Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Met Bob Harper!

Friday morning I was checking Twitter and saw that Bob Harper, from The Biggest Loser, was going to be in town.  He tweeted that he was going to be downtown Saturday morning, so I checked and rearranged my schedule a bit so I could go see him.  I have watched The Biggest Loser since the first season and think I only missed one (I can't remember why).  I love seeing the contestants transform their bodies, learn more about themselves, and discover who they really are.  It is really inspiring.  Bob was a favorite right away.  I love his attitude and how he encourages the contestants to be the best they can.  
Everyone wants an autographed photo of Bob Harper eating oatmeal, right?
I started the morning with my last long run before the Hot Chocolate 15K next week.  I had five miles on the schedule and made sure to get out by 7 AM so I would have time to get over to NBC Chicago.  It was a cold morning at 37 degrees.  I wore my only pair of long pants (which I definitely need more of), a long sleeve tech shirt, a jacket, gloves, and my new beanie I won from LOLE at Fleet Feet's Chick's Night.  I was excited to run so I could continue listening to Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games series.  I am 3/4ths of the way through and I am totally engrossed in the story.  It gives me another reason to look forward to my next run, knowing that I get to listen to more.  It was a good run and I made sure to keep a pretty even, easy pace down Lakeshore Trail.  

I ended by the Green City Market (an amazing farmer's market) and quickly grabbed some of my favorites: honeycrisp apples, whole wheat bread, and a tasty egg sandwich.  I then got on the bus headed to downtown.  

I arrived at the NBC Chicago building and found the Quaker Oatmeal truck where Bob was going to be (it was National Oatmeal Day).  There were about 20-30 people outside waiting when someone came to tell us Bob was on his way and that there would be time for an autograph, photo, and a question for everyone in line.  
Soon Bob arrived and said hello to everyone.  You know sometimes you see people on TV but in person they look or act differently, not the case with Bob Harper.  He looks and acts just like he does on TV, which was nice.  
I waited in line for maybe 10 minutes and got up to meet him.  I was kind of nervous and didn't really know what to say.  He's just a normal guy who happens to be on TV though and tried to get over it.  I shook his hand and told him how nice it was to meet him.  I got a quick picture and autographed headshot as well.  I mentioned that I had lost over 100 pounds and he responded with, "That's a big deal!" and something along the lines of "good for you." I said thanks and told him how much I enjoyed his workout DVDs and watching The Biggest Loser.  

It was a really quick meeting that ended with well wishes, but he was very nice and encouraging.  Bob is really motivating and definitely knows what he is talking about when it comes to weight loss and fitness.  I would love to have a personal training session or workout with him; I just think that would be awesome.  It was really cool to meet him in person !

The rest of my weekend I worked and the cleaned the apartment for my mom's upcoming visit.  She is coming up later this week to run the 15K with me and hang out in the city.  We have a long list of restaurants, stores, and things we want to do, so it is sure to be fun.  

Have you ever met a celebrity?  What fitness star would you like to workout with?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Green City Farmer's Market

I have tweeted about it many times before, but I just had to write a post about the amazing-ness of the Green City Market.  I have only been in Chicago for six months, but I think I have been to this farmer's market almost every Saturday.  Finding a good farmer's market was important so I immediately went to the internet to do some research.  Green City Market had a great website and lots of wonderful reviews so I knew I needed to check it out.  The market is located in Lincoln Park and is open on both Wednesday and Saturday from 7am -1pm.  This market is everything I was looking for and I look forward to going every week.

I love this farmer's market for a variety of reasons:
  • Everything is grown, raised, or made locally either from Illinois, Indiana, or Michigan which means the products are not traveling super far.  This means you are buying from local families and businesses, which is always a plus. 
  • There is a wide variety of booths.  At Green City Market there are flowers, vegetables, fruits, eggs, tamales, breads, pasta, sweets, honey, juice, poultry, meat, crepes, sandwiches, coffee, pretty much anything you can imagine.  
  • Many of the farmers grow organically which is good for you and environment. 
  • Everything is so fresh!  You get the chance to buy things directly from those who made it.  The vegetables were just harvested the day before and the bread was just made this morning.  You are getting the best of the best!
  • It's a great social activity.  There is always a good crowd of people and pets at the Market.  It is a fun place to meet new people who likely have a similar food philosophy as you.  You can also create a relationship with the farmers and businesses who sell there every week.
  • You can try new things.  Many booths in the market are known for special things they make whether it is a delicious tamale or the best crepe or a unique jelly or type of tomato.  I love trying new foods and the market is a great place to do that.  Most farmers even let you taste a small bite of something before you buy it.  
  • You're buying produce that is in season.
  • It's fun!
The guy in the red shirt and hat is there every week with drums, sticks, maracas, tambourines, etc and makes music with all of the kids.  As you can see he is pretty popular!
I have tried to taste things from as many vendors as possible. Here are some of my favorites:
Green City Crepes

