Tuesday, December 16, 2014

...take your eyes off your goal and obstacles is what you'll see

In the wake of post marathon return to reality I've gotten way off track.  My goals seem muddled and I can't seem to focus. I realized I've been neglecting writing here and that probably has a lot to do with my accountability to myself.  So here's a little recap of what's been going on and a look at things to come.

The week after the marathon I basically ate anything I could for a solid week. No joke. I seriously couldn't stop eating. I did the Monster Dash 5k at the end of that first week and walked most of it (this was mostly due to the pain I was still feeling in my poor little pinky toe). The pain kept me from doing much running and I knew that the 15k I had planned in November would be rough. I'll have separate race recaps for those but it was just as bad as I thought it would be. I struggled to get through it and hated most of it. I ended up gaining about 10lbs and then finally made it back to the gym to shed the newly added weight. Things were looking up but then my birthday and Thanksgiving happened, oh hey there extra 10lbs welcome back! I was able to get back into my running groove thankfully and hit a PR for the Turkey Day 8k.

Fast forward to December. No races planned, no events on the horizon, nothing to really look forward to or work towards.  For me, this has been a recipe for disaster. What I've realized over the last couple of weeks is that I need to have a goal in mind. Without it, it's like I'm traveling along a journey with no map and no light to guide the way.  I'm just walking blindly. Finally my unofficial running coach hit me with a pep talk about race goals. Finally, I have something to work towards. The plan is to drop 20 pounds and increase my strength and speed.

So here are some big things I have on the horizon:
-Little Rock Marathon
-Battlefrog 15k
-Spartan Trifecta
-Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge

I'm hopefully focusing more on my triathlon racing this upcoming year and less on the long distance running. I'll also have more obstacle course races mixed in than in years past.

With all that said, I'll also be making a few changes to the blog. I'll be adding more recipes, giveaways, reviews, etc. Can't wait to share all the stuff I've had stored up for you guys! And as always, questions/comments/suggestions are always welcome!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My First Marathon!

A few days ago I ran my very first FULL marathon.  Yes folks, a full 26.2 miles.  Don't worry, I think I'm crazy too.  Before I became a runner I thought people who ran were ridiculous (didn't matter the distance, weather, etc).  I didn't understand it.  I didn't want to.  Then one day I ran a 5k, well not exactly, I participated because you can hardly call what happened that day running.  I hated it, I was slow, it took me almost an hour to finish.  That was close to 2 years ago and in that time I've learned so much about what it means to be a runner that I can't ever imagine my life without it.  Even a year ago I never would have imagined that I would be running AND finishing a marathon.  It's still a little surreal to me.

So let's get to the start of this story.  New Year's Day 2014 registration opened for the Detroit Marathon.  Just as the clock struck midnight I logged onto the registration site and filled in my information.  (there may or may not have been some alcohol involved in this decision)  As I awoke from my slumber and scanned through emails there was my confirmation.  That really happened.  I signed up to run a marathon.  I posted it all over social media because ya know, accountability.  I wanted everyone to know that I would be running a marathon so that they could be a part of my journey.  I researched training plans and a myriad of other advice to get me prepped for the big day.

A few weeks ago as I was winding down my training plan and reality began to set in.  It was overwhelming.  I hadn't trained as much as I would have liked to, skipped the 20 mile run altogether, and wasn't in the mindset I needed to tackle such a gargantuan task.  Holy shit, 26.2 is a lot of miles kid, get it together.  I was psyching myself out.  The only thing I could think to do was to reach out to my running family for support.  Within minutes I had phone calls, text message and all the reassurance I needed that I was ready.  My friend Juan gave me the ultimate pep talk a few days before the race.  He had me laughing, crying and rejoicing all within a few minute conversation.  His final words, "you have the heart of a lion, you got this".  Yeah, I do, I got this!

