Sunday, May 27, 2012

Soldier Field 10 Mile: Race Recap

Saturday morning I joined 12,000 other runners to complete the ninth annual Soldier Field 10 Mile; my first 10 mile race!
It was another early race morning with my alarm going off at 5 am Saturday.  Solider Field is just south of the city so it takes a while to get there via public transit.  I went to bed later than I should have the night before because I couldn't decide what outfit to wear for the race.  I got in about five and half hours though.  I set up everything the night before so leaving in the morning would be easy.  For breakfast I toasted an english muffin and smeared it with peanut butter and raspberry jelly (one of my favorite things) and had a big glass of water while getting ready.  Once I was out the door I took a bus and the el down south, with more runners getting on at each stop.  It was cool outside and the sky looked cloudy.  There were concerns it would be a hot day, but it looked like that might not happen until later.  When we all finally reached the stop we still had a mile walk to get to the stadium, I could have taken another bus, but I figured the walk would be a good warm up for the race.  I followed the hoard of people and checked my gear inside before finding my way to the corral.
I was supposed to be in corral 15, but by the time I got there it looked pretty full.  I wasn't the only one standing on the side hoping to fit in when we finally took off either.  After standing there for 15 minutes one of the corral leaders told us we would have to go to the back of 16, the last corral.  We weren't really happy about that, but I tried to find my way as close to the front of 16 as I could get.  Then we all waited, and waited some more.  It was kind of chilly with the cloudy skies and gusty wind.  The first wave went off at 7am and it was 7:40am before things started moving in the back.  Then I saw corral 15 start to move and noticed more people were allowed to get into that corral.  I was already pretty well into the 16th corral and couldn't make my way back around to get into 15.  I was frustrated.  I know it was only one corral difference but I was tired of waiting and ready to run!  Around 7:52am we made it to the start and were finally starting the race!  
The course had us run about 4.5 miles south, mostly on Lakeshore Drive, so the two lanes of the highway were blocked off for us to run down.  There wasn't much to see during this part, so it was a little boring, but there were some friendly cars who honked their support as they passed.  
There were five aid stations throughout the course and that was the only time I walked during the race.  I also stopped about twice to snap a picture, but other than that I was running.  My goal was to average at least a 12:30 per mile pace.  I always try to start off slower and gradually get faster near the end if I have the energy.  I picked up Gatorade and water at the aid stations and ate a few Honey Stingers at mile four and mile eight.  My pace always picks up a bit when I eat those chews!  
Once we reached the turn around we were running along the south side lakeshore.  The sky was still gray, but the view of the lake is always nice to see.  The waves were kicking with the gusty winds too.  There was a great view of the Chicago skyline the whole way back though.  I really liked the second half of the course and my pace picked up some from there.
There weren't very many spectators for this race, just one here or there.  As we approached the stadium music was playing and more people were there to cheer everyone along for the last half mile.  The course had us turn to run into the stadium.  Then we got to run through the players tunnel onto Soldier Field.  

Now this was amazing!  You run from the dark tunnel into the gigantic and bright field.  Plus you got to see yourself on the big screens in the stadium crossing the finish line on the 50 yard line.  I sprinted through the finish with a smile on my face!  I completed my first 10 mile race in 2:03:21 with an average pace of 12:07!  I sometimes still think of myself as a 13-14 minute miler so seeing that I ran 10 miles at that pace was exciting.  After grabbing a bottle of water I took a moment to take in the awesomeness of being on the field- it was really cool!

I exited through another tunnel before receiving my medal and grabbing some of the post race snacks and stadium blanket.  Once I got my bag back from gear check I went outside on the green to check out the post-race tailgate.  There were small tents set up and a great band playing.  I tried some of the Naked Juice samples; I liked the Mango Oat smoothie best.  I also tasted a peanut butter Clif recovery bar and a s'more Mojo bar which were both really good.  Some of the FF Cheer members were going to meet at the Fleet Feet tent, but since I started so late I didn't catch anyone there.  

