Thursday Things

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

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

*sighs forever*

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

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

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

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

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

*explodes*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Open House Chicago 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Things

Marathon edition!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*dies*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s running on Sunday?

 

 

Goals for 2017: September Check-In

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
I…have done absolutely nothing in this regard all month. I…also literally copied and pasted that from last month’s check-in. High five for laziness, both in regards to freelancing AND in regards to writing this post.

Goal #2: Get rid of 50 things
After almost exactly two full months of having bags of things I decided post-move I no longer needed sitting around my apartment, I finally did something about it two Saturdays ago and went on a monster donating/recycling spree, first getting rid of ALL OF THE ELECTRONICS (well, all of the olds ones I no longer use, that is) and then getting rid of ALL OF THE REST OF THE THINGS at Goodwill. Current total for the year: 589 things. Yes, it does kill me that I’m at 589, not 590 or, even better, 600, thank you for checking on my Type A tendencies. Even though I feel like I’ve gotten rid of everything I could possibly get rid of, I would be THRILLED if I could find 11 more items to get rid of just to round this out.

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
I hit my one-year streak!

duolingooneyear

Woohoo!

I have recently discovered that conjugations are the death of me when it comes to Dutch. I have to review them all. the. time., and I still haven’t really figured out the rhyme or reason to how they’re used in Dutch. (I mean, they’re used for the same purposes as they are in English, obviously, but I haven’t figured out the rules that dictate where they’re supposed to go in a sentence.) I also recently discovered, while looking up a bakery a friend who recently visited the Netherlands posted about on Facebook, that my Dutch reading skills in a non-Duolingo setting are dismal at best. I had barely any idea what the website was trying to say until I translated it to English. I did, however, learn that “cookie monster” translates to “koekliefhebber” in Dutch, so it at least it wasn’t a complete waste of my time 😛

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
Done and done, thus far *knocks on wood* As for the other stuff…well…

– Strength train once per week, minimally, during running season: I kind of did strength training during one NTC workout during the month of September. Fail.
– Stretch after every run: I only skipped stretching once all month! What! I was sure I had skipped it more than that. I know I haven’t been quite as good about doing SPF in its entirety after runs lately, but I guess I’ve done a fairly good job at stretching in September. Good job, self.
– Foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji rather than a full-blown foam roller: Nope. I
– Do at least three PT exercises twice per week: I’m pretty sure I did this? I would think, between doing PT after runs and the little bits I try to sneak in during the workday, that I must’ve gotten in an average of three PT exercises twice per week. Even if I didn’t, I’m going to let myself believe that I did 😛

Thursday Things

1. Since I saw no fewer than three anxious posts about the forecast for marathon day on social media on Monday, I would like to offer up an annual reminder that weather forecasts attempting to predict what wrath the atmosphere may or may not unleash on us are rarely accurate beyond the next 48 hours and are not worth the angst they create.

If you could get certified in worrying, I assure you that I would have the highest level of certification possible. I worry about everything. I worry about work. I worry about my health. I worry about other people’s health. I worry about my safety. I worry about other people’s safety. I exists in a constant state of, at best, low level anxiety. I am very, very good at worrying. But even I don’t worry about the forecast for marathon day (anymore) two weeks in advance, because, after years of tracking the forecast for marathon day to prove how useless of an exercise that was, I have enough data to even convince me–ME! A girl for whom no amount of data or facts can assuage her anxiety that bad things will happen–that the forecast is not worth worrying about.

Exhibit A: 2014.
In order to prove my point, I started tracking the forecast for marathon day in 2014 (Oct. 12) the day it became possible to do so in AccuWeather. I wrote down the date I read the forecast, the forecast’s prediction, and, closer to the race, which forecast I used (AccuWeather, Weather Underground [Wunder], Weather.com, WGN, and NBC Chicago.). Behold:

