End of the Year Post #1: 2012 Reflection

Consider this Part 1 of a three-part New Years series. The first is a reflection on 2012, and the second will be my year in numbers, and the third my hopes and goals for 2013. 

Oh, 2012. What a year you were. Years from now, if I look back on 2012, I’m not sure which parts are going to stick. It was the year of drastic life changes. It was the year of running. It had some of the hardest things. It had some of the most awesome accomplishments. It was a year of goodbyes, and a year of fresh starts.

One year ago, I had a different job, different apartment, and different relationship status.

I ended a 4 year relationship. I left a job I was at for 7 years. I moved into a new apartment and went back to living on my own.

There were some days where I felt like 2012 was a lot of steps backwards for my life.

Later I was able to realize that each of those steps was really a step forward toward where I want to ultimately end up.


2012 wasn’t just a year of loss and start-overs. It was a year of accomplishments.

I started a new job that I truly enjoy. I have an apartment that’s all my own, in a neighborhood I absolutely love. I ran my first marathon. I traveled several times. I crossed off 14 things from my Life’s List, and surpassed my 12 Things in 2012 goal.

I think if I had to sum up 2012, I’d probably say two things:

  1. It was the year of necessary changes.
  2. It was the year of races.

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 8.28.48 AM

And maybe the second was my way of making it through the first.

All in all, 2012 was a monumental year. A reset year. I’m ready for 2013!

Santa Hustle 5K

WARNING: You are about to read the least cohesive blog post ever. Maybe I will edit it when I am not in a cough syrup haze.

Well, I did it. I ran a race (or more) every month for a year! I also survived running while sick!

However, because I am still a little drunk on cough syrup, I’m not going to be the most coherent blogger today. Instead, here’s a list of my thoughts on the race. (I tend to do better with lists these days anyway).

  • For being a “fun” race and super huge (8000 runners), it was surprisingly well run. 
  • Cookies and candy on a race course? Why, I don’t mind if I do. (Although, I did actually pass on the candy station but the cookies were great.)
  • This was one of the only races I would break my “don’t wear the race shirt ’til you earn it rule.” I probably won’t ever wear this shirt visibly in public again, but for race day, it was fun to be one of 8000 Santas.

My one gripe – the race course was at about a quarter mile short of a 5K! I knew something was up when I was on track to shave a minute and a half off my PR, considering I was running while sick and bracing myself for a poor race.

Today I was actually thankful for a shorter run, since I was feeling under the weather, but I am curious to see if the race management group adjusts the time. There was only only other time I ran a race that was super off (2011 Hot Chocolate 5K was actually 3.5 miles) and they adjusted the pacing and times based on the actual distance.)

photo 2

photo 4

Even Santa has to wait in line for the Port-o-Potty.

Even Santa has to wait in line for the Port-o-Potty.

photo 3

3 Stupid Things Not to Do

Learn from my mistakes, people. I do dumb things, and someone needs to learn from them.

1. Do not go to Minnesota in late November without a coat. 

It does not matter how warm it is in Chicago when you leave. It’s Minnesota. In November. Bring a freakin’ coat.

Layers help a little.

Layers help a little.

2. Do not plan to be in 4 different states 4 consecutive weekends “for fun.” 

Yes, it might seem like a good idea at the time. And you might really want to go to all those places. And you might really love all those people. But trust me, you’ll be kicking yourself later, especially when you are cramming in a week’s worth of work into 3-day work weeks, and trying to catch up on sleep and laundry.

Maybe this weekend when in IL, I can unpack Bag #1 from WI, and Bag #2 from MN in time to repack for KS.

Maybe this weekend when in IL, I can unpack Bag #1 from WI, and Bag #2 from MN in time to repack for KS.

3. Do not run a 5K, outdoors, in December when you are sick! 

I’ve been sick for the past two weeks. (See #1 and #2 for possible reasons why.) But I am running the Santa Hustle tomorrow morning. I KNOW I should skip this race. But I am doing it anyway.

