Thursday Things

1. Is it just me, or have the trees been way prettier this fall than they’ve been in awhile?

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Maybe I forget how vibrant the fall colors are from year to year, but it seems like this fall has been better than ones in the past. I’ve been surprised by how many beautiful trees I’ve seen all around the city. I love it! If only the constant grey of winter didn’t have to follow 😦

I’m getting antsy (not in a good way) about winter and am really dreading falling back an hour on Sunday. The sun is already setting plenty early for me (5:44 today in Chicago), and the idea of that happening an hour earlier does not thrill me.

I know I’ll almost certainly be fine through the holidays, but I’m worried about what will come after that. My SAD last year was by far the worst it’s ever been, even when I was actively working to keep it at bay (using my happy light every morning, going to therapy, scheduling things to look forward to). I strongly associate SAD with the end of daylight savings time (mostly because it goes away the instant daylight savings time resumes again in March), so I’m not at all excited about Sunday 😦

I hope running through most of this winter will help. I know I won’t have many opportunities to run when it’s light outside (other than on weekend long runs), but I’m crossing my fingers that having a structured training plan and a serious focus on breaking 2:00 in the half marathon will keep me focused on brighter (literally) days ahead.

2. Speaking of sunlight, Fitbit had this wildly unhelpful suggestion for me on Monday:

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I’d love to let the sunlight in as soon as I wake up. Too bad I don’t live in Magical Fantasy Land where I wake up every morning as a Disney princess to the twittering of birds and soft rays of sun spilling through my curtains. Instead, I live in The Real World, where my work schedule doesn’t change based on the time the sun comes up, which can be any time between 5:14 a.m. and 7:18 a.m. in Chicago. I suppose if I started my work day at 9:00, that’d be possible, but I don’t. And if I lived back home? Forget it! This time of year, the sun doesn’t come up until 8:15 a.m.! Even if I did start work at 9:00, that’d still be a ridiculous “tip.”

I realize I probably shouldn’t get so worked up about a silly sentence from Fitbit, but here we are.

3. I would like to introduce you to my new friends!

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All, meet (left to right) Edgar Allan Ravencrow, Jack O’Lan Tern, Holden Cawfield, and Myles Birdish.

Kim got these for me after I lost my mind over their cuteness when she blogged about them. Aren’t they just painfully adorable?!?! I can’t stand it *heart-eyed emoji*

They obviously all needed names, and while I didn’t originally plan on giving them all bird pun names…well…you see what happened. It’s all Edgar Allan Ravencrow’s fault. He appears to be all black, like a crow, so clearly he had to be named Edgar Allan Crow, but Edgar Allan Poe wrote a poem about a raven, so we needed to Harry Potter-ify his last name. Then things just spiraled from there. Holden Cawfield’s hat looks like Holden Caulfield’s hat from Catcher in the Rye, so that one was pretty simple. Myles Birdish looks like a pilgrim, so he got a name inspired by Myles Standish. Jack O’Lan Tern was the hardest one to name. I kept trying to come up with pumpkin/bird puns, and it finally occurred to me that terns are birds, so I could just break up “lantern” into two words.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of my new friends and the fall cheer they bring to my house 🙂

Do you decorate for fall? These birds are my first real fall decorations! I usually buy those ugly little gourds and put them on a table, but those don’t last from year to year, unsurprisingly.

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Wedding Weekend

Two of my good friends married each other on Saturday, and the whole weekend was filled with lovely wedding events! As I mentioned last Thursday, the bride is Indian, so the wedding was a combination of Indian and American traditions. First up: the mehndi party.

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The mehndi party is when the bride (and other guests) receive their henna, though in this particular case, the bride had had her henna done the day before (it took four hours!). An artist was there to draw henna on other guests who were interested, though. I would’ve loved to have some done, but given my skin’s recent penchant for having an allergic reaction to nearly anything under the sun (bath bombs, certain laundry detergents, antiseptics), I didn’t think it’d be in my best interest to experiment with dye that’s supposed to stay on your skin for several days. The party also included a buffet of Indian food, which was the first time I’ve ever had ~real~ Indian food (my previous experience was limited to the frozen, single-serve meals you get at Trader Joe’s, which only kind of counts). I enjoyed the dinner options (though some of them certainly challenged my spice tolerance!), but dessert…! omg.

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The bride has been talking up gulab jamun every time wedding food came up when we were hanging out, and boy, she did not oversell it. They were so good, and to my immense surprise, reminded me very much of oliebollen, a Dutch donut that my family often has around the holidays.

The elephant cookies also became a bit of a joke at the party. The bride likes elephants and wanted them to be a theme throughout the wedding, which is why they had them at the party. However, it turned out that the room across from ours in the banquet hall was hosting a Republican fundraiser at the same time, headlined by none other than Bruce Rauner, governor of Illinois, himself. That was quite the surprise to everyone, including the bride’s family who had booked the space months ago, not to mention quite the contrast. I don’t think anyone arriving at the hall that night accidentally attended the wrong event! At least the cookies could’ve fit in equally well at either party 😛

I went to the rehearsal dinner on Friday, so that’s how I spent that evening, and then we had the main event on Saturday night!

The wedding was at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, and was originally supposed to be outside. I had been concerned about the weather ever since I found out they wanted to get married outside (and wanted to get married in October), but, per usual, it turns out all my fretting was for naught. It started to sprinkle about an hour and a half before the wedding, so they moved the ceremony inside (the reception was always going to be inside).

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This was my first Indian wedding, and I thought it was one of the loveliest ceremonies I’ve ever attended. The Hindu priest performed the ceremony in Sanskrit, but explained everything he said and why it was important in English. I learned so much about Hinduism and its beliefs, traditions, and customs, which I loved! It was all really interesting and made everything more meaningful to understand the religious and symbolic significance behind everything happening during the ceremony.

