What’s Next

Ever since I started running in June 2011, I’ve always had a race on my calendar. At times the race has been months away (hello, marathon season 2019), but I’ve always been working towards something: a finish, a goal, etc.

For the first time in over eight years, I don’t have any races on my calendar, and I don’t know when that will change.

I’m on the cusp of moving into a more unpredictable season of life. Because I don’t know exactly what the next few years might hold, I’m hesitant (read: unwilling) to put down big bucks on a race almost a full year in advance (read: the Chicago Marathon) when it’s totally possible I might not be in a position to participate in the event come race day. I don’t feel comfortable committing to year-long race plans or goals right now, and since you have no choice but to commit to something like that with the Chicago Marathon, that means that race specifically is out of the question until things settle down a bit for me. Obviously every race isn’t the Chicago Marathon, but since I have a lot of uncertainty about how things may shake out in the coming months and years, I’m not particularly interested in committing to any races or running-related goals for the time being.

My priorities with running have shifted, for now, from chasing goals to maintaining a base. For the first time ever, I might be able to accurately answer the question, “How many miles do you run per week?”! Finally! (Previously, the answer always depended on what particular race I was training for at the moment.)

I’m actually not running at all right now. I used to always take a full month off of running after a marathon, and I’ve returned to that habit this year. Though I didn’t bring it up much (at all?) during marathon season, the plantar fasciitis that started in my right foot in February hasn’t really improved (imagine that! Continuing to do the same thing that hurt me with absolutely no rehab didn’t magically make it go away!). Because it’s always been more of a nuisance than an actual problem, I haven’t been overly motivated to do anything to try to make it better. In the limited time I’ve taken off since February, however, I’ve noticed that the one thing that consistently eases my plantar fasciitis is not running. So, I’m not running for a month. If it’s STILL bothering me after that point, then I’ll go to physical therapy. Maybe. I’ve known I could probably benefit from physical therapy for over six months now, but since this hasn’t really gotten in the way of my running (or my daily life, outside of having to hobble out of bed every morning due to my sore sole), I haven’t wanted to make the commitment to taking care of it. I don’t really want to deal with this for the rest of my life, though, so if one month off doesn’t fix the problem entirely, I should probably seek out additional help.

Once I do start running again, I’d like to maintain a running base that would allow me to run a 10K or shorter at any time, and allow me to be five or six weeks away from running a half marathon. I plan to do two weekday runs in the three to four mile range and one weekend run of six or seven miles, at least for the remainder of 2019. If I feel like I’d be happier running slightly more than that (three to five miles on weekdays, six to eight miles on weekends), I’ll make adjustments in 2020. Six to eight miles feels very manageable for a consistent long run, as does three to five miles for a weekday run. Anything more than that is when I start to feel like my runs are eating up a bunch of my time, which is one thing when I’m training for something specific, but another thing when I’m running just to maintain fitness. I’ve always used goal races to motivate me to run, and that helped me get through more burdensome longer runs. Since I won’t have a goal race to work towards, I don’t want to put myself in a position where I resent running in general or feel like it’s just one more thing to check off my to-do list. I think keeping my weekly mileage in the 12 to 18 mile range should keep that from happening. Of equal importance, these are all distances I feel like I can handle on the treadmill if necessary. I don’t know what the outdoor running situation will be like in the winter around my current apartment, so I want to keep my mileage at a treadmill-friendly level until I have a better idea of how good my area is at cleaning their sidewalks. If it’s anything like the neighborhoods where I lived in Chicago, I’m not exactly optimistic I’ll find ice-free conditions 😛

In the mean time, I’ve renewed my focus on strength training, this time with an emphasis on my upper body. I have an event coming up in January where I’ll be wearing a dress that shows off my back and arms, so I’d like to see if I can coax a little more definition out of them. Over the past year and a few months of strength training, I’ve done two days of legs and one day of upper body per week. I’m flipping that between now and January, doing two days of upper body and one day of legs. I’ve found that consistent strength training over about three months or so does amazing things for the muscle definition in my legs, and I’m crossing my fingers that the same thing will happen to my back and arms if I work on those twice a week instead. I’m not unhappy with how my arms or back look right now, so if nothing happens it’s certainly not the end of the world, but I figured it was worth a shot. I’ve also been doing some light cardio (like, 20-minutes-on-the-stationary-bike cardio), and doing HIIT workouts from Fitness Blender once or twice a week. Those workouts are no freaking joke, so once or twice a week is perfectly sufficient for me.