At the expo, this just became real life
Friday before the race Sam, Umber and I packed up our stuff on the Amtrak and headed to Detroit.  My parents were there waiting for us and we got in just before 1am.  The next morning I had some errands to run in the morning before we headed to the expo.  As we wandered up and down the aisles of vendors we ran into some fellow Chicago Runners and even one of my sorority sisters.  My nerves were finally starting to calm down a bit and dare I say I was actually looking forward to this race?  After grabbing my bib we headed over the border to Canada to do some exploring.  Turns out Windsor was a bit of a ghost town that day so we ended our adventure early to head home and carbo load.  We gorged ourselves at dinner amongst my family and then settled in to put the final touches on my running playlist before going to bed.  The playlist is probably what I was most looking forward to as I had asked several friends to make recordings for me of songs, motivational words, jokes, etc to help me get through those rough miles.  I was blessed with an influx of emails and thankfully Sam put them all together for me on my iPod.

I'm really doing this
Race day.  I woke up with my stomach aflutter.  I can't believe this is really happening.  I tried to do everything I could to settle my nerves.  Even though I wasn't hungry I ate some food and drank some MESTRENGTH.  Things were going great, everyone was excited.  On the way downtown we listened to my friend Andrew's recording that I didn't get in time to add to the playlist.  We laughed at his rendition of "You dropped a bomb on me..." and it lifted my spirits.  My mom dropped us off near the starting line and I started to freak out a little.  What was I thinking?  Am I even ready for this?  Then it came to me, everyone's voice whispering in my ear "you can do this, trust your training".  I made a final stop at the porta potty (the only porta potty stop I made that day) then headed towards the corrals.  Just as I was about to jump in, Sam and Umber pinned a sign to my back and sent me on my way.  I didn't even have time to consider what might be on it.

the sun rising over the bridge as we leave Detroit
Here we go.  Feet don't fail me now.  I'm off and running.  It was cold and dark but I almost didn't notice.  My playlist had started and I was focused on keeping my pace steady.  A few songs into the playlist I heard Gaylon's voice telling me I'm a beast.  Thanks girl, I needed that.  Good thing I put this thing on shuffle, I'm glad the voice recordings will pop up randomly among the songs.  I hit the first water station and snap a picture, post to social media...hey I have to keep everyone updated right?  Instantly the Detroit Free Press replies to my tweet saying "Good luck, you got this!".  Things are looking good as I make my way to the bridge and head into Canada.  During this uphill battle, Season's voice fills my ears and I can't help but laugh for the 15 minutes she rambles and plays miscellaneous songs for me.  I pause in the middle of the bridge to snap a quick picture because hey, I'm in 2 places at once (USA & Canada)!  As I pass into Canada I turn my phone off and just enjoy the course.  Just before mile 5 I see Gessel then grab an orange slice from a spectator.  We wind through Windsor then end up at the tunnel back to the Detroit.

halfway between USA & Canada
Gessel snapped this action shot of me, mile 5
Just left Canada, 8 miles down
all smiles just after the tunnel (sorry for that dude on my right, hope he's ok!)
Because churros count as carbs right?
That tunnel is HOT.  I mean seriously, I was sweating like crazy.  The energy was palpable.  You're in a tunnel surrounded by thousands of people in search of glory.  I've never felt anything else like it.  As we exited the tunnel and reached American soil I took a quick picture of the Underwater Mile sign and then started searching for Sam & Umber.  They got a sweet action shot of me, all smiles, I told them I was feeling fantastic then kept on trucking.  Sam told me my brother would be waiting for me around mile 10.  Great, that's my next checkpoint to look forward to.  As I got closer to Mexicantown my brother text me to let me know exactly where he'd be and that he had a churro waiting for me.  Thank the heavens because I was HONGRY (yes, I was so hungry that I in fact was hongry, that's a thing).  After grabbing that sweet delight of a treat my brother and his girlfriend walked with me for a bit then told me they'd find me later on the course.

