Thursday Things

1. I feel like I’m being a bad blogger by only posting once a week instead of my usual twice per week. I just haven’t had anything additional to say, and I don’t really feel like forcing myself to come up with content just for the sake of having content. This is what I like about marathon season: built in content. I suppose I could do training recaps all year if I’m that concerned about it (though lately, I wouldn’t have much to tell you about, other than that I’m making a lot of progress on Yoga with Adriene. I came down with a cold last week and wanted to get over it ASAP to be back to normal (at least in that department) before my wisdom teeth extraction this Saturday, so I thought it’d be in my best interest to back off in the workout department to encourage my body to heal itself.)

2. While we’re talking about medicine, I would like to subject you to my latest source of frustration: the “optional” health screening required by my employer.

I get an annual physical every year, because I am a responsible adult an anxious mess of a human who is constantly convinced that she is teetering on the precipice of sudden death, despite being fairly healthy in general, an having a medical professional tell me that all is well quells that anxiety for approximately 34 minutes. Point is: it’s not hard to get me into a doctor’s office. I would actually argue that it’s harder to keep me out of a doctor’s office (#anxietyproblems). But, because I am probably in the minority of people who stick to a physical schedule with admirable (?) rigidity, my employer/health insurance provider/corporate wellness program organizer find it necessary to coerce me and my coworkers into an annual health screening.

This screening requires a medically trained professional to take your blood pressure, your height, your waist circumference, and–and here’s where it gets sticky (puns) for me–your cholesterol, your glucose, and your nicotine status, all of which MUST come from a blood test, which MUST take place via venipuncture. Because this is “optional,” you do, technically, have the choice to refuse the health screening. However, if you choose to not participate in this health screening, my employer will punish you by charging you $925 more annually for your health insurance premium. So sure, legally, technically, officially, it’s optional, but when nearly $1000 is on the line, is it really optional? No, it is not.

To accommodate this option requirement, my employer provides onsite screenings. This is all well and good if you’re someone who’s able to maintain consciousness when needles are involved. Since I am not that person, I have to take care of all of this in the doctor’s office, where I am then responsible for all the costs incurred for the appointment. When I went to the doctor to have all this done on Monday, the doctor forgot to order the nicotine test (shocking, that she wouldn’t automatically think to do that for a patient who has never so much as touched a cigarette in her entire life /sarcasmfont), so now I have to go back to the doctor AGAIN to have my blood drawn AGAIN to avoid paying $925 extra on my health insurance this year.

I am not thrilled 😐

3. While I’m in a complain-y mood, I would also like to vent my frustrations at Amazon. Super uplifting day on the blog over here!

On Cyber Monday, I ordered three Christmas presents from Amazon: a ceramic planter and two books. I don’t have Prime, so I patiently waited for my packages to arrive as scheduled the following Friday. Throughout the day on that Friday, I got a few emails warning me that something had gone wrong with my delivery, and that Saturday, learned that the delivery had never taken place at all due to a shipping issue (that issue, as I later learned, was that the ceramic planter had broke in transit. How THAT happened, given how its replacement was packed, I’ll never know, but whatever. Amazon said it broke.). Amazon told me to contact their customer support to remedy the situation, so I did that right away Saturday morning. I was issued a refund for the broken planter, and the two books were reshipped to me. I reordered the ceramic planter and went on with my life.

On Christmas Eve, I received an email from Amazon warning me that I only had a couple weeks left to return the two books from the initial order, or else I’d be charged for them. This was concerning, particularly because I had never received the two books from the initial order in the first place. To my understanding, based on the tracking information associated with my initial order, all three items from the initial order were sent back to Amazon a week after Cyber Monday. The two books I ended up getting were sent in a different order that Amazon created on my behalf to get me the books I paid for. The initial order, including those two books, was never even dropped off. So I contacted Amazon, told them all of this, and they said to not worry about the email I received on Christmas Eve. I, once again, went on with my life.

Then this past Saturday, I received another email from Amazon telling me that since I had never returned the two books from the initial order, they were charging me for them effective immediately. I. Was. FURIOUS. Where on earth did they get off, accusing me of “not returning the order” that was never delivered to me in the first place?!?!?! My outrage only grew when I went back to customer support, and the person assigned to my customer support chat had the gall to tell me that the two books I had received were sent as a replacement to make up for what happened with the first books–which is all well and good, but the fact remained that I was now being charged for FOUR books, when in reality I had only EVER seen TWO of them.

I did eventually get my money back, but man, what a long, drawn out hassle, all over a problem that Amazon created for itself in the first place when THEIR delivery person somehow break a planter that was packed so tightly I had a hard time extracting it from its box to make sure it was what I wanted before gifting it. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of Amazon–I just feel much more confident buying directly from a retailer I know is reputable instead of hoping I’m buying from a decent dealer on Amazon–and let me tell you, this did NOT help matters AT ALL. I have a feeling it’ll be awhile until I buy anything from Amazon again.

4. In less whiny news, I am the proud new owner of ALL OF THE SHOES. Well, maybe not all of the shoes. But all of the shoes I needed to replace.

We have this thing at work where when managers are happy with something you’ve done, they can reward you points, which you can then use to get stuff–basically like credit card rewards, but without the spending-money-via-your-credit-card part of the equation. It occurred to me that I had points stored up in the system and that I probably had enough to get a gift card or two that could go to my shoe-buying needs. Lo and behold, I did!

I was delighted to discover that L.L. Bean had boots on sale (since L.L. Bean has such a generous return policy, I figured they were a safe bet in that department) and that Nike had their 2017 Frees on sale, so between the gift cards I could get from work’s system and the sales, I ended up spending a lot less of my own money than I originally anticipated.

LLBeansnowboot

While the boots have been great from a warmth/dryness standpoint, they are definitely taking some getting used to. The leather uppers don’t come pre-broken in, so they’re breaking my calves in the meantime. The boots have been way too stiff against my legs and have really irritated my lower legs. I’m sure once I break them in that won’t happen anymore, but the process of breaking them in is proving to be a bit more uncomfortable than I had hoped!