Aug. 31 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 1 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 2 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 3 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 4 — A chance of rain. 58/45.
Sept. 5 — Mostly cloudy, a little rain. 58/45.
Sept. 6 — Mostly cloudy, a little rain. 58/45.
Sept. 8 — Clouds and sun. 56/38.
Sept. 9 — An a.m. shower; partly sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 10 — An a.m. shower; party sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 11 — An a.m. shower; party sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 12 — Cloudy with a little rain. 56/40.
Sept. 13 — Cloudy with a little rain. 56/40.
Sept. 14 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 15 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 16 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 17 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 18 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 19 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 20 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 21 — Mostly cloudy. 62/48.
Sept. 22 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 23 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 24 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 25 — Clouds giving way to sun. 62/46.
Sept. 26 — Clouds giving way to some sun. 62/46.
Sept. 27 — Clouds giving way to some sun. 62/46.
Sept. 28 — Mostly cloudy. 62/48.
Sept. 29 — Sunny. 71/43.
Sept. 30 — Sunny. 72/50.
Oct. 1 — Mostly sunny. 60/37.
Oct. 2 — A little rain in the morning. 61/44.
Oct. 3 — Partly sunny with a shower. 66/52.
Oct. 4 — Cloudy with a few showers. 70/51.
Oct. 5 — Heavy showers in the morning. 64/46.
Oct. 6 — Rain tapering to showers. 67/56.
Oct. 7 — Partly sunny with a t-storm. 72/54. (Accu)
Chance of rain. 68/57. (Wunder)
Scattered t-storms. 70/52. (Weather)
Clouds part following an overnight frontal passage. 67/52. (WGN)
Scattered t-storms 70/52. (NBC)
Oct. 8 — A thunderstorm possible. 69/55. (Accu)
Partly cloudy. 68/54. (Wunder)
Isolated t-storms. 68/52. (Weather)
Cloudy w/ a few pds of showers/t-storms possible for CM 70/50. (WGN)
Isolated t-storms 68/52. (NBC)
Oct. 9 — A morning shower possible. 68/55. (Accu)
Partly cloudy. 66/48 (Wunder)
Few showers. 67/50 (Weather)
Turning cooler with steady easterly wind. 66/48 (WGN)
Few showers. 67/50 (NBC)
Oct. 10 — Partly sunny. 68/55 (Accu)
Clear. 64/52 (Wunder)
Partly cloudy. 66/46 (Weather)
Lingering clouds and possible showers exit area early. 67/49 (WGN)
Partly cloudy. 66/46 (NBC)
Oct. 11 — Partly sunny. 65/52 (Accu)
Clear. 64/50 (Wunder)
Sunny. 67/46 (Weather)
Becoming mostly sunny. 66/45 (WGN)
Sunny. 67/46 (NBC)
Oct. 12 — Partly sunny. 65/51 (Accu)
Clear. 63/52 (Wunder)
Sunny. 66/46 (Weather)
Pleasant for mid-October. 67/46 (WGN)
Sunny. 66/46 (NBC)

Please note that a mere five days before the race, every outlet was predicting thunderstorms. Did it storm on race day in 2014? No, it did not. It was sunny that day, and, according to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Media Guide’s Historical Weather Conditions section, there was a high of 64 and a low of 45. Weather Underground came the closest to getting that right, and when did they get it right? 72 hours before the race. This is not an anomaly, either. The same thing happened in 2013 (please see this blog post, and then this blog post, for evidence), and for all I know it could’ve happened in 2015 and 2016 as well – I’ve stopped paying attention.

Exhibit B: My complaints about the heat wave.

As you may recall, I posted this screenshot last week, complaining about the weather:

forecast

I would now like to present you with another screenshot of AccuWeather’s forecast, taken a week later:

forecast

There are a few things I’d really like to draw your attention to here.

Thing #1: Tuesday. As you can tell, the high on Tuesday most certainly was not 79 degrees, even though they said it would be less than a week before.

Thing #2: Wednesday through Monday. While the details (sunny and hot) were all correct, the predicted high temperatures themselves were off by anywhere from four to seven degrees. These are temperature differentials marathoners will absolutely split hairs over, so this is not insignificant.

Thing #3: Friday 9/29 and Saturday 9/30’s details. While the predicted high for both of these days has gone up, rain has been taken out of the forecast entirely. This is something else marathoners split hairs over, so once again, not insignificant.

I think people forget how much the forecast changes from day to day–do you remember the specifics of what kind of weather was predicted for today this time last week? Because without that screenshot, I sure wouldn’t–and this lack of knowledge, combined with taper crazies, leads to panic. So I am here, fellow marathoners, to assure you as a professional worrier, that you do not need to worry about the forecast for race day. (Yet. If the forecast is bad on the Thursday before the race, then you–and I–can definitely start worrying.) Although, I will offer up another friendly reminder: you can control so many things on race day. You can control your pace, your hydration, your nutrition, where you decide to run on the road, your clothes, your accessories, your aid station strategy, how many selfies you take per mile. You can’t control the weather, no matter how much you worry about it, so instead of losing the precious hours of sleep you need leading up to race day tossing and turning and refreshing your forecasting app of choice, figure out how you’ll need to adjust your race plan in light of the forecast, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you were never going to win this race anyway, and even if you had huge goals (a BQ, an enormous PR, etc.) that the weather may sabotage, your life will go on. Your family will not love you less if you don’t BQ. Your training partners will not abandon you if you don’t run your fastest time ever. Your nonexistent sponsors will not snatch your livelihood away from you if you don’t have the race you wanted to have. It’s one long run on one long run day. You will be okay if it doesn’t go the way you envisioned when you signed up.

