In Which I Declare War on Squirrelkind

I had grand plans for today’s blog post, dear reader. I planted my garden on Mother’s Day, and though I considered writing about it in my most recent Thursday Things, I thought, “No! I have so much to say that I shall dedicate an entire blog post to this, my pride and joy!” I planned to enthrall you with the true story of why my tulips didn’t grow, impress you with the environmental consciousness and thoughtfulness that guided my planting this year, entertain you with self-deprecation and wit.

Alas! No good deed goes unpunished, and instead I come to you today with a tragically different tale.

Gaze upon the destruction foisted upon my poor garden!

garden2018-wildflowerseaten

*grumbles forever*

But first, some context.

In my ongoing effort to convince the birds to come to me rather than me going to them, I decided to focus my garden this year around bird-friendly practices. Specifically, I wanted to dedicate at least part, if not all, of the bathtub to native plants, under the premise that native plants would attract native bugs, which in turn would attract native birds. Plus, native plants are good for the ecosystem, help the bees and butterflies, etc. etc. I’m sure the Sierra Club will show up at my door any day now to recognize my outstanding environmental consciousness.

Anyway, the idea was foolproof! It was also a bit foolish, admittedly–well, maybe not so much foolish at it was ironic–being that I am a renter and decided the best use of my time and energy in the gardening department this year would be spent on perennials. The “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see” line from Hamilton came to mind as I put my plants in the ground, but leaving behind a legacy of Illinois-friendly plants is about as much as I could hope for in this little rented patio of mine, so I was at peace with my decision.

I spent time researching native plants that could handle low sunlight and brought my list to Gethsemane Garden Center in Andersonville, which, holy cow, was far and away the best place I’ve gone yet to buy plants. They have EVERYTHING you can dream of and more. If you want to garden in Chicago, you should go to Gethsemane Garden Center. It was so organized, the employees were so helpful, and the whole experience of buying plants there was delightful. There, I found sedge, Virginia Bluebells, Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and phlox. I figured two sedge plants, two Jack-in-the-Pulipits, two phlox plants, and one Virginia Bluebell would nicely fill my bathtub, so I brought them home, planted them, and patted myself on the back for caring so much about the environment.

garden2018-wildflowers

Because I have no self-control when it comes to plant purchasing, I also bought a tomato plant, a basil plant, an African Daisy, a petunia, and more begonias than you can shake a stick at. I was especially proud of my begonia display. This was the first time in four summers of gardening that I managed to coordinate the flower colors, pot colors, and plant sizes in a way I found particularly visually appealing, and I looked forward to watching the plants grow and fill the patio with color as time went on.

garden2018-begonias

When I came home last Thursday, I saw a hole in the dirt in my petunia pot and dirt all over the surrounding area. I immediately suspected a squirrel had come to call, and checked on other plants to see what else had happened. I didn’t see too much destruction, though I did notice that one of my white begonias no longer had any flowers and had the distinct look of something that had been eaten. I started researching how to keep squirrels away from begonias.

Friday morning as I got ready for work, I heard noise in the back patio and went to the window to investigate. There I saw not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE squirrels having their way with my entire garden area: romping through the bathtub, treating my tomato cage as their own personal jungle gym, demonstrating their powerful leg strength by jumping the two feet or so from a ledge to my begonias, where they helped themselves to a delicious breakfast of freshly-planted flowers.

I. Was. Furious.

I yelled at them from the window, which filled them with so much fear that they bothered to glance in my direction before resuming their destruction. I then pounded on the window, which produced the same lackluster results. I finally stormed outside, armed with red pepper flakes (given that I had no cayenne, the recommended squirrel deterrent, in my house). They scurried into a dark corner behind one of the houses that backs up to the patio while I seasoned my plants with reckless abandon. Take that, rodents!

I went back inside to resume getting ready for work, and when I checked the window a few minutes later, there they all were again, utterly unfazed by the red pepper and wholly unconcerned by my wrath. In a fit of rage, I trimmed off some of my own hair, since the internet also said that could frighten them away, grabbed the chili powder from my spice cabinet, and went outside again. I was now 20 minutes late for work, had a vaguely awkward haircut (though I at least had the sense to trim bottom layers rather than something more obviously) and was so frustrated I wanted to cry. I was also worried: I had to go straight from work to Michigan, and wouldn’t return to my apartment until Sunday. Who would fight off the squirrels in the mean time?