The Nikes, on the other hand, are a rousing success.

nikefreernflyknit2017

I really wanted them in this color, but they didn’t have any in my size online when I bought them (they do now, of course). These at least are still a little purple, even if they’re not OMGPURPLE like I wanted. Anyway, these are the Free RN Flyknit 2017s (I got the running Frees as opposed to the training Frees because they were cheaper…no shame), and they’ve worked excellently for both dance and a strength training workout thus far.

How should I spend my down time after I get my wisdom teeth out? Totally unrelated to this post, but this upcoming wisdom teeth extraction is about all I can think about, so here we are.

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Thursday Things

1. I only have nine days of wisdom left.

Mark your calendars, because my wisdom teeth come out on January 20, and, in the least surprising turn of events of all time, I’m already freaking out about the whole thing, and I do mean the whole thing. I’m freaked out about not being able to eat or drink anything for six hours prior to my appointment (especially the “drink anything” part of the equation), I’m freaked out about being put under anesthesia, I’m freaked out about recovery, AND, in case all of that wasn’t enough, I’m freaked out about having to make a decision about what’s going to happen in the first place.

I went to the dentist in December for a scan that would give the oral surgeon a better idea of where my wisdom teeth are and where my nerves are to hopefully reduce the likelihood of nerve injury (which I am, nevertheless, convinced is going to happen anyway). That scan revealed that while I do have four wisdom teeth, my two top wisdom teeth are so close to my sinuses that I have a risk for sinus perforation should I choose to have those two removed. My top wisdom teeth are so far up in my head that they haven’t even begun to break through my gums and aren’t bothering me at all, so if there’s a risk for additional bodily harm by removing them, it seems to make the most sense to just leave them alone, right?

Wrong. Well, it does, but the problem with leaving them alone is that neither my oral surgeon nor I are psychics, and thus can’t divine what will happen with those teeth in the future. They could just stay exactly where they are, allowing me to go about my life unbothered. They could continue to grow, becoming more entangled with the nerves in the area, making extraction even more difficult in the future (plus I’d be older, which in and of itself makes your recovery more difficult). They could develop into cysts, which would also require future removal.

Ultimately, the decision is mine. The oral surgeon won’t take out my top wisdom teeth if I tell him not to. The dentist recommended I get them out, with the caveat that 1) the oral surgeon might have a different opinion and 2) I was free to disregard their medical advice if I so chose (right, because that definitely makes it sounds optional *rolls eyes*). Even if the oral surgeon does recommend that I get them out, I don’t know that I’ll believe him. I’m extremely skeptical of dentists and their reputation for upselling, and frankly rarely trust a dental professional to make a recommendation purely in my best interest when they stand to make a lot of pocket change from that recommendation. I already have a cost estimate for the extraction, which clearly shows that each–each–top wisdom tooth is worth over $700 (while the bottom teeth are worth closer to $600 each). How am I supposed to trust someone to give me sound medical advice when over $1400 for him is on the line? It reminds me so much of when I went through the whole orthodontia rigamarole as a kid. The orthodontist insisted I needed the whole nine yards–expanders, retainers, braces, and then more retainers–to have healthy, happy teeth as an adult. After going through the expander/retainer piece of the equation, one of his assistants, apparently the altruistic person in the office, told my parents during a consultation that they were welcome to spend $3000 on braces for me, but I definitely didn’t need them and would survive just fine without them. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t end up getting braces, and presumably, the orthodontist office had to wait for the next schmuck to come along to get enough money to upgrade the Gameboys (what’s up, 1998) they had at every single seat in the clinic (true story) or finance his kid’s education at the most expensive, uppity-ist private school in town (another true story) or pay for the massive salt water fish tank they had in the waiting room (a third true story). (Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that I should steer clear of dental professionals who are all aboard the conspicuous consumption train, she thought to herself as she considered how her current dentist’s office reeks of trendiness and curated aesthetics. *headdesk*)

Even taking the top teeth conundrum out of the equation, I’m still terrified that something is going to go very, very wrong during this. Yes, I know people get their wisdom teeth taken out every day and don’t die during the procedure, or soon after the procedure, or from an infection they acquire as a result of the procedure, or don’t have to live their life with excruciating nerve pain or other devastating side effects after the procedure, but just because plenty of people get through this in one piece does not at all reassure me that I’m going to get through this in one piece, especially since I’m not 17 like everyone else who gets their wisdom teeth out. I know I’m probably being irrational, but I don’t feel like I’m being irrational. I just hate the whole situation 😦

2. Now, I’m just going out on a limb here, but I think my phone may not be the best device to use as a level.

crookedpictures

Lulz.

I changed out some framed pictures on Monday and had the genius idea to use the level function on my phone to make sure they hung straight. I thought the frames looked a little off kilter when I was trying to arrange them so that my phone would tell me they were level, but I know sometimes it’s hard to see if frames are straight when you’re right next to them, so I figured that was the problem. Nope! Haha.

It occurred to me later that the level might’ve worked better if I had taken my phone out of its case before I tried to use it, but by that point I had already used my eyes to put the frames back to normal anyway. Should’ve just trusted myself to begin with.

3. My 10 year high school reunion is this weekend, and I’m being a chump and not going.

I have many mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it doesn’t make sense for me to go. The reunion is on a Friday, which would mean I’d have to take time off work: an idea that did not thrill me, since I can think of other ways I’d rather spend my PTO than by hanging out with a bunch of people I didn’t want to hang out with 10 years ago, never mind now. I have to be back in Chicago on Sunday morning, so it’d have to be a ridiculously quick trip back to Michigan. I just traveled my eyes out two weeks ago, including a stop in Michigan, and really have no desire to pack up my suitcase again to go back home again. I keep in semi-regular touch with exactly one person from high school who I saw when I was home two weeks ago. Additionally, the girl in charge of organizing the event is friends with the girl I’m still friends with but is not (and never was) friends with me, so even if I went to hang out with my one remaining friend from high school, the entire night would that same stupid delicate song-and-dance I had to engage in every day in high school where I could only really hang out with my friend when she wasn’t with her other friends, and man, I am not 16 anymore and do not have time for that ish. I barely had time for it when I was 16, so I can most certainly assure you I don’t have time for it now.

