Category Archives: races

All the fall things

I’ve been meaning to write this post for several weeks now but the truth is I’ve been too busy taking 1,000 photos of trees with changing leaves to get around to it.

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

That’s what fall will do to you after a few years away.

It’s science.

And judging from the physiological reaction I had the first time I smelled a bonfire this season, consider me well-conditioned.

I realize that not everyone shares my love for crunchy leaves under their feet and nearly every iteration baked goods containing pumpkin you can squeeze into a few short months, so I thought I’d share a few of ways you too can fall in love with fall this season.

1.Check out a local fall festival. We were fortunate to get into town just in time for the 30th annual St. Charles Oktoberfest, complete with commemorative beer steins, traditional dancers and some of the best latkes I’ve ever tasted.

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

2. Go for a brisk fall run. Or in my case, train for half of a half marathon while living in Florida, get one magical long run in where it was 60 degrees and then try not to melt on race day when temps reached the mid-80s. (coming soon: a fall running tour of the katy trail)

katy_arch3. Get into the Halloween spirit. (coming soon: oreo mummy recap. Pumpkin muffin recipe can be found here.) oreo_pumpkin

4. Buy a pumpkin. Or two. Or Seven.

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

5. Make a big batch of chili. And eat it as you begrudgingly delete all of the leaf and tree photos on your phone. (solid vegetarian chili recipe here.)

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

Bonus points if you have a dog that just so happens to perfectly match all things fall and loves the weather so much he happily sits on the front porch to feed your fall habit.

finn_fall

Happy fall y’all!

Race Recap: Sarasota Music Half Marathon

It’s been a while since I did a race recap for you guys. Probably because it’s been a while since I’ve run a race. If you care to read back as to why I took a little hiatus from running you can do so here. Now it wasn’t entirely because I briefly crippled myself as a result of my own stubbornness, but that may have had a little something to do with it.

The truth is I was really excited to be able to run year-round when we moved to Florida until I quickly realized that you really can’t do anything outside in Florida from the months of May-October. Let’s just say I have a new respect for air conditioning professionals and if I could I would purchase stock in cinder blocks and tile.

After boredom set in with my gym routine, I signed up for the inaugural Sarasota Music Half Marathon in February and was excited to have something to focus on after the holiday season. And then I realized that this race would require me to train THROUGH the holiday season. And then I realized that people who live in Florida don’t hibernate over the holidays. Instead, they rock their spandex and swimsuits right on through those holidays and into the New Year. As a Midwesterner I was thoroughly offended by this concept.

But I sheepishly got outside and ran with the rest of the spandex-clad Floridians, feeling every sugar cookie and piece of fudge along the way. And I will say, if you want to avoid the New Year’s resolutioners, just come down to Florida where no one takes any time off.

It’s pretty amazing how much more enjoyable races are when you run them healthy. I was a little nervous because I got hit with the plague a few weeks ago and really didn’t get my long training runs in, but when you combine perfect running weather, palm trees, gulf breezes, girl scout cookies and a solid brunch, it’s hard to find anything to complain about.

So here’s my mile by mile recap.

IMG_9271.JPGMile 0

Highs-giggling at runners with ear warmers and gloves to protect them from the frigid 55 degree with a high of 78 weather we were in for, watching the sun rise over the start shadowed only by palm trees and walking to the front of the starting line because apparently no one wanted to start by the 5:00 mile marker.

Lows-so only providing 20 Porta Potties for 2,000 runners may have been a little aggressive but no harm done.

IMG_9268.JPG 

Mile 1

Highs-The Ringling Bridge. Literally. I was nervous about running a race with elevation but the marching band at the top of the Ringling Bridge helped to distract me from the crazy first-timers who were pacing at 6:30 1 mile in.

Lows-dead rat on the running path and no one in front of me raising a hand.

IMG_9289.JPGMile 5

Highs-This view. And knowing I didn’t have to climb that stupid beautiful bridge again for the rest of the race.

Lows-none. Feeling alive at five.

IMG_9318.JPG

Miles 7-9

Highs-Getting sprinkled with holy water (do you genuflect during a race?), exploring the bayfront and seeing a part of Sarasota I’d never traveled by foot before.

Lows-fewer spectators and forcing myself to run past the bloody mary bar because I was still feeling good with my pace.

IMG_9273.JPGMile 10

Highs-Girl Scout Cookie Station. Enough said.

Lows-Winding through a very pretty, albeit very twisted Selby Garden path on legs that only wanted to go in a straight line.

IMG_9274.JPG

Miles 11-13.1

Highs-Feeling familiar IT band pain and realizing I only had two miles to go.

Lows-Feeling familiar IT band pain and realizing I still had two miles to go. And not realizing how much more excited the lady in front of me was in the chute.

IMG_9319.JPG

 

IMG_9320.JPG

IMG_9276.JPGPost Race

Highs-Best post-race party I’ve experienced in 10 or so races. Beer. Bagels. Bands and the Sarasota Bay. Doesn’t get much better.

