Thursday Things

1. Well, the months-long saga of my garden came to an abrupt (though, upon reflection, predictable) end last Thursday, when I got home from the most fruitless trip to the Apple store ever (puns) to discover that my tomato plant was gone.

It doesn’t take much insight, or even much regular reading of my humble blog, to figure out what happened. My landlord, ever the overly enthusiastic, unsolicited gardening assistant, took it upon himself to dig up and dispose of my entire tomato plant. Because of course he did. Admittedly, I didn’t have high hopes that the plant would do much more with what little is left of gardening season. It was yellowing and shriveled and hardly looked like it had much strength left to go on. HOWEVER. There were still no fewer than a dozen green tomatoes on my plant. While I didn’t have particularly high hopes that they would ripen, I did at least plan to harvest all of them before I pulled up the plant and bring them inside to see if maybe they’d ripen indoors, which I intended to do either this weekend or next weekend, foolishly not considering the possibility that my landlord, once again in his eagerness to be helpful, would RUIN EVERYTHING.

*sighs forever*

Wholly fed up with the destruction of my hard work, my landlord was made aware of my many (many) garden-related grievances after this incident and could not have been more apologetic. (Which didn’t surprise me: I know he’s not actually out to get me, and he’s only trying to help.) During the airing-of-grievances, he was also informed of my intent to plant tulips in the bathtub and educated on the tulip-growing process (i.e.: plant in fall, wait all winter, enjoy in spring). He felt so bad about the whole thing that he offered to buy all of my tulip bulbs for me, thus robbing me of my right to justified anger and fist-shaking, because, truly, there is no justice in this cold, cruel world.

2. Because my landlord is nice and wonderful and kind-hearted, I was then able to return the full force of my wrath and teeth-gnashing in Apple’s direction, who had filled me with righteous anger immediately prior to me coming home last Thursday to see my destroyed garden.

I got an iPhone 8 for no particular reason other than wanting one, which meant I was left with an iPhone 6 I no longer wanted. Because I didn’t go directly to a Verizon store to get my iPhone 8, trading in my iPhone 6 wasn’t as simple as leaving it at Verizon and going on with my life. Verizon (depending on who you talked to and when you asked them) was, possibly, willing to give me $136 in the form a bill credit for my iPhone 6. A not-terrible proposition, but upon further research, I discovered that Apple was willing to give me $145 in the form of an Apple Store gift card for the exact same phone. Given the opportunity to earn nine more dollars AND considering the fact that I’m in the market for noise-cancelling headphones AND considering the fact that one can purchase noise-cancelling headphones at an Apple Store, this seemed like a much more lucrative deal for me.

On Apple’s website, it said that you could trade in your phone in-store for credit towards a device, or you could mail it to them and they’d send you an Apple Store gift card. I was on a bit of a time crunch to get these headphones, and frankly, I really do not enjoy doing any sort of business over the internet when it’s possible to do it in person, so I was much more interested in going to the store to trade in my phone than deal with this over the internet/mail and wait five hundred thousand years for them to mail me a gift card. Since Apple’s website made it definitely sound like the only way to get the gift card was by mail, I figured I should call the Apple Store that had the headphones I wanted in stock just to make sure. As I quickly learned, “calling the Apple Store” means “calling a generic call center,” but the woman I spoke with on the phone specifically said that I could take my iPhone 6 to an Apple Store, trade it in, and use my trade-in credit as I pleased at the store. Fantastic!

So, off I went to the Apple Store. I went to the headphones area, attempted to test out the ones I wanted (they didn’t actually seem to be connected to anything, so that was a bust), and was eventually approached by a Genius who asked if he could help me. I explained that I wanted to trade in my iPhone 6, but I wanted to use the credit I’d receive on noise-cancelling headphones. Was that possible? He didn’t think so, but went to go check with a superior, and soon returned to inform me that no, the trade-in credit I received in store would only apply towards the purchase of a new iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad.

*explodes*

WHY. Can anyone provide me with a logical explanation for this??? Yes, I understand that that’s what the website said, and no, I wasn’t entirely surprised, but I would’ve been substantially less surprised if the woman I talked to the day before hadn’t specifically told me I could spend that money as I pleased. But ignoring all of that–ignoring my incorrect information, ignoring what the website said–WHY. Why on EARTH does it matter to Apple how I spend my money with them?? Because either way, whether I purchased an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad, or spent my Apple Store gift card, they end up with my money. Why does it matter which specific product I spend that money on? And even if they wanted to force me to buy another Apple product, why were only three available on the list of things I could use my in-store trade-in credit on? Why couldn’t I apply that money to a MacBook? An iPod, because apparently those still exist? AirBuds? An Apple TV? An iMac? And, even more so, why on EARTH do the means by which I trade in my phone make SUCH a difference to them?? Either way, I end up with $145 that I have to spend with them, and considering how few things at the Apple store cost less than $145, they’re basically guaranteed to walk away from the deal with at least some of my money. *grumbles forever*

3. Look who I saw on Tuesday morning (on the right side of the tree; apologies for the terrible iPhone photography)!

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It’s my little fall birdie friend, the Brown Creeper! Remember when I saw one last year and discovered Merlin, the greatest app of all time? I didn’t even need Merlin to tell me which bird I saw this time around. I already knew from last year!

I texted my mom right after I saw it to tell her about my sighting, and while doing so, it occurred to me that it was sometime in mid-October last year when I saw my first-ever Brown Creeper. I looked back at the calendar, and sure enough, I saw one last year on October 19. This year, I saw one on October 17! How’s that for predictable! I thought that was so interesting. I know that birds’ migration habits are fairly regular, but I’ve never experienced it first hand. While this, of course, is probably the exact bird that I saw last year, it is at least the same type of bird. Now I know to keep an eye out for them in the third week of October!