Once I left the tailgate I walked back a mile to go get some food.  Waffles is a breakfast and lunch restaurant that is relatively new so I decided to check it out.  I am not usually in the South Loop so I figured I should visit it while I was.  It was Saturday morning, so I knew there would be a wait.  There were lots of people waiting outside, but there happened to be a seat at the bar and since it was just me I was seated immediately.  The place was hopping!  Lots of things sounded good, but when the server told me about the flight of waffles I decided to go with that and some scrambled eggs for some protein.  It took awhile to come out and I was so hungry!  
The scrambled eggs were nothing great, really generic, but I knew I needed some protein, so ate about half of them.  The four waffles I got to try (counter clockwise from the top) were Red Velvet, Mexican Chocolate, Liege, and Green Tea.  The Red Velvet came with whipped cream cheese whipped and strawberry compote and it was just kind of blah, not enough flavor for me.  The Liege waffle is made with pearl sugar which caramelizes and makes for a rich, chewy waffle.  It was served with blackberry compote and whipped cream and was good.  Next, was the Green Tea one which intrigued me when I sat down.  It was served with lemon ginger Chantilly cream, ground pistachios, and candied ginger.  This was really tasty!  The waffle was light and the combination of flavors was delicious.  The Mexican Chocolate was also a favorite.  It was topped with orange Anglaise, spicy cocoa powder, and shaved dark chocolate.  I have never tried this combination before but it was so good.  There were some misses, but those waffles were pretty darn good and I'm glad I got to try them.  The name clearly states what they make best, waffles! 

I was told Soldier Field 10 Mile was good race and after running, I agree!  Although I was a little frustrated with the corral and start, the view the second half and the finish were awesome!  Plus who doesn't like a race where you get a medal!  
Right now I am trying to decide if I am going to run the Fleet Feet Chicago Women's Half Marathon which is in four weeks.  I know I can run the distance, but I have to see if it will work with my schedule.  I have also been holding off on registering, because I didn't know how I was going to feel after this race.  I am really considering it though, we'll see. Also I have to finalize my Chicago Marathon training plan.  I was speaking with a runner today who said there are 19 weeks of training left until race day!  Ahh!  

What active things or good food did you enjoy over the long weekend?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Your Healthista Boot Camp

One of my favorite blogs is Your Healthista (formally Your Nutritionista) which is written by Leah.  Her content is spot on and I love her point of view on food, weight loss, and exercise.  She just gets it.  If you haven't checked it out go do so now.  Seriously.  

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from Your Healthista about a free Boot Camp she is offering.  After checking out the post I thought "why not?"  These last 15-20 pounds have been really difficult to lose and a boot camp seemed like good motivation to change my workouts.  Leah is posting two boot camp workouts a week, one on Tuesday and Thursday.  After you do the workout just post on the Your Healthista Facebook page and you are entered into winning the month's prize.  The boot camp lasts from May to July and this month's drawing is for an awesome yoga mat.  

I have been doing this for two and half weeks and love it!  The workouts are quick and intense.  There has been a good variety to the workouts as well, everything from running intervals to a cross fit inspired one to one that is done on a playground.  Go check it out!

I am still running, but I have been doing the boot camp workouts on my cross training days.   Soldier Field 10 Mile is coming up Saturday, so I will be taking it easy so I'm not sore on race day.  This will be my first 10 mile race and it has great reviews so I'm excited!

Friday, May 11, 2012

One Year in Chicago

I have officially been a resident of Chicago for one year and the time has flown by.  I still feel like I am new to city and just moved here from Florida into my apartment.  I definitely know a lot more about the city, can find my way around pretty well (with some help from Google maps), have a job I enjoy, have lots of great places to run, met some new people through blogs, work, and running, and have tons of great food to eat.  
I moved here because the city intrigued me and I wanted to go out on my own and try something different.  I am glad I did.  Life in Chicago is very different than what I am used to; everything from transportation to home life has taken some getting used to.  I am still trying to find my groove, but things are good right now.  

Kristin (my roommate) and I just moved into a new apartment last week.  It is SO much better than where we were before.  We found our first place on a weekend trip to the city and being new to the area had no idea what area of town we wanted to be in.  We were about an hour from downtown via the El and in a not so great neighborhood.  There really wasn't much to do around our apartment.  After about a month or two living there I was already looking forward to a getting a better place.  It worked for a first apartment, but wasn't somewhere I wanted to stay very long. 
The new dining room and kitchen.
Our new apartment is bigger and in the great neighborhood of Ravenswood.  There are cute tree line streets with apartments and houses.  We are a little closer to the city and not far from stores, shops, and cute local restaurants.  I LOVE the new place.  The building is cute and well maintained.  I am so glad we found a good place.  

Not to long ago I was juggling three jobs at once, but now I am down to one job (a spa at a nice hotel) that I really enjoy.  Everyone there is incredibly friendly and helpful.  I am grateful and happy to work at such a nice place.  I still have a few babysitting jobs, but they are just here and there.  

The running community here in Chicago is also really amazing.  Fleet Feet Chicago is very involved in the community and organizes fun runs and seminars throughout the year.  Plus everyone on staff is extremely knowledgeable about running and running gear.  I don't get to go every week, but I love the Chick's Night runs.  I was also asked to join their running club called FF Cheer.  It is essentially a group of us who love running and promote the idea that "running changes everything" through social media and at local events.  I like being apart of such a neat group and to share my love of running with others!  

