26.2 – Here Goes Nothing!

I’m writing this blog on my phone from my car at the start of the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO. My brain did that typical ‘freak out about oversleeping and wake up too early’ thing this morning.

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I signed up for this race on a whim and I think it has me more nervous than races I’ve spent months preparing and training for. I guess that makes sense, since, ya know, I haven’t spent months preparing for this one.

This race is considered by some to be in the top 10 toughest road race marathons in the country because of the six major climbs along the way. Plus, temps average around 80-90, with humidity just as high. (Today’s high: 83)

I am approaching the race as just a long training run and not trying to set any records. That’s hard, because lately that is what I have been doing! This course has very limited course support, which I’m not used to for this distance. I like to be able to count on my precut bananas and m&ms along the way. Today it will just be me and about 200 others, with a handful of aid stations speckling the 26 mile course.

I did convince a few friends to come out along the way, including my girlfriend Lauren who will be at Mile 21 to help me through the last of the hills. At the finish I’ve talked my other friend Zahra into running across the finish with me too!

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It finishes in Downtown Columbia, which is where I did my undergrad. I have exactly enough time to enjoy a few slices of Shakespeare’s Pizza, shower, and then be Madison bound. I think the 8 hour drive home will honestly be the hardest part of the day!

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Well, I have killed enough time that it is finally time to go mingle with the other runners before the gun goes off. Wish me luck!

Goals for Getting Faster – Making it Happen!

You know how on The Biggest Loser the contestants just get to work out all of the time? (Ok, maybe “get to” is the wrong word.) Well that is how my summer has been, except that I enjoy 100% of it. Now, I haven’t lost any weight because I’ve offset all my activity with avocados, but I have had an amazing time getting my heart rate up and endorphins flowing!

I run to eat avocado on everything. That and to eat frozen yogurt daily.

I run to eat avocado on everything. That and to eat frozen yogurt daily.

In Madison there is no reason not to be active every day. There are bike paths EVERYWHERE, I am a college student again and have access to a lap pool, and there are tons of opportunities for free workout activities – from yoga to walks in the arboretum.

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Since I have been on FUNemployment for the last six weeks I’ve decided to stay busy bettering my mind and body as much as possible. As I mentioned, I’ve made the move from strictly running to branching out a little more – including biking, swimming, yoga, and also as of recently – weight lifting.

And let me tell you something – it is paying off, big time.

I am getting stronger.

Just had this mind-blowingly kick ass run today! Maybe it was the pre-run coffee or the tunes, but whatever it was it worked!

Just had this mind-blowingly kick ass run today! Maybe it was the pre-run coffee or the tunes, but whatever it was it worked!

I’m getting faster. 

Best run of my life. I didn't even know this was possible.

Best run of my life. I didn’t even know this was possible.

Oh yeah, and I’m getting tanner: BONUS!

And I love it! I love having helmet hair or smelling faintly of chlorine. I love wanting to cry at the sight of stairs after leg day in the gym. (Ok, OK – I’ve done ONE leg day. I’m far from a regular yet.)

I’ve been noticing that my pace is getting quite a bit faster with running. I am not sure if the cross training is to attribute, or I am pushing myself mentally more. Either way, there are no excuses not to keep it up.

So I’m setting some goals.

Next weekend I am doing the Madison Mini-Marathon. My goal is to PR, which I don’t think should be too difficult given the success of my recent runs. My PR pace right now is 8:49/mi. I’d love to get into the 1:53’s with my half marathon time.

  • Goal #1 is to PR
  • Goal #2 is to break 1:54.

That’s a huge jump from the 1:56ish I ran at the Indy Mini-Marathon in May.

My next goal is for the Quad Cities Marathon in September. The last marathon I ran was the Mississippi Blues Marathon way back in January. (Has it been eight months already?!) but my PR was at the Marine Corps Marathon in October where I ran a 4:13:48 or a pace of 9:40/mi.