This was also my first wedding at the Nature Museum, and wow! What a venue! We basically had our run of the place the whole evening (though I was too busy hanging out with friends and dancing the night away to spend much time exploring). Cocktail hour was among the second floor exhibits, and while I would’ve loved to check all of them out, I couldn’t drag myself away from the Birds of Chicago wall.

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I literally spent the entire hour at the Birds of Chicago. It was so interesting! I tried counting how many of them I’ve seen in real life in Chicago (seeing them other places didn’t count, since it was a Birds of Chicago display)–I think it was 31?–and was fascinated by the whole thing, particularly the birds that were/were not included. Like why were some warblers in the display, but not all the warblers that pass through Chicago? I was also fascinated by the number of birds displayed in their non-breeding plumage, since some birds look very different during breeding and non-breeding season! Unsurprisingly, it was much easier to get a good look at birds when they’re stuffed, labeled, and all right next to each other compared to when they’re alive, flying, and usually only hanging out with their own kind (I found this extremely helpful for the sparrows in particular), so it was a good opportunity to familiarize myself with the differences between various birds in the same family.

The reception followed, and it was a blast. I got to try new foods, had even more gulab jamun, and danced so much I woke up sore on Sunday. If that’s not a sign of a great wedding, I don’t know what is 🙂

Thursday Things

1. I had THEE WORST Saturday afternoon. And by, “thee worst,” I mean, “things could’ve been much worse and I’m being dramatic, but it was still frustrating.”

As I’ve mentioned before, there is next to nothing I loathe more than clothes shopping. I enjoy nothing about the process and avoid it unless absolutely necessary. Of course, that’s probably part of why I hate it so much (it’s a lot more stressful to go shopping for something when you NEED IT RIGHT NOW versus going because you feel like it), but regardless, it’s not how I choose to spend my free time.

On Thursday, I found out I was going to La Boheme at the Lyric on Saturday–more on that later–and for some reason, that was the occasion that pushed me over the, “I need a winter-friendly nice dress” ledge. I have three upcoming occasions that will require winter-friendly nice dresses (more on one of them later, too), so adding this fourth one felt like enough justification to buy a nice dress.

Prior to Saturday, I had exactly three nice dresses in my closet: a sleeveless, lacy one I wear to summer weddings; a silky, mostly sleeveless one I bought for a gala (I think?) in 2013 with a ripped seam; and a black spaghetti strap dress I wore to the Christmas dance in HIGH SCHOOL, which I should 100 percent get rid of, given that I’m not 17 anymore and haven’t worn it once since I was 17.

As that was my selection, I decided I needed something new. Since the opera was on Saturday night, I didn’t have time to shop online and instead went to Macy’s Saturday afternoon, expecting it to be an in-and-out sort of situation. After all, in the past year, I’ve gone to Macy’s twice and tried on pretty dresses just for the fun of it! I had some other reason to be there, got distracted by the shiny things, and the next thing I knew, I was in a beautiful floor-length gown in a dressing room, wishing I had a black tie event to attend so I could buy the dress. How hard could getting a dress be on Saturday?

As it turns out, REALLY. FREAKING. HARD.

There were three things that made this so freaking hard:

Thing #1: the pressure to find a dress immediately, due to wanting to wear it that night, versus trying on whatever struck my fancy because I wanted to.

Thing #2: the fact that all the dresses I try on for fun are almost always insane, floor-length numbers, and I wanted something 1) classic and 2) knee length

Thing #3: the fact that one of the occasions for which I needed this dress is an Indian-American wedding (the “more on that later” event). While a sari is an option (and the bride, who’s the Indian half of this Indian-American wedding, assured me that it would not be cultural appropriation for me, a person of exclusively northern European heritage, to wear a sari, despite my concerns), I don’t like to buy one-use-only outfits. I could rent a sari, but that cost nearly as much as I was willing to spend on a dress I’d actually get to keep and wear multiple times…and, honestly, I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of wearing a sari. This wedding is going to be an Indian ceremony followed by an American reception, and the bride/bridesmaids will all be changing from traditional Indian clothing into traditional American clothing for the reception, so it wasn’t going to be offensive for me to wear a dress rather than a sari (another thing that the bride assured me–“Wear what makes you comfortable!”–because clearly my outfit should be her main concern in the days leading up to the event. Get it together, Bethany.)

HOWEVER. Even if I didn’t wear a sari, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to wear white, black, or red. That’s all well and good–I probably wouldn’t have wanted a white or red dress anyway–but do you have ANY IDEA how hard it is to go shopping for winter-friendly dresses when your off-limits colors include black and red?! They exist, but the VAST majority of what was available at Macy’s was either black or some version of red, and they were either floor length (too formal) or just-grazing-your-upper-thigh length (too skimpy).

It was a disaster.

This “in-and-out” sort of situation turned into a “four hours of trying on dresses and hating all of them and crying a bit about it, too” sort of situation. I went to Macy’s (the dresses floor and the regular-clothes-with-some-dresses-mixed-in floor). I went to Nordstrom Rack (where I didn’t see any dresses at all??). I went to H&M. I went to Express. I went back to Macy’s. I went to Francesca’s. I went to Akira. I went to Zara. I went to Saks Off 5th. NOTHING. Not one single store had a dress that checked all my boxes (not white/black/red, not trendy, not skimpy, not overly formal, not over $100). I was ready to punch someone by the time I gave up–specifically, whoever decided that all long sleeve dresses this year need to be bell sleeves as opposed to normal sleeves I can wear five years from now without someone looking at me and saying, “She definitely bought that dress in 2018!”

