April Check-In

Well, here we are, at the end of April. As much as I want to complain about the weather, I feel like having 80-degree days in March should cancel out the fact that I hate having to wear a coat on my birthday in April.

One of my favorite nights this month!

Anyway, April flew by this month, and  I can hardly believe it’s over. However, I did accomplish a lot, so here’s my April check-in for you all.

Life’s List Items Crossed Off: 2. A Sub-30 5K (YAY!!!!) and one other surprise you’ll get to read about soon!

Miles Run: 46. Much better than last month!

Races Run: 3 – Bunny Rock 5K, Home Team Charity Run, and the Lakefront 10 Miler

Upcoming Races:

  • 5/12 – Move for the Kids
  • 5/26 – Soldier Field 10 Mile
  • 6/2 – The Color Run
  • 6/9 – Chicago 13.1 (Thanks to Kim!)
  • 9/2 – Disneyland Half Marathon
  • 9/9 – Chicago Half Marathon

Even though I will be at well over 12 races this year, I am still shooting for a race a month. Still need something for July, August, October, November, and December. And I’m hoping for some of those to be CARA certified.

And speaking of CARA…

CARA Races Participation Award Update: 4 down, 6 to go. (Still need to sign up for 3 more)

Books Read: 3. Not great, but I’m still on track for my Goodreads Challenge.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Cary has
read 17 books toward her goal of 50 books.

Accomplishments for April:

  • Graduated from physical therapy.
  • Completed the Lakefront 10, pain-free!
  • Got my hair cut.
  • Celebrated my birthday with good friends and good food.
  • Saw Snow Patrol at the Aragon.
  • Video-chatted with my nephew for the first time. Well, I chatted, he bounced in his bouncy-seat.

Goals for May

  • Work out more regularly.
  • Train for and complete the Soldier Field 10 Mile.
  • Create a curriculum for a reading program at work that I am really proud of.
  • Clean my apartment. Really clean it.
  • Use my Groupon for fondue before it expires.
  • Stop being so hard on myself and use my tendancies to overanalyze everything I do and how it could have been better to make positive changes, instead of just beating myself up.
  • Continue to do my therapy exercises at least 3x a week, even though I’m no longer meeting with my PT.
  • Volunteer for Mayfest.
  • Book flights to California.
  • Keep on track for my Goodreads goal.
  • Recruit at least one runner for Team Bookin It, and reach the $300 mark in my Half Marathon Fundraising by the end of the month. (Click here to join my team, or to help with fundraising!)

Lakefront 10 Miler

Several months ago, while I was training with CARA’s Six Leaf Clover Series, I won a free entry to the FirstMerit Bank Lakefront 10 Miler.  As excited as I was for a free race entry, I was pretty nervous about this race.

When I first entered, I was in the worst part of my knee problems, and 10 miles just didn’t seem feasible at the time. However, not being one to turn down free things, I thought I’d give it a shot anyway.

The timing actually ended up working out quite well. On Friday, I “graduated” from physical therapy, and then Saturday morning was the race. Although I hadn’t been following the 10 mile training plan I normally would have, I had a really great 8-mile run earlier last week, and it played a huge role in boosting my confidence for the 10.

Despite the cold, windy, and at times rainy weather, it was actually a great race day! Here are just a few of the reasons why I loved this race.

