Thursday, January 4, 2018

2017 Reading List

I like to keep track of the books I read every year.  2017 was pretty crazy with marathon training and other life happenings, so I'm pretty happy to see that I read as many books as I did!  Here's to starting my 2018 list!


A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines; Anthony Bourdain

Hint Fiction: An anthology of stories in 25 words or fewer; Edited by Robert Swartwood

Runner's World Complete Guide to Running

The Shooting Star: A Poetry Anthology; Edited by Jeffrey S. Copeland

The Long Run: A Memoir; Catriona Menzies-Pike

I'll Tell You In Person; Chloe Caldwell

Everything, Everything; Nicola Yoon

The Princess Saves Herself in This One; Amanda Lovelace

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America; Michael Ruhlman

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; J.K. Rowling

The Old Beauty & Others; Willa Cather

Friday, December 8, 2017

Paradise Found




we're listening to weezer,
sitting together on the couch

("let's go away for a while,
you and i,
to a strange and distant land...")

eating dried mango. this is friday
night. the sweetened fruit passes
between my lips and if i close
my eyes, i am transported back
5 years in time, to an incredible

tropical adventure on the pacific
shores of costa rica. what i
wouldn't give to be back there,
with him, young and living
with total and complete abandon...

late night thunderstorms,
high tide lapping at our feet, and
his arms around my waist. the
kind of thing dreams
are made of

("only in dreams...")

these moments made my heart
race. 5 years later, across
thousands of miles and
moments, it races, still--

here, in this tiny, comfortable
one bedroom, our own small
piece of the city, a warm,
safe space in a cold,
chicago winter... home.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Jess Goes Running: 2017 Chicago Half Marathon

I just realized that I never wrote up a race recap for this year's Chicago Half Marathon back at the end of September!  I guess tapering for a marathon will do that for you, haha--to say I was a little preoccupied with other things is an understatement.

Well, if I could sum up the half in one word, it would be this: HOT!

This was my 3rd time running the event (2014 and 2015), and Tom's 2nd.  Last year, I signed up for it but was unable to run as I was dealing with all the issues with my foot.  Needless to say, I was really excited for the opportunity to get back at it!  I was planning on using it as a training run for marathon training; that week I was scheduled for 12 miles for the long run, so 13.1 didn't really seem like much of a stretch.  At that point, I had already done my longest outings of training and compared to the distances I'd gone in the previous few weeks, a half marathon seemed like nothing.

I wasn't planning on going for a PR, which was good because it wouldn't have happened anyway.  The days leading up to the race, we watched the weather forecast with dread--it was going to be a scorcher, with high temps and high humidity.  To say I was unhappy about the weather is an understatement, but there was nothing I could do about it except stay hydrated and slow down.  We ended up catching a ride down to Jackson Park with my mother-in-law, who was coming with as a spectator.  Right around sunrise it was comfortable but as the morning progressed, it only got warmer and warmer.


I knew the sun was going to be brutal so I made sure to apply ample sunscreen.  I also wore a hat, which I both appreciated and could have done without.  I loved having my own personal shade but it was really hot and I had to take it off more frequently than I would have liked.  The conditions were pretty rough, but I was still proud of how I was doing despite it.  I actually felt like I did a pretty good job of keeping it together during the first half of the race.  Then I got to mile 7, and it fell apart a little bit.  I was still optimistic but I was tired, and hot.  I was excited to make it to the turnaround point of the out and back, and I pushed my legs to keep going as I headed back down south towards Jackson Park again.

Truthfully, miles 8-13.1 were mostly about survival.  I figured as long as I maintained forward motion, I was in a good place.  During the second half of the race, I came across more runners than I was comfortable with being tended to by Race Guards or by paramedics.  The weather really was just brutal.  At this point the aid stations and medic tents were handing out bags/gloves of ice and I was more than happy to oblige them in their offerings (and, yes, may have shoved a glove full of ice down my sports bra, haha).  It was tough but I never quit, I kept going--doing a lot more walking than I normally would have wanted--and kept moving towards the finish line.


In past years participating in this race, rounding the corner and seeing the Statue of the Republic, the Golden Lady in all her glory, would have filled me with relief, happiness, pride, excitement, would have even moved me to tears.  This year, I was just happy to be done.  I still had a little bit of gas left in the tank and I gave it my all during those last few tenths of the race, crossing the finish line as strong as I could.  When all was said and done, I finished with an official time of 2:58:58.  Definitely not my fastest time, but given the extenuating circumstances I was just happy that I finished under three hours.



I got through the finisher chute, receiving sustenance and hydration and my medal (a beauty!) before trying to find Tom and his mom.  I was feeling a lot of emotions, most of them angry and annoyed, which actually kind of amused me combined with the runner's high I still had.  I was fired up!  Finally, I located them and made my way to the Evanston Running Club area, where I sat down and drank some Gatorade and reflected on the race.  I didn't, and don't, regret doing it, but I certainly wish the weather had been nicer.  Looking back on it now, I was in a position where my psyche and confidence regarding the marathon were still pretty shaky.  (I honestly don't even know if I really thought I would actually be doing it until I was standing in the starting chute on that sunny October day, but that is a post for another time).