Oh hey beer, you're carbs too!! Yay :D
Time seemed to slip by pretty quickly.  I decided early on not to use any kind of timing or GPS, I just wanted to enjoy the race.  The only markers I kept track of were the miles as I passed them by.  Before I knew it I was at the halfway mark and Sam jumped in to see how I was doing.  I was still going strong and genuinely happy to be running this race.  As we approached mile 14 the US only half marathon began and I got smoked by all those runners on fresh legs.  I had to walk here for a bit as running beside them made me want to run faster and I knew that would be a mistake.  I let them pass me then got right back to my pace.  This stretch of the course is relatively boring and uneventful.  A few miles later as we started running through residential streets things I started to really let loose and have fun.  There were spectators a plenty and each with different treats.  I drank beer, ate pretzels, chomped on a few jelly beans and even enjoyed some chilled apple cider.  Here's the thing, if I'm gonna run 26.2 miles I need to have fun and do it my way, no reason to be miserable the whole time.  I played some sweet air guitar, sang at the top of my lungs and basically made an all out fool of myself.  (there's video evidence of this somewhere on Sam's phone)

The beauty of Belle Isle
As we got to the entrance to Belle Isle I was starting to feel tired.  We were at about mile 19 and it was taking a toll on me.  I had to take more walk breaks than I would have liked and I was seriously starting to wonder if all my toe nails would survive this endeavor.  I posted pictures with captions like "I'm hanging in there, just like my pinky toe nail" or "less than 10k left, let's hope I still have 10 toe nails left".  Belle Isle is gorgeous and it was the breath of fresh air that I needed.  We made a loop around and then crossing the bridge we ran into Umber and my family.  Umber jumped in to join for the last grueling miles and my family handed me snacks and water.  I started to tear up a bit but pushed it back and tried not to let the emotions overcome me.  Once I was refueled and recharged from seeing my family it was time to press on, still 3.2 miles left to go.

much needed break with my support system and snacks
I love the Detroit River Front.  Its beautiful and the last time I ran there was with my mom so I have a definite fondness for it. Once I could see it on the horizon the tears just started to flow.  I was tired, hungry, sore and the pain from the blisters on my feet was almost unbearable.  I could tell Sam & Umber were worried but I couldn't stop.  I was afraid that if I took even a minute to rest or check my feet I wouldn't be able to start again.  I just had to keep on moving.  One foot in front of the other.  There were a lot of tears in these miles, I couldn't help it.  They just fell involuntarily from my eyes.  I had to block everything out and only think of finishing.  I was so close.  I started to reflect on all the recordings I had been listening to.  I never realized just how much I had impacted peoples lives.  To hear person after person (some who I've never even met) tell me how I've inspired them really touched me.  I never set out to do that, but here I was proving that it was possible to do anything you set your mind to.  I almost couldn't believe it, people I didn't even know were rooting for me...they all wanted me to succeed...I couldn't let them down.

After turning away from the River Front I was a woman possessed.  I needed to find that finish line!  I ignored the screams from the blisters, pain is weakness leaving the body.  Just keep pushing.  You're almost there.  You can do this. When we finally hit that final stretch to the finish line I dug somewhere into the deep recesses of my soul and with the last bit of energy I took off in an all out sprint to the finish line.  Note: this may not have actually been a sprint, but it sure felt like one.  As I crossed that finish line and they put that medal around my neck I was overcome with so many emotions I can't even fully put it into words.  I had just accomplished something I never even dreamed was possible.  Just under 2 years as a runner I had gone from running a 5k in almost an hour to finish a full marathon in just over 7 hours.  Still hard to believe.

Post race, hot mess
Midwest Vikings, together we conquer!

In the wake of my post marathon bliss I've begun thinking about my future goals.  I don't have any ultramarathons in my horizon, but I would like to do the Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge, USAT National Championship Athena Division, and eventually a half Ironman.  Yeah, those seem like a good place to start :)

Limits?  I have none.


still basking in my post race bliss!

Spartan race recap & giveaway!!

The sun rising over Spartan village before the race...