Why? Because I’m stubborn. Or because I’ve never had a DNS, and I’m not about to get one for a 5K. And because I set a goal of running a race a month for a year, and so far I’ve run at least one (or two, or three, or four) every month, and this is my last race of the year. My only December race, and the final step in crossing off another item on my List.

So, yes, I will probably make myself sicker. And regret it later. But I’m doing it. Do as I say, not as I do.

No, that's not a dead Santa on my floor. That's tomorrow's race gear. Or, what I might look like after I collapse from running in the cold while sick.

No, that’s not a dead Santa on my floor. That’s tomorrow’s race gear. Or, what I might look like after I collapse from running in the cold while sick.

So, there you have it. Three dumb things you should avoid doing. Check back soon, and see what other poor choices I’ve made.

P.S. Sorry to those of you who were hoping for a race recap on my first ever Turkey Trot. I had lots to say, and a really good post ready, but sometimes when you over-commit yourself, important things like race recaps get thrown by the wayside. #suckingatlife


Yesterday was the Chicago Half Marathon, and as I mentioned in my previous post, a day of many goals I set for myself.

Well, I am happy to report that all in all, the day was a success.

Here’s a quick recap.

Goal 1 – Finish with a PR. 
Status: Incomplete

This was the one goal I was most worried about meeting, because after the Disneyland half last Sunday, and the Cookie Classic 5K on Saturday, I was getting fatigued. The 5K was much more difficult than it should have been, mentally and physically, and those three little miles got me all worked up over doing 13 the following day.

The weather was on my side, though, and I was running with my friend Amanda – the one person I actually can run with. So, I knew she’d push me to keep going and help pace me.

Amanda and me at the start line

I started the race with the mindset of just having a good race that I felt happy about in the end, and I was ready to give up the PR aspirations.  I checked my watch throughout the course, but didn’t really worry too much about the PR. It wasn’t until mile 11 that I realized I COULD still PR, but I’d really have to push it for those last 2 miles.

I told Amanda I wanted to go for it, and then took off.

And, man, I was so close. I ended up missing the PR by 9 seconds. I really do think I could have done it if I pushed just a little harder earlier on in the race, but all things considered, I am very pleased with the result.

However, it just makes me even more impressed with my Disneyland time. Yesterday I pretty much ran nonstop, with the exception of some water stations; at Disney I stopped for photos and the bathroom. So I must have been maintaining a really nice pace at Disney.

Goal #2: Complete the Windy City 26.2 Challenge
Status: Achieved. 

I successfully completed both the 13.1 Chicago (miserably) and the Chicago Half (feeling good). So, after the race, I got to collect my special bonus medal and wore it with pride.

Goal #3: Run with Open Books and reach my fundraising goal. 
Status: Incomplete. 

I’ve secured a few more donations yesterday, but I still have a bit more to go to reach my goal. I still have until the 26th to secure donations, so I hope to get some last-minute stragglers in the next week or two.

If you want to help, you can do so by visiting my fundraising page.

Don’t you want to support these good lookin’ runners? It’s for the love of literacy!


Goal #4: Qualify for the Half Fanatics
Status: Achieved. 

It’s a silly thing, but if I’m gonna do crazy things like run half marathons in back-to-back weekends, it’s nice to know there are other crazies out there like me. Plus, it’s just kinda cool to say, I”m a Half Fanatic.

Goal #5:  Qualify for a CARA Participation Award.
Status: Achieved

The Chicago Half Marathon was my 10th CARA certified race of the year. That means I am now eligible for a CARA participation Award!

The reason I am so excited about this is because I know I am too slow to win any other award. I’ll never get a prize for being fast, but if I can get one for over-committing myself, well, by golly, I’ll do it!

Bonus Goal: Beat the one person I wanted to beat.
Status: Achieved. 

