Saturday in Chicago

Carlos and I were up early. We went for a walk to Whole Foods to pick up my pre-run necessities – chia, banana, oats and nut butter.

Before heading out to brunch I got the final text announcing my training partner had just finished her first half marathon. She ran the Hartford half and did a fabulous job. I cannot wait to hear all about her experience. It was my first half marathon too so I have a soft spot for it.

We’ve joined  modern times and took our first Uber to the Chicago Diner, an iconic diner that has been meat free since 1983 and survived!

Practicing our selfies in the back of our Uber

The Chicago Diner was delicious. Going out to breakfast isn’t all that enjoyable since I started eating a plant based diet. It’s cheaper and honestly I make a much tastier breakfast at home. This was a delightful splurge. It’s a good thing I’m running a marathon tomorrow!

Vegan cinnamon roll – AMAZING!
Mexicana Tofu Scramble

Then a much needed walk to work off breakfast and enjoy the gorgeous day! First stop, a park to swing 😀

Sitting pretty
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Family selfie practice and a 9 year old who loves to make goofy faces

We walked along the lake while we searched for a Divvy bike station.

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We finally found a Divvy station and rented some bikes so I wasn’t on my feet too much before the race. It was such a beautiful day to outdoors. There were so many people out. We rode for a while and docked our bikes across from Maggie Daley Park. There was a huge playground for kids (and adults I might add). I’ve been to a lot of playgrounds in the last 9 years and this was probably the most creative, family friendly playground I’ve seen.

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We walked back to our hotel through Milenium Park. I was looking down from an overpass out towards the finish line. Seeing everything set up gave me goosebumps. I still cannot believe I’m running the Chicago Marathon. I swear if you had told me 10 years ago I would be running marathons I would have been able to comprehend that as a reality for me.

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We went back to the hotel for a little bit. I had a few supplies to get like more blister bandaids, some gloves, and a throw away long sleeve shirt. The weather looks perfect for the race, but it will probably be really chilly in the morning. I ended up with a $5 thermal shirt and a $1 pair of fuzzy socks from Walgreens. They didn’t have gloves out yet so I grabbed the socks to use as mittens! I’ll end up throwing them to the side anyway when I warm up on the course.

We left in search of more Divvy bikes and we continued our bike ride. There is a 30 minute limit on the bikes or you get charged a fee for each additional half hour. We returned the bikes on time, but we were unable to find 3 bikes to continue on our ride. With 40,000 runners, their families and friends, and all of the Cubs fans in town the bikes were a hot commodity. We walked around the Shedd Aquarium in search of bikes. Unfortunately the next two stations we found were out of bikes too.

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It was nearing dinner time so we caught an uber to Lou Malnati’s per Biz’s recommendation. Deep dish pizza for the guys and a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce for me. I keep it simple.

It’s easier on the stomach!  It’s an early tonight tonight. My race clothes are set out. I scared Carlos and Orlando with my anti-aging face mask! I am relaxing in bed watching a little Netflix.

 

Chicago Pre-Marathon

We are in Chicago!! I pulled an all nighter (because I like to pretend I’m still an undergrad) Wednesday night to finish a healthcare policy paper. I have 3 weeks left of this first grad class and I’m honestly surprised I haven’t quit. I have spent every night in the library. But anyway that’s boring. The paper is done. I turned it in 11 hours late. The professor knew I wasn’t going to finish on time. She’s really forgiving thankfully. She is also brutally honest, but I have a lot to learn so I will use the feedback to improve.

In the midst of trying to finish the paper I actually had to work at my job. Thursday mornings we have a webex meeting. I packed while listening to that and then responded to work email. Our horrendous new computer software was acting up so I really couldn’t do much anyway. I am so backed up with my paperwork because of the computer issues. Everyone is, and it’s becoming a serious problem. We do full, tedious, time consuming assessments only to lose them somewhere in the save process. It’s so frustrating, but I am sure as hell not going to complain to my boss about it. She knows!

I was so relieved to get to the airport. Although I have a ton of work to do in any spare time I get here in Chicago, it’s just nice to be away. After checking into the hotel we went to dinner. I had a blogger meet up planned with Biz from mybizzykitchen.com and Jacky from Jax House. Unfortunately something came up and Jacky was unable to meet. Biz met us just around the corner from our hotel at Native Foods. Native Foods is a vegan cafe. Biz is not vegan so it was really kind of her to brave a menu full of tofu, seitan, and tempeh! I tend to eat very simple foods prior to a marathon so I enjoyed the sesame kale macro bowl. Although we said the place was vegan a few times, Carlos still doesn’t seem to know that his chicken strips were not real chicken. He even asked for a second order!

