At Least the Lake Was Pretty

I don’t like camping.

It’s not so much the eating hot dogs in the wilderness or the smell of campfire, or even the prospect of getting swept up in a giant rain storm while sleeping in a tent.  I can handle all that, and mostly even enjoy it. But I truly detest not having an actual toilet for longer than a race morning (and a sink to wash my hands), and sleeping in a little cramped space on mere mat padding for an entire weekend.

Call me high maintenance if you will (mostly every one does), but I want a bathroom and bed. If camping included those things and combined the greatness of the outdoors with human comforts, I’d be willing to go every summer weekend.

I want to camp HERE!

I really try to be a good sport about it though. It may not be the way I want to spend my time, but I try not complain…at least while we’re there. Just, you know, on the blog after the fact.

Aaron on the other hand, is a mountain man.  He even considers “car camping” to be a lesser form of the activity.  He’d rather back-pack into somewhere and live off of the land with whatever supplies he can fit into his sack.

Look at all that camp gear!

During our first few months of dating 5 years ago, I consented to go camping (gotta impress), but other than that, I’ve kind of managed to avoid this whole hobby of his.  But that means that he hasn’t gone either. And while I may hate camping, I also don’t want to deprive poor Aaron of something he truly loves (but kind of, because BATHROOMS).

Long story short: we went camping last weekend. We’re getting to the peak (hehe) of our Imogene training, and we’ve been trying to get some higher elevation mountainous trail runs in, and all of those trails are closer to camp grounds than actual cities, so there you have it.  Leave it to running to break my non-camping streak. Our trail run was 15 miles, and afterwards I wanted nothing more than to prop my feet up, and sleep in a very comfortable bed. But, it is what it is.

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That car (which isn’t ours) shows how close our neighbors were

We went up to the North Central part of the state to a place called Lake Heron which is almost more of more of a resort campground where you have people on either side of you, lots of happy Forest Ranger friends, a latrine style toilet (which was ok on Saturday morning but downright disgusting by Sunday morning with all of the use and ten million flies swarming).  The next cluster of sites next to ours even had a camp host and showers (which were actually pretty decent). IMG_7335 - Copy They even had daily activities like ukulele lessons and snake education.  Aside from the fact that we could hear everything our camp neighbors were saying (and every scream of the sick toddler they brought with them), having a shower, and something resembling a toilet was nice. But I was mostly obsessed with the lakefront property. I spent the weekend taking pictures of our amazing view.  And enjoying the water since it is mostly non-existent in Albuquerque.  IMG_7321 - Copy IMG_7301 - Copy

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View of the lake from inside the tent

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The water levels statewide are ridiculously low right now, so the lakes (I think all of them here are man made) are having to let out a bit to provide water for the rivers.  It looks like they just did a major water lowering a couple of weeks ago, so the shore right by the lake was not only very muddy in a “hasn’t been dry in decades” type of way, but also filled with treasures.  And by treasures I mean really old beer and soda cans.

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I was also amazed at how many fossils I found right next to our campsite.  Nothing too amazing like dinosaur skeletons or fish bones, but plenty of sea shells!  Considering the number of people who hang out there, it looks like I’m the only person who has ever rock hunted.

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Aside from our 15 mile trail run (more about that on Monday), other activities included drinking wine, playing with the camera, bike riding, kayaking (oops…forgot to take pictures), middle of the lake picnicking, and exploring. We even saw a herd of deer! (hopefully they were not caught by the gang of howling coyotes that woke us up later that night…).

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If you look closely, you can see the train of ants

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The drive to and from Lake Heron was also quite beautiful.  We were surrounded by dramatic cliffs and Northern New Mexico landscape.  We also stopped by a small town called Abiquiu to take a picture of this neat mission church built in 1920.  IMG_7377 - Copy IMG_7232 - Copy

Overall, if this is something I can get away with doing once every five years (heck, I’ll even make it four!), than I think I will survive. As always, it was nice to get out of town and do a long run on a new (yet ridiculous) trail.  The weather here is already starting to cool down (sadness), and our warm summer weekends are numbered, so just getting to spend time outside might have even been worth some of the yucky parts of bonding with nature. Maybe.

Love camping or want to join me in the whimsical canvas tent and king bed resort place?

Favorite camp food? 

HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND!  It’s turned into an unofficial holiday around these parts because of the Breaking Bad premier on Sunday.

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Rock n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon Race Recap

Rock n’ Roll Arizona is quickly becoming one of my favorite races because for the second year, I have run a PR race on this course! (you can read about last year’s experience HERE)

And, I am scary good at predicting my race times.

I went into this race with two goals: 1) to run a PR time, and 2) to run easily enough to not require a recovery period.

PRE-RACE:

We were in Phoenix for a few nanoseconds.  Aaron is the manager at a gym and it is January (aka New Year’s Resolution Hell).  He is also without an assistant manager or shift supervisor, so taking days off (even MLK Day) wasn’t an option.

On Saturday, we did an easy 2 mile shake-out run after the 6 hour drive.  Papago Park in Phoenix is one of my favorite places to run, especially in winter when there is less danger of rattlesnakes. You can mix trail running with pavement running, and the desert landscape is really beautiful.  And I enjoyed every second of wearing a tank top.

