Thursday Things

1. I spent last weekend in Las Vegas for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, the details of which I will entertain (bore?) you with in a different post. For now, let’s chat about everything else I did in that magical land of sunshine and 75 degrees!

2. The highlight of the trip, far and away, was visiting the Grand Canyon. I’ve wanted to see the Grand Canyon since I was really young, but I had no idea that Grand Canyon tours from Vegas were a thing until last year (I assumed you’d go to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, not make a day trip out of it from Las Vegas. I also didn’t realize how close Vegas is to the Grand Canyon until last year, though.) Last year’s trip was packed, so there was no chance to go to the Grand Canyon. This year, however, part of the group left Chicago on Thursday night instead of Friday morning and spent all day Friday on a tour to the Grand Canyon!

grandcanyon1

We booked a Canyon Tour South Rim Tour, which I would definitely recommend with one small caveat. The South Rim is not close to Vegas (at least compared to the West Rim), so you are on the bus a LONG time. There’s really no avoiding that no matter which tour company you use, however, so if you want to see the South Rim, that’s just the reality of the situation. Even though the trip involved somewhere in the neighborhood of six and a half hours on a bus, I still thought it was worth it to see the South Rim.

grandcanyon2

The drive out involved a stop at the Hoover Dam. The bus tour was narrated (not for the full six and a half hours), and most of the drive from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam included a lot of narration about the construction of the dam, from the inception of the idea to the actual building. It was super fascinating!

hooverdam

This wasn’t the original plan, but we ended up booking a Pink Jeep tour upgrade, which I would recommend without any caveats whatsoever. Instead of making two stops on the bus and wandering around without any guidance, we were in a Jeep with four other people and Rich, our tour guide, whose love for and knowledge about the Grand Canyon were incredible. We stopped at four different locations during the two hours we had in the park, which provided plenty of opportunities for photos.

grandcanyon3

In what should come as a surprise to no one, seeing new-to-me birds at the Grand Canyon was probably the highlight of the experience for me (still can’t make it through a Thursday Things post without bird talk…). While at the Grand Canyon, I saw several Common Ravens soaring over the canyon:

commonravens

a Red-Breasted Nuthatch:

redbreastednuthatch

a Mountain Chickadee, who was not very accommodating to my photography desires but was MORE than accommodating to my interest in hearing a Mountain Chickadee call. That, honestly, was probably my favorite part of everything (#nerdalert). The Mountain Chickadee’s call is just the tiniest bit different than the Black-Capped Chickadee’s call (you can find the Mountain Chickadee’s call here [click the “Chicka-dee Call” one] and the Black-Capped Chickadee’s call here [click the “Calls” one]. There’s barely a difference, but it is there, especially if you listen to them back to back.)

a few Clark’s Nutcrackers:

clarksnutcracker

and a whole collection of Bushtits (SERIOUSLY. WHO NAMES THESE BIRDS?) at the Grand Canyon Village.

bushtit

The canyon itself, of course, was just stunning. We definitely picked the right time of year to go, too. Sunset on Friday was around 5:25 p.m., and since we didn’t get to the park itself until after 3:00, that meant we got to enjoy the canyon at sunset. Obviously if you took this same tour during the summer, that wouldn’t be the case, with sunset being much later in the day. Whoever thought I’d be happy for such an early sunset!

grandcanyon4

We got back to Vegas a little before 10 p.m., and thus commenced our Vegas-ing portion of the trip.

welcometofabulouslasvegas

3. The whole group (including me this year) stayed at Excalibur, though the craps-loving people in the group were EXTREMELY disappointed to find out that Excalibur no longer has $5 tables on the weekends. Since I’d say three of the five people in the group go to Vegas almost exclusively to play craps, that meant we had to take a bit of an adventure to find $5 craps tables. That adventure brought us all the way up to Fremont Street–to the Fremont itself, actually. Even though I have very little interest in gambling, I really didn’t enjoy sitting around and watching everyone else gamble last year while I just stood there, so I brought $40 to gamble–$20 on craps and $20 on a slot machine–with the rule that I wouldn’t let myself get below $15 (so lose more than $10 total). I ended up winning $20 on craps, losing $5 on the slot machine, and then losing an additional $10 of my $20 winnings from craps on roulette, so I walked away with $5 total. Last year, I walked away with $5.12, so clearly this is a major money-making venture for me 😛

We went to the buffet at MGM on Saturday before heading to the race expo (since we couldn’t go on Friday this year due to being at the Grand Canyon). It was super crowded, unsurprisingly. I didn’t get anything, through I did come really close to buying a sweatshirt. I don’t know if this is because Ironman owns Rock ‘n’ Roll now or if it was just a coincidence, but the race did the same thing Ironman does at all of its races where it makes a shirt with all the participant names on the back (except your average Ironman has like maybe 3000 participants, whereas Rock ‘n’ Roll has like 40,000, so they had to split it up into men’s 10K participants, men’s half marathon participants with last names A-K, men’s half marathon participants with last names L-Z, men’s marathon participants, women’s 10K participants, women’s half marathon participants with last names A-K, women’s half marathon participants with last names L-Z, and women’s marathon participants.) I loved the design and the color, but I did not love the price ($60) or the thought of trying to make space in my already-full suitcase for it, so I ended up walking away empty handed. Oh well.