On the other hand, the whole reason this reunion is happening when it’s happening is because my high school’s basketball team is playing our (their?) #1 rival that night, and between the girls game and boys game, they’ll be honoring the 2007-2008 boys basketball team (“my” team, if you will–the team my senior year), which won the state championship that year. Of course, that whole thing spiraled out of control: first it was the 07-08 boys basketball team, then it turned into the basketball team + the 2008 girls soccer team, which also won the state championship that year (fair enough), and then turned into the basketball team + the soccer team + the cheerleaders, for Lord only knows what reason. (Because their pom pom waving is what drove the boys basketball team to a state title? I’m not trying to knock the cheerleaders here, but this whole shindig was set up to recognize the people who won state championships, and the cheerleaders, who didn’t compete in ANYTHING, not even cheerleading competitions, most certainly did not win a state championship. If they’re getting recognized, how come I, a four year member of the pep band who never missed one single home game in my ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL CAREER, am not being recognized? Oh, right: because my trumpet playing didn’t win a state championship. And probably because the band director is a bit less obsessed with the illusion of high school greatness: a sentiment that most certainly cannot be applied to the cheerleading coach. High school, I tell ya.). Anyway, all of that nonsense aside, boys basketball games, particularly during my senior year, were the highlight of my entire high school career. I felt like almost all of my happiness from December through March hinged on how the basketball team performed, despite having no real ties to the team to speak of. Those games (and the outcome of those games) meant everything to me, so to not go back for a celebration of the one thing outside of my grades that I really cared about in high school feels weird, to say the least. But not weird enough to make me want to take time off for it, app.

Did you go to your high school reunion? Or would you go, if you haven’t had yours yet?

Thursday Things

1. Before flying off to Seattle for a few days last week, I went home to Michigan to celebrate Christmas with my family.

whitechristmas2017

Lake Michigan, that snow-generating body of water, threw a bit of a monkey wrench in our usual Christmas celebrations. It started to snow on the way home from church on Christmas Eve morning (which, being the last Sunday in Advent, which just a regular, Advent-y, Sunday service, not a Christmas service) and didn’t stop snowing…ever. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true, but it didn’t really stop snowing until the night of Christmas Day. The snow wasn’t too bad on Christmas Eve, but it was really, really bad on Christmas morning. It was so bad, in fact, that we didn’t even make it to church that morning, which is absolutely, 100% unheard of in my family. The only things that ever kept us from church under any circumstance growing up were contagious illnesses or church itself cancelling the service, so to not go to church on Christmas of all days was A Big Deal. My mom’s church (the church we always go to on Christmas morning) now streams its services online, so we watched at home, but it definitely wasn’t the same.

Christmas itself was nice, though. Only one of my cousins and cousins-in-law weren’t able to make it (it was their year to spend Christmas with the cousin-in-law’s family), which was a pretty impressive turnout for us lately. Two of my three cousins lived abroad from 2015-2017 (one of them still does), so it’s been tough to get the entire family together for any occasion–in fact, I don’t remember the last time every single one of us was together for something. Regardless, it was really lovely to see the family that could make it, especially considering the snowstorm situation. The highlight of the get-together, other than seeing my family, of course, was that my aunt and uncle’s dog most unexpectedly decided that I was The Chosen One on Christmas. Their dog is obsessed with my aunt and usually never leaves her side, but on Christmas, she (the dog) jumped up onto my lap while we ate appetizers and didn’t leave until I kicked her off after we had finished opening presents a couple hours later–which I only did because I felt bad that everyone else was helping turn over the room from appetizers/present-opening to dinner while I was just sitting there with a dog on my lap. But it did make me feel pretty important 🙂

Now, however, I’ve been dealing with a shockingly strong case of post-Christmas blues. I never like the Christmas season ending, exactly, and taking down Christmas decorations is one of my least favorite things (not only because I don’t like how much work it is, but because I hate the end result: a boring, blah, unfestive living space. Putting up Christmas decorations is a lot of work, too, but at least you get something pretty out of it.), but man, this year has been rough. Like, crying-while-taking-the-ornaments-off-the-tree rough. I’m not really an OMG CHRISTMAS!!!!1!!1!! sort of person–Easter is by far my favorite holiday, in fact–but there’s just something about everything being over, especially after months of everything happening (going straight from my birthday to the marathon to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s with barely a second to breathe), that really gets me down. I think part of what got to me so much this year was not being able to go to church on Christmas. Going to church is important to me, not so much from a piety standpoint, but more because it’s just one of those intrinsic parts of the rhythm of my week that makes me feel like myself–like going for a long run on a Saturday, or my lunchtime walks on weekdays. Obviously the benefits I get out of going to church are different than those I get from exercise, but it’s still a part of what I feel makes me who I am, so not going on one of the biggest days of the year, not getting to participate in all of that, felt, I guess, like training for the Chicago Marathon all the way up through the last run on the Thursday before the race and then not getting to do the race itself. And, much like the Chicago Marathon, there’s no “next week” for Christmas: I have to wait an entire year for it to come around again. I don’t know, maybe I’m being petty, but it was a big disappointment for me, and I think made me feel like I didn’t get the Christmas I had expected or was used to. So all of that, combined with the dread I feel of staring down a solid three months of grey and cold and gloom with no string of major events (birthday, marathon, et. al.) to look forward to until late April combined with knowing how winter usually affects me mentally (that is to say, not positively) really made it hard to see Christmas end this year. Just writing that makes me feel like I’m being childish, but it is what it is, I guess.

