Thursday Things

1. In the ongoing saga of Bethany vs. wearables, I would like to submit my latest grievance: my Fitbit.

I started taking walks at lunchtime over a year ago (and really cannot recommend the practice enough as a way to decompress during the workday, get in a small amount of movement, and remind yourself that daylight does indeed exist during the winter – but the enjoyment I get out of lunchtime walks is another discussion for another day.), and because they usually last 20 minutes or so, Fitbit counts them as exercise. Probably about a month ago now, I started noticing strange and, honestly, quite concerning spikes in my heart rate once or twice a week during these lunchtime walks (according to Fitbit). I’d be cruising along at somewhere in the 110-130 range–exactly what I’d expect on a brisk walk–when out of nowhere, my Fitbit stats would show that my heart rate jumped to more like 175. The first time it happened, I assumed it was a fluke. Then it continued happening, though, and I began to worry that something was wrong with my heart.

It just didn’t add up, though. While walking, I never felt anything to indicate a dramatic change in heart rate. I never felt winded, fatigued, lightheaded or the sensation of my heart pounding in my chest. Additionaly, I never noticed anything remotely similar during my “real” exercise. My heart rate was in its usual 160-180 range during all of my runs, and in its usual 140-160 range during any other form of exercise. Any spikes I’d notice from those always correlated to increased effort (a hard hill on the stationary bike, for example, or a burst of mountain climbers in a circuit workout). I reset my Fitbit, and all of a sudden my heart rate graphs were back to normal on my walks…until, once again, they weren’t.

I started digging a little more into the data and realized something else didn’t match up, either. Even though the exercise log for my walk would show a huge heart rate spike, I never saw any indication of that on my all-day heart rate graph at lunchtime, even though workouts later in the day would get that high (when relevant).

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See? It doesn’t come anywhere close to 180 around noon.

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This one wasn’t a lunchtime walk, but a Saturday trip to go Christmas shopping. But again, do you see the all day graph indicating anything close to 178 bpm at about 1 p.m.? Because I sure don’t.

So then, I started checking in on my Fitbit during my walks to see what kind of heart rate it noticed. Finally last week, I happened to catch it when it thought my heart was going into overdrive at 178 bpm. I then searched for my pulse to see if I could feel that my heart rate was that high, and I could barely feel my pulse at all. I went for a run later that day, and, since I knew my heart rate was definitely in the 160s-170s, tried to find my pulse in the exact same location and had no trouble whatsoever, given that my heart was beating so fast. (As I sit at the computer writing this right now, my Fitbit says my heart rate is 65 bpm. I have a pulse (obviously), but it isn’t even close to being as easy to find as it was when I was out for a run.)

So I don’t know what the deal is. I am much more inclined to believe my actual body, particularly my pulse, than the data I’m getting from Fitbit. I just think it’s so weird that this keeps happening, and it really doesn’t do anything for my confidence in Fitbit’s heart rate monitoring capabilities. It’s not exactly a secret that Fitbit’s heart rate monitoring is hardly considered infallible (this article has some interesting comparisons), but I wish knew 1) why this is happening 2) why there is such a dramatic discrepancy between what my workout heart rate graph says and my all-day heart rate graph says and 3) how to solve all of these problems, if they’re even solvable in the first place.

2. In case you’re not on the Rock ‘n’ Roll email list: a heads up that today is the annual get-the-races-for-as-cheap-as-possible sale day. The half marathons are anywhere between $5 and $50 off ($50.99 up to $99.99 for the US races), which is a pretty solid deal considering how expensive some of these races can get the closer it is to race day. I originally planned to do three Rock ‘n’ Rolls next year, but then realized a conference I expect to attend for work just so happens to start the day after another Rock ‘n’ Roll race, so I’ll probably sign up for that one, too. Someone needs to teach me how to become a Rock ‘n’ Blogger so I stop blowing through so much of my race registration budget on Rock ‘n’ Roll alone 😛

3. Speaking of half marathons, I would like to solicit your advice. I PRed my half marathon at the Chi-Town Half in 2014, during what will quite likely go down as the best streak of races I will ever have, where I PRed four different distances on four consecutive weekends (oh, to be that early in my running career again). My half marathon PR is my oldest “normal” distance PR (my older PRs are in the 9K, the four mile, and the 7K), and it (unnecessarily) bothers me that my half PR is almost four years old. (It also bothers me that I’ve run 11 half marathons since my half marathon PR, and out of those 11, only two have come within 10 minutes of my PR, and only one has come within five minutes of my PR. But, I suppose when you know you run fastest when it’s cold outside and yet insist on nearly exclusively running half marathons between the months of May and September, that’s what you get.)