I can’t quite remember how I found My Bizzy Kitchen, but it was at least 6 years ago. Biz was doing a holiday challenge to encourage herself and anyone interested to stay on track with health goals throughout the holidays. I loved it. It was just the support and accountability I needed. I found myself becoming very active in the comment section. I read Biz’s blog daily because I felt like I could have written many of the posts myself. Finally someone who got it!  The weight struggle, the ups and downs of Weight Watchers, the frustration of losing only to gain some back…I hate seeing anyone else go through that, but it was helpful to know others understand. There was a real genuine nature to the blog. I wasn’t surprised that when I met her in person it was easy to fall into conversation and chat away. Please visit My Bizzy Kitchen to see a photo of us at dinner and read more about our meet up. Thank you so much Biz, it was a fun evening!! Next time I make it to Chicago I’m counting on a foodie tour with Jacky and Biz.

My first full day in Chicago started with a 5 mile run along the water. It was a gorgeous day. I didn’t realize how much I truly needed a change of scenery. Look at this! It would take me a lot longer to get sick of this view.

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While Carlos and Orlando explored the waterfront on their own, I took the train to the expo. It was massive! I wandered around collecting lots of freebies. It was so smoothly run I didn’t wait at all to pick up my packet.

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The afternoon was spent on an architectural river boat tour. It was fascinating. We all really enjoyed it. Our guide, Jim, was the best. He was knowledgable and funny, but not in an obnoxious way.

After an early dinner at Navy Pier we took our time walking back to the hotel. We stopped by Milenium Park to see the bean.

 

It was a nice night out and I would have gladly kept exploring, but I was developing a blister on the right 4th toe. I wrapped that sucker in a blister bandaid immediately. I’m hoping it goes away by Sunday morning!!

Goal for Saturday – some photos to prove that I’m actually here too!

Loving it

I have a serious accumulation of draft posts including this one that I begin and never finish. I may have started this one months ago, but I am still loving these things.

This spring I bought myself a new pair of everyday non-running sneakers. They are Brooks Vanguard in Grey. They are extremely comfortable and a little nicer than the Converse I’ve been wearing around for far too many years.

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Reusable Mesh Produce Sacks because I really hate using so many plastic bags at the grocery store. According to my son I’m a little too excited about these bags. Maybe I’m not saving the planet, but I feel a little less wasteful.

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Quart Size Ball Jars to make some of these:

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Clear Apple iPhone 6S Case because I really like the look of my phone and hate seeing it all covered up by a bulky phone case. This case is thin, goes on easily, and seems to provide adequate protection.

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s still my favorite coffee from one of my favorite cafes so I don’t mind mentioning it again. I love this Mexican coffee from Esselon Café in Hadley, MA. It’s one of my favorite restaurants as well. The menu is small but it accommodates a plant based diet.

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Running: After months of marathon training I am still in love with running. It was an awesome training that I really want to write about soon. The Chicago marathon is on 10/9/16. I am in taper right now and ready as I’ll ever be. I came to a really profound decision through this training that although it is great to have time goals ultimately I really want to cross the finish line feeling physically well, uninjured, and smiling. This is not the year for a PR. It simply is not and that is ok. I went through a rigorous training, got some of my fitness back, and I am beginning to develop a clear idea of where I want to go from here.

Music: My running playlist needs a serious overhaul. Here are few new tunes I’ve added recently –

  • Renegades – X Ambassadors
  • Wild Things – Alessia Cara
  • Drinking from the Bottle – Calvin Harris feat. Tinie Tempah
  • Cheap Thrills – Sia feat. Sean Paul
  • Hymn for the Weekend – Cold Play

Reading:  Healthcare Policy and Ethics, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)… Jealous?!!

Watching: We don’t have cable and I don’t have much time to watch shows or movies, but I tend to pick one series to watch while I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing mundane computer work. This summer I watched 6 seasons of Pretty Little Liars. Yes I did! Don’t judge. It was so addicting. There is a 7th season, but it’s not on Netflix yet thank god because I don’t have time for that right now.