  • Goal #1 is to PR
  • Goal #2 is to break 4:10 – or roughly a 9:30 min/mi
  • Goal #3 is to break 4:00????!! (Probably wishful thinking for Quad Cities, but I’m writing it down anyway.)

I think goals 1 & 2 are definitely do-able. Again, it is going to be more mental strength than physical strength that will push me toward achieving any of them. I know I can physically handle it – I just need to not whimp out and psych myself out.

I am anxious to see what my workout life is going to be like when grad school starts (less than two weeks away) but until then it’s two-a-day workouts galore!

What has helped your pace improve?
Have you ever had a surprise kick-ass run?
Do you have any goals for the fall season?

Touristy Tuesday: Chicago, Edition (Version 3.0)

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(So obviously I’m a little belated on these final Touristy Tuesday blogs from the road, especially given that the job has been done for a month! Oh well. Better late then never!) 

This half of the job Chicago has been an interesting destination to be in with the Wienermobile. The first time was tourist trap overload. I went on my own make-shift Ferris Bueller adventure and our off days were jam-packed with the quintessential Chicago experience. When Eliot and I came back to Chicago in March it was the total opposite. I don’t think I even did a Touristy Tuesday post that week because there wasn’t too much to write.

Well, I guess we didn’t do nothing. We did take the Wienermobile through a Wendy’s drive-thru. Check that off the bucketlist!

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And we did decorate the Wienermobile for St. Patty’s day, which was kind of awesome.

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Although, it took a ton of work.

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Our last stop in Chicago fell somewhere in the middle. This week we did less items that might be featured on a “Top 5 Things to do in Chicago” list, and did Chicago more like a local – mostly from the help of some locals!

On our first off day I headed to the City Winery in the west loop with my friend David. When I found out I would be coming back to Chicago and let David know he suggested we check out this urban winery he had heard about.

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He had me at winery, but the urban part made it sound even cooler. For spending the first seven months on the road in the Southwest – wine country – it is probably surprising that I haven’t been to a single winery.

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The City Winery ended up being more than just a cool venue. While looking into it David found out about an event series called The Dinner Party, described as a dinner conversation with three national or Chicago celebrities and a well known local chef. “It’s an evening filled with food, wine, chocolate, and various performances.” This probably doesn’t paint the picture I’m going for, so I’ll just put it bluntly – three really cool people plus a portly chef essentially sit up on stage and chat while sharing a meal and just talk about cool stories and the neat things they do. There is an element of engagement as well. It is broadcasted on the local public access TV station and then people watching or members of the audience can tweet in questions for the guests or comments using the hashtag #thedinnerparty.

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I was really looking forward to it because it sounded like an event right up my alley. Interesting people and wine! It got even better when David and I walked in the door and I didn’t have time to even take in the extravagant lobby because I spotted a familiar face instantly. Adam Hickey – an old Hotdogger! Adam is a Mizzou grad and Hotdogger, one who I just keep running into. I first ran into him in Chicago the day I found I got the Wienermobile job, then again at a bar in Columbia, and now again in Chicago. We’ve also hung out at the Hotdogger Reunion and in Chicago our first time in town.

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Adam was at The Dinner Party with his friend Stephanie, who moonlights as a Chicago food blogger. Since I’m an amateur blogger, talking to her was just as much fun as the Chicago celebrities. You can read her post about the evening, which does far better justice to the event than I could, here. 

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The night was absolutely incredible. I felt like I was watching an NPR broadcast, but it was even better since the food was so good and the company was great! At times it even felt like a graduation commencement speech, about seizing opportunities and making the most of your life. Perhaps being almost one year out of college exactly, but I found it motivating and invigorating, perhaps a little determined to one day end up on that stage telling interesting stories myself!

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After the cultural experience the night before, the next day at work was a 180 and entirely all-things silly at a Bologna Birthday Party. Birthdays are typically something we don’t do, unless it is on our own time. This was a special exception and once we arrived Eliot and I understood why. HOLY BOLOGNA! As we turned the Wienermobile down this family’s block it was like stepping into a magazine, the decorations were Pinterest-perfect! Oscar Mayer themed everything – from their outfits, to the Bologna sandwich bags they created.

