Thursday Things

1. Continuing my now well-established Fourth of July tradition, I went to the Cubs game last week to celebrate the Fourth!

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I didn’t necessarily plan on continuing the tradition this year, but once I found out the Cubs were playing the Tigers on the Fourth, going to the game became non-negotiable. My favorite team playing my other favorite team in Wrigley Field on the Fourth of July? I was not going to miss that. My dad and brother came in from Michigan to go to the game too, since they’re Tigers fans, and that made the whole experience extra special.

I’ve gone to three Cubs games this year and have experienced what feels like the entire range of weather possibilities, from cold and windy and rainy and thunderstormy  to perfect to boiling hot and humid on the Fourth. I’m not entirely sure which was more miserable: the game against the White Sox or the game against the Tigers. I’m inclined to say the game against the Tigers, though. Even though the weather was horrific for the White Sox game, at least you could bundle up against the elements. There was no escaping the crushing heat and humidity on Wednesday. We had seats in the shade two rows from the very top of the stadium, but the air was stagnant and oppressive, even though we weren’t in the sun. I spent most of the fourth inning in the air conditioned Cubs store and ended up getting a baggie of ice from outside the first aid station to help keep me comfortable. It actually made a big difference, which was a nice surprise.

The Cubs won, so at least all the sweating was worth it.

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2. One of my friends is getting married in October, and her maids of honor organized a whole bachelorette party extravaganza for this past weekend. I was happy to attend what I could, especially since it gave me the chance to cross a couple longstanding items off my Chicago bucket list. Up first: a late morning/early afternoon in the Playpen.

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The Playpen, for the non-Chicagoans out there, is the area off Ohio Street beach where a bunch of boats anchor for the day during the summer. It has a reputation for being where you go to party on the lake–assuming, of course, you have a way of getting there in the first place (i.e.: access to a boat).

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I suppose the only reason I had any interest in spending any time in the Playpen was due to the fact that I thought it would never happen. I don’t know anyone with a boat and I most certainly don’t own a boat. I don’t even like being on boats, which made the chances of me ever getting in the Playpen seem that much more remote.

But then the maids of honor rented a yacht for the party on Saturday, and when we got on the boat, the captain said she’d take us to the Playpen for the duration of our rental, so off we went!

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Like I said, I don’t like being on boats, mostly because I don’t like being on or in water unless it’s 1) warm and 2) easy to escape, and being on a boat presents the possibility of having to be in water that is neither of those things. After an enjoyable-as-always panic attack that lasted until we got on the other side of the break walls, I finally calmed down enough to enjoy myself. I did not enjoy myself by going into the water (see aforementioned requirements for water I like to be in), but rather pretended I was the group’s lifeguard and “supervised” from the boat while everyone else floated around.

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I also played with my iPhone Photos filters, as one does. If you look closely, you can see the moon about an inch to the left of the Building FKA the John Hancock Center.

3. The bachelorette party continued on for the remainder of Saturday (and into Sunday morning), but I begged off at 11 p.m., pleading my long run from that morning and my long-since depleted supply of interest in interacting with other humans. I went through my normal Sunday morning routine while the rest of the party attendees recovered from their hangovers, and met up with everyone that afternoon for another bucket list item: afternoon tea at the Drake.

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Oh, you guys, it was so fancy. SO FANCY. I loved it! I had afternoon tea when I went to Scotland seven years ago, so I kinda sorta had an idea of what to expect, but this was still way fancier than I anticipated. There were all sorts of delicious treats: scones, bread, tiny little sandwiches, an impressive assortment of desserts. And then there was the tea itself, of course, which was also just so delightful. The whole experience was wonderful, and I highly recommend it! (Even if I did have to basically be rolled out of the Drake, since I was so full afterwards.)

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Have you ever had afternoon tea?
How did you celebrate the Fourth?

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 5

Sunday, July 1: Rest
I had every intention of doing the 75 minutes of cross training my schedule called for: downloaded a workout that morning, brought all my gym clothes to church so I could go immediately after, etc. Then I checked my phone right before I left church to find a text alerting me to the fact that there had been a basement flood in my gym’s building, and the entire building was closed for the day. Since I had neither the means nor the desire to do 75 minutes of cross training outside or anywhere else, Sunday became an accidental rest day. I did think about doing something at home–a short NTC workout, perhaps–but I had so much work to do Sunday afternoon and evening that I ran out of time to do anything that wasn’t directly related to my mile-long to do list.

Monday, July 2: Strength training – legs (AM) + 8 miles in 1:24:37 for a 10:35 pace
The gym was open on Monday, so off I went to get in my first strength training workout of the week. It felt better than last week’s strength training sessions, which was nice, but holy cow, are single leg hamstring curls on a stability ball HARD. I would not be surprised if I feel those on Tuesday.