Midwest Vikings Volunteer Crew
So remember when I said I was afraid to run the Spartan Race because I was worried I would injure myself so close to the marathon? Well, yeah, about that...who uses caution anyway? My friends really wanted to do the Sprint distance so I finally caved and agreed to join them. I was originally registered for the Super but was able to transfer the registration to a future race. For the Sprint, we decided to volunteer in the morning so that we could earn a free entry in the afternoon wave of the race. 

Umber and I helping with registration
We arrived at the race site well before the sun made an appearance. Check in was easy then we headed to our posts. Volunteering is a great way to interact with other runners but let's not lie, mostly we wanted that free entry. As the hours ticked by our anticipation and excitement kept growing. When we finished our shift we headed to the car to drop off our things and get prepped for the run. Typically there's about 5 of us who run these OCRs together but that day we had some extra additions to the group. (The Midwest Vikings had an earlier wave time so unfortunately we weren't able to run with the rest of our team)

Pre-race with Umber & Sam
We were all smiles as we made our way to the starting line until we realized we had to climb a wall just to get there. We haven't even started the race yet and we're already scaling a wall. No big deal, I've done this before. With relative ease we're all able to make it over. The sprint distance is about 4+ miles and includes 20 obstacles. Our only plan was to have fun and finish together. 

The obstacles. Well, this race definitely lived up to its name because there were a few of the hardest challenges I've faced to date. I keep saying I need to work on my upper body strength, but seriously, I'm a total sissy on a few of these. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Spartan Race series, there is a 30 burpee penalty for any missed obstacle. Its important to note that for some obstacles you only get one chance to get it right. One example is the spear throw. Out of our entire group, Freddie was the only one who got it on the first try. We all took our burpee penalty as he watched then we kept on going. 

Coming soon to the Spartan Race Calendar hahaha
Another important note is that having a team is the best advantage you can have. We helped each other through every single obstacle and when someone couldn't do it, we all split up their burpees to help them out. Teamwork truly does make the dream work. We carried each other, leaned on one another's backs and gave more than one helping hand. Our team spirit must have been infectious because we soon noticed that our ranks had grown since we started. We like to think of ourselves as sweepers on the course and try to help anyone who looks like they're struggling or got left behind.  Our motto is, Together We Conquer!
Yes, I swam through this
...and then climbed out of this

I believe I can fly!!!
For me, these races are all about pushing yourself as far as you can go. They challenge you both physically and mentally. Finishing this race with a smile is truly a testament to your will power and also threshold for mud. While many of the obstacles are difficult for someone of my short stature, I don't let that defeat me. I often have to find creative ways to make the race work for me. My goal for next year is to finally earn my Spartan Trifecta (finishing the Sprint, Super and Beast distance races all in one calendar year).  

I loved this race so much that I want one of you to have the chance to also try it out.  I'll be giving away one entry to an open heat (non-confirmed start time) in any Spartan Race in the continental US.  They have a Sprint distance coming up Nov 1st in Milwaukee at Miller Park (I'll be there!) and also a Beast in Dallas, Sprint in Mississippi and many more.  Leave a comment with what your race goals are and I'll pick one lucky winner to become a Spartan. Aroo!!!

**Contest ends Wednesday Oct 29th at 11:59pm CST**

Together we conquered!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hydration! MESTRENGTH review

I've learned the hard way that hydration is an integral part of endurance training. When I first started running a little under 2 years ago, all I wanted to do was get one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish line. I didn't know anything about gait, hydration, pace setting, cross training, nutrition...basically I was a total newb. I was luckily able to coast through for awhile without really worrying much about anything. When I ran my first half marathon I was running on pure adrenaline.  I probably could have skipped all of the water stops I was so determined to finish at all costs. This year as I began training for an Olympic distance triathlon as well as a fall marathon I quickly realized how much my hydration plan needed a revamp.