IMG_9280.JPGIMG_9281.JPGLows-none.

IMG_9288.JPGIMG_9282.JPG

Remind me to tell you about our decision to finalize our wedding registry that afternoon and then stop by the greek festival on the way home instead of taking a nap or stretching like a normal human. Greek food makes everything better.

IMG_9293.JPG

 

Running in a humid climate

Hey remember when I used to run outside?

I don’t.

OK so I do remember it, but I also remember it being much more enjoyable. I was back in Illinois a few weeks ago and got a chance to run on the trail near my parents house. The weather was perfect. I could actually breathe. And for the first time in a long time I remembered how much I love to run outside.

To be honest, I can probably count on both hands the times I’ve run outside since we moved to Florida. If it’s not the heat it’s the humidity. And the humidity is usually preceded or followed by a pop-up thunderstorm that comes out of nowhere. We’re talking nowhere folks. This morning as Finn and I attempted to go out for our morning walk the sun was shining. The sun was shining, the skies were blue and it started pouring.

But yesterday morning there was a break in the heat so I headed out for a run as the sun was coming up, knowing that as soon as it did I’d probably pass out on the side of the road. I got four miles in and was pretty happy with it. And along the way I thought about the various mental and physical adjustments you have to make when you run in a new climate.

Don’t try to be a hero.

Who cares if you limped ran through 26.31 miles last October. When it comes to running, weather can be a huge factor. One that makes every training session unique. I’ve had days where I felt energy like never before, only to bonk 2 miles in. And I’ve had days where it took everything in my to agree to 1 mile only to breeze through 4. There are so many factors that come into play when you are running outside you can’t possibly meet your expectations every time. As the most covered song by bloggers and 5 year-old girls alike says, “Let it Go.”

You can walk if you want to. 

I say this even though it still kills me to actually do it. I’m as competitive as they come so even on runs by myself I try to justify reasons I can’t stop to catch my breath or stretch my legs. Human bodies are pretty special, but even they take a little time to acclimatize to changes in weather and environment. If your body is telling you to slow down, (and we’re talking really telling you not just whispering from 500 yards behind you telling you) stop and walk for goodness sake. The reality is that you still have to make it home don’t you? Slow down and recover. No one’s chasing you. And if they are don’t stop. Don’t slow down. Kick it in a little more why don’t ya?

Wear a heart rate monitor.

Remember what I just said about slowing down when you feel like you need to? Well wearing a heart rate monitor can help you make that decision more accurately. Running may seem like a fairly physical feat, but if you’ve ever been out on a run solo and find your motivation lacking, you’ll quickly realize how mental the feat really is. Wearing a heart rate monitor well allow you to match the way you think you feel to how hard you are actually working. Seeing those numbers gets you out of your head and helps you have a more efficient workout.

Bring water.

Oh just bring it. Even if you’re too proud to. I used to play by the rule that if it wasn’t over 6 miles, I didn’t need water. And while that’s sort of true, (you should be hydrated enough to exercise for 45 minutes without water) when your running in high heat and humidity I think you should throw that rule into the ocean. Heat and humidity can prevent your body from releasing heat as efficiently so by the time you realize you are dehydrated it could be too late. If you don’t like carrying water with you, plan an out-and-back route where you can leave it halfway. It’s only cumbersome for the first few minutes but if you don’t have it, everyone you pass will look like a giant jug of Gatorade or the Kool-Aid Man and you’ll seriously consider tackling them.

Mix it up. 

So you’re not going to get the mileage you thought you were because of the weather conditions. Mix it up. Do a set of walking lunges. Throw in some body weight squats, high knees or butt kicks. Alternate sprinting and walking as you make your way back. Yes, people may look at you funny, but it’s likely that they are really just picturing you as the Kool-Aid Man because they are just as thirsty as you are.

rock n roll half marathon chicago, running, running in humid climates, races, running in the heat.

 

Moving Day

Hey there. Me again. Back after a brief hiatus with more photos and fewer words. I promise I’ll be back on a regular schedule once we are all moved in but until then I hope you’ll settle for a photo update of the last few days.

Friday was spent down in Champaign celebrating with family and friends before the 5th running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Technically this year marks the 6th annual race but this was the 5th year of our family running let’s just go with that.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

It was so nice to see my Champaign family and to squeeze the little ones before we leave. We were blessed (and cursed) with nice weather throughout the weekend as well, making for a very hot race the next day.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

Jake and Owen came over for the youth run on Saturday well-prepared with their under armor superhero shirts. I missed the run but highlights included Jake getting a side stitch approximately 30 seconds into a 1K distance, Owen blazing to the finish and Jake asking the volunteer why he was getting a medal if he didn’t win.