We relaxed for a bit Saturday afternoon, then headed back up to Fremont Street to Hugo’s Cellar, where we once again had another indulgent dinner. We hung around Fremont Street for a little bit after that before heading back to the Strip for some sightseeing. This trip involved a lot less casino-wandering than last year, but we did walk a bit through the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace and saw this year’s fall display at the Bellagio.

bellagio2017

We also saw the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds show at the Bellagio fountains. I could spend all night at the Bellagio watching the fountain shows every 15 minutes.

bellagiofountains

We had breakfast Sunday at the Pyramid Cafe in the Luxor and then wandered around there a bit before hitting up my #1 requirement for every Vegas trip: M&Ms World.

Sunday afternoon/evening/night was consumed with half marathon-related activities, which I’ll get to in my race recap. We flew back to Chicago Monday afternoon, but not before having breakfast at the SeaBreeze Cafe in Mandalay Bay and wandering around the pool area.

Overall, another enjoyable trip to Vegas 🙂

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon?

Advertisements

Runn Chicago

I’ve never tried to hide my hatred of treadmill running. I took it as a point of pride that I never once set foot on a treadmill for the duration of this summer’s marathon training. I only choose to run on a treadmill if something makes it too dangerous to run outside, and even then, I’d be more likely to just scrap my run altogether than hop on a treadmill for however many miles I wanted or needed to run that day.

Needless to say, when Runn Chicago, a new, local fitness studio whose entire premise is treadmill running, reached out to see if I’d be interested in a class, I was skeptical at best. I enjoy checking out studios and sampling their workouts, but despite all the rave reviews on Facebook about how this would change your mind about treadmill running, I really didn’t have high expectations that’d I’d be all that thrilled with the class.

runnchicago-4

I went to an Express Runn class at 5:30 p.m. on a Monday and was one of only three people there that day. Keith, the studio’s founder and my instructor for the day, said that class tends to be lighter in the attendance department, which means if you’re able to show up then, you, too, could get what basically amounted to a small group training session for the price of a group class. Speaking of the price of a group class, your first class is 100% free, regardless of whether or not you have a blog 🙂 After that, it’s $23 for a single class, $109 for a five-class pack, and $199 for a ten-class pack (class packs never expire).

The Express Runn class itself lasts 30 minutes, but I don’t think we ever did anything for more than one minute before changing something. Keith really ran through the treadmill through its entire repertoire: we’d go faster, then slower, then up, then down, then faster and up, then slower and down. It was as much of a workout for your thumb as it was for your legs!

runnchicago-1

Speaking of Keith. Now, I’ve been to a lot of studios and a lot of classes over the past few years, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met a friendlier instructor. You know the haughty, aloof vibe you get walking into some studios, where it feels like they deigned to allow you to enter their space? There was none of that at Runn Chicago. Not even close. I saw a few reviewers on Facebook mention that they had been faithful attendees of Keith’s classes when he used to teach at a gym, and I can see why. I’m sure it helped that there were only three people in class when I was there, but he was so engaged with us on an individual level, recommending speeds based on other speeds we had run earlier in the day, chatting with us about our running backgrounds, telling us about why he opened the studio, asking each of us which song we wanted to sprint to at the end and accommodating all of our requests. I’ve never had an instructor, particularly an instructor whose class I was taking for the first time, be that friendly and approachable, and it made a HUGE difference.

The 30 minutes flew by, and I’m sure that’s because there was so much variety in the workout. The thing I really hate about treadmill running is that I find it to be just painfully boring. I’ve tried all sorts of things–music, TV, podcasts, audiobooks–to try to keep my mind occupied when I’m on the treadmill, and none of it ever works. I inevitably end up staring at the clock, praying that it’ll move faster so I can be done with it. Things changed so constantly during Express Runn that I didn’t have time to pay attention to the clock: I was too busy adjusting my speed or incline to focus on how long I’d been running.

runnchicago-2

Overall, I was really impressed with Runn. I enjoyed the class a lot more than I anticipated and felt like I got in a good workout in a short amount of time. Particularly if you need motivation to get in speedwork, I think Runn could be a great supplement to your training plan.

runnchicago-3

 

Thursday Things

1. One of these days, I’ll make it through a Thursday Things post without including a line item about recent bird sightings. That day is not today.

After a fairly uneventful weekend in the birding department (though I did see another Brown Creeper, this time on my soggy Saturday morning run. I assume the fact that barely anyone else was outside Saturday morning made him feel more comfortable to search for bugs on trees in what are usually more populated areas.), I was on my way to work Monday morning, minding my own business, when something huddled next to a planter caught my eye. At first I thought it was some sort of dismembered pigeon, but upon (very little) further inspection, I realized that I had most definitely not stumbled upon any sort of pigeon.

americanwoodcock

I initially passed by, but then I circled back and took a picture so I could investigate and call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors to rescue him. Merlin quickly identified my sighting as an American Woodcock: another new-to-me bird! (Also: man, you guys. Who came up with these bird names? Not someone with insight as to how slang would develop in the 20th and 21st centuries, that’s for sure. Although apparently woodcocks are also known as “timberdoodles,” which is definitely a better name in my opinion.)