As for the run: blah. By all accounts, it should’ve been a good run. The weather was nicer than it had been over the weekend, and I apparently ran a much better pace than I realized. But about three and a half miles in, I got catcalled, and not, like, a passing, “Hey baby,” by one creep as I ran by or whatever–not that that’s any more welcome–but an ongoing commentary on how “she’s lit” and “look at that butt” and “THOSE BUTTOCKS” as I ran through a loitering bunch of assholes on the Lakefront Trail–and not some backwards, oddball, dead corner of the Lakefront Trail, but right in the middle of all the action (including all the tourist action). It just…ugh. It’s so unnecessary, so unhelpful, so unproductive. I assume catcallers do what they do to feel powerful, but I cannot imagine an instance where anyone subject to catcalling was walked away from the situation thinking, “Wow, what a strong, levelheaded, intelligent individual. This experience improved my opinion of that person’s demographic and has helped me overcome the racist, classist, ageist, and/or sexist stereotypes I associated with that demographic. This has been a productive encounter, and I hope it happens again so I can continue to grow as a person.” It’s such a waste of everyone’s time and mental and emotional energy. The whole situation just made me angry and ruined what should have otherwise been a perfectly pleasant run.

Tuesday, July 3: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
Tuesday’s strength training session was one of the easier and shorter ones I’ve had in a while, which was a welcome change of pace. I was a big girl and switched to heavier weights when the ones I initially choose were too light, which I don’t normally do *pats self on back*

Unsurprisingly, barely anyone showed up to dance on Tuesday (five people total compared to 11 the previous week). I worried that meant we would spend the entire class going over what we had done the previous week, but nope! We moved on to a way more challenging and fast paced combo that I’m sure we’ll spend the next handful of classes reviewing. Thanks goodness – I was so lost on Tuesday and could use all the review I can get!

Wednesday, July 4: 4.09 miles in 45:01 for an 11:00 pace
Despite having the day off and no plans until around noon, I drug myself out of bed at 6:45 (which, fine, was technically sleeping in even if it doesn’t feel like it) to do a 45 minute tempo run before it got obscenely hot. In my hurry to get out the door, I forgot to set up my watch for intervals like I normally do on tempo runs, so I had to check my watch what felt like every 30 seconds to see if it was time to speed up or slow down. I have no idea how well I executed each five minute segment, since even though I forgot to turn on intervals, I did remember to turn off manual lap, so I couldn’t get my splits. Oh well. Miles one and four were slower than miles two and three, so I assume I did good enough on pacing. Another runner wished me a good morning while I was out running, which was exciting! Two positive interactions with other runners in two weeks!

Thursday, July 5: Strength training – legs (AM) + 45 minutes yoga (PM)
Given the multiple times I was jarred awake by people setting off fireworks throughout the night and the fact that I had had Wednesday off, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to wake up Thursday morning to get to the gym before work. Thursday’s workout was pretty straightforward, but the 50 jump lunges at the end…oof.

For cross training this week, I did this yoga:

And it was delightful. I’ve been stressed for approximately eleventy thousand reasons over the past couple of weeks (she said, as if that weren’t her normal state of being) and obviously have been pushing myself a bit in the workout department, so it felt nice to take things easy for a change.

Friday, July 6: Rest

Saturday, July 7: 10 miles in 1:47:07 for a 10:43 pace
OMG THE WEATHER! It was a delightfully comfortable 64 degrees for this run, which was SUCH an improvement from last week, when it was 79 (both according to Garmin). It felt one billion times better than last Saturday’s long run. We did go a bit quicker than I wanted on this run, but I felt fine the whole time. A woman who normally runs with the 10:30s ran with us this week, and she and I had such a nice chat for almost the entire run! I can’t remember the last time I had a running buddy that was so easy to talk to for so long, and I really enjoyed it. Another interesting thing to note: I ran .88 more miles on this week’s long run compared to last week’s long run, but it only took me five additional seconds. If that doesn’t sum up how much nicer the weather was on Saturday, I don’t know what does!

 

I didn’t come remotely close to my goal of getting more sleep this week, and I continued to let the marathon runger beast have its way with my meals and snacks rather than even attempting to eat appropriate amounts of food. I’ve been shocked by how much training has impacted my hunger levels this year. In the past, I would use long runs to justify indulgent meals (post-long run breakfasts in particular) but that was always more of a, “Well, I ran 18 miles this morning, so I can have as many chocolate chip pancakes as I want,” sort of situation rather my current situation, which is more along the lines of, “I THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING, AND NOW I AM MERE SECONDS AWAY FROM DYING OF STARVATION.” It’s surprising to me that I’m experiencing that now when I made it through five years of this before without having that issue, and when my average weekly mileage (right now) isn’t that much higher than it was while I trained for my half marathons earlier this year (across the past five weeks, I’ve averaged 19.6 mpw. From February through the beginning of June, I averaged 17.5 mpw). This coming week is a cutback week, so I’m hoping to use that reduction in training to kickstart healthier eating and sleeping habits. Of course, goodness knows how many times I’ve said that going into any other week of marathon training, so we’ll see what actually happens 😛

Thursday Things

1. It’s been quite some time since my last Thursday Things post! I suppose having forty thousand (or, you know, four) West Coast trip-related blog posts to get up will do that to one’s blogging schedule. But now that that’s all taken care of (…and the trip has been over for just shy of a month), back to your regularly scheduled programming!