I’ve already registered for a late April half marathon and hoped to train for it with the intention of PRing, knowing, of course, that late April is a HUGE gamble in the weather department and that my ability to PR is going to depend heavily on favorable weather conditions. Yesterday, I got an email announcing that Chi Town Half registration had opened and will be super cheap ($49.99!) from now until Dec. 20. Given that I PRed at the Chi Town Half and given that it takes place three weeks before the race I’ve registered for and given that I’ve been invited to a destination wedding the weekend before the race I’ve already registered for (where I would most certainly not be able to get in a long run, if I can run at all), the Chi Town Half seems like a better target race.

BUT. Since the Chi Town Half is three weeks before my initial goal race, that would mean I’d have to start training three weeks before I planned to begin training again. That would mean picking up regular running sooner than I anticipated and would mean being in season for three additional weeks in 2018. Given that I could barely drag myself to the finish line of this year’s training season–which was the same length’s as next year’s will be if my initial goal race continues to be my goal race–the idea of adding three weeks to next year’s season sounds…less than appealing. On top of all of that, I’m really hoping to get my wisdom teeth out ASAP in January, not because I’m so eager to go through that whole rigamarole but because I want to get that whole rigamarole done and over with before I need to start training again, because once training begins, I have much less freedom to sit on the couch for a week while my mouth heals. I mean, it’s not like I’m legally obligated to not take a week off during a training cycle, but I most certainly don’t want to take a week off during a training cycle. I don’t put myself through these months-long ordeals for the fun of it: I do it to prepare myself to have the best race possible. Obviously, there are times when you have to take a week off–you get injured, you get sick–but since wisdom tooth extraction is something I anticipate planning to do, rather than something that will be done on more of an emergency basis, so I don’t want to plan to have a week of inactivity when I’m trying to train for a race, particularly a race I want to PR.

The other option, of course, would be to run the 10K at the Chi Town Half (the Chi Town 10K?). Assuming I follow Hal Higdon’s HM3 training program again–which I plan to, given how much I liked it last year–I’m actually supposed to run a 10K that weekend, so it seems like an obvious choice. But I could also run 6.2 miles on my own that weekend for free. But if the weather’s good, maybe I’d stand a chance at updating my 10K PR…? But I’m wouldn’t be training for a 10K PR…. And it’s not my 10K PR I want to update, anyway: it’s my half marathon PR, darn it! *stomps foot like a tantrum-throwing toddler*

But, but, but, excuses, excuses, excuses. If anyone has any helpful suggestions, I’m all ears, because clearly all I’m doing while trying to come to a decision is my own is talking myself in circles.

What races do you have on your calendar for next year? Officially, I believe I have four at this point (not including the Rock ‘n’ Rolls, since I hadn’t registered for them when I wrote this Wednesday night), but I don’t doubt that that number will get much higher.

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Thursday Things

1. My company hosted its annual holiday party this past Friday, and it was, as expected, quite the shindig.

The party took place at Venue One North Shore, which was conveniently located to just about no one, considering that none of our offices are close to Deerfield. But I guess at least it was inconvenient for everyone…? Anyway, I was super on the fence about going, given the location and the fact that it took place on a Friday (I generally dread doing anything on a Friday – I just want to go home and be lazy!), but I (obviously) ultimately decided to go. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected, so I’m glad I did! I also learned after I arrived at the party that Venue One used to be the Berto Center, the former practice facility for the Chicago Bulls (including during the Michael Jordan days), so that was pretty cool.

For reasons that I fail to understand, my company’s annual theme always centers around an ’80s song, and this year, our theme has been “The Power of Love” from Back to the Future. The party, therefore, was all-in on the ’80s theme (though you’d think if all of our themes are ’80s songs, all of the parties would be ’80s themed…?), with super old-school arcade games, pinball, a giant Lite Brite, and–I kid you not–a DeLorean.

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I don’t know where on earth you find a replica (I assume it was a replica, at least) DeLorean to have available for photo ops at a company holiday party, but apparently our Marketing department does and made it happen.

2. I bought two pairs of identical Asics Gel-Nimbus 18s in February and have faithfully rotated between the two ever since I got them, wearing one one week and the other the next. I didn’t put any particularly major thought or strategy into this: I just figured if I switched pairs ever week, they would probably maintain similar mileage and I wouldn’t notice much of a difference whether I was running in Pair #1 or Pair #2. I (remarkably) remembered to track my mileage every week while running in these shoes, logging how many miles I put on each pair the previous week. Marathon season in particular has some pretty major (or at least major by my small standards) mileage swings, so for awhile there, Pair #1 was definitely winning in the race to 400 miles, at which point I usually downgrade my running shoes into walking/regular life activity shoes. Well, I added up my mileage from this past weekend, and the results? Pair #1: 352.3 miles. Pair #2: 352.9 miles. Heyo! I’ll probably put a few more miles on both pairs at the beginning of next year (I’d like to wait to buy new shoes until late February, since that’s when I got a really good deal at Fleet Feet last year), but I’m pleasantly surprised to see how nicely this rotating pairs thing worked out.