When I run, I tend to only want to be competitive with myself. But every once in a while there is one other person I set as a goal to beat. I picked my competition for Sunday, and I beat the goal by a long shot. That makes me happy.

I also beat the former Biggest Loser, so that’s good, too.

All these things also helped me achieve crossing 12 things off my List this year, so I consider the day a huge success, and also a big contribution to a successful year.

What’s Next?

I’m sure if you know me at all, you’re asking yourself, “What’s next?”

Well, of course I always have to have about 15 projects going on at a time, so while I want to kind of scale back with my running, it’s not all over yet. Here are some of the upcoming things on my plate:

  • Still maintain the one race a month goal. (Although this time I’m going to try to keep it to ONLY one race a month.)
  • Run with my nephew in MN for his first birthday, and cross off a new race state.
  • The Monster Dash, which I was peer-pressured into signing up for at the Chicago Half expo. (Okay, that’s a lie; it didn’t take any pressure at all, and I’ve been considering that one since last year when I unofficially ran it during a training run. Plus, it’ll be my one October race.)
  • Cut back on running and sign up for the gym, FINALLY.
  • Focus on the strength training I’ve been neglecting.
  • Get yoga back in my life.
  • Read more books.
  • Take a class or learn something new.

Tomorrow is a Very Big Day

Tomorrow is a big day for me.

Exactly one year ago, I was sitting here nervously awaiting my very first half marathon. I was running the Chicago Half Marathon for Open Books, terrified because I had never run that far before. Now, one year later, I half 5 half marathons and a full marathon under my belt. I have run 18 races in 2012 alone.

Tomorrow, as the anniversary of my first half, will be a celebratory day.

Me, less than a year ago, before I had ever run a half marathon.

It will also be a day that I will hopefully accomplish several goals I have set for myself. I think I have a good chance at accomplishing most of them, but I could still use some positive thoughts sent my way.

Tomorrow I hope to:

  • Finish the Chicago Half Marathon, with a PR. (This is one goal I am especially nervous about, because I am afraid I used up my PR energy last weekend at Disney.)
  • Complete the Windy City Challenge, by finishing both the Allstate 13.1 and the Chicago Half Marathon.
  • Support Open Books by running with Team Bookin’ It, and reaching my fundraising goal.
  • Qualify for the Half Fanatics by running two half marathons (in two different states!) in 8 days.
  • Earn my CARA Participation Award by running my 10th CARA Certified race this year.

And, if I accomplish those things, I will also be able to cross the 11th and 12th items from My Life’s List, reaching my goal of crossing off 12 things in 2012.

All ready to go, for Half Marathon #6.

See you at the finish line!

I Went to Disneyland, and Came Home with a PR!

As most of you know, last weekend I was in Disneyland. I went to run the Disneyland Half Marathon and to earn my Coast-to-Coast medal (for running at both Disney World and Disneyland in the same calendar year.)

I flew out to California by myself, and actually ended up having a fabulous time enjoying the parks on my own, despite being a little nervous about it. I won’t write about it too much here, because I wrote a guest blog post about my solo travels that will be appearing soon on Go-Go-Go.org.

However, I did want to give a little recap of the race, because it went much better than I had expected. I went into the race with low expectations. From Day 1, I wanted this race to be a “fun run” for me, since just one week later I would be running the Chicago Half Marathon – my goal race, and the race I was hoping would earn me a PR. Plus, if you’ve ever run a Disney race, you know that there are characters and photo ops all along the way, so I promised myself I would soak it all in, take as many photos as I wanted, and not worry at all about time.