Nothing and no one, apparently.

garden2018-begoniaseaten

I came home Sunday to a ravaged garden. My Virginia Bluebell had been eaten entirely, as had one of my phlox plants. The other phlox had been completely stripped of all its flowers, leaving nothing but sad stems where a beautiful plant had once been. The squirrels also helped themselves to nearly all of my begonias, as you can see in the picture above, which shows the same two plants from the previous picture post-squirrel feast.

I don’t know what to do at this point. I think (hope, pray) most of my plants will grow back over time, but waiting to find out makes me nervous: what if it’s July and they haven’t regrown? It’ll be too late to plant anything at that point. On the other hand, I’m also not interested in dropping a bunch of money on new plants, only to bring the squirrels back for more meals. I could try other squirrel-deterring methods, but when recounting this tale to my mom and grandma over the weekend, both warned me that their success with supposedly fail-proof critter deterrents has been spotty. I did buy cayenne at Jewel this weekend, though, and will happily sprinkle the entire jar on my plants if it’ll keep those stupid creatures away.

I’m not entirely sure where these squirrels came from, but I strongly suspect that they are last year’s babies returning to their former home. The hole that allowed them to get into the garage last year has been sealed, so they don’t seem to have any good reason to hang around, other than, you know, the smorgasbord of flowers I’ve provided for them to eat at their leisure, apparently.

I’m a bit discouraged by this turn of events and have extremely low hopes for my garden this year as a result. I’m particularly disappointed at the native plant situation, because I really did want to attract birds to my patio. But, such is the plight of gardening, I suppose. Nature will have its way!

Oh, and as for the tulips (and daffodils and crocuses)? All of the bulbs rotted, save for the one that produced a flower. All 54 of them. I dug them up before planting my native plants, and they were all squishy, oozy, and generally revolting. I don’t know exactly what caused that, either, but it was likely due to fungi, bacteria, poor drainage, or some combination of the above. Really batting 1.000 in the gardening department in 2018 over here *eye roll emoji*

Have you ever successfully deterred squirrels from your garden? Please, give me your insight. I’m all ears.

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Thursday Things

1. I went to my first-ever Crosstown Classic game on Saturday!

crosstownclassicmarquee

It…was maybe not a beautiful day for baseball.

tarponwrigleyfield

Womp.

The same friends who got married in Punta Cana have family with Cubs season tickets, and when they asked if I wanted to go to the game on Saturday, I immediately said yes. The Crosstown Classic! How could I say no!

So off I went to Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon, bundled up in two pairs of Cuddl Duds, a pair of jeans, a cami, a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and a fleece, along with a drawstring bag stuffed with my winter hat, gloves, a blanket, garbage bags (to serve as ponchos), my raincoat, plastic bags for phones, a dry pair of socks, and sunglasses (#optimism). You know, your standard mid-May apparel in Chicago.

Minutes after we sat down for the 1:20 scheduled start, the video boards told us that thunderstorm activity would arrive between 1:30 and 1:45 and the start of the game would be delayed. So we waited. And waited. And got hot chocolate, only to wait some more.

Finally around 2:15, it actually started to rain. We’ll overlook the fact that the game should’ve started an hour earlier, meaning we could’ve gotten in an hour of rain-free baseball, but whatever. Fortunately, once it started raining, it could stop raining, but not before the long-promised thunderstorm made an appearance.

wrigleythunderstorm

Sigh.

The game eventually started at 3:35, and we made it through a whopping three innings before deciding we that had put in our three hours of baseball, even though the Cubs and White Sox hadn’t, and would rather watch the game inside, where we could presumably feel our toes again.

While it perhaps was not the baseball experience I hoped for, I did have a lot more fun than expected, though I’m looking forward to games later this season where I hopefully won’t have to waddle out on numb feet 😛

2. I read this article, “The Case for Having a Hobby,” in the New York Times last week, and really enjoyed it. I had been musing about my own hobbies the day before I ran across the article, and found that I had experienced a lot of what the article mentioned in my own life.

I feel like I’ve really settled into my hobby groove over the past few years. I love gardening. I love bird watching. (I love that you all believe me when I say I’m 27, despite having the hobbies of a retiree 😛 ). They both bring me so much joy, and I think they bring me so much joy because I do them purely for fun. Yes, there are measures of success in both (did my plants grow and survive like they’re supposed to? Did I see any birds?), but they’re both so low stakes. If my plants die a premature death, it doesn’t matter. If I go out looking for birds at the height of migration season and only see one pigeon, it doesn’t matter. I enjoy “succeeding” at both, but I also enjoy the process. I like going to the park with no idea what kind of birds may or may not be there. I like deciding which flowers or vegetables to plant, and I like tending to them after they’re in the ground. I don’t have to do x, y, and z to get enjoyment out of them: they make me happy and enrich my life, period. I’m glad I’ve found some that I enjoy and will hopefully be able to do for a long time!