Whole Wheat Bread from Bennison's Bakery

Best. Tamales. Ever.
My absolute favorite apples!
Sunday Dinner Egg Sandwich.  The sandwich changes every week depending on what's in season.

Incredible grilled cheese sandwich made with butterkase cheese.
As you can see there are tons of great things to discover at the farmer's market.  Check out Local Harvest to find one near you so you can check out the local goods in your area!

Do you like to visit the farmer's market?  What is your favorite food or thing about the market?  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weekend in Review: Blogger Meet-up and a Long Run

This weekend my schedule was filled with activities.  It all began Saturday morning with a mini blogger meet-up.  Marisa, from Mind Over Booty, planned a yoga and brunch date for some Chicagoland bloggers.  Diana, from Veggie Next Door, (who as recently become my running buddy at Fleet Feet Chick's Night) forwarded the information to me and I was glad it worked with my schedule.  Marisa, Diana, and I were the only ones who could make it, but the three of us had a great morning!
We met at Imagine, A Yoga Studio which is just in Roger's Park.  I know some about yoga through DVDs and stretching, but had never actually practiced at a real studio.  I was a little intimated about going, but Saturday morning was Gentle Yoga.  The studio was great and the class was only $10.  I loved the easy flow through all the poses and it was such a great stretch.  I am thinking about heading back to Imagine to check out some of the other classes and instructors.
After class we took a short walk to M. Henrietta for brunch.  The place was bustling with people, but we pretty much got a table right away.  Everything on the menu looked delicious.  They are all about using fresh, mostly organic foods and have many vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.  I went with the Latina Omelette which was full of black beans, onions, cheese, and tomatoes with a side of roasted potatoes and plantains.  It was really good.  I tried the plantain, but it wasn't really my thing.  

I will definitely go back though because many other things on the menu caught my attention and I want to go try them.  Plus I love supporting local businesses that share my food philosophy. 
Over brunch the three of us had time to chat and get to know each other which was great.  I moved to Chicago not knowing anyone, beside my good friend who moved with me, so getting to know new people is great.  And we already share an interest in health, exercise, and blogging, which helps.  I am usually nervous, quiet, and awkward in new social situations, but most of that went away after meeting Diana and Marisa.  They are both really nice and had lots of great stories and information to share.  If you have other bloggers in your area plan a small meet-up it is such a great way to meet new people!

Lakeshore Trail (from a previous run)
I worked Saturday evening at the spa, came home, and pretty much passed out it in bed.  I planned to get up early and do my long run for the week, but I must have been pretty tired, because I slept through my alarm.  Luckily, the weather was cool, so getting out later in the morning wasn't a big deal.  I had nine miles planned, which is my longest before my first 15K (the Hot Chocolate 15K) in three weeks.  I have run the distance before, but it has been a few months, and the idea of going that far again was a little daunting.  I knew I could do it though and kept reminding myself.  I ran on Lakeshore Trail, which I love because it is pretty, traffic free (so no stopping at lights), and there are plenty of other people being active as well.  It took a mile or so for me to warm up, but then I got in a good groove.  
I have been listening to the Hunger Games series during my runs, which are so intriguing.  It makes me look forward to my runs even more.  I just started Catching Fire and it had me throughly engaged during my run.  I sipped on my G2/water mixture and had about five Honey Stingers throughout the run.  As I was finishing the last mile I began to feel a stinging pain on the inside of my left pinky toe.  It was a blister and a painful one at that.  I have never gotten a blister there before from running, so it is kind of weird that it happened.  
I was downtown when I finished, and hungry, so I stopped by West Egg Cafe for something to eat.  I have been craving pancakes for awhile so I knew I wanted that, but figured I should probably get some protein in as well and order two eggs.  I ate everything but the English muffin.  It was pretty standard cafe/diner food, but that pancake and syrup were delicious.

