Weekend in San Francisco

I’ve had a long-running obsession with California since middle school. My obsession with American Idol (and, consequently, Hollywood) likely sparked the fire, but I’ve dreamed of visiting the state–any part of the state, all of the state–for well over a decade. A series of serendipitous events conspired this past weekend to bring me to California for the first time with a weekend trip to San Francisco.


After flying in Friday night, the trip really began Saturday morning, first with a walk around Fisherman’s Wharf that ended at the promised land: Ghirardelli Square.


Granted, I suppose I likely could buy most of the items available at the two (!!) stores in Ghirardelli Square in Chicago, but I couldn’t resist stocking up on chocolate since I was there and all. Since it was only around 10 a.m., I didn’t get any ice cream, but man oh man did the concoctions look mindblowing.

Ghirardelli Square sits conveniently across the street from San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. While I have never had a special interest in shipping, I do have a special interest in history, so that became stop #2. You can walk around a fair portion of the park for free, but I really wanted to go on board the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, for which the National Park Service asks $10 to issue you a “boarding pass.”

You could access four ships that day–and I did–but I particularly enjoyed the Balclutha, a square rigged sailing ship. The Balclutha sailed nearly everywhere in the world during its 65+ years as a shipping vessel and carried all sorts of cargo at different times, ranging from grain to timber to canned salmon. You could explore a bunch of areas of the ship, including the ‘tween deck, which had displays of various kinds of cargo, the captain’s quarters, sailors quarters, and all of the main deck.

Other ships open that day included the CA Thayer, a schooner:


the Hercules, a tugboat that I may or may not have wanted to go on entirely because of Hercules Mulligan (#hamilton), but that is neither here nor there:


and the Eureka, a ferryboat:


After all that exploration of historic boats, it was time to head to Pier 33 to get on a modern boat for more history: a trip to Alcatraz.


I was familiar with Alcatraz prior to visiting San Francisco in the sense that I knew it held a maximum security prison at one point, that Al Capone was imprisoned there for a time, and that these days, you can “Escape from Alcatraz” via a triathlon once a year. As it turns out, there was WAY more to Alcatraz’s history than I realized, starting as a military fort, then turning into a military prison, and finally becoming the federal prison most of us associate with the island today.

The trip to the island started with an hourish long tour around a fair portion of the island, starting at the dock, going along the Agave Trail, moving towards the area of the industrial buildings, and finishing at the audio tour of the Federal Penitentiary Cell House itself. I could NOT get enough. My only Alcatraz regret is that I didn’t spend more than three hours there, because I imagine I easily could have. Well, that, and I regret that I only had an iPhone to use to take photos. One of these days, hopefully a sooner day rather than a later day, I’m going to get an SLR. Regardless, visiting Alcatraz was incredible, and I’m going to subject you to a photo dump. Sorry not sorry.


The lighthouse, Warden’s Home (in ruins) and cell house from the parade grounds.


Ruins of the family housing for correctional officers.


An Anna’s Hummingbird feeding. As you can imagine, if you remember my affinity for birds, I lost my mind upon seeing this.



Al Capone’s cell.


Solitary confinement.


The view inside the Warden’s House, which was the military commandant’s house prior to the island becoming a federal prison.


San Francisco from Alcatraz, with the ruins of the correctional officers’ homes in the foreground.


Ruins of the social hall.

After returning to the mainland, the walk back involved a stop at Pier 39, where I lost my mind (again), this time due to sea lions rather than hummingbirds.


These guys amused me to no end. They lolled around on the docks, occasionally roaring at each other when one would plop on top of another, before losing their will to care and falling asleep again. It was simultaneously one of the most hilarious and cutest things I’ve ever seen.

Saturday evening’s plans called for dinner with friends at John’s Diner, where I got more than my fair share of seafood. Can’t say no to that when I’m in a city on water!

As a lifelong Full House fan, the Painted Ladies and the Full House house were two stops I had to make while in San Francisco, and that happened Sunday morning.


Alamo Square Park, where you see the cast picnicking at the end of the theme song, is currently under renovations and was mostly closed to the public, but they still had a small part open so you could take a picture and get the skyline in the background.


It was both raining and sunny at the time, which made for an awesome rainbow to the north.


The Full House house itself is not a Painted Lady (which I think is fairly clear from the exterior), but isn’t that far from the park and available to be photographed as well.

After that, it was time for a trip across the Bay via the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods National Monument.