Podcast: I love podcasts. They make a long drive more fun. They are great to pop on while cleaning or cooking. Like television shows I tend to sort of binge on one or two podcasts at a time. This summer I discovered the One Part Podcast by Jessica Murnane. It’s an eclectic mix of guests along with Jessica’s enthusiastic and genuine interest for their stories.

However, can I just say I really yearn for a podcast that features people more like myself. Most of the podcasts I listen to highlight people who make their living online or in a non-traditional way. Many of the guests have left less desirable careers to follow their dreams. As enticing and enviable as that is, it is often not financially feasible or responsible. Maybe I will start my own!!

 

 

 

Marooned

When I was 13 my bedroom walls were plastered with posters of Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue, and numerous other men with enormous hair. My love of live music began when I went to see INXS. I was obsessed with Michael Hutchence, the lead singer, and I was hell bent on moving to Australia. I finally made it to the land down under in 2014!

I’ve seen so many concerts from my early days of the 80s hair bands to U2, Pink Floyd, Madonna, the annual outdoor DMB show, phish festivals, and lesser known international acts like Angelique Kidjo and Oliver Mtukudzi. In recent years I have rarely gone to concerts because they are ridiculously expensive. This summer I had the opportunity to see Pitbull with a friend who had a last minute extra ticket she bought for $20 on Groupon.

Last weekend I went to see Maroon 5. Am I too old to say that I love Adam Levine? Well I do. Orlando is well aware of my feelings! This was definitely not a $20 Groupon ticket, but it was worth it. The Worcester, MA show ended up being the last on their tour as they cancelled the rest of the tour due to the impending birth of Adam Levine’s first child.

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The show was fantastic. No frills, just music. They played all of my favorites. It was a much needed break and distraction from studying and writing papers.

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Rusty

I’m taking a much needed 5 minute break from the 2 chapters of Delivering Health Care in America I have to finish by tonight. To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement. In my first week of grad school I have completed two assignments, read more than I have in months, and became reacquainted with APA format. In my first few years of undergrad many moons we used MLA to cite references. In my last year we were required to use APA. I haven’t written a paper with references since 1996! I am rusty to say the least.

The general format of the class requires us to post our assignment on a discussion board by Wednesday. The assignment must be completed in APA format. Once posted we have to comment on two other posts by Saturday using a well thought out, researched reply with references. There will be a couple of group projects and a final paper. I truly do not have enough hours in the day to complete the reading required to keep up with the class.

The professor seems kind. She is demanding, but very available and offers insightful feedback. Her responses are prompt and she encourages us to reach out to her. My classmates have a variety of experiences and interesting backgrounds. Although we will never meet face to face they seem very open to communicating and helping each other.

Despite one mini breakdown this week I am not throwing in the towel yet! I had a little internal heart to heart on my extremely boring 18 mile run today. I am going to do the best I can and learn as much as I can during this experience. I love learning, but I also have always felt a sense of inadequacy in everything I do as if I’m never good enough or smart enough. Just today someone asked me if I was even an RN. She didn’t understand how I could be in a Master’s program if I was an LPN. I am a registered nurse.  I know that part of my desire to obtain a Master’s Degree is to lend legitimacy to my role as a nurse and an educator.

Carlos had an excellent first week back at school. He really loves his new teacher. His class has only 8 children which is fantastic. I managed to have a successful week of marathon training. Today was my long run. To save time I decided to just run from home instead of driving somewhere for a change of scenery. Unfortunately both of my running partners were out of commission, one is injured, and the other has been sick. I could not have chosen a more mundane, ugly route! Needless to say the 18 miles did not fly by, but I got them done. I stopped in to a McDonald’s for water at mile 10 and the staff there could not have been more friendly. They allowed me to refill my water pack for free. A couple of elderly women were absolutely fascinated by my CamelBak and asked to look at it, see how it worked, and wanted to know where to buy to use on their walks! I get antsy sometimes during a long run and just want to finish it, but I am reminded that I am also doing this to set a healthy example to others. I try to smile when I run so I don’t give the impression that running is really awful, and I am always happy to chat for a few minutes.

I suppose I should get back to reading. It’s not the most captivating reading!

What’s New

Where do I begin? Do you have a few minutes…hours? It’s been a busy summer, and sadly it’s almost over. School starts on Monday for both Carlos and me. After researching programs and thinking about going to graduate school for a few years now I finally found a program that feels right. I was accepted into Sacred Heart University’s MSN program with a specialty in Nursing Education.

