Thursday Things

1. I, once again, knew multiple people racing at IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead on Saturday, so another trip to Michigan was in order to cheer them on!

IM703steelhead2017

It was surprisingly cold for August, with temperatures only in the mid-50s when we arrived (at, like, 4:45 Sunday morning, aka 3:45 Chicago time. Oof.), but race day temperatures aren’t about me, the spectator, so even though I was cold, I was glad the athletes had favorable conditions. I was particularly glad to see that the lake had calmed down substantially overnight. When we were there for packet pick-up on Saturday, Lake Michigan was not happy, with fairly strong winds and 1-3 foot waves. Sunday morning, however, was a totally different story: no wind speak of and nothing but gentle rolling water. Even though I, obviously, didn’t have to swim either way, it makes me really nervous to see choppy waters during a triathlon, so I was glad to see it was much better for swimming!

The race went really well for everyone I was there to see (though not so well for the male pro I saw walking away from the end of the bike course, whose jersey was completely ripped off his shoulder, which appeared to be nothing but blood and road rash. YIKES.), so that was wonderful, and I enjoyed spectating. I really think anyone who participates in endurance sports should make a point of trying to spectate races every now and again, because you really appreciate the effort and work your spectators put in once you’re on the other side. It’s not easy to try to keep track of people (though the new-this-year IM Tracking app was AMAZING. 10/10, would recommend) and coordinate your movements so you beat them to various locations on the course. Spectating is tough work, and having done it twice now at Steelhead makes me very grateful for my family’s willingness to come watch me run marathons.

IMsteelhead2017-2

I do find spectating to be a bit dangerous if you have a proclivity for seeing other people like you doing something and thinking, “Maybe I could do that!” The more I spectate triathlons, the more I see people of all ages and sizes competing, and the more the gears start turning in my head. This is how I ended up getting into running in the first place, so clearly I’m a bit vulnerable to that sort of thought process. Of course, then I remember that I hate being underwater and don’t really enjoy being in water, period, that I haven’t been on a bike in well over 10 years and that I have even less desire to ever be on a Chicago road on a bike than I have to be in water, and that, even if I could somehow overcome my aversion to swimming and get back on a bike that isn’t stationary, I would still be looking at, at the absolute, very least, a solid $600 investment JUST to have the basic equipment (bike + helmet) needed to accomplish the “bike” portion of “swim bike run.” Add in all the other accessories I would certainly want/potentially need–a wetsuit, goggles, bike shorts, if not a full tri kit–and that’s usually enough to bring me back to, “On second thought, maybe I’ll just stick with this running thing instead.”

2. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ripetomato

You guys, I did it!!! I grew a ripe, edible (probably) tomato!!

After weeks of complaining about my stupid tomatoes and their refusal to turn red, I went outside last Thursday to tend to my garden and was THRILLED BEYOND MEASURE to see this:

ripeningtomates

I had checked on my tomatoes on Wednesday afternoon and there wasn’t even the slightest indication that any of them were about to start ripening, so seeing this much progress on Thursday was a HUGE (and very welcome!) surprise.

By Saturday morning, it had gotten a lot redder, though not quite to the point where I was ready to pick it. I got home from Steelhead super late on Sunday, so I didn’t bother to look at my garden that day, and even though I got home late on Monday as well, I wanted to make sure I got to my tomato before it started to get too ripe. As it turned out, some other creature beat me to the punch. There were holes on the other (unpictured) side of my tomato clearly indicating that someone had eaten through it, but honestly, I was so excited about having just one ripe tomato that I didn’t even care that I couldn’t use it. Haha. The second tomato that showed up on my plant back in July had started blushing on Monday, but had also been sampled by an uninvited creature by Tuesday, so into the trash it went as well. My plan moving forward is to start picking them once they begin to blush and let them finish ripening inside, far away from prying jaws. That, or quit my job and keep a constant vigil over my garden to make sure no one eats my tomatoes, but that seems…excessive 😛 Haha

At last count (Saturday morning), I had 42 tomatoes in various stages of growth. It took one month + two days for my first ones to ripen (almost exactly six weeks from blossom to picking), which means that if all continues to go well, I’m going to be DROWNING in tomatoes by this time next month. Perfectly all right by me!

3. While we’re on the topic of produce, I would like to take a moment to vent my EXTREME FRUSTRATION at Jewel Osco, which continues to prove its uselessness to me on a weekly basis. While I can still access Trader Joe’s from my new place, it is no longer as convenient to me as it was at my old apartment, and, consequently, I have become a reluctant Jewel Osco patron. I do appreciate Jewel’s variety and convenience, but I have absolutely lost my patience with their produce. A couple of weeks ago, I finally allowed myself to buy peaches, since I figured it was late enough in the summer that the peaches would be good. I never had the chance to find out, though, because less than 48 hours after I bought them, ALL of my peaches were growing mold. Even though I didn’t really think the peaches needed to be refrigerated and, consequently, left them out on the counter, I figured it was my own fault for leaving them in a relatively warm environment and promised I’d do better next time. “Next time” was this past Saturday, when I bought blueberries. I knew blueberries belonged in the fridge, so I put them there, then went on my merry way to Michigan for the remainder of the weekend. When I took the blueberries out of the fridge Tuesday morning to bring to work for lunch that day, once again: full of mold.

What. The. Heck.