It’s weird to not have any definite races coming up (I might do a turkey trot on or around Thanksgiving. TBD.), but it’s also nice to be able to take a little bit of a break from the constant grind of training. I have a few weekdays during the remainder of the year where I know I won’t be able to get a workout in, and it’s nice to have the flexibility to rearrange my schedule or take an additional rest day to accommodate other life things (like getting a crown next week, ugh. I’d rather do a HIIT workout!). I’m looking forward to a more low-pressure fitness life for awhile and am interested to see how running for running’s sake works out for me.

 

 

Open House Chicago

I look forward to Open House Chicago weekend every year. Ever since stumbling upon it in 2012, I’ve made a point of attending, and generally try to attend both days. While I’ve gone in with a strict itinerary in the past, I decided to be more flexible about my Open House schedule this year. Unfortunately, that led to the poorest Open House experience I’ve had to date. Multiple sites I wanted to see were closed when I tried to visit them. I spent more time feeling frustrated and disappointed over Open House this year than I did enjoying it, which was a real bummer.

Regardless, here are the sites I did manage to see during Open House Chicago 2019.

Saturday

St. Ignatius College Prep

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I’ve wondered about the interior of St. Igantius every time I’ve passed it, so this was my top priority for Open House this year. It. Was. Insane. I cannot imagine going to high school (or any school, for that matter) in a building like this. The tour was a bit rushed and too crowded (a group of 14 arrived right after I got there, which bloated our tour groups. I think it would’ve been a much more pleasant tour with fewer people.), but we still got to see a ton of the school. I was particularly fond of all the architectural artifacts and the timeline gallery, which featured pictures of St. Ignatius and the surrounding area from its founding 150 years ago to the present day. There were two pictures taken at Blue Island and Racine–one in the 1950s, one in the 1960s–that were particularly striking. The neighborhood and built environment changed enormously in that time period, and both of them were really fascinating to see, especially in light of how the area looks now.

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Chicago Children’s Theatre’s The Station

The Chicago Children’s Theatre, located at Racine and Monroe, is housed in a police station that closed in 2012. We got a tour from a woman who works for the architecture firm (Wheeler Kearns Architects) that handled the 2017 renovations that transformed the building into the Chicago Children’s Theatre, and it was really fascinating. Despite obviously needing to redo the space to change it from a police station to a building meant for child-friendly shows, the renovations managed to keep many of the original details from the 1930s design (thought 1940s construction – the design was finished pre-WWII, but construction wasn’t able to happen until after the war ended). It was a really interesting and informative tour.

150 N. Riverside

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I make a point of avoiding repeat Open House sites (or avoiding sites I’ve previously visited during non-Open House times, which is why I didn’t visit the Nederlander Theatre, for example), so I didn’t originally plan to see 150 N. Riverside, as I went there in 2017. It made sense based on my route, though, and I’m glad I went! Instead of taking visitors up to an empty floor, this year we went down to the lower level conference room, which is only a few feet above the Chicago River. While there are ample opportunities to see the Chicago River from high up, it’s not often that you get that close to the river, particularly inside a building. It was fun to get a different perspective for a change.

Design Museum of Chicago

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In honor of 2019 being the Year of Chicago Theatre, the Design Museum featured an exhibit with objects (costumes, props, set designs, etc.) from what had to have been every (or nearly every) theatre company in Chicago, from college programs all the way up through Steppenwolf, Second City, and Broadway in Chicago. It was really cool!

Prudential Plaza

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This was easily one of the highlights of Open House. The 11th floor tenant space was open, and boy, it was enough to make me want to slide my resume under the door of every office in the Prudential complex. My office downtown has a nice rooftop tenant space, but it is nothing compared to what they have at Prudential. The indoor area was beautiful, and the rooftop itself was out of control. The landscaping was lovely, the views were amazing, and the beautiful Saturday weather made me want to stay there all day.