Despite the conditions, the volunteers and race marshals were incredible!  I definitely would not have gotten through it without them.  I know it was probably a tough day for them too but they kept everything moving smoothly and everyone as hydrated as they could.  This has been my experience every year I've done this race and it's one of the the things that keeps me signing up every year.

At this point, I am planning on doing it again next year (as part of my marathon training, assuming I get in to Chicago again for 2018).  I am also thinking I might try to do a half marathon in the spring; Tom is running the Wisconsin Marathon in May, and there is also a half marathon the same day that I'm considering signing up for.  There is also the Chicago Spring Half Marathon (which is the other half of the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series).  Decisions!  In any case, I think signing up for a race will help me get back into the groove of motivations, and will also give me something to look forward to.  I love the half marathon distance, so I'll need something to tide me over until September 2018!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 30: Road Trip


When I saw this topic come up, I smiled.  I am a sucker for a good road trip.  Being that I live in the city and most of my family lives 1.5+ hours away, that means even a simple visit home can be an easy change of pace.  But what I'm really thinking of are those pack up the car, load up on snacks, passenger seat navigating/dj-ing, long distance adventures.  Throughout the last decade, Tom and I have been lucky enough to have some pretty amazing expeditions!

In 2008, for example, we drove to Colorado with his younger brother.  It was my second time in the state, and it was a really fun trip.  We went in the middle of winter where it was snowy and cold and majestic.  Over New Year's Weekend in 2009, we decided to drive down to Shreveport, Louisiana.  Our reasoning was that we wanted to go somewhere warm and we'd never been there.  It was a rather quick trip, but a memorable one...  The brakes went out on Tom's old Volvo so we were stranded for a few days in a tiny, pretty rural town while they got fixed.   In May 2010, we drove to Las Vegas with a few close friends and had an incredible time out in the desert, a trip that is still one of my favorites.  Later that year, we made a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. to attend The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (when I say whirlwind, I mean, we were there and back in less than 36 hours!)  It was worth it, and certainly makes for a good story!

Then of course, there was the road trip that wasn't to Colorado in 2014, the accident that happened instead. Heartbreaking, but since then we've been able to go on some great adventures.  We've gone to Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska (exciting, I know, haha) and we have plans for more.  I will never pass up an opportunity go on a road trip--I hope that sense of wanderlust never fades.

8 Minute Memoir, Day 29: Birth Order

I find birth order to be quite an intriguing concept.  Though I think the stereotypes that go along with birth order can be a bit much sometimes, I do think there is some truth to it.  I've seen it not only in my own family, but in others as well.  I looked up a list of birth order traits to see what the most commonly held ideals were and I found it pretty interesting, especially when applied to my own life.

I'm both an older and a middle sibling, so that means I'm filled with ambition and responsibility but I'm also looking for a middle ground.  I'm a peacekeeper but I'm generally on the side of what is right or fair in the current rule of law.  I find I'm pretty driven and I'm good setting the example.  I don't really feel like I fit the "middle child" stereotype of being invisible or feeling left out, which is something I will certainly be cognizant of should I have an oldest, middle, and youngest child. 

I think birth order effects you as much as your geographic location growing up or your home environment.  While I've seen the typical traits play out in those around me, I also have friends whose families do not necessarily fit the types of personality dictated by birth order.  (If I ever go back to school, it will be to study psychology because I just find it so damn fascinating and also because I get to see psychology in action at work every day.  Pretty neat stuff!)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Running in Chicago in the Fall


One foot in front of the other on
a beautiful Chicago day.  It's fall,
but today somehow feels more
like summertime; though the sun
shines effervescently, her shadows
are long--as is my pace, my rhythm,
steady.  The lakefront calls like a
siren, and then, I've gone farther

than I expected (before I even
realize it.)  It's almost like magic,
my legs carrying me effortlessly
through one of the most stunning
afternoons I've seen in a long time.
The breeze is steady and propels me

onward, forward motion a welcome
certainty, familiar (like a comfortable
sweater, or freshly washed linens at
the end of a long day).  Left, right;

breathe in
and out.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jess Goes Running: A Marathon Weekend, A Recovery Staycation

Hi!  It's still crazy to me that only a few days ago I ran and completed the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Just a moment that is full of magic, a memory that I will be drawing on as inspiration for many months to come.  I wrote about the race itself, the morning leading up to and the moments directly afterwards, but of course, there are details of the overall experience that I've left out up until this point... it's time to change that!  While the race is obviously the pinnacle of things, a lot happened both before the marathon and afterwards!  It truly was a marathon weekend of sorts.

Last Friday, I met Tom at work.  We took the brown line to the green line in order to get to McCormick Place for the Abbott Health and Fitness Expo.  The weather really was not pleasant; it was rather drizzly and cold.  We got to McCormick Place and then made the long walk to the Lakeside Center.  Seeing the signage and the obvious vastness of the expo before we even stepped inside was pretty intense, and I have to say, that was when it was really starting to hit me what I was about to undertake.  We checked in, went to get our bib numbers, then walked through the expo to get our shirts.