Just to really reinforce the fact that this race was meant to be a fun one, I got myself decked out in my Minnie Mouse SparkleSkirt I earned from volunteering at their booth at the Expo, and my red and white polkadot headband. I still don’t think I can ever run in full costume, but the Minnie Skirt was just the right mix of festive and utterly comfortable for running. I started the race in Corral C. (Disney tends to have a lot of walkers, so I guess I was considered “fast” by comparision – although, there was one older man who was speedwalking the entire race and pretty much kept up with me! I saw him at the start, and again at Mile 12!! And the man never ran once!) Mickey Mouse, all decked out in his track suit, waved me goodbye as I crossed the start, and I headed off for 13.1 miles of the happiest race on earth.

Running past Mickey in a blur as he waves me on.

The first several miles flew by, as we ended up running through both Disneyland and California Adventure right off the bat. I stopped to take a couple quick scenic photos, but only posed with characters once, because I was saving photos for later on. (Plus, for some reason I tend to like actual costumed characters, rather than the princesses, which for some reason tend to creep me out.)

Paradise Pier at California Adventure

However, by mile 4, we were already out of the parks, and unlike at the Disney World Marathon, there were no more characters along the course.

The only character photo I took along the course.

After the parks, we had a long stretch along the streets of Anaheim. I was told that in the past, this stretch from mile 5 to mile 9 is tough, because there’s nothing to look at. However, in most races I run, there isn’t anything to look at during the whole race, and Miles 5-9 tend to be my best miles. So, I was prepared for this stretch, and was pleasantly surprised by nearly 4 miles of people and their fancy cars lined up, honking and cheering.

But just around mile 9 came my favorite part of the entire race – running through Angel Stadium. I can’t even describe how incredible it was. The stands were full of fans cheering, the Jumbotron was on just for us, I had chills. And this is coming from someone who has run through Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, and walked the warning track at U.S Cellular Field. I don’t know. Maybe there really were Angels in the outfield.

Running in the tunnel and seeing Angel Stadium for the first time.

Where are the angels?

After running through the stadium, I was re-energized.  Despite the fact that miles 9-12 tend to be the hardest for me, I was feeling good.

And then, around mile 11 I checked my watch, and it hit me. I had just over 2 miles to go, and I was 30 minutes head of my current PR. 30 minutes to run 2 miles, and get a PR.

There weren’t any more course highlights. No more characters. Just people cheering, and the last leg of the race. I was going to PR at Disneyland! Despite stopping a couple times for photos (and once for the bathroom), I had somehow had a pace better than my previous races.

The last mile was rough, and I just wanted to be done, but I kept pushing, knowing that a celebration awaited me at the end. My 5th half marathon under my belt, my Coast-to-Coast medal, AND a new PR!

I crossed the finish line 9 minutes ahead of my previous PR, and 11 minutes faster than my last half marathon, just a month and a half earlier.

I felt amazing!

I spent the rest of the morning hanging around the parks, showing off my medals. Donald Duck was very excited for me. (Seriously, he took me by the hand, paraded me around Main Street, and made everyone who was waiting in line to meet him give me a standing ovation.)

And of course, I couldn’t wait to show Mickey.

 I earned my Coast-to-Coast, and now I can cross another thing off my List!

Drinking Wine Can Be Hard Work, and My Hard Work Finally Paid Off.

Have you ever seen one of those wine cork cork boards? Well, I’ve been saving up corks for years now, and finally completing a board of my own is something that’s been on my List forever, but I just hadn’t had the patience to get the board assembled.

a photo I took several years ago of my ever-growing cork collection

A few months ago, I finally had the time to sit down and arrange the board the way I wanted it. There are a lot of different designs out there, but I really wanted to make one that was more of a spiral pattern. It seemed a good idea at the time, but it proved rather difficult, because it requires corks of varying sizes, and fitting them all together like a puzzle.

I got pretty close to the way I wanted to to look, and I was one small cork short, so it just sat unglued for months. (For the record, Framboise corks are perfect for filling in small gaps, but I don’t like Framboise, so my dear friend Erin was drinking it and sending me corks when I saw her.) However, I was days away from moving, and if I didn’t get the pieces glued in before I moved, I knew I’d have to start back at square one. So, with some finagling, I managed to get the pieces in and secure, finally completing my years-long project.


