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.

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Jingle Bell Run Chicago 5K Race Recap

I finally (finally) ended Running Season 2017 at my favorite race of the year, the Jingle Bell Run 5K.

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(I am SO DISAPPOINTED that the event shirt is short sleeved this year 😦 I loved my long sleeve cotton Jingle Bell shirts and use them as pajama shirts all winter long. Now I can’t add a new one to my rotation 😦 I appreciate your respect during this incredible first world problem I have to deal with 😛 )

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The race took place at Solider Field again this year, and I showed up around 8 a.m. to pick up my packet and relax inside the United Center until the race began at 9. This year, everyone (who wanted one, at least) received a sponsor passport upon entering the United Center, which, if you got it signed at all the sponsor tables, would then allow you to enter a drawing for prizes. I spent part of that hour, then, collecting signatures at the various tables and getting SO MUCH STUFF in the process:

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ALL OF THE THINGS.

I putzed around the United Center for awhile and finally decided to do something resembling a real warmup. Even though the Jingle Bell Run is a pretty low key affair, mostly populated by people who want to either raise money for arthritis research or need an excuse to wear their flashiest Christmas gear while getting in a little exercise, for me, this has always been A Very Serious Race. The low turnout and cold temperatures usually mean I stand a decent chance at placing in my age group, though historically, I’ve only placed during even years. I hoped to buck that trend this year and was also itching for a PR. This is the first year I haven’t nabbed a PR at any distance, and while I wouldn’t say I was upset over it, I was certainly irked by it.

We were all herded outside around 8:50, and it felt like the race started so quickly. I’m used to having to kill way too much time in the corrals before a race start, but since Jingle Bell tries to keep you inside as long as possible, there wasn’t too much waiting outside. My kind of event!

I knew I needed to run a sub-7:48 pace to PR, so I lined up near the front and silently nominated a wonderfully tall man in front of me to be my pacer for the race. I didn’t want to obsess too much over my time, so I had my watch hidden for the most part, but after I had decided that he would be my unknowing pacer, I stole a glance and saw that we were running at a 7:50 pace. Perfect. Even better, he didn’t look like he was trying too hard, which in turn made me feel like I wasn’t trying too hard, even though on any given training run, I couldn’t sustain a 7:50 pace for any length of time if my life depended on it (I did a hard run two weeks ago, and the fastest I could manage was an 8:41). I hit the first mile in 7:47 and felt great!

As we approached the turnaround, I started seeing the leaders heading back north (the race goes south on the Lakefront Trail to the 30s and then returns back north to Soldier Field) and began counting women, since my top priority at this race is to walk away with an age group medal. After the first three women passed (they don’t count for age group awards, since they would win overall awards), I started counting the women I thought looked to be between the ages of 25 and 29 and felt like all of them looked like they were between the ages of 25 and 29 😦 I was pretty confident that I didn’t stand a chance at catching any of them, so my focus then shifted to my time.

I stayed tucked behind my unofficial pacer for awhile after the turnaround, but when I looked at my watch and saw he was now doing an 8:20 (along with the woman he had caught up to and seemed to have some affiliation with), I decided it was time to drop him and made my move.

HOLY COW. I did not realize how much I had been drafting off Mr. Pacer Man after the turnaround. The wind out of the north was BRUTAL (17 miles per hour, if my Garmin is to be believed). I tried to find another tall gentleman (or lady – I wasn’t picky) to block the wind for me, but the crowd was too thin and most of the runners in my area seemed to be the wispy high school cross country types who didn’t have nearly enough mass to take the brunt of the wind for me.

I somehow managed to clock an 8:04 second mile, which certainly didn’t bode well for my PR dreams, but was a lot better than I anticipated, given the wind. Knowing that I only had 1.1 more miles to run in all of 2017, I did my best to give it my all through the end, particularly when I got close enough to the finish line to realize that even though a PR was out of the question, a sub-25:00 finish was not. I pushed through and crossed the finish line in 24:54, which, coincidentally, is the exact same finish time I had in 2015 (though that was when the race was still at the Nature Museum in Lincoln Park).

While a 24:54 was nowhere near a PR for me, I was still quite pleased with my finish time. I’ve been disappointed and frustrated by my finish times more often than not this year, and I haven’t run a sub-25:00 5K since April 2016, so to nab a 24:54 at Jingle Bell made me really happy. I haven’t done an abundance of speedwork lately, but I did keep my mileage MUCH higher than normal heading into Jingle Bell and it was nice to see that pay off.