I’ve never seen redwoods before, but have wanted to see them for a long time, so I was really excited to visit Muir Woods. Once again, I kicked myself for not having a better camera than my iPhone, but I did my best.





The woods were stunning. There weren’t too many other people, so it was quiet and peaceful. I was able to add two more birds to my Life List: the Varied Thrush and the Pacific Wren. Speaking of, I also saw Cormorants in the Bay (not in the woods, obviously, since they’re water birds) so I added a total of four birds to my Life List on this trip. Success! (Life Lists, for those unaware, are lists birders keep of all the birds they’ve ever seen. I’m not serious enough to have an actual, physical, detailed list, but I would like to start one some day!)

I always try to run at least a mile whenever I’m on vacation so I can, minimally, add that state to the list of places I’ve run that year, but as was the case with this trip, add a whole new state to my list entirely. After a 2.5-mile run along the water, it was off to Boudin’s for an afternoon with more friends. I didn’t realize that Boudin’s sourdough bread was such a San Francisco staple, but it was fun to eat at the restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf and then tour the attached Bakery Museum afterwards. I learned that Boudin’s has made its sourdough from the same mother dough since 1849! The bakery’s founder’s wife even saved it from the 1906 earthquake! The same mother dough that started the sourdough process before the Civil War still goes into every single loaf of Boudin’s sourdough today, which I think is incredible.


Since afternoon rain scrapped our original hiking plans, we headed down (up? South of Fisherman’s’ Wharf, but you do have to go up some SUBSTANTIAL hills in the process) to Mission District to a place called Urban Putt, an indoor mini golf place. Now, when I hear “indoor mini golf,” I think “go karts, laser tag, arcade games, etc.” Suburban entertainment center Urban Putt is not. The best way I can think of to describe it is “steampunk mini golf,” or, perhaps, “the most San Francisco thing I did while in San Francisco that wasn’t touristy.” It was located inside a renovated…something (the website says mortuary, but it’s also clear that the history of Urban Putt as written on the website is definitely exaggerated, so I don’t know what the building used to be for sure) and features some of the most inventive mini golf holes you’ve ever seen. It was such a unique experience, and the perfect rainy afternoon activity.

I caught an early morning flight back to Chicago on Monday to make an afternoon meeting at work. Even though it was a quick trip, it was so, so worth it. I saw sunshine for the first time in weeks and got to cross so many things off my travel bucket list. I love the West Coast, and I’m really glad I had the chance to visit this past weekend.

Have you ever been to San Francisco?

Thursday Things

Thursday Things



After MONTHS of not-at-all-patiently waiting to get into next year’s Chicago Marathon, I received my long-awaited email on Saturday morning informing me that I’m in.

I got in through CARA’s Marathon Incentive Program for the second year in a row, and while I think that’s an awesome program, let me tell you, it is not for the impatient of heart! (i.e.: me). To be fair, I think a lot of this year’s delays came from the fact that the marathon decided to open 2017 applications way, way, way earlier than ever before, which I imagine left CARA in a bit of a bind. If the guaranteed entry/lottery registrations had opened in late winter like usual, things probably would’ve gone a little more smoothly. As it stood, however, the CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit–which is extremely important to the Marathon Incentive Program, because the “5” of the “5+2” that makes up that program refers to races on the Circuit–didn’t even finish before registration opened this year. I would guess that at least partially contributed to the delays this year.

CARA made it quite clear that Marathon Incentive Program entries were rewarded on a first come, first served basis, so I got up at 6:52 a.m. on Oct. 30 to be ready for the applications to open at 7 a.m. that day (as it happened, they were already open when I logged onto the computer, and I finished the whole application process before 7 a.m.). At the time, we were told it could take up to four weeks to know whether or not we got in. There were exactly two days left in the lottery application period after that four-week window ended. As time went on and I continued to hear nothing from neither CARA nor the marathon about my entry, I became more and more panicked, and eventually emailed CARA to see if they could at least tell me when I’d know. While that email didn’t tell me when I’d ~officially~ find out whether or not I got in, it did tell me that I got in, so I breathed a little easier for the moment.