I would also like to take one moment to point out that we had seven consecutive days where the high broke 90 degrees. I would be exceedingly okay with never experiencing something like that, particularly in late September, ever again.

2. Since I already touched on the topic of taper crazies: guys. I do not feel ready for the marathon. Not even a little bit. This is the first year that I’ve gotten to taper and instead of feeling immediate relief that I could finally cut back on my mileage, instead felt instant and unrelenting panic over how little time I had left, and how none of that time really counts as training. Taking off almost the entirety of the week before Labor Day killed me. I’ve missed so. many. miles. this season: 47, which, when you consider that I’ve been averaging 20 miles/week, is nearly two and a half weeks of training. Two and a half weeks out of an 18 week program that’s really 15 weeks + three weeks of taper. Two and a half weeks out of an 18 week program whose 15 weeks of “real training” start with seven weeks of fairly low mileage–all of which I completed just fine, of course–leaving just eight weeks for hard training, of which I missed a QUARTER. I have been a very bad runner and added miles during taper (I KNOW, I KNOW. But I only added two last week and two this week, none next week, and I only added them to my mid-week long runs, and my midweek mileage was STILL lower than CARA’s training program AND Hal Higdon called for on those same weeks anyway, so just…leave me alone. Haha.), which kind of makes me feel better, but also makes me feel worse because now I’m worried that I’m screwing up my taper. I just really, really wish I had more time.

3. When my tomato plant started ripening the tomatoes it had produced back at the beginning of August, it also stopped blossoming. I had at least a dozen blossoms on my plant when my first tomato began to turn red, but all of them shriveled up without turning into fruit. That was fine by me–I had 42 tomatoes on the plant at the time, which seemed plenty sufficient for my tomato-consumption needs.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I went outside to pick the most recently ripened tomatoes last Thursday and discovered several tiny baby tomatoes AND new blossoms.

I don’t know if this was brought on by the heat wave or if tomato plants normally get a second wind towards the end of the season. Either way, I now have more tomatoes than I originally anticipated (and will no longer have an accurate count of how many tomatoes my plant produced as a result, since I don’t know how many I’ve picked/eaten at this point). I’m pretty surprised that a plant that looks half dead managed to pull off such a feat, but I’m not complaining.

Speaking of my tomato plant, I am kind of eagerly awaiting its demise (don’t tell it I said that), because after I pull it up, I plan to plant tulip and daffodil bulbs in the bathtub for next spring. It needs to get a lot colder before I can plant any bulbs, but that hasn’t kept me from daydreaming about what I want my tulip and daffodil garden to look like. Since my Netherlands trip has, once again, been delayed by a year–but mark my word: I don’t care who’s getting married in April of 2019, I am not. going. No one’s wedding will derail my thrice-rescheduled Netherlands trip!–planting tulips in my own backyard seems like the best way to get my tulip fix.

Please, shower me in your stories of being undertrained for a marathon and having the race of your life. I need all the encouragement I can get.

Thursday Things

1. Of all the extra benefits my company gives its employees (extra, by my definition, being the things that go beyond your basic health/dental/401k benefits), I’d have to say my favorite one is that you can take your birthday off without it counting against your annual PTO allotment. (If your birthday falls on a weekend, you can take the day before or after your birthday off instead.) I like not working on my birthday just in general, but with the way marathon training timing has worked out for the past two years, I’ve especially liked not having to go to work the day after a marathon (last year) or the day after the most miserable 20 miler ever (this year).

For the second year in a row, the Shedd Aquarium was free for Illinois residents on my birthday day off (last year it was free on Sept. 19, the day after my birthday, but since my birthday was on Sunday last year, I took Monday off.), so I went to visit the penguins to kick off 27.

sheddpenguin1

The Shedd’s penguins are all molting (I expected that would be the case, since they were all molting when I went this time last year), which means they’re grumpy and fairly uninterested in anything other than their own discomfort, so they mostly just stood around and picked at their itchy feathers. But they were still super adorable! I officially turned 27 while watching them, and I have to say that that beat officially turning 26 while I was on mile 21 or so of the Fox Valley Marathon last year. Though, considering my affinity for penguins and my affinity for torturing myself by running long distances, I guess both ways were appropriate.