I also learned in reading up on Brown Creepers on All About Birds that these itty bitty little guys only burn 4-10 calories per day, and that eating just one spider gives them enough energy to climb about 200 feet up a tree!

I also think I’m getting dangerously close to needing to rename this blog Accidental Birding Intentions, based on how frequently I choose to blog about the unexpected bird sightings I’ve had in my neighborhood. Haha 😛

Have you seen any migratory birds this fall? She asked, most likely incorrectly assuming that any of her readers actually pay even the tiniest bit of attention to this sort of thing.

 

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Open House Chicago 2017

My sixth consecutive Open House Chicago is in the books! The weather Saturday was horrible, but not even thunderstorms and unrelenting rain can keep me from taking advantage of my favorite weekend in the year and seeing as many sites as possible.  I made it to 22 locations this year, which I believe is an Open House PR for me. Since I have recently forced you to endure blog posts verging on 2000 words, I will attempt to sum up each site in one sentence. Wish me luck.

After years of wanting and intending to, I finally saw the Civic Opera Building, where we were allowed out onto the 15th floor roof deck for view #1 of 2394827 of the (pre-flooded) Chicago River on Saturday.

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The Civic Opera Building, unsurprisingly, is home the the Lyric Opera of Chicago, whose foyer and theatre were open on Saturday.

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Next up was 150 N. Riverside, a brand new building along the Chicago River (you can see it in the view from the Civic Opera Building’s roof deck–it’s the one that tapers at the bottom) that had a really cool digital art installation in the lobby and more views of the river.

From 150 N. Riverside, a brief walk brought me to 222 N. LaSalle St., also known as the Builder’s Building, where I didn’t take any pictures because I went to the same site last year (so please, enjoy this gratuitous recycled photo).

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One block beyond the Builder’s Building was OneEleven, a luxury apartment building (complete with SoulCycle on the first floor) that was undoubtedly fancy but probably not the type of living situation I, given my affinity for old houses and living close to the ground, would have much interest in spending $1773/month for on a whole 525 square feet that I don’t even own.

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One block farther on Wacker led to 77 W. Wacker, where Open House Chicago participants could see a shared tenant space with fancy light fixtures…

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…and CapitalOne’s Shop, where they design products and inspire office envy.

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One of the buildings I was most excited to see was the AMA Plaza, formerly the IBM Plaza, which gains its fame from being Mies van der Rhoe’s last American building.

(If I may briefly interrupt my one-sentence-per-building rule: like I mentioned, it was incredibly rainy on Saturday. It’s hard to tell from the above collage, but by the time I was at the AMA Plaza, the Riverwalk had started to flood. If you look really closely at the top of the picture of the river, you might be able to tell, but these pictures from NBC Chicago do a much better job of showing just how full the river got on Saturday. If you’ve never been on the Riverwalk, you are usually, minimally, at least a foot above the water. It was nuts. The city received four to six inches of rain from Friday night through Sunday morning, through, and it was the wettest October day in Chicago history, so I guess that explains why the Riverwalk flooded so much.)

I made a point of visiting the Hard Rock Hotel, even though there wasn’t a whole lot to see, because it’s closing in a month and a half to be renovated and rebranded, so this was the last chance to see it as it exists right now.

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My downtown excursion ended at 333 N. Michigan, where I saw the river once again.

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After downtown, I ventured up north to see a few Lincoln Park locations, starting with Sedgwick Studio, a repurposed CTA transformer house that now serves as studio space for several artists creating large projects like sculptures and neon works.

I then walked down North Ave. to visit Moody Church, a church whose interior is the largest non-columned auditorium in the city of Chicago and still features the original seats from the 1920s, which founding members helped finance at $5.60 per seat.

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Saturday ended at the International Museum of Surgical Science, a venue I never thought I’d have any interest in but ended up loving, both for the historic information and for the architecture, as the museum is housed in a former mansion modeled after a chateau on the grounds of Versailles.

On Sunday, I at long last saw some south side sites, starting with the Shrine of Christ the King in Woodlawn, a church whose interior was destroyed by a fire sparked by a varnish-soaked rag that spontaneously combusted in 2015 and is currently being rebuilt.

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I then ventured a little farther north into Hyde Park to see one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, the Robie House, which is an excellent example of his famous Prairie style.

After visiting Hyde Park, I continued my journey north to Bronzeville, starting at the Schulze Baking Company, a now-defunct bakery that used to produce Butternut Bread that I’ve passed on my homeward journey after the Chicago Half Marathon twice and wondered about extensively.

From there, I went to see the recently renovated Rosenwald Courts Apartments, an apartment complex built originally in the 1920s at the request of Sears, Roebuck & Co. president Julius Rosenwald to provide quality housing for the residents of Bronzeville, including Joe Louis and Nat King Cole.

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Speaking of Nat King Cole, the next Bronzeville stop on my list was The Forum, an assembly hall/performance venue that hosted performers (including Nat King Cole) during its heyday before closing in the 1970s, that included an indoor market with local vendors for Open House Chicago, from which I had one of the best waffles of my life courtesy of The Infinite Taste.

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My day then took an educational turn, starting with the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, part of Northeastern Illinois University, whose theatre was designed in part by Frank Lloyd Wright (a Curbed article that mentioned this venue referred to it as a “Frank Lloyd Wright deep cut,” and if that doesn’t embody the nerdiness of being an architecture buff, I don’t know what does.)

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I then ventured over to IIT, where I finally saw Crown Hall, Mies’ pièce de résistance, if you will, one of the greatest examples of modernist architecture anywhere.