Another six or so weeks passed and I STILL hadn’t heard anything. At this point, those who entered the lottery started finding out whether or not they had gotten in, and I got constant Facebook notifications from my running group with everyone announcing that they would be back next year. Even though I had word from CARA that I was in, I still didn’t have the code I needed to register, and to say I was starting to get antsy would be a gross understatement. I waited almost a full week after the lottery results came out to pester CARA with another email, at which point I was told the marathon had promised CARA codes in “early January.” So I continued to twiddle my thumbs and argue with myself about when “early January” officially ended and I would feel comfortable bugging CARA once again, when to my great delight, I opened my email Tuesday afternoon to find a message from CARA with my registration code. I signed up for the race as soon as I got home, and fortunately the 10 days they warned me it may take to process my application only turned out to be three and a half.

So I am now, officially, signed up to run the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Here’s to a summer of complaining about how much I hate hot weather, how I hate the treadmill even more, and hopefully not nearly stress fracturing (or otherwise injuring) my foot or any other part of my body this year!

2. The first bit of the past three years, particularly late January and basically the entire month of February, have been pretty difficult for me. In 2015 and 2016, I chalked those depressed and/or anxious feelings up to what soon proved to be failing relationships. While I don’t doubt at all that relationship issues, especially in February of 2015 and 2016, contributed to my poor state of mental health, I’ve also started to wonder if those issues were the entire root of my issues. Earlier this month, I was feeling particularly anxious for no easily discernible reason, when I realized that 2015 and 2016 weren’t my only challenging winters. The winter of 2014 was an absolute disaster (and, since I had just started online dating at the time and only went on one date, period, in the months of January and February, I couldn’t blame a relationship as the reason I felt down.). It was the first time in my life where I ever felt like I would never feel better, and ultimately prompted me to start therapy. While events have happened for the past three Marches that could have helped with my increasing anxiety (starting therapy in 2014, a breakup in 2015, another breakup in 2016), I was starting to think that all of this winter depression/anxiety that magically cleared up right around the beginning of March when Daylight Savings Time begins was…not entirely coincidental. I brought this up to my therapist and my primary care physician, and both said that while I may not have full blown SAD, I certainly might have a mild version of it. Since I already exercise regularly and go to therapy weekly, they suggested I try light therapy.


Meet my new happy light!

According to my doctor, you want a happy light with 10,000 lux, and this was both the cheapest and most portable happy light available on Amazon with 10,000 lux, so here we are. I wanted a portable light in particular because my doctor, therapist, and the internet all told me to use the light in the morning. While the internet recommends using it for the first 30 minutes after you wake up, considering that I get up at the absolute, very last possible second on workdays (and, more often than not, actually get up more like 10 minutes after the absolute, very last possible second on workdays), that didn’t seem like a particularly viable option for me Monday through Friday (I didn’t think that getting a half hour less of sleep five days of the week would elevate my happiness levels haha). The user manual said to use it within two hours of waking up if you have trouble waking up without an alarm (*waves*), so I’ve decided to keep it at my desk during the week, then take it home on weekends and use it there.

I just started using it on Sunday, and we’re hardly into the throes of February yet (given that we still have almost two weeks until it even is February, that makes sense 😛 ), so I can’t really say quite yet if this is the solution to my winter blues. However, I am surprised how it tricks me into thinking it’s sunny. My cubicle is totally isolated from the outside world. We’ve had huge thunderstorms come and go without my noticing, so needless to say, I’m not exactly aware of daylight levels when I’m at my desk. On Monday–a day I knew was rainy and grey, since I walked through it on my commute to work–I stood up from my desk after my 30-minute happy light session and was genuinely surprised to see how cloudy and dark it was outside, even though I had just been out there and obviously experienced it. Magic!

I started taking lunchtime walks a few months ago to get outside and see the sun (when it’s not hiding behind clouds, that is) and am working to healthify my diet (I had to have blood work done for my health insurance again, and I still have high cholesterol 😦 ), so hopefully those things in combination with the happy light will make this a much easier winter. I’ll keep you posted!

2. I don’t know how long this has existed, but last Monday, I became aware of FitStar, a workout app developed by Fitbit. Since I’m constantly on the lookout for new workout ideas and my updated Fitbit app came with a Guidance tab that integrates with FitStar workouts, I downloaded the app immediately.

The FitStar app features a bunch of workouts designed to help you improve your fitness in varying ways (full body strength, area-specific strength, cardio, etc.). You don’t need a Fitbit to use it, but if you have a Fitbit, it will automatically log your workouts for you, so you don’t have to set a timer or wait for your Fitbit to figure out that you’re working out on its own. I have not explored the entire breadth and depth of the app at this point, but from what I’ve seen so far, the only piece of equipment you need is a box or something equivalent (a step stool, stairs, maybe a particularly sturdy and secure chair?) you can use to do step-ups or tricep dips. Everything else I’ve seen just uses your bodyweight.