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After the run, we headed downtown to the Expo.  I spotted Run Eat Repeat Monica (very blonde, very pretty, and very well dressed) and Boring Runner Adam, both huge running bloggers that I would feel very awkward walking up and talking to.  The Brooks expo displays never fail to disappoint (Brooks is the apparel sponsor of Rock n’ Roll, so they get lots of floor space), and their carnival theme was slightly creepy, but creative.  We didn’t get to witness the Human Jesus Lizard in action, but I imagine it was quite miraculous.

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I’m not sure why they have space ships, but Journey is cool!

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I know a lot of people think expos and the crowds they draw are a pain, but I love them.  We stocked up on GU, Nuun, and compression socks at fabulous expo prices! (We’re trying out ProCompression socks since they were $22.50 for a pair….definitely different than my CEP ones, but I don’t know which I like better).

After the expo we rode the Light Rail (Phoenix’s transportation system) into Tempe and ate some tacos at a really cool restaurant called Canteen on Mill Street (Phoenix’s version of Austin’s 6th Street).  By the looks of it, it transforms into a nightclub when the sun goes down, so we got to enjoy our tacos in a very trendy setting.

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After relaxing for a bit back at the hotel, we headed to Scottsdale and ate dinner at a casual Italian restaurant called Oregano’s which is a very popular Phoenix chain (we carb-loaded here last year too).  Aaron ate a really awesome looking salad (the life of a gluten freer), but I stuck to pasta.  And it wouldn’t be carb-loading with a locally brewed Four Peaks Kilt lifter scotch ale.

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RACE DAY!

I woke up Sunday morning with something I’ve never dealt with before a race…stomach problems. Up until now I’ve been very talented at creating perfect race day conditions for myself, but I think a trip to McDonald’s on the drive into town may be the culprit.  I had serious paranoia about a terribly embarrassing accident. No runner wants to be that person.  I ate a few bites of banana hoping to settle things down.

This race runs through three different cities: Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix.  We stayed in Phoenix, so we rode the light rail into Tempe (about an 8 minute ride) along with lots  of other runners! I think the one non-runner was certainly not expecting his ride to be high-jacked by a bunch of dry-fit toting people.

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We made it to race central with plenty of time. The porta potty lines weren’t as long (I think they had more this year), and gear check was organized and efficient. The race started about 20 minutes later this year than last year (7:50 for both the half and the full).  Aaron and I wished each other luck before heading into our respective corrals (Aaron was in Corral 1, and I was in Corral 2).  My stomach still hadn’t settled, but at this point there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  The gun went off, and after waiting a couple of minutes, my corral got the go ahead to RUN!

This year I lined up at the very front of my corral, so I didn’t have to deal with weaving in and out of runners.  This race places you in corrals based on an estimated finish time that YOU provide, so there are always plenty of people who probably should be in a slower corral.

One of the first things I noticed was the lack of crowd support.  Last year it seemed like most of the course was lined with cheering spectators, but it was pretty dead this year. I haven’t run with music since last May, but this was the first time I really wished I had something to distract me from the quietness.  I also saw very few race signs.  We talked to some ladies back at the hotel, and apparently the marathon course was more supported.

And the bands.  The whole point of Rock n Roll races are the bands along the course.  I think there were fewer this year, and at least 3 of them were on set breaks when I went through.  The ones playing were fantastic though, and the all-boy a capella group melted my little choir nerd heart.  One of the bands had a huge screen with their lyrics scrolling in case you wanted to sing a long.  And I think every race I’ve ever done has had a wildly enthusiastic group of Lululemon girls.  They all complimented my skirt as I ran by and Aaron was excited that they cheered a little louder for him since he was also decked out in Lulu gear.  Almost worth the price just to get extra course motivation!

And, super weirdness.  Some nice man cheered for me by name somewhere in Scottsdale (mile 6 or 7 maybe?) and I don’t know who it was.  My bib didn’t have my name on it, and I didn’t really know anyone else running the race, so I’m baffled.   It is entirely possible that another person named Amy was right next to me, but after checking out the race pictures of the two other Amy’s who finished around my time, I didn’t recognize either of them from the race (yes, I’m creepy enough to stalk the race pictures of other people named Amy). Regardless, it was a much appreciated cheer, even if it was meant for someone else!

I was seriously worried about my stomach which wasn’t handling the constant bouncing very well until about mile 6, and the sickness went away.  I don’t know what brought it on and I don’t know what made it stop, but I’m sure glad that I made it through without any incident.  At several points I considered stopping to use a porta potty, but I only spotted one group of them late in the race.

Even though my stomach settled at mile 6, at about this time it became quite apparent that I had forgotten to apply Body Glide.  I don’t know what it is about chaffing that is so terribly painful, but I remember encouraging myself to run faster so the stinging would stop sooner. Maybe I should use this as a tactic in future races?

Arizona’s course is flat for the most part.  There is a steady uphill that starts at about mile 7 and gets pretty steep at about mile 9.  And then the rest of the course is a nice downhill.

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Go Aaron, Go!

Go Aaron, Go!

Running uphill through Papago Park

Running uphill through Papago Park

I was pretty excited the whole race because all of my miles were sub-8 except for one (the uphill one), so I knew I was going to run a PR pretty early on.  I’m actually pretty proud of myself for being a smart and not going out too fast or attempting paces that I couldn’t sustain.  I had to force myself to slow down when I noticed my paces hitting 7:00 minute miles.  There is no way that I’m in shape to hold that speed for a half marathon without some pain for days after, and I couldn’t afford to push like that during this race when I’m already behind on marathon training.