After filling my arms with food (the spread at Jingle Bell never fails to impress, though the Corner Bakery mini coffee cakes are always my favorite offering 🙂 ), I headed back into the United Club to get my results. The timer printed off my receipt, and next to DIVPLACE was a SIX. SIXTH!!!! I was STUNNED. I’ve never finished so low in my age group at Jingle Bell! I’ve never even come CLOSE to finishing so low in my AG at Jingle Bell!

Last year, my receipt said I came in third in my age group, but I ended up getting second because the girl who won the 25-29 AG came in second overall, thus disqualifying her from AG awards. While it seemed highly unlikely that all of the top three women were in the 25-29 age group, it also didn’t seem impossible, so I stuck around for awhile before eventually going back over to the timer to see if he had the overall results with ages. The female winner was in my age group, but the other two were both in the 30-34 age group, so while I moved up to fifth, that certainly wasn’t enough to get me any extra hardware. I headed home, a teeny bit disappointed, but still really happy with my overall time.

I was thinking about this whole age group situation later that day, and the more I thought about it, the crazier it became to me. I ran this exact same race in the exact same age group on the exact same course with almost the exact same number of total participants last year (there were three more finishers this year than last year [and like 400 fewer than a few years ago…eeesh. That’s a pretty gigantic percentage when you consider that this year’s race only had 284 finishers :/ ]), and somehow, despite running this year’s race 47 seconds faster than last year’s race, I finished THREE places lower in my age group than last year (and even that is a a fair comparison, because the girl who got bumped out of the AG awards last year due to her second place finish also got bumped out of the AG awards this year because she won the whole thing). I guess you never know who’s going to show up on race day!

I have many reasons for loving this race, not the least of which is that it is generally the only race all year where I stand any sort of chance claiming age group glory. But putting my need for outside validation that I am a Good Runner aside, this is just a really great race from top to bottom. It’s festive, it’s so well organized, and even though it’s part of a national series of fundraising races for the Arthritis Foundation, it feels 100 percent like a humble local event. I don’t know why it took me until Saturday, my sixth running of Jingle Bell and my goodness-only-knows-th race since I started running six and a half years ago, to realize that that Jingle Bell’s total lack of pretension is what makes it my favorite race, especially since my aversion to pretension is well-documented on this lowly blog. But regardless, I realized that on Saturday. I think this is such a wonderful event, and it’s definitely one I look forward to all year 🙂

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Thursday Things

1. My company hosted its annual holiday party this past Friday, and it was, as expected, quite the shindig.

The party took place at Venue One North Shore, which was conveniently located to just about no one, considering that none of our offices are close to Deerfield. But I guess at least it was inconvenient for everyone…? Anyway, I was super on the fence about going, given the location and the fact that it took place on a Friday (I generally dread doing anything on a Friday – I just want to go home and be lazy!), but I (obviously) ultimately decided to go. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected, so I’m glad I did! I also learned after I arrived at the party that Venue One used to be the Berto Center, the former practice facility for the Chicago Bulls (including during the Michael Jordan days), so that was pretty cool.

For reasons that I fail to understand, my company’s annual theme always centers around an ’80s song, and this year, our theme has been “The Power of Love” from Back to the Future. The party, therefore, was all-in on the ’80s theme (though you’d think if all of our themes are ’80s songs, all of the parties would be ’80s themed…?), with super old-school arcade games, pinball, a giant Lite Brite, and–I kid you not–a DeLorean.

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I don’t know where on earth you find a replica (I assume it was a replica, at least) DeLorean to have available for photo ops at a company holiday party, but apparently our Marketing department does and made it happen.

2. I bought two pairs of identical Asics Gel-Nimbus 18s in February and have faithfully rotated between the two ever since I got them, wearing one one week and the other the next. I didn’t put any particularly major thought or strategy into this: I just figured if I switched pairs ever week, they would probably maintain similar mileage and I wouldn’t notice much of a difference whether I was running in Pair #1 or Pair #2. I (remarkably) remembered to track my mileage every week while running in these shoes, logging how many miles I put on each pair the previous week. Marathon season in particular has some pretty major (or at least major by my small standards) mileage swings, so for awhile there, Pair #1 was definitely winning in the race to 400 miles, at which point I usually downgrade my running shoes into walking/regular life activity shoes. Well, I added up my mileage from this past weekend, and the results? Pair #1: 352.3 miles. Pair #2: 352.9 miles. Heyo! I’ll probably put a few more miles on both pairs at the beginning of next year (I’d like to wait to buy new shoes until late February, since that’s when I got a really good deal at Fleet Feet last year), but I’m pleasantly surprised to see how nicely this rotating pairs thing worked out.