There are certainly some hard things about living in Chicago though.  Being hundreds of miles away from my family is difficult and strange.  We have always been close and as we have all grown up we have moved farther away from each other.  My mom and step dad are in Florida, my dad is in South Carolina, my sister is out west as an AmeriCorp volunteer, and my brother is down south attending college.  The closest family to me is in Pennsylvania, but that is still a ways away.  This is when I wish I could apparate (you know like from Harry Potter) so I could visit them anytime.  (I seriously wish I could do this, like, all the time.  Caroline, my sister, says I talk about this often, which I do.  It would just be so amazing though, right?) 

Despite being far away from family I really like life here in Chicago.  It seems like I discover something new about the city every week which is exciting.  I love being able to run along the beautiful lakeshore or be in the middle of city or explore local shops and eat new foods.  I have made it through my first year of being on my own, having a job, paying bills, etc.  I know that I have grown a lot this year by putting myself out there more and trying new things.  At times it is scary and hard, but I don't regret anything.  I am looking forward to my next near in the beautiful city of Chicago!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

CorePower Yoga

Remember how I took that free week of yoga classes a month ago at CorePower Yoga?  (They have several locations across the country so if you are interested you should check them out.  New students get a free week of yoga!) I had been eyeing this studio for awhile and lucky for me a Groupon for a month at the studio came along and I made sure to grab one.  I finally took advantage of the deal and started my month about two weeks ago.  I only spent $59 for a unlimited month of classes at any of the twelve Chicagoland locations.  Usually that kind of pass costs $179!  

My first experience with yoga was actually in middle school.  We had an enrichment period where we got to choose what class we wanted to take.  There was everything from theatre to dodgeball.  I am not exactly sure why or how I chose yoga, but I ended up in the class.  For about 45 minutes, twice a week, we were led through basic yoga poses.  I'm not sure it was my favorite thing, but it was relaxing.  

Flash forward to about a year ago when I tried Jillian Michael's Yoga Meltdown.  Being a fan of The Biggest Loser I had already tried her 30 Day Shred Workout and was interested in trying something new so picked up her yoga DVD.  Her workout is not a traditional yoga workout, but I really like it and it has become one of my go to workouts.  
I finally went to my first real yoga class with Diana and Marisa in October of last year.  Next up was Moksha Yoga with my fellow Chicago bloggers in January.  I enjoyed the free week of yoga I took in February and was excited to go back to CorePower to practice some more yoga.    
The facilities are really nice at CorePower, quite spa-like actually, with locker rooms to change in, a show room with high end yoga gear, and clean studios.  

I am always up for trying new workouts and I love the variety of classes that CorePower offers.  Having a strong core is important, so they take a few minutes with every class to do core strengthening moves.  I really enjoy the Hot Power Fusion class which is a combination of hot and power yoga.  The energy of the class is great and it is definitely a workout that makes you sweat.  The CorePower Ryder class is also a favorite and a good cardio workout.  It is essentially a spin class, but is done on bikes that can turn from side to side.  I haven't attempted the Level Two CPY class yet, but once I feel more comfortable and gain some strength I will.  I am also going to try the Yoga Sculpt class soon which incorporates hand weights into the practice.
You don't have to be a yoga expert to go to the classes.  They offer different levels so you can learn the different poses and flow to the classes.  I was a bit intimidated at first, but the instructors are nice and helpful.  If I wasn't sure about something I just looked to see what other people were doing or asked the instructor for help.   This has been true of the other two studios I have visited as well. 

Even if I go to the same class there are different instructors for certain days which means there is some variety to the classes, from the flow of the poses, to the music they play, and the energy of the class.

I have been going about three times a week and love it!  I like the variety it adds to my workout routine and the classes make me feel good.  Yoga helps me deal with any soreness I have from a long run and either energizes me for the day or helps me relax for the evening.  I haven't decided what I am going to do once the month is over, but the plan now is to keep up the practice!  The classes are bit pricey, but I am considering the different plans they offer.
You don't have to go to a studio to do yoga though.  It can always do yoga at home too.  There are plenty of DVDs to be found and most women's health magazines have introduction to yoga workouts you can try.  There are lots of great free, or relatively cheap, options for yoga.  Many studios offer a community class where you can enjoy a free yoga class.  I know there are several studios that do that here in Chicago.  Yoga is great for increasing flexibility, strength, and balance and in addition to getting a good workout, it is also a great stress reliever.  Good for the mind and the body, which is why it has quickly become something I enjoy doing!  If you haven't tried it before its worth a shot.  You might discover you like it too.

Do you practice yoga?  What is it about yoga that you enjoy?