sheddpenguin2

I happened to time my visit to the belugas and otters perfectly, and got to see their trainers working with them.

sheddbeluga2017

I love the belugas so much. Two of my friends recently got engaged via the Shedd’s Beluga Encounter, which I thought was the coolest thing EVER. Anyone can do a Beluga Encounter at the Shedd (if you’re willing to drop some $$$. They’re not cheap.), but if you schedule a proposal Beluga Encounter, not only do you get to meet the belugas and have them do some tricks for you, but their final trick is to bring you a waterproof box that contains an engagement ring. *dies* You can also propose during a Penguin Encounter at the Shedd, though frankly, I’m not sure which one is more adorable, since both animals are unspeakably cute.

Anyway.

I knew belugas could do fun little tricks (I particularly enjoyed their dancing), but I had no idea you could train otters! The trainer could get them all to line up in a little row, but my favorite trick was when they would twirl around in a circle! It was the cutest thing.

sheddotter2017

I also went to visit the pretty fishies, which I thought I had never done before until I got downstairs to the Wild Reef exhibit and thought it looked familiar, so I guess I have?

sheddwildreef1

While in the Wild Reef, I found Dory:

sheddwildreef2

I didn’t quite find Nemo, because I don’t think there are any Nemos in the Wild Reef exhibit (or if there are, I didn’t see them), but I did find an anemonefish, which is a type of clownfish, so close enough.

sheddwildreef3

I brought my SLR to the Shedd and was super impressed with how well it handled the low light conditions! I didn’t think I’d get any good photos of anything with how much the animals move, but I was quite happy with how most of my pictures turned out.

2. When I went to the Shedd for free last year, it wasn’t totally free. I had to pay extra to see the penguins (a price I was MORE than willing to pay), and I would’ve had to pay extra extra to see an aquatic presentation, if I remember correctly. Not so this year! I only had to pay extra if I wanted to do one of the 4D shows (which I didn’t), and since I arrived about 30 minutes before an aquatic presentation, I got to see one of those!

shedddolphins

I expected the presentation to be all dolphin tricks, but it turned out to be more about Shedd’s rescuing, rehabilitation, and training missions. I thought it was really interesting! They had the dolphins do some tricks, then brought out a sea lion who had been shot in the face as a pup and as a result is blind (*sobs forever*). They had trained him to do things like wave hello, which was crushingly adorable. Then the dolphins did some more cool things, and after that they brought out a DOG! I was not aware that the Shedd rescues and rehabilitates dogs, but apparently they have four of them. Peach was a total cutie!

shedddog

The whole point of bringing out Peach was to show that the same training methods that work on dogs also work on dolphins, so there was a demonstration where Peach’s trainer would have her do a trick (like shaking, as pictured above), and then a dolphin trainer would have a dolphin do a similar trick. The Shedd trains via positive reinforcement (so no “Bad *insert-animal-name-here*!” or saying no), which I thought was really great.

After the show, another trainer brought out a red-tailed hawk! I have to say, I did not at all expect the Shedd Aquarium to be a rescuer to dogs and hawk, but I certainly didn’t mind it!

sheddhawk1

This red-tailed hawk doesn’t have a left eye, so it can’t survive in the wild, since hawks rely so heavily on their powerful vision to find prey and eat.

sheddhawk2

So instead, it lives at the Shedd.

I guess I can’t really speak to how the Shedd treats its animals, since obviously a show like this is meant to give you a good impression of the aquarium, but it definitely seemed like they care a lot about the health, well-being, and stimulation of the animals in their care.

3. I know there is no task so fruitless as complaining about the weather, but you guys, WHAT is going on with the weather.

forecast

I am beyond not okay with this. It’s September! LATE September! Why are we going to have six consecutive days where it’s pushing 90 in September?!? Granted, I’d be annoyed by six consecutive days where it’s pushing 90 in July or August, but I especially hate it this time of year! I’m going to be running in worse weather during the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday than I ran in during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in July. That’s not how this is supposed to work! The two hottest long runs of marathon season are going to be the 20 miler and the first long run of taper. WHY.

I also know the only thing less useful than complaining about the weather is worrying about the weather, but I’d be lying if I said this unrelenting, unseasonable weather wasn’t making me antsy about the weather on marathon day. Obviously the weather can change dramatically between now and two and a half weeks from now–two weeks ago, the high was 67–but man, I would just feel so much better if it could start being seasonable outside.

Have you ever been to the Shedd Aquarium?
Did you do anything fun for your most recent birthday?