In other footwear news, I noticed on Tuesday that my every-workout-but-running shoes have sprung a leak 😦 It’s just a small hole, but it is a hole, and since I’ve been toying with the idea of getting new every-workout-but-running shoes for awhile, I guess this is the push I needed. I’ve been regularly wearing Nike Frees (…that I got in 2013) for commuting, all my gym workouts, and dance since 2014, so I’m probably due for an upgrade. The problem, unsurprisingly, is that Nike doesn’t make the same shoes they made in 2013 anymore, and now there are all sorts of Frees, including ones meant for running (like I have now, even though I don’t use them for running) and ones meant for “training,” which I suppose is what I need. Decisions, decisions.

3. I may be the only person who feels this way, but I will absolutely not apologize for feeling this way: I’m so glad it’s finally cold outside. I don’t think temperatures in the 50s and 60s during December are a treat. I think they’re annoying at best, concerning at worst (global warming, anyone?), and definitely keep me from getting into the Christmas spirit, given the fact that that kind of weather makes it feel more like Easter is on the way than Christmas. I’m all for temperatures in the 50s and 60s when it’s supposed to be that warm, like late October/early November, and starting again in mid-late March. But in between that time? No thank you.

As of Wednesday, it’s supposed to snow (!!) from Friday into Saturday, though I’ve learned to not get my hopes up too high about snow predictions. I have a race Saturday morning, so I wouldn’t be too disappointed if the snow held off until maybe Saturday afternoon, but I’d also love to get some snow on the ground so it REALLY looks and feels like Christmas.

Is anyone else happy that it’s cold outside?
What shoes do you wear for your non-running workouts?
I’m definitely leaning towards Nike again, but I’m certainly open to other suggestions!

Boston the Documentary

(I should probably start this off by saying that, despite what it may sound like, no one ever asked or paid me to see or talk about this movie. This is just a write-up of an event I, your friendly local non-monetized blogger, thoroughly enjoyed.)

Boston: The Documentary has been on my radar for awhile, so when I finally had the chance to see it last Wednesday, I was pumped. Running for Kicks had organized a screening at the Marcus Orland Park Cinema, which, as you may have guessed, was a bit of a haul from Chicago, but worthwhile nevertheless.

Brooks helped sponsor the event, which meant we got a goodie bag! The $10 ticket to the movie not only granted you admission to the screening, but also got you a Brooks bag, journal, bracelet and beanie (!!), along with a coupon to Running for Kicks, a CARA flyer, and a pen. I didn’t price check anything, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the contents of the bag alone certainly cost more than $10, never mind the movie, so all in all, this was a pretty good deal.

bostonscreeninggoodiebag

The movie itself, as the name not-so-subtly implies, is about the Boston Marathon. The director, Jon Dunham, is the same guy who put together Spirit of the Marathon I and II, the former of which I have now watched five times, as watching that movie is a hallowed part of my Friday-night-before-the-Chicago-Marathon routine, and it definitely felt Spirit of the Marathon-esque. While Spirit of the Marathon (or at least the first one; I haven’t seen the second one) follows six runners as they train for and eventually run (and, in the case of Deena Kastor, win) the 2006 Chicago Marathon, Boston focuses on the running of the 2014 Boston Marathon, particularly in light of the terrorism that occurred at the finish line of the 2013 race. While the 2014 race is the metaphorical sun around which the rest of the movie revolves, it also takes a significant amount of time to discuss the history of the race. I knew the Boston Marathon had been around for a long time, and I knew about Bobbi Gibb, Katherine Switzer, and Rosie Ruiz, but that was about where my knowledge of the race began and ended. The movie was super informative and really made you appreciate the work that so many people have put into building this event into what it is today.

The movie also gives you a cool behind-the-scenes look into the race’s management today, which is honestly something I think every runner, particularly every marathoner, could stand to see. I have played an excessively small role in putting on races, and I don’t think the average runner begins to comprehend the amount of work and coordination it takes to pull even a small race together. It is not close to being as simple as mapping out a course on MapMyRun or Google Maps and then setting up a registration page, at least not if you want to put on a real, sanctioned event. You need to coordinate with the municipality, you need to coordinate with the police, you need to coordinate with medical staff, you need to coordinate with vendors, you need to coordinate with the timing company, you need to coordinate with the alderman, you need to coordinate with USATF–and that’s just for your standard out-and-back on the Lakefront Trail sort of affair. Imagine how many times over that’s multiplied when it comes to something like the Chicago Marathon, where you’re running a World Marathon Major–so now you need to coordinate with that legislative body as well as USATF and anti-doping agencies–entirely on city streets–so now you need to coordinate with the CTA and the police and Streets & San–through goodness knows how many wards–so now you need to coordinate with goodness knows how many aldermen. It is, I can only imagine, an INSANE effort, and Chicago at least has the advantage of taking place all in one city. Boston runs through EIGHT different municipalities, all with their own governments, police departments, fire departments, etc., so you have to do all of that work eight times over. Just seeing the number of people in the room at a meeting about emergency management two months before the race drives home what kind of work it takes to put on something like the Boston Marathon.