  • Great Lakefront course. I love running on the lake path, and races along the lake always seem more beautiful to me than those along city streets. Even with the wind and crashing waves from the blustery weather, there’s just something about looking out at the vast Lake Michigan as you run. It’s where most of us in the city run when we’re training, but I feel like there aren’t too many options to have that same view on race day.
  • Cricket Hill. Speaking of courses, Chicago isn’t exactly known for its hills, but the Lakefront 10 is the hilliest race I’ve run here. It’s mainly because of Cricket Hill. Used in the winter as a great sledding hill, Cricket Hill is basically a large mound in the middle of Cricket Field, and the race organizers designed the course so runners ran up and over it around mile 3. This was the hardest part of the race, but it’s making my “things I liked about the race” list because it made it feel very unique. Also, the view of watching a constant stream of runners running over the hill was an amazing site to see. (I actually thought about stopping at taking a picture with my iPhone to post here, but I decided to just keep running. Now I’m bummed that I didn’t.)
  • It was a Green Race. CARA now has “Green Race standards” for encouraging races to reduce their environmental footprint. I think this is such a great idea. There are a lot of different criteria for becoming a green race, including on-site recycling, avoiding individual water bottles at the finish line, using Virtual Race Bags, and providing reusable totes at packet pickup.
  • *A quick note about Virtual Race Bags…I LOVE THEM. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more and more annoyed with every race packet I pick up.  What used to be a “goodie bag” is really just a bag full of papers that are going to go straight into the recycling bin as soon as I get home. To me “goodies” are snacks, treats, sample granola bars, Chapstick, or other goodies that actually add value or might be useful to runners. I understand that it’s about sponsorship and advertising, but in my opinion, it’s completely wasteful to just shove a stack of papers into a bag and call them “goodies.” So, I just wanted to say thank you to Virtual Race Bags for helping to alleviate this issue, and I hope more race directors use you in the future!
  • Goodies! Speaking of goodie bags and sponsors, I got more samples of Clif products than ever before. In my reusable tote at packet pickup, before the race, and at the post-race party, there were Clif Shots, Shot Bloks, and Clif Bar samples everywhere! To me, this type of marketing is far more useful than giving me a paper ad and coupon. I tried some new products and flavors, got some samples to take home, and will probably buy some more Clif stuff in the future!
  • The Shirt. First of all, I love the shirt (despite being the 4th red race shirt I’ve gotten in 2012). They are cute and totally comfy! I’ve never worn a Greenlayer shirt before, but I am now a fan!Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the shirts were actually were lost in transit, so we did not get a chance to pick them up at packet pickup.However, CARA and Greenlayer seemed to have worked their magic and ensured all the shirts were there by race morning. I have to say, I kind of liked the idea of picking up the shirts on race day. I’m one of those superstitious people who treats race shirts as finisher shirts. I typically don’t wear a shirt until after I have completed the race, and I certainly will never wear a shirt for a race I didn’t end up running. So, because of the way the shirt shipments arrived, you had to actually show up on race day to get one. I see that as a reward to all the dedicated runners who braved the wind and rain and cold to get out there and run.
  • I have a new medal for my rack! The medal features CARA’s new logo, and while it’s no Mickey Medal, I am proud to have earned this one, considering everything I’d been through leading up to this race!

Overall, I am very happy with my Lakefront 10 experience. From the race itself to my own personal performance, I had a great run. And the best part – ZERO knee pains!!! Hooray!

Blogging Catch-Up

I’ve been pretty bad about blogging lately. I have a dozen things I’ve been intending to post about, but I just haven’t had the time to sit down and do it. And, when I do get something posted, it’s been rushed and not well-written at all. I apologize for that.

In the next few days, I will try my best to do some blogging catch up, and once I feel back on track, I promise to try a little harder with the timeliness and quality of my posts.

In the meantime, please bear with me. The following are a few posts you can expect to see over the next few days during my “catch-up time.”

  • Lakefront 10 Recap
  • T-shirt Quilt post
  • April Monthly Update

Stay tuned.

Photo Challenge #2: Why I Run

Last week I completed the first of MagMileRunner’s Photo Challenges and this week I’m at it again. Here’s what we were asked to capture:

Why do you run? What is the main reason? We all have multiple reasons why we run (physical and mental health, friends, competition, etc), but what is The One main reason you keep lacing up and getting out there? This is a little open-ended, so have fun with it! Be creative.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized there’s one thing that really sums up all the reasons I run, and also has been a big motivator itself. It’s Athlinks, the online race results database. That’s why my “photo” this week is actually a screenshot of my Athlinks profile.