You pick which trainer you want to work with, and then he or she helps guide you through the videos available to you. You can follow a program (most of which are only available through the premium version of the app), or you can do a “Freestyle Session,” where you pick whatever video suits your fancy.

The app comes with free and premium versions, and from what I’ve gathered, you definitely only get a taste of what it has to offer with the free version (which is what I have). As far as I can tell, I can access 21 of the 43 possible workouts. You can get premium for free (I don’t know for how long) by referring friends, for $7.99/month, or for $39.99/year. That’s a lot cheaper than a gym membership, but also more expensive than a free app like NTC.

I’ve enjoyed the workouts I’ve done so far with FitStar. I particularly like that they’re easy to do at home and that it has its own built-in playlists. The music balances perfectly with the audio instruction, which I certainly cannot say for NTC after it updated this past summer. I don’t like that I feel locked out from a lot of what the app has to offer, especially since I’m used to NTC, where I have access to over 100 workouts. Of course, just because I have access to over 100 workouts on NTC certainly doesn’t mean I’ve even come close to doing 100 different workouts–I’ve done 14, to be exact, since the app updated in July–primarily because the equipment required in SO many NTC workouts doesn’t make sense with my gym’s layout (I can’t get from the kettlebells on one end of the gym through the entire building to the rowing machine in 10 seconds) or my skill level (I can’t do one pullup, never mind 10). I haven’t done enough Fitstar workouts to feel confident saying I prefer one app over the other at this point, but I’m looking forward to mixing things up, especially when it comes to at-home workouts.

Who else is running Chicago this year??
Do you have a favorite workout app?

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

I have a bad habit of putting seasonal activities on my list of things to do and then making up dozens of excuses to not actually go. Last year, for example, was the fifth time I’ve lived in Chicago for more than half of baseball season, but only the second and third times I ever managed to go to a game, despite always swearing that this year, I’m going to go to a Cubs game (April: “It’s too cold!” May: “It’s too cold and/or I’m too busy!” June, July, August, September, October: “It’s marathon season and I’m too busy!” November: “Oh…oops.”). This has also been my general approach to ice skating. Including the semester I spent in Chicago during college, this is now my sixth winter here. Every single winter I’ve said I’m going to go ice skating, and every single winter I’ve never followed through…until last Saturday.

Ice skating got promoted from the bucket list to the actual to do list this winter. After deciding not to go two Saturdays ago (it was 5 degrees outside two Saturdays ago) and then deciding not to go on Wednesday like I had considered (it was thunderstorming Wednesday. Thunderstorming! Of all the weather patterns I thought would interfere with my ice skating dreams, thunderstorming certainly was not one of them!), this past Saturday finally brought perfect ice skating weather, with a precipitation-free atmosphere and temperatures in the mid-30s.

Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park are both viable downtown ice skating options, but Maggie Daley had the upper hand due to its design. Unlike your traditional ice rink, Maggie Daley features an ice ribbon–think a running track, but squiggly, with uphills and downhills, and climbing walls instead of a field in the middle. Maggie Daley also has the advantage of still being relatively new, and therefore more exciting, so Maggie Daley it was.


The ribbon opens for skating at 10 a.m. on Saturdays, and “opening” basically amounts to a park employee opening the gate and letting you have at it. The ribbon is free to use, and at least on Saturday, they didn’t seem to monitor how many people were on the ice at any given time (this may be different during high traffic periods–I have no idea, so don’t quote me on that–but this past Saturday morning didn’t have an overwhelming crowd), so you can hop on and off as you please. If you have your own skates, you can bring those, or you can rent skates in a building on the north side of the ribbon for $12 Monday-Thursday and $14 Friday-Sunday (and holidays). The management holds your shoes as collateral for your skates, but if you have other things to store, the building has lockers and there are (unattended, from what I could see) bag racks on the north and south side of the ribbon if you don’t want a locker and don’t want to skate around with a backpack or other bag. The south side of the ribbon also has picnic tables and a food stand in case you need to take a hot chocolate break 😉