2. I needed to be in the suburbs on Sunday, so I went to the outlet mall in Aurora to continue my quest (despite no longer needing the dress for the opera). I expected similar results to Saturday’s debacle, and was well on track for a repeat after finding nothing at their Saks Off 5th, J. Crew, or Express, when I decided to wander into Akira just in case.

I’ve shopped at Akira twice before and been pleasantly surprised by the experience both times. When I went on Saturday, I didn’t spend enough time there to catch the attention of a salesperson, but the store in Aurora was fairly empty on Sunday. Someone approached me soon after I started browsing, and I recounted my woes to her, particularly in the color department. She set off to start a dressing room for me, and I’ll be honest: I had very low expectations. Looking through the lineup, I didn’t see anything I liked, but I started trying things on anyway.

Wouldn’t you know it, they did it again.

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I was super impressed with this dress as soon as I put it on. No, it doesn’t have sleeves like I really wanted, but I found a wrap later that day that will get the job done (did I mention that this wedding is outside? At sunset? This Saturday? In Chicago? That’s why I was so concerned about sleeves.). Seriously, if you’re in the area and need a dress: go to Akira. They will solve all your problems. I know a lot of their clothes are…out there, to put it mildly, but they do have hidden gems!

I also got this necklace while I was there, because *heart-eyed emoji*

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Obsessed.

3. So! La Boheme! Seven years ago, I did an internship in Chicago that literally changed my life. I would not have moved to Chicago, I would not have started running, I would not have started blogging had it not been for that internship–and, subsequently, all the things that have happened as a result of me moving to Chicago/running/blogging never would’ve happened either. The program through which I did my internship takes students to art events in the city every week during the semester, either for class credit or just because. If you’re doing it for class credit, you have to go, but if you’re doing it just because, you can skip whenever you want (if I remember correctly).

This past Saturday, the program’s weekly art event was closing night of La Boheme at the Lyric. Apparently, a fair number of the students doing art events just because figured there were better ways they could spend their Saturday night in Chicago other than at the opera, because the program had a bunch of extra tickets for the show. One of the staff members posted about it in the alumni group on Facebook, and since I had nothing going on Saturday evening, I reached out to see how much they cost. The program had already paid for them, so they were free. WHAT! I looked it up later, and seats in my row were going for $139. That was a pretty good deal, so off I went to the opera!

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I had never seen a fully staged opera before, so this was a really special occasion! I got all dressed up (in my sleeveless lacy dress, due to the above drama, with a scarf over my shoulders to keep me warm) and had a delightful time. The performers were all so talented, and I’m glad I got to see the show!

Have you ever been to the opera?

 

Thursday Things

1. In an effort to put myself in the best position possible to have a fantastic marathon, I decided the most logical course of action would be to pack the days leading up to the marathon with a zillion activities, guaranteeing elevated stress levels and next to no relaxing! A foolproof plan!

Sarcasm aside, I did way more in the week before the marathon than I should have/would have if I had been thinking, and it really stressed me out–like, crying-in-the-kitchen-a-week-before-the-race-because-there-are-so-many-dishes-and-I-don’t-have-time-to-do-them stressed out. I would definitely not recommend following my method, but in case you’re interested, here’s what I did!

2. First up (and, frankly, a big contributor to the crying-in-the-kitchen incident) was my first-ever trip to Montrose for the purpose of birding.

Montrose Beach/Point/Harbor has a reputation among local birders as being the place in Chicago to go birding, and it’s been on my bucket list to go there during migration since last fall or so. As I learned while I was there, at one point, there was a military base at Montrose Harbor that had a honeysuckle hedge surrounding the ground level. Birders noticed that, during migration, warblers would dart in and out of the hedge “like magic,” which is how the area got the name Magic Hedge. Since the base closed, there has been an intentional effort to develop the area in a way that will cater to migrating birds, with a variety of environments (open prairie, woods, etc.), so it has become quite the hot spot for birders.

I wasn’t able to make it during spring migration this year, so I circled Sept. 29 on my calendar as the day I’d go during the fall. I only had eight miles on tap that morning, it was during the height of migration, and, conveniently, the weather was pretty cooperative. What could possibly go wrong?!

While I certainly agree with the assessment of birders of ages past that warblers flock (heh puns) to the place, that was, ultimately, the root of my problems. There are nearly 50 different kinds of warblers that you might find in North America, and it felt like all 50 kinds were there on Sept. 29. In reality, I saw seven different kinds, most of which were brand new to my life list. You’d think that’d make the day a success, and I suppose in retrospect it did, but I was so overwhelmed. I had a hard time taking pictures of the birds I saw since they never sat still, which frustrated me, and an even harder time trying to identify them, especially since they’d all lost their breeding colors and looked basically identical. I was in way over my head and felt like a total failure of a birder, and that was obviously discouraging.

The American Redstarts were the only warblers that came close to taking pity on me. Here’s an out-of-focus, too-high-ISO female:

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And a male, also with too high ISO. This is what happens when you put an amateur (aka me) behind an SLR. Isn’t he striking, though?

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These pictures aren’t exactly high quality, but I do like that I captured the female on the prowl for some bugs for a mid-afternoon snack. In the second picture, you can see her leaping for a tiny little green bug. I think that’s pretty cool. I also think the coloring on the underside of her wings is very pretty, even if it’s a bit understated compared to that of her male companion.

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I did see several other birds I could identify, easy ones like cardinals and catbirds and chickadees, but overall it was not even close to the enjoyable experience I hoped it’d be. I think I need to practice at a less populated spot before I go to Montrose again. Either that, or I need to go to Montrose just to enjoy it, rather than to try to log the birds I see on eBird.