 For those of you who follow along, perhaps you remember my post about the Chicago 10k when I was so dehydrated I had a headache for days afterwords as my body tried to recover. I was in a similar situation during the Biggest Loser Half Marathon when they ran out of water on the course. Stubbornly, I finally decided it was up to me to make sure I had properly hydrated before, during and after a race or training session.

A few disclaimers here: I hate the taste of Gatorade when I'm running, it makes me nauseous and I have to water it down just to drink it which makes me reluctant to try any sports drinks. Also, the drink I'm reviewing were samples I received for free. That being said, I have finally found a drink that is both effective AND has a pleasant taste.

 My first trial for the MESTRENGTH powder packets was my boot camp class with Lita Lewis. I've worked out with her before and lost more sweat than I even knew was possible. If this drink could get me through that, well it could basically get me through anything. I mixed up a bottle full to drink before the class. The flavor was bright and citrusy without tasting artificial (ie, like chemicals). During that hour workout I was sweating like crazy as expected, but thankfully I felt great the entire time. I took a few water breaks, mostly to cool down, but overall I noticed a significant improvement in my hydration have a winner folks. I pretty much fell in love with MESTRENGTH just from that first try. After that I began incorporating it into my long runs. I'm looking forward to keeping a few bottles of this on my bike as I train for tri season next year. 

Let's get down to the nitty gritty here.  MESTRENGTH is all natural and doesn't have any of the usual additives like sugar or caffeine (it's also no carb and calories!).  Curious to see how it stacks up to some of your favorite sports drinks?  Check out this chart for comparison:

I can't stress how important it is to hydrate properly not only before, but also during and after.  It's a tricky thing to figure out what times are best, with what products and in what serving sizes.  You want to make sure that your body not only performs at the highest level possible, but also that you're recovering efficiently and restoring your muscles.  Up until now, my usual plan was drink lots of water and during the event I chew through 3 clif bloks every 3 miles.  It works fairly well in terms of energy but it didn't always keep me feeling hydrated.  Adding the MESTRENGTH into the plan really helped with both my performance and recovery. I even saved a packet to use on Sunday before the big race :)

How do you hydrate?  What other products have you tried and loved or hated?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Women Rock Chicago

Front & Back of the calendar
With Candyce & Sam
Originally the Women Rock race was scheduled for September 20th so when Spartan announced that the Super would be on September 27 I didn't see a conflict in my schedule and registered for both. Months later I found out the date of the race had been moved to the 27th which was really frustrating. It bums me out when I have to chose between races that I really want to do, I have to make pros/cons lists just to decide. After much thought and debate I decided to transfer my Spartan Race entry and run Women Rock instead. It's only a few weeks before the marathon and I was worried that I might be risking injury at the Spartan.

The beautiful view of the skyline
I had already done packet pickup well in advance at a different expo since I'm a series member. The week of the race one of Team Ortho's volunteer coordinators reached out to me about helping on race day. Sam and I talked about it, trying to figure out what we could and finally decided to get to the race site early Saturday morning (5am) to help finish with the setup. There was a seriously low number of volunteer turn out so we did our best to get as much done as possible. Right before the race started we dropped our stuff at bag check and headed to the starting line.

Oh hey ostrich!
Post race bling selfie
I haven't run many races in Lincoln Park and I forgot just how scenic it can be. There really should be more runs over here to switch it up from the Soldier Field Lake Front Path area. The 5k isn't timed and we were in no hurry that morning, we just kept a nice leisurely pace. I didn't even turn my Nike+ app on. I also didn't bring my headphones, sometimes I like to run and enjoy my surroundings. Take everything in and really appreciate it. Once we crossed the finish line we didn't even grab our medals before heading right back to helping out. We threw on volunteer vests and worked on keeping the traffic flow going in the finishers chute.

For those of you who may not know, this is where there are shirtless models handing medals out to hordes of sweaty ladies. Keeping them moving in a forward direction is not easy. Trying to tell them they can get pictures later? I may as well have told them I steal candy from children. Some women were awesome and told us its a women's race and they'd rather have a strong women hand them their medal. We watched as the waves of 5k, then 10k and finally half marathoners crossed over the finish line. I saw tons of familiar faces and cheered them on as they made their way towards me. When the final runner made her way up to us we couldn't help but laugh when she said all she wanted was her champagne and the half naked men.