Like so many things in life, ice skating quickly proved to be on of those things that seems like it should be so easy and yet turns out to be so hard. It had been about 15 years since I last went skating, and for some reason I assumed watching maybe a handful of Blackhawks games on TV and the occasional figure skating YouTube video (and by “occasional” I mean “like maybe four videos total, ever”) would make me an expert on the ice, since NHL players and Olympic-caliber figure skaters make it look as simple as walking. Turns out that’s not the case. While I managed to stay upright the whole time, I had a couple tense moments, and on more than one occasion said some not-family friendly words while attempting to keep myself vertical. I, personally, had a lot of trouble figuring out how to work my skates effectively. I had figure skates instead of hockey skates (I didn’t ask for figure skates: they just gave them to me), and it took me a long time to master the art of pushing off to go forward without dragging my foot in such a way that the toe pick caught on the ice. I walked away from Saturday with an immense amount of respect for figure skaters, since I could barely figure out how to move, never mind move AND do pretty things at the same time!


I had no idea that the skating ribbon wasn’t flat until arriving, and I won’t lie: the idea of skating up and downhill freaked me out a bit. I figured adding any extra element to what already seemed like a fairly challenging endeavor would spell disaster. While it required a little more oomph to get up the hills and a tiny bit more caution while going down, it ended up not being as scary as I feared. (I should also probably note that these “hills” are very much hills by Chicago standards, which is to say, there is the slightest bit of a incline. We’re talking “only noticeable because you can’t glide up it” sort of hills here: just looking at the ribbon, you probably wouldn’t see the hills at all.)

Despite not having a clue what I was doing, I had a blast skating. I’m so glad it finally happened this year and would definitely recommend Maggie Daley as a viable alternative to a four mile run to anyone else looking for an excuse to skip their Saturday morning run in January 😉

Do you go skating during the winter?

Thursday Things

1. A terrible tragedy befell me this weekend. Since I’m not in race training mode at the moment, I’m only 3-4 mile runs once a week in an effort to reintroduce my body to running post-injury without ending up back in PT. I tend to run on Saturdays, since that usually works best with desire to run outside during daylight hours. Even though it was cold on Saturday (the high that day was 19), I still wanted to run, so I bundled up and headed out for a four mile run.

The run itself went well. I ran four miles, which is the farthest I’ve run since the Chicago Marathon. My hamstring hurt a bit during the last mile, and my foot hurt a little bit the day after, but nothing that particularly concerned me. All in all, I felt pretty pleased with myself and my dedication to running even in arctic conditions. That is, until I saw myself in the mirror.

Somehow, over the course of my run, my hat had fallen off my head! To be fair, I wasn’t all that crazy about this particular hat in the first place. It couldn’t cover my ears, so I always had to wear something else with it. Typically, I wore a headband, but sometime earlier this winter I lost my headband as well (I don’t at all remember when or how that happened), so on Saturday I chose to wear my balaclava to cover my ears/face and a hat to cover the top of my head. The hat, obviously, didn’t fit me especially well (see: too small to cover my ears), so I assume it didn’t have the greatest grip on my head once the balaclava came into play and probably flew off while I fought a particularly nasty high rise-induced headwind. Regardless, I couldn’t believe that I completely lost it and didn’t even notice it falling off my head!

I went to Fleet Feet on Sunday to buy a replacement hat, and found it so surprising that only two hat designs in the whole store had ponytail hole. I thought that those came standard in women’s winter running hats? Apparently not. I guess I should have known that, since I got a Pearl Izumi hat last year and that didn’t have a ponytail hole, but I still find it mind-boggling. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that I want my hair in my face, or, worse, plastered to my cheeks!


So now I’m the reluctant owner of a ridiculously expensive SmartWool winter running hat (and a replacement headband) and am also $52 poorer. I think I should start bobby pinning my headwear to my hair graduation cap style so I stop losing these things, because goodness gracious, these things do not come cheap!

2. I think I need a Hamilton intervention. It’s just about the only thing I’ve listened to for the past two weeks, and though I’m not at all there yet, I fear at some point I’m going to get burnt out. In the mean time, though, the soundtrack has quickly become my go-to workout music. Never has an NTC workout flown by quicker than when I’m listening to Hamilton — probably because 45 minutes get me through the entire workout, but not even halfway through the soundtrack. For the first time ever, I’ve wished NTC had longer workouts! Though considering how sore I was after doing NTC on Sunday for the first time in nearly three weeks, it’s probably for the best that they don’t have anything longer than 45 minutes, despite my desire to listen to more Hamilton.