I’ve been tracking my race results through Athlinks pretty much since I first started running the occasional 5K, and I really think it’s kept me signing up for more races ever since. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It allows me to track my PR, average pace, and see how much better or worse I get from race to race. This is a great motivator to keep me running and improving.
  • It’s a history of just how far I’ve come as a runner. (My first 5K took me almost 50 minutes to complete!) This is a great reminder after those really rough runs.
  • It lists all the states where I’ve run races. The first time I ran in another state, I was so excited to see “CA” amidst all the “IL” races on my list. This was the thing that gave me the idea to some day try to run a race in every state. (So far I’ve got IL, CA, FL, and NV.)
  • Speaking of lists, it’s a list of every race I’ve ever run! And we all know how much I love lists! Instead of crossing off of this list, every time I run a race, I get to ADD to the list, and it’s been really fun to see my race list getting longer all the time.

I absolutely love Athlinks. In fact, I might even be a little obsessed with it. And, recently they’ve been making some really awesome improvements, and it gets better all the time.

If you’re not already on Athlinks and you’re a runner, I highly recommend signing up. All your results are already there, regardless of if you’re a member. But once you sign up, you can claim all your results and start comparing and collecting results!

Are you on Athlinks? If so, you can become my friend (or my rival)!

Home Team Charity Run – And a PR!

At long last! I finally have a chance to sit down and write about Sunday’s Home Team Charity Run.

The run had a 5K and 10K option, and although the entry fees were slightly steeper than other races of those distances, a portion of the fees went toward the Chicago Blackhawks Charities,  Chicago Bulls Charities, and Chicago White Sox Charities.  The fees were split evenly among all three charities, but runners were given the option to choose which team’s t-shirt they wanted to receive. (I really wanted a new Blackhawks shirt, but due to my recent track record of red running shirts, I opted for the White Sox one.)

The option of the 5K and the 10K was a bit harder for me to choose. I really wanted to do the 10K, since it fit perfectly with my training for next weekend’s Lakefront 10 Miler, and because 10k participants got to finish on the warning track inside U.S. Cellular. (I’ve already run through Wrigley Field, and I’ll be running at Soldier Field in May; I’m trying to make the rounds of all the Chicago sports stadiums!)

However, being the day after my birthday, I figured it was a pretty bad idea to register for a 10k.

In fact, when I woke up that morning, I even started to think it was a bad idea to have registered for any race that day! Between the Snow Patrol concert, the late Blackhawks game that went into overtime, and the few birthday drinks the night before, getting up was a struggle. On the way to the train, I told my BF, “If you want to ditch me and finish before me, you can go for it. I won’t be mad if you beat me, and it’s not like I’m gonna PR or anything today.” (BF is not a runner, but I have convinced him to run three 5Ks with me now, and the first two times he’s stayed with me and then lets me cross the finish line a second before him. I still think he’d beat me if he ran his own pace; he says no.)

Anyway, we started the race, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy of a start it was. I’ve done far too many races lately that take up to 20 minutes to cross the start, and even those that don’t often end up taking the first half mile to zig-zag around all the walkers walking 4 or 5 people wide. (Insert personal rant here.)

But on Sunday, there was space to run right from the start. It was wonderful!

I also was maintaining a pretty solid pace, in part to my new PodRunner app. As part of my physical therapy, my PT is working with me on cadence, and she’s having me play around with running to a metronome and trying to get me to increase my cadence to 176 bpm. (There’s a lot of research on this and how it can help improve running and prevent injury.) It’s actually really cool to run to a metronome, but about 30 seconds in, you feel ready to enter the looney bin. So, someone else recommended PodRunner to me, which has hour-long playlists of music at a set bpm. If you can handle the bad techno music, it’s actually really fun to run to. And, if you’re like me and tend to change your pace based on the song playing on your iPod, you might find this really helps you keep a steady pace.

Anyway, between the easy open start, and the nice steady pace I set for myself, I was feeling good. Much better than I had anticipated.

In fact, when we crossed the first mile marker, it was only at 9 minutes. BF got excited, because he knew it was a faster pace than I’m used to, but I knew I always start my first mile too fast.

However, at the second mile marker, when I saw it was only at 18-something, I finally started thinking, “I just might be able to do this!”