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Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects

I didn’t plan to see any architecture firms this year, but since I was already in the Prudential complex, I figured I may as well swing up to their office. They moved into the Prudential Plaza in April, so obviously the office was super fancy and modern. I’m used to getting tours at architecture firms, but we were allowed to just wander around at Sheehan Nagle Hartray. That meant I didn’t learn as much about buildings they’ve designed as I expected, but it was still fun to see their space.

Vista Sales Gallery

This was another highlight of Open House for me. The Vista towers are still under construction, but when it opens, those with substantially more money than I have will move into condos taking up most of the building. The sales gallery showed the available floor plans and finishes, which, since the condos start at about $1 million, were a bit nicer than what I currently have in my apartment (but I have more square footage and an additional bedroom for a lot less, so *shrug emoji*). Short of winning the lottery, I’ll never be able to afford living in a place like Vista, so it was fun to ogle at the kitchen and bathroom fixtures the one percent will have.

465 N. Park

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The tenant space on the sixth floor of this brand-new apartment building was open for coveting during Open House. The indoor portion of the tenant space was lovely, but of course the rooftop was, once again, out of control, with private grilling areas, a pool, cabanas, and great views. After a long day of walking around the city, I actually hung out here for a bit, relaxing on one of the chaises by the pool before heading out to meet up with friends for dinner.

Sunday

Elks National Memorial

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The Elks National Memorial is one of the Open House staples, but I had never managed to make it there. I went Sunday, and it didn’t disappoint. Built initially to honor Elks members who died during WWI, the memorial now commemorates the lives of Elks who’ve died in subsequent wars as well and is a truly stunning building. The rotunda is amazing, but the Grand Reception Hall really surprised me. It reminded me of rooms I saw in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, which is about as high of a compliment as a building in the U.S. can hope to get from me.

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

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I’ve been to the Lincoln Park Conservatory once before, but I went during Open House 1) because I was in the area and 2) because they were doing behind-the-scenes tours. We got to go into staff-only areas where we saw the administrative office, which is in the cottage that used to serve as housing for the conservatory’s caretaker. We also saw the former horse stables and greenhouses full of poinsettias the conservatory is growing for its and Garfield Park Conservatory’s holiday shows.

St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church

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I didn’t plan to go to St. Chrysostom’s, but I stumbled upon it on Sunday and decided to check it out. It was a really beautiful building that made me miss going to church in a real church (as opposed to in another church’s basement, which has been my church’s setup for the past year and a half). The organist was playing (another thing I miss), and I enjoyed looking around and seeing a church unlike most of the churches I tend to visit during Open House.

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Thursday Things

Annual marathon thought-dump edition!

1. While I thought the expo felt bigger and more populated (from a brand standpoint) this year, I was #notimpressed with the offerings. I purchased one thing (see line item #3) and was honestly pretty disappointed about it, until I remembered that I had already bought three things from Nike prior to the expo, which was why I didn’t have anything I needed to buy at the expo.

2. The three things I bought from Nike (well, one was technically Nike via Fleet Feet):

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I already mentioned that I got a visor at Fleet Feet two days after the 20 miler to make sure I got something. When I went to Nike the following weekend, they still had plenty of everything. I got a blue half-zip and my traditional marathon hat, both of which I like a lot.

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I’m a big fan of the heathered look on anything, so obviously I love my half zip, and I like all the detail on the hat. I’m also VERY excited that both the hat and visor have mesh-y-ish material for the sweatband (by which I mean its perforated – I don’t know the best way to describe it), which I think will make them both INFINITELY more breathable than anything else in my current hat/visor collection. I insist on wearing hats or visors when I’m running in the sun, but the lack of breathability does make them a bit toasty. I’m optimistic that the design on this year’s marathon hat and visor will solve that problem.

3. I, sadly, was not able to make my annual Christmas ornament purchase from SportHooks, as they have apparently gone out of business and therefore clearly weren’t at the expo this year. I’m bummed out about it, because I’m quite proud of my SportHooks Christmas ornament collection. Instead, I bought a glass ornament from the Commemorative Merchandise booth with all of the official Bank of America Chicago Marathon non-Nike swag. I think Christmas ornaments are the best souvenir–they don’t take up much space, they’re a great way to show off your interests/experiences, and they don’t clutter up anything but your Christmas tree–so I’m glad I was able to get one for this year’s race, even if it doesn’t match the others. (You can’t really see it, but it’s on my participant shirt in the picture below, right under the Nike swoosh.)