In other footwear news, I noticed on Tuesday that my every-workout-but-running shoes have sprung a leak 😦 It’s just a small hole, but it is a hole, and since I’ve been toying with the idea of getting new every-workout-but-running shoes for awhile, I guess this is the push I needed. I’ve been regularly wearing Nike Frees (…that I got in 2013) for commuting, all my gym workouts, and dance since 2014, so I’m probably due for an upgrade. The problem, unsurprisingly, is that Nike doesn’t make the same shoes they made in 2013 anymore, and now there are all sorts of Frees, including ones meant for running (like I have now, even though I don’t use them for running) and ones meant for “training,” which I suppose is what I need. Decisions, decisions.

3. I may be the only person who feels this way, but I will absolutely not apologize for feeling this way: I’m so glad it’s finally cold outside. I don’t think temperatures in the 50s and 60s during December are a treat. I think they’re annoying at best, concerning at worst (global warming, anyone?), and definitely keep me from getting into the Christmas spirit, given the fact that that kind of weather makes it feel more like Easter is on the way than Christmas. I’m all for temperatures in the 50s and 60s when it’s supposed to be that warm, like late October/early November, and starting again in mid-late March. But in between that time? No thank you.

As of Wednesday, it’s supposed to snow (!!) from Friday into Saturday, though I’ve learned to not get my hopes up too high about snow predictions. I have a race Saturday morning, so I wouldn’t be too disappointed if the snow held off until maybe Saturday afternoon, but I’d also love to get some snow on the ground so it REALLY looks and feels like Christmas.

Is anyone else happy that it’s cold outside?
What shoes do you wear for your non-running workouts?
I’m definitely leaning towards Nike again, but I’m certainly open to other suggestions!

Boston the Documentary

(I should probably start this off by saying that, despite what it may sound like, no one ever asked or paid me to see or talk about this movie. This is just a write-up of an event I, your friendly local non-monetized blogger, thoroughly enjoyed.)

Boston: The Documentary has been on my radar for awhile, so when I finally had the chance to see it last Wednesday, I was pumped. Running for Kicks had organized a screening at the Marcus Orland Park Cinema, which, as you may have guessed, was a bit of a haul from Chicago, but worthwhile nevertheless.

Brooks helped sponsor the event, which meant we got a goodie bag! The $10 ticket to the movie not only granted you admission to the screening, but also got you a Brooks bag, journal, bracelet and beanie (!!), along with a coupon to Running for Kicks, a CARA flyer, and a pen. I didn’t price check anything, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the contents of the bag alone certainly cost more than $10, never mind the movie, so all in all, this was a pretty good deal.

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The movie itself, as the name not-so-subtly implies, is about the Boston Marathon. The director, Jon Dunham, is the same guy who put together Spirit of the Marathon I and II, the former of which I have now watched five times, as watching that movie is a hallowed part of my Friday-night-before-the-Chicago-Marathon routine, and it definitely felt Spirit of the Marathon-esque. While Spirit of the Marathon (or at least the first one; I haven’t seen the second one) follows six runners as they train for and eventually run (and, in the case of Deena Kastor, win) the 2006 Chicago Marathon, Boston focuses on the running of the 2014 Boston Marathon, particularly in light of the terrorism that occurred at the finish line of the 2013 race. While the 2014 race is the metaphorical sun around which the rest of the movie revolves, it also takes a significant amount of time to discuss the history of the race. I knew the Boston Marathon had been around for a long time, and I knew about Bobbi Gibb, Katherine Switzer, and Rosie Ruiz, but that was about where my knowledge of the race began and ended. The movie was super informative and really made you appreciate the work that so many people have put into building this event into what it is today.

