Sunburst Half-Marathon – South Bend, Indiana

Race Finish

This past Saturday I completed my second (ever) half-marathon. I feel like far too often people are inclined to then ask me how my time was, did I PR? Nope. I certainly didn’t. Do I feel defeated, though? Absolutely not!

I was thrilled to have my best friend (and husband) by my side for the race.  This was his first half, and he was certainly my rock throughout the entire training process. He pushed me to go those extra miles, when all I wanted to do was go home and take a nap. He slowed down with me when I started to have some asthmatic symptoms (exercise-induced asthma is so fun to work with) and was always willing to let me take a hot bath after a long run while he prepared breakfast.

Instead of taking the easy route and running the race in Chicago, we trekked it to South Bend because I couldn’t think of anything better than finishing on the 50-yd line of Notre Dame Stadium.

We took the South Shore Line train into town and stayed the night at a hotel near the airport and just cabbed to the starting line in the morning. All very stress free — except I really wasn’t feeling myself. My whole body was sore and cramping all over — plus it was pretty chilly!

Brian is a much faster runner than I am, but he agreed to run the first 6 with me before taking off at his own pace. He prepared a “race mix” that started with slower, inspiring songs and lead up to faster, keep up the good work tracks. We made sure to start the mix at exactly the same time so that we both knew exactly what each other was listening to — it added a pretty fun aspect to the race.

On the train ride down I was explaining to Brian that South Bend really is a beautiful place — there’s the St. Joseph River, tons of parks and really adorable neighborhoods. He didn’t believe me. All he had ever seen was campus itself, and the back of a SUV filled with coolers of beer and mixers for tailgating before the games. This race course zigged and zagged through such beautiful areas of South Bend, it was all the convincing he needed. It was absolutely GORGEOUS. Miles 7-9 especially so — a path along the river.

Brian had long taken off and sped away from me as I turned one corner, just before mile 11, to see a (in my eyes at least) ridiculously steep hill. Really? A completely flat course until you get to the ELEVENTH MILE! Needless to say, I walked up the hill, and the next, and the next. (What is it with me and terrible 11th miles during races?!)

As my legs tired, I was looking forward to two things — 1) crossing the finish line on the 50-yd line and 2) breakfast in South Dining Hall. I know I may sound crazy, but I am still in love with my college cafeteria dining hall. For someone as indecisive as me about my dining preferences, it offers absolutely everything. For breakfast alone there are over 20 different types of cereal, make-your-own omelet/scramble, make-your-own waffle, quiche, benedict, hash browns, huevos rancheros, you name it and they have it. For lunch or dinner you can have pasta, stir fry, pizza, rotisserie style meats, skirt steak, mashed potatoes, sushi, two salad bars, tacos, fajitas, gosh I could go on and on. So — for miles 12-13 I was basically planning my meal. And listening to Carly Rae Jepsen, of course.

Press Box

As I turned to enter the stadium, tears welled up in my eyes thinking, “My life is so different than when I was a student here. So different, and wonderful and awesome, but what I wouldn’t give to be a student again.” About the things I would do differently and the things I would do exactly the same. Who are the friends I would have spent more time with and who are those that I would have been okay not chasing. Considering the dreams that I had then and still do, and even more reflective of the dreams I had then and now seem a distant flicker. A lot crossed through my mind in that .1 mile. And as I crossed the finish line I received my medal and looked up to see Brian — standing there with a smile ear to ear. Either he was proud of me, or bragging that he finished almost 30 minutes ahead of me. I chose to believe the proud:)

So — after all those miles, the sweat, and the tears as I jogged into the stadium, I limped over to the dining hall excited beyond belief.  I was so ready to re-create some of my favorite dining hall concoctions. And you know what? It was closed.

Sometimes you can’t just go back and expect it to be the same. It’s not, and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean I love it any less. 🙂

Dome

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Chicago for Dummies

Salvage OneMy little sister is moving in with me this coming Saturday to spend her summer in the big city. She is a student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and I’m anticipating the transition from one locale to the other to be somewhat tricky. After all, she’s moving to the 3rd largest city in America! So for her, and for anyone else who stumbles upon this, here are some helpful tips from someone who only 6 years ago made the jump into the rip-roaring City waters. Btw — these are in no particular order.