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Sorry, I can’t limit myself to one sentence on Crown Hall. This building was stunning. Yes, it is, essentially, just an enclosed rectangle. But that’s the point! It perfectly embodies Mies’ philosophy of less is more, and you only need to spend a second inside to appreciate the adaptability and flexibility a space like that offers. While I prefer the aesthetics of ornamented, beautiful old buildings, I found Crown Hall breathtaking for its simplicity.

A short walk from Crown Hall brought me to the Armour Institute, the original building of the…Armour Institute (duh), which over the years evolved into IIT and, after being closed since (from what I can gather) 2012, will soon be converted into studio and one-bedroom apartments. (Sorry, two sentences again). Open House Chicago participants had access to the entire building, from the basement to the attic, and it was AWESOME to wander around (though I do wish I had had a tour guide to tell me more about what I was seeing.)

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And finally, I ended my Open House Chicago 2017 exploring at the UIC Police Station, a prime example of Chicago neighborhood police stations.

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And there you have it! Open House Chicago 2017. Even with a full day of rain on Saturday, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and loved seeing so many buildings in so many corners of the city.

(Look at that, 1260 words! You’re welcome.)

Thursday Things

Marathon edition!

1. I was so underwhelmed by the gear at the expo this year. I really liked what North Face had to offer (not enough to actually buy anything, but I did like it), but I was not a fan of Nike’s stuff at all. The colors just weren’t working for me. I ended up only buying my usual hat and Christmas ornament, although SportHooks was sold out of the silver one when I got there! They let me order it online right at the expo, though, so it should be here in the next couple of weeks.

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2. The race has various kilometer markers all throughout the course (I don’t think they mark every kilometer, but they mark the big ones…all the 5Ks, the 3K, the last five kilometers individually, etc.). This year–and this is the first time I remember seeing this–they marked the 8K, and it was the “Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle” 8K (naturally), complete with bagpipers and green signage and everything. I thought it was cute, HOWEVER, I also thought it was a pretty major missed marketing opportunity. If I were in charge of signage, I absolutely would’ve had a sign that said, “If you were running the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, you’d be done by now,” at that point on the course. Now that’s how you get a marathoner to sign up for the Shuffle! Someone get me on the phone with Carey Pinkowski.

3. SPEAKING OF HOW YOU GET A MARATHONER TO SIGN UP FOR THE SHUFFLE. You guys. I am OUTRAGED. (Faux outrage. More like, “throw my hands up in the air in disbelief at the irony of life” outrage than real outrage.) I was so excited to finish the race on Sunday, not only because I had had the race of my life, but because crossing the finish line on Sunday punched my ticket for a guaranteed entry as a legacy runner for the next five years. Getting that legacy entry was a huge part of why I ended up running Chicago last year after signing up to run Fox Valley three weeks earlier (to be fair, I had signed up for Chicago first). I nearly broke my foot doing so, but whatever it takes to get that legacy entry, right?

WELL. Less than 24 hours after I officially achieved legacy status, that gosh darned race released registration info for next year, and you know what new category they added? SHAMROCK SHUFFLE PARTICIPATION. If you’ve run four–FOUR!–Shamrock Shuffles in the past 10 years (?!?!?!?! I’ve run five, by the way) and are signed up for next year’s Shamrock Shuffle (I signed up three weeks ago), you qualify for one of 1,000 “Shamrock Shuffle entries.”

You mean to tell me that I could’ve gotten away with not running last year or this year and still had a guaranteed entry to next year’s marathon?!?! I am personally offended by this turn of events. HOW DARE THEY.

4. Speaking of 5K signs and legacy entries: you guys, I’m kind of freaking out. I didn’t realize this until Monday, but I don’t have a 25K split O.O My results show my 25K split as “estimated.” I’ve looked up a bunch of other people, including a guy from my running group who was right in front of me at 25K, and they all have 25K splits. For some reason, it seems like my chip didn’t register there, and I’m super nervous that it’s going to affect the officialness (<– definitely a real word) of my finish time. I know I crossed the 25K mark–I always notice it, because it makes me think of the River Bank Run 25K in Michigan–and my Garmin map proves that I ran across it, AND I submitted a request to the marathon results race results request page to check on it, but I’m really concerned that my lack of a 25K split will disqualify me and my finish won’t count and I’ll only have four finishes, not five, and I won’t get a legacy entry next year even though I earned one :/

5. Speaking of signs: time for my annual roundup of my favorite race course signs! I really thought the spectators brought their A game this year, and “All toenails go to heaven” from…whatever year that was. 2014, I think…has officially been dethroned as my favorite marathon sign of all time. The highlights (in my opinion) this year:

– “The end is far!” (seen around mile 6)
– “Go Cubs! Oh wait…wrong event.”
– “Are all these people chasing squirrels?” complete with a picture of a dog
– The always classic, “This is a lot of work for a free banana.” Gets me every time.

And, my new favorite marathon–nay, race in general–sign of all time (which means this officially beats “I’ve got friends in slow paces” from Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, which was my previous all-time all-distance favorite sign):

A picture of King George from Hamilton, with caption bubbles that said “26.2,” “Awesome,” “Wow,” and “Good Luck.” (Please reference What Comes Next and I Know Him if you are unfamiliar with Hamilton to understand this more fully.)

*dies*

I saw this sign at mile 5ish, mile 10.5ish, and mile 18.25ish. The third time I saw it I told the girls holding it that, “I LOVE your sign,” which I think is the first time I’ve ever complimented a stranger on their marathon sign. But man, give me a Hamilton reference any day, and I’m one happy camper 😀

5. My Garmin, ever the bane of my existence, was just as useless as I expected it to be on Sunday, and told me I ran 27.3 miles. It only takes a cursory glance at the map of where I ran downtown to see where things went awry (everywhere. They went awry everywhere.). However I did break 5:00 in the marathon according to my Garmin: it thinks I ran a marathon in 4:51:50 – a new PR! Too bad it’s not real haha.