I NEVER had this problem with Trader Joe’s produce. I understand that fruits and vegetables all have the potential to get moldy at some point, but “some point” should not be less than a week after I bought them! I’m SO frustrated! I’ve now thrown away like $15 on fruit I never got to eat, and I place the blame squarely on Jewel for this problem. After Tuesday’s incident, I remembered running into similar issues at my old old apartment–another place that was closer to a Jewel than a Trader Joe’s–and that I swore off Jewel Osco produce forever…or at least until five years later, when I forgot how lousy their produce was. I need to find a new place to get my fruits and vegetables, even if it is inconvenient, because I certainly prefer inconvenience to throwing away everything I bought!

Have you ever spectated a race?
Chicagoans: where should I go to buy produce? Other than Trader Joe’s, that is.

Thursday Things

1. Last Friday, my company hosted its annual Employee Appreciation Day, where we get (most of) the day off work to go to an off-site event where management tells us how great we are. A little self-congratulatory, perhaps, but if self-congratulation gets me out of the office at 10:30, free food and drinks, and the ability to go home as early as I desire after the requisite speech-making, I’m all for it. Plus, who doesn’t like to be appreciated?

This year’s event was at River Roast, which is, unsurprisingly, along the Chicago River. The details of Employee Appreciation Day are always kept very hush-hush until the end of the requisite speech-making, so I didn’t really know what to expect. When I got to River Roast, though, I noticed a water taxi stop right outside the restaurant, and thought, “Oh man, what if they take us on the river?”

rivercruise1

Hooray!

To my great surprise and utter delight, everyone had the chance to take a 30-minute river cruise! I was a little concerned it’d be cold, given that it barely topped 60 degrees on Friday (*praise hands emoji*), but it actually wasn’t too bad. There was no guide to give us architectural highlights, so I did my best to fill in some details for my captive audience coworkers sitting next to me when they wondered aloud what we were passing. One of them told me I should be a guide on the architecture river tours when I retire, and man, let me tell you, DREAM JOB (or volunteer position – I don’t know if the guides get paid). Only 39 more years until retirement! Haha.

rivercruise2

2. After Employee Appreciation Day, I came home to discover an unexpected and unwelcome change in my garden. The bathtub, which previously sat in a corner next to the fence, had been moved a few feet over to underneath my flowers, which were raised up to about six feet above the ground to accommodate my monstrosity of a tomato plant.

Now, I knew some change was coming, because when I was out in the courtyard checking on my plants one morning last week, my landlord happened to appear and mentioned that he was going to move my plants. He didn’t give specific details and I didn’t press him for a more thorough explanation of what “move my plants” meant, but I assumed he was going to take the pots I had slightly off the ground and put them somewhere else. This complete rearrangement, needless to say, was not what I had in mind.

Part of the fence behind where my tomato bathtub used to live is bowed in, so I imagine my landlord intends to repair that, hence the new location for the bathtub. I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled with it, particularly since part of the plant is now under the gigantic 2×4 upon which my flowers rest, thus never receiving sunlight, but it’s not my courtyard–it’s not even my bathtub–so I don’t feel like it’s my place to tell my landlord what I think he should do with his property. (I would feel like it was my place to make those sorts of demands if it were related to malfunctioning things inside the house, but a relocated garden isn’t exactly on par with a broken stove, you know?) He broke a few branches off in the process of moving it, which definitely annoyed me, but I had begun to wonder if pruning my plant would help it direct its energy to ripening my tomatoes instead, so I wasn’t too distraught over this.

What did distress me, however, is that he pulled up the rest of my wildflowers AND my oregano!! 😡

oregano

RIP.

I just…why. Why. WHY?! Why do all of my poor herbs keep being brutally murdered at the hands of my overzealous landlord?? CLEARLY not labeling my plants was my fatal (literally!) error in all of this, and trust me, if I plant in that bathtub again next season, I will buy custom neon signs that say, “THIS IS OREGANO! IT IS MEANT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION AND I PUT IT HERE ON PURPOSE! DO! NOT! PULL! IT! OUT! OF! MY! GARDEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Granted, half of my excitement over my prolific oregano came from my grand plans to make homemade tomato sauce using the basil, oregano, and tomatoes from my garden, but since my tomatoes stubbornly refuse to ripen, I suppose THAT was an unrealistic plan, too. 😡 This stupid hobby, man. I need to start finding ways to pass my time whose success does not so heavily rely on things beyond my control.

My basil, at least for now, remains unharmed.

3. I seem to be quite incapable of getting off the injury anxiety train this marathon season, and I’m not a fan.

I had a doctor’s appointment for my right knee scheduled for Monday, but I cancelled it because my knee felt fine all of last week, and I didn’t want a doctor’s appointment to delay the run I had scheduled that day (in typical, runner-in-training fashion). When I went for a run on Monday, I had pain in my left knee that sent me into a downward spiral of hand-wringing and Googling: always a bad combination. I convinced myself I had prepatellar bursitis, but that just opened the door to more questions: how did I end up with a condition most people get from being nuns or tile installers, where they spend a fair amount of time kneeling? Can I still run? Should I still run? Do I need to go to the doctor? Do I have time to go to the doctor? Does the doctor have time to see me? How am I going to fit physical therapy into my schedule? What if my bursitis is somehow septic (your prepatellar bursa can become inflamed because of overuse (i.e.: long-term kneeling) or an acute injury like falling or getting kicked, which is aseptic bursitis, or, it also has the distinction of being one of the few bursae that can become inflamed due to infection) and I end up having to take antibiotics again?