2. My gym normally switches up the music pretty regularly, but for the past two weeks, its been on a serious Hits of the 2000s kick, and oh man. ALL OF THE NOSTALGIA. I’ve heard so many songs I haven’t heard in ages (Listen to Your Heart, Every Time We Touch, Damaged, It’s Not Over, among others), and since I was in high school during the mid-late 2000s, it has obviously stirred up some of those memories. It stirred them up so much, in fact, that over the weekend I dug up the DVD I have from homecoming my senior year to reminisce.

Some background: homecoming at my high school was not the football game/semiformal dance affair it is at most high schools. For one thing, we had homecoming in February, so our the sporting event associated with homecoming was a basketball game. We had a dance, but it was a jeans-and-a-t-shirt sort of affair, not a dresses and button-up shirts type of occasion. We built floats, but they were tiny and never designed to be in a parade (according to my brother, who was in high school more recently than I was, they stopped doing floats after his freshman year). While the floats were a big deal, and the inter-class competition mattered, the big event of homecoming was a lip sync contest held the Friday night before the basketball game (the basketball game was on a Saturday back then, though I think that’s changed now, too.). The DVD from my senior year is of the lip sync contest.

It has literally been 10 years (almost 10.5 years) since the contest, and I still got angry and defensive when the juniors explicitly made fun of my class during their performance. I still got giddy and excited when the boy band portion of my class’s routine came on (our sophomore year, part of our contest routine involved five guys lip syncing to Bye Bye Bye, and every year after that they did a different N*Sync song during the contest. This is what the juniors explicitly made fun of, because they’re low lives with no creativity, OBVIOUSLY.). I still got annoyed at the popular people being front and center in every class’s routine, not just ours. The whole thing proved to be much more of an emotional roller coaster than I anticipated 😛

3. Speaking of high school: I went to the eye doctor the other week for my annual checkup/contact reorder. I only had a few contacts left in my supply, so when I made my appointment, I took the first one I could find that fit my schedule, without any consideration for which doctor I’d see.

The doctor I ended up seeing was not the same one I saw last year, and when she sat down in the room to do my exam, we reviewed the contacts I had been wearing (Acuvue Oasys). She commented on how the Oasys had come out “when we were in high school,” and then told me that since my last appointment, a new kind of Acuvue contact had come out (the Acuvue Vita), which were made to last a month rather than two weeks like the Oasys.

I’m sorry. When WE were in high school? Not when I was in high school, but when we–suggesting we are peers–were in high school??

I looked her up after the appointment, and sure enough, she graduated from optometry school in 2015, which means she most likely graduated from college in 2011, which means she most likely graduated from high school in 2007. I graduated from high school in 2008, so yep, it was when “we” were in high school.

I suppose it shouldn’t really surprise me that my peers are medical professionals–I’ve been out of college for six years now, which isn’t enough time to be a full blown, non-resident MD but is plenty of time to be a different kind of medical professional–but man, I do NOT feel old enough to have my peers as medical professionals! The idea that any part of my well-being could be in the perfectly qualified hands of someone my age is so bizarre. How are we old enough for this?? And more importantly, how are people younger than us old enough for this?? I thought the grownups were supposed to be doing that kind of stuff, not us!

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 4

Sunday, June 24: Rest
I was in Wisconsin for most of the day and knew I wouldn’t have time for an actual workout. I did a decent amount of walking, though, and actually hit 10,000 steps: a rarity for me on Sundays.

Monday, June 25: Strength training – legs (AM) + 7 miles (with 4 hill repeats) in 1:12:58 for a 10:25 pace (PM)
After getting up at 4:30 on Saturday and Sunday morning over the weekend, I will admit I wasn’t overly enthused about getting up earlier than usual for a morning workout. I made it to the gym anyway and did the leg workout Erin prescribed for the day. It was heavier on the plyometrics than any of last week’s workouts, but I know those high intensity intervals will help build my fitness, so bring on the jump squats.

My company’s version of summer hours is to give us one free half day per summer month (no need to use your PTO to take it, or to make up those four hours elsewhere in the week), and due to Monday afternoon obligations, I decided to take my June half day on Monday. I still wanted to run commute, but because I left at noon, that meant run commuting at noon rather than later in the afternoon. I was surprised how many runners I encountered! I can’t imagine running during my lunch break. I don’t run in the morning because I feel too stressed out about the time it’ll take, and in the morning, you can get up as early as necessary to give yourself as much time as necessary – not so at lunch! More power to the people who can pull it off. I admire you! Anyway, the weather was mercifully pleasant, making my run less miserable than I feared. In addition to 800s, I also decided to incorporate hills into my training roughly once every three weeks as part of my weekday long run, starting with this one. I did four repeats, and they also were less miserable than I feared?? I don’t know why workouts I expected to be challenging (the 800s, the hills) are going smoothly. While part of me wants to believe this is indicative of having a higher fitness level than I realized, another part of me worries that this is all a fluke and that the wheels are going to fall off sooner rather than later. I’m trying to not overthink it too much.