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I crossed the finish line in 1:41:53, a 3 minute PR! I ran a 7:47 pace which is  EXACTLY one minute slower than my last long run pace, so I correctly predicted my finish time two weeks ago! I finished in the top 6% of all the half runners, and 42nd in my age group!

Spring toward the finish line!

Sprinting toward the finish line!

Look at that Garmin stopping action!

Look at that Garmin stopping action!

After collecting my medal (confusing since they were handing out medals for both the half and the “mini” marathon in the same place…I didn’t want to get the wrong one!), I met Aaron a little ways down the finisher chute.  Turns out he’d had a great race and had similarly hit a PR time.  He finished in 1:29:11 (6:49 average pace!) in the top 1.6% of all runners! He was pretty happy with his performance, although he wished he’d run just 12 seconds faster so he could dip into the 1:28’s.

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All races have giant horses don't they?

Giant horse!

Another great aspect of Rock n Roll races is the post race concert.  After watching Marathon Legend Frank Shorter (1972 Olympic Gold Medalist and frenemy of Steve Prefontaine) present the awards to a group that included I think 3 people from New Mexico (GO NM PEEPS!), Andy Grammar took the stage.

Frank Shorter on the right

Frank Shorter on the right

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He’s pretty “up and coming,” but I’ve heard at least 2 of his songs on the radio, and he was really adorable and interactive.  Unlike the mean man from the B-52’s who performed last year.

It takes a brave man to jump into an audience of smelly women

It takes a brave man to jump into an audience of smelly women

Meanwhile I was feeling pretty sick for a couple of hours post race, but my muscles never tightened, and overall I felt far better energy-wise than I usually do after a half marathon.

We were even able to walk to Four Peaks, home of one of my favorite beers, the Kilt lifter for some post PR celebration!

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A couple of months ago I had wanted to run this in 1:35.  I obviously came nowhere near that, or even near the 1:40 window.  I think if I didn’t have Boston training to worry about, I could have pushed it hard enough to at least get into the 1:40’s if not down to 1:40, but I’m glad that I kept my paces in check instead of getting swept up in excitement.  Because of that, I only needed 1 day of recovery while Aaron is still dealing with tight muscles and Achilles issues.

DETAILS:

Finish time: 1:41:53

Average pace: 7:47

Placement: 747/13344 overall, 177th female, 42nd female in my age group

Pre-Race Fuel: Luna Bar, about 3 bites of banana, 2 Clif Bloks

Race Fuel: 1 GU at mile 7.7

Issues: stomach yuckiness, chaffing, slight calf tightness and ankle stiffness on the right side

The Race: Fast course, great volunteers, well organized, ample water stations and fueling options pre/during/post race, plenty of bells and whistles, BUT minimal crowd enthusiasm.

Overall Impression: Happy with my performance.  It wasn’t the PR of my dreams, but I don’t think I could have gone any faster and bounced back as easily.

The Bucket List That Didn’t Get Crossed Off

Way back last December, inspired by other bloggers, I decided to nix the idea of New Year’s Resolutions and instead create a 2012 bucket list of experiences I wanted to have before the year was up.

If you don’t follow through with resolutions, you have failed. Failure is sad. If you don’t follow through with bucket list items, nothing happens.

Nothing especially happens when you don’t get very many of your BL items in the “DONE” category like me.

I did do some things.  Just not as many as I would have wanted.

I’ve decided to keep this sucker running.  I’m working on my 2013 list with 25 new items to be revealed tomorrow.  The rollover from 2012 will stay on there with the hopes that I’ll eventually cross those items off the list.  And as the years progress, I’m sure I’ll establish a pretty decent list of “gotta do before I die which hopefully won’t happen for 100 years” items.

My actual level of BL completion is below, listed item by sad un-crossed off item.

Items categorized as UNSUCCESSFUL didn’t happen or even come close to happening.  Items listed as ATTEMPTED were at least approached with cheerful effort.  SUCCESSFUL items (the few and far between) were ones that I was able to cross off the list.

How Amy Fared on the 2012 Bucket List

1) Get Passport stamp #4: UNSUCCESSFUL.  Though the possibility is MUCH higher in 2013 thanks to some college graduating sisters and their graduation present vacations.  I’m hoping we get invited (hint, hint, Daddy).

2) Pay off credit card debt: UNSUCCESSFUL: I don’t want to talk about this.  At all.  However, still thankful that my credit card debt load is tiny compared to the average American.

3) Ride in a hot air balloon: UNSUCCESSFUL. Shit’s expensive. And I’m kind of scared to go with the cheapest company because I don’t want to die.

4) Run a full marathon: SUCCESSFUL!!! Definitely a lifetime bucket list item.  AND I think I get bonus points for the BQ.  That was also a HUGE bucket list item that I didn’t bother adding to the 2012 list because I didn’t think it would happen for many many years.

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5) Run a race every month: ATTEMPTED.  I ran 10 road races and 1 virtual race, so I missed it by 1. I think doing the smaller ones helped me get better at racing, plus I snagged some age group awards, but the more longer races I do, the less excited I am about paying $10 per mile in a 5-k with no medal and a sad cotton t-shirt.  Sorry.

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6) Compete in a triathlon: UNSUCCESSFUL.  But I think I’m more prepared mentally to take on this challenge in 2013.

7) Learn to swim: ATTEMPTED.  I think I’m closer than I was this time last year.