The official guidance from the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors for dealing with injured birds is to put the bird in a brown paper bag or cardboard box for safe keeping, then call them so they can come get the bird from you and take it to the western suburbs. While I do have a cardboard box at my desk, I felt…weird, to say the least, about trying to coax a bird that I wasn’t even sure was injured in the first place with a bill as long as my middle finger into a box in a high traffic area during rush hour and then bringing said bird in said box into my office, praying that it doesn’t squawk or otherwise cause a ruckus and out me as a crazy bird lady to my coworkers. I was pretty darn sure the bird was lost and confused–according to All About Birds, American Woodcocks “spend most of their time hidden in fields and on the forest floor,” and, needless to say, my commute does not involve me walking through fields or over forest floors–but I wasn’t sure if that warranted a rescue. I did some poking around eBird and discovered that American Woodcocks have been seen in the city before, but when they are, they are almost always injured or dead. That was enough to convince me to leave the office, go back to where I originally saw the bird to see if he was still there (he was), and then call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who sent someone out to (presumably–they didn’t tell me I needed to stick around and watch him until a volunteer got there, so I left before anyone arrived) take him to Glen Ellyn or Elburn, where he belongs.

I later discovered that my new bird buddy is a bit of an internet sensation (not my specific bird buddy, but other members of his American Woodcock family) due to his…unique way of moving.

I had actually seen one of these videos before on Facebook, set to Walk Like an Egyptian, but the only version on YouTube is doctored to show the bird getting hit by a car, which doesn’t actually happen *rolls eyes*, so I’m posting this video instead. I had no idea I was playing a minor role in the rescue of a celebrity!

2. I was scrolling through BuzzFeed on Friday, as I’m apt to do, and saw an article in the sidebar whose headline caught my eye: “We Should Ban Cars from Big Cities. Seriously.” That was obviously a pretty catchy headline, especially since I find America’s car-centric attitude frustrating as well, so I clicked through. To call it an article might be a bit inaccurate–it was more of an editorial than anything–but I thought it was well worth the read and full of interesting ways a variety of cities around the world have worked to reduce the number of cars driving around their downtown areas (restrictions on who can drive downtown when, better bike lane networks, congestion fees, etc.).

What I did not expect–though I guess by this point in my internet life, I shouldn’t have been surprised–was the INSANE lashing out against the author in the comments section. Ho.ly. Cow. People were so angry and vitriolic, you’d think that they thought her editorial was a directive from the federal government that everyone must relinquish their cars immediately. It was NUTS, and for me very much reinforced my suspicion that hoping for any sort of mind shift from car-first transportation to literally-anything-else-first transportation is a ways off, to say the least.

I guess what surprised me the most, though, was the way people seemed to assume that a car-free lifestyle is absolutely impossible, even in a city. I can tell you from just shy of five and a half years of experience: it most certainly is not. I don’t expect that I’ll live in Chicago forever, and one of the things I dread the most about not living in the city is the fact that I’m almost certainly going to need a car if I live anywhere else. I love not having a car. It’s so much cheaper, it forces me to be so much more active, and it goes a huge way in reducing the impact I personally have on the environment. But I can only get away with that because Chicago has a robust-at-least-compared-to-the-suburbs public transportation system.

I think part of why people can’t fathom living without cars is because they can’t fathom getting from Point A to Point B via public transportation, because they’ve never experienced public transportation that can get them from Point A to Point B, at least not without a lot of work or time. Every now and again I have to go out to my company’s suburban office and I absolutely loathe it because the public transportation in the suburbs is so. bad. The bus only comes once every half hour during rush hour, the time when you’d expect the bus to run most frequently. Heck, I’m lucky that the bus happens to go to the office at all! From my childhood home, it would’ve been a seven mile walk to the nearest bus stop. If that was my exposure to public transportation, I’d be pretty outraged by the suggestion that I live without a car, too.

Nevertheless, I really wish we as a country would try to focus more on building infrastructure that puts other modes of transportation first: high speed rail, bus-only lanes, more frequent and comprehensive service for all public transportation (so it not only comes close to where you live, but comes close to where you live regularly enough that it’s a viable option), more dedicated bike lanes (not just a bike painted near the shoulder of the road and calling that a “bike lane”)–anything that makes it reasonable for people to not drive. I don’t think you can undo technological advances. We can’t just ban cars outright and tell people they need to buy a horse and buggy to get around now. The only way to convince people to get out of the driver’s seat and into a bus, or a train, or on a bike, or even in a water taxifor that matter, is to make it significantly more attractive and efficient than driving (which you can do either by punishing people for driving–congestion fees, for example–or by rewarding them for not driving, which you could do financially with something like tax breaks, or through a more passive method by making public transportation (or biking, or walking, or whatever) demonstrably faster than driving–take away lanes from cars and give them to buses or bikes, for example, which would increase traffic in the remaining lanes, making zipping by on a bike or in a bus seem that much more attractive). Until that happens, I don’t think any sort of change is going to happen, and even then I don’t think you could hope to get rid of all cars forever. People will still need to move heavy items or a lot of items. People will still need to travel long distances. But even just a reduction in the number of cars on the road could do the environment so many favors.