The movie comes out on iTunes (and other digital outlets) today, and will be available from streaming through various providers on Dec. 19. If you’re looking for inspiration, or even just an inside look at the Boston Marathon, I definitely think it’s worth your time and money.

 

Thursday Things

1. Whelp.

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I assume that’s not the reaction I was supposed to have upon receiving this email, and yet, here I am, feeling…less enthusiastic than the number of exclamation points in this email suggests I should feel.

I’m still holding out hope that I’ll be more excited about running the Chicago Marathon sometime between now and 10 months from now, and I don’t think I’m being totally unreasonable in that hope. I barely took a break after the marathon this year (I usually take a full month off of running entirely after the marathon), and I’m definitely feeling a bit burnt out on the running front. I’ve been training for something or other since Jan. 30, and I am very, very ready to not be training for anything. I’m looking forward to taking some time off after my 5K next weekend and focusing on any other kind of workout for a little bit.

2. Back in August, I lost my patience with my (now former) dentist, and set out to find a new one. My former dentist was only open from 9-4 Monday through Friday (though according to Yelp, it looks like their hours have since changed), which 1) seems like a terrible business model, since so many people are at work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2) was ridiculously inconvenient for me, since I, like most office workers, am otherwise occupied during that time frame. Instead of doing summer hours, my company gives every employee one half day of free PTO each month during the summer, to be used either in the morning or evening on any day of the week you please. I booked my dentist appointment to coincide with my August day off, only to receive a phone call from them 48 hours before asking me to reschedule to earlier in the day (before my afternoon off would start), only to receive another phone call from them an hour and a half before my rescheduled appointment that something was mechanically wrong at the office and they wouldn’t be able to see me at all that day. I was furious, especially because if I had called 90 minutes before my appointment to cancel they would’ve slapped me with some enormous cancellation fee, but they were allowed to do so consequence-free AND at the expense of my already scheduled, non-changeable half day. So that was the end of my affiliation with that dentist.

Though it proved to be more challenging than I anticipated, I finally found a new dentist that operates during non-work hours and decided to take my business there instead. That was in October. I’ve now already been to that dentist more times than I think I ever went to my former dentist.

It all started with a routine cleaning (performed by the actual dentist, not a hygienist, because the hygienist who was supposed to clean my teeth that day WENT INTO LABOR IN THE OFFICE THAT MORNING and they STILL didn’t cancel my appointment. Already a 100 percent improvement from my previous dentist.), during which the dentist informed me in no uncertain terms that I grind my teeth and need to wear a night guard. My former dentist had also told me this, so since I got the exact same information from two totally unaffiliated people, I figured it was legit. So that was appointment #1. Appointment #2 was a few weeks later to get impressions taken, an experience I was disappointed, though not entirely surprised, to discover has not become any more enjoyable since the last time I had to get impressions taken in the late ’90s for the various orthodontia my poor face was subjected to in elementary school. Appointment #3 came three weeks later, where I was meant to be fitted with my night guard, only to discover that, despite my night guard fitting my impressions perfectly, the guard did not fit my actual teeth perfectly. Thus, I got to go through the joy of having impressions taken again, and returned to the dentist on Monday for appointment #4, where I was fitted with a night guard that actually does fit my teeth. (The night guard, for what it’s worth, is remarkably unpleasant and I hate it, but I’m hoping I’ll get used to it after more than two nights of use.)

You would think that’d be the end of it, but no, of course not. Way back during appointment #1, I finally confessed that yes, that wisdom tooth poking through my gum does bother me, and bothers me a lot, frequently to the point where I don’t even want to eat anything that requires chewing because it hurts too much. As a result, I left the dentist with a reminder to call back later to schedule pre-extraction imaging (so they know where everything is and don’t just blindly go into my mouth, pulling out whatever seems convenient), which I…conveniently “forgot” to do, time and time and time again, despite my tooth continuing to bother me anytime the tiniest iota of food wriggled its way into my gum back there. Finally after appointment #4, the receptionist offered to schedule the imaging appointment for me, so now I have appointment #5 to look forward to in a few weeks, and wisdom tooth extraction to “look forward to” at a date TBD after that. Hooray 😐

3. In theory, I should be putting up my monthly Goals for 2017 check-in post tomorrow, but since I have absolutely nothing to report on any front in that department, I’m going to skip it since it feels totally unnecessary. I’ve felt that way for the past couple of months, which has made me think about annual goal-setting in general. Is it better to set goals that you can accomplish by the end of the year (“get rid of 50 things,” for example), or goals that require continual work (“keep with my PT exercises”). I don’t know! Maybe both? Continual goals certainly lend themselves to better blog posts, but that’s obviously not the point of setting an annual goal. Things to think about!