8) Read my way through Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of all time:  UNSUCCESSFUL. I knew this would take more than 1 year.  I’ve read some books that I hadn’t heard of that I ended up  loving. But I’ve also been stuck on the 180 pager The Souls of Black Folk since August. I read 7 books this year (on the list anyway…I think there were 2 that I’ve picked up that weren’t on the list) which is better than the 1 I read in 2011.

9) Go on a White Water Rafting weekend expedition: UNSUCCESSFUL.  I’m starting to rethink this one.  I was pretty bored after a couple of hours of kayaking down the river in September. Could I really spend 4 days cold and wet with sore shoulders followed by sleeping on the ground for 4 nights?

10) Start dressing my age:  ATTEMPTED. I think some progress has been made. I tried to avoid stores where the majority of salespeople are in high school and I haven’t worn flip flops since it got cold out. I did however walk around Chicago dressed like this, so whateves. Although, maybe wearing black stretchy pants IS dressing my age. Sigh.

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11) Visit a new state: SUCCESSFULGot to experience Illinois in all of it’s finest! And by finest, I mean Chicago.

12) Send a birthday card in the mail to people on their birthdays. SUCCESSFUL. I did this at least twice.

13) Learn how to use my camera and take awe-inspiring photos: ATTEMPTED. I started looking up tutorials on Pinterest.  I’m still not Ansel Adams, but I least I know how to change shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, even if I have no idea what any of them mean. I did get a bokeh photo in of the Christmas tree!

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14) Relearn French: UNSUCCESSFUL. Although I’m listening to the French Cafe station on Pandora right now, so maybe I’m picking up a little bit? However, one of the potential graduation trips might require that I learn, at the very least, how to say, “I’ll take another glass of wine!” in order to get around (“plus de vin, s’il vous plaît!”).

15) Go horseback riding on the beach: SUCCESSFUL. It was fun.

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16) Write a novel: ATTEMPTED: I totally started one! I am 5 pages in.  At least I have the idea and the characters and the general plot line.  Now that the gingerbread house is done, I’ll have more time to devote.

17) Buy a new car: SUCCESSFULAnd I’m in love.  Aside from the fact that I spend twice as much money on gas. 

18) Do a massive house cleaning and reorganization: ATTEMPTED: I think this will happen pretty soon into the new year.  I’ve cleaned out a few closets and drawers.

19) Take the GRE: UNSUCCESSFUL.  I do want a masters degree, but at this point, I don’t know if it would be incredibly helpful or financially responsible.  And I still kinda don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

20) Go to a live music festival. UNSUCCESSFUL. I think this will require choosing one and planning a year in advance.  But with all of these potential vacations and Boston which is quickly shaping up to be as expensive as an all-inclusive week in the Caribbean, I don’t know if this is the perfect year for it.

21) Choose an NFL Team to cheer for: SUCCESSFUL. Though, now I’m questioning my decision.  How can a team go from winning the Super Bowl to scoring once in two weeks???

22) Win something (anything) in a radio contest: UNSUCCESSFUL.  I seriously tried though.  I even put in for a pair of Uggs last week.  I hate Uggs.

23) Invest in a piece of artwork: UNSUCCESSFUL.  Though I have decided that I want an abstract painting with warm colors.  So now I can be on the lookout!

24) Finish a Tough Mudder: UNSUCCESSFUL, mostly because it didn’t happen in Albuquerque like we thought it was going to, however it is scheduled for my birthday in 2013.  I’m rethinking this one because thanks to blog land and some detailed recaps, I’m not sure that I would have the best time.  I mean, cool that you are tough enough to do it, but it sounds mostly miserable. And I could think of better ways to spend a birthday.

25) Figure out what in the world I’m doing with my life and take steps to get there: UNSUCCESSFUL: but 2013 WILL be my year.  I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I still feel like I’m just in a holding area until my life really starts.  Considering I’m about 1/3 of the way through life already (if I’m lucky), I want to at least feel like I’m on the right path.

So, over the course of the year, I successfully completed 7 out of 25 bucket list items.  Here’s hoping that more items get conquered in 2013!

Are you creating a bucket list for 2013? 

Chicago Photo Shoot

Last post on Chicago, I promise!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that in lieu of any shopping, Aaron and I decided to take professional photos while we were in Chicago.  I actually got the idea from the blog of a couple who hired a photographer to document their Paris vacation, and I thought wow how cool to have vacation photos that are actually not terrible! I mean, usually we have to find a nice stranger who doesn’t look like they’ll run away with the camera, and then you never know what you’re going to get (and I feel bad asking for a “do-over” when our heads are cut off).

I googled “Chicago wedding photographers”  and contacted my favorite one.  Well, they were way out of our “vacation photo” price range, but they went out of their way to find someone within our budget (gotta love Midwest hospitality!).  This brought us to Lane Christiansen of Willow Lane Photography.

She was so adorable and super sweet (bonus…she emailed me a few days later and said she had decided to sign up for her first marathon!) and is actually getting married herself this upcoming weekend.  I can’t recommend her enough if you are looking for a photographer in the Chicago area.

We met up with Lane after the marathon expo on Friday (it was FREEZING), and I asked her to go crazy, be creative, and basically take the reigns and show off her city’s architecture during our session.  This craziness included standing in the middle of State Street and taking a water taxi down the Chicago River and crashing a shoot of a bride so we could get the pictures Lane wanted (it was a post-wedding shoot, so it’s not like we ruined her wedding day or anything).

We are really awkward models.  I forgot how weird it is to stand there while someone shoots continuously.