The movie also gives you a cool behind-the-scenes look into the race’s management today, which is honestly something I think every runner, particularly every marathoner, could stand to see. I have played an excessively small role in putting on races, and I don’t think the average runner begins to comprehend the amount of work and coordination it takes to pull even a small race together. It is not close to being as simple as mapping out a course on MapMyRun or Google Maps and then setting up a registration page, at least not if you want to put on a real, sanctioned event. You need to coordinate with the municipality, you need to coordinate with the police, you need to coordinate with medical staff, you need to coordinate with vendors, you need to coordinate with the timing company, you need to coordinate with the alderman, you need to coordinate with USATF–and that’s just for your standard out-and-back on the Lakefront Trail sort of affair. Imagine how many times over that’s multiplied when it comes to something like the Chicago Marathon, where you’re running a World Marathon Major–so now you need to coordinate with that legislative body as well as USATF and anti-doping agencies–entirely on city streets–so now you need to coordinate with the CTA and the police and Streets & San–through goodness knows how many wards–so now you need to coordinate with goodness knows how many aldermen. It is, I can only imagine, an INSANE effort, and Chicago at least has the advantage of taking place all in one city. Boston runs through EIGHT different municipalities, all with their own governments, police departments, fire departments, etc., so you have to do all of that work eight times over. Just seeing the number of people in the room at a meeting about emergency management two months before the race drives home what kind of work it takes to put on something like the Boston Marathon.

The movie comes out on iTunes (and other digital outlets) today, and will be available from streaming through various providers on Dec. 19. If you’re looking for inspiration, or even just an inside look at the Boston Marathon, I definitely think it’s worth your time and money.

 

Thursday Things

1. Whelp.

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I assume that’s not the reaction I was supposed to have upon receiving this email, and yet, here I am, feeling…less enthusiastic than the number of exclamation points in this email suggests I should feel.

I’m still holding out hope that I’ll be more excited about running the Chicago Marathon sometime between now and 10 months from now, and I don’t think I’m being totally unreasonable in that hope. I barely took a break after the marathon this year (I usually take a full month off of running entirely after the marathon), and I’m definitely feeling a bit burnt out on the running front. I’ve been training for something or other since Jan. 30, and I am very, very ready to not be training for anything. I’m looking forward to taking some time off after my 5K next weekend and focusing on any other kind of workout for a little bit.

2. Back in August, I lost my patience with my (now former) dentist, and set out to find a new one. My former dentist was only open from 9-4 Monday through Friday (though according to Yelp, it looks like their hours have since changed), which 1) seems like a terrible business model, since so many people are at work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2) was ridiculously inconvenient for me, since I, like most office workers, am otherwise occupied during that time frame. Instead of doing summer hours, my company gives every employee one half day of free PTO each month during the summer, to be used either in the morning or evening on any day of the week you please. I booked my dentist appointment to coincide with my August day off, only to receive a phone call from them 48 hours before asking me to reschedule to earlier in the day (before my afternoon off would start), only to receive another phone call from them an hour and a half before my rescheduled appointment that something was mechanically wrong at the office and they wouldn’t be able to see me at all that day. I was furious, especially because if I had called 90 minutes before my appointment to cancel they would’ve slapped me with some enormous cancellation fee, but they were allowed to do so consequence-free AND at the expense of my already scheduled, non-changeable half day. So that was the end of my affiliation with that dentist.

Though it proved to be more challenging than I anticipated, I finally found a new dentist that operates during non-work hours and decided to take my business there instead. That was in October. I’ve now already been to that dentist more times than I think I ever went to my former dentist.

It all started with a routine cleaning (performed by the actual dentist, not a hygienist, because the hygienist who was supposed to clean my teeth that day WENT INTO LABOR IN THE OFFICE THAT MORNING and they STILL didn’t cancel my appointment. Already a 100 percent improvement from my previous dentist.), during which the dentist informed me in no uncertain terms that I grind my teeth and need to wear a night guard. My former dentist had also told me this, so since I got the exact same information from two totally unaffiliated people, I figured it was legit. So that was appointment #1. Appointment #2 was a few weeks later to get impressions taken, an experience I was disappointed, though not entirely surprised, to discover has not become any more enjoyable since the last time I had to get impressions taken in the late ’90s for the various orthodontia my poor face was subjected to in elementary school. Appointment #3 came three weeks later, where I was meant to be fitted with my night guard, only to discover that, despite my night guard fitting my impressions perfectly, the guard did not fit my actual teeth perfectly. Thus, I got to go through the joy of having impressions taken again, and returned to the dentist on Monday for appointment #4, where I was fitted with a night guard that actually does fit my teeth. (The night guard, for what it’s worth, is remarkably unpleasant and I hate it, but I’m hoping I’ll get used to it after more than two nights of use.)