2. Speaking of Christmas, all of my family gatherings officially ended on Tuesday, when some family I wasn’t able to see during the holiday itself came to the city for a small Christmas get-together and a trip to the top of the Sears Tower. While I have been to the 99th floor of the Sears Tower before, I had never been to the Skydeck, so I was quite excited!

skydeckeastview

While the weather on Tuesday was fairly miserable from a temperature standpoint (it was -6 when I woke up), it was just about perfect from a visibility standpoint, which made for some awesome views from the 103rd floor.

skydecknorthview

I enjoyed going to the top of the Empire State Building when I visited New York in October, but I think I got more out of being at the top of the Sears Tower since I could actually identify things. I enjoyed putting on my wannabe Chicago Architecture Foundation volunteer hat and doing things like distinguishing between the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, identifying various downtown buildings, and pointing out a few easily identifiable suburbs, like Evanston and Oak Park. I kinda-ish found all of my Chicago residences, and I particularly enjoyed marveling at the planes flying into Midway, which were easy to follow across the lake and to the airport from the south side of the building. I also noticed a few O’Hare-destined planes flying over us on their way east to loop out over Lake Michigan before coming in to land at O’Hare, but the Midway planes were much easier to see.

I even went out onto the Ledge! I wasn’t really nervous about it at all until it was time to actually step out onto the glass, which was certainly stomach-churning. It was a cool experience, though, and I’m glad I did it.

skydeckledge

3. Well, here we are again. Another few years have passed, and, like clockwork, my snow boots have sprung a leak.

boot

Fortunately, I haven’t needed to wear my boots in actively snowy conditions yet this winter, so it hasn’t been too much of a problem thus far. But I’m sure I’ll need to trudge through unshoveled snow at some point, and then, having leaky boots will be a problem. So now I need new snow boots again, and I’m super annoyed by it. I decided to spring for expensive snow boots the last time I needed a new pair (my current pair), figuring that spending more on a name brand would yield better durability results than my usual method of spending as little as possible on whatever I could find at DSW. And while my boots did, technically, last longer than before, they only lasted three winters instead of two winters, which is hardly worth mentioning, especially when you consider that it snowed all of like three times last winter and I barely wore my boots at all. Regardless, if I’m going to spend close to $100 on footwear that only sees the light of day during five months of the year at the MOST, and only sees a lot of activity for three of those months, I expect them to last longer than three years!! I don’t see why that’s so much to ask! The Nike Frees that I complained about springing a leak last month have seen WAY more activity than my snow boots during the same amount of time, and while, yes, they did both end up with tears, at least the tears in my Frees 1) took a LOT longer to develop from a usage standpoint (I wear those shoes multiple times per week, often during high intensity activity that involves a lot of foot movement [like dance]) and 2) don’t complete negate the entire purpose of the shoe to begin with. The tears of my Frees are a little bit unsightly, but at least they still do their job of protecting my feet when I work out or walk. The whole point of snow boots is to make it safer and more comfortable to walk in the snow. A tear may not impact the safety aspect, but it most CERTAINLY impacts the comfort aspect. I don’t feel like it’s so much to ask that they manage to do their seasonal job for a long time without breaking 😡

Give me your very best snow boot recommendations. I will spare no expense (well, maybe not no expense, but any expense that’s like $150 or less) on boots, but only if they will LAST. My current pair are Kamik Brooklyn2’s, which clearly were not worth however much I spent on them if they could only make it three years. I’m not going to for style points here (then again, am I ever?): I want something black and classic that I can wear for the next decade in Chicago winter conditions. Help.
Have you ever been to the Sears Tower?

Seattle

For the umpteenth time since starting this blog, I spent a few days in Seattle last week visiting my grandparents. I’d been planning on visiting Seattle some time this year since the rest of my family went out last summer (leading to much jealousy on my part), but last August, my dad reminded me that my grandparents aren’t getting any younger (Grandpa, in fact, will turn 97 on Saturday), so I decided a holiday visit would be in order as well as a trip next summer.

I was not at all sad to leave Chicago behind for more moderate temperatures, because  the 35 degrees or so that I arrived to in Seattle was downright balmy compared to all two degrees I left behind in Chicago. (Seriously, it was so cold when I left Wednesday morning that it wasn’t even warm inside O’Hare. I left my hat and gloves on until boarding the plane, which definitely overcompensated and was SUPER toasty for all almost-five hours it took to get to Seattle. Speaking of which: it took my outbound flight 4:42 to get to Seattle, and we never topped 500 miles per hour for the duration of the flight. The flight home, on the other hand, took only a touch more than three hours (3:15), and featured speeds of over 700 miles per hour. Shoutout to the jet stream for getting me home so quickly.)

I had a few hopes and dreams for my Seattle trip, but only enough to take up about half a day of activity, so I spent a lot of my time out west just sitting around and talking to my grandparents. It occurred to me somewhat recently that my grandma is likely a treasure trove of information in the family history department, and I was delighted that she shared stories of her mother and her grandfather, and even a few stories about my actual grandpa (my biological grandpa died 10 years before I was born. The grandpa who’s turning 97 is technically my step-grandpa, but he and my grandma married before my parents even met, so even though he’s not biologically my grandpa, I consider him to be my grandpa) and his family, which was really cool. I learned that my great-great grandpa was a photographer in Denver, lost all his money, and moved his whole family (including my great grandma) to Los Angeles. Great-Grandma somehow found her way up to the Seattle area, which is where my grandma has lived her whole life. I learned that my actual grandpa fought in France and Germany during World War II (I knew he fought in World War II, but I didn’t know any specifics of it) and that he went over right after the Battle of the Bulge. I learned that my actual grandpa’s father and my actual grandpa had their own lumber exporting business (which makes sense, given that they lived in Seattle), and I got to hear one of my favorite stories of my grandma’s, which was about the early Boeing Christmas parties. Her dad, my great grandpa, was one of the original employees at Boeing (though I’ve heard he refused to ever fly, because he didn’t actually believe planes could work. Must be where I get my flight anxiety from 😛 ), and back before it was a gigantic company, Mrs. Boeing would buy every child of a Boeing employee, including my grandma, a personalized Christmas present. As time went on, the gifts became more generic–all of the children between this age and that age got toy A, for example–but I still thought the whole thing was so cool to learn about.