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The bees, for what it’s worth, were much more cooperative to my photographic ambitions.

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3. The Tuesday before the marathon, I skipped dance in favor of seeing Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally at the Chicago Theater!

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They were there as part of a tour for their new book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. I LOVE Parks and Rec and like Will & Grace a lot, too (not as much as I love Parks and Rec, but that’s one of my favorite TV shows, so not much else really competes), so I was SUPER interested in seeing Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally live. Their conversation was moderated by Will Forte, which was a huge surprise. The Chicago Tribune sponsored the event, so I figured it’d be a journalist from the Trib moderating, not another celebrity!

I enjoyed hearing them talk about their relationship and careers, and being in the Chicago Theater for the first time. It’s a beautiful space! The event ticket included a copy of the book, which I have yet to start, but hopefully I’ll get around to it sooner rather than later.

4. The Thursday before the marathon, I had yet another event: Ed Sheeran at Soldier Field. Sort of.

I had a few other family members running the marathon, and one of them has wanted to go to a show at Soldier Field for awhile. When she found out that Ed Sheeran was playing the Thursday before the race, she asked if the rest of us wanted to go. I don’t really have strong feelings about Ed Sheeran one way or the other. I don’t actively like his music, but I don’t actively dislike it either, so I didn’t care one way or the other whether or not we went. Everyone else wanted to go, so we all got tickets.

By the time we got to the aforementioned crying-in-the-kitchen incident, I no longer had any interest in attending the concert. I felt behind on and overwhelmed by everything, including that little 26.2 mile run I planned on doing 36 hours after the show, and I seriously considered bailing. I felt like that wouldn’t be very nice to my family, though, so instead I ended up taking a half day Thursday and all of Friday off (which was really for the best, since I was to stressed to be remotely useful at work in the days leading up to the race anyway) in order to accommodate this concert I didn’t want to see anymore.

I was going to try to be a good sport about things, but then it ended up being FREEZING the day of the show. The Real Feel was in the 40s (a bit of a difference from the 88 degrees we had had the day before) and it was ridiculously windy. I did what I thought was a decent job of bundling up, but I don’t think anything short of full-blown winter gear would’ve been enough to keep me warm against the north winds in my seat on the south end of the stadium. I ended up staying for the two opening acts and left before Ed Sheeran even got on stage >.< Fail. I felt bad for being such a wimp, but I also didn’t feel bad about putting non-numb toes two days before the marathon ahead of seeing an artist I don’t care about all that much, so it is what it is, I suppose.

5. This didn’t happen before the Chicago Marathon, but this past Sunday while walking from the Post Office to Wintrust during Open House, I passed some tourists who asked if I spoke Spanish. Why, yes, I do!

They were trying to get to a cruise on the Chicago River but didn’t know where they were in relation to where the company launches. They showed me their map, and I gave them directions on how to get there in Spanish. I think I was fairly successful, though I wasn’t sure I used the right word for “block.” (Upon looking it up later, it appears that I did use the right word, though my pronunciation probably could’ve used some work, since they initially thought I was saying “cuatro” (four) not “cuadra” (block) 😛  )

It was so fulfilling! This was, literally, the first time in my life where I’ve actually needed to use Spanish. Didn’t get that Spanish minor for nothing, darn it! I genuinely enjoy giving tourists directions, but to have the chance to do it in Spanish was extra special 🙂

Open House Chicago

There are two October traditions I consider sacred:

  1. Running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on the Sunday before Columbus Day
  2. Traipsing around the city in pursuit of pretty buildings, historic buildings, and awesome rooftops the following weekend during Open House Chicago

Having finished the Chicago Marathon the weekend before this past weekend, it was obviously time for Open House! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is my favorite weekend of the whole year. Without further ado: a one(ish) sentence per site summary of my weekend!

Saturday

Railway Exchange Building
I started Open House at the Railway Exchange Building this year, where I saw the offices of not one, not two, but three different architecture firms *dies* I only semi-secretly wish I were an architect, so going to offices of major firms and interacting with real life architects is amazing for me.

First, I visited SOM (Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill), which *flails wildly*

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SOM is such a storied firm, especially in modern Chicago architecture. They’re responsible for small projects like the Hancock Building and the Sears Tower, so you might be familiar with their work. It is a LANDMARK firm in Chicago architecture history, in my opinion–right up there with Holabird & Roche, or Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. Getting to see their office definitely necessitates more than one sentence 😛 I attended Open House with a few friends, and I don’t think any of them quite grasped the significance of being in SOM’s office, but whatever. thought it was an amazing opportunity.

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The Railway Exchange building itself was also stunning, especially the interior atrium.

After SOM, I visited Stantec and Goettsch Partners. I…much preferred Stantec, mostly because I much prefer their work, but it was still cool to see both offices and learn more about each firm.

200WJ
An office building with a nice view from its top floor.

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The National Building
Another building with multiple sites: WeWork (unpictured), and the Revival Food Hall, including its event space and outdoor deck on the sixth floor, which really could’ve used a tour guide to fill us in on the history of the space, because I will forever wonder about this fireplace and why it’s there.

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Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Money Museum
The Fed had a beautiful grand hall, and at the Money Museum, I saw $2 million: once in the form of $20 bills and once in the form of $1 bills, both of which led me to think, “Surely this cash could be put to better use than just to show what $1 million physically looks like?” and also made me ponder how interesting it is that we assign value to pieces of papery fabric.

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Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
This building has been on my bucket list for years, and it gets more than one sentence, too. I was interested both in the physical space itself and the history of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago, and the work of Hull House more broadly. Learning about all the services the organization provided for immigrants and their families was really interesting, and, per usual, I wish I had been alive 100 years earlier to see what it looked like during its heyday rather than just what’s left.