Saturday evening we celebrated our move with some of our closest Chicago friends. I feel very blessed to have had these girls (and guys) in my life over the last 6 years and will miss them so much. It’s so nice to have a bunch of people to look forward to visiting each time we come back though.

chicago going away party, haymarket pub, friends, Chicago

Approximately 4 hours of sleep later we were onto Sunday where we celebrated the upcoming arrival of the first grandchild on Matt’s side. If you can’t tell by the shower colors, it’s a girl.

girls baby shower, tassel garland, candy bar, sweets table, diaper cake, pink baby shower,

5 or so hours of sleep later it was moving day. Chicago sent us off just about the same way it treated us all winter long with gray skies and wet conditions but we made the most of it. We had a bit of a fiasco with our movers last-minute so we called in some family to help us make the trip. Once the truck was packed, Matt and his brother started the trip down and I headed to Springfield to pick up my dad and Finn.

spring weather, chicago moving day, moving truck

I’m not typically one to consider signs but I am now convinced that Bloomington hates me. You may recall I ran into a big winter storm coming through Bloomington a few months back so I guess it’s only fitting to get hit with a tornado warning on my last trip home.

So dad and I hit the road early this morning with the hope of making it to our new home in a day or so. Matt and his brother are of course already nearly there thanks to a few naps and a lot of caffeine.

Next stop, Florida.

florida_home

Workout Wednesday: Rest Day

Hey guess what happened in Chicago last night?

snow in march, chicago, pioneer plaza

That’s right. It snowed again. Needless to say we are really thrilled about it. We should be though because they were calling for 9 inches and we only got 4.

Nonetheless I’m back for another Workout Wednesday to talk about something that seems somewhat counterproductive in terms of exercise, but is immensely important: Rest Days.

workout wednesday, simply social blog, workout tips, exercises

I’m really good at sabotaging my rest days. Even better at ignoring them altogether and convincing myself that a light workout is just as good as complete rest.

It isn’t.

Rest days are key to maintaining your fitness and your motivation. I learned the hard way that if you ignore them, you’ll end up injured or burnt out and ruin all the work you put into your training in the first place. Trust me when I say that rest days should be treated as importantly as long run days, or leg days, or kickboxing days.

tips for a rest day, running tips, how not to sabotage a rest day, cancun, hammock

When you’re training for a race, nearly every day is dedicated to some form of exercise. It becomes your routine. So for me and I’m sure others, breaking that routine with a day that you don’t do anything leaves you with a gaping hole of time that you want to fill with endorphins and new additions to your people that look like their dogs list. Don’t laugh. It’s a list I take very seriously and something I hope to turn into a coffee table book someday. And I hope you’ll consider purchasing it when I do.

If you are used to exercising every day, your body becomes accustomed to it. So when you don’t exercise, you may feel sluggish, grumpy, hangry or combinations of each. Talk to a runner during a taper week and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Here are a seven ways to avoid sabotaging your rest day:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Schedule a massage
  3. Put on your workout clothes to do chores around the house
  4. Stretch
  5. Get your haircut. You know you won’t want to wash it again after it’s fixed.
  6. Schedule a lunch or dinner date with a friend
  7. Catch up on laundry, specifically focusing on reducing the size of your workout pile so it no longer towers over your work pile

The key to a rest day is not being completely sedentary, but allowing your body to heal and prepare itself for the hard days. My current training schedule has me rest on Fridays and doing my long run first thing Saturday mornings. And while it may seem frustrating at times, I feel the difference a few miles into my run if I don’t take it easy the day before.

Have a great workout!

Recaps and Resolutions

It seems only fitting to take a few moments and reflect on 2013 before we head full-swing into the new year. I’m not a huge fan of resolutions, primarily because I’m just as guilty of letting them go as the next person, but I do feel that they serve a purpose. After all, it was nearly one year ago that I resolved to bring my blog back from hiatus and I’m proud to say it is one resolution I have kept up with for the entire year.

Resolutions may not work for everyone, but I’ve found that in order to succeed, I not only need to set goals, but to hold myself accountable for them. You can read more about that here. Let’s see how I did in 2013:

1) Blog Weekly

I’ll take your weekly and throw in another post. Believe it or not, I managed to post bi-weekly for the majority of 2013. At times it wasn’t easy, but it is nice to be able to look back and to reflect on the new beginnings, celebrations, laughs and trials of the past year. You seem to be liking the posts too.  According to my stats you guys enjoy cookie decorating, marathons gone wrong and super bowl recipes. You can thank Pinterest for that last one. This spicy chex mix went what the kids call ‘viral’ and single-handedly referred more visitors to the blog than anything else. I can’t say i’m mad, but I do hope 2014 brings folks to a few of my more sophisticated recipes. You know, the ones that involve a little more than adding spices and mixing in a large bowl?

2) Volunteer once a month

Unless you count volunteering your body for imminent danger by overtraining for the Chicago Marathon, I didn’t follow through with this resolution as I had intended. I did however, manage to raise over $1,200 in the process for PAWS Chicago, helping save the lives of over 5,850 cats and dogs this year. I look forward to continuing this effort throughout 2014. It’s truly a cause worth supporting.