Another thing to note about this run: after I finished my hill repeats and was about halfway between the hill and my apartment, I encountered another runner coming in my direction, who held up his hand and yelled, “High five!” as I ran past him. That was the first time I’ve ever received a mid-run high five from another runner, and it was so delightful! It made me really happy 🙂

Tuesday, June 26: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
Oof, this strength training. Today’s upper body strength training was very shoulder focused, and it was a tough one. My shoulders have never been particularly strong, and I will admit that I tend to shy away from shoulder strength training because it’s challenging. But that’s the whole point of this! So even if it wasn’t very much fun, I know I definitely needed it. I also did a much better job of picking appropriate weights–I tend to either go too heavy or too light–and that made me happy.

A new session of dance started on Tuesday, and there was a suspicious number of people in the class. In the past, the class was limited to eight people (which is about as many as you can fit in the room), but 11 people showed up on Tuesday. We’ll see how many stick around in the coming weeks. From the very first move my teacher demoed, I knew that I had learned this routine before (here), so it looks like I’m going to need to dig out my knee pads again.

Wednesday, June 27: 4 miles in 41:13 for a 10:18 pace
This was supposed to be a race pace run, but it definitely wasn’t. I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to running the marathon at a 10:18 pace (a 4:30 marathon), but given my past marathon performances, I find it highly unlikely that I’ll be able to run the marathon at a 10:18 pace. My goal for the race is 4:45, which translates to a 10:52 pace. That’s what I tried to do on this run, I promise! I ran really, really easy–my average HR on this run was 10 bpm lower than what I normally get on a run–but I just wasn’t able to go slower. I always struggle with marathon pace vs. easy pace runs, mostly because if anything, what has worked out to be my marathon pace (11:08 on the day I PRed; 12:23 on my slowest marathon) is generally equal to or slower than what I consider an “easy pace” (which is highly weather dependent, but generally falls in the 10:30-11:30/mile range). I feel like when you’re on the survival end of the marathoning spectrum rather than the competitive end–and I would firmly put myself in the “survival” category–the whole “marathon pace is one minute faster than easy pace” rule no longer applies. But maybe I just want to be a special snowflake and feel like I’m the exception to the rule.

Thursday, June 28: Strength training – legs (AM) + 45 minute bike (PM)
I had mixed feelings about this strength training. As expected, my starry-eyed enthusiasm for waking up early wore off (though I am a bit disappointed it wore off so quickly!), and I was a tired grump when I got to the gym. The workout took longer and made me sweatier than I anticipated, which threw a monkey wrench in my normal get-to-my-desk-on-time order of operations–and that obviously did nothing to improve my mood. On the other hand, I felt like the exercises involved in this workout were very runner focused, and I appreciated that even if I was tired and grumpy, at least I could console myself with the fact that what I was doing was important.

I went back to the gym after work on Thursday for cross training on the bike. I started to have some intermittent foot pain on Tuesday that bothered me more Thursday afternoon than it had before (though I also couldn’t stop thinking about it Thursday afternoon, so I’m sure that didn’t help), so I welcomed a low-impact workout with open arms. I hadn’t biked at all in about six weeks and appreciated the change of pace – though I will admit I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about going to the gym twice in one day.

Friday, June 29: Rest
Thank goodness. I became increasingly focused on my foot ache as Thursday wore on, and decided I’d spend all day at work on Friday icing my foot (and by “all day” I mean “once an hour for the eight hours I’m there.”). Then, I woke up to discover I had slept on my neck all wrong, causing one of my neck muscles to spasm and preventing me from turning my head all the way to the left, so I got to spend my entire day icing that instead. And because clearly all of that wasn’t enough, I also was sore from Thursday’s strength training. Went to be 27, woke up 85. Yay marathon training.