A bunch of the family came over to Grandma and Grandpa’s on Thursday morning, which gave me the opportunity to finally meet my cousin’s baby–not really a baby anymore at one and a half, but still plenty entertaining. After spending time with the family, I went to downtown Seattle for my all-important clam chowder run at Ivar’s on the Sound.

ivars2017

Never gets old.

I got a side of fries with my chowder, not because I needed or even particularly wanted it (though I did eat about two-thirds of the order), but because I wanted to feed the seagulls. The clam chowder at Ivar’s in the best in the world (and yes, that is a hill I will die on), but feeding fries to the seagulls is the whole reason to go to Ivar’s, as far as I’m concerned.

ivarsseagull2017

I also had to make a run to the market, of course, to restock my MarketSpice Tea supply, watch some fish throwing, and generally enjoy myself. I considered visiting the original Starbucks while I was there, but the line, unsurprisingly, was insane, so I passed. Maybe someday.

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After visiting downtown, I went over to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens for Garden D’Lights. I went to Garden D’Lights in 2011, the last time I visited Seattle around Christmas, and thought it was so cool. It’s not like ZooLights or something like that where the trees are all covered in lights; instead, the show is full of sculptures made from Christmas lights. It’s really something, and if you ever happen to be in the Seattle area around Christmas, I can’t recommend it enough.

gardendlights

I spent nearly all of Friday hanging out with my grandparents and helping them take down their Christmas decorations, and then at 9 p.m. headed back to SeaTac for what I consider to be my first ever true red eye flight. Obviously, the flight I took to Scotland seven years ago was an overnight flight, since I believe most flights from the U.S. to Europe are overnight flights, but I don’t feel like it really counts because 1) it took off at like 7 p.m. in May, which is hardly nighttime and 2) there was no other option. This flight to Seattle was the first (and possibly last) time that I ever chose to take a flight that left–LEFT–at 12:34 a.m. (that’s 2:34 a.m. Chicago time, in case you were curious). What an experience. I was barely conscious boarding, but then, naturally, as soon as the safety presentation ended, I was wide awake. I did eventually fall asleep for I’m guessing roughly an hour (I have no recollection of hearing 11 songs on the Hamilton soundtrack, my in-flight entertainment selection, so I assume I must’ve slept through them), but that was only one third of the total flight. We landed way ahead of schedule, which was awesome, but it sure was weird walking through O’Hare and realizing everyone else had already gone to bed and woken up, whereas I felt like I hadn’t even gotten to the bedtime part of Friday yet (even though it was Saturday morning at that point). I got home, took out my contacts, fell into bed at 7 a.m. (yikes), and didn’t get up until 2:30 that afternoon. Not my normal hours, that’s for sure! But, it was worth it to see my grandparents. Even though it feels like they’ll be around forever, I know that’s not actually going to happen. Each trip is special, and I’m glad I was able to make it out there this year 🙂

 

2017 Running Recap

Time for one of my favorite posts of the year! As always, thanks to Kim for the inspiration 🙂

Races participated in: 10
Races “raced” (of x amount above): 3. I was going to make a comment about how this is the most I’ve ever raced, but then I looked back on my past annual recaps and it’s definitely not, haha. It is, however, one of the only times I’ve ever been able to give a definitive response for this, so that’s something 😛
DNFs: 0
DNSs: 0

Distances
5K: 2 (a personal annual low!)
8K:
2
Half Marathon:
5 (far and away a personal high. My previous record was 3.)
Marathon:
1
States Run In: 6, another new personal high! Although it looks like I used to only count this as states raced in, not states run in. Regardless, I went to way more places this year than ever before, and consequently ran in way more places this year than ever before. This year, I ran in Illinois, Michigan, California (new to me, both as a state and a running destination!), Tennessee (new to me!), New York (new to me!), and Nevada (new to me!). It was a pretty big year for destination running, I’d say. I’m bummed I was too sick to run when I was in Washington, D.C. in May 😦 I’m writing this post the week before Christmas, and there’s a very small chance I may run in Washington (state) while I’m out there this week, but I’m not counting on it.

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Road: 10
Trail: 0
Months Run In: 12

Hottest race: For the first time ever, this is a tough one. (I don’t keep track of the actual weather on race day, so I’m just going off memory.) It was either Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, where they pushed the start of the race up by 30 minutes due to the heat (it approached 90 that day, though I don’t think it was in the 90s while we ran), or the Chicago Half Marathon, where it also got up to 90 that day. Bizarrely enough, Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago had some of the best race day weather (at least from a seasonal perspective) out of all of the races I did this year. Go figure.

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Coldest race: Jingle Bell Run Chicago, easily. It was only in the 20s.
Windiest race: I’m going to give this crown to Jingle Bell as well, because the headwind in the second half of that race was no. joke. It was windy during the Illinois Half Marathon, too, but not at ALL like at Jingle Bell.
Wettest race: That’s a three-way tie between Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, the Chicago Half, and the Chicago Marathon, not because it rained at any of those events–there wasn’t a cloud in the sky for the duration of any of them–but because I think I dumped as much water on my head during those races as I drank and was soaked through by the time I finished all of them. Yay hot runs 😐

Races I ran for free: 0. Another first 😦
Race entries I paid for other people: 0

Participation medals received: 13. Why yes, yes I did end up with more medals than races run. I got a bonus medal at Illinois for doing the Half I Challenge, a bonus medal from Rock ‘n’ Roll for doing two of their races, and though it hasn’t arrived yet, I’m also supposed to receive a bonus medal from Rock ‘n’ Roll for doing three of their races. In related news, I’ve run out of space on my medal rack. In equally related news, I think the regularity of handing out medals at the end of races has gotten a little out of control.