3. While I certainly missed running after I injured my foot/ankle during the Chicago Marathon, I actually missed dance even more. I started taking dance in late October 2012, and hadn’t skipped a single session in that time until I got hurt. I ended up missing the last two weeks of the session I had started before last fall’s marathons, and then missed the entirety of the late October-mid December session.Because New Year’s fell on a Sunday, the January-February session started a week later than usual this year, but FINALLY, at long last, more than three months since I last set foot in a dance class, I made my triumphant return.

Of course, as luck would have it, none of my friends are actually taking class this session due to wintertime travel plans, and the routine we learned on Tuesday was one I already did in class last spring, so my “triumphant return” was fairly anticlimactic. But it was so, so nice to be back nevertheless.

Anyone have any similar-to-but-not Hamilton music recommendations for me?

Winter Running in Style

I have a love/hate relationship with winter running. I’d choose cold temperatures and overcast skies for running any day, and winter provides plenty of those conditions. On the other hand, our limited daylight makes outdoor running tough. I don’t like running in the dark, and around here, most of our winter daylight happens between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. That doesn’t work particularly well with a 9-to-5 schedule!

Running in the winter around here requires flexibility. Earlier this season, Nike helped me adapt my wardrobe to the colder months with a winter weather package.



If you plan to run outside during the winter, you definitely want to wear clothes that are warm and visible to keep you comfortable when the mercury is low and to help others see you in low light conditions. Nike’s winter running gear helps in both departments.


The package came with all sorts of goodies, including the entire outfit you see (poorly photographed with an iPhone – file this under “Reasons Why I Need a Better Camera”) above. I’m wearing the HyperShield Flash Jacket, Power Speed Flash Tights, and LunarEpic Flyknit Shield Shoes. All of these were designed with winter running in mind.

I’ve worn the jacket several times, and it’s quickly become my favorite piece of running gear. I took the above picture on a day when the actual temperature was 20 degrees, but the Real Feel was 12. I wore an old, long sleeve race shirt underneath, and even though I only ran three miles that day (which isn’t a whole lot of time to warm up), I was perfectly comfortable in the jacket. Shockingly comfortable, really. I wasn’t cold when I started my run, and I didn’t get overheated as it went on. I’ve had the same experience every other time I’ve run in the jacket as well. I have never been so impressed with the design of any other running gear I own, and would recommend this jacket without hesitation to anyone running in Chicago or similar climates.

My jacket specifically is a bit on the pricey side due to its super power: incredible reflectivity.


This picture, taken with flash, shows me picking up my age group award at the Jingle Bell 5K last month. In it, you an see the tiny piece of reflection my Asics running shoes have on the heel, the two stripes of reflection my Mizuno tights have on the calves, and then on top, the rainbow of reflection all over my Nike jacket. That’s the exact same jacket I’m wearing in the action shot further up, and those reflective elements are all over the sleeves and shoulders, even though you can’t see them like you see silver reflective elements on regular running clothes. It is truly incredible, and I would feel a lot more comfortable running in the dark knowing that my shoulders, head, and arms are lit up like a rainbow rather than hoping that the couple of small stripes on my shoes and clothes are enough to help cyclists on the Lakefront Trail or drivers on the road see me after dark. (The price point, admittedly, is pretty high on that jacket, so if you’re looking for a great winter jacket that won’t break your budget, Nike also sells a regular HyperShield Jacket without the reflective elements for much less. I think that’d be great if you plan to run outside during daylight.)

The Power Speed Flash Tights, while not quite as reflective as the jacket, do also feature a good amount of reflectivity where the silver lines appear on both the front and the back of the tights. It beats the reflectivity of the tights you see in the picture above by a long shot.


I liked the fit and feel of these tights a lot. I have a few pairs of running tights: one for 30-40 degree weather, one for 10-30 degree weather, and one for anything below that. I would out these tights in the 30-40 degree category, at least for my personal comfort level. When I wore these on the three miler I mentioned earlier, when it was 20 but felt like 12, I was a bit chilly in the shade and wind, but comfortable in the sun. Everyone’s different, of course, but I felt like these tights would suit my needs best when the temperature (or, in this case, Real Feel) wasn’t flirting with single digits. Fortunately, those days are few and far between in Chicago, for the most part, so I have a feeling I’ll get a lot of use out of these tights under more normal winter circumstances.