6. Earlier this year, I graded my half marathon training, and I found that to be a helpful exercise, so I decided to do the same thing for marathon training. If you include rest days as a scheduled workout, which I do–every day of marathon training is part of the training process in some way, in my opinion–I had 126 scheduled workouts for this season. I did 101 of those workouts exactly as written when I printed my schedule out from Excel in June. I altered, either by reducing the workout, adding on to the workout, swapping the workout with another one (doing a Wednesday workout on a Thursday and Thursday’s on Wednesday, for example), or skipping the workout altogether, 25 workouts. That means I had an 80 percent success rate, or a low B-. That’s a lot better than I expected, though 18 of those 25 altered workouts (72 percent) happened after the midway point in training, which is probably why I spent the second half of the season feeling like I had had the worst training cycle of all time.

7. That being said, I LOVED Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training program. LOVED. IT. Or rather, I loved the version of it that I did (follow the first six weeks as written, then keep up the weekly mileage for the remaining 18 weeks but do Novice 1 (ish, since CARA didn’t follow Novice 1 perfectly this year) mileage on the weekends). All of those really long weekday runs were a total gamechanger for me. I don’t know what, if any, physical difference they made, but they definitely got me used to spending a lot of time on my feet. Novice 1 asks you to do one decently long run per week, but lets you really skate by on the rest of your weekday mileage, at least from a time-on-your-feet perspective. You’re still doing four milers up until week 13. With Marathon 3, you stop doing four milers in week 10 of 24, which, from a time-away-from-the-marathon standpoint, is the equivalent of week 4 in Novice 1. Week 4! I went from thinking three miles was a short run to thinking six miles was a short run, and in the scope of marathon training, that is HUGE. The 20 miler and Chicago Half Marathon were both tough from a weather standpoint, but during both of those runs I remember getting eight, nine miles into those runs and not really thinking anything of it and then having a moment where I was like, “Wait. That’s a lot of miles.” But I had been doing eight, nine, 10 mile runs after work on a routine basis for weeks at that point, so it really didn’t feel as long as sometimes. That alone would be enough to get me to recommend this program to anyone. I really liked it, and if the burden of running day after day after day is something that grinds on you during marathon training, I think Marathon 3 could be just what you need.

8. THAT being said, I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten through this program with my sanity intact if I hadn’t started run commuting. Obviously that’s not an option for everyone, but it was an absolute lifesaver for me – the life-changing magic of starting your workout an hour earlier than usual and, consequentially, finishing your workout an hour earlier than usual, if you will. I’m actually really disappointed that I’m going to have to stop run commuting once it gets colder (the logistics of juggling coats would get in the way of that. It’s one thing to leave my backpack at work and bring home my essentials in the pocket of my water bottle. It’s another thing to leave my parka at work and have to get back there in 20 degree weather the following morning.). I think this is something that will definitely become part of my jacket-to-no-coat-required weather running routine (I can do it with jackets because I have two, so it’s fine to leave one at work overnight. I only have one parka, though, and I’m not going to invest hundreds more dollars in a new one just for the sake of being able to run home from work in the dead of winter.).

9. I love so many of my MarathonFoto pictures (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write) and don’t know what to do about it. I want to buy more than one of them, at which point I may as well buy the premium package (download all your photos for $80), but I don’t want to spend $80 on digital downloads. Decisions, decisions. I could just buy my favorite one, but even that’s a cool $30, which is a scam if ever there were one. Though I suppose it’s hardly groundbreaking news to any runner that MarathonFoto is a scam.

10. I happened to look down at my watch after turning from Taylor St. onto Ashland and noticed that I had been running for 3:29:39 at that point, so good news, guys! I just need to find an 18.5 mile marathon and I can BQ! Haha. That definitely put things into perspective for me. I also looked at my watch at mile 20, and saw I was at 3:51:11, meaning I ran a better 20 miler during the marathon than during the actual 20 miler three weeks ago. First time for everything, I suppose.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Historically, I have spent the last two and a half or so miles of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon repeating one phrase to myself: “‘Round the corner, up the hill, ’round the corner, then you’re done.” This year, I found myself saying something different:

“I finally did it.”

After years of trying and failing to have a good marathon, I walked away from Sunday’s race beyond thrilled and beyond proud of how I ran. At long last, I caught my white whale: I conquered–really, truly–conquered the marathon.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To say that I had a bad attitude going into Sunday would, I believe, easily qualify for my biggest understatement of the year, if not my life. I don’t think it’s been any enormous secret that I was extremely disappointed with my training cycle and felt utterly unprepared to run 26.2 miles on Sunday. I didn’t doubt that I would finish, but I also knew I didn’t have a prayer at finishing in under five hours, and to be frank, that pissed me off. I have never been happy running a 5:00+ marathon before, and I was quite confident I wouldn’t be happy running a 5:00+ marathon this year.

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At the same time, I had this stubborn, smoldering flicker of hope deep, deep down inside me that kept whispering in my ear, “But what if this is your year? What if you really do run a 4:45 this time?” I hated that hopeful voice. I wanted to stomp on it, smother it, crush the life out of it. I knew, barring a major miracle, that I didn’t stand a chance at running a 4:45 this time around, and it infuriated me to no end that I couldn’t get that persistent liar to leave me alone.