  1. Figure out where the lake is — at all times. Chances are you are going to get lost your fair share, but if you ask someone for directions they will certainly give it to you in cardinal directions. The lake is east, btw.
  2. Also on that subject, this city is designed in a grid — figure out the grid. State and Madison are 0/0. And learn some of the big streets. Grand. Chicago. Division. North. Fullerton. Diversey. Belmont. Addison. Irving Park. Michigan. Halsted. Clark. Ashland. Damen. Even just being familiar with the names is helpful.
  3. There is more than one mile of Michigan Avenue — contrary to all the advertisements you may have seen about that magnificent (and always filled to the curbs with tourists) stretch. And chances are you can’t afford a damn thing off that stretch anyway.
  4. This place is insanely neighborhood-centric — and people are extremely territorial. Lakeview is north of Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville is a part of Lakeview, and Andersonville is awesome but holy-hell it’s far north (it’s not that far, but we certainly like to exaggerate)! People constantly think places like Pilsen, Logan Square, Lincoln Square, and Uptown are too hard to get to on public transportation — but that’s just because they don’t like having to take a bus/train combo. The differences between Bucktown/Wicker Park are never agreed upon, so just accept that you actually live in both (or maybe Ukrainian Village as well).
  5. Planning on working out in public or at a gym? Get yourself some lululemon attire — if not you’ll stand out like a sore thumb.big-star-patio
  6. You will always wait in line for a table at Big Star — get over it. Give them your cell phone number, walk down the street to get some cash because I know you forgot it was cash only, and grab a drink somewhere in the 6 corners until they call you back. It’s still worth it.
  7. Speaking of lines, you’ll also consistently find one at Toast, Yolk, Orange, Nookies, The Bongo Room, Meli Cafe and anywhere else that serves brunch. What can I say, we love our benedicts.cubssox
  8. Pick a team — Cubs or Sox. And stand by it.
  9. Cab drivers are required to accept your credit card, and will frequently make you feel like a piece of shit for paying with a card. Such is life.
  10. You may often see people kayaking along the river, and while it looks peaceful, they are tourists. No one who lives here would EVER catch themselves dead touching the water in the river. Don’t you remember this? chicago dog
  11. No ketchup on your hot dog.
  12. It’s ok if you don’t love deep dish pizza — we don’t ALL love it anyway.
  13. The “el” comes from the fact that they are ELevated trains, not that they take you to the Loop.
  14. We are called the Windy City — and not because it is (and oh man, it is) windy. There are differing theories here — rivalry with Cincinnati? 1893 World’s Fair? Long-winded politicians?Stanleys
  15. You will always black out at Stanley’s — that’s just inevitable. And it’s ok.
  16. Chicago ‘streetfests‘ are a great way to meet new friends, especially if your type is ‘sunburned and drunk by 2 pm.’ Your festival audience can be tailored to your particular interests — drunk hipsters or frat boys, tight rainbow shorts clad men/women/transgenders, or tipsy parents with toddlers. Inevitably you’ll find yourself sitting on the curb downing greasy pad thai/pizza/ribs/french fries staring down at your unbelievably dirty feet.
  17. The chocolate shake at the Weiner Circle is top notch.
  18. Navy Pier is tourist-central. If you’re ok with that, go for it. Though there’s nothing there that you couldn’t get at any other tourist-centric place in anytown, U.S.A. beach
  19. There’s something for everyone at the beach. You’ve got your runners/bikers along the lakefront path, your distracted dog owner letting their dog pee in the sand, your couple sharing a 40 and a joint, and college girls sunning in their string bikinis. But honestly, it’s pretty amazing that you have a gorgeous beach literally in your backyard. Get out there and enjoy the sunshine. sears tower
  20. We still call it the Sears Tower even though Willis Group Holdings obtained naming rights in 2009.
  21. Boystown has the. best. dancing. around. A close second? The Hange Uppe.
  22. Most bars are open until 2 a.m. Sun – Fri nights, and 3 a.m. on Sat. nights. A select few late-night bars stay open 2 hours past normal closing hours. Personal favorites are Beaumonts, Carol’s, Ravens, Shambles, Mother Hubbards and The Hange Uppe (for the dancing!). Please avoid Big City Tap — or as I lovingly refer to it — The Big Shitty. Some nasty things go down there that you definitely don’t want to be a part of.
  23. Looking for a married guy with a nice car and fat wallet hoping to re-live his youth? Head to the Viagra Triangle. Same goes for dudes looking for a recently divorced Gold Coast princess.
  24. Want a weekend away? Join the throes of people heading to Michigan, Lake Geneva or Milwaukee.
  25. Chicago FlagThis flag you see all around? It’s the City of Chicago flag. Your city probably has a flag too — but we like to fly this guy loud and proud.
  26. You’re going to find a lot of beer snobs in Chicago — and rightfully so. We have tons of local and midwestern beers that satisfy any taste. Nothing screams out “tourist” more than walking into a bar and ordering a Bud light. The one exception to the rule is PBR. And the beer 312 is pronounced three-one-two not three-twelve. It’s the area code.