3. Years ago, I bought a RED Card at Steppenwolf, which I will continue to recommend for anyone under the age of 30 with even the slightest interest in theater. It’s an absurdly good deal and easily the best way to see amazing shows for next to nothing.

I haven’t cashed in any of my RED Card credits in years, but when I saw that Rainn Wilson, aka Dwight Schrute from The Office, was starring in The Doppelganger, I had to go. It’s also directed by Tina Landau, who’s currently up for a Tony for directing SpongeBob SquarePants (which, according to every review I’ve read, isn’t even half as ridiculous as you’d assume), in case Rainn Wilson isn’t enough of a draw. So, off I went to Steppenwolf last Wednesday for The Doppelganger.

But this is not about why you should get a RED Card (even though you should), nor is it about why you should see The Doppelganger (because it was phenomenal). No, this is about me (of course it is).

I’d seen several ads on Facebook for The Doppelganger, and in them, I always thought one actress looked familiar. For awhile, I thought maybe she had also been in Plantation!, a Lookingglass production I saw earlier this year. But there didn’t appear to be anyone in The Doppelganger that was also in Plantation! (which makes sense, since the shows overlapped for nearly three weeks in April), so I figured the actress from The Doppelganger just had one of those faces. Then I arrived at Steppenwolf, started looking through my program, and my jaw hit the floor. I did indeed know the actress, but not from a show.

I KNEW HER BECAUSE SHE WAS IN MY DANCE CLASS.

I could NOT believe it. I mean, I could. Most people are shy during their first go-around at dance, and she’s one of very, very few who wasn’t. She even volunteered to do a solo, which no one ever does in their first session. I would assume someone who’s chosen acting as a profession wouldn’t be particularly shy about performing. I did some digging through the archives, and sure enough, the actress and the girl in my dance class were definitely the same person. And she wasn’t just in The Doppelganger. She’s a freaking STEPPENWOLF ENSEMBLE MEMBER. WHAT.

It’s nice to know at least one of us has gone on to accomplish big things. I’ll still be listening to Broadway soundtracks at my desk job, pretending I have even a drop of talent in the singing or acting department, if anyone needs me.

Have you been to any baseball games this year?

Thursday Things

1. Behold, the saddest tulip garden of all time.

tulip1

Sigh.

As I assume you all spend your days waiting with bated breath for my latest gardening update, I’m happy (?) to fill you in on the latest goings-on with my bathtub. “Pathetic” is the word I’d use to sum up the situation.

Out of the 55 bulbs I planted last November, exactly three (3) sprouted: a 5 percent success rate. Out of the three that sprouted, exactly one (1) actually grew into a tulip: a 1 percent “success” rate.

Why the quotation marks, you ask? Because this tulip, despite producing a flower, did not even come close to producing the flower I expected it to produce. I ordered four varieties of tulips: one white, one pink, one purple and white, and one pink and white. Do you, dear reader, see any of those colors in my solitary, lonely tulip?

tulip2

Sigh x2.

On top of that, the flower lasted exactly six (6) days, thanks to this BS “spring” of ours, where apparently even suggesting that it should be in the 60s amounts to blasphemy as far as the atmosphere is concerned. This entire experiment has been an enormous bust, which was disappointing at first but at this point is so ridiculous it’s just laughable. Needless to say, I don’t expect to plant bulbs again any time soon – at least not before I have a real garden with real ground to put them in.

2. Having been cursed with a crushing sense of loyalty to just about anything with which I aligned myself at any point, I found myself back in Kenosha this weekend, doing something I swore I would never do again: working at the Wisconsin Marathon.

kenosha

This was my fifth Wisconsin Marathon, but it was the first one (for me) that wasn’t freezing cold and/or terribly windy. I felt bad for the runners, because it certainly wasn’t friendly weather for running a half marathon or marathon (especially a marathon), but it was nice to wear shorts and short sleeves instead of four layers for a change.

3. My biggest concern about working the Wisconsin Marathon this year was that it took place on Global Big Day, the…uh, big day…in birding. The point of Global Big Day is to count as many birds as you can throughout the course of the day, so obviously having to spend a fair part of my day working a race did not help in my pursuit to count ALL OF THE BIRDS.

I did take a couple bird watching breaks throughout the race and was pleasantly surprised by everything I saw! For one thing, the lake (and air over the lake) was absolutely crawling with Caspian Terns, which were new to me. As I walked along the water in the afternoon, I saw little birds flitting around the trees, which I eventually identified as Palm Warblers: also new to me. I saw a male Myrtle’s Yellow-Rumped Warbler, too. I saw a bunch of females at the Morton Arboretum in October, but I had never seen a male before, so that was kind of new.