The shoes are from Nike’s LunarEpic line, a fairly cushioned shoe with a unique traction pattern on the sole. These particular shoes are meant to provide added grip in wintery conditions and also feature a water-repellent outer to help keep your feet dry if you need to trudge through snow or slush.


Though you can’t tell from this picture, these shoes are high rise, like the Nike LunarEpics I talked about last summer:


Ah, sunshine! How I miss you.

I wasn’t entirely sold on the design when I tried out those shoes during the summer, mostly because it deviated so dramatically from how you expect a running shoe to look. For winter running, though, I think it’s genius. The gap between my tights and socks drives me CRAZY, and since so few of my running socks go above my shoe line, I constantly have cold ankles while out running during the winter. High rise shoes solve that problem. The LunarEpic shoes, in my experience, have an awfully snug fit, so I’d definitely recommend trying them on before you make a purchase.

Even though the holidays are over, if the past is any indication, winter weather won’t be going anywhere for at least three months. If you’ve got some Christmas money to go through and need to update your winter running wardrobe, Nike definitely has you covered.

*While I received Nike’s winter running package complimentarily, all words and opinions on the products I received and tested are 100% my own.

What’s your favorite or essential winter running gear? Aside from my Nike jacket, I’m also obsessed with running glittens. The flexibility is perfect for when you don’t know what to expect out of the weather, plus having your fingers free to use individually makes it much easier to start and stop a watch than trying to do that with mittens.

Friday Things

1. I’m coming to you today with a Friday Things post instead of my usual Thursday Things post, since I was otherwise occupied on Wednesday night:



I bought tickets to Hamilton back when they went on sale a lifetime ago, and after nearly six months of waiting, I finally had my shot (pun!) to go Wednesday. Let me tell you, I was more than willing to wait for it (pun! Okay, I’ll stop now).


It was incredible. Out of all the Broadway in Chicago shows I’ve seen over the years, Hamilton definitely tops the list. It’s a little strange, because I can’t really put into words exactly what made this show so superior to the others I’ve seen. There wasn’t one specific element that made it better than other shows. It was really the entire package. The singing, the dancing, the acting, the costuming, the content: everything came together to make one fantastic show. The only “problem” I had with it was that I often couldn’t figure out where I wanted to focus my attention, and now I feel like I need to go back to see it again. Oh, the tragedy! 😛

Seriously, though, if you have the chance to go, I can’t recommend Hamilton enough. My tickets for seats with an unobstructed view in row Y in the Orchestra Center section cost a little more than $100, which may not be cheap, but also isn’t all that bad, considering some seats have a face value of close to $500. I discovered that Ticketmaster has a list of dates with good availability, and as long as you don’t mind going on a weeknight, there are still plenty of times to choose from over the next six months. The Chicago show will be around certainly through Sept. 17 (that’s how far out you can buy tickets at the moment), so you have lots of time left!

2. Is it too late to talk about my holidays? I haven’t shared anything about them yet! I went home for Christmas, per usual, though I didn’t stay as long as sometimes since I wanted to save the little bit of vacation I had remaining to roll over into 2017 (we rack up PTO hours with each paycheck, so if I had used up all of my 2016 vacation time, I would’ve had very limited time available to take off early this year). Regardless, my short time at home was nice. We did most of our celebrating on Christmas Eve. My mom told me I needed to come up with a vegetable dish to bring as my family’s contribution to the greater family celebration, and this was my masterpiece:


Christmas day was a bit more relaxed. I played my trumpet in church for the third year in a row, and thank goodness I had done it before. The organist arrived later than he (and I) anticipated, so we didn’t have a chance to practice at all and just winged it. Fortunately, Christmas carols are so familiar that it wasn’t too tall of an order.

3. I rang in 2017 at a house party with a small group of friends, which I think is my perfect way to start a new year. Prior to that, though, I went to the Brookfield Zoo!


According to my parents, I’ve been to the Brookfield Zoo before, but I certainly don’t remember it. In recent years, the only zoo trips I’ve made have been to the Lincoln Park Zoo, so the size of Brookfield Zoo blew me away. It’s gigantic! (At least, gigantic compared to Lincoln Park.) Some of the sections were closed–I assume for the winter, since those areas had mostly outdoor animals–but there were certainly plenty of animals to see as well.


I expected to like the penguins the most, but the majority of them were hiding. Instead, my favorite exhibit was the Tropic House with all of the different primates.


What a cutie!