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AG medals received: 0 😦 Oh, odd year Jingle Bells, how you break my heart!

PRs:
Goose egg 😦 Since I started running in 2011, this is the first time I didn’t log any PRs. It’s a bit disappointing, especially on the half marathon front since I ran so many of them, but hopefully I’ll have better news to report in 2018’s annual recap.

Favorite medal: Nashville. Say what you will about Rock ‘n’ Roll, but as far as medal design goes, I think they’re the best in the business. I love that this one lights up!

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Favorite picture: Mt. Roosevelt.

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I don’t often buy pictures from MarathonFoto, but I believe it’s required by runner law to hand over your credit card to MarathonFoto if you’re able to look that genuinely happy at the top of Mt. Roosevelt at mile 26.1 (or so) of a MARATHON. I regret nothing.

What I particularly appreciate about that picture is that I sent this picture to my parents two weeks before the race so they’d know (more or less) what I’d look like on race day, saying, “I forgot to take pictures of my outfit after the 20 miler this year because my brain was melting from all the heat. Fortunately, CARA’s photographer got one of me, so this is what you can expect to see on race day. Don’t hold me to that expression, though.”

2017 CARA Ready to Run 20 MilerPhoto credit: Chad Marek of Endurance Photo

WELL WELL. Look who was able to manage that expression on race day! 😀

Miles run in 2017: 802.42 (+238.02 from 2016, with the ENORMOUS caveat that my 2016 total doesn’t include any of my many, many 2016 treadmill miles. I estimate that I ran up to 100 miles on the treadmill in 2016, which would make this +138.02 from 2016 instead). This is, of course, assuming that my GPS watches were accurate, which as I most certainly learned the hard way this year, was not always the case. But that’s what my Polar annual report + my Garmin reports say, so that’s what I’m going with. (Speaking of Garmin: is there an easy way to get it to tell you your annual mileage? The only thing I could find was a chart with monthly mileage, but I had to add up the monthly totals individually. I find Garmin Connect, both the website and the app, to be fairly unintuitive compared to Polar’s interface, however, so it’s possible I just don’t know how to get the data I’m looking for.)
Of those, miles done on the treadmill: 5.74

BOOM. This was probably one of the pettiest, stupidest goals I’ve ever had as a runner, but at some point during marathon season, it occurred to me that I hadn’t logged one single marathon training mile on a treadmill, and I decided I wanted to keep it that way. It’s so irrelevant and unimportant (and not even meaningful, really – I didn’t log any treadmill miles during marathon training in 2015, either), but I guess after doing SO many runs on the treadmill last year, I got a pathetic amount of pride out of not running on a treadmill this year. I only ran twice on a treadmill all year: once in February, and once at Runn Chicago.

Anyway, treadmill hatred aside, this was FAR and away the highest annual mileage I’ve ever logged. My previous recorded PR in that department was 671.58 in 2015. I was also in training for a lot more of this year than ever before (last week of January through the second week of December with no time off by my definition – “time off” by my definition meaning not running for a full week by choice, not by injury- or illness-induced force), so I can’t say I’m surprised. I also have an even greater appreciation for people who manage to log 1000+ miles annually after all of this. While I think my body could’ve handled more miles this year, my mind certainly couldn’t. I was really, really tired of running by the time I was finally done training for the year, and I can’t imagine adding any extra training time onto my schedule (or somehow adding 198 more miles into the training I did).

It was a weird year in running for me, on the whole. Most of my race times were not anywhere near what I’d like, and marathon training was a wildly demoralizing experience, especially after Labor Day. The marathon itself, however, went so well that I’m really still not over it almost three months later. That was the highlight of my whole year in running, and I kind of feel like it made up for every disappointment I had in the half marathon department this year (of which there were PLENTY). I don’t have any super solid goals for running in 2018, other than at least putting effort into trying to PR my half marathon, but I’m looking forward to running a couple new races, seeing some new sights, and hopefully not getting food poisoning during marathon training this time around 😉

 

Thursday Things

1. I made my annual pilgrimage to ZooLights on Saturday, along with five zillion of my closest friends.

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The weather on Saturday night was about as nice as you could hope for in mid-December (40s, little to no wind, no precipitation), so Lincoln Park Zoo, unsurprisingly, was a bit on the crowded side. But I did not let that deter my enjoyment!

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I’ve been to ZooLights several times in the past, and it’s usually the same ol’ same ol’. This year, though, a fair number of the light displays were in different locations, or changed entirely, as was the case with the dancing lights.

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They were Alice in Wonderland themed this year! I thought that was pretty cool.

Then on Sunday, I went to see the Q Brothers Christmas Carol at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which I think could best be described as “the Hamilton version of A Christmas Carol” (i.e.: it was A Christmas Carol told via hip hop music).

I honestly had no idea what to expect going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised! The show was creative, funny, and highly entertaining. I definitely, definitely recommend going if you’re able.

2. Folks, I hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but my silence on this topic has gone on long enough. It is time that I, your friendly neighborhood medical non-professional (but AP Bio exam grade 5 receiver a decade ago *hair flip*), reeducate you on some remedial immunology and pathology, because the amount (and frequency) of misinformation I’ve encountered regarding a certain three-letter word (“flu”) over the past month or so has made me want to pull my hair out, weep for humanity, or both.

There exists, in this fallen world of ours, a virus that goes by the name of influenza. It is a cunning, nasty little bug, one that can easily knock a healthy person on his or her back for a week, and kills thousands of people every year. A particularly terrible strain of this bug killed up to 100 million people–most of the young, healthy people, in fact–beginning 100 years ago next month.