4. The participant bag seemed light on stuff this year, though maybe I just feel that way because I didn’t buy anything but that ornament on my way out.

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I’m a HUGE fan of this year’s shirt and think it’s light years better than last year’s monstrosity. I also think this is the best poster they’ve given out since the 2013 poster. (Maybe they only have good posters on years the race is run on October 13?) You can’t see it here, but the poster is a picture of view facing south on LaSalle towards the Board of Trade and ran with the “I am” theme that the marathon apparently decided to go with this year. (“I am fearless. I am strong. I am ready.” etc.). They had that all over the participant bag, too, which was new. Usually it’s just the logo. I thought it was a nice touch, though one year too late for me, because I was all about those positive statements last year.

5. I know some people were annoyed that CARA gave you a wristband to get into the VIP Experience this year, and that they put it on you at the expo (which, if you went on Friday like I did, meant you had to wear it all day Friday and Saturday.). It didn’t bother me at all. It seems to me like checking shoe tags is probably the easiest way to go about doing things, but I wasn’t irritated by the wristband.

6. Like I said on Tuesday, maybe this is just because last year’s crowds were light due to the rain, but I thought the crowds this year were some of–if not the–best I’ve ever experienced. I’ve worn my name on my shirt every Chicago Marathon other than my first one, but I felt like I was cheered on by name way more this year than any other time. I loved it. Give me all of the encouragement! I can’t even tell you how many times I heard, “Bethany! I see you!” which was weird, getting that turn of phrase from so many different people, but I was all about it.

I also, at almost every aid station, thought the medical aid station staffers were cheering for me when in fact they were yelling that they had, “Vaseline!” which, when yelled, sounds a lot more like my name than I ever realized prior to Sunday. Ha.

7. The signage game was also on. point. this year. Honestly, looking for creative signs was basically how I survived most of the race. Some of the ones I really liked:

  •  A little girl holding a “You’re almost there!” sign around mile 4/5, while her mom (or otherwise responsible female adult) standing next to her was holding a sign with an arrow pointing to the girl that said “She’s lying.” Ha.
  • No fewer than three different, “It took the Cubs 108 years to win the World Series. Take your time.” signs. I thought it was crazy that I saw that exact phrase on three different signs?? Did they all coordinate??
  • No fewer than FOUR different, “At least you’re not at work right now!” signs. Apparently this was a banner year for running the race if you hate your job.
  • “The one where [name I forgot] runs a marathon,” and a “Run like Phoebe” sign, both in reference to Friends.
  • “You don’t have to run tomorrow!” to which I thought, “FREAKING FINALLY,” every time I saw it.

However, my top three signs were as follows:

  • #3: A life-sized cutout of the Jonas Brothers that said, “Mandie, we’re waiting for you at the finish!” I saw that around mile three and was VERY upset I didn’t see it again. I’m also upset they weren’t waiting for me at the finish, but whatever. I’ll get over it 😛
  • #2: “If Hamilton could write the other 51, you can run 26.2.” Amazing. Excellent reference. 10/10.
  • #1: “My sister is running the race but I’m here for Tyler C. #abcbachelorette” I mean, seriously. How do you top that?

I also saw approximately a million and a half “Touch here for power” signs–WAY more than usual–and sincerely appreciated the various signs that in one way or another referenced Truth Hurts, including one that just said “100% That Bitch.” Phenomenal.

8. Having not watched The Bachelorette for a few seasons, I didn’t have high hopes about recognizing any of the four former contestants running this year. In fact, I forgot that there even were former contestants running this year until I saw the aforementioned sign. When I found out there were Bachelorette contestants running the race, it suddenly became important to me that I beat all of them. I’m sad to report that I only beat one of them BUT I would like the record to show that Tyler and Dustin ran 4:45s, which is slower than my PR from last year, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. That will be a point of pride for me for the rest of my days, even if either of them ends up going on to run a much faster marathon in the future.