I was dead tired when I finally got home around 6:30 Saturday evening, but it was Global Big Day, darn it, and even though I had to sacrifice my hopes and dreams of spending the entire day at Montrose bird watching, I was not going to sacrifice my opportunity to go bird watching at the bird-full park where I saw several migrants in April! So I drug myself to the park, sans SLR (a decision I would regret almost immediately), and OMG. Best decision of my day.

Things started off on a good note when I saw another new-to-me thrush, the Swainson’s Thrush, the taller, skinnier cousin of the Hermit Thrush I saw in April. I then saw a non-House Sparrow, which is always a reason to celebrate, and also saw three more Palm Warblers.

BUT THEN. I was in the process of desperately trying to confirm if the birds in an evergreen tree were Grey Catbirds when another bird in a neighboring tree came to my attention. It was BRIGHT orange, and I instantly knew what it was: A BALTIMORE ORIOLE.

I CAN. NOT. emphasize enough how big of a deal this was for me. Every spring, my mom and grandma have an unofficial competition to see who can get the first Ruby-throated Hummingbird, first Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and/or first Baltimore Oriole to visit. The hummingbirds are a guarantee. They show up at the feeders every year and hang around all summer. The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are maybe not guarantees, but they’re like 95 percent sure to show up at least once in May. The orioles usually show up, but are much more hit or miss than the grosbeaks. They’re not Indigo Bunting-rare, but they’re close. Since you can’t really count on orioles showing up at my parents’ house (or my grandma’s house), I can’t remember the last time I saw one. I’m nearly certain I haven’t seen one since 2012, possibly even longer. I have most definitely never seen one in Chicago before, and on Saturday, I didn’t just see one: I saw THREE!

This is the first migration season I’ve been through since I began regularly tracking what birds I see, and it is blowing my mind how many species I’ve seen in the past month. It’s amazing to witness and seriously so much fun to go outside and never know who you’ll encounter. I actually had a hard time running on Monday because I kept seeing so many birds I wanted to ID! Spring migration season hasn’t even ended yet and I’m already looking forward to late August/early September when it starts all over again 🙂

What annual flowers should I plant this year? After this bulb debacle, I’m in the market for something that’s going to flourish and am happy to take any and all recommendations. I think I’m going flower shopping this weekend, so I’m all ears!

How to Run Commute

Last summer, I incorporated run commuting into my training for the first time. I more or less followed Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training program for my sixth marathon, and while I like that it only required three days of running per week, the number of miles I needed to run on those days stressed me out.

Four weeks into training, I gave run commuting a try and instantly fell in love. Run commuting allowed me to do long(er) runs on weekdays without sacrificing my entire evening, alleviating what I felt was the most burdensome part of marathon training.

That being said, I couldn’t just get up from my desk one day and run home. Run commuting required a fair amount of forethought and planning. Today, I’d like to outline the various things I did to make run commuting a pleasant and successful addition to my training.

run commute, active commute, commuting on foot

Is run commuting for me?

Several questions can help answer that:

  • Can I reasonably cover the distance between my office and my house on foot?
  • Is there a safe way to get between my house and office on foot? (Are there sidewalks or running trails? If there aren’t, is the traffic light enough to run on the shoulder? Am I comfortable running in the areas I will need to pass through to get between my house and my office?)
  • How will I return to my starting point in the afternoon/tomorrow morning?
  • What do I need to bring between my house and my office on a daily basis, and how will that fit into my running?
  • Will my destination have the accommodations I need after I run? (If you run commute in the afternoon, this is likely a nonissue, since your house should have everything you tend to use during your post-run routine. If you run in the morning, you’ll need to consider these things.)

For me, the answers to all of these questions made run commuting (in the afternoon) sound reasonable:

  • I can walk the distance between my house and my office.
  • No matter how I went from my office to my house (I usually had to take very indirect routes to make sure I got in all of my miles), I would never need to run in conditions that made me feel unsafe (i.e.: there would always be a sidewalk or trail) or in unfamiliar areas.
  • I take the CTA to work. The CTA runs regardless of how I got home from work the previous day, unlike a car, which will stay where you left it until you move it later.
  • The only things I needed to take between the office and my house every day were my Ventra card, my phone, my house keys, and my work badge. I also chose to bring other particularly important cards from my wallet (like my license and my insurance cards) in case of an emergency. I leave my laptop and work shoes at my desk every night regardless of whether or not I run commute, so I didn’t need to consider those items, and everything else–my lunch box, the Tupperware in said lunch box, my work clothes, my backpack and the various pieces of scrap paper in it–were all things that I could survive losing without a major disruption or inconvenience to my life.
  • Since my runs ended at home, I had everything I needed to return to normal after running. If I ever did choose to run in the morning, my office has fully equipped shower facilities I could use (and a gym with space for foam rolling, stretching, and PT exercises, though I can’t imagine I’d ever start my run commute early enough to fit in all of those extras after a run).