I don’t know what my deal is this year. I was fine in 2013 until I actually did get hurt, and then spent the next month being worried at all times. I was in physical therapy for the duration of the 2014 season, so I didn’t worry quite as much about new injuries, since I knew I’d be seeing my PT later that week. I spent all of 2015 leading up to peak week (or was it the week before peak week) worrying that I was suffering from various lower leg ailments but never to the point where I thought I actually needed medical attention. And then last year, I was completely fine the whole time, at least until I crossed the finish line of Chicago, when I was distinctly not fine, but who cared at that point anyway?

I don’t understand why I’m so, so worried about my training getting derailed this year. I’d chalk it up to the pressure of not being able to defer my entry to next year, but I wasn’t able to defer last year and I made it through with nary a injury-induced panic attack. I guess lately I feel like my baseline anxiety has been higher overall–like if my usual, day-to-day level of anxiousness is 2/10 on a scale of 0 (calm) to 10 (panic attack) I feel like these days I’m at more of a 5/10 or 6/10 baseline–so I imagine that probably predisposes me to some getting more anxious about other things, like running injures. I still wish I could just relax, though :/

Have you ever taken a boat ride on the Chicago River?
Who wants to start a pool as to when my tomatoes will finally turn red?
Right now my money is on “never,” but I suppose that’s because I’m turning into a tomato pessimist haha 😛

 

Thursday Things

1. I’m losing patience with my tomatoes.

tomatoplant

This monstrosity of a plant (do all tomato plants grow this big??) seems to have no problem growing wider and taller by the day, nor does it seem to have any problem producing blossoms, nor does it seem to have any problems turning those blossoms into tomatoes (I was up to 18 at my last count, but my last count was on Sunday, so I imagine I have more now). What it does seem to have problems with, however, is turning those tomatoes red.

greentomatoes

Admittedly, I’m probably not giving my plant a fair chance. The container clearly said 50 days to maturity when I bought it, and it will be 50 days since I planted on Sunday, so I guess hoping to be feasting on homegrown tomatoes right now is a bit premature. But what’s driving me up a wall is that my first tomatoes seemed to have stop growing in size–which, I assumed, meant they were ready to start ripening–but have not made even the slightest indication that they want to turn red, and I don’t know what to do to convince them that they should. Am I not feeding them enough? Is the weather wrong? Do I need to be pruning the plant? Has my luck simply run out?

I think my frustration is ultimately rooted in the classic expectation vs. reality dissonance. From the moment I put that plant in the ground, it started growing prolifically. It shot up like a weed, gave me blossoms in 17 days, and turned those first blossoms into tomatoes eight days later. I have now been waiting 22 days since the first tomatoes appeared for the tiniest bit of evidence that they will eventually turn red with nothing to show for it, which, compared to my previous 17 and then eight-day waiting periods, feels like a lifetime.

Google tells me it takes 20-30 days from blossoming for tomatoes to reach their full size (check), and then another 20-30 days after reaching full size for them to ripen. I haven’t noticed any additional size growth from my first tomatoes since July 20, which realistically means I probably can’t hope for ripening until Aug. 9 at the very earliest.

I also discovered a small aphid infestation last week, which was not a huge surprise (the leaf where I found them was full of holes), but also not something I wanted to see. I sprayed the plant with water, which seemed to solve the problem for the moment, though if some ladybugs want to show up and assist me in my aphid-destroying quest, I wouldn’t complain.

aphids

2. I moved last Tuesday, as my training recap on Monday implied, and all things considered, I thought it went pretty well.

movingboxes

Some miscommunication with my movers (they called to tell me they’d arrive at 7:40; I only heard the “40” and thought that meant “minutes from when I’m making this phone call, which is 8:10.”) led to a serious emotional breakdown when they arrived 30 minutes earlier than I was anticipating while I ran around my old apartment screaming obscenities and sobbing that, “I’m not ready!!!” over and over and over again while I threw a few remaining unpacked items into garbage bags, vacuumed my rug, and generally flailed around chaotically. I did calm down (only marginally) eventually, at which point the movers were invited in to start hauling away my things. It took them less than two hours to complete everything, and then I got to the real work of unpacking.

I don’t know what it was about unpacking during this move compared to other moves, but I felt like the whole process went WAY smoother than I’m used to. I had more space to spread out, which probably helped me not feel as overwhelmed as usual. I’m sure getting rid of so much stuff before I moved so that most of my remaining belongings were things I actually wanted helped as well. I still have some decorating odds and ends to take care of, but for the most part, the move is done. I finally started to feel normal again this past Tuesday, and while I’m sure the adjustment period isn’t completely over yet, I’m glad that I feel like I’m settling in.

3. And because I apparently think “go big or go home” should be applied to major life changes, I got a new job on Monday! I’m still with the same company and in the same (basically non-existent) department, but I’m now in a new role. Saying I got promoted feels like a bit of an overstatement, though I do have more ~power~ now, so maybe that’s the right term. The position is an entirely new one to the company–one that my old boss suggested we needed when he left, and one that I enthusiastically recommended to my new boss after my previous boss left. We have a system that I and several other people routinely need to use, but there was no one overseeing that system, which made it difficult to get things done because there was no point person. I found myself both constantly wondering who to ask to increase my permissions in the system (which became necessary after my first coworker left at the beginning of May) and constantly wondering who would take the lead on system-wide initiatives. Having enjoyed working in the system, I indicated interest to my new boss and, after nearly two months, finally officially became the system lead on Monday.