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UIC, Richard J. Daley Library IDEA Commons
Another picture-free entry, this time for half of the first floor of UIC’s library that was recently-ish redesigned as a collaborative, flexible work space that I think I would’ve really liked for group projects in college, had I gone to UIC.

St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church
This church was originally built as a synagogue and has survived multiple fires to become the space it is today. I was super fascinated by this stop, mostly because I know absolutely nothing about Orthodox Christianity, and I loved talking to the guide and learning more about their services and traditions.

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Sunday

Brewster Building
I’ve been meaning to get to the Brewster Building during Open House for years and was SO excited to finally do so on Sunday. The building is fascinating for several reasons, but the main draw for Open House purposes is the interior atrium that replaces where you would expect hallways in any other similar building. All of the units open into this atrium, which was designed to help keep them cool during the summer. It also, unfortunately, basically functions as a gigantic chimney, so none of the windows to the atrium open anymore, nor does the glass at the top.

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2650 N. Lakeview
I’m sure this is a nice enough condo building, but the real point of going here was for the 45th floor rooftop, which was everything you would expect a 45th floor rooftop facing Lincoln Park and the lake to be.

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National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
This shrine is mostly hidden by a gigantic condo building these days, but the interior is certainly worth it once you find it. It memorializes St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who died at the location of the shrine and was the first United States citizen to be canonized.

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Church of our Saviour
Church of our Saviour is an Episcopal church in Lincoln Park with a lot of interesting architectural features, including a bunch of terra cotta tiles throughout the interior…none of which are in this picture, naturally. Oops.

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Cortelyou Commons
This stunning building on DePaul’s campus made me wish I had gone to DePaul for college.

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DePaul University Holtschneider Performance Center
This is DePaul’s brand new music building (it literally smelled new) and ho.ly. cow. I realize I was kind of roughing it in the music department at my alma mater–the music building I had was built in the 50s and hadn’t really been updated since, though they tore it down soon after I graduated and built a new structure–but this was truly incredible. I was particularly impressed by their jazz performance space. The student usher told us it was designed to absorb sound, since jazz tends to be so loud, and he wasn’t joking. When he turned his back to us, I could barely hear him talking, even though he was only feet away. It was amazing!

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The Post Office
This was, hands down, the highlight of Open House for me. I became a member of the Chicago Architecture Center ahead of the announcement of this year’s Open House sites 1) so I’d have access to member-only locations and, more importantly, 2) because I believe in the work the CAC does. Best. Investment. Ever.

In case you’re not familiar with the Post Office, it was built in the 1920s and, at the time, was the largest building in the world. It was built, in part, due to the fact that both Sears Roebuck (… 😦 ) and Montgomery Ward were headquartered in Chicago. Being mail-order businesses at that point in time, the city obviously needed a pretty substantial facility to handle all the shipping required, hence the gigantic post office. The building closed in the 90s and has gone through several failed proposals for adaptive reuse. Within the past couple of years, a viable proposal came through, and it’s currently being renovated into office space that will open next year. The public isn’t allowed in the building, but for Open House, members had access to the lobby, and you guys. ALL of the heart-eyed emojis.

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It literally took my breath away. It is an incredible space, and I felt like I passed through a time machine when I went through the doors. It was like being transported back to the 1930s. I couldn’t help but think about all the people who had been in that lobby, all the packages that had been shipped through that building (a bittersweet thing to think about, in retrospect, since Sears filed for bankruptcy the following day). This was definitely one of my all-time favorite Open House sites.

Wintrust’s Grand Banking Hall
Though this was a close second, and also made my membership more than worth it, because I got to skip the 30 minute line thanks to my Priority Access Pass.

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111 West Jackson
I finished my Open Housing for the year at 111 W. Jackson and its two rooftop decks, one of which came with a delightful view of Ceres on her perch atop the Board of Trade and the Sears Tower.

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Thursday Things

Annual marathon edition!

1. I went to the expo on Friday, per usual, and it was NUTS. I got there around 1:30, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so swamped at that time of day. I had no trouble getting through the security line to get into the expo itself, but once I got in, it felt like the entire race field was there. Lines for everything were so bonkers that I was ready to leave without buying anything. Fortunately, it cleared up substantially within about an hour, and I was able to buy a tank top from Nike without having to wait 30 minutes in line to do so.

2. The haul:

chicagomarathonpacket2018

Everything aside from the non-race shirt clothes was free (“free.” “Included in the registration price” is more accurate.), but I still feel like I spent way too much money at the expo. I suppose that feeling is a hallowed part of marathon weekend, though 😛 I LOVE the Twenty Six Point Two shirt from Goose Island. Love it. I love the design, the colors, everything. I bought the grey hoodie from the Chicago Tribune before going to Under Armour, where I discovered that I could’ve gotten an equivalent Under Armour hoodie for the exact same price, instead of an off-brand hoodie from the Trib *rolls eyes* Oh well. I suppose I’d rather spend my money with the Trib than Under Armour, anyway. I did buy a thin hoodie from Under Armour (the navy shirt) that I anticipate will be my go-to around-the-house shirt all winter long.

I bought the red tank top from Nike even though I didn’t ~love~ it because I knew I’d regret it later if I didn’t. I regretted not buying more Nike stuff soon after the race last year, so I figured whatever, I’ll buy it now and trust that I’ll like it later. I’ve wanted a new tank top for awhile anyway, so I guess this will get the job done, even if I hate the color and am apathetic about the design.