How should I plan for a run commute?

If you answered with yeses: congratulations! You’re a good candidate for run commuting. Now comes the “forethought and planning” part of the equation.

If your office has a dress code, chances are you can’t wear your running clothes during the day. If you run commute in the morning, regardless of your office’s dress code, chances are neither you nor your coworkers want you to stay in your sweaty clothes all day. You’ll need to have work clothes available at the office, either by bringing them in a small backpack with you on your run, or by bringing them the previous work day–which means you’ll have to know that you plan to run commute at least 24 hours in advance.

To run home in the afternoon, you’ll need to bring your running clothes and any related accessories (watch, water bottle, fuel, sunscreen, hat, etc.) with you to work. This doesn’t offer you much flexibility when it comes to make last-minute decisions on what to wear for your run, nor does it offer you much flexibility in terms of deciding to run commute at the last minute, either.

Regardless of whether you run in the morning or afternoon, you likely won’t want to carry much with you beyond the absolute essentials. You’ll need to have a plan, then, for the nice-to-haves. For example, I bring my lunch to work every day, but I don’t want to haul my lunch bag + ice pack + Tupperware home with me on a run. To accommodate, I have two lunch bags, two ice packs, and more Tupperware than any one person needs. That way, I can leave all my lunch accessories at the office overnight and still be able to pack a lunch for the next day. To run commute successfully (i.e.: without forgetting something important), you need to think through all the things you’ll need to run, all the things you’ll need during your work day, and how to get those things from Point A to Point B in a way that won’t burden your run.

One other note: if your run commute will take you through areas with tall buildings and you tend to rely exclusively on your GPS for distance data, realize that your watch may not provide remotely accurate readings while you run near the tall buildings. If you’re concerned about getting in a particular number of miles (compared to running for a certain amount of time), I recommend mapping your route ahead of time on something like MapMyRun to ensure you cover the right distance.

When can I run commute?

Whether you run commute in the morning or afternoon comes down to your personal preference and your access to post-run accommodations (like a shower, or, minimally, a bathroom where you can freshen up). I prefer to work out in the afternoon, which is why I run commute home rather than to the office, but you can certainly do either!

In Chicago, I think summer is the only easy time to run commute. When you run commute in the summer, you have one less major essential to consider: a coat. I don’t want to carry my fleece, pea coat, or parka home on a run commute, but I also don’t want to try to get to work the following day during the colder months without a fleece, pea coat, or parka. Because my coat is a non-negotiable for my next commute after a run commute when it’s cold, unless I’m going to bring that coat with me on my run, I’m not able to run commute. In the winter, boots also come into the equation. I’m absolutely not going to carry my heavy boots home on a run, but I’m also absolutely not going to try to get to work through snow and slush the following morning without them. Not having to consider those elements in the summer simplifies the process immensely, which is why I stick to summer run commuting. (Though I am also willing to run commute during jacket weather. I have two lightweight jackets, so I can leave one at work when I run home and wear the other to work the following morning.)

Even though it requires a fair amount of planning, run commuting has been the most positive addition to my training. If it’s an option for you, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Do you ever run commute?

 

Thursday Things

1. The day I dreaded most in the surprisingly drawn out saga that constitutes my church drama (which you can catch up on from the beginning and with the most recent update I posted) came on Sunday: the last day in our current building.

nave

The plan moving forward (to my understanding) is to close on the sale of our office building, figure out how to fit everything we’re losing from the office building into the church building, and then renovate the church building to accommodate the office space we’ve lost. Even though none of those things have happened yet, Sunday was the last day in the current (former, now) space. As of this coming Sunday, we’ll be meeting in a different church’s building until who knows when.

sanctuary1

Sunday was hard, to be generous. After the regular church service, we had an open house for a few hours where anyone could come and go to see just about any space in both of the buildings. (The office building – YIKES. We didn’t need the majority of the space in that structure, and boy, did it show. The rooms in the top floor were literally falling apart.) However, one of the spaces in our office building was our chapel, which was the original church building (they built the office building around it). Selling the office building also means selling that space, which was particularly sad.

chapel

RIP, little chapel. March 1, 1927-April 29, 2018 😦 We had a short service to deconsecrate the chapel, and it broke my heart.