The rest of the day was spent icing my knees (which I do after every run), eating some homemade pizza, and heading downtown to babysit for a really cute family. All in all it was pretty good weekend.   

Have you ever been to a blogger meet-up or met a fellow blogger?  Have you read The Hunger Games series? 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Volunteering at the 2011 Chicago Marathon

Wow, what a race!  It felt like the whole city of Chicago was buzzing with the energy from the marathon.  People come out to cheer the runners on and the streets are packed with spectators, which is amazing.    
I was lucky enough to get a spot volunteering for the race this year.  I was set up just past mile 20 at Aid Station 15.  This is where most people "hit the wall" in the race, so it is an important aid station.  We handed out Gatorade, water, and bananas to the runners.  
The city of Chicago closes down lots of major streets for this race.  We had tables set up on both sides and they were stacked high with fuel.  

It was an early morning with a 4:15am alarm.  I made breakfast, packed some water and snacks, and was out the door.  Any other morning at 5am the trains and buses aren't that busy, but on marathon day they were buzzing with runners and their supporters.  I made it to the aid location, which was in the Pilsen neighborhood, which is just before Chinatown, around 6am.  It was still dark out and there was already a line of volunteers waiting to check in.  

I originally wanted to volunteer with Fleet Feet, but their station filled up before I knew I could get the day off from work, so I ended up volunteering with Chicago Run.  It is a local, non-profit organization that promotes youth running in schools.  It sounded like a great organization and the idea of helping out at mile 20 sounded good to me too.  
I enjoyed the day, but I do have slight complaint about some of the volunteers.  A high school group was also volunteering at this station so there were a lot of teenagers around.  At first I didn't really mind, but then they started cutting in line and later were not listening to the lead volunteers about leaving room for the runners to go by.  Some were just sitting on their phone not doing anything.  And worst of all, a few were even laughing at the runners, not to their faces, but seriously - these people are running a freakin' marathon!  They weren't all horrible, many were enthusiastic about helping, but some should not have been there.  They were all there to get volunteer hours, which is great, but if they didn't want to be there they should have found another way to get the hours in.  It was just frustrating and disappointing.  That ends my little rant and aside from that I really had a great time volunteering!

After waiting about 20 minutes we all finally started checking in.  Each volunteer got a Nike Jacket and baseball cap which were donated for all race volunteers.  They were pretty nice!  We also learned where we would be stationed for the day.  I was given right side Gatorade.  

I ran into some college students and other adults and we manned the first tables together.  A lead volunteer told us we were to set up tables, attach Gatorade signs, mix the Gatorade, lay out cups, fill them, and stack them up four high.  This was quite a task, but our group divided the work up with a few people doing each duty.  I mostly stacked and filled the cups with Gatorade.  It took about an hour and forty-five minutes to set everything up.  

The big street was lined a full block, on both sides, with Gatorade, bananas, and water.  

We were gathered for some instructions about handing out the water, not to tell them they were almost there (which they weren't- there were still six more miles left!), to stay to the sides so the runners could get by, and to, of course, cheer on all the runners.  

Soon the wheelchair athletes were came through and shortly after the elites.  These guys were SPEEDY!  The lead male and female runners ran just behind motorcycles with a camera at them the whole time and there were also some helicopters above.  I can't imagine running with a big camera in my face.  

The Men's leader and winner, Moses Mosop.
That's Ryan Hall!
The Women's leader and winner Liliya Shobukhova.
Then more and more people came running towards us.  I loved cheering them on, especially those who had names on their shirts.  Some of the words of support we shouted: "You're doing great!" "Awesome job (their name)!"  "Looking strong!"  "You can do this!"  "Amazing!" and one I say to myself during a tough run "You are so much stronger than you know!"
People of all different ages, races, and sizes ran by and were all equally inspiring.  There were even a few pregnant women, two guys juggling, men painted in orange, lots of charity runners, a blind runner,etc.  It was really fascinating to watch!  There was such a range of emotions on the participants faces: some were smiling, some were focused, some looked tired, and others exhausted, a few made it look super easy, and a handful were crying in pain.  But they all kept going and continued forward!

There was a steady flow of people for over three hours.  The morning had started off a bit cool, but as the sun rose and beat down on the street, it got warmer and warmer.  As it reached mid day most people were walking.  The number of people coming through began to dwindle and soon the final time car came through indicating that was the end of the race.  It was then time to sweep the streets, fold up the tables, and put things away.  In no time waste management had arrived to gather the trash and sweep the streets.  We finally cleaned everything up by about 2pm.

