1. In an effort to put myself in the best position possible to have a fantastic marathon, I decided the most logical course of action would be to pack the days leading up to the marathon with a zillion activities, guaranteeing elevated stress levels and next to no relaxing! A foolproof plan!
Sarcasm aside, I did way more in the week before the marathon than I should have/would have if I had been thinking, and it really stressed me out–like, crying-in-the-kitchen-a-week-before-the-race-because-there-are-so-many-dishes-and-I-don’t-have-time-to-do-them stressed out. I would definitely not recommend following my method, but in case you’re interested, here’s what I did!
2. First up (and, frankly, a big contributor to the crying-in-the-kitchen incident) was my first-ever trip to Montrose for the purpose of birding.
Montrose Beach/Point/Harbor has a reputation among local birders as being the place in Chicago to go birding, and it’s been on my bucket list to go there during migration since last fall or so. As I learned while I was there, at one point, there was a military base at Montrose Harbor that had a honeysuckle hedge surrounding the ground level. Birders noticed that, during migration, warblers would dart in and out of the hedge “like magic,” which is how the area got the name Magic Hedge. Since the base closed, there has been an intentional effort to develop the area in a way that will cater to migrating birds, with a variety of environments (open prairie, woods, etc.), so it has become quite the hot spot for birders.
I wasn’t able to make it during spring migration this year, so I circled Sept. 29 on my calendar as the day I’d go during the fall. I only had eight miles on tap that morning, it was during the height of migration, and, conveniently, the weather was pretty cooperative. What could possibly go wrong?!
While I certainly agree with the assessment of birders of ages past that warblers flock (heh puns) to the place, that was, ultimately, the root of my problems. There are nearly 50 different kinds of warblers that you might find in North America, and it felt like all 50 kinds were there on Sept. 29. In reality, I saw seven different kinds, most of which were brand new to my life list. You’d think that’d make the day a success, and I suppose in retrospect it did, but I was so overwhelmed. I had a hard time taking pictures of the birds I saw since they never sat still, which frustrated me, and an even harder time trying to identify them, especially since they’d all lost their breeding colors and looked basically identical. I was in way over my head and felt like a total failure of a birder, and that was obviously discouraging.
The American Redstarts were the only warblers that came close to taking pity on me. Here’s an out-of-focus, too-high-ISO female:
And a male, also with too high ISO. This is what happens when you put an amateur (aka me) behind an SLR. Isn’t he striking, though?
These pictures aren’t exactly high quality, but I do like that I captured the female on the prowl for some bugs for a mid-afternoon snack. In the second picture, you can see her leaping for a tiny little green bug. I think that’s pretty cool. I also think the coloring on the underside of her wings is very pretty, even if it’s a bit understated compared to that of her male companion.
I did see several other birds I could identify, easy ones like cardinals and catbirds and chickadees, but overall it was not even close to the enjoyable experience I hoped it’d be. I think I need to practice at a less populated spot before I go to Montrose again. Either that, or I need to go to Montrose just to enjoy it, rather than to try to log the birds I see on eBird.
The bees, for what it’s worth, were much more cooperative to my photographic ambitions.
3. The Tuesday before the marathon, I skipped dance in favor of seeing Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally at the Chicago Theater!
They were there as part of a tour for their new book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. I LOVE Parks and Rec and like Will & Grace a lot, too (not as much as I love Parks and Rec, but that’s one of my favorite TV shows, so not much else really competes), so I was SUPER interested in seeing Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally live. Their conversation was moderated by Will Forte, which was a huge surprise. The Chicago Tribune sponsored the event, so I figured it’d be a journalist from the Trib moderating, not another celebrity!
I enjoyed hearing them talk about their relationship and careers, and being in the Chicago Theater for the first time. It’s a beautiful space! The event ticket included a copy of the book, which I have yet to start, but hopefully I’ll get around to it sooner rather than later.
4. The Thursday before the marathon, I had yet another event: Ed Sheeran at Soldier Field. Sort of.
I had a few other family members running the marathon, and one of them has wanted to go to a show at Soldier Field for awhile. When she found out that Ed Sheeran was playing the Thursday before the race, she asked if the rest of us wanted to go. I don’t really have strong feelings about Ed Sheeran one way or the other. I don’t actively like his music, but I don’t actively dislike it either, so I didn’t care one way or the other whether or not we went. Everyone else wanted to go, so we all got tickets.
By the time we got to the aforementioned crying-in-the-kitchen incident, I no longer had any interest in attending the concert. I felt behind on and overwhelmed by everything, including that little 26.2 mile run I planned on doing 36 hours after the show, and I seriously considered bailing. I felt like that wouldn’t be very nice to my family, though, so instead I ended up taking a half day Thursday and all of Friday off (which was really for the best, since I was to stressed to be remotely useful at work in the days leading up to the race anyway) in order to accommodate this concert I didn’t want to see anymore.
I was going to try to be a good sport about things, but then it ended up being FREEZING the day of the show. The Real Feel was in the 40s (a bit of a difference from the 88 degrees we had had the day before) and it was ridiculously windy. I did what I thought was a decent job of bundling up, but I don’t think anything short of full-blown winter gear would’ve been enough to keep me warm against the north winds in my seat on the south end of the stadium. I ended up staying for the two opening acts and left before Ed Sheeran even got on stage >.< Fail. I felt bad for being such a wimp, but I also didn’t feel bad about putting non-numb toes two days before the marathon ahead of seeing an artist I don’t care about all that much, so it is what it is, I suppose.
5. This didn’t happen before the Chicago Marathon, but this past Sunday while walking from the Post Office to Wintrust during Open House, I passed some tourists who asked if I spoke Spanish. Why, yes, I do!
They were trying to get to a cruise on the Chicago River but didn’t know where they were in relation to where the company launches. They showed me their map, and I gave them directions on how to get there in Spanish. I think I was fairly successful, though I wasn’t sure I used the right word for “block.” (Upon looking it up later, it appears that I did use the right word, though my pronunciation probably could’ve used some work, since they initially thought I was saying “cuatro” (four) not “cuadra” (block) 😛 )
It was so fulfilling! This was, literally, the first time in my life where I’ve actually needed to use Spanish. Didn’t get that Spanish minor for nothing, darn it! I genuinely enjoy giving tourists directions, but to have the chance to do it in Spanish was extra special 🙂