You would think that’d be the end of it, but no, of course not. Way back during appointment #1, I finally confessed that yes, that wisdom tooth poking through my gum does bother me, and bothers me a lot, frequently to the point where I don’t even want to eat anything that requires chewing because it hurts too much. As a result, I left the dentist with a reminder to call back later to schedule pre-extraction imaging (so they know where everything is and don’t just blindly go into my mouth, pulling out whatever seems convenient), which I…conveniently “forgot” to do, time and time and time again, despite my tooth continuing to bother me anytime the tiniest iota of food wriggled its way into my gum back there. Finally after appointment #4, the receptionist offered to schedule the imaging appointment for me, so now I have appointment #5 to look forward to in a few weeks, and wisdom tooth extraction to “look forward to” at a date TBD after that. Hooray 😐

3. In theory, I should be putting up my monthly Goals for 2017 check-in post tomorrow, but since I have absolutely nothing to report on any front in that department, I’m going to skip it since it feels totally unnecessary. I’ve felt that way for the past couple of months, which has made me think about annual goal-setting in general. Is it better to set goals that you can accomplish by the end of the year (“get rid of 50 things,” for example), or goals that require continual work (“keep with my PT exercises”). I don’t know! Maybe both? Continual goals certainly lend themselves to better blog posts, but that’s obviously not the point of setting an annual goal. Things to think about!

Have you had your wisdom teeth removed? Am I going to die in the process? I’m pretty convinced that’s what’s going to happen.

Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 8K Race Recap

Thanksgiving may be the most popular day for racing in the United States, but growing up, I was completely oblivious to the concept of a turkey trot. Maybe it was ignorance, but from what I remember, Thanksgiving was most definitely not a day for running where I grew up. In Chicagoland, however, the opposite is true, and since I stayed in town for the holiday this year, I took on my first turkey trot last Thursday!

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I was a little concerned about the race from an organizational standpoint in the hours leading up to the event. After finding out the Sunday before Thanksgiving (or maybe it was the Monday before?) via a sponsored Facebook post that the race had changed its course, I then got an email on Wednesday informing me that, “As the safety of our participants, volunteers and spectators are our utmost priority, we’ve been working with the City of Chicago to make some alterations to our race course. Stay tuned to our social pages for event updates and new course announcements.” Excuse me? They then sent another email at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, a mere 11 hours before the race, announcing that they had finalized the course. The “new” course was now identical to what the course had been prior to them changing it a few days before o.O All in all, a very bizarre situation that I would not exactly label “confidence inspiring.”

Anyway, I got to the race Thursday morning, and it was so nice outside! I certainly wouldn’t call it warm, but the sun was out and tons of people were dressed up in turkey hats or other holiday-appropriate apparel, making me very excited for the race.

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I opted to run the 8K, but the race had a 5K option as well. Everyone, aside from the kids running the Plymouth Rock Ramble, started at the same time: all 6,886 of us. The race was self-seeded, and since I’ve never run an 8K slower than a 9:03 pace, I decided to tuck myself into the back of the 8:00 corral. The course began at Fullerton and Cannon, and it wasn’t particularly spacious, so they were sending the corrals off at a pretty generous stagger. I crossed the start line roughly 10 minutes after the race began and headed east on Fullerton.

Even with the staggered start, the course was CROWDED for the first mile. I came through the first mile in 9:04, which was fine by me. I had looked up the results from 2016 before starting, and knew that I didn’t have a prayer of placing in my age group (I thought I might, given that turkey trots are usually more low key affairs, but that apparently isn’t the case at this particular race), so I wasn’t too concerned that I turned in a 9:00+ mile.

We continued running north to right around Addison, where the courses split. The 5K runners headed south while those of us running the 8K kept north. Unsurprisingly, the 8K was the least popular of the two events, so the course opened up a lot after the turnaround, making it a lot easier to run faster. I had an 8:38 second mile, which was a lot closer to where I ideally wanted to be pace-wise, and followed that up with an 8:36 third mile. When I got the mile three sign, my watch said I was at 3.14 miles. I didn’t think too much of it, since I don’t really expect my watch’s mileage and a race’s mileage to ever match up exactly, but when I finished the run, my watch said I had gone 4.99 miles total. Somehow over the course of less than two miles, I had gone from being .14 miles ahead of where I technically should be to only being .02 miles ahead of where I technically should be. Either I somehow cut a fair amount of the course during those last twoish miles, or the mile marker signs weren’t 100% accurate. I’ve never seen myself make up that much extra mileage before, so I found that to be a bit curious.