3. I engaged in one of my least favorite activities of all time, clothes shopping, on Saturday. I needed more winter-appropriate work shirts and had a couple of Macy’s gift cards burning holes in my pocket, so off I went downtown. I just really, really do not enjoy anything about the entire process of buying new clothes, so I wasn’t in the best mood as I meandered around the third floor looking for blouses until I accidentally stumbled into the dress section.

GAH. There were SO. MANY. pretty dresses! Never in my adult life have I hoped to be invited to an event that required a floor-length dress, but as I browsed through the dress section, I became more and more disappointed that I don’t have any black-tie events to attend, and therefore couldn’t justify buying any of the dresses. It then occurred to me that I was shopping by myself, not on any particular timeline, and there was absolutely no reason in the world why I couldn’t try on dresses just for the fun of it, so…

macysdress

*sighs dreamily*

I suppose the fact that I don’t need any floor length dresses played a huge role in this actually being a fun experience, because there was no pressure to find one that I thought looked good on me and fit my budget (since there is no budget for trying on dresses for fun!). But regardless of why I enjoyed it, it put me in a good mood, which made my entire shopping trip much more pleasant.

I can’t think of any good questions, so this half-hearted sentence is what you’re getting instead.

What’s Next

Long-term edition.

This past marathon season, as I mentioned once or twice or on a weekly basis from the beginning of September (or maybe even earlier?) through race day, was without a doubt the most trying marathon season I’ve had. A variety of factors played into this, and while maybe one or two of them would’ve been manageable on their own, dealing with all of them at once made the last six weeks of training so difficult that I began to ask myself some serious questions, the root of which, always, was, “Why am I doing this?” The fact that I couldn’t come up with an answer–not any sort of answer at all–was troubling, to say the least.

When I crossed the start line of the Chicago Marathon this past October, I did so not knowing whether or not I’d be back in 2018. I had had it with the entire experience of marathon training and really didn’t know if I could put myself through that again. Then, of course, I had the race of my life (when I was expecting to have a terrible race, no less), so that obviously changed my perspective a bit. While I suppose it would make sense to retire now–going out on a high note, as it were–now that I feel like I’ve at least figured out how to run a marathon (only took five years and six attempts!), I would like to apply that knowledge to a training cycle and race and see what happens.

HOWEVER. Having the race of my life doesn’t suddenly erase the fact that last marathon season was not even close to an enjoyable experience, nor does it change, what I think, was the main reason I hated last marathon season so much: my CARA group. I feel like the experiences I had with the group this year had a serious impact on the way I felt about marathon training in general (that is to say, not positively). Because the importance of this group to me and my training in the past was so high that it was consistently the reason I listed as the reason why I continued running the Chicago Marathon, having a problem with the group automatically becomes the biggest problem of all. There’s a lot that goes into this, so bear with me.

I’ve run with the same 10:30 pace group every year that I’ve done marathon training. I don’t know why I initially chose a 10:30 pace group–I guess it seemed reasonable enough in 2013?–but if I’m being honest with myself, it was a bit too fast for me. I rarely ran with the main group, and more often than not ran with a handful of people doing closer to a 10:45 pace. I barely ever spoke to anyone. I went to one post-run brunch, but felt like I was crashing a party I wasn’t actually invited to, and never went to any other “extracurriculars,” if you will. Somehow, despite not really being connected to the group, I felt inexplicably connected to the group (see?), and came back for more in 2014.

Two big things changed for me in 2014. I felt far more comfortable in the group than I did in 2013. It was no longer a new experience, and that made it easier for me to open up and be chatty–a key element to making friends in my running group, in my experience. Additionally, a fair number of people who I considered to be the “in crowd” of the 10:30s were not running with the group in 2014. This left a social vacuum, an opportunity for a new in crowd to form without having to compete with the existing in crowd. I took both of these changes and RAN WITH THEM (literally, I suppose, but I mean it in more of the metaphorical sense 😛 ). I initiated conversations with my running buddies. I went to every single extracurricular event. I struck up a good friendship with another girl in the group, Jill (all names changed to protect the innocent)–so good that she even invited me to her birthday party that November (the one and only time someone from the 10:30s invited me to a non-10:30s event). Things went really, really well from a social standpoint, and I was officially all in for the CARA 10:30s.

Things changed in 2015. Jill signed up for marathon training, but rarely showed up to marathon training, mostly because she was usually at CrossFit instead, and I definitely resented her for it. I still attended the extracurriculars like my life depended on it, but I didn’t feel like I had A Running Buddy anymore like I had had in Jill. It bothered me a lot. Something about group training in 2015 just didn’t click for me like it had the year before (see? [#9]). 2016 was more of the same, but I blamed that on the fact that I was training for two marathons at once and rarely ran the same mileage as the rest of the group.