Part of me feels like it’s ridiculous that I would get so worked up over two buildings and their interiors. At the end of the day, the people inside the building are what really make up the church, and I know we’re lucky that we’re not being dissolved entirely and scattered among other congregations.

But it was so much more than “just” a building to me. It was a legacy, the tangible legacy of what literally 131 years worth of people had created and entrusted to our care. There were memorials all around the building to these people and their families: the baptismal font dedicated to the memory of a toddler who died before she reached her third birthday in the early 1900s. The alter given in memory of a man who died on Good Friday, April 18, in 1919. The pew that used to belong to “The Misses Gustafson.” These were real people who lived real lives, and part of those real lives played out in the same pews I sat in every Sunday, surrounded by the same stained glass windows I admired every Sunday. These were real people who gave real money, and real blood, and real sweat, and real tears to create something that would last. These were real people who made real investments in this space, and you better believe that I feel a very real responsibility to honor those investments, those tears, that sweat, that blood, that money, those lives. The people who came before me are not just names on a plaque. They’re humans: humans who deserved so much better for what they put into my church than they’re getting. And even though everything my church has come to is not my fault at all–I didn’t make decisions that drove people away; I didn’t withhold my money from the offering plate out of spite–I feel so freaking responsible. Because I was there at the end. I feel like I should’ve done more, should’ve fought harder, prayed harder, I-don’t-know-what harder–done anything harder to keep this from happening. Standing in the chapel during the deconsecration service, I felt like I needed to apologize to the building itself for letting it down. I felt like I, personally, had let 131 years worth of people down, and that’s not a particularly fun way to feel.

sanctuary2

2. Because the whole church thing clearly wasn’t enough trauma for one day, I went directly from church to Avengers: Infinity War, and folks, I have some Thoughts on that movie.

First, my spoiler-free take: I do not, for one iota of a second, believe that the things that happened in the last 15 minutes or so of the movie were it. I firmly believe that Marvel is taking us for a ride (a ride I do not appreciate, for the record), and will continue to believe that until the untitled Avengers 4 movie next year proves otherwise.

Second, my spoiler-full take, presented to you in white text in case you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want anything spoiled: there is no way–NO. WAY.–everyone killed off in this movie is going to stay dead. Absolutely not. It’s not even possible, based on the currently announced upcoming movies, unless the Spider-Man sequel and Guardians 3 are both prequels to Infinity War, because obviously you can’t have a Spider-Man movie if Spider-Man is dead, and you can’t have a GotG 3 if ALL OF THE GUARDIANS EXCEPT ROCKET ARE DEAD. I also cannot FATHOM a world in which DISNEY, the profit-hungry media company to end all profit-hungry media companies, allows Marvel to kill off Black Panther permanently. That’d be as stupid from a revenue standpoint as tearing down Disney World just because they felt like it. Black Panther made $1.3 BILLION at the box office. You genuinely think Disney is going to let this be the end of Black Panther? You think they’re only going to cash in on that twice–twice within two months? Maybe that was their original intent, but there’s no way after the success Black Panther had that they’ll let something like that happen. So while yes, the movie was emotionally draining, I left the theater FAR more annoyed than sad, because I do not like this game Marvel’s playing with all of our emotions. While the friends I attended the movie with spent the majority of the credits reeling from the carnage, I spent the credits emphatically stating, for the record, that I don’t believe a single one of the deaths at the end of the movie were permanent. I believe all the people who died for real–Heimdall, Gamora, and Loki–are dead for good. Vision, too. Maybe Gamora isn’t if she somehow survived being thrown off a cliff, but I don’t think Thanos would’ve been allowed to get the Soul Stone if she hadn’t actually died, so I believe she’s dead. All of those deaths were real deaths. The ones from Thanos snapping his fingers, though? I don’t think those were real, or at the very least, that they’re not reversible via some sort of Time Stone/Soul Stone/Reality Stone finagling. I think everyone who dissolved into dust will be back by the end of Avengers 4.

/endspoilers

3. A word to the wise: if you find yourself in a position where you could potentially get sunburn on your head, I highly recommend doing everything to avoid such a fate. As I learned the hard way at the end of last week, those scorched skin cells on your scalp remove themselves from your body in the form of enough dandruff to make you not want to show yourself in public for days on end, which is a wildly unpleasant experience. So, don’t be like me! Wear a hat, put your hair in a ponytail, don’t forget to put sunscreen on your part – just don’t let your scalp get burned.