The dissonance between what my head was saying (“This is going to be another slow one.”) and what my heart was saying (“But what if it’s not?”) created so much anxiety in me that I was a sentient lump of angst for most of last week that only got progressively angstier and angrier as time went on. I had not one but TWO marathon-related stress dreams (I haven’t had a race-related stress dream in over three years), and I spent a fair portion of Friday and Saturday feeling sick to my stomach with nervousness. The Chicago Marathon kept posting countdown photos and gifs on social media in the days leading up to the race, every time saying something along the lines of, “Are you ready?!” and each time I had to force myself to not be That Person and respond with a sullen, “No.”

Sunday dawned without a cloud in the sky, because apparently this is the only kind of weather we get on marathon day (seriously, according to the Chicago Marathon Media Guide’s Historical Weather Conditions entry, October in Chicago, on average, has seven clear days, 8.75 partly cloudy days, and 14.7 cloudy days. Even though the odds are MUCH better that we’d have a partly cloudy or cloudy day, somehow I have never [thus far] run a Chicago Marathon under anything but crystal clear skies.). I headed to Grant Park, swaddled in an old mylar blanket, my stomach rumbling with anxiousness. It took a little while to get into Grant Park, but once I made it through the bag check station, I put on some sunscreen (forgetting, I discovered after I got home, my chest, which is now a lovely shade of red), checked my gear, and got into the longest portapotty line of all time. I don’t know why I always assume the portapotty lines at the Chicago Marathon are going to be fine, because they never are, but it still drives me crazy every year.

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(Shoutout to the CNA building [the red one] for adjusting its blinds so its windows said “26.2”)

I had originally been assigned to Corral K for this year’s race, but since I had NO desire to start that late in the day, I requested to be moved to Corral G and the race complied (really, that’s all it took. I just had to ask, and I was moved, no questions.). I originally thought about finding a 5:15 pace group to start the race with, but since 1) there were no 5:15 pace groups and 2) the slowest pace group in Corral G was for a 4:10 marathon (lol ok), I quickly realized that wasn’t going to be an option. I decided instead to start at the very back of Corral G to avoid getting swept up in any early race madness and plod along at an 11:30 pace (just a hair slower than a 5:00 pace) for 13 miles, then reevaluate. Ideally, I wanted to pick it up to an 11:15 pace for miles 13-19 and an 11:00 pace for the last part of the race. I didn’t know what kind of finish time that would get me, but I figured it would be under five hours. At the same time, though, I knew expecting myself to speed up that much on the second half of the race would be extremely difficult. I was a little nervous about going out at an 11:30, because even thought I thought it should be sustainable for 26.2 miles, I knew it was risky. If I needed to slow down, it was going to end up being a pretty dramatic slowdown, and I wasn’t interested in that at all.

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I manually lapped my watch for the entire race (except mile 26. I never saw a mile 26 sign! I don’t know if it wasn’t there or if I just didn’t see it, but either way, my last lap on my Garmin stats is for 1.2 miles, not one mile.), and when I hit mile one, I was extremely pleased to see that I had somehow managed to run an exact 11:30 pace for that mile. Boom. All I needed to do was keep that up for another five hours, and I’d be golden.

My parents’ first viewing location of the day was at about mile 1.25, and they weren’t quite ready for me when I got there. I knew it was going to be a slow day, so I jogged in place while my dad fiddled with his phone to get the camera up, and then headed on my way. I was worried that the delay would cost me my 11:30 pace, before realizing that I could simply run faster for a little while to make up for lost time (duh, Bethany.). I came through mile two in 11:23. Mission accomplished. (My moving time for that mile was 11:22, so clearly I didn’t lose much time with my parents.)

I kept chugging along and could not believe how evenly I was running: 11:31, 11:33, 11:30. I have never prided myself on my ability to pace a run, particularly during a marathon, so this was blowing my mind. I was a little worried when I ran mile six in 11:46, so to make up time, I aimed for an 11:15 next mile so they’d even out to 11:30. The result: an 11:12. Who was I?!

Back downtown, I got passed by a 4:55 pace group that I assume came from Corral H (the only other 4:55 pace group was in Corral L, the last corral, and I can’t imagine they had caught up to me in 12 miles). Even though the group passed me, they didn’t really seem to be gaining on me, at least not by much. I didn’t know what a 4:55 pace boiled down to in terms of pace/mile, so I decided if I could still see them after I passed the halfway point, I’d catch them, see how fast they were running, and go from there. It turned out that they were running an 11:00 pace (I hit mile 14 in 11:04). I knew that’d be too tough for me to sustain for the entire second half, so I dropped off and continued running my own race.

The miles were ticking by, and all things considered, I was feeling fantastic. I started dumping water on my head at the Boystown aid station in an effort to keep cool, and when I got a sponge in Old Town, I stuffed it in my sports bra and hung onto it until I turned onto Columbus. At every aid station, I’d get a cup of water to drink (or two) and a cup of water to dump on my sponge. I’d squeeze the sponge over my head, then tuck it back into my bra until the next aid station. I also started eating pretzels at mile 15 (10 pretzels + 5 Honey Stinger chews at mile 15, 10 pretzels + 5 Honey Stinger chews at mile 20, 10 pretzels at mile 23.5) to get some salt back in my system. This seemed to do the trick. It was still hot, no doubt, especially in the sun, but making sure I was super proactive about staying cool and staying salted (and not running too hard) made an enormous difference. It did also lead to a little underarm chafing, but if that’s the price I have to pay to keep running and stay out of the med tent, so be it. I never had to walk other than the times I got crowded in at aid stations, which also made me quite happy.