I don’t remember what my feelings were headed into training this year. I knew Jill wouldn’t be there, since she moved to California. Pretty quickly, however, I realized that the in crowd situation from 2013 was back with a VENGEANCE. Though the cast of characters had changed, there was a distinct, undeniable in crowd in the group. They took up the front spots in the group every Saturday, would meet up with each other to run on weekdays, were all on each other’s kickball team. If I thought Jill not showing up in 2015 made me feel resentful, it was NOTHING compared to the way I felt about the 2017 10:30s in crowd. They were cliquey and exclusive and I hated it, not only because of the cliquey-ness and exclusivity, but because every single person in that clique joined the group AFTER I did and have run fewer marathons than I have, and that infuriated me. I felt like I had seniority, like I had earned my place in the in crowd, like this was my group and my thing and how DARE they take it away from me like that. Maybe that’s petty or stupid or whatever, but it’s the truth.

My resentfulness about the clique situation came to a head after Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. I used to live relatively close to two of my group leaders and would often get rides home from them. The week before Rock ‘n’ Roll, I told them I wouldn’t be at the group run the following week since I was doing the half instead.

“Emma’s doing Rock ‘n’ Roll, too,” one of them responded, referencing one of the girls in the clique. “She’s looking for someone to run with! You should let her know you’re running!”

Now, I’ve never been particularly close to Emma. We’ve chatted once or twice at group events, but that was it. Nevertheless, I’m Facebook friends with her, so I sent her a message later that day letting her know that I’d be running Rock ‘n’ Roll and was available as a running buddy but most certainly did not need to be her running buddy if her goals were different than mine for race day. She responded quickly letting me know that two other girls from our group (both clique members) were also running it (so why my group leaders were under the impression that she had no one to run with is beyond me) and that “we should definitely meet up before.” Fair enough. She gave me her number, and that was that.

Neither Emma nor I made any effort to coordinate with the other person before race day, so the morning of, I texted her to let her know which corral I was in, and that I was about 20 minutes away from Grant Park. She responded in kind, letting me know that she also would be there in about 20 minutes. I opted to carry a water bottle and my phone that day instead of checking gear like normal, so I had my phone on me the entire time leading up to the race, but I never heard anything from Emma. That was fine with me. I was just there to get my long run in and didn’t necessarily need a companion to make that happen.

That was all I really thought of it until after the race, when I sat down in Grant Park and began looking up the race results of everyone I knew participating, as one does (or is that just me?). To my enormous surprise, Emma (and the two other girls) had both run substantially faster than I had–like, up to 13 minutes faster than I had–and to my enormous dismay, I saw that all three of them crossed the start line at the exact same time.

I. Was. Furious.

My furious-ness only increased later in the day, when I made the critical mistake of Facebook stalking Emma and saw the two pictures she had posted from that day’s race: one of her and the other two girls all together in their corral, and one of the three of them together after the race, complete with the caption, “Lucky to be part of such a wonderful running community.”

RUNNING COMMUNITY MY BUTT. I made an effort to be your running buddy even though I didn’t want to because Jack and Jess (the group leaders) said you needed one, and then you completely ditched me to run with two other girls in the clique?!?! If that’s “community,” then I’m Jordan Hasay.

Maybe I’m being ridiculous. Maybe I am, once again, being petty. Maybe should have hounded Emma more to coordinate meeting up. But it pissed me off. It all felt so unnecessary. If you didn’t want to run with me, JUST SAY SO. I would not have been the LEAST bit offended. I would’ve been relieved, in fact! I SPECIFICALLY said in my initial Facebook message that it “doesn’t make a difference to me either way” if she ran with me or not. But when you act like you want to run with me and then go silent on me on race morning AND THEN run with other people from the training group AND THEN post all about it on Facebook, I’m going to be offended! (The fact that they all smoked me time-wise didn’t help either, I’ll admit.)

So I was already soured on the group, and that was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. That whole situation went down at the end of week six of training. I only went to four more long runs with the group for the entire year (out of 11 possible). Granted, there were extenuating circumstances more than once–my knee, my food poisoning, being out of town, a half marathon–but still. If you needed me to point out the The Moment where everything changed for me in terms of marathon training this past summer, that was most definitely it. That was the moment that all of my starry-eyed infatuation with the 10:30s from 2014 exploded into a million dead pieces, and, having had time to reflect on it, I think that’s really what killed this whole season for me. No, the food poisoning didn’t help, and the fact that September felt more like July in terms of temperature (when July had been fairly September-y) most certainly didn’t help the situation either. But it was Rock ‘n’ Roll that did me in. My love for my training group and the friends I had there had always been enough to overcome all the frustration and disappointment that inevitably comes along with an 18-week marathon training program. Once that love was gone, so was my interest in marathon training.

