning, going to therapy, scheduling things to look forward to). I strongly associate SAD with the end of daylight savings time (mostly because it goes away the instant daylight savings time resumes again in March), so I’m not at all excited about Sunday 😦

I hope running through most of this winter will help. I know I won’t have many opportunities to run when it’s light outside (other than on weekend long runs), but I’m crossing my fingers that having a structured training plan and a serious focus on breaking 2:00 in the half marathon will keep me focused on brighter (literally) days ahead.

2. Speaking of sunlight, Fitbit had this wildly unhelpful suggestion for me on Monday:

fitbit

I’d love to let the sunlight in as soon as I wake up. Too bad I don’t live in Magical Fantasy Land where I wake up every morning as a Disney princess to the twittering of birds and soft rays of sun spilling through my curtains. Instead, I live in The Real World, where my work schedule doesn’t change based on the time the sun comes up, which can be any time between 5:14 a.m. and 7:18 a.m. in Chicago. I suppose if I started my work day at 9:00, that’d be possible, but I don’t. And if I lived back home? Forget it! This time of year, the sun doesn’t come up until 8:15 a.m.! Even if I did start work at 9:00, that’d still be a ridiculous “tip.”

I realize I probably shouldn’t get so worked up about a silly sentence from Fitbit, but here we are.

3. I would like to introduce you to my new friends!

birds

All, meet (left to right) Edgar Allan Ravencrow, Jack O’Lan Tern, Holden Cawfield, and Myles Birdish.

Kim got these for me after I lost my mind over their cuteness when she blogged about them. Aren’t they just painfully adorable?!?! I can’t stand it *heart-eyed emoji*

They obviously all needed names, and while I didn’t originally plan on giving them all bird pun names…well…you see what happened. It’s all Edgar Allan Ravencrow’s fault. He appears to be all black, like a crow, so clearly he had to be named Edgar Allan Crow, but Edgar Allan Poe wrote a poem about a raven, so we needed to Harry Potter-ify his last name. Then things just spiraled from there. Holden Cawfield’s hat looks like Holden Caulfield’s hat from Catcher in the Rye, so that one was pretty simple. Myles Birdish looks like a pilgrim, so he got a name inspired by Myles Standish. Jack O’Lan Tern was the hardest one to name. I kept trying to come up with pumpkin/bird puns, and it finally occurred to me that terns are birds, so I could just break up “lantern” into two words.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of my new friends and the fall cheer they bring to my house πŸ™‚

Do you decorate for fall? These birds are my first real fall decorations! I usually buy those ugly little gourds and put them on a table, but those don’t last from year to year, unsurprisingly.

Wedding Weekend

Two of my good friends married each other on Saturday, and the whole weekend was filled with lovely wedding events! As I mentioned last Thursday, the bride is Indian, so the wedding was a combination of Indian and American traditions. First up: the mehndi party.

mehndipartycupcakes

The mehndi party is when the bride (and other guests) receive their henna, though in this particular case, the bride had had her henna done the day before (it took four hours!). An artist was there to draw henna on other guests who were interested, though. I would’ve loved to have some done, but given my skin’s recent penchant for having an allergic reaction to nearly anything under the sun (bath bombs, certain laundry detergents, antiseptics), I didn’t think it’d be in my best interest to experiment with dye that’s supposed to stay on your skin for several days. The party also included a buffet of Indian food, which was the first time I’ve ever had ~real~ Indian food (my previous experience was limited to the frozen, single-serve meals you get at Trader Joe’s, which only kind of counts). I enjoyed the dinner options (though some of them certainly challenged my spice tolerance!), but dessert…! omg.

gulabjamun

The bride has been talking up gulab jamun every time wedding food came up when we were hanging out, and boy, she did not oversell it. They were so good, and to my immense surprise, reminded me very much of oliebollen, a Dutch donut that my family often has around the holidays.

The elephant cookies also became a bit of a joke at the party. The bride likes elephants and wanted them to be a theme throughout the wedding, which is why they had them at the party. However, it turned out that the room across from ours in the banquet hall was hosting a Republican fundraiser at the same time, headlined by none other than Bruce Rauner, governor of Illinois, himself. That was quite the surprise to everyone, including the bride’s family who had booked the space months ago, not to mention quite the contrast. I don’t think anyone arriving at the hall that night accidentally attended the wrong event! At least the cookies could’ve fit in equally well at either party πŸ˜›

I went to the rehearsal dinner on Friday, so that’s how I spent that evening, and then we had the main event on Saturday night!