Have you had your wisdom teeth removed? Am I going to die in the process? I’m pretty convinced that’s what’s going to happen.

Thursday Things

1. I spent last weekend in Las Vegas for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, the details of which I will entertain (bore?) you with in a different post. For now, let’s chat about everything else I did in that magical land of sunshine and 75 degrees!

2. The highlight of the trip, far and away, was visiting the Grand Canyon. I’ve wanted to see the Grand Canyon since I was really young, but I had no idea that Grand Canyon tours from Vegas were a thing until last year (I assumed you’d go to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, not make a day trip out of it from Las Vegas. I also didn’t realize how close Vegas is to the Grand Canyon until last year, though.) Last year’s trip was packed, so there was no chance to go to the Grand Canyon. This year, however, part of the group left Chicago on Thursday night instead of Friday morning and spent all day Friday on a tour to the Grand Canyon!

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We booked a Canyon Tour South Rim Tour, which I would definitely recommend with one small caveat. The South Rim is not close to Vegas (at least compared to the West Rim), so you are on the bus a LONG time. There’s really no avoiding that no matter which tour company you use, however, so if you want to see the South Rim, that’s just the reality of the situation. Even though the trip involved somewhere in the neighborhood of six and a half hours on a bus, I still thought it was worth it to see the South Rim.

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The drive out involved a stop at the Hoover Dam. The bus tour was narrated (not for the full six and a half hours), and most of the drive from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam included a lot of narration about the construction of the dam, from the inception of the idea to the actual building. It was super fascinating!

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This wasn’t the original plan, but we ended up booking a Pink Jeep tour upgrade, which I would recommend without any caveats whatsoever. Instead of making two stops on the bus and wandering around without any guidance, we were in a Jeep with four other people and Rich, our tour guide, whose love for and knowledge about the Grand Canyon were incredible. We stopped at four different locations during the two hours we had in the park, which provided plenty of opportunities for photos.

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In what should come as a surprise to no one, seeing new-to-me birds at the Grand Canyon was probably the highlight of the experience for me (still can’t make it through a Thursday Things post without bird talk…). While at the Grand Canyon, I saw several Common Ravens soaring over the canyon:

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a Red-Breasted Nuthatch:

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a Mountain Chickadee, who was not very accommodating to my photography desires but was MORE than accommodating to my interest in hearing a Mountain Chickadee call. That, honestly, was probably my favorite part of everything (#nerdalert). The Mountain Chickadee’s call is just the tiniest bit different than the Black-Capped Chickadee’s call (you can find the Mountain Chickadee’s call here [click the “Chicka-dee Call” one] and the Black-Capped Chickadee’s call here [click the “Calls” one]. There’s barely a difference, but it is there, especially if you listen to them back to back.)

a few Clark’s Nutcrackers:

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and a whole collection of Bushtits (SERIOUSLY. WHO NAMES THESE BIRDS?) at the Grand Canyon Village.

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The canyon itself, of course, was just stunning. We definitely picked the right time of year to go, too. Sunset on Friday was around 5:25 p.m., and since we didn’t get to the park itself until after 3:00, that meant we got to enjoy the canyon at sunset. Obviously if you took this same tour during the summer, that wouldn’t be the case, with sunset being much later in the day. Whoever thought I’d be happy for such an early sunset!

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We got back to Vegas a little before 10 p.m., and thus commenced our Vegas-ing portion of the trip.

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3. The whole group (including me this year) stayed at Excalibur, though the craps-loving people in the group were EXTREMELY disappointed to find out that Excalibur no longer has $5 tables on the weekends. Since I’d say three of the five people in the group go to Vegas almost exclusively to play craps, that meant we had to take a bit of an adventure to find $5 craps tables. That adventure brought us all the way up to Fremont Street–to the Fremont itself, actually. Even though I have very little interest in gambling, I really didn’t enjoy sitting around and watching everyone else gamble last year while I just stood there, so I brought $40 to gamble–$20 on craps and $20 on a slot machine–with the rule that I wouldn’t let myself get below $15 (so lose more than $10 total). I ended up winning $20 on craps, losing $5 on the slot machine, and then losing an additional $10 of my $20 winnings from craps on roulette, so I walked away with $5 total. Last year, I walked away with $5.12, so clearly this is a major money-making venture for me 😛