It’s far from perfect, and the OCD in me can’t look too closely at the small imperfections without going crazy, but from afar, I think it turned out pretty well. It will make a great addition to my new apartment.

And, I can finally cross it off my list.


Rock ‘n’ Mud Part 1: Muddy Buddy

Yesterday was Part 1 of my Rock ‘n’ Mud challenge – the Muddy Buddy race.

This race has been around for a while as a bike and run event, but this was the first year that the Chicago Muddy Buddy had a run-only division, which is what my buddy, Brooke, and I ran. It’s supposed to be the equivalent of about a 5K (although, I heard this course was over 4 miles), with obstacles along the way. You must run with your buddy the whole time, and complete the obstacles throughout the course together, ending with the infamous mud pit.

The course was out on a farm out in Gilberts, IL, which is not too far from my parents’ house. So, I stayed with my parents on Friday night. Then I met up with Brooke and we got ourselves ready to go.

Before Photo

We started out much faster than I should go out, but Brooke is a faster runner than me, and I didn’t want to hold her back. However, it very quickly caught up with me, and I realized that I just need to listen to my body. I know what my lungs can and can’t handle, and I shouldn’t let peer pressure push me more than I know is right for me. Brooke was a great Buddy though, and stuck with me for the parts I needed to catch my breath.

And we rocked the obstacles!

We climbed ropes.

We scaled walls, balanced on balance beams, slid down slides. We climbed “slippery mountains”.

Slippery Mountain

And it was slippery.

Battle wound.

And we finished it off strong through the mud pit.

We ended up finishing in 1:02.24, which I’m pretty proud of. This was by far the roughest terrain I’ve ever run on, and that combined with starting out too fast, and being extremely hot, didn’t give me high hopes for our time. However, only 9 teams in our division (women only, from our start wave) finished in under an hour, so 1:02 is not bad at all!

After photo

With a Muddy Buddy finish, I’ve accomplished 8 of my 12 Things in 2012, and I’m now half way through the Rock ‘n’ Mud challenge. Up next, Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

Muddy Buddy Finisher

Why I Think I’m Getting Sick, and Why I Can’t Let It Happen

I’m pretty sure I officially pushed my body to its limit over the past week or so, and it’s finally telling me to cut it out. And, I plan on listening to my body’s message so it doesn’t get mad at me and decide to go on strike, right when I need it most.

I’m generally a pretty busy person, but even despite all the fun things I try to cram into my social and active life, I am one of those people who also very much just needs some downtime to veg out and unwind. But last week and over the weekend, I didn’t really get any of that.

It started last Weds when we went on our nighttime kayak trip after work. It was tons of fun, but a late night on a “school night” and lots of physical activity (in the cold).

Then on Thursday I took a half day off work so that I could drive out to the ‘burbs to see my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew who were in from Minnesota that night only. I wanted to get out there early enough to see my nephew before he went to bed. He’s totally worth the drive, but it was another late night.

Playin’ with E.

Then on Friday I had another half day – this time because I was volunteering for Maifest! I ended up walking about 3 miles after work, in an attempt to pick up my Color Run race packet before volunteering. Then I stood on my feet for 3 hours serving brats and sauerkraut. Then I had a few steins of German beer, danced to some polka music, and finally made it home around midnight.

Prost! Drinking our German beer after our volunteer shift.

After about 5 hours of sleep, I woke up and headed off to Montrose Harbor for the Color Run. After the run I walked 2.6 more miles to go to brunch, and then headed home to shower and get ready for round two of Maifest volunteering.

This time I worked a 4-hour shift at the beer tent, which was tons of fun, but by the end, I noticed I was starting to get really worn down. I had pretty much been on my feet for about 30 of the last 36 hours, and eventually realized at 8:15 I hadn’t eaten since our brunch at 11. I was starting to get shaky.