I am more upset than I should be, though, over the fact that I wasn’t able to get a hat this year. I’ve been involved with the Chicago Marathon in one capacity or another since 2011, and I have a hat from every race since 2011 to commemorate my involvement. I actually got a visor from this year’s race for my birthday, but I really wanted a hat and planned to buy one at the expo. They were completely sold out! None at the expo, none online, none anywhere. I know it’s stupid that I’m upset about this, especially since I have the visor, which is basically the same thing. But I am upset about it, darn it! I wanted a hat!

Nike continued to let me down when I went online to buy a finisher half zip on Tuesday for the first time EVER to commemorate my PR, and all they had left were extra larges. Boo. I guess I should’ve known that those things wouldn’t last, but I did figure they’d last at least 48 hours. I underestimate my fellow marathoners, apparently.

3. We need to talk about the official race shirt. I was…not in love with the design from the moment I saw it. It felt way too busy, and way too…mass produced, I guess. I feel like the Chicago Marathon has a certain sense of gravitas, and the design of this shirt does not match that sense, in my opinion. It’s far and away my least favorite shirt of the six I own, and that includes the 2014 shirt, the design of which was so boring it was downright insulting.

My obviously refined race shirt design sensibility aside, my much bigger concern–and I think a valid concern–was how much of the shirt was covered in screen printing. I learned very quickly when wearing my shirt from the 2014 BTN Big 10K that shirts with a ton of screen printing are heavy, uncomfortable, and don’t breathe well. I wore my race shirt on Tuesday, and what do you know: it was heavy, uncomfortable, and didn’t breathe well–and that was while I was standing on an El platform waiting for a train. I would be surprised if I ever end up running in it, which is disappointing. I didn’t run a marathon to not brag about it, darn it! 😛

4. I liked that CARA handed out temporary tattoos with motivational phrases on them at the expo. I put one that said I AM CAPABLE on the back of my right hand to remind myself that I am, you know, capable. One of my go-to mantras since 2013 has been, “Strong, powerful, capable,” so it seemed appropriate. I also wrote “I WILL” on my left hand along my thumb and “FEARLESS,” stylized as:

FEAR
LESS

on the back of my left hand in permanent marker, so it read both as “FEARLESS” and “FEAR LESS.” Corny? Maybe a little. But I’ll be darned if it didn’t help when I looked down at my hands and saw those reminders.

5. Always a sucker for a topical and unique race sign, my favorite sign this year was, “Banksy shredded my first sign.” Ha. I also saw an ABUNDANCE of literal puppies (as opposed to adult dogs that I call puppies anyway) and I would like to formally request more of those at every race I run from here on out. Little baby golden retrievers > topical signs.

6. I interviewed Deena Kastor for Chicago Running Bloggers the Thursday before the race, and omg you guys. It was awesome. When I walked into the room, she was all, “Hi! It’s so good to see you!” and gave me a big hug like we were friends, rather than my favorite runner (that would be Deena) and someone trying to be professional but fangirling on the inside (that would be me). I got through the interview just fine, primarily attempting to absorb as much positivity from her as I could, and then at the end was like, “So, uh, not to be totally unprofessional, but could I maybe have your autograph?” What a nerd. But she was super nice about it!

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*dies*

And then at the end she gave me another hug for good luck (definitely why I PRed), which you’d think would’ve been my favorite part of the whole thing, but what actually was my favorite part was after that when she was walking me out and just started chatting with me, runner to runner. I mean, guys, she asked what I use for fuel, of all things. These are the things I discuss on my long runs with my running buddies, not things I ever thought I’d be discussing with an American record holder! Honestly, that’s one of my favorite things about running: how even though elites are on a totally different level than I am, at the end of the day, we’re all humans trying to get our bodies through 26.2 miles of running without falling apart.

7. You would think, going into Sunday’s race with six marathons under my belt, that I would remember by now that most of the people cheering for me by name don’t know me, and only cheer for me by name because I literally have my name pinned onto my chest. But man, those first couple of, “Go Bethany!”s get me every time! I always think it must be someone I know! Haha. I also took all of the words of encouragement beyond “Go Bethany” (particularly the “You look so strong!”s) to heart, so thank you, every single stranger who told me I looked strong, because I 100 percent believed you, even if you were just saying it because it’s an appropriate thing to say to a runner during a marathon, and it definitely motivated me to keep looking strong.

8. I moderately revamped my fueling strategy this year, and I think it made a big difference. I took Honey Stinger chews at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20, per usual, but I also had 10 pretzel sticks (the mini ones, not the gigantic ones, obviously) at miles 13, 18, and 23. I’ve carried pretzels with me during every marathon since Fox Valley 2016, but I don’t remember ever having a strategy about when I ate them before this year. I think what I did this year was perfect. It allowed me to take in extra carbs (and salt) starting at the halfway point, which meant I never went more than slightly over 30 minutes without taking in carbs in some capacity. I’ll definitely keep that in mind in the future.

9. Even though it clearly didn’t thunderstorm during the race on Sunday, I still maintain that the Chicago Marathon should’ve been more proactive about communicating what would happen if it did storm. As of Saturday morning, the forecast still included the potential for storms, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the marathon to take that potential seriously and say something–anything–about what would happen if it DID storm. Would the race be cancelled? Delayed? Suspended? If stormed mid-run, what was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to go?

While my storm-related anxiety did not stem entirely from a lack of information from the race, not knowing what would happen if it stormed certainly contributed to it. With 44,000+ runners, 12,000+ volunteers, and goodness only knows how many spectators, I think the marathon has a responsibility to tell people what to do in case of inclement weather before that inclement weather arrives, not in the moment, especially when you consider the challenge of communicating a message to all of those people spread out over literally 26.2 miles (as opposed to, say, all being contained in a stadium armed with state-of-the-art video boards in every corner). I don’t think they needed to give everyone a detailed play-by-play of what to do in every possible scenario, but again, just SOME information, even if that information was just, “In case of thunderstorms, participants will be directed to the nearest shelter by race volunteers and will be updated on the status of the race as soon as possible,” would’ve been much better than the radio silence we got. It made me feel like the race just had its head in the sand and refused to acknowledge the possibility in the hope that refusing to acknowledge the possibility would make storms impossible.