Now that there’s some Chicago groundwork laid out for you — here are some things you really mustn’t leave the city without checking off your list.

  1. There really are amazing museums here — Art Institute, Field, Shedd (Aquarium), Adler (Planetarium) , MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), MSI (Museum of Science and Industry) — but you should know the common names.
  2. Take in some Blues/jazz, some comedy and some theater. There’s tons to choose from — and with top-notch artists. Take advantage of this. rooftop
  3. Sit on a rooftop overlooking Wrigley Field — who knows how long the rooftops will actually be around.
  4. There are SO MANY farmer’s markets. And they are incredible. Green City on Saturday mornings is by far the best way to start your weekend.
  5. Guys, the Architectural Boat Tour is killer. It is not a tourist “trap” — it’s just plain ‘ol awesome for locals and tourists alike.
  6. Eat ethnic. Some areas are straightforward — Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown. Others you just have to know where to find it — go to Humboldt Park for Puerto Rican, Andersonville (or IKEA) for Swedish, Pilsen for German (and Mexican), Avondale for Polish, Indian on Devon, Korean on Lawrence and Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai along Argyle and Broadway. This place is truly a melting-pot and these restaurants are as authentic as they get.
  7. Catch a movie-in-the-park. There are tons of Chicago Park District parks and there’s something entirely nostalgic about watching a movie on a blanket with a picnic basket and a thermos of wine. Ravinia
  8. Take the Metra to Ravinia to see a concert– and send someone as early as humanly possible so that you aren’t sitting behind a pole or trashcan. See above about the picnic basket and blanket — but here you can openly drink from a classy wine glass.
  9. Personally, zoos make me sad, but Lincoln Park Zoo is free to the public. I prefer walking north to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. It seems to be open/closed at weird times, but once you get through the gates is a relaxing bit of solitude in the bustlin’ city.
  10. Millennium Park offers free noon-time and Monday night concerts throughout the summer.
  11. Run/walk along the lakefront. Go to Olive Park and take in the views of the skyline. Or north to Fullerton and look back. We’re so lucky to be able to combine urban city skyline, blue skies for days and the lake. Maybe even take a yoga class on the beach. CTA
  12. Rely on public transportation. You’ll hear people complaining about it all the time — but the system is pretty fabulous. Learn the ins and outs of the busses, the different colored train lines and even the Metra. I’ve lived in this city without a car for 6 years — you certainly can too. Downloading a bus/train tracker app will also help immensely as you get to know the routes. (Note: only the red and blue lines run 24/7)
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Happy Hour(s)

happy-hour-bob-b-brown-flickr

Sometimes I wish that a happy hour was just that, an hour– or maybe max 2. Somehow they always turn into all night affairs, want of a sufficient meal because of the oft-used excuse of  “I’ll just eat dinner later — after happy hour.”

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love catching up with friends over a couple drinks after work, but our culture is amiss in calling it a happy hour. Let’s call a spade a spade. It should be called “let’s have a cocktail at 5 and then continue until past our bedtime, ” right?

Pink Cast

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Sometimes you have ideas and plans for what certain moments, days, weeks, etc. will bring you, where they will take you. The planner in me loves when things happen the way that I imagine they will. February was not what I had in mind. Instead of practicing yoga two times a week like I had in mind, I spent the month nursing a broken hand. I broke my 5th metacarpal on February 1st in a total freak accident smacking it against my husband’s shoulder. Don’t worry, he is just fine.

I’ve been lucky enough to rock a gorgeous neon pink brace for the last five weeks, and have it on for at least another two. Instead of tackling my list of DIY home improvement projects, practicing my arm balances, and spending some serious time cultivating this blog, my injury had me on the sidelines looking in. It wasn’t all for naught, however.

I caught up on all the magazines that I subscribe to (Martha Stewart, Martha Weddings, Real Simple, etc) and blogs that I am crushin’ on right now. I took at least one relaxing bubble bath a week, often with a glass or two of pinot grigio. I spent some weekend nights in playing Yahtzee (bonus of saving money!!) and learned that slowing down is one of the hardest things in the world for me to do.

March will be different — this brace is off soon, I’ve been given the green light by my doctor to start running again, I’ve got a brand new computer which will certainly become my new best friend, and weekends full of really exciting things. What February taught me is that everything I am excited for in March doesn’t necessarily mean that March will be better, it just means it will be different.

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Chicago is a tease.

2.1 Weather

I feel it entirely necessary to point out that this weather screen shot was taken at the exact same time as this view.  For that Chicago, I say screw you for being such a tease.