I scarfed down a Thuringer sausage, kraut, and some German chocolate cake, and then grabbed my free volunteer beer.

The German festivities continued on and by the time I managed to convince BF that it was time for me to go home, I needed to make one last, terrible, stop…

Any night that ends with McDonalds and a liter of water is going to make for a sleepy morning.

I ended up waking up at 6am Sunday morning, which tends to happen when I most need my sleep. I got up and moved to the couch where I started watching something on TV (I kinda think it was the Care Bears, actually…) and ended up falling asleep again.

That was the first of 3 naps that day. After nap #3, I also woke up with a sore throat. You know, the kind that begins with a faint little tickle but eventually turns into a full-blown sickness? Yep, that’s the kind.

Now here I am, my immune system worn down and clearly fighting off something. (A ton of people in my office are also sick, as were some of our students last week…) And I just CAN’T be sick.

In the next week and a half, I have the following stuff on my plate:

  • My last full week of work before vacation, including ending our school-year programs.
  • Training volunteers for our summer programs, and getting everything squared away for summer session, which starts my first day back from vacation.
  • The 13.1 is Saturday.
  • Vacation starts a week from tomorrow!

So, I just CAN’T get sick. I don’t have time.

For the rest of this week, I plan on coming straight home from work and resting. No running, no meeting friends for dinner/drinks. Just rest ’til I’m better.

However, all the stress and craziness aside, this weekend was totally awesome, and almost worth wearing myself down.

The best parts include:

  • Seeing my adorable nephew, who I don’t see nearly enough.
  • Spending time at my favorite street fest of the year. (And crossing it off my Summer To-Do List)
  • Crossing off volunteering for a street fest from my summer list.
  • Having an awesome time at the Color Run.
  • Seeing new friends and old this weekend.
  • Spending Sunday doing nothing (even if most of the “nothing” was sleeping and feeling sick)
  • And crossing two items off my Life’s List, and bringing my 12 Things in 2012 count to 7.

So Much Fun at the Color Run!

Yesterday morning was the Chicago edition of the Color Run!

If you haven’t heard about this run, which has recently popped up in over 30 cities across the U.S, here’s what it’s all about:

  • It’s an untimed 5K
  • You start the race wearing all white.
  • Every 1k you run through a “Color Zone” where volunteers throw colored powder at you. (It’s kinda like the powder from inside paintballs.)
  • At the Finish Line festival, there is one final “color throw” where each runner has her own packet of color, and everyone throws it into the air at once.
  • You go home full of color.

Pure awesomeness!

So, I actually set up a Color Run team months in advance, but the race sold out so quickly, that many of my friends weren’t able to get in. Finally, after lots of people backing out, getting in at the last minute, meeting up with friends from other teams, and final race-day changes, we ended up having a group of about 12 people, most of whom stayed together the whole time.

This in itself made the race unique. Being untimed, we all agreed we’d have more fun if we stuck together. We had a wide range of people, from those who were track and cross-country stars to someone’s aunt and someone’s mother-in-law who had never done a 5k before. But we found a pace that worked for everyone, and made it happen.

We ran this race literally just for fun. I didn’t even have my Nike+ tracking my miles, or my music, or any chip or gear or gadget on me.  It was strange and liberating, and though I felt naked without any of that stuff, I actually really enjoyed it!

Anyway, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and we have some great pictures from the day. So I’ll stop my blabbing, and get to the photo part of this post.

The “Before” Photo

Jumping with Excitement for the Race!

Running through the First Color Zone

Pausing for a Photo Along the Lake

Group Shot Right Before the Last Color Zone

The Group After the Finish Line

Throwing Color at the Finish Line Festival

A Rainbow of Color

I had color in my hair.

And on my shoes.

I wonder why we got funny stares during brunch.

Finally, it was time to come home and get cleaned up.

What a great time!