3) Read more (must quantify goals, Sarah) Correction: Read 13 books in 2013

I’m starting to realize that running a marathon is my excuse for nearly every other failed resolution in the past year. I don’t even think I read one book in 2013, let alone 13. Do editing blog posts count? Do I get a personal pan pizza if I give it another go this year? 

4) Capture more life in photos (not just with iPhone)

My Instagram total is nearing 700 photos. And guess what? They were nearly all taken with my iPhone. Sue me. Well don’t actually. I think I do have some portion of copyright on the photos. Probably not. I did manage to follow through on this resolution and capture a lot more of my life (and food) with my DSLR. Here are just a few of my favorites:

IMG_3221 greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary photography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social bloggreater swiss mountain dog, swissy, puppyphotography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social blog IMG_2534[1]photography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social bloggreater swiss mountain dog red white and blue trifle simply social blog baby girl homemade oreos sweet potato rosemary biscuits, savory scones, holiday recipes owen turns 7 IMG_3096 IMG_1204

5) Complete a Triathlon

See #1 and #2. No I did not complete a triathlon this year. I’ll admit, I was too scared to put ‘run a marathon’ when I wrote this last year so I felt a triathlon was a safe bet because I’ve always wanted to do one. It was shortly after I published this post that I decided to sign up for Chicago. And while I didn’t exactly have the best experience and still have a hard time calling myself a marathoner (pretty sure you need to do more than just one), I am very proud of myself for pushing through the pain and finishing. I’m also proud to report that I can once again run without pain for the first time since October 13th. So bring it on 2014! Let’s do a whole bunch of races that don’t include a distance of over 26 miles. 

As we enter into the New Year, I want to thank you for reading this blog and following me on this journey. Writing is a passion of mine and I look forward to continuing to share and overshare my experiences with you in 2014.

Now it’s your turn! Believe it or not I do get a little tired of talking to myself all the time. I’d love to hear from you. Don’t leave me hanging so early in the year!

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? 

Do you set monthly goals?

Did you follow through with any resolutions from last year? 

What is your biggest complaint about resolutions? 

What are you most looking forward to in 2014? 

This is not a joyful marathon recap

I had visions of what this post might say when I shared my goal of running my first full marathon with you back in January. Would I be joyful and happy, still reeling from the runner’s high I got as I crossed the finish line? Or would I be able to write it at all, fearful that I might get injured or not be strong enough to finish?

For those of you who read my posts like this one and this one, you probably know that my fear came true just weeks before the gun went off for the 36th annual Chicago Marathon. I got injured.

So I rested, I rehabbed, I prayed, I got sick with the same damn cold everyone else has and then I ran. If you hadn’t gathered by now, I tend to err on the side of competition. Throw in a good cause and familial support and there was little left to do than to push through and finish the goal I had set so many months before.

chicago marathon finisher medal and bib simply social blog

And so I did. And it was miserable. I want to tell you it was awesome and believe me there were several points it was oh-so-very awesome, but I also want to be honest with you. And the pain I put my body through was anything but awesome. I do take complete credit for it however, because it was none other than me, myself and I that continued to inflict 26.43 (thanks Garmin) miles worth of pain on Sunday.

I was going to post this yesterday but between the napping and the anti-inflammatory doses, I was of neither sound mind nor body to share my experience with you. I’d like to believe that had I not run injured I might be feeling a little better today, but at least I have a small sense of appreciation for those crazies who run marathons without training at all. 

The day after my first marathon went a little something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-hCuYjvw2I

And for once I’m not exaggerating. Getting out of bed yesterday took literally minutes. I could hardly bend my left leg and my calves felt like little monsters with tiny knives issued an assault from underneath my bed at each of them. A delivery driver stopped short of an intersection for me last night. Big mistake. My apologies to whomever got a cold pizza. My bad.

But let’s backtrack a few hours, shall we?

Saturday evening

My family arrived. I was overjoyed. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it up for the race so to have them in town made all the difference in the world. We discussed plans for the race day, had some dinner and ice cream and then Jake showcased the t-shirts they had planned to surprise me with the next day. 3-year-olds and surprises do not mix.

chicago marathon team shirts simply social blog

Race day: 5:05 a.m.

I woke up before my alarm and ate my normal pre-run breakfast before hailing a cab downtown. I had planned on walking as a sort of warm up but my mother had something to say about her daughter walking in the city alone in the dark. Not like I’ve ever done that in my 5 years here before. Anywho, I took a cab, mom.

7:05 a.m.

I stopped by the CARA event at the Hilton and then met up with a few friends from high school who were also running and in my corral. It was nice to catch up as we waited for the start. Considering there was 40-some thousand runners in this thing, the volunteers did an excellent job of getting us all through security and packed nicely in our corral in plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of race day, including a runner-led national anthem, jet flyover and a nauseating odor of biofreeze and bengay. Race day, yay!

chicago marathon starting line simply social blog

7:40 a.m.