I didn't get to enjoy the post race festivities, but I did manage to snag myself a champagne flute before they packed everything up. I also scooped up a few calendars since they have personal significance for me. (I worked on the photoshoot, doing the grooming/makeup for the men...tough job I know haha) By the time we made it back to the car all we could think about was lunch and a nap. Being at the finish line we heard quite a bit of feedback from the runners after us. Its so interesting how people have such different experiences. One of the most common complaints is about traffic on the Lake Front Path, I hear that at almost every race. I often wonder how people think that can be avoided, aside from signs saying a race will be taking place I'm not sure what else can really be done. I thought it was a great race. There were a few hiccups along the way but nothing detrimental to my experience.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chicago Half Marathon

Pre-race wandering in the dark
As a slow runner often the race isn't between me and the other runners but me against the sag wagon.  Maybe that's just in my head but going into the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday I was seriously concerned about my ability to hold a 13 minute mile pace for the entire race.  Keep in mind my PR going into this race was 3:23:44 which I did in Vegas last year.  My plan of action was to get into an earlier corral to give me a little cushion on the timing.  Luckily when I picked up my bib I didn't have a corral assignment, allowing me to chose where I wanted to start.

With the Mendez sisters
Eric, Jennifer and I

The night before the race I had an amazing carbo-loading dinner with some friends and talked about running.  We shared stories about how we started, what our goals are and the struggle of trying to get our parents to stay active with us.  I left there feeling full and energized.  The fear of not being able to finish the race on my own terms was finally starting to dissipate. When I woke up the next morning I felt like I was on a mission.  I wouldn't let the sag wagon beat me, this was my race.  I took the shuttle down to Jackson Park giving me plenty of time to wander around in the dark trying to find my friends.  As the sun started to rise a bit I was able to find my fellow Midwest Vikings, Jennifer and Eric. We took a few pictures then I quickly dropped by stuff at gear check before heading to the starting line.

Corral F pre-race huddle
Some of my teammates from the Midwest Vikings were in Corral F so that seemed like a good place for Sam and I to jump in.  We were far enough back to not get in the way of faster runners but also far enough up to give us a good lead before the final runners would be crossing the starting line.  The goal was to start off at a sub 13 pace then take a break once we got to the turnaround.  As we approached the 1 mile marker we clocked in at 11:43.  Things were looking good.  We passed friends who all cheered us on and the energy was high.  Up until mile 4 we were staying under the 13 min/mile pace.

Yayyyy I love to runnnnnn!!!
Once we hit Lake Shore Drive I was feeling great.  The new asphalt felt like pillows under my feet and the breeze was glorious.  For the next few miles we alternated between positive and negative splits.  As we approached the turnaround we cheered on everyone we recognized across the median heading back towards the finish.  There were so many aid stations on this course it was truly a blessing.  I've been having some hydration issues lately and had considered carrying my own for this race.  As we rounded the 31st street bridge for the turnaround there was Umber waiting to greet us.

I can't even begin to tell you what a relief it was to look over the median and see plenty of runners with no sag wagon in sight.  Sam started having some pretty bad side cramps so we started to slow down quite a bit.  I wasn't worried though, I knew we were well out of the danger zone.  The closer we got to the exit the antsier I got.  I kept looking at the clock and considering gunning it the last 3 miles for the chance to hit a sub 3 hour half.  I considered all my options and realized that there would always be time to work towards that and I'd rather take it easy as not to risk injury before the marathon.  Sam and I just kept plugging along happy as clams that we were doing so well.