We also got yells of congratulations presumably because people thought we were taking our engagement photos.  I won’t pretend that it wasn’t fun to get all the attention, but now I want another wedding…3 year vow renewal maybe??? Daddy?….

After weeks of anticipation, our picture disc came in the mail yesterday!

We got well over 500 photos, but here are my favorites:

Race Shout-Outs and The Non-Food Part of Chicago

Race Shout-Outs

Kelly is going for her BQ this weekend in Detroit! Go, Kelly, go!

Allison’s husband, JP is running the Fall 50 (as in, 50 miles).  And I think I’m cool when I run 26!

Stephanie is running the Army 10 miler this weekend!

And a VERY special shout out to my dad who is running his first half marathon this weekend at Duke City! Just keeping runnnnnning!!!

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Two weeks after the fact, and I’m STILL posting pictures of Chicago.

LOVE the iPhone Panorama feature!

But really, it is THAT cool.  San Francisco will always be my favorite, but Chicago sure tried hard (granted, we weren’t there in the dead of winter…I might not have liked it so much then).

And I know that vacation photo posts are not all that interesting, especially for you folks that live in/around Chicago.  But we took about 500 pictures and they want to be shared with the world!

SIDENOTE: in lieu of souvenirs, we decided to update our “family” photos by hiring a local photographer to take pictures of us in front of local landmarks.  The last time we took professional photos was 3 years ago for our engagement session in downtown Albuquerque, and while downtown Albuquerque is…uh…there, Chicago was too beautiful of a place to NOT take pictures.  As awesome as I am with my Cannon (and by awesome I mean I use auto setting and “no flash” when I’m feeling risky), I wanted to make sure our vacation photos of this fantastic city didn’t all suck.  The professional photos are still being processed, but among them are photos of us in front of the Chicago Theater, in front of The Bean, around Millennium Park, and on a water taxi.  So you won’t see any of that here today.

We stayed at the W Hotel City Center which was a fun place.  They had Bliss bath products, an awesome concierge team, and a lot of little details that made for a fun stay.  For example, they changed the elevator mats 3 times a day to greet you appropriately.  They also had an Acura MDX that would transport you around within the area provided you listened to Acura commercials and provided feedback (I didn’t get off any easier by telling them that I already drive an MDX).

The Architecture Boat Tour that our concierge arranged was awesome! Not only did we get cookies and Starbucks, but a member of the architecture society was our guide, so we learned a lot about the history of the city.

The home of the Chicago Tribune is a spectacular landmark of a building called (appropriately enough) The Tribune Tower that was built in the 1920’s in downtown Chicago. My great great uncle, Rene designed the ornamentation and gargoyles for this building! It was really cool to see the architectural contributions of a family member in person. One of his other works: the Atlas in Rockefeller Center.

Both the Field Museum and Art Institute were worth the visit.  The Field Museum feels like what a museum would have been like at the turn of the century.  Before people had TV’s or computers, pretty much the only exposure they had to exotic plants and animals was in museums.

The Art institute housed such famous works as American Gothic and Sunday Afternoon at the Island of Grande Jatte among thousands and thousands of others.  It was overwhelming.  Also, Bank of America will comp your admission to several museums across the country on the first weekend of every month if you have a credit/debit card from them.  WE GOT INTO THE MUSEUM FOR FREE! I hadn’t ever heard of this program, but I think I will be taking advantage of it.  A full list of participating museums can be found HERE. 

I LOVE this photo! Aaron, having a stare down with the niece.

And we just walked around, taking in the sites of the city.  Chicago is really a walking city, so I had to put on my happy smile as I limped around town in the days before the marathon!  I also packed a lot of cute outfits, but ended up wearing workout clothes and my running shoes for most of the trip! The “L” was a really efficient, cheap mode of public transportation (all the locals said it is super safe too).

We had a wonderful vacation, even though there were a billion other things we would have liked to have seen (Wrigley Field, The Marshall Fields/Macy building, more mafia stuff, the Shedd).  Chicago is a beautiful, clean, and exciting city and we hope to get back there eventually!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

Weekly Race Shout-Outs and My Feelings on Boston

FIRST: HUGE AMENDMENT to yesterday’s Chicago Marathon Recap.  I accidentally added 10 minutes to Aaron’s finish time.  He actually came in at 3:27:21.  If he had come in at 3:37 I would have passed him, and I was not so focused as to leave my poor distressed husband on the side of the road just so I could BQ.  Goals are fun. Being a supportive wife is a top priority.  But non-issue since he came in more than 6 minutes ahead.  Sorry, Aaron for making people think you were so slow.

Also, the recap has a few photos added to it that came from Aaron’s phone.  They really aren’t exciting (I guess my mind is somewhere else pre-race).

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

Jen who is going for a Half PR in Wine Country!

Christina is running a half in Baltimore!

Julie is earning her Tiffany’s Necklace at Nike Women’s

Laura is going for a big 10 miler PR!

Good luck to you ladies and everyone else racing!

**********************************

(I realize that this post will probably make me sound like a jerk).

On Monday, we were sitting in our Bacon and Beer Bar (Paddy Long’s), and I saw a message come through from Julie letting me know that Boston registration was open.

Confusion.

On Sunday evening when I went to the site, registration was closed because the max field had been reached.  I actually wasn’t too heartbroken.

But Boston made a mistake that they blamed on an IT issue.  The max field had never been reached (well, until yesterday.  It is really closed now).

But here it was, a renewed chance to run Boston in 2013.  I sat in this bar deep in conversation with Aaron in tears, trying to figure out if I really wanted to register.