Since marathon training has, historically, been my primary interest in this whole thing–I really hated marathon running up until just about a month ago–having lost that interest–or at least having lost interest in doing that with the people I’ve always done it with–has put me in a bit of a running identity crisis, if you will. Who am I, if I am not a 10:30 Awesome?

To be fair, the Saturday 6:30 a.m. group at Montrose is far from the only option for marathon training. I could train with the 6 a.m. group (*weeps*), or the 6:30 a.m. Lakeshore East group, or I could defect and become a Chicago Endurance Sports runner and train with them next year. Or I could train solo, though that idea doesn’t really appeal to me when I know the path will be full of groups I could’ve joined if I had decided to do so. As much as I hate to admit it, I think my 10:30 Awesome days are over. And it just sucks, you guys. That group was so fundamental in developing me into the runner I am today. I really, really like Jack and Jess, and I hate the idea of abandoning them. I felt like I got along with the two of them really well. They’re friendly and helpful and impeccably nice. Jess TEXTED me on my birthday, for goodness sake! The only other people to text me on my birthday were my best friend from childhood and my good friend from dance! I’m sure there are other wonderful group leaders in CARA (and in CES, for that matter), but Jack and Jess are my group leaders, and it really upsets me that the vibe of the group changed so much that I don’t even feel like I belong anymore and won’t be running with Jack and Jess as a result.

The other issue I have at the moment? I just…don’t want to do the marathon next year. I’m not sure that I want to do any marathon next year, never mind the Chicago Marathon. I had such a miserable experience this past training cycle that it’s really turned me off from the whole idea.

Now, that alone should seal the deal, right? If I don’t want to run the marathon next year–if I don’t even have to do soul-searching to know that, if my stomach turns every time I get an email from the race encouraging me to sign up for next year–that should be it right there. Don’t want to run the race? Then don’t run the race. A few years back, there was a girl in my dance class who would constantly text me an hour or so before class saying that she didn’t want to be there, and it was all I could do to keep from shaking her by the shoulders and screaming in her face, “THEN DON’T COME TO CLASS ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!” (Instead, I’d text her that, just with less caps lock and fewer exclamation points, haha.) It BOGGLED my mind that she could have so little interest in dance and continue to show up week after week after week, and even more than that, continue to register for future sessions! WHY?! Why would any adult do that to themselves? Why would any grown woman force herself to have a hobby she didn’t want to have?! I could NOT comprehend it.

And yet, here I am, with next to no interest in running the Chicago Marathon next year, still contemplating running the Chicago Marathon next year.

I guess what it really comes down to for me is this: I don’t want to run the Chicago Marathon next year right now. I am not at all confident that I won’t want to run the Chicago Marathon next year when training season rolls around. Unfortunately, because the race insists doing registration obscenely and unnecessarily early, I don’t have the luxury of waiting until next summer or next year or even next month to decide if I want to run Chicago or not. Since every summer marathon training program in the city targets the Chicago Marathon, if I intend to train with a group–which I do, even if that group is a different group–Chicago is far and away the most logical race to do, especially if I join a new group. Joining a brand new group and then running different mileage then them every week is certainly not going to do me any favors in the running-buddy-making department.

That’s one of the other pieces that’s keeping me from throwing in the towel entirely: while training was not a particularly pleasant experience this year, I do really like marathon training. Really truly. I love have 18 weeks of scheduled workouts (even if they inevitably don’t go according to plan). I like the structure and the order, and even though it can be burdensome at times, I very much appreciate the predictability and rhythm of marathon training. It feels stable, and I like that feeling a lot.

I still haven’t submitted my application for my guaranteed entry, but I expect that I probably will. At the end of the day, even with all the angst it caused me in 2017, I think I’d like to give the Chicago Marathon specifically at least one more shot. I’d like to try training with a different group, and I’d like to try training at a more appropriate pace (which, based on how the race went this year, is probably going to be either 11:00 or 11:30–most likely 11:30–much to my ego’s chagrin). If things still go terribly, if I hate my new group and I hate training, then I guess I have my answer as to what I should do with all of this moving forward. I still feel like I have unfinished business with the Chicago Marathon (like finally running a time I want to run, for example), and I don’t think I’m ready to walk away from it with that hanging over my head. We’ll see what happens, I guess, but that’s the plan for the moment.

Thursday Things

1. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about anything church-related on here–so long that I don’t really even expect you to know what I’m talking about when I say “anything church-related”! You can catch up on my initial bemoaning here, but the short of it is this: my church is essentially out of money (for reasons I initially planned on detailing, until that got to be nearly 1000 words and I wasn’t even halfway done with it–though if you want to know the nitty gritty, I’d be happy to write a novella on it!–but basically boil down to deferred maintenance, misplaced loyalty and not enough membership). When your church, like anything, really, runs out of money, you have two options: sell your assets in an effort to get back on your feet, or close up shop.