I’ve been through this marathon song and dance enough times to know that just because you feel okay at mile 14, or 16, or 20, or even 22, most certainly does not mean you’ll continue to feel okay for the remainder of the race, and I’ll be honest: I was having a tough time letting myself believe that everything was going well. I was absolutely convinced that the wheels were going to fall off eventually. But I got through mile 14…and 16…and 20…and 22…and all of a sudden I was on 33rd St., saw my parents, and even though I knew I certainly wouldn’t PR, said with complete confidence, “This is the BEST RACE I’ve ever had!”

I know Michigan Ave. is always tough, so I really didn’t want to push my luck by dropping the hammer with 5K left to go. I kept up with my hydration/cooling system at the first two Michigan Ave. aid stations, but when I got through the second aid station a little bit past mile 24, I realized that this was really going to happen. I wasn’t going to break five hours, and I wasn’t going to PR, but I was, finally, after five years of trying, going to have a good marathon. I let my legs do whatever they wanted, and they wanted to go, so off we went. After a 12:05 mile 23 and a 12:05 mile 24, I hit mile 25 in 11:26–my third fastest mile of the race up to that point–and, though I don’t have an exact split since I didn’t see mile 26, my Garmin map says I crossed what appears to be mile 26 on the course map at 5:01:49 on my watch. I hit mile 25 at 4:50:46. That means I ran an 11:03 miles–my fastest mile of the entire day–for the last mile of the race. My last 2K split, between 40K and the finish? 10:36.

I was deliriously happy. I waved to a video camera stationed at the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt, and the lady standing next to the person filming commented on how good I looked (pleaseohpleaseohplease let that be official marathon people and let me end up in a promo video for next year’s race. I would be so thrilled if that happened! Haha.). I flashed a huge smile and a double thumbs up to the photographers at the top of Mt. Roosevelt (!! Gonna buy those race pictures for SURE.). I sobbed my way down Columbus and across the finish line.

After six tries, five years, 157.2 marathoned miles, I had finally, finally, finally run a good marathon. It took me 5:04:09 to do it (#3 out of six time-wise), but I don’t care at all. This finish was so much more satisfying than either of my sub-5:00 races. This was the one distance I had left to conquer, the one race I just couldn’t figure out, and I finally did it.

I crossed the start line on Sunday not knowing whether or not I’d ever run a marathon again. I crossed the finish line on Sunday knowing that I will definitely be back for more.

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

Sunday, October 1: 60 minutes XT (biking)
Biked for an hour at the gym. I covered a whopping 10.6 miles in that hour, so obviously I was not exactly putting in a lot of effort here. I also spent all 60 minutes biking and zero minutes strength training, in case you were wondering whether or not I had given up the ghost on that pipe dream (I have).

Monday, October 2: 5.39 miles in 55:59 for a 10:24 pace
Five miles according to MapMyRun. I used this run to test out manual lapping without auto lapping on my watch, and it went MUCH better than last Thursday. My watch still beeps every time it has measured a mile, but it doesn’t record anything unless I manually lap it (I figured where I would hit each mile based on what MapMyRun said, and lapped my watch in that general area). The run itself was a bit more challenging than I expected or hoped it would be, which was a bummer. My legs felt heavy and tired, especially during the first half. I had a dentist appointment immediately after this run, which meant two things. One: instead of run commuting, I did a 2.5 mile out-and-back from my office and then back to my office. Unsurprisingly, the “back” portion, during the height of rush hour, was a bit…tense. I didn’t actually yell at anyone, though I did almost throw an elbow. But only almost! Two: I had to go directly to the dentist after retrieving my stuff from the office, so I didn’t have time to stretch, foam roll, or do my usual post-run PT exercises. I got in more of a cooldown walk than usual, though, so that’s something.

Tuesday, October 3: Dance
My teacher wasn’t there on Tuesday, so instead we had a sub from his dance crew. Unfortunately, the sub didn’t know the most recent routine we’ve worked on, and none of us remembered the parts we added on last week, so this was a fairly useless hour of dance. On the bright side, I felt completely comfortable marking everything instead of going all out at any point during class, given that my teacher wasn’t there, and I feel much better about dance the Tuesday before a marathon when I can put in 10% effort and not worry about hurting myself.

Wednesday, October 4: 30 minutes XT (yoga)
This one:

I thought about biking, but decided to do yoga instead, since I’m really trying to keep my energy expenditure low in the days leading up to the marathon. I chose this practice because it was the next Yoga Camp practice I hadn’t done that was 30 minutes long, but it ended up being exactly what I hoped for. There wasn’t a single vinyasa in the entire practice. The whole thing was just gentle, easy movement, and it was totally perfect for what I wanted that day.

Thursday, October 5: 2.01 miles in 20:28 for a 10:12 pace + SPF
Somehow my GPS said I needed to run farther to hit two miles than MapMyRun did, even though my GPS was all over the place for the first mile…?? Whatever. I wasn’t going to stop this run without my watch saying two miles, and I don’t think the extra tenth of a mile was going to make that big of a difference. CARA’s training plan didn’t actually call for a Thursday-before-the-race two miler this year like I remember doing it in the past, but this is one of my favorite runs of the entire training cycle, and I was not going to be denied my Thursday two miler! Haha. I had had a stressful day and ran way too fast, but oh well.

Friday, October 6: Rest

Saturday, October 7: Rest

In the immortal words of Porky Pig, that’s all, folks. Marathon training cycle #5 is in the books. Now all that’s left is to actually do the thing I’ve been training to do for the past 18 weeks. This marathon season definitely was not the one I anticipated when I sat down and wrote out my training plan at the beginning of this year, but what’s done is done, and we’ll see how it all works out on Sunday.