We went to the buffet at MGM on Saturday before heading to the race expo (since we couldn’t go on Friday this year due to being at the Grand Canyon). It was super crowded, unsurprisingly. I didn’t get anything, through I did come really close to buying a sweatshirt. I don’t know if this is because Ironman owns Rock ‘n’ Roll now or if it was just a coincidence, but the race did the same thing Ironman does at all of its races where it makes a shirt with all the participant names on the back (except your average Ironman has like maybe 3000 participants, whereas Rock ‘n’ Roll has like 40,000, so they had to split it up into men’s 10K participants, men’s half marathon participants with last names A-K, men’s half marathon participants with last names L-Z, men’s marathon participants, women’s 10K participants, women’s half marathon participants with last names A-K, women’s half marathon participants with last names L-Z, and women’s marathon participants.) I loved the design and the color, but I did not love the price ($60) or the thought of trying to make space in my already-full suitcase for it, so I ended up walking away empty handed. Oh well.

We relaxed for a bit Saturday afternoon, then headed back up to Fremont Street to Hugo’s Cellar, where we once again had another indulgent dinner. We hung around Fremont Street for a little bit after that before heading back to the Strip for some sightseeing. This trip involved a lot less casino-wandering than last year, but we did walk a bit through the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace and saw this year’s fall display at the Bellagio.

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We also saw the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds show at the Bellagio fountains. I could spend all night at the Bellagio watching the fountain shows every 15 minutes.

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We had breakfast Sunday at the Pyramid Cafe in the Luxor and then wandered around there a bit before hitting up my #1 requirement for every Vegas trip: M&Ms World.

Sunday afternoon/evening/night was consumed with half marathon-related activities, which I’ll get to in my race recap. We flew back to Chicago Monday afternoon, but not before having breakfast at the SeaBreeze Cafe in Mandalay Bay and wandering around the pool area.

Overall, another enjoyable trip to Vegas 🙂

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon?

Thursday Things

1. One of these days, I’ll make it through a Thursday Things post without including a line item about recent bird sightings. That day is not today.

After a fairly uneventful weekend in the birding department (though I did see another Brown Creeper, this time on my soggy Saturday morning run. I assume the fact that barely anyone else was outside Saturday morning made him feel more comfortable to search for bugs on trees in what are usually more populated areas.), I was on my way to work Monday morning, minding my own business, when something huddled next to a planter caught my eye. At first I thought it was some sort of dismembered pigeon, but upon (very little) further inspection, I realized that I had most definitely not stumbled upon any sort of pigeon.

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I initially passed by, but then I circled back and took a picture so I could investigate and call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors to rescue him. Merlin quickly identified my sighting as an American Woodcock: another new-to-me bird! (Also: man, you guys. Who came up with these bird names? Not someone with insight as to how slang would develop in the 20th and 21st centuries, that’s for sure. Although apparently woodcocks are also known as “timberdoodles,” which is definitely a better name in my opinion.)

The official guidance from the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors for dealing with injured birds is to put the bird in a brown paper bag or cardboard box for safe keeping, then call them so they can come get the bird from you and take it to the western suburbs. While I do have a cardboard box at my desk, I felt…weird, to say the least, about trying to coax a bird that I wasn’t even sure was injured in the first place with a bill as long as my middle finger into a box in a high traffic area during rush hour and then bringing said bird in said box into my office, praying that it doesn’t squawk or otherwise cause a ruckus and out me as a crazy bird lady to my coworkers. I was pretty darn sure the bird was lost and confused–according to All About Birds, American Woodcocks “spend most of their time hidden in fields and on the forest floor,” and, needless to say, my commute does not involve me walking through fields or over forest floors–but I wasn’t sure if that warranted a rescue. I did some poking around eBird and discovered that American Woodcocks have been seen in the city before, but when they are, they are almost always injured or dead. That was enough to convince me to leave the office, go back to where I originally saw the bird to see if he was still there (he was), and then call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who sent someone out to (presumably–they didn’t tell me I needed to stick around and watch him until a volunteer got there, so I left before anyone arrived) take him to Glen Ellyn or Elburn, where he belongs.

I later discovered that my new bird buddy is a bit of an internet sensation (not my specific bird buddy, but other members of his American Woodcock family) due to his…unique way of moving.

I had actually seen one of these videos before on Facebook, set to Walk Like an Egyptian, but the only version on YouTube is doctored to show the bird getting hit by a car, which doesn’t actually happen *rolls eyes*, so I’m posting this video instead. I had no idea I was playing a minor role in the rescue of a celebrity!