The third mile started getting tougher, especially when we turned around and started running into the wind. But I let my PodRunner music keep me going. I started to feel a little sick, like I do when I run a little too fast. I get that ugly cough that I sometimes fear might actually turn into being sick. (Sorry. Kinda gross.) But I crossed the third mile marker and realized I had almost 2 minutes to run the last tenth of a mile and beat the 30-minute mark.

I was going to do it!

I dug deep into whatever little energy I had left somewhere in me, and pushed it to the end. I didn’t feel pretty as I crossed the finish, but I felt proud!

Not only did I run my first sub-30 5K, but I beat my previous PR by almost a minute!

PR, and my first race as a 31-year-old!

Despite the previous night of birthday fun that I thought was stacked against me, this race actually had a lot going for me. The following things all seemed to really come together to make my PR possible:

  • Great weather.
  • A small race, with a wide course.
  • A steady pace, thanks to PodRunner.
  • A lot of the “better” runners were running the 10K, which freed up space, and also made it possible to place 6th in my age group.
  • Luck.
  • And maybe I actually am getting better at running!

Regardless of the reasons why, having a great race was exactly what I needed to help reboost my confidence. After some of the rough races I’ve had lately (like the Warm Your Heart Indoor 5K and the Shamrock Shuffle) I needed a great one!

Plus, now I can finally cross this off my List, and it’s one more toward my 12 in 2012!

Birthdays, Sports, Concerts, and PRs

What a weekend! I am still giddy from how amazing it was, so I can’t promise this will be an extremely well-written post. Sorry.

Friday night I went out for a pre-birthday dinner of tapas and sangria at Cafe Iberico. In addition to absolutely loving going for tapas in a big group (because you get to try more things), I also was so happy to be surrounded by some of my closest friends. Former coworkers, dance friends, and running friends represented some of the most important aspects of my life as a 30-year-old, so I couldn’t think of a better crew to eat my “last meal” with for the year.

Some of my favorite people.

Then Saturday was the actual “big day”. I kicked it off with brunch with my best friend and “the boys” at Bongo Room. It’s rare that I venture out to Wicker Park, so this was my first Bongo Room experience, and it was delicious.

Then we came home to watch Humber pitch a perfect game! In fact, it turned out to be a great day for Chicago sports all around. Cubs win, Bulls win, Hawks overtime win (and another near heart attack) and a Sox perfect game. It’s a rare day for 4 Chicago wins in the same day, and I’m glad it happened yesterday!

After the Sox game, we headed up to the Aragon for the Snow Patrol show. Oh my god. I probably should write a separate post about how awesome this was when I’m a little less hyper and a little more eloquent. It was a-maze-ing. AND, they were filming for their next single so someday my voice (along with 500o others) may make it into the music video!

Snow Patrol at the Aragon

And then, today, the real reason I’m so excited as I type this – I ran the Home Team Charity Run 5K. Going into it, I was seriously questioning my sanity for signing up for a race the morning after my birthday. Between the show, the b-day drinks, and the late-night food while watching the Hawks go into overtime, getting up early wasn’t easy. In fact, on the way to the race, I even commented on how I did not have high hopes for the outcome of the race.

But maybe low expectations are good for me, because I got a PR!!!! In fact, not only did I PR, but I finally reached my goal of running a 5K in under 30 minutes, and got to cross off a Life’s List item today!!!!

Celebrating with Southpaw

The official results are not posted yet (and it’s killing me), but once they are up, I will do a full race recap and tell all about it.

For now, I’m just gonna go back to jumping up and down and repeating “I did it!” over and over again. :)

My First Photo Challenge

I’ve always wanted to do a bloggy photo challenge, and there’s no better time than the present to try new things.

One of the blogs I now follow from the Chicago Running Bloggers, Mag Mile Runner, has just posted a new photo challenge, and I am excited to participate.

In case you don’t like clicking links, here’s what we’re supposed to post for this week’s challenge:

A picture of memorabilia (bib, shirt, medal, trophy, etc – can be just one thing or multiple things) from your favorite race. Include an explanation of why it’s your favorite race. 