This is definitely a turn in my career path that I never anticipated, but I’m really excited for it. My previous role at the company, frankly, was completely unnecessary, and left me spending most of my time at work twiddling my thumbs until I could leave. I felt like my mind was rotting away, and I was counting down the days until my 401k became fully vested and I could get out. I’ve been functioning in this new role for a good two months or so at this point, even though my title didn’t change until Monday, and it’s been a night and day difference. I finally feel like it matters that I come to work, I’m finally appropriately challenged, and even though what I’m doing has nothing to do with my English degree whatsoever, I finally feel like I’ve found the ideal way to spending my working hours. Obviously I can’t predict what will happen over the next year and a half, but for the first time in a very long time, I can see myself staying with my company for many, many years. I knew I wasn’t happy in my old role, but it’s been remarkable to see just how big of a difference a change in leadership and responsibility has made in my overall work satisfaction. Hooray!

When are my tomatoes going to start turning red???
Who’s going to Lollapalooza this year? Obviously unrelated to my blog post, but since it’s the weekend, I figured I’d ask anyway. This is the first time in five years I won’t be there, and I’m kind of bummed…except I’m not bummed that I didn’t spend a ton of money to see bands I don’t want to see, so I guess it all evens out.

Goals for 2017: July Check-In

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
I can now cross the “at least” part off of this list as well. The same editor who asked me to write a piece in June reached out to me at the very beginning of July to see if I could do do another piece. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I got it done! It got published this month as well, so it definitely officially counts as a July accomplishment. I still haven’t put one iota of effort into getting anything into a publication other than the one with the editor I know, but maybe that will happen next month…or after marathon season…or, you know, eventually (read: never). My life has changed so dramatically and unexpectedly from the beginning of this year with half of my department quitting back in May that I really don’t have the free time I expected to have to devote to freelancing.

Goal #2: Get rid of 50 things
I’m in the neighborhood of 572 items at this point. I have a few other things that I got rid of while I was unpacking, but I haven’t written any of them down yet, so I’m saying they don’t count. Plus this way I’ll be able to (somewhat accurately) say I got rid of more stuff in August 😛 After that point, I’d be surprised if this number keeps climbing at its recent rate. I have to say, though, unpacking was SO much easier this time around than compared to previous moves. Part of it was probably having more space to spread out while unpacking, but I think knowing that, for the most part, the only items I had were ones I had already decided I wanted made life a lot simpler.

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
I finished Dutch in June, so now I’m just reviewing. It’s surprised me to see how much I remember from concepts I haven’t had to study in quite some time! I still don’t feel like I could speak Dutch in any capacity to a person who actually speaks the language, and I don’t really feel like I can read Dutch that well, either (a ringing endorsement for Duolingo, haha), but I guess I at least have a stronger grip on the language than I had before I started Duolingo, so that’s something.

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
Well, I’m not in PT at the moment, so that’s positive. I think I’d put myself in the “somewhat healthy” category after last week, but like I said in my training recap post, I don’t know if I’m actually on the road to getting injured or just projecting stress over a situation I could only kind of control (moving) onto a situation I feel I can control more (injury prevention by means of strength training, stretching, foam rolling, and resting). I guess this week will show which one it was! In terms of specifics:

– Strength train once per week, minimally, during running season: Check! (Mostly.) I didn’t strength train during the week of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but I also didn’t have it on my schedule to strength train that week, so I’m not losing sleep over it.
– Stretch after every run: I skipped stretching twice, but did stretch after the other 12 runs I did in July, so I consider that a success.
– Foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji rather than a full-blown foam roller: I skipped foam rolling twice this month as well, but, once again, that would mean I did foam roll 12 times.
– Do at least three PT exercises twice per week: According to my training log, there was one week where I only did PT exercises once, but I don’t think that’s particularly accurate. I write down when I do PT exercises after runs, but I usually try to do some PT before dance, and I do PT exercises during the day at work fairly regularly as well, so I’m guessing I did better at this than my training log suggests.

Thursday Things

1. As promised, my Opinions on this year’s Chicago Marathon corrals!

I, like, I presume, 45,000 other runners, got an email Friday morning letting me know that preliminary corral assignments were available online for this year’s Chicago Marathon. Hoping against all hope that I somehow conned the marathon into putting me in Corral G once again, I immediately went to the marathon’s website, entered my name, and saw…

Corral K.

K!! As in, the second to last corral in the entire race! I could not believe it. How dare the marathon put me so far back! The NERVE! Putting me in H last year was already a blow to my ego, but K! That seemed willfully cruel.

Rarely one to raise a stink over something without at least some sort of factual information to back up my outrage, I navigated over to the start corral section of the marathon’s website, which outlines who ends up where. This is what I saw:

2017corrals

The first thing I noticed was that the race has three waves this year instead of two, which means the poor suckers in Wave 3 (i.e.: me) are going to have to wait for-freaking-ever to start the race–like probably in the neighborhood of 8:30 for-freaking-ever, since historically, there has been a 30 minute gap between the start of Wave 1 and the start of Wave 2. I already don’t like how late Wave 2 starts, so the ideal of waiting to start until Wave 3 is not at all appealing, especially since the later you start, the later in the day you’re running, and the later in the day it gets, even in October, the warmer it gets, the less shady it gets, and the more intense the sun gets. I obviously understand why the slow runners like me have to wait to go last, but it really feels like we’re being kicked when we’re already down to put us in a position of having to run through, quite likely, the worst weather of the day when we were already going to be out there for five billion years anyway.

But I understand that that is my lot in life as a mediocre-at-best marathoner, so whatever. If it really upsets me that much, I should probably try a lot harder to be a faster runner so I don’t have to deal with running the final miles of a marathon after 12 p.m.