I didn't even run the race, but boy was I exhausted.  We had been going pretty much non stop since 6:30am.  Since the roads were closed off to traffic for the race, no busses were running nearby.  I was in an area of town I was not at all familiar with so I just walked until I found traffic.  Even though the race was officially over there were still people walking to finish to finish the race -that's determination!  I took a short break during the volunteer shift for a mini larabar and water, but by 2pm I was starving and not feeling so great, you would have thought I ran the marathon.  I arrived at a Jamba Juice and grabbed a Pumpkin Smash smoothie to get something in my system.  It helped, but I needed some solid food and finally made it to a more familiar area of town and grabbed a bagel sandwich, before finally reaching home.  

My voice was sore from all the screaming and cheering I did, but it was worth it.  I think as a group our aid station had some great energy and support for all the runners.  We were playing music and encouraging everyone during a tough mile of their race.  For being out there for over six hours the time really flew by.  Seeing all the runners was really inspirational and has me contemplating running my first marathon.  I don't have one in mind right now, but I feel one is definitely in my future.   

Congrats to all the Chicago Marathon finishers this year!  You definitely "Owned Chicago!"

Have you volunteered for a race before?  What do you like to hear people cheering for you during a tough race?   

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fleet Feet History Run: 1893 World's Fair

This past Sunday I got the opportunity to go on one of Fleet Feet Chicago's History Runs.  Diana mentioned to me how fun the runs were and everything else I have done with Fleet Feet has been awesome, so I was glad I got to participate this time.  I love learning new things and the history of the World's Fair piqued my interest as well.  
Map of our Run
I headed over to the Piper's Alley location, which was actually my first time in that store, it is much bigger than the Lincoln Square one that I usually go to.  There were brief introductions and what the plan for the run was at the store before we headed onto a big yellow bus.   
There were about twenty-five of us in the group.  We headed over to Jackson Park which is on the southern side of the city.  I have never been down there before, but it is really nice.  The Lakeshore Trail goes all the way down there and is way less crowded then the trail closer to the city.  It was beautiful!  We were dropped off and headed onto the trail.  
Chuck is the History Run leader and had tons of information to share with us throughout the run.  We had a few big picture books that showed us what the area we were standing in at each spot looked like during the fair.  I read/listened to The Devil in the White City about a month ago which talks about the World's Fair, so it was cool to actually visit the places where all of that took place.  Most of the buildings and things from the fair were made of plaster (and meant to be temporary) so they deteriorated over time or were burned down, so having the pictures was helpful.

The course we took was just over three miles and we stopped about twelve times to stop and discuss the history of where we were standing.  This included looking at pictures from the fair, events that occured there, famous people who were around, etc.  I found it all quite interesting.  It was a little chilly, but such a nice day for this run.  We kept a pretty easy pace throughout and the tour lasted about two hours.   

The Columbian Exposition, or World's Fair, was held in Chicago in 1893 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival to North America (they even had replicas of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria made and sent from Spain on display!).  The fair lasted six months, from May to October, and had over 20 million visitors.  It took place in Jackson Park and was full of displays and experiences from countries all over the world.  
These are just a few of the many different facts we learned on our run:
This is a replica of the Statue of the Republic which was a major figure at the Columbian Exposition of 1893.  It was 65 feet tall and made of plaster.  This replica is a third the size of the original. 
This is Wooded Island which is about a half mile long in the middle of lagoon in Jackson Park.  It was the "nature sanctuary" of the fair.  Two of the gardens from the fair are still there: the rose garden and the Osaka Japanese Garden.  

Here are the Japanese Gardens which are really beautiful.  It is a quiet, serene area right by the lagoon.  
This is one of a few buildings that was actually used during the fair and is still around today.  During the fair it was the Palace of Fine Arts.  It was renovated in 1933 and today is the Museum of Science and Industry.  

Overall I really enjoyed the History Run.  I thought it was well organized, well paced, and a great interactive way to learn something new.  We got to actually run by and see all the places we were discussing and Chuck had lots of great information to share with us.  Fleet Feet does one every month, so if you are in the Chicago area you should check one out if you are interested!
In the Japanese Garden
Have you ever been on a history run or would you be interested in doing one yourself?