I loved the gorillas in particular. They have a one-year-old gorilla, Zachary, who was the most adorable little creature you’ve ever seen. Watching him and his mom interact was so cool. I could’ve watched the two of them all day.

Have you seen Hamilton? Or at least listened to the soundtrack? If not, YOU NEED TO. And if you are familiar with it, what’s your favorite song? Mine is definitely Wait For It. I could listen to that song alllllllll day.
What’s your favorite animal to watch at the zoo?

Goals for 2017

I don’t think I’ve written an annual goals post in the past, and if I did, it likely wasn’t worth it. I’m about as cliche as them come when it comes to New Year’s resolutions: I make them (sometimes) and break them within a month or so. I assume a lot of this has to do with a total lack of accountability. In an effort to avoid falling into my usual set-it-and-forget-it trap, I decided to write a 2017 goals post. I love reading these sorts of posts on other people’s blogs and their monthly check-ins on those goals as well, so it made sense to me to do my own.

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
When I quit my old job, I told myself I’d continue writing professionally by freelancing in my spare time. I didn’t consider it a goal so much as a given. I had been writing professionally for 3.75 years, and I expected to get freelance assignments from my previous employer. Well, the person who took over my old job has a different approach to the position and doesn’t use freelancers, so there went that. I spent at least half of 2016 thinking, “I really should get into freelancing,” Googling “how to get started freelance writing,” getting overwhelmed, and doing absolutely nothing. Freelancing makes a lot of sense for where I currently am in life and where I hope to be in life later, so I want to start building a portfolio now. Publishing one piece will (hopefully) be a low bar to clear, and in a perfect world I’d like to have several pieces published by 2018. But I’m going to start with one, and we’ll see what happens from there.

Goal #2: Get rid of 50 things
I’m low balling it on this one, too, and ideally would like to get rid of a lot more than 50 things. My trips home for Thanksgiving and Christmas (and the related packing that went into those trips) really made me realize just how much junk I have. I’m sick of it. I don’t know the exact dimensions of my bedroom, but if I had to guess, I’d assume it’s somewhere in the 7×10 to 7×12 range. (It’s definitely no more than 7 feet wide, considering my room is as wide as my bed is long, and 7 feet is probably a bit generous for the length of my bed). Regardless, my room isn’t all that large, and I have stuff piled up in every free corner. It feels cluttered and messy and overwhelming at all times, and I HATE it. I know I could never be a pure minimalist, but do I need two yoga mats? Do I need the foam roller I haven’t touched once since I got a new one for Christmas 2014? The answer, obviously, is no. I also don’t need all the t-shirts I never wear, the clothes I’ve been hanging onto for years “just in case,” the work bag I haven’t used since before I moved to my current apartment two and a half years ago, the freaking plastic case my pillow came in: you get my point. I have junk, everywhere, and it needs to go. Getting rid of 50 things shouldn’t be a challenge at all. I also don’t know what my landlord’s going to do with my apartment (he thought about selling it last year and kicking us out at the end of our lease, but ultimately changed his mind), so if I do have to move later this year, it’d be great to get a jump on purging earlier rather than later.

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
I started learning through Duolingo on January 1, 2016, and got through 37 lessons. There are 27 lessons left in the course, so this should be doable. I just have to stay dedicated to moving forward rather than taking the easy way out and reviewing things like “Basics 1” to keep up my streak without actually trying. On a related note, I would like to keep up my Duolingo streak. I only missed one day in 2016, and I’d like to not miss any days in 2017, if possible.

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
Realistically, I think I would’ve stayed out of PT in 2016 if I hadn’t run two marathons in three weeks, but I did, and it was more than my right foot could handle. If all goes according to plan, I expect to have higher yearly mileage in 2017 than I had in 2016. That means strength training, stretching, foam rolling, getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, and all those other bonuses that go into successful training are going to be even more important than usual to keep me on track. In order to accomplish this, I hope to:
– strength train once per week, minimally, during running season
– stretch after every run
– foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji rather than a full-blown foam roller
– do at least three PT exercises twice per week
(I do realize that completely ignores the sleep and eating healthfully pieces of the puzzle, but I don’t know how to quantify those in a way that I know I could attain, so I’m going to stick with the ambiguous “getting enough sleep” and “eating healthfully” and call it good 😛 ).

There you have it: my goals, out on the internet for all to see. Hopefully this will help me follow through!

Do you have any goals/resolutions/hopes/dreams for 2017?