HUH?

But Amy, the whole point of this blog for the last 4 months was for you to qualify for Boston. What the heck is going on here?

Well, I realized something about myself and my goals on Monday.

I made the goal to qualify truthfully independently from actually running the marathon.  I mean, I did want to run it, kind of, but more than anything I wanted to run an awesome marathon.  I wanted to reach for the stars and attempt the impossible because it isn’t something that I get to do very often if ever.

Also, at the time I didn’t think I’d get in until 2014.  2014 is a long time from now.  And running Boston hasn’t been a lifelong dream.  I only found out about it 2 years ago, and I only started caring about 10 months ago.  But I wanted to be really good at something, and Boston qualifying times seem to be the standard of what constitutes a really good runner (self-satisfaction just never does it for me).

As part of the pre-marathon freak out, having to register for 2013 was put on my plate.  But, I didn’t think registration would still be open by Sunday afternoon, AND I really didn’t think I’d come in under 3:40.  It was something else to stress about like tornadoes (Chicago is in the Midwest) and the apocalypse.

I was relieved when registration was full on Sunday.

But then, on Monday evening I faced the decision. And this is when all the emotion came loose.

This is not how I wanted it to be.  I am supposed to run Boston with Aaron.

Running has become a source of personal enjoyment, and I’ve realized that even on the blog I talk about Aaron less and less (he’s still here all the time by the way).  But without a doubt, the whole reason I run is for our marriage.  It is our thing to do together.  I know some of you know this story, but after Aaron and I had been dating for a few weeks, he asked me to be his girlfriend and at the same time asked if I would run a half marathon with him because he wanted me to understand his lifestyle and his passions and interests.  And now, 4 years later, running and active living is really our thing.  The thought of training for and running the world’s most prestigious amateur race without him literally brought me to tears.

So, we had a serious discussion in the Bacon/Beer bar.  I could use my time for 2014 still.  But that is a long time from now. Who knows what could happen in our lives between now and then.  I may only ever get this one chance at Boston and I’d hate to think I passed it up if something happens in those many months.  Also, just because my 1 minute and 5 seconds below BQ got me in this year doesn’t mean it would get me in next year.  People are out for revenge after a hot spring racing season.  Plus, the chances of Boston hitting temperatures like that again are like 1 in a million.  And people are getting faster.  And there are so many new runners kicking butt.  I would hate to run a qualifier and then NOT get in.

Plus, we had to realistically assess Aaron’s ability to come in at 3:04:49 in the next 11 months (and can we just discuss for a minute how much crazier men’s qualifying times are?  I think I got off pretty easily).  Possible? Yes.  I think he easily had the ability to come in at a 3:10 even after missing a month of our training due to injury.  And he is out to kill a marathon if it’s the last thing he does.  But there is no guarantee.

And on top of all this is this horrible, nagging feeling of guilt.

I don’t deserve this.

I feel like Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls when she’s giving her prom queen speech and breaks the tiara.

Some people spend years working very hard to reach a BQ.  People run marathon after marathon in an attempt to run Boston only to be unsuccessful.  Most people who want this will never get the chance. And what? I waltz in here like a cocky B and do it in one try.  I’m talking people who’ve run their whole lives and people who could run faster than me any day.  Real runners who give up beer for 4 months or who never miss a workout during training.  NOT FAIR.  Not fair to the people who have worked so much harder for so much longer just to run a marathon with a unicorn as it’s mascot (for the record, I really like unicorns).

I’m not looking for affirmation of my hard work and dedication.  I know I trained well and pushed myself and made sacrifices and haven’t slept in on a weekend in months.

But I can’t help feeling like I didn’t pay my dues.

So, if you’re keeping track…I talked non stop about qualifying, made it my obsession for 4 months, QUALIFIED, got in a year ahead of schedule and I’m not happy about it???  Royal jerkdom.

I decided to register anyway, and I ‘m trying to make myself be more excited about it.  The least I can do is be appreciative of this opportunity and go out and run hard for the people who may never get the chance.  And I’m sure after the initial shock has worn off, I will be talking non-stop about how crazy excited I am to run Boston.

And please let me know about Boston (the city and the race if you’ve done it).  I literally know NOTHING about Boston aside from what I’ve seen in Good Will Hunting and The Town.

ANYWAY.  Thanks for letting me share that with you.  As much fun as crying over my bacon platter was.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  CRUSH your long runs and races!

I Mean, a Bacon and Beer Bar?!?!

Thoughts on my brain at the moment (all marathon related, naturally…as if I could be expected to have other thoughts right now.  Oh, aside from the fact that Christmas is 12 weeks minus 1 day away.  That’s pretty exciting!).

1. I was made aware of a bridge somewhere around mile 25 on the Chicago course.  This bridge is higher than the road, so there will be a slight hill going up.  I’m prepping myself to power up that little hill right now.  When I was running the US Half in San Francisco I was on track to PR at mile 12, and then a little hill came up out of nowhere that literally crushed my spirit to the point that I ended up finishing more than 2 minutes behind where I was going to finish. I don’t want this to happen on Sunday.  You better watch it, little hill.