The wedding was at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, and was originally supposed to be outside. I had been concerned about the weather ever since I found out they wanted to get married outside (and wanted to get married in October), but, per usual, it turns out all my fretting was for naught. It started to sprinkle about an hour and a half before the wedding, so they moved the ceremony inside (the reception was always going to be inside).

mandap

This was my first Indian wedding, and I thought it was one of the loveliest ceremonies I’ve ever attended. The Hindu priest performed the ceremony in Sanskrit, but explained everything he said and why it was important in English. I learned so much about Hinduism and its beliefs, traditions, and customs, which I loved! It was all really interesting and made everything more meaningful to understand the religious and symbolic significance behind everything happening during the ceremony.

This was also my first wedding at the Nature Museum, and wow! What a venue! We basically had our run of the place the whole evening (though I was too busy hanging out with friends and dancing the night away to spend much time exploring). Cocktail hour was among the second floor exhibits, and while I would’ve loved to check all of them out, I couldn’t drag myself away from the Birds of Chicago wall.

peggynotebaertnaturemuseumbirdsofchicago

I literally spent the entire hour at the Birds of Chicago. It was so interesting! I tried counting how many of them I’ve seen in real life in Chicago (seeing them other places didn’t count, since it was a Birds of Chicago display)–I think it was 31?–and was fascinated by the whole thing, particularly the birds that were/were not included. Like why were some warblers in the display, but not all the warblers that pass through Chicago? I was also fascinated by the number of birds displayed in their non-breeding plumage, since some birds look very different during breeding and non-breeding season! Unsurprisingly, it was much easier to get a good look at birds when they’re stuffed, labeled, and all right next to each other compared to when they’re alive, flying, and usually only hanging out with their own kind (I found this extremely helpful for the sparrows in particular), so it was a good opportunity to familiarize myself with the differences between various birds in the same family.

The reception followed, and it was a blast. I got to try new foods, had even more gulab jamun, and danced so much I woke up sore on Sunday. If that’s not a sign of a great wedding, I don’t know what is πŸ™‚

Thursday Things

1. I had THEE WORST Saturday afternoon. And by, “thee worst,” I mean, “things could’ve been much worse and I’m being dramatic, but it was still frustrating.”

As I’ve mentioned before, there is next to nothing I loathe more than clothes shopping. I enjoy nothing about the process and avoid it unless absolutely necessary. Of course, that’s probably part of why I hate it so much (it’s a lot more stressful to go shopping for something when you NEED IT RIGHT NOW versus going because you feel like it), but regardless, it’s not how I choose to spend my free time.

On Thursday, I found out I was going to La Boheme at the Lyric on Saturday–more on that later–and for some reason, that was the occasion that pushed me over the, “I need a winter-friendly nice dress” ledge. I have three upcoming occasions that will require winter-friendly nice dresses (more on one of them later, too), so adding this fourth one felt like enough justification to buy a nice dress.

Prior to Saturday, I had exactly three nice dresses in my closet: a sleeveless, lacy one I wear to summer weddings; a silky, mostly sleeveless one I bought for a gala (I think?) in 2013 with a ripped seam; and a black spaghetti strap dress I wore to the Christmas dance in HIGH SCHOOL, which I should 100 percent get rid of, given that I’m not 17 anymore and haven’t worn it once since I was 17.

As that was my selection, I decided I needed something new. Since the opera was on Saturday night, I didn’t have time to shop online and instead went to Macy’s Saturday afternoon, expecting it to be an in-and-out sort of situation. After all, in the past year, I’ve gone to Macy’s twice and tried on pretty dresses just for the fun of it! I had some other reason to be there, got distracted by the shiny things, and the next thing I knew, I was in a beautiful floor-length gown in a dressing room, wishing I had a black tie event to attend so I could buy the dress. How hard could getting a dress be on Saturday?

As it turns out, REALLY. FREAKING. HARD.

There were three things that made this so freaking hard:

Thing #1: the pressure to find a dress immediately, due to wanting to wear itΒ that night, versus trying on whatever struck my fancy because I wanted to.