This one was easy for me. Of all the races I’ve ever run, there’s one I’m the most proud of, and the memorabilia played a very important role. Why, it’s the Disney World Marathon, of course!

I picked this race because the Disney Marathon is probably the race I am most proud of. While my time was atrocious, the race itself represents so much to me. In about a 6 month time frame, I went from essentially being a non-runner, to completing two half marathons, and signing up and training for a full marathon. All in the same year I was diagnosed with asthma, too!

And the fact that I trained for the full marathon pretty much on my own, without a training group or even a training buddy for most of my runs, was nothing short of a miracle. (I still have flashbacks of my 16-miler that I did solo on a Friday night, on a windy, cold, November evening.)

I’m not sure whether or not I will run another marathon, but if I do, I have an inkling I’ll finish with a better time, but still be less proud than I was when I finished this one. To me, this was the true symbol that I really can do anything I put my mind to.

And the medal itself represents that, too. Not just because I finished, and that it’s awesome and huge and has Mickey on it. It’s because the Mickey medal is actually the true reason I even signed up for the marathon in the first place!  Originally I just wanted to run a race at Disney, and it was the half marathon I had set my sights on. After finishing my first half, I knew I could do it and I thought I was ready.

But after thinking more about it, I decided I didn’t want “the dumb Donald Duck medal” (Sorry, Donald.); it was the Mickey medal I truly wanted. And I knew if I ran the Disney half, I’d only be disappointed with myself for not getting Mickey, and would then have to sign up, train all over again, and pay for another trip down to Orlando another year, and who knows if I’d be able to do it – mentally, physically, or financially.

So one night, after a particularly good run, still not yet down from my runner’s high, I decided to bite the bullet and register for my very first full marathon. And if I try to claim otherwise, know I am lying. The only reason I upgraded to the full was for the medal.

Funny how trivial things can motivate us like that. But, hey. It worked!

I’m not running Boston, and I probably never will.

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and it is rich with tradition and history. Its rigorous qualifying standards makes it one of the most elite races out there, and because of this, running the Boston Marathon has made it on the bucket lists of just about every marathoner I know.

Note I said “just about” every marathoner. I am a marathoner. (Though I still can’t believe I can say that!) However, running Boston is not on my list. Let me tell you why.

I am slow. This is no secret.

I keep a pretty solid 11:30 mile average for half marathons.

I struggle to reach a 3o minute 5K.

I had a 13-minute pace at the Disney Marathon. (Although this was a result of stopping for several character photos along the way, so my adjusted time was more in line with my half marathon pace.)

So slow that Carl lent me his cane during the race.

When I run along the lake path, runners with strollers full of kids and leashes with 3 dogs will whizz pass me.

In fact, the only people I ever pass on the path are the walkers.

Keeping these things in mind, take a look at the Boston Qualifying times:

2012 Boston Marathon Qualifying Times (www.baa.org)

For a woman my age, I would have to run a marathon in 3 hours and 4o minutes. That is about an 8:20 mile pace. I can’t even run that fast for 3 miles, let alone 26.2!

The only thing that gives people like me any hope is that the qualifying times get easier as you get older. So, you know, if I’m 80 years old, still running at the same pace as I did in my 30s, and run the Disney Marathon without any bathroom or photo stops, maybe I can qualify 50 years from now.

That is, if the standards don’t get even harder by then.

They say the hardest part of any marathon is getting to the start line. After training for my marathon, I wholeheartedly agree with that. When it comes to Boston, getting there is an even more amazing feat.

Even the person who is dead last to cross the finish line on Monday is a better runner than I will ever be.

So, if you are running Boston this week, no matter how you fare, you are a hero to me!

Good luck, everyone!


Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5k

WordPress.com News

It wasn’t just a one-time event! The Automattic Worldwide WP 5k is back again in 2012! Set your timers for April 29th!

At Automattic we work from all over the world, and we use internal blogs for socializing and exchanging non-work ideas in addition to making WordPress.com and our other products more awesome. One of the things we’re really concerned about is staying healthy – we even have an entire internal blog dedicated to fitness.