{San Francisco elevation profile: the little bump at the end ruined me}

2. Boston registration is still open.  Assuming most people in the last few weeks have registered immediately after Sunday qualifying races (i.e. not waiting until the Wednesday after qualifying when spots could be going fast), my guess is registration will remain open for races this weekend.  I’m not holding my breath.  Chicago WILL fill it up if it doesn’t fill up prior.  But I almost want to try extra hard to qualify for 2013. At the same time, I kind of want the spots to fill by Friday so I can have that added stress lifted off my shoulders. I mean, I’m not above limping my dead self to a computer to register right after crossing the finish line, but I don’t want to be that person necessarily.  This is all assuming I actually qualify in the first place.

3.  COLD.  Likely 36 degrees when we arrive at the race.  Yes, I know I complained so much about the heat all summer.  But having to stand for an hour or so in 36 degrees sounds sad. Another consideration: frozen GU is extra thick.

4. I’m really looking forward to sleeping in once we get to Chicago.  I haven’t been getting an adequate amount of sleep this week.

5. I did 4X400’s for our workout last night.  Oh 400’s how I’ve missed you.  Looking forward to traveling back to half marathon land after this race is done!

6. Aaron just found a place called Paddy Long’s, the Best Bacon and Beer Bar.  “Must Do” doesn’t even begin to describe it!

7. I secretly hope to run into SkinnyRunner.  I wish she made herself more stalkable. But then I wonder if it would be really weird to go up and talk to her.  I mean, she isn’t like, a real celebrity unless you read running blogs.  Maybe I’ll just take a picture on the sly and then post it on here.  This feels significantly less weird.

8. In the event that you would like to spend Sunday morning tracking my progress, you can sign up to do so at http://tadpole.textingforward.com/portal/tf_marathon_login_social?pvRaceId=1481. Incidentally, my name actually is Amy Lavender.  If you don’t, rest assured I’ll update everyone on a daily basis for at least a week.  Which is about as long as I’ll wear my finisher’s medal.

9. I can’t decide if taper time is a hypochondriac’s dream come true or worst nightmare.  (I am a hypochondriac).  I have plenty to be anxious about: sore throats, phantom injuries that come from nowhere, congested lungs, upset stomach.  But, this is a little hard to handle.  Too much potential, life threatening sickness!

10. Inspirational Quotes of the day:  It really isn’t my style to quote the Bible to strangers. To each his own.  But I found this the other day and I thought it was so appropriate and applicable to anyone regardless of beliefs:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

I hope you  have an inspired Wednesday! BREATHE! (talking to myself right now!)

Weekly Race Shout Outs and 33 + 2 Questions

Um, Hello Race Season!

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

Shantarella who is running HER FIRST MARATHON in South Africa!

Kelly who is running the Rock n Roll Denver Half this weekend!

Lindsey is running her FIRST half marathon this weekend!

Allison who is running a half marathon with her myTeamTriumph!

Hyedi who is running a 5-K this weekend (and is hopefully feeling better!)

GOOD LUCK!

*****************************************************

1) First: TWO WEEKS AND TWO DAYS!!! Oh my goodness, I can’t even handle it.

2) I admit…after the first game, I was pretty worried.  I asked Aaron if I could retract my decision.  BUT, I’m at peace now.  I mean, it takes me a few miles to warm-up, so why wouldn’t it take a team a few games to warm-up?  GO GIANTS!!!

3) So, aside from just more of the same running recaps (boring this week since the taper), I’m fresh out of things to say until next week when I anticipate a daily freak out session that you may have to help me through.  Should be fun.  But, until then, I thought I’d catch up on some Leibster Questions.

The lovely ladies Lindsey, Allison, and Shantarella each nominated me for the award (THANK YOU!), and provided the following questions to be answered. Incidentally, all three are up there racing this weekend!

Allison’s Questions

1. Why did you start blogging? I started out blog stalking.  Then friends started getting their own blogs.  I was like, I want a blog too! I posted for about 9 months before I figured out what I wanted to write about.

2. What three words best describe you? Short, caffeinated, competitive

3. What is your favorite comfort food? Sweet and sour pork.  And cookies. I’m a sucker for cookies.

4. What are the top three things on your Bucket List? Go to Europe (Like seriously.  There is this whole amazing continent full of art and wine, and I’ve never been there.  NOT COOL), Get Interviewed on The Today Show (I’m not above creating a crazy YouTube video to make this happen), Run the Boston Marathon (preferably BEFORE I’m 80).

5. What is one skill or sport you wish you were really good at? I wish I was good at any sport.  I really suck at sports. But I really wish I understood the financial realm and economics. Sloan on Newsroom helps me, but I’m still a deer in headlights when people start talking about advanced concepts.

6. What is one goal you would like to achieve this next year?: I’ll let you know AFTER the marathon.

7. Five things in your gym bag or purse are _____? Kleenex, lip gloss, wallet, pen, cell phone (this is my bag…I don’t actually carry a gym bag…that’s what husbands are for!).

8. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? A doctor.  And then a Disney Imagineer.  Not even remotely close to either.

9. Where is your favorite vacation destination? San Francisco (now that I don’t live 30 miles away), and Disneyland/ Disney World.  I do love me a nice beach though.

10. What was your favorite childhood TV show? Hmmm…Full House, and Muppet Babies. And of course World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

11. If you could change careers, what would you do? Best selling author/professor.  The author of Jarhead taught at my college, and he’d fly in every week from his home in L.A. I could deal with that lifestyle I think.

Shantarella’s Questions:

1. What is your biggest achievement ? Endurance running.  In a few weeks, I will definitely say “running a marathon.”  I truthfully never had to try very hard to be successful.  This is probably the first thing in my life that I’ve actually worked my butt off for.