My wave crosses the start line. I’m a little stiff from standing in the cold for 20 or so minutes but I just try to let the crazies fly past me and settle into my run.

No way! they carpeted the Columbus bridge for us. This is going to be awesome! 

And then it hit me. That oh-so-familiar sharp stab into the outside of my left knee. Between mile 1 and 2 no less.

chicago marathon course map simply social blog

Seriously IT band? You’re already pissed off? You couldn’t even give me 8 miles? Not 5 even? We’ve got 25 more miles together you better lock it up!

Ask and you will receive. The son-of-a locked up and screamed at me for the next 5 miles. Things like ‘haha you thought I would just go away, silly runner’ and ‘nope, still here and getting angrier by the minute.’ At mile 6 the other one joined in. I was actually relieved. At least then the pain was even on both sides. I considered how long I had pushed through the IT band pain before without relief and wondered if perhaps mile 9 or 10 was the magic number in which the IT band eventually let’s go and let’s you run.

chicago marathon course map simply social blog

But it wasn’t all bad. I had a few smiling moments the first half of the race as well. The frontrunners in boystown were fun to see and the lululemon cheering section was explosively loud as usual. I started taking mental notes of my favorite signs (‘smile if you peed a little’ and ‘chuck norris would never run a marathon’) Some of my best friends came to watch me at miles 4 and 11. It was upon seeing them that 1) I realized I wasn’t going to win this thing (har har har) and 2) that I might as well make the most of the time and energy others were putting into watching this race. After all, it’s tough to run a marathon, but volunteering or watching one is no easy feat.

chicago marathon team paws babies

shout out to the Benkos and Bialarucki’s for letting your pretty girls distract me from my demon legs

So I decided to start walking through every water station. To thank the volunteers whenever I had a chance to. To smile and wave to those who shouted my name along the route (tip: put your name on your shirt if you run a marathon. Strangers will become your best friends). And to be grateful for each mile I was able to push through as I got closer and closer to my family.

chicago marathon course map simply social blog

I wouldn’t say I cruised through the halfway point but by mile 14 I still had a slightly decent pace. Believe it or not my legs hurt less when I ran faster for the first half. Normally, I would start to get emotional at this point and I did nearly cry at the 13.1 mark when I passed the bagpipers but that was mostly because I knew I still had 13 more to go.

chicago marathon course map simply social blog

my sister was behind the camera but she should get credit for the coordination, attire and enthusiasm for team Murphy

Miles 14-16 were nothing but happy because I had these bright smiling (and model-ready) faces to feed me ibuprofen and hug me. Running through charity village and my friends Trista, Paul and their cute baby girl also made for happy moments as we entered into the second half of the race.

chicago marathon course map simply social blog

So here’s where it gets fun. I often run through Little Italy. I really enjoy it actually. The smells of Italian food, the friendly faces. I had just passed an aid station and was coming up on mile 18 when my nose started running like crazy.

Oh great my cold is back. Wait a second. What’s with all this blood? Oh isn’t this just lovely. I can add first bloody nose to the laundry list of firsts today. Just great.  Oh well at least my face will match my limp now. 

That’s right. I had the privilege of running another mile and a half with a bloody nose. A bystander gave me a wad of Starbucks napkins, bless his heart. The race guide told me the next aid station was just a few yards away. The nurses at distant aid station swore I didn’t have blood all over my face. I’m convinced they lied to me. Just like the race guide and the people who told me I had “great form” and “looked strong” at miles 22 and 24.

Liars! Very kind liars but liars, all of you!

But there were happy points along the way. Like the time I nearly bear-hugged the man who was handing out orange slices in China Town as he was my only hope for getting this blood taste out of my mouth and stomach. Or when I literally broke down in laughter after realizing we had to run all the way to US Cellular field before making our way back North to the finish.

chicago marathon course map simply social blog

From mile 23 on I secretly reveled in the fact that everyone else was starting to feel the level of pain I had been feeling since the first 5K. I know it’s mean but that’s what happens in survival mode. It was every man or woman for herself time as runners were pulling up with cramps left and right. For once I felt like my fueling strategy was paying off. My IT bands had stopped working miles ago, but my calves were barely hanging on, scooting along like an old lady on her way to a high-stakes bridge game.

By mile 24 I couldn’t make to the next water station without alternating running and walking. Only problem was walking felt just about as bad as running at that point. I had just about given up near mile 25 when I determined that 800 meters meant TWO LAPS around a track and I surely only had enough gas for a 200. It was at that moment that I heard my name from an area pretty sparse with spectators. A friend and frequent marathoner was there like a little marathon angel and gave me some very encouraging words when I needed them most.