Saturday, June 30: 9.22 miles in 1:47:02 for an 11:37 pace
I desperately wanted CARA to cancel Saturday’s run so I could bail on it without guilt. The forecast for Saturday was atrocious, and the idea of being outside, never mind running outside, sounded horrible. But CARA didn’t cancel, and since it was only (“only”) 80 degrees with a Real Feel of 85 when I woke up at 4:30 (*sobs, for temperature and time of day reasons*), I decided I’d go and do my best. As much as I LOATHED the end of last marathon season, when it was unseasonably and relentlessly hellish outside, I learned a lot about how to physically and mentally deal with hot runs during that stretch, and I found the lessons I learned during that period to be quite useful on Saturday. Lesson #1: forward motion counts as a pace. CARA recommended that we do our runs five to 15 percent slower than normal, which for my 11:00 pace group meant anywhere between an 11:45 and 12:51 pace. In general, we did a good job of running that slow. There were definitely times where the group took off too quickly after a break (we took LOTS of breaks on Saturday – the entire run took 2:10, even though we were only running for 1:47 of it), but I stuck to my guns about running slow, and eventually would rejoin them once they slowed down. I think all of my fast finish (and, consequently, slow start) runs this summer helped with that a lot. I got very used to running S.L.O.W.–much, much slower than I would normally consider “easy”–and that made it easier to dial in my pace on Saturday, even when starting after a break. Lesson #2 from last year: day-before preparation. I hydrated like a BOSS on Friday. I lost count of how many glasses of water I drank at work. Normally I’ll let my water glass sit empty at my desk for a stretch, since getting up and going to refill it is so much work (<–sarcasm font). Not on Friday. As soon as I finished my glass, I was up to get another one. I also salt loaded like crazy (such a burden). I had pretzels for my morning and afternoon snack, salted the burrito bowl I had at lunch, went to TOWN salting my pasta Friday night, and even salted my peanut butter toast Saturday morning. I even forced myself to have Nuun at Fleet Feet’s water stations, which I normally avoid. I think that, plus all of Friday’s hydration, plus my dramatically lowered expectations and effort, are what allowed me to have, as far as I’m concerned, a highly successful run on Saturday. We started the run with six people in my group: by the end, it was only me and one of my group leaders (even the other group leader didn’t make it all the way through). In what is clearly shaping up to be the theme of this marathon season (or at least the theme of June of marathon season), this run went infinitely better than I expected, and that made me quite happy.

 

Sigh, the weather. What can you do? It doesn’t look like we’re in for much relief in the heat and humidity departments this week, so I have a feeling it’s going to be another slow one. I’m trying to focus on staying on top of my hydration, particularly after my runs, since that’s when I tend to slack off. I felt decent, but definitely not 100 percent, on Sunday, and I’m sure it’s because of how little I drank for the rest of Saturday (one and a half bottles of water and one pint glass). I also know I NEED to be more intentional about going to bed on time, especially if I plan to keep up these morning strength training sessions. I averaged 6:54 last week (according to Fitbit), and that’s just not sustainable as the mileage goes up, particularly when I’m getting extra drained by hot runs.

 

Traveling on the Coast Starlight Train

As I mentioned in my Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle recap, I’ve wanted to run Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle for the past year. When I found out I’d need to be in San Diego the week before Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, I briefly worried that would thwart my plans, particularly since the idea of flying Chicago to San Diego to Chicago to Seattle to Chicago in the space of roughly a week did not appeal to me. The idea of flying from San Diego to Seattle was moderately more appealing, but flying isn’t my favorite mode of travel and I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea of adding another flight to my trip. In thinking about this, it occurred to me that one can travel up the entire West Coast via Amtrak, and thus the last piece of my epic West Coast trip fell into place.

After I wrapped up work on Wednesday, I hopped on the California Surfliner from San Diego to Los Angeles. The trip lasts about two and a half hours, and BOY do I recommend making this trip on the 6:43 p.m. train in early June. Doing so gets you to the coast right as the sun is setting over the Pacific, and that was a beautiful thing to witness.

I spent the night in Los Angeles, and then the real part of the trip began: my journey from Los Angeles to Seattle on the Coast Starlight train!

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(Side note: I could not get over how beautiful Los Angeles Union Station was. I could’ve spent hours just staring at it.)

Long time readers may recall that I made a similar journey two years ago when I took the City of New Orleans train from Chicago to New Orleans. This ride was a bit longer–scheduled to be 30, ended up being 35 for reasons I’ll get into later–so instead of taking coach, I decided to ride in style in a bedroom. Now, I will admit that traveling in the sleeper car with a bedroom reservation is not the most economical way to go, but it was MORE than worth the splurge. The bedroom came furnished with a couch/bench that folded down into a bed, an upper bunk, a separate seat, a fold-down table, a toilet and shower (WHAT) in each compartment–this proved to be far handier than I had hoped it would be, given the stomach bug situation–a sink, REAL TOWELS, and in-room controls for the temperature, lighting, and audio announcements. On top of that, all your meals in the dining car are included in your fare: in this case, two lunches, two dinners, and one breakfast. The food in the dining car was actually really delicious–airplane food this was not–and also not particularly cheap, so that was an amazing added benefit. On top of all of that, the car also had an attendant assigned to it, who was happy to help with whatever you could need during your trip: turning down the bed, providing you with hot coffee, getting you extra blankets.