The second thing I noticed was that it was not actually all that absurd for me to be placed in Corral K. My perfect-case scenario for the marathon involves me running a 10:30 pace, which would put me solidly in Corral K. This seemed a bit bizarre to me, since Corral G has always been 10:30 territory, so I started looking up corral assignments for other people in my CARA group and found that we were all over the board. Some were in G like normal, but others were in J, K, or even L.

This, then, led me to take a closer look at the corral assignments, which became less and less explicable the more I studied them.

For comparison’s sake, here are the 2014, 2015, and 2016 corral assignments:

2014 (from here)

2014corrals

2015 (from here)

2015corrals

2016 (from here)

2016corrals

And in spreadsheet form, for easy side-by-side comparison:

corralsspreadsheet

 

I have several things to say regarding this:

Thing #1: What on earth was going on with Corral J for the past three years? Why was the estimated finish time for that corral 4:59-5:00? That’s a ONE MINUTE interval! Why does that even exist?!
Thing #2: What on EARTH is going on with Corral H this year? “3:45+”?! What does that even mean?? Is this a random catch-all corral for all the people in Wave 3 begging to get into earlier corrals (like me)? I certainly fall into the 3:45+ category, so technically, I could be in here.
Thing #3: WHAT ON EARTH is going on with Corral L?! 4:45-6:30?!?! That’s a GIGANTIC interval, especially when all the other intervals are 15 minutes at the most! To highlight the ridiculousness of this, please take a moment to analyze my race statistics from the past three years:

2014: 4:57, finishing 28,328th out of 40,659 finishers (69.6% of the field finished before me, meaning 30.4% of the field finished after me)
2015: 4:52, finishing 24,153rd out of 37,459 finishers (64.4% of the field finished before me, meaning 35.5% of the field finished after me)
2016: 5:07, finishing 29,864th out of 40,400 finishers (73.9% of the field finished before me, meaning 26.1% of the field finished after me)

Please note that all of these finishes fall into the 4:45+ category. Regardless of my time, there was, minimally, more than a quarter of the entire field behind me when I crossed the finish line, and sometimes up to more than one third of the entire field behind me when I crossed the finish line. This, of course, does not include anyone who ran a 4:45, but I think it’s safe to assume that a fair number of people crossed the finish line between 4:45-4:52/4:57/5:07. If the field turns out to be roughly the same this year in terms of speed, that means we can infer that at LEAST one third of the runners, based on this corral assignment breakdown, should end up in the last corral of the entire race. Sources in the know have suggested that the race may have a larger field this year than in years past (which I had wondered about when they opened race registration so early last year), BUT, assuming that there were 45,000 registrants for this year’s race like usual, that would mean 15,000 people should end up in Corral L, while the remaining 30,000 people would be divided among 11 corrals. Obviously it’s not safe to assume that there would be an equal number of people in these other 11 corrals (ADP, for example, will be much smaller), and I also know that the corrals aren’t all the same size (see p. 137 of the 2016 media guide for a Grant Park map, and, consequentially, a rough visual guide to the corral size differences) but if there were, that would mean roughly 2,727 people in each of those 11 corrals, while 15,000 people ended up in the final corral.

What. The. Hell.

If the previous 900 words didn’t make it perfectly clear, I think the corrals for this year are absolutely absurd, and while I have some pretty serious doubts about the likelihood of the race changing any of the corral standards at this point, I at least hope that the race smiles upon my slow soul and bumps me up to Corral H (or G. I wouldn’t complain about that either, even though, based on those standards, I have absolutely no business being in Corral G this year.). I’ve already emailed them pleading my case (along with, I’m sure, 15,000 other people), so we’ll see what happens when final assignments are posted on Aug. 22. I should note that several people in my running group also asked to be reassigned and already have been reassigned, which makes unspeakably anxious, since, as of last night, I was still languishing away in Corral K. *sobs*

2. I have a new dilemma, and, once again, I am soliciting your input.

I have run with a Polar M400 watch since May 1, 2014, and really haven’t had any complaints about it at all. As expected, its battery life has begun to dwindle. These days, I can usually expect the battery to last 3:30-4:00 per charge while running GPS. It could probably go longer than that, but once I get into the 4:00 range, I start to get nervous that the battery won’t last much longer based on the battery life icon. It hasn’t ever told me that the battery was low at this point, but I’ve been hesitant to push it, so I don’t know exactly how long it can last.

In an absolutely perfect world, I’d like to run a 4:35-4:45 marathon this year, which would be at the very upper limit of my watch’s normal battery life. I don’t know if running downtown, where the GPS constantly jumps around, affects this at all, but I’m also not particularly willing to find out the hard way. I’m not 100% confident that my watch could hold a charge for the entire race, and that’s not a risk I really want to take, so I’m in the market for a new watch (as I anticipated I would be around this time, based on how long I expect rechargeable devices to last).

My dilemma arises from the fact that Polar has discontinued the M400. It looks like I could still find a few on Amazon, but since I hope to get two to three years out of my next watch, I don’t want to invest in one that has already been discontinued (and likely will have fewer updates/support as a result of that discontinuation). Polar discontinued the M400 because they replaced it with an upgrade, the M430. I would buy the M430 without hesitation, except for one, gigantic dealbreaker: the watch doesn’t have audio alerts. It only has vibration alerts. (WHY.) I’m not opposed to audio and vibration alerts, or the ability to decide for yourself which you prefer, but I have run with a vibration-only watch in the past (an Adidas watch) and I did not like it at all. I constantly missed the vibrations, and since I almost always want to know when I’ve hit the next mile in my run, this was a huge annoyance for me – enough for me to stop wearing the watch altogether.