Unlike my other races, there was no final kick. No overwhelming feeling of elation when I saw the big screen or the stupid Mount Roosevelt that stood between me and the finish line. Just sheer determination and knowing that as soon as I got there the pain would start to fade from my body.

chicago marathon finish simply social blog

But I finished. With a watch time of 4:36 and a chip time of 4:53. Knowing that those 17 minutes I stopped to hug my family and friends and thank volunteers (plus go to the bathroom and clot a bloody nose) were completely worth the extra time.

I shared this on Facebook shortly after the race and I think it’s worth another view. Because even though I didn’t have the most joyous and happy marathon experience, the experience itself left a lasting impact.

Today I ran a marathon. Strangers told me I looked strong when I clearly looked anything but. Volunteers kept me hydrated when I longed for something to drink. Family and friends told me to keep going when all I wanted to do was stop. If you want to see the good in humanity go out and run a marathon. Today I may have run a marathon, but this overwhelming sense of pride is a result of what I saw along the way.

Perks of a taper week

Happy marathon week to all you runners out there! For those of you not running a marathon it’s likely you are either getting married or watching others get married this weekend. After all, the second weekend of October is typically celebrated one of these two ways. A small percentage of you have nothing more than visiting a pumpkin patch on your agenda. That’s OK too. Making decisions at pumpkin patches can be challenging.

For my fellow runners, the week leading up to the marathon is a taper week. Most of you are probably going crazy trying to figure out what to do with all your free time that doesn’t involve running. By now your friends and family just want this stupid race over with so you can go back to being your old self again. No? Oh that just must be mine. As someone who has been not running at all “tapering” for two weeks now, let me offer some advice. Cook something. Bake, why don’t ya? Because nothing says taper like 3 loaves of pumpkin bread, homemade pesto and a gigantic batch of chili does it now?

pumpkin bread, pesto, chili

This weekend the air was crisp, the leaves were changing and the sun was shining. Perfect running weather, right? I know. But also perfect baking weather. See how I justified that? It’s all about changing your outlook.

Shall we begin?

My Thursday night went a little something like this

canned pumpkin baking ingredients instagram

So it was inevitable that I was going to make something with pumpkin the very next day. As if that wasn’t incentive enough, a friend saw the photo on Instagram and requested a dessert. Supply and demand matched up and out popped a massive batch of pumpkin bread. I really have a way of making appetizing things sound completely unappetizing, don’t I?

pumpkin bread streusel topping

I make banana bread all year long but come October I like to change it up. It’s a little trick I call adding pumpkin in everything and anything. Try it sometime. It’s fun.

I can’t remember if I made this recipe in years past or not but I chose it based on quantity and a chocolate chip kicker. I’ve tried pumpkin chocolate chip cookies a few times and while they taste good, I find the consistency to be a little chewy for my taste. Like a cuffin. Not the urban dictionary definition, the half cookie, half muffin one.

Anywho I know my friends liked them so I wanted to share the chocolate chip batch with them. This makes enough for 3 loaves. I did one chocolate chip, 1 regular and two minis.

Side note: mini loaves are awesome because let’s just say a last minute party comes up Saturday night and you want to bring something. Boom. Small loaf is just enough for a host/hostess gift but not too much in case they are anti-pumpkin, paleo or presumptuous.

pumpkin bread streusel topping

Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Two peas and their pod)

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I did 1/2 C whole wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (added 1/2 C to one loaf)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare loaf pans. I used two 9×5 and 2 mini loaf pans.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl.

In your stand mixer, mix sugar, pumpkin, oil, water and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs.

Add dry ingredients to wet being careful not to overmix. You can easily do this by hand I just like the size of the bowl with my stand mixer. Fold chocolate chips into one portion of batter and fill loaf pan.

In a small bowl, mix 3 TBL brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a little flour. Top each loaf pan with streusel topping before baking.

Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the heat of your oven. A knife should come out clean when bread is done. Note: small loaf pans will cook much faster.

pumpkin bread streusel topping

Let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes then flip bread out of loaf pans. Let cool again. Right foot two stomps. Left foot two stomps. Cha Cha real smooth. 

Take bread over by window to get better lighting for photograph. Try to get a good shot without your dog photobombing the bread.

swissy puppy photobombs pumpkin bread

warning: puppy in photo is not as close as he appears

Slice and serve for breakfast, brunch or dessert. Or if you’re tapering this week, all three. Just call it an early carb-load.

pumpkin bread streusel topping
Best of luck to all my fellow marathoners and marrieds this weekend!

My IT is BS

First and foremost let me apologize for freaking everyone out with my sappy blog post last week. It was not my intention to incite phone calls and well-being checks from family and friends, although I do appreciate the concern. I’ve always tried to be honest in this space and being honest meant telling you that last weekend sucked. Sometimes days suck and the only thing you can do is just move onto the next one. The good news is the next one is usually better. And this week is no exception. So stick with me as I transition from a sad post to a complaining one. I bet you can hardly wait, can you?

ITBS.