Wow, it was unlike any race expo that I'd ever been to, and I have been to many!  There were so many different sponsors and vendors.  We got our gear bags and t-shirts in the back of the huge expo hall, then continued our way through the line of booths.  Of course, we had to stop for a photo before leaving:



If we weren't ready for the marathon before the expo, it definitely put us in the mood!  The weather had turned much more rainy and miserable, so instead of taking the CTA home we decided to get a Lyft instead.  It was rush hour on a rainy Friday evening, so the drive back was slow, but our driver and fellow Line passenger were both very chill and it was an enjoyable ride.  On the way home, we ordered dinner from Calo Ristorante in Andersonville... can you guess what was on the menu?


Spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread.  Delicious!  We ended up getting takeout beef and broccoli for dinner on Saturday night, as our pre-race dinner.  It was the perfect mixture of fiber and protein and was very filling. While we're on the subject, Saturday was a day for preparation and rest.  I actually ended up having to work from 5 am-3 pm but in a way, it was good because it kept me moving and loose and also kept me on an easy schedule.  That night, I just made sure that my gear check bag and my marathon day clothing was all in order and ready to go.  My hip had been bothering me since after my run on Friday afternoon (my last run of training a 2.4 mile outing up to campus and back) and I was concerned that it would hamper my running abilities on Sunday morning.  Luckily, it didn't bother me at all during the marathon and hasn't bothered me since.

After the race on Sunday afternoon, we were exhausted!  We took the red line back up to Edgewater, crawled back to the apartment, and took the best showers of our lives.  For the rest of the evening, we pretty much just sat on the couch in a happy (and sore!) haze, ordered a pizza and cheesy garlic bread from JB Alberto's, and went to bed early--early and in pain.  Oh man, I was so sore on Sunday night and into Monday in a way like none other!  I guess that's to be expected after putting your body through 26.2 miles.

We didn't set an alarm and just slept until we woke up on Monday morning.  Since we'd gone to bed so early, we woke up relatively early, too.  Breakfast at Ann Sather followed once we finally got moving and then we continued onward to get our medals engraved at the Nike store down on Michigan.  It took about two and a half hours, but we left with an even more meaningful memento of our historic races.  The staff at Nike did a great job of controlling the crowd and keeping the line moving.  We also picked up some sweet marathon "Finisher" gear, too!  Next year, we may go to Fleet Feet for their engraving party but we found out about it after the fact.  We also made sure to pick up our commemorative copies of the Chicago Tribune and definitely looked up our names and finishing times among over 43,000 other runners.  What an amazing feeling, to be part of such a momentous occasion.


The rest of the week, we have spent relaxing and recovering and laying low.  On Tuesday, the weather was overcast and dreary.  We ended up out at IKEA, walking around and picking up a few things for the apartment.  We also went to a record store and added a few albums to our collection.  Yesterday was our "Treat Yo Self" day, complete with a spa pedicure and a massage--it was my first massage but definitely won't be my last!  The spa pedicure was a gift from a sweet coworker of mine and it was the perfect way to pamper ourselves after 18 weeks of training!  


Today is my last day of vacation, as I go back to work tomorrow; Tom still has a few more days off.  I feel refreshed, relaxed, and ready to tackle whatever comes my way.  I am very grateful for the uninterrupted time that Tom and I have gotten to spend together this week.  It's been very much needed and I certainly do not take it for granted; I'll be drawing from this wonderful week when the hours at work get long over the next couple of months.  Completing the marathon lifted such a weight off of my shoulders and also filled me with a huge sense of accomplishment and confidence that I know will benefit me in areas of my life other than just running.  I believe I am only just starting to understand all the ways that becoming a marathoner has changed and will continue change my life.  I'm really excited to see what I can do now that I've met such a huge, long standing goal!

I haven't been running since the marathon, but I'm thinking that's likely going to change today.  It's just so nice out!  The first sunshine we've had since Monday morning.  Especially after my massage yesterday, I feel more or less back to normal.  I intend on making yoga a regular part of my week, whether that's on Thursday nights with Tom or the Friday morning class I've attended previously.  I hope to run outside for as long as I can, and at that point I'll move into the gym.  I want to continue to work on strengthening, especially my core.  As far as my plans for future races, I'll likely end up doing a turkey trot of some sort in November.  I'm already signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle 8K in 2018, and I'm hoping I'll get the opportunity to complete the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series, competing in both the Chicago Spring Half Marathon and the Half Marathon in the fall.  

Also, if all goes according to plan, I'll be training again next summer to give the Chicago Marathon another go.  I really want to do it again, since I have a time to beat and all.  Knowing that I can do it, that I can complete 26.2 miles, makes the prospect of training for another one much easier and much less daunting.  Of course, I'm sure that other opportunities for races will come up here and there, but one thing I know for sure is that I've fallen in love with running again.  Can't wait to get out there and get those miles!