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We brought some birthday gifts ourselves – more than 50 packages of the lunch meat, which were stacked high, overshadowing the cake.

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Talk about a great day at work. I got a hot dog balloon hat and hung out high fiving little kids all day! The couple is from Iowa, and they had speciality Sterzings potato chips brought in, so Eliot and I snacked our way through those, bologna sandwiches, and of course we had some hot dogs too.

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Even though I would barely call that a work day, since we really just hung out and ate a bunch of homemade snacks, the next day Eliot and I had an off day. One thing I had not done on any of our trips into Chicago was go to the beach. Hello Lake Michigan!

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Eliot passed on the invitation, so David and I headed out for some sun followed by frozen yogurt. Talk about the perfect off day!

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That night Eliot and I drove up to spend the night in Madison. We had an early video shoot the next morning and figured it would be easier just to come the night before. On the trip up we stopped for dinner in Rockford, IL – where I went to high school. We had dinner with Maggie, my oldest friend who has known me since middle school. Since she has known me since the awkward teenage years I was hesitant to introduce her to Eliot. Luckily, she kept most of my embarrassing moments to herself and we had a good time at dinner.

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Maggie’s sister, Mari, just had a son and he came along as well. Baby Emmett was adorable. Believe it or not, I had never held an infant until that week. I think it went pretty well, and by that my standards are pretty low and I just mean that I didn’t drop him. He was pretty darn cute though!

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The video shoot in Madison was a blast. It was for a meat convention coming to town, so Oscar Mayer partnered with University of Wisconsin and basically we spent the entire day hanging out with Bucky the Badger.

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When we got back to Chicago that night I was met by my friend Sean from Mizzou (you know himwe run together) who had come up for a weekend away before finals.

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Eliot, his friend Michael, Sean, and I all went out for drinks Friday night at a place called Revolution Bar. It was cool to see more of the Chicago nightlife side, which Eliot and I haven’t gotten too much of this half. The next morning Sean did what we always do when we get together, go for a run!

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Saturday night Eliot, Sean and I all headed to Tinley Park, which is a music venue on the South side of Chicago for a Brad Paisley concert. Eliot and I were pretty excited about this, both being big fans. Sean, on the other hand, was not but tagged along anyway. The concert actually featured Lee Brice (who Eliot and I saw in Kansas City) along with a few others. We felt like we got our bang for our buck there. Brad’s actual performance was a little disappointing however. Don’t get me wrong – I loved it and had a blast – but he didn’t play some of our favorites!

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It was fun watching these girls run around in short shorts when it was 50 degrees outside! I love growing up and not feeling the need to be super cute all the time, forsaking being adorable for being practical. Remember the days when it was uncool to wear a coat? That just seems so silly looking back!

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Saturday was a late night and Sunday was an early morning. With about five hours of sleep, Eliot and I headed downtown for the Race for the Cure in Grant Park.

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This was easily the coolest event I’ve been to on the road. We were parked right next to the stage and I can honestly say all I did for four hours was dance. I just spent the day having fun, being silly, and getting absolutely anyone I could to join in. I was glad I had so much fun because otherwise I might have spent time being jealous that I wasn’t out there running with everyone else!

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Since it was a race, the work day was done by 11:00. We were already in downtown Chicago, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a little exploring. When I was in Chicago in January I went to the Art Institute, but a week after my visit they opened an enormous Picasso exhibit.

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It just so happened that Sunday was the last day of the exhibit – perfect timing! Eliot drove the Wienermobile back, but I stayed in the city to check out the show. The line was tremendous, everyone trying to get in before it closed, but it was worth it. I am by no means an art connoisseur, but Picasso is so easily enjoyable to me that I had a blast!

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After I left the Picasso exhibit I headed back out to Rockford to see someone near and dear to my heart – my middle school and high school yearbook teacher, Mrs. Campbell. She has known me going all the way back to the black hair days, and was a second mom all throughout my tumultuous teenage years. As an amazing role model, Mrs. Campbell has always been someone I have looked up to and I try to see her and her family whenever I can. It came down to the wire, but with only a few weeks left on the Wienermobile I was able to drive it out to her house.