I could think of a lot of things to stand for that acronym right now, but at an early age I learned that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Pretty sure I learned it from a children’s book but I can only assume it applies to adult-written blog posts as well.

So I’ll focus on the facts. ITBS. A lovely little syndrome that occurs with IT band overuse. What’s an IT band you ask? Let me show you:

Where does the pain make itself at home you ask?

Like an arthritic knee in the middle of a hurricane.

BS.

I’ve dealt with mild IT band issues in past half marathon training, but like most things in my life lately, I somehow managed to send this one to a whole new level. I’m not exactly sure at which point I reached critical mass but over the last 3 weeks I’ve learned than IT band issues are not solved by continuing to run. Can you believe that? One of the most common running injuries can’t be soothed by running? BS. I know, it’s hard to believe I graduated from an accredited university with that kind of thought process. With honors.

But put yourself in my running shoes (the new ones not the ones that hated me) and try to imagine being 4 weeks out from a marathon and not running. OK, maybe you would think after that many miles you would want to do any form of exercise besides running, but if you’re anything like me, the idea of missing that many days of training takes a big hit on your confidence.

Here are a few fun facts I learned from Runner’s World for prevention of ITBS after I was all ready in the thick of it:

Common causes of ITBS
ITB syndrome can result from any activity that causes the leg to turn inward repeatedly. This can include wearing worn-out shoes, running downhill or on banked surfaces (like in San Diego), running too many track workouts in the same direction, or simply running too many miles (define “too many”). Unlike many overuse injuries, however, IT band pain afflicts seasoned runners almost as much as beginners. (are you saying I’m seasoned?) When the iliotibial band comes near the knee, it becomes narrow, and rubbing can occur between the band and the bone. This causes inflammation. Iliotibial Band Syndrome is more common in women, possibly because some women’s hips tilt in a way that causes their knees to turn in. (oh, throw in the gender card why don’t ya)

Here are some steps you can take to prevent iliotibial band syndrome:

  • Most importantly, always decrease your mileage or take a few days off if you feel pain on the outside of your knee. (yeah, about that)
  • Walk a quarter- to half-mile before you start your runs. (holding your garmin watch up to the sky to get signal counts, right?)
  • Make sure your shoes aren’t worn along the outside of the sole. If they are, replace them. (oh I replaced them. Several times)
  • Run in the middle of the road where it’s flat. (in Chicago?)
  • Don’t run on concrete surfaces. (in Chicago?)
  • When running on a track, change directions repeatedly. (in Chicago?)
  • Schedule an evaluation by a podiatrist to see if you need orthotics. (I don’t suppose these apply to a neutral, toe runner)

So after several weeks of travel in which I tried to convince myself that running in new locations was the key to healing my peg leg, I began aggressive rehab treatments.

What type of treatment you ask?

My boyfriend moonlights as a certified athletic trainer for a professional sports team. Well not exactly.  He moonlights as my boyfriend and spends the majority of the week and weekends doing his real job. So when I do have his expertise at my service, I get to enjoy perks like Gatorade samples, suggestions in running form and stretching techniques that make you want to punch someone in the face. I’m luckier than most because if I have questions, concerns or injuries, he is able to help me without a mess of co-pays and referrals. At least I thought I was lucky until he came home with these the other day:

Go ahead and pull your head out of the gutter because these terrifyingly creepy murder-looking tools are supposed to help me rehab my leg faster. After having my first treatment though I can only imagine the former may have been less painful.

Now that I’ve completely grossed you out let’s continue it with some photos, shall we? (warning photos are not suitable for viewing during meal consumption)

Once I got over the shock of those creepy tools, I started the aggressive graston tool therapy, which resulted in this:

IT band syndrome bruise running injury

And I let Matt put that stupid tape from my hip to my ankle that I used to think other runners wore just for show.

IT band syndrome bruise running injury

And I did a lot of yoga. Which helped me with both the stress of not running and the physical need for sweat.

I resorted to aggressive therapy after the I missed the Cara 20-miler last weekend. As you may have read in my last post, I had a rough weekend. I knew my knee wouldn’t hold up for the 20 miles, I missed packet pickup and I was in no state to exercise, but I laced up my shoes and went out to run on my own anyway.

And I struggled. Both physically and mentally. But it wasn’t until I caught up to the race participants around mile 10 and felt both of those struggles at once that I realized it was time to rest. A horribly painful lightbulb if you will. The thought that I wouldn’t be physically or mentally capable on October 13th was the slap in the knee I needed.

And so I sit here with tape down my bruised leg hoping that like a bad weekend, the next few days are better than the last.

I can’t believe I just posted pictures of my bruised leg for all to see.

Have a great weekend!

An 8 mile running tour

I wrote this post on my run last night. Pretty impressive huh? And you thought texting while walking without incident was an accomplishment. You’ll understand how I managed this in a minute.