10. I knew I’d get a goodie bag for using the CARA VIP Experience, which I assumed would be a bunch of 10 percent off coupons and ads, with maybe a sample size protein bar or something thrown in. Boy, was I ever wrong!

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Holy cow! I was so overwhelmed! This was a far better haul than I ever expected, and made the CARA VIP Experience totally worth it.

11. Speaking of things that made running with CARA totally worth it:

normatecCARA

Yes. Please. CARA was offering free NormaTec sessions to members, and oh man, those 20 minutes were more than worth the price of my membership. I felt like a new person when my session finished. I don’t know if the NormaTec session is entirely responsible, but I recovered from this marathon a LOT faster than I recovered from last year’s marathon. I know it took me until Thursday to not fear stairs last year, and this year I felt totally normal by about noon on Wednesday. I’m still taking the rest of the week off, but it’s nice to not hurt anymore (because let me tell you, I hurt on Monday.)

12. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my splits for this race.

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Before the race, I put all the mile splits that I have from past marathons into Excel to look for trends, with the hope that I could use those trends to structure a race plan around them, or, at the very least, to have an idea of what to expect might happen on Sunday. I discovered a few things:

  • Mile 7 is almost always one of my fastest miles
  • Mile 16 is almost always 30 seconds slower than mile 15
  • Miles 18-26 are almost always significantly slower than all my other miles, leading me to believe I usually hit the wall at mile 18. This information was what influenced me to be intentional about increasing my fueling after mile 13.

It’s crazy to look at that graph now with 2018 data included. The 2018 line (light blue) is so straight compared to the others, at least until the end. I don’t know if I’ve ever run a race of any substantial distance at such a steady pace.

13. Speaking of races of substantial distances: the two half marathons I ran during the Chicago Marathon rank as my #3 (second half) and #4 (first half) half marathons of the year, and the second half was only seconds away from being my second fastest half marathon of the year. If this doesn’t confirm how difficult Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego and Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle were, I don’t know what does 😛

14. I feel like I nailed my training this year. Since I knew I was going for a 4:45 this year, it was critical to me that I get in every workout possible, and that those workouts would be quality workouts. I biked way more than usual: 133.75 miles over 14 workouts (9.6/workout), compared to 72.66 miles over eight workouts (9.1/workout) last year. I’m sure all my strength training (48 total workouts) also made a gigantic difference. I only missed 18.7 running miles all season long, 12.5 of which were during taper, which I think is the best I’ve ever done. Knowing that I had done everything I needed to do to train to run the time I wanted helped me convince myself that it was possible to run that time, and I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it without so much confidence in my training. I don’t want to discount the physical work I did, because obviously that was critical to preparing me to get it done on Sunday. Nevertheless, I think believing in myself (and insisting on believing in myself from the moment I got into the corrals until the moment I crossed the finish line) was the x factor that enabled me to surpass my expectations.

15. When I ran my first marathon in 2013, I had it in my head that there was no way I’d finish after 1 p.m. I was extremely wrong, and even though it’s not entirely logical (after all, my time-of-day finish is directly related to my time-of-day start), it’s been an ongoing goal of mine to finish the marathon before 1 p.m. What time of day did I finish on Sunday? 12:59:56 p.m. CRUSHED IT.

Thursday Things

1. I’m trying to not spend too much time obsessing about the race this weekend, but it’s hard. I’ve said it before, but this is one of the things I hate the most about the Chicago Marathon. It’s less of a race and more of an event, if that makes sense, and as a result the whole thing feels like The Biggest Deal of Your Life. It’s difficult to not put a lot of pressure on yourself to have The Best Day of Your Life when everything around you seems to suggest that that’s the expectation.

I’ve analyzed my mile splits from my past four marathons (the only ones I have. My splits from my first two are lost to some long-forgotten Garmin account.) six ways from Sunday in an effort to try to find patterns so I can predict how my race will go. I’ve used race time predictor calculators to get an estimate of how fast I might finish (and also retroactively used them on three of my past four marathons, to test their accuracy. They were way off on all of my times, estimating that I’d finish anywhere between 10 minutes faster and 11 minutes slower than I’d actual finish.). I’ve used my favorite time calculator to put together untold combinations of mile times in an attempt to devise a race plan.

I’ve worried that all my worrying and analyzing is going to hold me back. I’ve read Let Your Mind Run. I’ve tried to adopt a more positive attitude about running/life in general. I’ve gone to an hour-long visualization session to get me in the right head space for Sunday. I’ve respected the taper like my life depended on it, aiming to get in bed by 9 p.m. every night (and succeeding…occasionally 😛 ), cutting out nearly all dessert, reducing the intensity of my workouts across the board.

I have found it particularly difficult to balance my desire to be realistic about my expectations with my desire to not limit myself by putting expectations on myself at all. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been concerned that my struggle to believe I can actually run a 4:45 marathon will keep me from doing that. There was a point in my running career where I believed that was attainable, but after six years of chasing that goal and never even coming within spitting distance of it, it’s become much more difficult to believe that’s possible. I was reading through my pre-marathon Thursday Things post from 2015 the other day where I talked about intending to run a 4:35 marathon, and I could not believe that I actually hoped to run that fast. After three consecutive 5:00+ marathons, it’s incomprehensible to me that I ever aimed to do a 4:35.