My church opted to go with the first option and is selling off half our property as a result. While selling off half our property is better than selling off all our property, I suppose, it’s only slightly better. The half we’re selling contains all of the non-“church” space (offices, the kitchen, etc.), and because we’re not willing to give up having that kind of space entirely, it means we have to renovate–a euphemism if ever there were one–the sanctuary to accommodate the functional space we’re losing. When all of this was initially discussed a year and a half ago, it was made quite clear that “renovation” would really mean gutting the entire church, and at that point, well, what even is the point? If you’re just going to preserve the exterior of the building and destroy the interior, as far as I’m concerned, you may as well just sell the whole property.

When this discussion started in April 2016, I made it quite clear that the day the interior of the church stopped looking exactly (or, you know, more or less exactly) as it did on that exact Sunday was the day I left. Maybe I’m being shallow, but a major part of what drew me to my church initially was its interior. It’s a space that feels church-y to me, and for me, it’s important to be in a space that feels church-y if I expect to have a church-y experience.

churchinterior

Last Thursday we learned that the sale of half of the property was in the process of moving forward, and if all goes as expected, the last service we’ll hold in the church as it looks right now will be Easter 2018. It’s a pretty upsetting prospect, to say the least, though I thought Easter 2016 would be the last Easter in church, and then I thought Easter 2017 would be the last Easter in church, so I guess at least I got two more Easters than I originally anticipated.

Anyway, I figured that meant Easter 2018 would be my expiration date with my current church. Then this past Sunday as I was leading, one of the people in charge of things asked if I’d have interest in being on the “temporary space committee,” who will be responsible for finding a place for the congregants to worship while the church is under construction. My initial reaction was a HARD PASS, until she continued on and let me know that the temporary space committee will also be the future space committee, and will be the ones to have a say in what the renovated sanctuary looks like.

A chance to bully architects into meeting my demands AND fight the good fight for historic preservation?! Sign me up!

Nothing is official yet by any means, but as the lady who approached me in the first place said, even if nothing works out the way I want it to, at least I had a say in it. In the mean time, if you need me, I’ll be brushing up on my persuasive speaking techniques and memorizing the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation as if they were the 10 Commandments themselves.

2. One of the first things I saw online after getting the email from church announcing the sale stuff was this article from DNAInfo about how a bunch more vacant buildings have been torn down in the city this year compared to last year, and…sigh. I have so many feelings about tearing down vacant buildings. I understand the drive to keep away the appearance of blight in a neighborhood. I understand the high risk that vacant buildings pose from a safety perspective. But it still bothers me. It bothers me to think about the people who invested in building these places in the first place. It bothers me to think about the amount of work that went into the construction of these places, particularly since so most of them are generally pushing, if not already over, 100 years old, and obviously the technology that improves efficiency in construction didn’t exist at the time. It bothers me to think about the people who lived there, who raised families there, who grew up there, who have history there. It bothers me that the circumstances that created an environment for these homes to fall into vacancy or disrepair–the redlining, the disinvestment in the neighborhood–were allowed to exist in the first place. It feels enormously disrespectful to all the people whose lives intersected with those homes to just tear them down as if they’re just a problem to be “dealt with,” and it feels enormously misguided to think that eliminating empty structures and turning them into empty lots instead will somehow solve the systemic social injustices that plague those neighborhoods–as if gutting a neighborhood will magically eliminate poverty and all its associates.

I don’t know. Maybe I just care about buildings too much. But I do think buildings are important, and I think old buildings are especially important because they serve as a testament to the fact that people were here before you. Forgetting that is rude at best, dangerous at worst. But goodness knows trying to convince people of that when there is money to be made is an uphill battle.

3. In my-other-ridiculous-passion news, I saw a red-bellied woodpecker in CHICAGO on Saturday. Talk about a bird sighting!

mortonarboretum-redbelliedwoodpecker

(Not this specific red-bellied woodpecker–or at least, I assume it wasn’t the exact same bird–but you get the idea.)

I could NOT believe it! I was out for a run on the Lakefront Trail and saw one of these regal creatures on a retaining wall along Lake Shore Drive. Considering that I’ve only ever seen two or three woodpeckers of any variety, period, in Chicago (including the one who fate briefly entrusted to my care), and I’ve only ever seen them in the depths of neighborhoods, seeing one along the lake–along the Drive itself, no less!–was quite the occasion.

Now, if only I could see a bluebird inside city limits…

Goals for 2017: October Check-In

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
I…have done absolutely nothing in this regard all month. I…also literally copied and pasted that from last month’s check-in. High five for laziness, both in regards to freelancing AND in regards to writing this post.

Goal #2: Get rid of 50 things
After last month’s donation extravaganza, I really didn’t have much more left to get rid of. I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of things I could part with, but after going on a no-holds-barred purging spree for most of the beginning of the year, I feel fairly comfortable saying that everything I own right now is something I want to have, not something I just happen to have. That being said, I did find two pairs of socks full of holes the last time I did laundry, so I suppose I can now say I’m up to 591 items that I’ve gotten rid of in 2017, haha.

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
Not much to report on this front. I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping up with this (though I do freeze my streak probably once every other week or so when it’s gotten really late in the day and I realize I never bothered to set aside the whole five minutes it takes to get through my two lessons per day). I updated the app at some point during October, and now Duo the Owl pops out from the corner of my screen once per lesson to encourage me. It’s the little things.