Thursday Things

1. On my run on Saturday, I was a little less than a half mile from home when I noticed a bird sitting on the sidewalk. This is hardly an unusual occurrence, so I didn’t think anything of it until I got closer and it stayed still. From a distance, I figured it was your typical house sparrow, but since it didn’t move, I got a better a look and quickly realized it wasn’t a house sparrow at all.

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I thought stopping by the bird to take a picture would be enough to scare it away, but it wasn’t, at which point I realized I probably had a stunned bird on my hands. I chatted with it for a bit (as one does) and after a moment, it flew up onto a nearby windowsill. Well, rather, it attempted to (slowly) fly through the window, and upon realizing that that was not a possibility, settled for sitting on the windowsill instead.

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I gently warned it that even though the window looked like it was fly-through-able, it was not, in fact, fly-through-able, and after another moment, it flew across the sidewalk into a tree. I figured all of that flying (and lost patience with my instance on befriending it) must’ve meant it was feeling okay, so I carried on with my run and, as soon as I got home, uploaded a picture to Merlin to find out what kind of bird I had seen. Turns out it was a female Common Yellowthroat. I’ve never even heard of the Common Yellowthroat, never mind seen one, so this was quite the occasion for my bird-loving self!

A brief analysis of the Cook County checklists on eBird also lists only one other sighting (on Monday) of a Common Yellowthroat, so this was apparently a super rare occurrence! That’s a nice feather to put in my birding cap (#puns). Anyway, the whole experience was quite exciting, and I seriously can’t believe I saw a bird like that in the city. I spent so many years thinking the only birds that lived in Chicago were starlings, pigeons, sparrows, and robins, but just in the past 10 months, I’ve learned that if you keep your eyes and ears open, you’d be astounded by what kind of avian life makes its home or passes through here.

2. Speaking of surprising nature sightings, I saw the WEIRDEST thing on Sunday, and I’m wondering if anyone can help fill me in on what I saw.

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I was waiting for the El when I happened to look up and notice what kind of looked like a rainbow, but with some pretty major caveats, namely the fact that it hadn’t rained in…days? Weeks? so the conditions didn’t seem right, and, perhaps even more confusingly, the fact that it seemed to be going in a circle around the sun rather than in an arch across the sky. Additionally, I couldn’t see the rainbow at all with my bare eyes. When I took my sunglasses off, the clouds that the sun was lighting up were too bright to even look at, never mind see color. My sunglasses filtered out the brightness, though, so I was able to see the color. My phone also, apparently, could see the color just fine, hence the pictures.

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I tried to Google what I saw on Sunday evening, and the only thing close to what I saw that I could find online was called a glory (named because it resembles the glow you see around saints’ heads in old paintings). There was a pretty major distinction between a glory and what I saw, though: glories are viewed from above. Your best chance of seeing one, from what I gathered, would be if you were in an airplane flying above clouds and your plane cast a shadow on those clouds. Then, you might see a glory around the shadow. You also might be able to see one if you were on a mountain above the cloud line. While the El is, what, 20 feet above street level? Thirty feet? it is most certainly not mountain high, never mind airplane high. To see a glory, the order of objects, from highest to lowest, should be the sun, you, then the glory. My order of objects was the sun, whatever light phenomenon I was seeing, then me.

This, then, leaves me with a burning question: what on earth did I see?? It obviously was some sort of refraction something or other caused by the clouds (that’s the other thing: the thing I saw was only visible on the clouds, not on the blue sky patches between the clouds), but I have no idea what it was! I would’ve thought maybe it was just something funky on my sunglasses, but if my sunglasses alone were the issue, I wouldn’t have been able to take a picture of it. I’m really curious, so if there are any amateur, uh, rainbow studiers out there, please let me know!

3. Well, I suppose we should chat a little about the elephant in the room, huh? The marathon is on Sunday, and after days of wildly varying forecasts (seriously, on Monday you could’ve taken your pick between a high of 82 and a high of 71, depending on which outlet you choose to believe), everyone seems to be reaching a consensus that it’s going to be in the high 70s and sunny. Fabulous. 😐

I have spent the entirety of my past two therapy sessions prattling on about my extensive array of feelings regarding this marathon training season (physically and socially), the marathon itself, and my future in marathoning (fear not: you, too, will be subjected to the written equivalent of a two-hour monologue from me regarding all of these things in the coming weeks). Needless to say, I have a lot–A. LOT.–of feelings about all of this, very few of which I’d file under a “positive” header. Because my feelings, of which there are so many, are primarily negative, it’s been difficult, to say the least, to come up with any meaningful goals for Sunday. The disappointing forecast certainly doesn’t help in that department, either (though to be fair, the high in Chicago on the day of the 2015 Chicago Marathon was 79 [and sunny], and the high in the Fox River area the day of the 2016 Fox Valley Marathon was 80 [and sunny], so at least I’ve been through this twice before. Heck, I even PRed in 2015. And then spent close to an hour in the med tent, but we’ll ignore that small detail 😛 ).

So, I’m heading into Sunday with no expectations, no hopes and dreams, no real desires other than to finish and not have my worst time ever. Really shooting for the stars over here, folks. Honestly, I kind of just want all of this to be over so I can get out of the marathon mindset, take a step back and really evaluate what I want to do moving forward. I have spent a significant portion of the last 18 weeks asking myself a lot of difficult questions (the root of which, every time, is why am I doing this?), and I need some time to really mull things over…and likely subject my therapist to more hour-long monologues related to these things.

Who’s running on Sunday?