We have been in Florida since last Friday visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and my father who live in the Ft. Lauderdale/Pompano Beach area. My sister and brother-in-law moved here in May, and my dad has lived here for years. It has been wonderful spending time with them. Carlos has enjoyed some long awaited quality time with his auntie and grandpa.

Despite the heat and humidity I kept up with marathon training while on vacation. For my long run I ran 14 miles up the coast to Boca Raton. It was steaming hot when I left around 6:30AM and it only got hotter and more humid. It was a slow run, but the change of scenery was a welcome treat.

I ran, worked, and took a couple of vacation days. We went to Rapids Water Park on Saturday, spent time at the beach, and I got a much needed manicure with my sister.

 

More running news:

  • Marathon training is in full swing. It’s going really well. Lots of running, some speed and hill work, improving my tempo runs, and a new emphasis on warm ups and could downs. I am learning to run with friends. I am certainly becoming heat conditioned should it be hot and humid on race day. I am worrying less about my pace and more about injury prevention, enjoying the run, and taking care of myself.
  • Back in July I attended a two day Road Runners Club of America Coaching Certification Course in Portland, Maine. It was two full eight hour days of learning about running, coaching, training, dealing with injury, nutrition, and so much more. It was an intense training after which we had 30 days to take a 100 question exam. I passed with flying colors! I have no immediate intentions of formally coaching anyone, and even if I change my mind about that I don’t think I could ever take money for it. I took the course more for my own knowledge, and also to lend legitimacy to the answers and suggestions I offer to friends and new runners who ask for advice. As luck would have it one of my new running partners has registered to run her first half marathon this fall, and she is putting her training and faith into my hands. I’m honored, and a little nervous. Fortunately she’s extremely motivated, very positive, and open to this new experience. She is going to do great!
  • Speaking of registering for races…I entered the lottery for the Big Sur Marathon. It’s been on my race bucket list since I first heard about it. A friend who has run the race as part of the Boston to Big Sur challenge messaged me to let me know about the random drawing for First Timer’s. I don’t play the regular lottery, but perhaps I should. On April 30, 2017 I will be running the Big Sur Marathon. Orlando is looking forward to his first trip to the west coast. I will once again push myself out of my comfort zone as I face winter training again, something I swore I wouldn’t do after two years of training for Vermont City, and I will have to learn how to run long distances without the comfort and companionship of my music. Big Sur does not allow headphones on the course. I feel ridiculous admitting that this was the one factor that had me on the fence about registering, but ultimately I decided that this is something I need to do.
  • The Olympics…Usain Bolt is superhuman. Meb’s finish made me tear up. He is such a class act. Galen Rupp’s bronze medal finish had me torn with mixed emotions of excitement, and a little bit of skepticism. My heart went out to Kate Grace during her 800 meter race. The women’s 4×400 meter relay team were on fire and won their 6th straight gold medal. There were so many more inspiring moments.

On the topic of the Olympics, I had the pleasure of watching the final soccer match between Brazil and Germany with my soccer obsessed son and my Brazilian brother-in-law while in Florida. It was a nail biter and ended in a shoot out. We went crazy when Neymar scored the winning goal for Brazil. It was such an exciting game. I can’t imagine how insane it must have been in the stadium.

I love the Olympics. This year in particular, it was a welcome break from political talk. I really enjoy the inspirational stories of the athletes. It’s fun to come together as a family in the evening to watch whatever event is airing.

The beginning of August was two weeks day camp for Carlos and a busy work schedule for me. We still made time for get togethers with friends. There was a quick trip to the Connecticut Shore, a baseball game, playgrounds, and Carlos went on a whale watching trip with a friend and his family.

I went to see Pitbull in concert in Hartford with a friend. I wasn’t planning on going to the show, but at the last minute my friend had an extra ticket. It was a gorgeous night thankfully because we had lawn seats. The show was fun, energetic, and got me dancing…something I absolutely love doing, but I haven’t done in ages.

Where was Orlando in August? Fortunately Orlando has been very busy with work. As a mason he relies on the summer months to not only make money, but to accumulate hours for our medical insurance. As a mason in the bricklayer’s union he is required to work at least 1000 hours per year to maintain his benefits which are far better than mine so we prefer to keep his active. The intensity of his summer work hours is balanced by a 2-4 month winter layoff. We miss him over the summer, but it’s a trade off that we’ve been living with for many years. Today is actually Orlando’s birthday and we are looking forward to seeing him after almost a week away.