Both of Polar’s watches currently on the market only offer vibration alerts, so that’s off the table. I assume, then, this means returning to Garmin. I’m not opposed to returning to Garmin, but it frustrates me that I’m going to have to switch over to a completely different platform mid-season. This is a very small problem in the grand scheme of running data tracking, but I like having all of my statistics readily available on one website/device. Switching over to Garmin would mean having to log on to two different websites to have my entire year’s data. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but it also isn’t ideal, in my opinion.

I’m also struggling to find a watch that doesn’t offer optical HR monitoring. I’m not anti-optical HR monitoring, but since I already have a FitBit that does that, I really don’t need or want a watch that can function as an activity tracker. Again, not a dealbreaker, but it’s a costly perk that I don’t particularly want.

Here are the things I do want in a watch:

  • Audio alerts
  • Quick-connecting GPS
  • The ability to set up an interval timer on the watch
  • A display that shows me my overall time, overall distance, and either current pace or lap pace (I honestly don’t know what my Polar shows me – something you’d think I would’ve worked to find out by now, haha) all at once
  • The ability to automatically and manually lap the watch
  • An easy way to sync the watch, ideally one that doesn’t require finagling with the cord connecting the watch to your computer five billion times until it finally decides it can sync.

That’s it. I don’t need any particularly fancy bells and whistles, because even when I’ve had them, I’ve never used them.

I think I’m gravitating towards the Forerunner 35, since it seems to do most of those things without too many additional features. It is a bit pricey, though, especially compared to what I expected I’d need to pay for a new M400. Therefore, if anyone has experience with the Forerunner 35, or knows of another watch that will do what I want for less than $200, please feel free to let me know!

3. I’ve seen so much live music over the past few weeks! I saw Queen and Adam Lambert at the United Center two weeks ago, went to a concert in Millennium Park last Wednesday, and saw Paul McCartney at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park on Tuesday.

paulmccartney

To my great surprise, my favorite concert of all of these was Queen. I didn’t expect to dislike Queen, but I was blown away by Adam Lambert. I suppose as a diehard American Idol fan from 2002-2009, it shouldn’t be that surprising that I geeked out over seeing a former American Idol contestant live and in the flesh. He was such an incredible performer, and his voice was just incredible.

queenandadamlambert

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the other concerts, though. Enjoying a show in Millennium Park is one of my favorite summer activities in Chicago, and seeing Paul McCartney, of course, was also amazing. The venue, though…*shudders*. Getting to Tinley Park isn’t the easiest task in the world, but that was NOTHING compared to trying to get out of that ridiculous parking lot. Let me tell you, that situation is the best argument for why regulation is a good thing. It was complete chaos and took an hour to get out of the lot. An hour! At that time of day, it shouldn’t even take an hour to get all the way HOME from Tinley Park! It was enough to make me never want to go to a show there ever again, no matter who’s playing.

(Though the Paul McCartney show, to be fair, was awesome.)

Have you seen any shows lately?
Any running watch input?

Thursday Things

1. I’m officially less than one week away from moving and I. Am. Stressed.

I have never found moving to be a relaxing occasion, so I can’t say I’m particularly surprised. In fact, when I planned my move this year, I took two days off work from the get-go: one for moving day itself (since I prefer to move on weekdays, when movers are easier to book and parking tends to be simpler), and one for decompressing the day after. I fully expect to cry at some point on moving day, because I can only recall a couple of moving days that didn’t involve stress-induced tears.

I’m not nearly as ahead of the packing game as I wish I were, but since I have very few plans for this weekend aside from packing (and even took a half day tomorrow to buy myself some more time), I think I’ll probably be okay in that department, at least eventually. My unrestrained purging has definitely helped make packing easier than sometimes. I’m more stressed out thinking about unpacking, which I find to be infinitely worse than packing. I obviously have space in my new apartment for my things, and I have a vague idea of where those things will go, but I know full well from every past moving experience that I’m going to get into my new apartment and become paralyzed by overwhelm at the amount of stuff I have and the number of places where I could put said stuff. (This is likely where the stress-crying will happen.)

I’m also stressed about my new living situation in general, not because I anticipate that it will be a bad situation, but because the circumstances are so different from past moves. I moved in college out of necessity–the school year ended, or my semester in Chicago ended, and I needed to move out of my housing–and really, when I moved from my first apartment in Chicago to my current apartment, that was out of necessity, too. I didn’t feel safe in the building, particularly after we woke up one morning to an inexplicably smoking oven, and I really, really could not tolerate living with one of my roommates anymore. That’s not entirely the case this time. It sort of is–my landlord has decided to sell the condo because the condo association wouldn’t allow him to rent the unit again–but I had made my decision to move well before my landlord decided to divest himself of the place. My new living situation makes a lot more sense that my current living situation from a variety of standpoints–lifestyle, financial, commuting–but I’m sad to leave my current apartment and neighborhood behind. I really like my current apartment, and I really like my current neighborhood, and I’m not chomping at the bit to get out like I was when I moved three years ago. That, also, is part of it: I’ve lived in this apartment for (almost) three years (it’ll be a couple weeks short of three full years, but close enough). Aside from my childhood home, I’ve never lived anywhere for that long, and I’ve certainly become attached to my current address.

It’s bittersweet, I suppose. I’m excited for the change, but also nervous about the change. I’m looking forward to having my housing make sense for my life, but I’m also having a hard time wrapping my mind around no longer having the current arrangement I’m used to. I’d really like to fast-forward six months or so, after my new situation is no longer new, and skip the adjustment period entirely. But life doesn’t work that way, as much as I wish it did, so I’ll have to push through it and get to the other side.