It was unreal. I had no problems traveling in coach before, but this was on a totally different level. Also, while I would not particularly recommend traveling on a long haul train the day you come down with a stomach bug, if you do happen to come down with a stomach bug the day you’re scheduled to leave, at least a bedroom allows you relative privacy and comfort compared to a coach seat 😛

Onto the journey!

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The train leaves Los Angeles Union Station at 10:10 a.m. Breakfast is not provided, so you’ll either need to eat beforehand or bring food with you on the train, which is what I did. If you keep your eyes peeled as you leave the station, you’ll be able to see Dodger Stadium up on a hill! You head through the hills and into the valley, stopping in Van Nuys, Simi Valley, and Oxnard before the main event: the Pacific Ocean.

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I had heard that this was one of the most scenic train rides in the country, and the rumors were correct. From Oxnard until just south of Santa Maria, the train tracks hug the coast line, giving you uninterrupted views of the oceans and beaches. It was stunning.

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When the train stopped in Santa Barbara, two volunteers associated with the National Park Service got on the train as part of Amtrak’s Trails & Rails program. From Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, they gave a talk in the lounge car about the areas we passed through. I missed the majority of their talk due to my lunch seating time, but I caught the tail end and found it very interesting!

Another cool part about this portion of the trip is that you go through Vandenberg Air Force Base. Obviously you can’t normally travel directly through an Air Force base, but since since the tracks do, you can see features of the base, including SpaceX launch pads. The terrain is relatively untouched compared to the other parts of the coast as well, and it was cool to see the uninterrupted landscape.

We stopped in San Luis Obispo for about ten minutes, which was plenty of time to get out and stretch your legs, and then headed further into the Central Coast area.

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I was disappointed to only spend a few hours right along the Pacific until I realized how beautiful the rest of the landscape of the West Coast is as well. Prior to this trip, my only experience with California was limited to a weekend in San Francisco. I had no idea how much the terrain changed as you headed north, nor did I have any idea how so many different kinds of landscapes could be equally beautiful.

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We spent awhile in San Jose, though I was eating dinner at the time and didn’t have a chance to get off the train, and then continued north to Oakland as the sun set on the first day of travel.

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I didn’t get the best sleep of my life on the train, but again, I had extenuating circumstances that made the entire trip less pleasant than it should’ve been. I was in bed and asleep-ish through the rest of the train’s California stops: Emeryville, Martinez, Davis, Sacramento, Chico, Redding, and Dunsmuir.

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Northern California at sunrise.

If you’d like, you can ask your car’s attendant to come knock on your door at a particular time to wake you up in the morning. This ended up being more important on my trip than it will hopefully be for most people taking this trip, because my train made its last stop in Klamath Falls, Oregon around 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. About a week and a half before my trip, a tunnel between Klamath Falls and Eugene partially collapsed during maintenance. No one was hurt, but it did make the tracks impassible. Because of this, we all had to get off the train and onto a bus that drove us three hours from Klamath Falls to Eugene. While it definitely was a bummer to have the train trip interrupted like that, the bus ride was stunning. The vast majority of the ride was through National Forests and Parks, and it was absolutely beautiful. I even saw a BALD EAGLE hanging out by a lake. Amazing!

We arrived in Eugene around 12:30 p.m., and then had five free hours to do whatever we wanted in Eugene. We couldn’t head north until the train that travels from Seattle to Los Angeles arrived, and it wouldn’t get into Eugene until around 5:30. Had I felt not-terrible, this would’ve been an awesome opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Hayward Field, a mere 1.5 miles from the train station, or if I was feeling really adventurous, to Pre’s Rock, 2.5 miles from the station. Alas, I was unable to wander too far from a bathroom (and feeling too sorry for myself to want to wander anyway), so I spent most of those five hours in the train station. I have to admit that I’m especially disappointed that I wasn’t able to go to Hayward Field, 1) because it would’ve been my last chance to see it as-is before the planned renovations that will dramatically alter the historic venue and 2) because the NCAA Track & Field Championships were going on right then, and it would’ve been really cool to see some of that. Curse you, stomach bug!!

By the time the southbound train arrived in Eugene, the VAST majority of the passengers who had been on the northbound train with me had given up the ghost and found some other way to get to their final destination. In all, only 16 of us got on the train in Eugene to continue north to Seattle, and nearly all of us were sleeper car patrons. That made for a very different vibe for the second leg of the trip. There were no seating times for dinner that night – anyone could go whenever they wanted. In fact, everyone on the train went at the same time! We watched the Oregon countryside pass by (I saw an osprey at one point during dinner!), and eventually we arrived in the last major city we encountered with daylight: Portland.

coaststarlight-portland

After making it through Portland, I laid down and took a bit of a nap while we continued north to Seattle. We pulled into King Street Station (also gorgeous) just after midnight, and the trip was complete.