Have you seen Infinity War? I want to know everyone’s opinions! I swear, I’ve done nothing with my free time this week but read Infinity War theory articles.

Christie Clinic Illinois Half Marathon Race Recap

After Friday night’s 5K, it was time for the second half of the Half I-Challenge: the Christie Clinic Illinois Half Marathon!

illinoishalfmarathonpacket2018

(I am in. love. with the race shirt. A long sleeve purple tech shirt?! Yes please. I got the Meijer reusable bag for signing up for M Perks [even though I live nowhere near a Meijer and certainly don’t need an M Perks account] because I am in. love. with its design, too [and Meijer in general], and the Chicago Half Marathon water bottle for signing up for that at the expo, too. I’d been meaning to sign up, and I saved $20 if I did so at the race, so that wasn’t a tough call.)

After logging all but three or four training runs for this race in my warmest running jacket and tights, I worried how I’d fare if it turned out to be anything toastier than 45 degrees on race day. I woke up Saturday morning to temperatures in the 30s and a Real Feel in the 20s, so instead, I got to worry about being cold before the start of the race. I had throwaways with me, but I wasn’t convinced they’d be sufficient. I didn’t get hypothermia waiting for the race to begin, so clearly they were fine, but I have got to do something about my newfound angst about being cold in a corral before a race. It’s so unnecessary and unhelpful, and I don’t like it at all.

I crossed the start line a little before 7:15 in an absolutely foul mood due to the cold situation. As I mentioned earlier this year, my only goal for this race was to negative split it, so I intended to go out slow (ideally, around a 10:30 pace). When I crossed the first mile in 9:39, then, I was not pleased. Sure, that felt easy for the moment, but I had serious doubts that it would continue to feel easy for the next five miles, never mind that I’d be able to run consistently faster paces than that from mile seven to the finish line. I tried to dial in my pace on the second mile, but I still couldn’t get myself anywhere close to a 10:30 pace (mile 2: 10:02; mile 3: 10:08; mile 4: 10:16).

The first four miles were misery. I was so grumpy, and it felt like it was taking for.ev.er. to get to each mile marker. I had some chews at mile four, but didn’t get enough water from the following aid station and was concerned that I’d pay for it later on. Fortunately, a spectator just a minute or two past the aid station was handing out water bottles, so I took one and felt much more relaxed about the whole situation.

Soon after I took the water bottle, a girl who had been near me for at least a mile or two asked me what finish time I was aiming for. Even though I didn’t have an actual time goal, I expected to do a 2:10-2:15, so I told her as such. She said she was shooting for the same thing and asked if we could run together. I was a little hesitant, given my negative split goal, but I was also feeling really lonely (and grumpy) on the course, so I agreed. GAME. CHANGER. We didn’t chat too much, but having someone running with me turned my mood completely around and the miles started ticking by quickly instead of dragging on for all eternity. (I thought she looked younger than me, so I asked if she was a U of I student, and she said she was and asked if I was too? *brushes shoulder off* I graduated from college six years ago, so you better believe someone even thinking I could possibly still be in college was fabulous for my ego.)

We chugged along through Urbana, and when we got to mile seven, I told my running buddy I was going to try to step up the pace a little. She decided she’d try to keep up, which was fine with me, so off we went. We had a logged a 10:39 sixth mile, so “stepping it up” turned into a 10:05 seventh mile: not much faster than I had run at the beginning of the race, but at least faster than my previous mile.

We wound through Meadowbrook Park, where I ended up seeing Tree Swallows for the first time ever! They are such beautiful birds, and I was thrilled to see a bunch (seven!) and add them to my life list 🙂 I did not bother trying to go over my excitement about this with my new running buddy, however 😛

I kept trying to push the pace a little more each time we passed another mile marker. When we got to mile 10, I checked my watch and saw two things: first, that I had been on the course for 1:40; second, that I was running approximately the same pace I had run during the 5K the night before. Since it took me just under 30 minutes to do the 5K and I hoped to continue speeding up as the race continued, I thought we (or at least I) might stand a chance at a sub-2:10. I checked in with my running buddy to see how she was feeling and let her know if we continued at our current pace, we’d probably finish in 2:11. That was fine with her (her main goal was sub-2:20), which put me in a bit of a conundrum. Was it more important to me that I get my running buddy to the finish line (it was her first half marathon ever, and since we had agreed to run together, I felt responsible for doing everything I could to make it a positive experience for her), or that I get across the finish line in under 2:10, something I rarely accomplish?