After I finish packing, that is.

2. After ranting last week about the inconsiderateness of my coworkers for scheduling a team outing in a location nearly impossible for me to get to by public transportation, I 1) was informed by my boss that I could expense the trip out there, thus making an Uber infinitely more appealing and viable and 2) ended up having a great time!

We went to Top Golf, which, I will admit, I was not particularly thrilled about. I had never touched a golf club outside of a putt-putt setting, so the idea of spending my afternoon at a gamified driving range did not sound like a good time. As it turned out, most of my coworkers weren’t golfers, either, so we were all in this discovering-which-club-to-use-for-which-purpose boat together.

topgolf

I’ve never been to a real driving range, so I can’t compare Top Golf to the actual thing, but at Top Golf, there are several areas out on the range, each designed more or less like a target. Your goal is to hit the your golf balls (registered to you via a microchip inside the ball) into the areas of the targets with the highest point values to rack up the highest score and win the game. While I certainly did not excel at that aspect of Top Golf (I routinely hit my golf balls into three point areas, which was the lowest point areas on the range, if I got them into the target at all), I was quite excited to discover that I could at least hit a golf ball a decent distance (by my standards, that is), and I ended up having a lot of fun. It certainly beat being at the office on a Friday afternoon during the summer, and it seemed like everyone–including me–really enjoyed themselves. Team outing success!

3. Some updates from my pride and joy, aka my garden:

Update #1: I HAVE TOMATOES!!!!!

firsttomatoes

I discovered these little guys for the first time last Wednesday, and I could’ve cried for joy, I was so excited. I also had a third tomato pop up sometime between Sunday morning and Tuesday morning. These ones pictured have swelled up a bit more since Wednesday, as one would expect them to do, but they’ve still got a ways to go until they’re edible. I did some research on my particular plant later last week and learned that some people have had one of these plants produce 300 tomatoes. If that’s the case, everyone I know is getting homemade tomato sauce and salsa for Christmas, whether they want it or not. But right now I only have two and they aren’t even ripe, so let’s not put the cart before the horse. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, I’m definitely still not out of the woods in terms of Things That Could Destroy My Tomato Crop (bugs and disease, primarily), so I’m definitely keeping all of my optimism very, very cautious for now. Regardless, it’s still exciting to see progress.

Update #2: I no longer have dill.

So, this is quite the story. I went to check on my plants over the weekend, and I noticed that the bathtub looked emptier than usual. It didn’t take much studying to realize a decent number of my wildflowers had disappeared. I looked around for evidence that a creature had dug them up, but I didn’t see anything: no scraps on the ground, no paw prints, etc. While looking around, I also discovered that my dill plant had been completely torn up from the ground and had also disappeared.

Now, my dill, like my other herbs, had grown quite prolifically, and while I was starting to worry that everyone was going to get tomato sauce, salsa, and pickles from me for Christmas, I certainly didn’t want my abundance of dill to be remedied by the disappearance of my plant in its entirety.

I started to suspect my plants had been uprooted on purpose, and cautiously made my way over to a trashcan that sits in the courtyard. I looked inside, and sure enough: there was my dill, along with a bunch of other greenery.

Because I am far too emotionally invested in my garden (this has been an ongoing problem for me in my gardening life, haha), I immediately burst into tears. While I was partially upset at the cruel and unusual murder of my dill, I was even more upset at that idea that someone intentionally did this. Raccoons, squirrels, rats, or other vermin don’t dig up dill plants and put them in trashcans. This was obviously the work of a human, and I was so hurt by the fact that someone could be so willfully mean to me, especially since I really didn’t care at all if the neighbors helped themselves to some of the herbs growing in the garden.

I put on my gardening gloves and fished the biggest dill plant out of the trash. It still had some of its roots attached, so I attempted to replant it, though it has yet to be seen if the plant will survive such trauma (I’m not holding my breath). As I did this, I noticed that some of the other greenery in the trash looked a lot like the weeds that had been growing in the cracks between the pavement in the courtyard where my garden grows. All of a sudden, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. I know for a fact that my (future) landlord was in the courtyard that morning. Looking around the courtyard, it was obvious that he had done some work: weeding in the pavement cracks, rearranging some of the things he has in the area, etc. These efforts to tidy up the area, I concluded, led him to my garden, where he likely recognized the tomato, the basil, and the oregano as things I meant to have in that space. In not recognizing the dill or the wildflowers (the ones that disappeared did have a somewhat dill-like appearance, in that they had short, thin leaves like the dill), he assumed these were all weeds, and, in an effort to be kind, thoughtful and helpful, pulled them up and threw them away. He was, after all, the person who suggested I use the bathtub for gardening in the first place AND the person who, without me asking or even suggesting it in the slightest, took it upon himself to completely clean out all the weeds and overgrowth that had accumulated in the tub since it was last used for gardening purposes so that I’d have a clean area in which to plant, so I can’t imagine he intended to be mean or in any way harmful when he accidentally pulled up plants I was, in fact, trying to grow.

I haven’t addressed this with my future landlord, partially because I don’t have the heart to (I mean, how can you yell at someone who’s just trying to be nice and helpful?), partially because I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with him, and partially because if he had to pull any plant out of my garden, my dill would’ve been the first choice, since I’m not worried about finding ways to use oregano or basil, but I definitely had concerns about how I would use how much dill I had grown. But if I plant in the tub again next year, I think I’ll put some cutesy garden labels in with all my plants to hopefully avoid a repeat of this in the future.