kingstreetstationseattle

While I, once again, would perhaps not recommend making this trip with a stomach bug, assuming you are in good digestive health, I CANNOT recommend this trip enough. It was a truly amazing way to see the West Coast. I loved watching the landscape evolve from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest and seeing all the different ways nature can be beautiful. Making the trip in a sleeper car was a particular treat. I loved getting to chat with new people at each meal, and it was nice to have space to spread out and relax. I really think Amtrak is an amazing way to travel, and traveling on the Coast Starlight is a trip I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 3

Sunday, June 17: Dance
We have graduation on Tuesday, so I spent part of Sunday afternoon at the usual Sunday-before-graduation extra rehearsal. I definitely needed it this time around, since I was so behind after missing class while in San Diego. It was SO HOT on Sunday, and I was very happy to be able to do my workout in 68 degree, air conditioned room! We were on the third floor of the building, and when I looked out the window, I saw someone laying out on the roof of a nearby building. I could NOT fathom how that was in any way enjoyable!

Monday, June 18: Strength training – legs (AM) + yoga (PM)
After mentioning that I wanted to get more serious about strength training this year, Erin kindly volunteered to help me in that quest. My first Erin-created workout was Monday morning, and it went really well! It was challenging but not unattainable, which is exactly what I hoped for out of strength training during this marathon cycle.

I was supposed to run Monday, but with a heat index of 102 when I left work, that obviously was not going to happen. I swapped Thursday’s planned yoga for Monday’s run and did this in my air conditioned apartment instead:

I hadn’t done any yoga since May 13, so this was long overdue and felt really good.

Tuesday, June 19: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
This workout was more pleasant than Monday’s strength training from the get-go, since it cooled off dramatically overnight and the mere act of commuting didn’t leave me in a puddle of sweat  before I even got to the gym 😛 Actually, this was a bit tougher than my leg workout on Monday, though that was mostly due to 1) my lack of awareness of what weight is appropriate for me right now for various upper body exercises and 2) a lack of equipment. My gym has a dumbbell collection ranging from five pounds to 100 pounds, but it only has one pair of each weight, and only has those weights in five pound increments. For upper body work in particular, I often wish I had access to 12 pound dumbbells, and on Monday especially, I was in a bit of a pickle when I really needed 15 pound dumbbells, but someone else was using the only pair. Hopefully as I get more used to the morning gym crowd, I’ll be able to figure out how to work around those sorts of things.

I had my last dance class of this session on Tuesday, so we ran through the routine back-to-back-to-back for about 40 minutes and then had graduation later Tuesday night. Given how behind I was last week, I’m happy with how everything went. Class has been more challenging lately (in a good way!), and I hope that continues next session.

Wednesday, June 20: 5 miles (2 mi WU, 4x.5 mi (4:42, 4:49, 4:46, 4:47) w/ .25 mi recovery) in 52:16 for a 10:27 pace
Oh MAN am I happy with this this workout. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ll be incorporating 800s (or, more specifically, half miles) into my training this year. I plan to do them once every three weeks (mostly), working up to eight intervals: not quite a full Yasso 800s workout, but relatively close. (Though since I’m doing half mile intervals rather than 800s, I’m also technically running .003 miles farther per interval than I would if I were doing an actual 800, so this was never going to be perfect anyway.) My interest in doing 800s is two-fold: 1) It provides me with a monthly(ish) opportunity to do intervals, which haven’t been a part of my marathon training plan in…awhile (like since 2015) and 2) I’m super curious to see if the Yasso 800 lore actually holds up. For those unfamiliar with Yasso 800s, legend has it that the time it takes you to run 10 800s at an even pace (so not going out full steam on your first 800 and then having to crawl through the 10th one) in minutes and seconds is the time it will take you to run a marathon in hours and minutes. You can either use it as a predictor workout, to get an idea of what marathon time you can expect, or as a training tool, to get yourself to a particular goal time. In five marathon seasons, I’ve never done one single 800 interval during training, so I have no personal experience with the validity of those claims. I am, however, very interested in seeing how they hold up, so 800s this year it is!

Anyway, based on how this workout went, I very much hope the Yasso 800s claim does hold up, because I would be 100 percent thrilled to run the marathon in any time between a 4:42 and a 4:49. Of course, four intervals aren’t the same as 10, and the marathon is still 15 weeks away, so I’m not getting my hopes up too high quite yet. I am, however, very proud of how evenly I paced all of these intervals. This workout went 1000 times better than I expected, and that made me a happy camper.

Thursday, June 21: Strength training – legs (AM) + 5 miles in 52:44 for a 10:32 pace (PM)
I’m sure I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I…don’t hate getting up early and doing strength training before work nearly as much as I expected?? (We’ll see if I’m still singing the same tune come September, haha.) Most of my residual soreness from Monday’s workout had gone away by Thursday, which was nice. I’m definitely still trying to figure out what I need in terms of weights and how best to plan my morning around these workouts, but I expected that there would be a bit of a learning curve, so I’m not losing sleep over it.