2. What is the best thing about where you live ? FOOD.  Green chile is amazing.

3. What is your favourite beverage? Water! And wine.

4. What was the last book you read ? Still reading The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois. Non-fiction is hard to read when you’re using it as a bedtime book.

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Hopefully living somewhere near the ocean or water

6. Whats your favourite blog? My own!

7. What would be your dream job? See # 11 above

8. Cupcakes or Cocktails ? BOTH.  Seriously, Shantarella….what kind of question is that????

9. Where would you like to go on your next holiday? I NEED to get to Europe. But first up, Chicago!

10. Whats your favourite Disney movie? This is like asking me to choose between children….hmmm…The Little Mermaid.  And Aladdin. And Peter Pan.  And Wall-E. Just, all of them.  I think that’s the safest answer.

11. What car do you drive? A black SUV that I’m in love with!

Lindsey’s Questions:

1. What is your favorite inspirational quote or motto? Dream as if you’ll live forever.  Live as if you’ll die today.

2. What is the #1 played song on your iPod? Hmmm…I haven’t kept track in awhile.  If I had to guess, I’d say Don’t Stop Believing. I love Journey so much it hurts.

3. What’s your least favorite chore? DISHES.  I HATE dishes.  I’d rather clean toilets.

4. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Play the violin. And I’d like to be able to talk intelligently about economics.

5. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? My name was SUPPOSED to be Aimee, the French version of Amy, so I’d start there.  I also really like first names that should be last names or names that make me sound like I play Lacrosse at Harvard.

6. What story does your family always tell about you? Either the pigeon that wouldn’t leave me alone when I was learning to ride a bike, or when I sped down the mountain on skis and had to wait for my dad and the bottom of the hill (I was like 7).  My sisters like to make up stories about how mean I was to them and I how I did things like lock them in the car.  I think they’re being overdramatic.

7. What was the first concert you ever went to? Hmmmm……I think Pavarotti.  He actually came to Albuquerque to perform maybe 11 years ago and my family is a bunch of opera crazies.  It was a big deal.

8. Do you prefer summer or winter? SUMMER! Although, running in summer is not fun.  I hate being cold.

9. How did you get in to blogging? See above

10. What is something you have always wanted to try? Backpacking through Europe.  I’m kind of past the right age now though. And I can appreciate the value of a comfortable bed and my own bathroom.

11. The best part of waking up is? LIVING!

AMY’ S QUESTIONS for everyone:

1) What is your favorite social medium?

After all this time, Facebook is still my favorite.  I love Pinterest but I liked it more before it was overrun with weight loss tips and “pin now, read later” captions.

2) What are you doing this weekend?  

The last 20 miler.  Unless something goes very wrong.  And then I’ll finally get to really taper too!

Have a fantastic weekend! 

The Start of Taper Madness and Outfit!

Thanks again for all of the encouragement on Monday!  Getting sick this weekend was not the end of the world, and I’m trying to remember that.  Initially I was disappointed that things didn’t go according to plan.  But all is not lost…YET, anyway!

We’re both feeling much better (Aaron is still pretty sneezy, but he is likely also experiencing the allergies that come with the fall season).

We ran 2 and a half moderately paced miles on Monday and our “tapered” version of a hill workout yesterday.  The tapered hill workout felt way too easy to be real.  In half marathon land I would have not been a fan.  But now, it just seemed like we needed to be doing more. Aaron said I had a look of determination as I ran up each set (actually, he said something more along the lines of I wanted to make that hill my bitch).  I guess better late than never to take this marathon seriously? Is this what taper madness is all about?

Since we’re putting in less mileage, we are really focusing on eating clean because putting on extra weight right now will not help us go faster.  Dinner is strictly grilled fish and veggies for the next couple of weeks (YUM…).  This weekend was an “I’m sick so I’m gonna eat whatever I want” situtation, plus, we had a few nights of birthday celebration dinners, so it feels good to eat foods that don’t make my stomach revolt.  Not that I love fish.  I HATE fish.  But it is a necessary evil. And hopefully it will help come marathon day.

I also picked out my mommy-sponsored race day outfit! I’m going with the Lulu pace setter skirt (aka business in the front, party in the back).  I accidentally picked up the “long” version, but I think it turned out for the best because the shorts underneath are longer and don’t ride up. As a rather short person, the long skirt might make me look like a 1950’s cheerleader, but at 26.6 miles, I’d rather not be a chaffed up mess. I also chose the race length cool racer back (shorter than the normal version).  I took both out for a test run, and everything seems to hold up! If I bomb on race day, it won’t be because of my outfit! Thanks, mom!

The skirt has 3 gel pockets which I am happy about! In general, I tend to fuel less often than the every 6 miles/every 45 minutes that is recommended because sometimes (always?) squeezing that little gel down my dry throat just isn’t even appealing.  My plan is to take a Clif Shot at miles 7, 14, and 21.  They do hand out Clif shots along the course and bananas at some point, but I don’t want to risk somehow missing those stations and then not fueling.

In other news, we got our Chicago Marathon “confirmation tickets” in the mail on Monday! This included our bib number and corral information along with everything we need to know about Marathon weekend.  It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever gotten in the mail (close behind college acceptance letters)… and I may have sat there and memorized the booklet! I know I’m stressing and freaking out more than a person should over this marathon, but I am really and truly unbelievably excited. This is really happening, and in just a few weeks, for better or for worse, I will have crossed the 26.2 finish line!

I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!