Have you ever been golfing? Or to a driving range?
Any tips on how to make a move less stressful?

 

Thursday Things

1. To my great surprise, I had the chance to continue my exploration of the CTA’s Historic Fleet earlier this week with buses!

ctahistoricfleetbuses-1

The historic bus display hadn’t been even half as publicized as the historic train trips around the Loop, but I happened to see a post from the CTA about it on Twitter, so off I went.

ctahistoricfleetbuses-4

The buses obviously aren’t quite as historic as the train I saw in June, but it was still cool to get on them and see how things have changed. I found the seats particularly interesting, since they seemed to be the same sort of seats you find on school buses (at least, the buses smelled like school buses, so I assume the seat coverings are similar). Nowadays, the seats on CTA buses are a lot nicer! But we don’t have decorative mid-century stars on the walls anymore, either, so I guess you win some and lose some.

ctahistoricfleetbuses-3

I appreciate the CTA’s commitment to preserving part of its history via the Historic Fleet, and I even more appreciate the agency allowing nerds like me to see the fleet first hand. Buses and trains seem like such uninteresting, basic things, but seeing the historic vehicles really helps you see how much transportation has evolved in a relatively short period of time. It gives you a much greater appreciation for the technology we have now when you can actually see the development that’s taken place. Or at least, it makes me appreciate the buses and trains we have now a lot more.

ctahistoricfleetbuses-2

2. On Friday, my “team” at work (by which I mean everyone else who reports to my boss and me, since I no longer have a team) is having its (first, to my knowledge) annual summer outing. I got talked into being on the planning committee for these outings, which consists of me and four other people who all live in the suburbs and work in my company’s suburban office. When we first started tossing around ideas, I had one request: that wherever we pick be easily accessible by public transportation because I, not having a car, am highly dependent upon pubic transportation to get from Point A to Point B.

Unfortunately, my suburban counterparts do not understand the plight of the urban dweller, and, despite my (extremely small, barely made) protestations, have scheduled our event to take place in WOOD DALE. While Wood Dale is, indeed, accessible via Metra train, the only area particularly accessible via Metra train is the area within the immediate vicinity of said Metra train stop. Our event is nearly three miles from that train stop, with nary a non-rush hour bus to take a person from the stop to, well, anywhere else, it seems. When you tell Google you want to get from my office location to our event (which starts at 1 p.m.), it gives you the option of arriving at 9 a.m. or 4 p.m., but no other time in between. NOT HELPFUL.

The whole thing just irks me. I mean, the event sounds fun, and only having to be in the office for a half day also sounds fun, but I feel like suburbanites just do not understand what it’s like to live without a car. I get that it’s an inconvenience for all of them to come into the city, and since less than a quarter of those attending the event live in the city, I understand why it’s more fair to make the Chicagoans go to the ‘burbs than it is to make the suburbanites come into the city. But getting to this event isn’t just an inconvenience for me. It’s an impossibility. Using my typical mode of transportation, I literally cannot get to the party, and I really get the impression that this is incomprehensible to people whose day-to-day existence involves going to their garage, driving to where they need to go, parking in a lot, doing whatever it is they need to do at their destination, and then repeating the process in reverse.

What I initially expected to be an annoyance over my coworkers’ lack of empathy for my transportation situation quickly spiraled into outrage at the entire American way of living (you know, as one’s outrage does). Well, maybe not the entire American way of living, but the American way of living that worships the almighty motor vehicle. To be sure, cars are incredibly convenient ways of traveling, but I wish we viewed cars as more of an “as-needed” supplemental vehicle rather than a go-to vehicle (like the way I view the bus when it comes to the CTA. I’ll take a bus if it’s the only logical way to get somewhere, but if I have the option of taking a train, I will absolutely take the train every time). Think of how much better public transportation could be if governments could spend more infrastructure money expanding and enhancing train lines or bus routes instead of overhauling highways! Think of how much cleaner the air could be if we substantially reduced the number of people driving! Think of how much safer, and thus, how much more attractive of an option, it would be if roads were built from a bike-first perspective, catering to the needs of cyclists first and drivers second! Think of how much more time we could spend being active rather than sedentary if everyone lived within walking, running, or biking distance of their office, even in the suburbs!

Obviously, these are all pipe dreams. I’m under no impression that the car-first lifestyle is going anywhere, particularly outside of the confines of a major city where public transportation is a viable option. But one can dream!

3. AccuWeather is taking my emotions for a ride, and I do not appreciate it. I’m running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on Sunday, and I knew when I signed up for the race that the weather would likely be terrible. I fully expected the weather to be just as bad as it was in Nashville, although this time, being that this race is in mid-July, not late April, I planned on heat and humidity and have experienced it plenty of times over the past month and a half or so.

I know looking the forecast for a race as soon as it starts showing up on AccuWeather is useless, because anything more than 24-48 hours out is a guess at best, and will likely change several times before the day arrives. Nevertheless, I’ve kept an eye on the forecast for Sunday, and it has been ALL over the place. On Monday, they said a high of 77 and “delightful.” On Tuesday, they said a high of 84 and humid. On Wednesday at 7:45 a.m., they said a high in the 70s with a morning thunderstorm in the area (perfect), but by 9:15 a.m. that same day, had changed their tune to a high of 76 and “Not as warm with some sun.” What the heck, AccuWeather?? Pick a story and stick with it, darn it!

So who knows what will happen on Sunday. I’m just out there to get in a long run anyway, so I’ll take whatever I can get.

Who else is running Rock ‘n’ Roll on Sunday?