2. I was scrolling through BuzzFeed on Friday, as I’m apt to do, and saw an article in the sidebar whose headline caught my eye: “We Should Ban Cars from Big Cities. Seriously.” That was obviously a pretty catchy headline, especially since I find America’s car-centric attitude frustrating as well, so I clicked through. To call it an article might be a bit inaccurate–it was more of an editorial than anything–but I thought it was well worth the read and full of interesting ways a variety of cities around the world have worked to reduce the number of cars driving around their downtown areas (restrictions on who can drive downtown when, better bike lane networks, congestion fees, etc.).

What I did not expect–though I guess by this point in my internet life, I shouldn’t have been surprised–was the INSANE lashing out against the author in the comments section. Ho.ly. Cow. People were so angry and vitriolic, you’d think that they thought her editorial was a directive from the federal government that everyone must relinquish their cars immediately. It was NUTS, and for me very much reinforced my suspicion that hoping for any sort of mind shift from car-first transportation to literally-anything-else-first transportation is a ways off, to say the least.

I guess what surprised me the most, though, was the way people seemed to assume that a car-free lifestyle is absolutely impossible, even in a city. I can tell you from just shy of five and a half years of experience: it most certainly is not. I don’t expect that I’ll live in Chicago forever, and one of the things I dread the most about not living in the city is the fact that I’m almost certainly going to need a car if I live anywhere else. I love not having a car. It’s so much cheaper, it forces me to be so much more active, and it goes a huge way in reducing the impact I personally have on the environment. But I can only get away with that because Chicago has a robust-at-least-compared-to-the-suburbs public transportation system.

I think part of why people can’t fathom living without cars is because they can’t fathom getting from Point A to Point B via public transportation, because they’ve never experienced public transportation that can get them from Point A to Point B, at least not without a lot of work or time. Every now and again I have to go out to my company’s suburban office and I absolutely loathe it because the public transportation in the suburbs is so. bad. The bus only comes once every half hour during rush hour, the time when you’d expect the bus to run most frequently. Heck, I’m lucky that the bus happens to go to the office at all! From my childhood home, it would’ve been a seven mile walk to the nearest bus stop. If that was my exposure to public transportation, I’d be pretty outraged by the suggestion that I live without a car, too.

Nevertheless, I really wish we as a country would try to focus more on building infrastructure that puts other modes of transportation first: high speed rail, bus-only lanes, more frequent and comprehensive service for all public transportation (so it not only comes close to where you live, but comes close to where you live regularly enough that it’s a viable option), more dedicated bike lanes (not just a bike painted near the shoulder of the road and calling that a “bike lane”)–anything that makes it reasonable for people to not drive. I don’t think you can undo technological advances. We can’t just ban cars outright and tell people they need to buy a horse and buggy to get around now. The only way to convince people to get out of the driver’s seat and into a bus, or a train, or on a bike, or even in a water taxifor that matter, is to make it significantly more attractive and efficient than driving (which you can do either by punishing people for driving–congestion fees, for example–or by rewarding them for not driving, which you could do financially with something like tax breaks, or through a more passive method by making public transportation (or biking, or walking, or whatever) demonstrably faster than driving–take away lanes from cars and give them to buses or bikes, for example, which would increase traffic in the remaining lanes, making zipping by on a bike or in a bus seem that much more attractive). Until that happens, I don’t think any sort of change is going to happen, and even then I don’t think you could hope to get rid of all cars forever. People will still need to move heavy items or a lot of items. People will still need to travel long distances. But even just a reduction in the number of cars on the road could do the environment so many favors.

3. I engaged in one of my least favorite activities of all time, clothes shopping, on Saturday. I needed more winter-appropriate work shirts and had a couple of Macy’s gift cards burning holes in my pocket, so off I went downtown. I just really, really do not enjoy anything about the entire process of buying new clothes, so I wasn’t in the best mood as I meandered around the third floor looking for blouses until I accidentally stumbled into the dress section.

GAH. There were SO. MANY. pretty dresses! Never in my adult life have I hoped to be invited to an event that required a floor-length dress, but as I browsed through the dress section, I became more and more disappointed that I don’t have any black-tie events to attend, and therefore couldn’t justify buying any of the dresses. It then occurred to me that I was shopping by myself, not on any particular timeline, and there was absolutely no reason in the world why I couldn’t try on dresses just for the fun of it, so…

macysdress

*sighs dreamily*

I suppose the fact that I don’t need any floor length dresses played a huge role in this actually being a fun experience, because there was no pressure to find one that I thought looked good on me and fit my budget (since there is no budget for trying on dresses for fun!). But regardless of why I enjoyed it, it put me in a good mood, which made my entire shopping trip much more pleasant.

I can’t think of any good questions, so this half-hearted sentence is what you’re getting instead.