9. SPEAKING of celebrities at the Chicago Marathon! When I took out my phone during my post-Pilsen pre-Chinatown walk break, I saw a text from one of my friends running the race that they had seen none other than JERRY GERGICH FROM PARKS AND REC SPECTATING THE RACE. WHAT!!!!!!! I mean, technically they saw Jim O’Heir, the actor who played Jerry, since Jerry’s a character. But that’s not the point! I guess he was just before Whitney Young. I was obviously long past there by the time I saw the text, which is an argument for getting texts on my Fitbit if I ever there were one (because my friend was ahead of me, so I would’ve known to look if I had seen the text in time!), but MAN, how cool is that??? My friend got a selfie with him, and I am unspeakably jealous.

10. I was SO invested in how my runners from my training group would do during the race. I saw two of them after the race and gave them big hugs and lots of congratulations. I’m so freaking proud of them!

11. That being said, I don’t know that group leading is for me. Or perhaps more accurately, I don’t know that group leading in the situation I found myself in this year is for me. I really didn’t like being the only 11:30 group leader out of downtown, especially when, five weeks into it, I got half marathoners thrown into my group, too. I always prioritized the marathon distance over the half marathon distance, especially since I only had two half marathoners, which meant they ran the second half of their runs solo pretty much all season. I don’t think that’s the group training experience they expected or deserved, and I wish if CARA were going to offer half marathon training out of the same location at the same time as marathon training, that they’d get half marathon pacers to lead it instead of expecting the marathon group leaders to figure it out (especially when I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that I was going to be responsible for leading both a half and full marathon group at the same time). Being the only 11:30 group leader made me feel a lot of pressure, because there was never anyone to pick up the slack for me. And, let’s be honest, group leading downtown after I moved to the suburbs sucked. I knew that was going to happen when I signed up for it, but I didn’t expect to move so early in July. I thought I’d have to drive in for all of August and September (plus one week of October), and instead I had to drive in for all of July, August, and September (plus one week of October). It was a lot, and getting up at 4:05 every Saturday got very old VERY quickly.

I think one of the things that really got to me about group leading, though, was that I no longer had the illusion of choice when it came to my long runs. Was I going to show up every single week, even if I were only a participant and not a group leader? Almost certainly. I’ve never bailed on a long run for anything short of illness, injury, or a race the next day, so do I think I would’ve drug myself downtown every Saturday even if I weren’t group leading? Most likely. But as a participant, I made the choice to be there every week. As a group leader, I didn’t have that choice. I had to be there–especially since I was the only group leader for the 11:30s.

That being said, I did really like being in a mentor position and having free rein to offer unsolicited advice to my runners, so that aspect of group leading was nice. It was also nice to be invested in other people’s races on Sunday, not just my own, so it has its pros and cons.

12. I had my mind made up that I wanted to get finisher gear this year, and after trying to get some on Tuesday last year only to find everything remotely close to my size sold out online, I didn’t want to take any chances this year. I knew it would go on sale online on Saturday and planned to buy something as soon as that happened. I was super annoyed, then, when I checked the website that afternoon and they only had men’s finisher gear available. It wasn’t unisex, either – it was specifically labeled as men’s. I was so annoyed! I checked the website multiple times that day, and it kept only showing men’s finisher gear.

When I was unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep Saturday night, I decided to check the website one more time, and lo! The number of women’s items had gone up from 45 to 48! I scrolled down, and sure enough, there was the finisher’s pullover, jacket, and t-shirt. I contemplated getting the pullover, but since I already have a pullover from this year’s marathon, I opted for the jacket instead. Now I just need to make a point of, you know, wearing it. I have a 2016 finisher’s jacket that I’ve only managed to wear a handful of times because the weather never feels right for it, but maybe this one will be different. I can hope 😛

13. I was really surprised by how friendly everyone on the course seemed to be on Sunday. I’ve never experienced overt rudeness from other runners during the Chicago Marathon (or covert rudeness, for that matter), but I both elbowed and was elbowed by several people during the race. Every single time I was elbowed, the elbower apologized, and every time I elbowed someone and apologized, they didn’t seem bothered in the least. Amazing!

14. I love this.

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