There are three types of influenza, A, B, and C, all of which create an upper respiratory system infection whose symptoms will almost exclusively affect parts of your body that belong to that system. Influenza will almost always feel like a cold that’s been dialed up to 20. Your nose will run, your head will hurt, you’ll have a fever, your throat will hurt, you’ll be fatigued. It won’t be fun at all. If you happen to get an early diagnosis, you might get prescribed Tamiflu, an antiviral–and that is key, because influenza is a VIRUS, not a BACTERIA, so what does that mean? That anibiotics–drugs created to kill BACTERIA–will not help you–that could shorten the duration of your symptoms, but most certainly won’t cure you within 12 hours.

Influenza is particularly susceptible to genetic change (because it only has one strand of genetic code [RNA], not two like we have [DNA], which means there is no built-in spellcheck to make sure the code doesn’t change upon replication), which is why it’s so important to get a flu shot every year, even if you’re someone like me who gets dizzy at the mere sight of a syringe. When you get the flu shot, your immune system will learn to recognize the variations of the flu the World Health Organization has predicted will be the most prevalent in the upcoming flu season. Your immune system remembers pathogens (bugs) it has seen before, which is the whole point of vaccination: put a dead or weakened bug into someone’s body so the immune system can learn to recognize it when it doesn’t pose an actual threat to your health. Thus, when a live version of the bug enters your system, your immune system will say, “Hey, we’ve seen this before!” and destroy it before it has a chance to destroy you. Because influenza evolves so rapidly, it’s entirely possible that you’ll still get the flu even if you had a flu shot, but it’s less likely, and if you do happen to still get sick, there’s a decent chance you’ll get less sick than if you hadn’t gotten the shot. So go get a flu shot, because it’s important for your health and the health of those around you who are unable to get flu shots for whatever reason.

On a note that is as different from the previous note as black is from white, throughout the course of your life, you will likely be stricken with the wildly unpleasant experience of gastroenteritis, sometimes most misleadingly referred to as the “stomach flu.” If there is anything–anything–I hope you EVER remember from reading my humble blog, it’s this:

THE STOMACH FLU IS A MISNOMER. IT IS NOT THE FLU, AND A FLU SHOT WILL NEVER, EVER, EVER PREVENT YOU FROM GETTING IT.

I truly can’t drive that point home enough. It doesn’t matter if you are the best flu shot getter in the entire world: absolutely no amount of flu vaccine will ever, EVER keep you from getting the stomach flu, which I will henceforth refer to EXCLUSIVELY as “gastroenteritis” or “a stomach bug,” because they are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CONDITIONS WITH COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CAUSES. CAPS LOCK NECESSARY.

If you are ill and your symptoms primarily impact your gastrointestinal system, particularly if you are vomiting and especially if you have diarrhea, and even more so if you do not have any sort of runny nose, sore throat, or cough, you almost certainly have contracted one of many, many diseases that cause gastroenteritis, which is a condition, not a disease, in the same way that a runny nose is a condition, not a disease. Gastroenteritis means that your stomach and/or intestines are inflamed. Why are they inflamed, you ask? Because you have a bug that has infected them, and your immune system is trying to make them go away.

What kinds of bugs cause gastroenteritis? A LOT. But, the ones you commonly see include any of the major bacteria that get lumped into the larger category of “food poisoning” (E. coli, salmonella, listeria, et. al.), certain viruses (norovirus is a common one for adults; rotavirus is particularly common in children, but there are others as well), parasites, or even food sensitivities, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. Do you notice which bug does not appear on this list? INFLUENZA.

So, what can we conclude from this? That getting your annual flu shot will absolutely not help you in your quest to not be laid up with vomiting and diarrhea. The best ways to avoid that are to practice good food safety habits (cooking things to temperature, not eating food that could have spoiled, not intermingling utensils you use on raw meat (including poultry and fish) and those you use on food you’ll be eating), drinking clean water, good hand washing habits, and hoping for a bit of luck. Getting the flu shot will not keep you from getting gastroenteritis any more than getting a measles shot will keep you from getting HPV.

Now, my faithful readers, you have been educated! Go forth and spread your knowledge!

Oh, and while I’m at it: I would also like to remind you that the only maladies you are likely to experience after being outside in the cold are frostbite and hypothermia. If you go outside with wet hair for 10 minutes and come down with a cough the next day, what you’re experiencing is a coincidence.

3. And now that I’ve screamed your eyes out and/or bored you to tears with my pathology ramblings, I hope everyone enjoys their Christmas and the remainder of the holiday season 🙂

Have you ever been to ZooLights? Or something equivalent in your area, if you’re not from Chicago.

Thursday Things

1. In the ongoing saga of Bethany vs. wearables, I would like to submit my latest grievance: my Fitbit.

I started taking walks at lunchtime over a year ago (and really cannot recommend the practice enough as a way to decompress during the workday, get in a small amount of movement, and remind yourself that daylight does indeed exist during the winter – but the enjoyment I get out of lunchtime walks is another discussion for another day.), and because they usually last 20 minutes or so, Fitbit counts them as exercise. Probably about a month ago now, I started noticing strange and, honestly, quite concerning spikes in my heart rate once or twice a week during these lunchtime walks (according to Fitbit). I’d be cruising along at somewhere in the 110-130 range–exactly what I’d expect on a brisk walk–when out of nowhere, my Fitbit stats would show that my heart rate jumped to more like 175. The first time it happened, I assumed it was a fluke. Then it continued happening, though, and I began to worry that something was wrong with my heart.

It just didn’t add up, though. While walking, I never felt anything to indicate a dramatic change in heart rate. I never felt winded, fatigued, lightheaded or the sensation of my heart pounding in my chest. Additionaly, I never noticed anything remotely similar during my “real” exercise. My heart rate was in its usual 160-180 range during all of my runs, and in its usual 140-160 range during any other form of exercise. Any spikes I’d notice from those always correlated to increased effort (a hard hill on the stationary bike, for example, or a burst of mountain climbers in a circuit workout). I reset my Fitbit, and all of a sudden my heart rate graphs were back to normal on my walks…until, once again, they weren’t.