Post -race with Sam and Angela
After we got off Lake Shore it wasn't long before we approached the final stretch before the finish line.  Ideally I would have liked to finish side by side with Sam but my legs were getting twitchy and I just had to push it to the end.  She wasn't far behind me as I basked in the glory of what I knew would be a new PR.  It wasn't until later that I realized how big of an improvement it had been.  I finished in 3:10:39 for a 13+min PR and 17 minute improvement from the Women's Half the week before.  Apparently I thrive under pressure because the fear of being forced off the course really motivated me to keep my time down.

Freddie and I, blinged out
The Chicago Runners superheroes
Midwest Vikings, showboating
Post race I only had 2 things in mind.  Pizza and medals.  I brought along my medals from the Spring Half and Michelob Half (the first 2 races in the 39.3 series challenge) so that I could flaunt all of my hard earned bling.  I wasn't the only one as Freddie and many of the other Chicago Runners did the same.  We took more pictures than I can count and I floated around, still high on the rush of crushing that course.  Now that I've had some time to reflect on it I'm positive that the elusive sub 3 half is in my future.  I still had plenty of gas left in the tank on Sunday and given the right conditions I could definitely shave some more time off.  This was my 10th half marathon since I started running almost 2 years ago and the last long race before the Detroit Marathon next month.  To say that I'm still excited and giddy would be an understatement!

10th Half Marathon has been crushed!
Wooo I love medals!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Last year when I finally decided to get a gym membership for the first time my requirements were minimal. I needed a pool, some weights, and flexible hours. It wasn't even until a few months ago that I finally decided to take a class and they were a bit lackluster. A couple weeks back I was contacted by ClassPass about their Chicago launch and being the fit addict that I am I signed up for all 3 of the classes/launch parties.
A little about ClassPass (from their Facebook page):

ClassPass is a membership program for fitness classes across multiple gyms and studios, making working out more accessible. Since launching in early 2013, ClassPass has facilitated over 100,000 reservations. ClassPass members enjoy greater variety and engagement in their fitness regime, all at a lower price than if they were to book classes individually on their own. Participating studios benefit by attracting new students and profitably filling excess capacity in classes.

The three studios they chose for their Chicago launch parties were Exhale Spa, Flywheel, and The Dailey Method. I had no idea what to expect since I had never taken a barre, yoga or spin class. The first night I just showed up ready to sweat.

Exhale Spa. What a gorgeous facility. Seriously, I felt relaxed as soon as I got there. The locker room was clean (and smelled nice!). I didn't recognize any of the other bloggers so I just wandered around checking things out. Right before class start I bumped into a new blogger I hadn't met yet and we decided to grab mats next to each other for the workout. Side note: we both ran the Mag Mile Women's Half just 2 days before this class. The exercises started off easy enough. However, as they gradually increased in difficulty both the ladies around me and I couldn't help but laugh whenever we slipped or couldn't hold a pose. It was a low pressure class and from what I could tell everyone really enjoyed themselves. Our instructor was smiling the entire time and made sure to walk around and help us with our from/technique. By the end of the barre portion my legs were on fire. I also regret choosing the weights I did because my arms felt like jello. After we mopped up our sweat and grabbed our gear we headed to the lobby to enjoy some fresh juice and snacks. They had a photo booth so naturally we had to take advantage of it. Before heading out the door we each got a goodie bag with some sweet swag in it!

Flywheel. Goodness gracious. I was not ready for this. I have to admit, I always thought spin class was kind of lame. That's partially why I was never interested in attending one. Lord have mercy did Candy prove me wrong. From the moment we were in the saddle she kept us motivated and pushing harder than I thought my legs could pedal. Her high energy and infectious spirit kept us going when we thought we had nothing left to give. We danced, we twerked, but most of all we had a damn good time. Her class is not for the faint of heart. She WILL bring you to the ledge just to show you its possible then bring you back. I'm pretty sure I've found my new off season training spot to get ready for the cycle portion of the tri. I simply won't be able to look at the bikes in my gym the same way again. Seriously, check this place out and definitely take Candy's class. Just typing about it my legs are starting to get that twitch to jump back in the saddle. 