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
Check.

– Strength train once per week, minimally, during running season: While I kind of feel like running season is over–I generally consider the marathon to be the culmination of the season for me–I still have a few events left on my calendar, so I’m still trying to keep up with this. I definitely took some time away from the gym after the marathon, but I’m starting to get back into that habit. I only strength trained once in October, but I think (hope) I’ll be better about integrating it into my routine in November.
– Stretch after every run: I didn’t stretch after the marathon, but I believe I did after every other run I did in October.
– Foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji rather than a full-blown foam roller: I also feel like I’m getting better about foam rolling post-run. I even foam rolled after the marathon! (Several hours after, but it was still the same day at least.)
– Do at least three PT exercises twice per week: I definitely let myself take a pretty substantial break from PT after the marathon. I don’t think I did any PT exercises for two weeks straight. I’m trying to get back into it, though, so I can hopefully get through the rest of my races this year injury-free.

What’s Next

Short-term edition.

With the Chicago Marathon well in my rearview mirror, it’s now time for me to focus on the remainder of my running calendar for the year because surprise! The marathon wasn’t the end game this year! Well, I suppose the marathon was my end game, at least from a goals standpoint, but I have three (!) more races coming up before I can officially go into hibernation mode.

I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon last year, but due to being booted, wasn’t able to run. This year, I successfully completed the marathon without stress reacting/fracturing my foot or peroneal tendinitis-ing my peroneal tendon, so I plan to do the race this year. While it’s perhaps possible that I could ride out my marathon fitness for five weeks and still complete a half marathon, it didn’t feel particularly likely that I could do that, and even if I somehow could do it, I have very strong doubts that I would enjoy doing that. Thus, a four week half marathon “training” plan was born.

My half marathon training plan is really more of a maintenance plan than anything. I took the week after the marathon off from exercise (mostly) entirely (I did go to dance on Tuesday, per usual, but I took it easy and only did what I could.) and went for my first run post-marathon the Monday of the week after the race (Oct. 16, eight days after the marathon). My half marathon maintenance plan was somewhat inspired by Hal Higdon’s HM3 program, at least from days-of-the-week-spent-running and a type-of-run perspectives. I didn’t want to jump into week nine of HM3 when I was still more or less recovering from the marathon, so I decided to ease back into things for a couple of weeks, have one “peak week” of 20ish miles the week before race week, then “taper” the week of race week. I am most certainly not hoping for a PR in Vegas, and even though I don’t really drink (even when the alcohol is free, as I learned when I went to Vegas last year), I’m not fooling myself into believing I’ll be in prime racing condition for this event. Even if I were in prime racing condition, since the event is a night(ish) race, I’m obviously going to be going into this under much different circumstances, particularly in the food/hydration/rest departments, than other half marathons. I just want to be able to finish uninjured, and I think my maintenance plan will help me accomplish that.

After the Vegas half, I have a whopping 10 days until my next race: my first ever turkey trot! My schedule worked out this year to allow me to do one, and I’m super pumped! I think it’ll be a nice way to start a day that usually involves little to no movement on my end. Again, I’m not expecting any miraculous performances here: just going out to enjoy myself and start Thanksgiving on an active note.

Two weeks after the turkey trot, I’ll wrap up my year in running with the same 5K I run every December. I actually do care about this race–care too much, one could argue–so I’m hoping that maintaining higher mileage going into it and keeping up with a little bit of speedwork will help me out. I love the idea of PRing, but I also know the weather for this event is a complete crapshoot (I’ve run it in everything from 48 and humidish to freezing and middle-of-a-snowstorm), so that’s probably a little out of the question. My goal at this race is always to place in my age group, which I’ve done every other year. Unfortunately this is an “off” year for me in terms of age group placement (historically, I’ve placed in my age group at this event during even years and gotten fourth in my age group during odd years), so we’ll have to see what happens, I guess.

As soon as I cross the finish line of that 5K, I plan to hang up my running shoes for the remainder of the year. I like to take a bit of time off every year to give myself a bit of a break in the running department, and since I know I’ll need to start officially training again at the end of January, the end of December seems like a good time to take that break (plus holidays, parties, travel, etc. etc.).

I’m hoping to incorporate more strength training into my fitness life through the end of the year, but I’ll be honest: I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to go about doing that. NTC is an option, I suppose, though I’m really not as crazy about NTC as I used to be (I still hate the updated app, even though it’s been updated for nearly a year and a half at this point.). I’d love to find some sort of strength training program that fits what I’m looking to accomplish (one to two workouts per week, ideally with a total body focus, since I expect my strength training to be so infrequent that I’d like to get the most bang for my buck in that department), but so far have just gotten overwhelmed every time I’ve tried to find something online and give up. I’m also not really looking to spend any additional money to make this happen, which limits me a bit as well. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

So that’s the plan for the moment. I still have some decisions to make regarding more long-term plans, but that’s another topic for another blog post 🙂