Thing #2: the fact that all the dresses I try on for fun are almost always insane, floor-length numbers, and I wanted something 1) classic and 2) knee length

Thing #3: the fact that one of the occasions for which I needed this dress is an Indian-American wedding (the “more on that later” event). While a sari is an option (and the bride, who’s the Indian half of this Indian-American wedding, assured me that it would not be cultural appropriation for me, a person of exclusively northern European heritage, to wear a sari, despite my concerns), I don’t like to buy one-use-only outfits. I could rent a sari, but that cost nearly as much as I was willing to spend on a dress I’d actually get to keep and wear multiple times…and, honestly, I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of wearing a sari. This wedding is going to be an Indian ceremony followed by an American reception, and the bride/bridesmaids will all be changing from traditional Indian clothing into traditional American clothing for the reception, so it wasn’t going to be offensive for me to wear a dress rather than a sari (another thing that the bride assured me–“Wear what makes you comfortable!”–because clearly my outfit should be her main concern in the days leading up to the event. Get it together, Bethany.)

HOWEVER. Even if I didn’t wear a sari, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to wear white, black, or red. That’s all well and good–I probably wouldn’t have wanted a white or red dress anyway–but do you have ANY IDEA how hard it is to go shopping for winter-friendly dresses when your off-limits colors include black and red?! They exist, but the VAST majority of what was available at Macy’s was either black or some version of red, and they were either floor length (too formal) or just-grazing-your-upper-thigh length (too skimpy).

It was a disaster.

This “in-and-out” sort of situation turned into a “four hours of trying on dresses and hating all of them and crying a bit about it, too” sort of situation. I went to Macy’s (the dresses floor and the regular-clothes-with-some-dresses-mixed-in floor). I went to Nordstrom Rack (where I didn’t see any dresses at all??). I went to H&M. I went to Express. I went back to Macy’s. I went to Francesca’s. I went to Akira. I went to Zara. I went to Saks Off 5th. NOTHING. Not one single store had a dress that checked all my boxes (not white/black/red, not trendy, not skimpy, not overly formal, not over $100). I was ready to punch someone by the time I gave up–specifically, whoever decided that all long sleeve dresses this year need to be bell sleeves as opposed to normal sleeves I can wear five years from now without someone looking at me and saying, “She definitely bought that dress in 2018!”

2. I needed to be in the suburbs on Sunday, so I went to the outlet mall in Aurora to continue my quest (despite no longer needing the dress for the opera). I expected similar results to Saturday’s debacle, and was well on track for a repeat after finding nothing at their Saks Off 5th, J. Crew, or Express, when I decided to wander into Akira just in case.

I’ve shopped at Akira twice before and been pleasantly surprised by the experience both times. When I went on Saturday, I didn’t spend enough time there to catch the attention of a salesperson, but the store in Aurora was fairly empty on Sunday. Someone approached me soon after I started browsing, and I recounted my woes to her, particularly in the color department. She set off to start a dressing room for me, and I’ll be honest: I had very low expectations. Looking through the lineup, I didn’t see anything I liked, but I started trying things on anyway.

Wouldn’t you know it, they did it again.

akiraolivedress

I was super impressed with this dress as soon as I put it on. No, it doesn’t have sleeves like I really wanted, but I found a wrap later that day that will get the job done (did I mention that this wedding is outside? At sunset? This Saturday? In Chicago? That’s why I was so concerned about sleeves.). Seriously, if you’re in the area and need a dress: go to Akira. They will solve all your problems. I know a lot of their clothes are…out there, to put it mildly, but they do have hidden gems!

I also got this necklace while I was there, because *heart-eyed emoji*

akiraiheartchinecklace

Obsessed.

3. So! La Boheme! Seven years ago, I did an internship in Chicago that literally changed my life. I would not have moved to Chicago, I would not have started running, I would not have started blogging had it not been for that internship–and, subsequently, all the things that have happened as a result of me moving to Chicago/running/blogging never would’ve happened either. The program through which I did my internship takes students to art events in the city every week during the semester, either for class credit or just because. If you’re doing it for class credit, you have to go, but if you’re doing it just because, you can skip whenever you want (if I remember correctly).

This past Saturday, the program’s weekly art event was closing night of La Boheme at the Lyric. Apparently, a fair number of the students doing art events just because figured there were better ways they could spend their Saturday night in Chicago other than at the opera, because the program had a bunch of extra tickets for the show. One of the staff members posted about it in the alumni group on Facebook, and since I had nothing going on Saturday evening, I reached out to see how much they cost. The program had already paid for them, so they were free. WHAT! I looked it up later, and seats in my row were going for $139. That was a pretty good deal, so off I went to the opera!

lyricoperalaboheme

I had never seen a fully staged opera before, so this was a really special occasion! I got all dressed up (in my sleeveless lacy dress, due to the above drama, with a scarf over my shoulders to keep me warm) and had a delightful time. The performers were all so talented, and I’m glad I got to see the show!

Have you ever been to the opera?