It occurred to me after the turnaround (just north of Buena) that I was going to have to join back up with the 5K runners at Addison, and that the 5K runners I’d be joining would definitely not be running the 8:30ish pace I had been holding for the past few miles. I hoped to bank some time before I got too caught up in the melee, and was happy to see that I ran a 8:26 fourth mile. The course crowding wasn’t as bad as I feared initially, because between Addison and Belmont, the northbound runners were all running along the harbor, and the southbound runners had the trail more or less to ourselves. Things definitely got sticky between Belmont and the Barry underpass, but fortunately that didn’t make up *too* much of the course, so it didn’t hurt me too much from a time standpoint.

I didn’t have any real time goals going into Thursday’s race, but after emerging from the Barry underpass, I decided I’d like to try to finish in under 43 minutes. I managed to squeak in just under the wire, finishing in 42:56 for an overall 8:39 pace (and a perfectly negative-split race! My last .99 miles were at an 8:13 pace.). I’ve run seven 8Ks over the past few years, and all but three of them have been a 42:xx, so I was perfectly happy with my result.

artvanturkeytrottailgate2

I was MORE than perfectly happy with the post-race party, however! Holy cow! I really have no complaints about Lifetime as a race organizing entity (other than the course situation earlier in the week, but from my experience with Lifetime, that seemed like an anomaly), but if there’s any part of races that Lifetime really knocks out of the park, it’s the post-race party. The post-race party for the Chicago Spring Half is main reason why I ran that race twice, the post-race party for the Chicago Half is definitely top-of-the-line, and even the Chicago Triathlon post-race party, which I attended this year with the triathletes I spectated, was mind-boggling in terms of amenities. The Turkey Trot was no exception. In addition to the standard banana/potato chips/pretzels spread Lifetime usually hands out for post-race food, they also had MINI PUMPKIN PIES, which made my day. And that’s not even including the party itself! They had all sorts of stuff to do: corn hole, a football toss, TURKEY BOWLING (where you bowled with an actual frozen turkey. My family always goes bowling on Thanksgiving, so that made me particularly happy, though my family was grossed out by it, haha), beer, hot apple cider, race results, and the most insane giveaway I’ve ever received at a race:

artvanturkeytrotSplus

This is the S+ sleep monitor by ResMed (a company apparently best known for its sleep apnea devices). It’s supposed to help you sleep better by giving you feedback on your sleeping environment (too hot, too cold, too bright, etc.), telling you how you’re currently sleeping, helping you drift off at night, waking you up gently in the morning, and all sorts of other things. I haven’t taken my out of the box yet, so I can’t give you any insight into whether or not it works, but what I can tell you is that, according to Google, these things retail for $30 a pop, and they were just handing them out. It was crazy!! I’ve never seen anything like it.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic way to start Thanksgiving. I had a smile on my face from start to finish, and couldn’t recommend this race more if you’re in Chicago on Thanksgiving.

artvanturkeytrotmedal

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

If there is anything I’ve learned about happiness and satisfaction over the years, it’s that there is a direct correlation between your expectations compared to your reality and your happiness/satisfaction level. If you expect something to go well (or go poorly) and it does, you’ll be satisfied. If you expect something to go poorly and it goes well, you’ll be thrilled (see: this year’s Chicago Marathon). If you expect something to go well and it goes poorly, you’ll be disappointed.

Would anyone like to wager a guess as to which of those three categories I fell into at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in Las Vegas?

rnrlasvegaspacket

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my upcoming running plans. In that post, I specifically said, “I am most certainly not hoping for a PR in Vegas,” that “I’m not fooling myself into believing I’ll be in prime racing condition for this event,” and that ” I just want to be able to finish uninjured.” All of those things, dear readers, were lies. I had heard once–and I have absolutely no idea if this is true or not, but I believed it when I heard it–that the best time to try for a half marathon PR is about a month after a marathon. (I should note that I can’t find any evidence to back up this claim, so this was probably not a true statement. But if you can find evidence for it, please feel free to share!) I also knew that temperatures would be cool and there would be no sun to speak of during Rock ‘n’ Roll, given that the race happens at night, so I thought I was really setting myself up for success here. Prior to the race, I thought I was probably going to do a sub-2:10, and maybe even PR. I didn’t say any of that, however, because I knew people would tell me I was wrong, and I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted to prove to all of them that they were wrong and have the race of my life.