Due to Monday’s crushing heat and humidity, I rescheduled the five miles I planned to do that afternoon for Thursday afternoon instead. After Wednesday’s intervals and the morning’s leg workout, my legs were definitely a bit tired on this run. I was also very anxious during this run (the loved one with health issues I mentioned a few weeks ago – had a followup test on Wednesday and scheduled an appointment to go over those results on Monday (today). While it’s nice to know answers are (hopefully) coming, since there’s even a small chance that those answers could be not good, it’s been an enormous source of anxiety for me). Sometimes (most of the time) running helps me turn my brain off and eases my anxiety, but other times (this time), it just gives me uninterrupted time to ruminate on my worries, and I come home feeling worse than when I left. All of that brain activity is bound to make a run less than pleasant, but when you couple the physical side effects of anxiety (racing heart, shortness of breath, muscle tension) with an attempt at a five miler, obviously it makes things a bit more difficult than normal.

Friday, June 22: Rest

Saturday, June 23: 5.12 miles in 54:22 for a 10:37 pace
What a perfect morning for running! The sky was overcast, the temperature was low, and the mileage was the same as the two non-long runs I had already done earlier this week 😛 We had a very small group on Saturday–only four of us, including me–but that was all right. I think the whole group running thing feels a lot less stressful when you’re one of a few rather than one of like 30. We did end up taking the run a little fast, but I think it would’ve been tough to run much slower than that anyway, so I’m not upset about it.

 

All in all, a great week of training. It’s obviously far too early in the game to make any sweeping statements about the season, but I (so far) really like that it feels like I’m actually working this season rather than going out and logging a bunch of runs and a smattering of cross training because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Things feel a lot more focused and intentional this year, and I like that. Now I just have to hope that feeling continues as the miles get longer!

San Diego

I spent the first weekend of June (plus half of the first week of June) in San Diego for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego and work, and it was amazing. It took me all of about two waking hours in San Diego to want to move there immediately and question why on earth anyone would choose to live in Chicago when places like San Diego exist!

sandiego-jacaranda

I mean, for goodness sake, they have PURPLE TREES. If that’s not heavenly, I don’t know what is. (I realize they’re only purple during part of the year, but still.)

For the first few nights of my trip to San Diego, I stayed in Little Italy, since that made the most sense for Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’ve spent time in Chicago’s Little Italy, and while I find that neighborhood delightful, it doesn’t hold a candle to San Diego’s Little Italy, in my opinion. There were so many Italian restaurants on India Street (super convenient for pre-race carb loading), and even though it wasn’t Chicago’s Little Italy, there was a nice little reminder of Chicago on a lamppost:

sandiego-rizzo

Rizzo! ❤ (And right outside Davanti Enoteca of all places: a Chicago-based restaurant!).

While I enjoyed Little Italy, my favorite part of being in San Diego was walking along the Embarcadero. This is how I got from my hotel to the expo on Saturday, and pretty much the only way I wanted to get around from that point forward.

sandiego-ussmidway

The U.S.S. Midway is much more impressive in person than this picture suggests.

In an effort to stay on my feet after the race on Sunday to stave off as much post-race soreness as possible, I went to the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which is just a little bit north of the U.S.S. Midway. The museum has close to a dozen historic ships that you can tour, including the main ship, the Berkeley, the inside of which features all sorts of exhibits on everything you can think of related to boats.

marittimemuseumofsandiego-berkeley

The Berkeley was originally a ferry on the San Francisco Bay, and the upper deck still looks like a ferry boat. It was beautiful inside!

Other highlights of the museum’s fleet included the Medea, a steam yacht that built initially as a private yacht for a British Army officer and later as part of the French Navy (and, later yet, the Royal Navy as well).

marittimemuseumofsandiego-steamyachtmedea

The museum also had a replica of the San Salvador, the ship Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo used when he discovered San Diego Bay.

marittimemuseumofsandiego-sansalvador1

marittimemuseumofsandiego-sansalvador2

I was particularly fascinated by the museum’s submarine collection. In what I cannot imagine would come as a surprise to any of you, I’ve never been on a submarine before, so the chance to go on two different ones–the U.S.S. Dolphin and the former Soviet Union’s B-39 was really something.

marittimemuseumofsandiego-b39

I didn’t have any work-related duties on Monday until the evening, so I spent the day in Coronado, taking a ferry across the bay and a free shuttle bus (since it’s summer) across the peninsula to get to the Pacific Ocean!

coronado

Having dipped my toes in the Atlantic while in Punta Cana in April, I wanted to make sure I put my feet in the Pacific as well so I could say I’ve been in both the Pacific and Atlantic in one year. Important things, obviously 😛 It was really nice to walk along the water hunting for sand dollars and other pretty shells along the water’s edge. I also saw some crabs in tide pools, which was a first for me.

Due to my work obligations, I didn’t get to see much of the city for the remainder of my stay, but I’m so glad I came out early and got some sightseeing in. I absolutely loved San Diego and can’t wait to go back.