I started digging a little more into the data and realized something else didn’t match up, either. Even though the exercise log for my walk would show a huge heart rate spike, I never saw any indication of that on my all-day heart rate graph at lunchtime, even though workouts later in the day would get that high (when relevant).

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See? It doesn’t come anywhere close to 180 around noon.

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This one wasn’t a lunchtime walk, but a Saturday trip to go Christmas shopping. But again, do you see the all day graph indicating anything close to 178 bpm at about 1 p.m.? Because I sure don’t.

So then, I started checking in on my Fitbit during my walks to see what kind of heart rate it noticed. Finally last week, I happened to catch it when it thought my heart was going into overdrive at 178 bpm. I then searched for my pulse to see if I could feel that my heart rate was that high, and I could barely feel my pulse at all. I went for a run later that day, and, since I knew my heart rate was definitely in the 160s-170s, tried to find my pulse in the exact same location and had no trouble whatsoever, given that my heart was beating so fast. (As I sit at the computer writing this right now, my Fitbit says my heart rate is 65 bpm. I have a pulse (obviously), but it isn’t even close to being as easy to find as it was when I was out for a run.)

So I don’t know what the deal is. I am much more inclined to believe my actual body, particularly my pulse, than the data I’m getting from Fitbit. I just think it’s so weird that this keeps happening, and it really doesn’t do anything for my confidence in Fitbit’s heart rate monitoring capabilities. It’s not exactly a secret that Fitbit’s heart rate monitoring is hardly considered infallible (this article has some interesting comparisons), but I wish knew 1) why this is happening 2) why there is such a dramatic discrepancy between what my workout heart rate graph says and my all-day heart rate graph says and 3) how to solve all of these problems, if they’re even solvable in the first place.

2. In case you’re not on the Rock ‘n’ Roll email list: a heads up that today is the annual get-the-races-for-as-cheap-as-possible sale day. The half marathons are anywhere between $5 and $50 off ($50.99 up to $99.99 for the US races), which is a pretty solid deal considering how expensive some of these races can get the closer it is to race day. I originally planned to do three Rock ‘n’ Rolls next year, but then realized a conference I expect to attend for work just so happens to start the day after another Rock ‘n’ Roll race, so I’ll probably sign up for that one, too. Someone needs to teach me how to become a Rock ‘n’ Blogger so I stop blowing through so much of my race registration budget on Rock ‘n’ Roll alone 😛

3. Speaking of half marathons, I would like to solicit your advice. I PRed my half marathon at the Chi-Town Half in 2014, during what will quite likely go down as the best streak of races I will ever have, where I PRed four different distances on four consecutive weekends (oh, to be that early in my running career again). My half marathon PR is my oldest “normal” distance PR (my older PRs are in the 9K, the four mile, and the 7K), and it (unnecessarily) bothers me that my half PR is almost four years old. (It also bothers me that I’ve run 11 half marathons since my half marathon PR, and out of those 11, only two have come within 10 minutes of my PR, and only one has come within five minutes of my PR. But, I suppose when you know you run fastest when it’s cold outside and yet insist on nearly exclusively running half marathons between the months of May and September, that’s what you get.)

I’ve already registered for a late April half marathon and hoped to train for it with the intention of PRing, knowing, of course, that late April is a HUGE gamble in the weather department and that my ability to PR is going to depend heavily on favorable weather conditions. Yesterday, I got an email announcing that Chi Town Half registration had opened and will be super cheap ($49.99!) from now until Dec. 20. Given that I PRed at the Chi Town Half and given that it takes place three weeks before the race I’ve registered for and given that I’ve been invited to a destination wedding the weekend before the race I’ve already registered for (where I would most certainly not be able to get in a long run, if I can run at all), the Chi Town Half seems like a better target race.

BUT. Since the Chi Town Half is three weeks before my initial goal race, that would mean I’d have to start training three weeks before I planned to begin training again. That would mean picking up regular running sooner than I anticipated and would mean being in season for three additional weeks in 2018. Given that I could barely drag myself to the finish line of this year’s training season–which was the same length’s as next year’s will be if my initial goal race continues to be my goal race–the idea of adding three weeks to next year’s season sounds…less than appealing. On top of all of that, I’m really hoping to get my wisdom teeth out ASAP in January, not because I’m so eager to go through that whole rigamarole but because I want to get that whole rigamarole done and over with before I need to start training again, because once training begins, I have much less freedom to sit on the couch for a week while my mouth heals. I mean, it’s not like I’m legally obligated to not take a week off during a training cycle, but I most certainly don’t want to take a week off during a training cycle. I don’t put myself through these months-long ordeals for the fun of it: I do it to prepare myself to have the best race possible. Obviously, there are times when you have to take a week off–you get injured, you get sick–but since wisdom tooth extraction is something I anticipate planning to do, rather than something that will be done on more of an emergency basis, so I don’t want to plan to have a week of inactivity when I’m trying to train for a race, particularly a race I want to PR.

The other option, of course, would be to run the 10K at the Chi Town Half (the Chi Town 10K?). Assuming I follow Hal Higdon’s HM3 training program again–which I plan to, given how much I liked it last year–I’m actually supposed to run a 10K that weekend, so it seems like an obvious choice. But I could also run 6.2 miles on my own that weekend for free. But if the weather’s good, maybe I’d stand a chance at updating my 10K PR…? But I’m wouldn’t be training for a 10K PR…. And it’s not my 10K PR I want to update, anyway: it’s my half marathon PR, darn it! *stomps foot like a tantrum-throwing toddler*

But, but, but, excuses, excuses, excuses. If anyone has any helpful suggestions, I’m all ears, because clearly all I’m doing while trying to come to a decision is my own is talking myself in circles.

What races do you have on your calendar for next year? Officially, I believe I have four at this point (not including the Rock ‘n’ Rolls, since I hadn’t registered for them when I wrote this Wednesday night), but I don’t doubt that that number will get much higher.