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The Campbell’s may claim they got the better end of that bargain, rides in the big dog and having it parked outside their house, but I think I easily won out. I spent the afternoon catching up with the Campbells and eating delicious homemade food! Plus, Mrs. Campbell sent me with a box full of candy which kept me awake on my drive back into Chicago that weekend.

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Overall, the week in Chicago was easily one of the highlights of the second half, jam-packed both with seeing friends and doing really cool, interesting and unique things – everything a Touristy Tuesday post deserves!

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Race Recap: DeForest, WI 4th of July 10k

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I’ve done 5ks.
I’ve done half marathons – lots of them.
I’ve done marathons.

But somehow, the 10k has alluded me these last two years of running. For some pretty silly reasons too.

First, they’re just not as common, so the opportunity hasn’t presented itself as readily as other, longer races. “Why do a 10k, when I can get a heavier, swankier half marathon finishers medal?”

Ok, if that sound like B.S. – you’re right. It is.

Here’s the real reason I was a 10k virgin until yesterday – I’m a BIG FAT WUSS.

See, with the 5k I know what I’m getting into. In the world of long distance running (it’s all about perspective here) the 5k is virtually a sprint. I run 3 miles all the time without stopping. I can handle that. Run it fast – got it.

With the half marathon, which is definitely a long race, I know how to approach that as well. My pacing strategy always comes down to 3 mile blocks, with water/walk breaks at those points. Run it steady – got it.

But the 10k – who knows with that one?! For me, the 10k is perplexing. Three miles is no problem to run, even five miles I can do without stopping. With that background, I feel like the six miles of a 10k should be no problem. Except there has always been a mental block for me. It’s JUUUST long enough to be intimidating to run my heart out for, but JUUUST short enough that I can’t simply zone out for a couple hours.

I decided to man up this week and at the last minute registered for this 10k in DeForest, WI. It wasn’t really motivated by anything other than I hadn’t done a race in awhile and since it is a holiday I figured this would be a pretty fun and lively one. I already needed to do a medium-length run for marathon training, and for $25 it delivered a new course, some comrades, a free t-shirt, and lunch. Not a bad deal.

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Being over enthusiastic, as per usual, I dawned my red, white and blue. Pigtails (yeah, it surprised me that I did that too) flag ribbons, and a blue star clapper completed my ensemble. I figured I would be the “Freedom Fairy” with my little star clapper along the course.

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I assumed I would fit in with the fine freedom-loving folks of DeForest, WI. Doesn’t everyone look for an excuse to get dressed up? Apparently not, because 98% of people were just there in their LuLu Lemon and Nike clothes. DID YOU MISS THE MEMO: It’s Independence Day. Hello! (I was a little disappointed I didn’t even see one person wearing a birthday hat for the occasion. Come on, that would be hilarious!)

I felt like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde showing up to the “costume” party in a bunny outfit, while all the Harvard YoPros (that’s young professionals for all you non-YoPros out there) wore their suit jackets and cardigans. After I recovered from my (very mild) embarrassment I was ready to run.

Let me tell you about 10ks. They’re not that much different from 5ks. Or half marathons. You run. And you do that for about 55 minutes. And then you’re done. I stopped for water, just like any other race, and I sprinted to the finish, just like any other race. Talk about building something up too much in my mind, again – as per usual.

I finished the 10k in 55:28, just south of the 9:00min/mi pace I have been striving for lately! I would have placed in my age group (W20-24) but being a small race the age group I fell into was W20-29. Either way, I walked away with a PR!

Bomb pops at the end - how perfect!

Bomb pops at the end – how perfect!

Having gotten my workout in for the day, I celebrated our nation’s birthday like I’m sure the founding fathers would have wanted us to – with a flag cake! (That’s what they envisioned when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, right?) And yes, I kept the red, white, and blue theme going all day – because I love America, that’s why.

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