2.1 View

The Boarding House

Wine at Boarding House

There’s one (well,  many if I really put my mind to it) personality trait of mine that I absolutely love and hate at the same time. It all stems from my obsession with menus — everything about them. From just looking at a menu you can get such a feel for the vibe of the restaurant. I love seeing the interesting ingredient choices are made and described, versus those that are left off the written menu and are a surprise to the diner. I could go on and on. This, however, means that I must try new places all the time. I love it because it’s always fun to get dressed up and hit the town for a nice dinner (or not nice — there are certainly some flops sometimes) and I simultaneously hate it because those checks can easily add up.

BoardingHouseFirstFloor

Last night I hit up The Boarding HouseCheck, Please! veteran Alpana Singh’s new place. While she may not be a national celebrity, she certainly was catching guest’s glances as she walked around the lower level bar. Perhaps it was her walking around that had me too embarrassed to take a photo of the ah-mazing lighting fixture above the bar. I snagged this photo from the website. Those are all wine glasses. All 9,000 of them. How incredible! We took our seats in the 3rd floor dining room (menus vary from the wine bar to the dining room) and couldn’t help but gush over the environment of the place. The enormous exposed brick wall was dappled with turquoise picture frames, some filled with art and some without, and the second story area of the dining room felt like a VIP lounge. (It was, back in the day when this space was Club 720). The bar up here is made entirely of green glass wine bottles turned on end. We caught on to the theme pretty quickly — this was a place where you should probably have a glass of wine (though there was a limited but well thought out cocktail list and beer selection). The wine list, however, was remarkable (how could it not with Singh as the sommelier) and the food menu so varied that there was something for every palate. We loved the Hamachi Crudo and the Lobster Poutine. So much so that when our last guest joined us we went ahead and ordered a second order, of each. Our server suggested ordering a couple different items and sharing as it offered a way for us to try items from around the menu. I have to go back to taste some more. (See above why finding the necessity to try every new restaurant is not the best for the wallet).

Boarding House dining room

I suggest you get your butts out and trudge through the 12 degree weather to cozy up with a glass of wine, a unique menu, and an amazing experience.

(Room photos via The Boarding House)

Resolve

Irish Countryside

As January 1st rolled around I was eager, like the rest of you, to put pen to paper and write out those resolutions that would make 2013 the best year yet. I jotted them down here and there but never fully committed to anything. Instead of a new beginning, January felt like the very sweet dénouement for a lot of my (and others) 2012.

I spent New Years Eve, for the first time in quite a few years, out of the “bar” scene.  I didn’t attend an over-priced, under-performed all-inclusive bar night, nor did I bartend one. Instead I hosted an impromptu dinner party with some of the most important people that 2012 brought into, and to the forefront, of my life.

A short week later I found myself in Miami with every face imaginable from my years at Notre Dame cheering on the Irish as they oh so tragically were crushed by the formidable Crimson Tide. While red may have dominated the action on the field, it was the throngs of green that were so proud to call themselves Domers that traveled from all across the globe to rekindle friendships, reminisce about the ‘glory days,’ and come together as one that made the journey worthwhile to me. While I left a good many tears (and drank a good many beers) in that parking lot, I left with more pride than I had going in. It was a remarkable feeling.

Shortly thereafter I traveled home with Brian and two great friends. We spend 8 days in Ireland traveling the countryside taking in the sights, sounds, sprinkles of rain, and ciders in the local pubs (the new Stella Artois Cidre is excellent!). No matter how long I go back for, it is never enough. Tears flowed as we pulled away from the runway and I knew the trip was coming to an end. Coming back was really hard, but it wasn’t until the trip was over that I really felt like this was a new year. I had spent the entire fall enthralled with ND football and had been planning the Ireland trip since June. January was game time for both, no pun intended.

A good friend of mine suggested that maybe resolutions should be written at the END of January anyway — a time to set more realistic goals instead of allowing the excitement of January 1st to whisk you into creating unrealistic  expectations. And so, as January 2013 — one for the books — comes to a close, I’ll revisit those resolutions. Here goes:

Run two half-marathons, one in a new city. Break 2 hrs. on each.

Practice yoga 2x per week.

Read one book per month.

Learn to say no. Finding balance is too important to always say yes.

Be more reflective – of people, of places, of time, of experience, of life.

Tuck away 25k into savings.

To some these may be easy bets — to others wild and crazy, unattainable dreams. To me it’s just a guideline for where I want some of this year to take me. I’m going to resolve to reflect back at the end of each month to revisit these. What’s working? What’s not? Are there additions? Revisions? It’s my year — and I am happy to let it take me to the moon.