That did not happen, to say the least.

We headed out from Excalibur at 3:45 (for a 4:30 start, which was a 5:00 start for all of us, since we were all starting in the second wave, in front of New York, New York, directly across the street) and walkways to the race were already PACKED. I opted to skip gear check, though one person in our group did want to check gear, and by the time we got to the corrals, you couldn’t even get in anymore. That all cleared up after the race started, but it was definitely crowded.

rnrlasvegasstart

I started the race in the second corral of the second wave, and from the moment I started running, I knew things were not going to go well. I actually worried that things weren’t going to go well before the race even began, as my GI tract was not being as cooperative as one might hope it would be prior to a half marathon. I was uncomfortable in the stomach department before I even started running, and once I did start running, I was uncomfortable in the leg department almost immediately.

You would never know it, but the entire Strip is actually on an incline from north to south. It’s so subtle that I don’t think you’d ever notice it just walking around the Strip, but my legs DEFINITELY noticed it on our southbound trip, which made up the first two miles of the race. I could not believe how slow I was running (I had an 11:12 first mile and an 11:35 second mile; for comparison’s sake, on my 10 mile long run the week before, I had a 9:43 first mile and a 10:02 second mile), and it really, really upset me–I was running with someone else from our Vegas group for the first couple of miles, and I believe my exact words were, “This is so slow that it’s not even worth being here.”

elevationmap

See?

I stopped by the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign to take pictures, since with over 11 miles to go I already knew this entire race was going to be a joke, so what’s a few seconds lost over a picture? I also stopped by a portapotty soon after to see that would solve any of my grumpy tummy issues (it didn’t).

welcometofabulouslasvegas

On top of my manifold physical issues, running this part of the course was also a bit emotionally taxing. We ran right past the festival grounds where the shooting happened in October, and it just felt…unsettled, I guess. It was six weeks to the day after the shooting, which I guess sounds like a long time, but definitely didn’t feel like a long time. The race didn’t have any music during the first miles (an anomaly for Rock ‘n’ Roll) other than a string quartet at the turnaround and put up Vegas Strong signs by the festival grounds, so they certainly made every effort to pay their respects.

After the turnaround, it didn’t take too long (well, relatively speaking) to get back to the Strip, where the lights and hotels and general flashiness at least kept things interesting. I got to the Bellagio right at 6 p.m., so I got to see the dancing fountains, even though I couldn’t hear the music they danced to due to course noise (and being on the other side of the road).

I don’t know where the Strip ~officially~ ends, if it officially ends anywhere, but as far as I’m concerned, the Strip, at least from a lights and hotels and general flashiness standpoint, ends at Encore. Sure, there are still more hotels along the road–Circus Circus, the Stratosphere–but passing Encore really feels like leaving the Strip as far as I’m concerned. That’s all well and good, but Encore is at roughly mile six, and the northernmost point of the course is at about mile nine. Those three miles of Las Vegas Boulevard feel like a totally different world from the heart of the Strip. The contrast was remarkable. I felt like I had run into a ghost town from the mid-1950s. Rather than gaudy resorts, the road was lined with motels–some seemingly still open, some definitely abandoned–and wedding chapels. It was so different from the south part of the Strip.

The northernmost part of the course took us on a little jaunt down Fremont Street, where  most of the oldest casinos are located (though we didn’t run by any of them). This is definitely the neon lights part of town (as opposed to the Strip, which I would consider more the “lights in general” part of town, haha), and since I was already totally miserable and in a foul mood, I figured I may as well stop to take pictures.

rnrlasvegasfremontstreet

The trip back south to the finish line wasn’t as terrible as I feared, but I certainly wouldn’t say I was enjoying myself. My legs hurt, I was thirsty (I carried my water bottle with me, but I finished it before I finished the race), and I was super frustrated by the entire experience. I had never dreamed that the race would be that difficult. When we ran through the part of the course where MarathonFoto was up on a cherry picker to take our pictures from above, I actually put my arm over my stomach to cover my bib number, because I didn’t want ANY photographic evidence of such a lousy race.