What if it’s all in my head? What if the thing keeping me from doing a 4:45 (or a 4:35, for that matter) is that I can’t convince myself that it’s possible? When I ran my half marathon PR four years ago, the pacing groups were all listed by mile splits rather than by overall finish time. Having no idea what any of those splits translated to in terms of finishing times, I picked one that seemed reasonable. I didn’t know until well into the race that I had selected a pace group that would get me my ultimate dream goal time. If I had known from the start that they were shooting for a 2:05 half, I don’t think I ever would’ve lined up with that pace group. I would’ve been scared I couldn’t hang and would’ve lined up with a 2:10 pace group, thinking that seemed more reasonable. I didn’t think I could run a 2:05 half marathon. I ended up running a 2:02:50.

But what if it’s not? What if I truly am not capable of running a 4:45 marathon? What if the 4:52 I ran a few years back is the best I’ll ever be able to do? What if my marathon fate is to be a permanent member of the 5:00 Club?

You see how good of a job I’m doing not obsessing over the race on Sunday.

With all that being said, my hope/goal/dream for Sunday is to be fearless and limitless. I WILL. Even though I have talked without ceasing about my 4:45 time goal, I would like, ideally, to run without a time goal in mind.

I want to run fearlessly. Instead of holding myself back, worrying about what might happen in the last six to eight miles, I want to run boldly. I want to run responsibly, of course, so when I talk about running boldly, I’m not talking about going out at a 9:00 pace, or even a 10:00 pace, or, honestly, probably even a 10:30 pace. Last year, I went into the race with the plan to run the first half at an 11:30 pace because I knew I could run the whole race at (close to) an 11:30 pace, so if I just started there to begin with, I wouldn’t have too far to fall. It was safe. It was comfortable. But I don’t need a comfortable marathon this year. I felt like I cracked the code on how to run a comfortable marathon last year, and I’m happy with that. This year, I want to run the fastest marathon I’m capable of running, and I don’t expect that to be comfortable. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I want to run without limits. I don’t want to restrict myself to a 4:45 if I’m able to run faster than that. I don’t want to box myself in, tell myself I don’t have the ability to do better than 4:45. Maybe I don’t! I don’t know! But I’d rather find that out by giving it my best shot rather than by never allowing myself to realize my potential in the first place.

I anticipate that Sunday’s race will be my last Chicago Marathon for awhile, mostly because I’m tired of committing to a wildly expensive race 10 months before race day. (Though who knows. In typical fashion, the closer I get to the race, the more my conviction to not run Chicago again wavers.) So, darn it, I want to go for it. I want to leave everything I have on the course. I know it’s nearly inevitable to avoid asking yourself, “What if?” after a marathon: what if I had gone out slower, or faster, or pushed a little harder in the middle miles, or sped up my walk breaks, or taken fewer walk breaks, or taken more walk breaks, etc. etc. etc. But the one question I do not want to ask myself is, “What if I had tried harder?” I want to cross that finish line knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I put everything I had into the race, knowing that I never gave up on myself, knowing that I ran the best I possibly could under the circumstances I faced. Whether that gives me a 4:30 finish or a 5:30 finish, that’s what I want: to be proud of the race I ran.

No fear. No limits. No regrets.

2. All that inspirational speech stuff aside, I have spent far too much time this week worrying about the forecast, and I’m annoyed with myself for worrying about it. For one thing, I know both from experience and from actual documentation that just because the forecast says one thing early in the week most certainly does not mean that it’s guaranteed to happen on Sunday. For another thing, I’ve been through this six times before!! I wrote an entire missive last year on the uselessness of worrying about the forecast for a marathon!

I know why I’m worried. I’m worried because the forecast includes thunderstorms, and the five forecasts I’ve been following all week aren’t budging on their inclusion of thunderstorms nearly as much as I’d like. As of Wednesday morning, Weather.com and Weather Underground had at least changed their forecasts to “PM Thunderstorms,” and WGN had dropped down from scattered thunderstorms to a 30 percent chance of showers (WGN had also dropped its predicted high for Sunday from 80 to 69, which I appreciated.). NBC Chicago and AccuWeather both still insist that there’s a chance it’ll storm in the morning. Yes, a chance that it will storm somewhere in the Chicago area Sunday morning is hardly an apocalyptic, damning forecast. But I still can’t help worrying about it, because if it storms during the race, you know they’ll black flag it, and that’ll be it.

I realize it’s not the end of the world by any means if I don’t finish the Chicago Marathon this year because the weather forces a mid-race cancellation, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I want the race to be cancelled in the middle of things. I have backup marathons picked out in case that happens, but that brings a whole other set of stressors, chiefly: what if they sell out between now and Sunday? I’ve come very, very close to registering for one of them “just in case,” because they’re both fairly affordable (compared to Chicago, at least), but I’m not sure if it makes sense to register for a marathon I have no intention of running unless the Chicago Marathon gets called mid-race when I have no way of knowing if the Chicago Marathon will get called mid-race until the day of the race itself.

I hate that I’m so stressed about all of this when I just want to relax in the days leading up to the marathon so I can have the best race possible. I just have these visions of 18 weeks of training harder than I’ve ever trained before going down the drain because it starts thunderstorming at Mile 20, and I can’t get into my backup marathon because it’s sold out. And, again, I realize it’s not the end of the world if that happens. There’s more to life than running marathons. But when there hasn’t been a whole lot more to your life than preparing for a marathon for the past four and a half months, when you’ve put everything else in your life on hold for the sake of preparing for a marathon for four and a half months, the idea of all of it being for nothing is pretty upsetting.

Yay race week.

If anyone has advice regarding registering for a race you hope to not run for the sake of getting in before it sells out, I’m all ears.
Who’ll be in Chicago this weekend for the race??