 

 

Chicago Recovery Room

Over the course of my running career, I’ve racked up a laundry list of injuries, ranging from run-through-able (runner’s knee) to walking-boot-confining (a stress reaction). Throughout these experiences, I’ve become quite familiar with the running injury pipeline, if you will:

Step 1: Realize something doesn’t feel right. Hem and haw about what you should do for an amount of time that is directly related to your level of pain and, in my experience, inversely related to the amount of time you’ve spent running (the longer I run, the more likely I am to seek medical attention early).
Step 2: Depending on my insurance status and willingness to wait, schedule a free injury screen at a physical therapy clinic (deductible not met and/or want to get in immediately) or schedule an appointment at either the sports doctor or sports podiatrist, depending on the location of the potential injury.
Step 3: Receive a diagnosis and a prescription for physical therapy
Step 4: Wither away (mentally; get stronger physically) in physical therapy for six weeks to six months
Step 5: Run until you feel pain again, rinse and repeat.

This pipeline, in my experience, has been an effective way to recover from an injury, but is wildly frustrating when something doesn’t feel quite right, but also doesn’t feel quite wrong enough to need a month and a half of physical therapy – maybe I could use a session or two, but good luck getting a doctor to give you a prescription for one physical therapy appointment. Since the only way to get a PT appointment in Illinois is with a prescription, if you just need a little help getting over that hump, you’re stuck.

That is, unless you know about the Chicago Recovery Room.

The Chicago Recovery Room contacted me around the middle of the summer to give their services a try, and I’ll be honest: I didn’t have a clue what to expect out of the experience. I had heard about CRR before, but I didn’t think I was its target clientele. Recovery facilities with their fancy compression boots and ice baths seemed like the place where people who can qualify for Boston go to keep themselves in tip-top shape, not a place where a schlub like me, who has never run a marathon at a sub-11:00 pace, would hang out.

My trip to CRR started out with a three-mile run with Keelan, an athletic trainer at the facility. As we ran along the Lakefront Trail, he told me a bit about the story of the Chicago Recovery Room. Liz Yerly, the founder of CRR, began her career as a physical therapist, and found that both she and her patients were frustrated by the red tape required to get into a PT clinic for an appointment. To make herself more accessible without the need to travel through the injury pipeline, she got certified in athletic training and massage therapy, and eventually decided to open CRR. The goal? To provide athletes of all abilities (even 4:52-on-a-good-day marathoners like myself) with access to medical professionals who can offer PT-like services–ART, Graston, etc.–to people on a short-term, cash-payment basis, thus eliminating the insurance piece of the equation. It’s that insurance piece that makes up a fair amount of the red tape when it comes to physical therapy, so by cutting out that middle man entirely, athletes from all types of sports can access trained professionals who can provide them with a minor “tune up” to help nip a potential injury in the bud.

Sometimes, though, an athlete doesn’t really know what he or she needs in terms of medical treatment (*raises hand*). If that’s the case, CRR offers injury screens, where a staff member can take a look at you and help you decide the best course of action. Maybe somethings nagging you a little, but isn’t bad enough to require a full-blown PT prescription. In that case, you can schedule a tune-up or two at CRR to help you get back to normal. 30 minute tune-ups cost $60 each, and while that may not be free, it is most CERTAINLY cheaper than a PT appointment, which generally bill your insurance company for around $350 for an hour. If your plan doesn’t offer a co-pay on PT–I haven’t had a co-pay on PT appointments in years–and you haven’t met your deductible, you’ll probably on the hook for a good $150 of that. And remember, an hour of PT usually comes out to 30 minutes of hands-on work and 30 minutes of you doing supervised exercises. If your injury is more severe, however, CRR can provide you with a doctor recommendation. If you’ve ever attempted to navigate the process of finding a doctor on your own, you should know how helpful having someone who knows what they’re talking about can be. If your doctor determines you need physical therapy, CRR now has a physical therapy arm, Impact PT, that can take care of you if you’d like to continue seeing the same people who started this journey with you.

After my run with Keelan, I had the chance to check out all of the recovery tools available at CRR. If you don’t need a tune-up or an injury screen, CRR can still be a huge help to you in your day-to-day training life. You can buy a day pass, a 10-pack of day passes, or a month-to-month membership. CRR has every recovery tool you can imagine, from accessories you see in PT clinics (Therabands, etc.) to every foam roller under the sun to NormaTec boots, which I am convinced are magic.

CRR has NormaTec compression technology for your legs, hips, and arms. You zip yourself up into whichever method you choose, then turn on a machine that uses air pressure to create compression. I only tried the boots, so I can’t speak for the hip or arm devices, but the boots start at the bottom of your legs by your feet and slowly work their way up, slowly adding pressure and releasing pressure in a way that’s designed to encourage blood flow to help your muscles recover. You sit in the boots for 20-30 minutes, and then continue about your day. I found the experience to be slightly uncomfortable at first, but I got used to it very quickly and was bummed when my session ended!

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I finished my time at CRR with a seven minute ice bath. I’m no stranger to ice baths, but this was a whole different ball game. CRR has a tub that maintains a constant temperatures at 51 degrees, so unlike an ice bath in your bathtub at home, which starts out cold and warms up quickly as your body heat melts all the ice, this ice bath starts cold and stays cold. I wasn’t brave enough to go all the way in, but that’s okay – you can sit on the edge of the tub and just put your legs in if you prefer.

I went to CRR when I was still having pain on a semi-regular basis in my left knee. I had actually run four miles to get to the facility, and when I finished that four miler, my knee was definitely whining. When I left CRR, however, my knee felt perfectly normal for the first time in weeks. That alone was enough to convince me that these recovery tools aren’t just a bunch of talk–they really work.

I left CRR beyond impressed with their facility and the purpose they serve for local athletes. Out of everything I’ve ever reviewed for this blog, CRR is far and away the one I’d recommend most highly. I think anyone, even a turtle like me, can really benefit from what they have to offer. If you’re an athlete in any capacity, this place should be on your radar.