I crossed the finish line in 2:34:27, making this my second slowest half marathon of all time (hooray). I was so upset walking through the finisher’s chute that when I grabbed my medal from the volunteer, I didn’t even put it on. I met up with those in the group who had finished (three of the five of us) and demanded to go home immediately (well, mostly immediately – immediately after I finished crying, that is).

I didn’t know any of this until I looked up my stats after the fact (Rock ‘n’ Roll does a really great job of giving you a lot of details about your run), but even with such an awful-from-my-perspective run, I still managed to negative split the race, at least through the 5K, 7 mile, and 10 mile marks (where they had timing mats), and I finished in the top 50 percent (just barely–I was in the top 49.8 percent–but whatever, it still counts 😛 ). I wasn’t in the top 50 percent at Nashville or Chicago, so at least I can hang my hat on that.

Sometimes, it takes some analyzing to figure out where things went wrong in a race. With Vegas, I could write a thesis on the reasons why this race went poorly. The deck is so ridiculously stacked against you in Vegas (#puns) that if time is of any concern to you, you honestly would probably be better off forgetting to put your chip on your shoe and leaving your watch at home to avoid any post-race time-induced angst.

Card Stacked Against Me #1: Sleep
In a perfect world, I’d like to get eight hours of sleep every night. In the real world, I usually get just over seven hours of sleep every night. According to my FitBit, I got 5:22 of sleep Thursday night into Friday, 5:54 of sleep Friday night into Saturday, and 6:26 of sleep Saturday into Sunday. Obviously that was FAR below my ideal scenario, and even though a half marathon isn’t as difficult as a marathon, that doesn’t mean it’s a race to take lightly in the preparation department. I definitely didn’t get even close to enough rest going into the race.

Card Stacked Against Me #2: Hydration
I had forgotten this from being in Vegas in 2016, but I have SUCH a hard time staying hydrated in Vegas (see: middle of the desert). My goal for Sunday was to drink two rounds of my water bottle (a total of 42 ounces of water) before the race. Not only was this probably a low estimate for how much water I would need before a half marathon under any circumstance–I try to drink at least three rounds of my water bottle the day before a long run during marathon training–but it was most definitely a low estimate for how much water I would need before a half marathon in the desert, AND I didn’t even accomplish that anyway. I drank one water bottle plus two glasses of water at breakfast, which I’m certain didn’t add up to 42 ounces.

Card Stacked Against Me #3: Nutrition
I have a very regimented way of eating 12 hours before a long run (one bowl of macaroni pasta with a handful of corn, a handful of peas, baked chicken, a drizzle of olive oil, a generous portion of salt, and a little bit of parmesan, plus half of a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bar for dinner; two pieces of white toast with peanut butter and four ounces of orange juice for breakfast). I rarely, if ever, deviate from this plan, because I know it works well for me. I was very concerned about nutrition before Vegas, but then reminded myself that I ran 10 miles after work on three separate occasions this past summer and never once paid any sort of thought to what I ate prior to those runs, so this would be fine. Boy, was I wrong about that. For one thing, there’s a big difference between sitting at work all day, eating the same food you eat every other day of the week, and then trying to go run 10 miles, compared to waltzing around Vegas for three days, eating with reckless abandon, and then trying to run 13.1 miles. For another thing, on those 10 miler days, I’d eat a normal breakfast at a normal time and a normal lunch at a normal time. On race day in Vegas, I ate five buttermilk pancakes around 11 a.m., and then didn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day, other than a handful or two of Munchies right before leaving Excalibur. In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, that was not adequate fueling in ANY way.

Card Stacked Against Me #4: Elevation
Chicago is roughly 575 feet above sea level. Las Vegas? 2,000 feet above sea level (almost exactly, in fact). Granted, that’s not as dramatic of a difference as, say, Chicago compared to Denver, but it is a difference. According to this chart, the effective oxygen percentage at 575 feet is less than 20.9 percent, but higher than 20.1 percent. The effective oxygen percentage is 19.4 percent. That’s no Boulder (17.3 percent), but it is a lower oxygen concentration that what I’m used to, so I’m still counting it as a card stacked against me 😛

So, that was Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas. If I ever do this race again, at least I’ll know what I’m getting myself into the second time around!

rnrlasvegasmedal

(I didn’t realize this until after I had uploaded the picture, but part of the medal is turned around. The die and the inner ring both spin, and the inner ring is backwards in this picture. Marcia has a much better picture of the medal, if you’d like to see it in its full glory.)