As you probably know by now, I’m less than 2 months out from my first marathon. I know you probably think I’m crazy and perhaps I am, but I’m raising money for a good cause and someone informed me that 6 half marathons don’t count as 3 full ones so I really have no other option at this point than to just run the full one. Why not, right?

Training for any race takes a lot of time, and at this point in our marathon training, mid-week runs are just about as long as the long runs were for half marathon training. Still with me?

Regardless of mileage there are days I just don’t feel like running. Often on these days, I try to rationalize reasons not to run. Like the fact that Finn is just having too much fun at the park with his buddies to go home now, or that I’m trying to like my new shoes but they seem to hate me, or how many errands I could catch up on in the 1,2 or 3 hours I am scheduled to run that day.

And then I realize how lucky I am to be able to run. To have the physical ability to run at all, let alone a distance I’ve never reached before. To have some responsibility but not too much that I can’t make time to get the necessary miles in. And to have a city like Chicago in which to do it.

I think about people who run in the middle of nowhere. Those who muscle through lookalike neighborhoods, country roads or hilly landscapes and may not even come across another runner their entire workout. I like those locations on occasion, but to be able to train for this race in a city like Chicago is pretty cool.

And so I bring you along for a short 8 mile run through the city I love.

Chicago running tour sites

Mile 1.

Confession: I don’t have a picture of mile 1. I don’t have a picture of mile 1 because I didn’t consider this as a blog post topic until mile 3. That and mile 1 of my run doesn’t have too much to look at. It isn’t until mile 2 along the river that I ever feel the urge to snap a photo. Mile 1 is typically filled with jealousy of the post-work crowd enjoying a happy hour beer on a patio as I try to rid my legs of lactic acid. Yay for mile 1.

Mile 2.

chicago running tour wrigley building trump tower

Mile 2 runs along the Chicago river, past Trump Tower, the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, under Michigan Avenue and towards Lake Michigan. Boat tours are frequent, as are urban kayak locations and tourists.

Mile 3.

chicago running tour lakefront path lake michigan

You spend most of mile 3 along the lake path. In the summer, the harbor is filled with boats of every kind. In the winter, ice. This is also the area where you will encounter the heaviest foot traffic. Great people watching. Watch out for the goose poop.

Mile 4.

chicago running tour lakefront path lake michigan buckingham fountain skyline

Mile 4 continues along the lake path where you can get caught up in the vastness of Lake Michigan. Look right, however, and you catch a glimpse of Buckingham Fountain and the iconic Congress Hotel. On Wednesdays, listen to the sounds of Jazzin’ at the Shedd as you wind the curve towards the Arboretum. Don’t forget to look back and see one of the best views in the city. Turn around quickly though or your sure to get run over by a hardcore cyclist.

Mile 5.

chicago running tour lakefront path lake michigan shedd aquarium soldier field the field museum

If you could absorb knowledge by running past the museum campus, I’d be a genius by now. And if Soldier Field counted too, I’d probably be a lot faster. Mile 5 takes you past Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field and Shedd Aquarium again. Can you tell I make a turn around at mile 5? Head back towards the city, but don’t miss the Field Museum. It’s mammoth in size and exhibit.

Mile 6.

chicago running tour state street chicago board of trade essex inn grant park

Are you tired yet? Because you’ve been running around in my head all day. Just kidding. But seriously, this is the point in the run where my blog-induced photo stops caused a lovely dose of abdominal cramps. Note to self: mental photographs don’t cause cramping. Mile 6 takes you through Grant Park and back through the loop. You will almost never catch a green light on State Street except the evening when you are planning on taking a picture of it. By now the Board of Trade is dead and you can stand in the middle of the street without concern. I don’t advise trying this during trading hours.

Mile 7.

chicago running tour willis sears tower

Mile 7 features the What’chu talkin’ bout Willis Tower. Known to many as the Sears Tower. Well half of it in this case. Those clouds provided an amazing drop in humidity and temperature. I love you clouds. It’s nearly impossible to photograph the scope of a building like this so I’ll take you back to a few weeks ago when we ventured to the top with the boys.

skydeck chicago sears willis tower simply social blog

Mile 8.

chicago running tour greektown athena greek islands

I’m hungry. Which is good because this run finishes after mile 8 in the heart of Greektown, just steps from two of my favorite Greek restaurants. From Garrett’s Popcorn to Giordanos, Little Italy to Greektown, there are plenty of smells to torture yourself with on a run through the city. Bonus points for the heightened sense of smell that comes when exercising.

So there you have it. An 8 mile running tour through Chicago. And you didn’t even have to pay for it! If you haven’t worked out today, you have my permission to use this post as justification for skipping today. I’m tired just writing it.

Whether you’re training for a race or just trying to find motivation in your own life, I encourage you to find gratitude in the things you can do. Often times we let our doubts get in the way of our potential. As my FitRadio lady told me last night, the best way to get through an unpleasant experience is to start it. If FitRadio lady says it, it must be the truth.

Have a wonderful weekend!