The Dailey Method. This was a great culmination of the week. The stretching was just what I needed. My core felt strong and engaged the entire time. It was a workout but super relaxing. By the time our class was over I thought we were just getting started the time went by so quickly. We did a mix of yoga, barre and some weights that worked your whole body. I spent some time mingling with other bloggers and even met a few new ones. The post workout goodies included fresh juice and a make your own trail mix station.
I absolutely fell in love with ClassPass and can't wait to check out a few more gyms. Its a great way to keep variety in your workouts and try new places. I'm all about cross training to keep things interesting so this is a great fit for me.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mag Mile Women's Half

Pre-race with Ruth
I've had a love hate relationship with Michigan Ave since I moved to Chicago. It's gorgeous, has amazing architecture and history, but the crowds of tourists make it unbearable in the summer. When I saw that the Mag Mile half advertised a course going straight down Michigan Ave, I knew I had to add it to my list. There was a 5k option as well which was my first choice considering it was only one week after the Chicago Tri...but then I checked my training schedule and realized I had to do at least 16 miles that day for marathon training so I took the plunge and registered for the half marathon. Keep in mind this is only one week before the Chicago Half Marathon which I'll also be running and the day before I ran the Badass Dash 7k. Yeah, I think its safe to say I might have an addiction to racing. Lucky for me one of my friends from NYC is just as crazy and signed up for both half marathons as well. 

Packet pickup was at Fleet Feet South Loop which was a change from the usual Old Town location but it worked out just fine since there was a Saturday option. I got in and out with no problems and picked up packets for me and Ruth. There were yummy samples from Luna and Cliff Blocks (my favorite!). Once I made it home I tried to hydrate as much as possible considering what Chicago weather has been like lately. There's nothing worse than getting a few miles in and being in complete agony because you're totally depleted. 

Jennifer & I
Race morning I got there bright and early to meet Jennifer and Ruth for pictures. Jennifer was hoping for a PR on the 5k and Ruth would be running her first half! I was so excited for both of them and wished them luck as we headed to the starting line. Considering how much pain I was still in just finishing the race would be enough for me.

Selfie with Dawn!
The first few miles weren't too bad but it was definitely hot and humid. By the time we hit the lakefront path I was sweating buckets. My only hope was that between my pre-race hydrating, aid stations and clif blocks I'd be able to survive the long miles. Along the course a woman tapped me on the shoulder who recognized me from the Chicago Tri. We chatted a bit and then split off. I also ran into a fellow Half Fanatic, Dawn who stopped to take a selfie with me. It was great seeing so many familiar faces considering how much I was struggling. Somewhere on the southern part of the course Eric found me and slowed down to my pace to keep me company. After we hit the turn around I started fading and had to take much longer than expected walk breaks. At each aid station I poured water on my head and neck to cool down then drank the rest. By now it was just about survival. Eric and I chatted until pretty much the last turn where the path split and he continued on to get the rest of his training miles in. 

Eric and I
This race was pretty ugly for me. I loved running down the Mag Mile and the tank was a great alternative to the usual race T-shirt. The volunteers were phenomenal and I made a point to thank as many of them as I could. There was one moment that really struck me during this race though. Usually when I get to the last straight away I dig into the depths of my soul to find that last little nugget of energy to carry me swiftly to the finish line. As I worked my way up to a full sprint and started passing a few runners one of them started yelling and cheering for me. That's never happened to me before, usually in that last stretch everyone takes off and tries to pass whoever they can. Not this lady, she just kept screaming "that's right, you go girl, kill it!" A part of me wanted to go back and say come on let's crush it together, but truth be told I didn't know if I had enough left in the tank to make it happen. Just as I got my medal Ruth text me to let me know she had left after starting to feel sick. The weather was brutal and it took a major toll on her. In a way I'm thankful for the bad runs I've had because they prepped me for races like this. It wasn't a PR but it was a finish and really that's all that matters to me.
Sweaty selfie = success!