We are on the plane flying home. JetBlue’s wifi is by far the best of any airline I’ve been on in recent years and it’s free! We should be in Hartford in about 90 minutes and then it’s back to work this afternoon. Carlos has soccer practice later today. Tomorrow will be a full work day and an afternoon play date at the park. I have a 16 mile long run on Saturday. I work Saturday night at the hospital. Sunday morning run, and my friend’s baby shower later in the morning.

The summer break will officially close with my birthday. I will be 43 years old this weekend. All I ask for is another 43 years to keep living life as fully as I have this past month.

 

Bridge of Flowers 10K – 2016

Bridge of Flowers (BOF) 10K in Shelburne Falls, MA is my favorite race. It’s challenging, but forgiving as well. The spectators along the way are cheerful and encouraging. It’s an extremely organized and well managed race. The water stations are plentiful and the offerings at the end of the race are generous for runners and family members.

The race stands as my 10K PR although that happened pre-Achilles injury and I’m not quite back to that pace. I am working on it and was feeling pretty good going into this years BOF race. I  wasn’t expecting a PR, but I was hopeful that I would beat last year’s time.

By the time we arrived to Shelburne Falls it was clear that Crittendon Hill was not going to be the only challenge at BOF this year. The race starts at 9AM and it was inching towards 80 degrees. My crazy hair was an accurate barometer of the ridiculous humidity level! The start was delayed by 10 minutes because the family friendly 3K race that takes place first was taking longer than usual due to the weather conditions.While we waited I took a couple of photos from the iron bridge where the race starts.

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Already dripping with sweat  when the gun went off, I knew I had a decision to make about my race goal. I know this course well. This was my 5th time running the race. Despite practical running advice to never go out too quickly in a race, I tend to start this course at a swift pace. I’m slowed a little bit right after passing through the downtown as the course goes up a slight hill. I run hard after the hill. I grabbed a water at mile 1 and kept pushing my pace until I reached Crittendon Hill. Now I run hills all the time, not little rolling hills either, but Crittendon is a beast. It is steep and winds up for the distance of nearly a mile.

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A photo does not do Crittendon Hill justice

I tried so hard to run it the first year only to come to a screeching halt about a minute up. I felt defeated, but now I know better. I power walk it to the best of my ability, drink some water and breathe a sigh of relief at the top, and then I soar down the shady backside until my pace evens out around mile 4.

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Celebrating the top!

By the time I reached the hill this year I made a decision to adjust my goal. It was hotter than it’s ever been at BOF. The humidity made it feel as though I was running through a sea of sweat. It was gross. People were stopping, dry heaving, and vomiting. I made a wise decision to run it conservatively without worrying about my time. After careening down the hill the race opens up to a long stretch on open road with zero shade cover. Unlike years past I did not try to make up for lost time walking the hill on this flat road. Instead I stuck to a nice comfortable pace.

The race seemed to fly by. I stopped at each water station and gave lots of thanks to the awesome volunteers standing out in the heat. I ran through every sprinkler kind spectators held out for the runners. I smiled as I reached my favorite sign of the race “last half mile, you’re almost there!” Despite the heat I suddenly felt a surge of energy and I let it all out for the end of the race. I love running over the iron bridge again with spectators cheering as each runner’s name is announced when they near the finish line.

I finished in 1:03:18. I felt great at the end and was excited to cheer for my friends who finished not long after me. One of my friends ran it last year for the first time. She had a horrible experience due to some health issues, but she has been feeling much better and running really well. I was so proud of her for coming back. She ran a much better race this year even in the heat. One of my running partners ran BOF for this first time this year and she did an incredible job. I think the race gave her just the nudge she needed to finally sign up for her first half marathon. She’s been thinking about it and she’s half way there! I’m thrilled for her and looking forward to helping her train for the Hartford Half Marathon this October.

A walk down memory lane…

Bridge of Flowers 2010 (pre-blog) – 1:07:36 (10:52 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2011 – 1:04:16 (10:21 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2012 – 1:01:53 (9:58 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2013 – 56:01 (9:01 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2014 – I did not run due to Achilles injury.

Bridge of Flowers 2015 – 58:51 (9:29 pace)

After the race I took Carlos and his friend to visit friends who are spending the week on the shore in Milford, CT. It was a perfect beach day. We made it down to their beach house around 3:30 and jammed in a full day’s worth of activities. The kids played and swam. My friend and I took the kayaks out for a ride. It was such a great way to unwind  after the race.