At mile 11, I decided to be selfish. I felt like I had a lot left to give, and I really, really wanted that sub-2:10. I bid my running buddy farewell and wished her luck, and off I went. I did a 9:00 12th mile, and when I looked at my watch at the mile 12 sign (I didn’t run perfect tangents, unsurprisingly, and was about .1 miles off), I was at exactly 2:00. Since the goal was to have my last mile be my fastest mile, I thought I could maybe pull off a sub-2:10, but it was going to be tight. As I ran through campus on my way to Memorial Stadium, I reminded myself of all the times I pushed myself to my limit on my last mile of a training run with this exact moment. It was not comfortable or easy or fun, but I was too, too close to a sub-2:10 to throw in the towel, no matter how badly my lungs, legs, and heart (physical heart, not metaphorical heart) wanted me to. If I couldn’t get in in under 2:10, it certainly wasn’t going to be because I didn’t try my hardest.

By the time I got into Memorial Stadium, I knew I could do it. I ran down the field and crossed the finish line in 2:09:30. *celebrates forever* My legs were wobbling as I walked through the finisher’s chute, but I was ECSTATIC. This was only the third time in 15 half marathons I’ve gone sub-2:10. I went into the race with no actual time goals and just hoping I’d be able to walk away with a time that didn’t frustrate me (i.e.: anything 2:20 or above), so to get into the 2:0x range, especially since I expected do to closer to a 2:15, was  thrilling. It’s no PR, but it’s the closest I’ve come to my PR in over two years and the first time I’ve been happy with a half marathon finish in the same amount of time. And as for negative splitting? I wasn’t quite as perfect as I hoped to be, but check it out:

halfmarathonsplits

Hell yeah, 8:31 last mile. That’s exactly how I hoped this race would turn out, and I couldn’t be happier about how everything unfolded.

halfichallengemedals

OSF HealthCare Illinois 5K Race Recap

I participated in the Half I-Challenge at the Illinois Marathon for the second year in a row this past weekend. Up first in this 16.2-mile weekend: the Friday evening 5K.

osfhealthcare5kpacket

I got to Champaign Friday afternoon, picked up ALL OF THE THINGS, and then chilled at the hotel before heading to the start line. AccuWeather kept telling me it would rain for the duration of the race, which made it hard to figure out what to wear. Wouldn’t it get colder when the sun went down? Wouldn’t rain make it feel even colder? What if I got cold after the race?!?! This is quickly becoming a theme of my races this year: concerns about being uncomfortably cold before or after the race that leads to an unnecessary amount of stress and frustration.

Anyway, after deciding to wear a short sleeve shirt, shorts, arm sleeves, and a visor in case of rain, I headed off to the race. I met up with a couple friends and chatted with them a bit before heading into my corral. I was seeded in the B corral, but since I had a half marathon coming up 12 hours later, this race was obviously not my priority. As a result, it’s probably the only 5K that I don’t dread, knowing that I’m going for a comfortable 3.1-mile shakeout run is significantly less painful than going as hard as I can for 3.1 miles!

We got started on time and I settled into a comfortable 9:xx pace. I normally try to run 5Ks in the low 8s, so 9s were a nice chance of (literal) pace. I thought this would help in the pain department, but a mile into the race, I got an enormous side stitch. This was hardly the first time in my life I’ve had a side stitch, and it wasn’t even the worst side stitch I’ve ever had, but it was the worst one I’ve had in a long time for sure. I actually considered walking to try to breathe it out, it was that bad. Fortunately it dissipated (for the most part) by the time I got to the second mile marker, but I did definitely try to relax in the speed department for the second mile to try to keep my side happy (I went from a 9:11 pace to a 9:44 pace).

We wound through Champaign and through campus. I tried really hard to hydrate well throughout the day on Friday, but I felt parched before I even hit the first mile marker of the race. I grabbed water from a volunteer at the aid station on the course, which made this one of only a handful of times I’ve bothered to get water during anything shorter than a 10K during a race. I felt a bit better after getting some water in me and kept chugging along.

Even though I didn’t ~officially~ have a goal for this race, I did want to finish in under 30 minutes for the sake of my ego, given that I’m used to 25:xx finishes for 5Ks. I crossed the 50-yard line inside Memorial Stadium at the finish in 29:21, so mission accomplished.

I collected my medal and water but skipped all the food they had available for runners after the race. I made a brief stop at the post race party, and that was that! This was a pretty low key affair for me, given that I treat it as just a shakeout run. I needed to get in and out so I could have dinner and rest up for the main event: the Illinois Half Marathon the following day!

osfhealthcare5kmedal