We had a great idea: Get all Automatticians from 79 cities & 24 countries to run/walk a 5k on the same day! This way we can get some exercise together as a company even though we’re apart (though we won’t rule out a softball or Texas scramble at our next meetup).

A year later, and there are now 105 Automatticians we hope will take part in the 5k all around the world in 2012.

We want…

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Why This Birthday Has Me Freaking Out

I love birthdays. I’ve always loved them. I was one of those kids who loved bringing birthday treats to school. As an adult, I don’t mind when my birthday falls during the week, because I can celebrate on my birthday, and again over the weekend. In fact, I pretty much get to celebrate the entire month of my birthday because of all the free birthday coupons I get from places like Starbucks, Noodles & Co, Baskin Robbins, and virtually every other birthday mailing list there is.

But last year the birthday thing started to get a little weird. I was turning 30 and had grand hopes of going with my closest friends to Napa for a wine country trip. However, my plans were foiled when pretty much all the friends I was hoping could come with me were all pregnant at the same time. As much as I was happy for them, I was pretty bummed that we were getting to a point where babies and pregnancies are starting to become more important than our own adult birthdays. And then there’s that whole biological clock thing, which I just wasn’t ready to address.

So what did I do instead? I hopped on a plane with my boyfriend and headed to Ireland, strategically planning our flight so I officially turned 30 over the Atlantic. Getting older doesn’t count if you’re not on land, right?

A really terrible photo of me with my complimentary birthday prosecco courtesy of Aer Lingus

So now here we are a year later, and I’m about to turn 31. I don’t feel 31. I still feel too young to have friends who have not one, but several kids. Or to have friends who own houses in the suburbs and spend their weekends doing landscaping and home repairs. I want those things, but in my head I still have all the time in the world.

However, it finally hit me the other day that maybe I don’t have all the time in the world.

Living my life focused on my Life’s List in a lot of ways has made me believe you can accomplish anything if you try hard enough. It doesn’t matter if you’re too slow, too old, have asthma, are inexperienced, or are scared to do it. I’ve been able to use my Life’s List as inspiration to do all sorts of things I didn’t think I could do, and it started to make me feel invincible.

But it turns out, I’m not.

I’ll skip over some of the obvious things you physically can’t do once you hit a certain age, and instead share the one thing that really was the big blow to me this week.

One of the things I have always wanted to do, when the time is right, is to live abroad for a year. Ideally, in Ireland, but I have a whole list of countries I’d want to spend a year in at some point.

Of course, the responsible girl in me doesn’t just want to quit everything here and go overseas without a plan. I want to know I’ll be there legally for the duration of the time, and maybe even have some sort of income while I’m there. So for years I’ve been looking into programs for working abroad. Unfortunately, many of them don’t have options in my choice countries, or if they do, they only hire people with European Union passports. “No Americans Allowed.”

However, I recently found a really great organization called BUNAC that offers work and volunteer abroad programs in all my favorite places. I was pumped, and I signed up for their brochure.

That’s when the bomb dropped.

So, even the Republic of Ireland considers 31 as “too old” for some things.

While I know this program wasn’t my last and only option to someday make my dream come true, it was a huge blow to me. It was the first time I saw, in writing, that I am officially prohibited from something because I am too old for it, And it’s only going to happen more as I get older. I can feel as young as I want in my head and in my heart, but when it comes down to it, there are some cases where that birthdate on your passport is the only thing that matters.

I think right now I am at a point where I am trying to reconcile the two ends of spectrum. On one side, I believe “age is just a number” and I have all the time in the world.  On the other side, I need to remember that we’re all human, life is short, and you can’t wait around forever for things to work out. Sometimes there truly is a window of opportunity and you can’t let it shut before you’re ready.

I’d like to think that I will keep going about my life, finding ways to overcome these little roadblocks in the way of what I want to accomplish.

But what about you? What have done despite being too old/too young/too big/too small? Have you done something even after you thought your window was gone? I’d love to hear it.