Thursday Things

1. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about anything church-related on here–so long that I don’t really even expect you to know what I’m talking about when I say “anything church-related”! You can catch up on my initial bemoaning here, but the short of it is this: my church is essentially out of money (for reasons I initially planned on detailing, until that got to be nearly 1000 words and I wasn’t even halfway done with it–though if you want to know the nitty gritty, I’d be happy to write a novella on it!–but basically boil down to deferred maintenance, misplaced loyalty and not enough membership). When your church, like anything, really, runs out of money, you have two options: sell your assets in an effort to get back on your feet, or close up shop.

My church opted to go with the first option and is selling off half our property as a result. While selling off half our property is better than selling off all our property, I suppose, it’s only slightly better. The half we’re selling contains all of the non-“church” space (offices, the kitchen, etc.), and because we’re not willing to give up having that kind of space entirely, it means we have to renovate–a euphemism if ever there were one–the sanctuary to accommodate the functional space we’re losing. When all of this was initially discussed a year and a half ago, it was made quite clear that “renovation” would really mean gutting the entire church, and at that point, well, what even is the point? If you’re just going to preserve the exterior of the building and destroy the interior, as far as I’m concerned, you may as well just sell the whole property.

When this discussion started in April 2016, I made it quite clear that the day the interior of the church stopped looking exactly (or, you know, more or less exactly) as it did on that exact Sunday was the day I left. Maybe I’m being shallow, but a major part of what drew me to my church initially was its interior. It’s a space that feels church-y to me, and for me, it’s important to be in a space that feels church-y if I expect to have a church-y experience.

churchinterior

Last Thursday we learned that the sale of half of the property was in the process of moving forward, and if all goes as expected, the last service we’ll hold in the church as it looks right now will be Easter 2018. It’s a pretty upsetting prospect, to say the least, though I thought Easter 2016 would be the last Easter in church, and then I thought Easter 2017 would be the last Easter in church, so I guess at least I got two more Easters than I originally anticipated.

Anyway, I figured that meant Easter 2018 would be my expiration date with my current church. Then this past Sunday as I was leading, one of the people in charge of things asked if I’d have interest in being on the “temporary space committee,” who will be responsible for finding a place for the congregants to worship while the church is under construction. My initial reaction was a HARD PASS, until she continued on and let me know that the temporary space committee will also be the future space committee, and will be the ones to have a say in what the renovated sanctuary looks like.

A chance to bully architects into meeting my demands AND fight the good fight for historic preservation?! Sign me up!

Nothing is official yet by any means, but as the lady who approached me in the first place said, even if nothing works out the way I want it to, at least I had a say in it. In the mean time, if you need me, I’ll be brushing up on my persuasive speaking techniques and memorizing the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation as if they were the 10 Commandments themselves.

2. One of the first things I saw online after getting the email from church announcing the sale stuff was this article from DNAInfo about how a bunch more vacant buildings have been torn down in the city this year compared to last year, and…sigh. I have so many feelings about tearing down vacant buildings. I understand the drive to keep away the appearance of blight in a neighborhood. I understand the high risk that vacant buildings pose from a safety perspective. But it still bothers me. It bothers me to think about the people who invested in building these places in the first place. It bothers me to think about the amount of work that went into the construction of these places, particularly since so most of them are generally pushing, if not already over, 100 years old, and obviously the technology that improves efficiency in construction didn’t exist at the time. It bothers me to think about the people who lived there, who raised families there, who grew up there, who have history there. It bothers me that the circumstances that created an environment for these homes to fall into vacancy or disrepair–the redlining, the disinvestment in the neighborhood–were allowed to exist in the first place. It feels enormously disrespectful to all the people whose lives intersected with those homes to just tear them down as if they’re just a problem to be “dealt with,” and it feels enormously misguided to think that eliminating empty structures and turning them into empty lots instead will somehow solve the systemic social injustices that plague those neighborhoods–as if gutting a neighborhood will magically eliminate poverty and all its associates.

I don’t know. Maybe I just care about buildings too much. But I do think buildings are important, and I think old buildings are especially important because they serve as a testament to the fact that people were here before you. Forgetting that is rude at best, dangerous at worst. But goodness knows trying to convince people of that when there is money to be made is an uphill battle.

3. In my-other-ridiculous-passion news, I saw a red-bellied woodpecker in CHICAGO on Saturday. Talk about a bird sighting!

mortonarboretum-redbelliedwoodpecker

(Not this specific red-bellied woodpecker–or at least, I assume it wasn’t the exact same bird–but you get the idea.)

I could NOT believe it! I was out for a run on the Lakefront Trail and saw one of these regal creatures on a retaining wall along Lake Shore Drive. Considering that I’ve only ever seen two or three woodpeckers of any variety, period, in Chicago (including the one who fate briefly entrusted to my care), and I’ve only ever seen them in the depths of neighborhoods, seeing one along the lake–along the Drive itself, no less!–was quite the occasion.

Now, if only I could see a bluebird inside city limits…