Friday, January 17, 2014

How to register for a triathlon in 15 almost-easy and totally annoying steps.

Step 1: Think about the type and distance race you want to register for. Think about it a lot over the course of at least five months. Talk it over. Research it. Read race reviews. Read over the race website. Talk to more people. Don’t worry. You’re JUST researching.

Step 2: Tell your coach/trainer/best friends/training partners that you’re thinking of trying a certain race. BUT YOU ARE NOT SURE. Maybe next year. You don’t want to set your self up for failure. But just in case you WERE thinking about this year, ask them -- repeatedly -- if they think it’s feasible. Do not register.

Step 3: Starting in November, map out the following year’s tri season building up to The Big Hypothetical Race. Practice carb loading. (Just in case.) Do not register.

Step 4: Work on your base while training for other races. Research training strategies. Do not register.

Step 5: Register for some of the early races. But not too many. You don’t want to get locked in. 

Step 6: Have a heart-to-heart with a friend. Change your mind. Decide this entire 70.3 thing is not for you. Stress eat cookies while thinking about it and talking to your friends/coach/training partners. Ask them the same questions, different ways, at least three times. Do this until they want to slug you.

Step 7: Soul search. Then say: "You know what? I AM going to try this. So-the-fuck what if I'm the last person to finish?" Totally revamp the season’s plan, changing the goal race you’re maybe-most likely-absolutely going to register for. Move your timeline up a month. Do not register.
Step 8: Go to the race website. Read it for the eighth time. Start to fill out registration. Feel queasy. Close web browser. Forage for comfort snacks.

Step 9: Book a hotel room. Just in case. Cancel hotel room. Book ANOTHER hotel room at a different hotel that is cheaper. Continue to not register.

Step 10: Post surveys on social media to discuss merits of new hypothetical goal race. Go to Chicago Tri Club meeting to hear strangers discuss races. Re-plan season, but feel increasingly confident in your goal race selection. Think about all the reasons why you like Michigan. Do not register.

Step 11: Continue your base training. Open race website again. Fill out form. Do not hit “register.” Close browser. Have a drink.

Step 12: Buy $70 worth of books on Amazon about training for your race. Do not register. Then buy a new helmet that actually fits your head. Research nutrition. Research efficient cycling strokes. Watch YouTube videos of most efficient swim form. Feel slightly more confident. Do not register.

Step 13: Ask everyone you know who has some connection to triathlon to give you their opinion of the race you still have not registered for. Feel validated when they give you good feedback. Feel like vomiting when they do not.

Step: 14: Watch YouTube clips of the race you have not registered for. Watch the swim start. Watch the swim start again. Watch the swim start for a third time. Wish you had a beer.

Step 15: Get increasingly annoyed at yourself. Realize you are insane and may have exasperated everyone you know. Just rip the Band-Aid off already. Resolve to be less neurotic (as much as you can be) for the next seven months. REGISTER. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Two posts in one!

Linking to two blog posts I've written about training and triathlon. 

Here's my post for Fleet Feet Chicago on insider tips for the Chicago Triathlon. You read read it here.

The other post is for Second City Fitness, updating The Ashley Project, which hit an unforseen bump in the road. You read the latest update here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Ashley Project, Part 2

Yesterday, Jeff weighed in on the project so far. Today, it's my turn. Read about it here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Ashley Project.

I've been pushing all sorts of personal limits over the past 10 weeks, working with a personal trainer for the first time. The results have been totally awesome -- physically and, probably more importantly, psychologically.

As part of The Ashley Project, I agreed to chronicle about my experiences on the Second City Fitness blog. Today, Jeff (my trainer), weighs in on last week's half marathon. (Don't worry: I'll get my turn tomorrow.)

Want to know more? Click here to read what's up. In Chicago and want to get the scoop on SCF? Check out their website or follow them on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


How I feel about tonight's workout with Second City Fitness.

How I will feel if it includes burpees or those god-awful knee tuck hop things:

Friday, April 12, 2013

What I'm up to...

Hey guys!

I'm working my tail off to train for the Wisconsin (Half) Marathon in three weeks, where I'm trying to cut 12+ minutes off my personal best. In addition to that , I'm hoping to smash several more PRs (5K, 10K, 10 Mile) before setting off on a summer of tri training and my first international-distance triathlon. (I'm a wee bit of an over achiever.)

So in addition to my training with Chicago Endurance Sports, I've started training (a lot) with the good folks at Second City Fitness. And I'll be blogging for them about my journey.

The first post is here. Click over!

Happy training!

Monday, March 11, 2013

An ode to a sports bra.

I wrote this post for Fleet Feet Chicago, my running store and home-away-from home.

Because sometimes, you just decide to pen a break up letter to your tired-and-worn sports bra. And then publish it for the whole entire internet to read.

(Sidebar and pro tip, ladies: Go to you local running store and when you're getting fitted for new shoes, get fitted for a new sports bra. And if you've been doing hard-core workouts in yours for more than a year, consider investing in a new one. Don't make the girls sad.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inspirational bit

A friend reminded me of this brilliant Middlemarch quote the other day, and it just resonated with me for so many reasons. And so, I share it with you. (That George Eliot was one smart chick!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The bright side

Who: Me
What: Wallowing-by-text message with The Modern Gal about the 10 miles of awfulness.
When: Yesterday.
Where: My laundry-covered sofa.
Why: Because that's how I roll.
How: Behold...

And that, my lovelies, is why it pays to have BFFs who always look on the bright side -- even when it comes to chafing. After all: They help you defunk your sulking and make you laugh.

Yay for friends! And yay for a good running metaphor.

P.S. YEOWW! Let my red, swollen, painful chin be a reminder to pay attention to Good Form Running, especially when you're tired.

P.P.S. And thus ends my bad-run wallowing. The self-imposed time limit has expired.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The canine of defeat

Saturday’s Polar Dash 10K was notable for two reasons: I snagged a PR and, for the first time, managed to get beaten by a dog.

As context, I’ve been beaten in a race by just about everyone: old people, children (LOTS of children), blind runners being led by guides, you name it. I once, in a moment of truly shameful competitiveness, launched into a near-sprint in order to beat an amputee up a hill during a half marathon. It was NOT my finest moment. (Although I did flash him a thumbs up as I ran by. So there’s that. But seriously, when you’re in the back of the pack, the chance to pass someone – ANYONE – is both thrilling and rare.)

However, Saturday marked my first defeat by an actual canine.

Lining up for the unusually warm race (I busted out cropped pants and a t-shirt for the 40-degree start), I spotted a woman in front of me with a tote bag slung around her shoulder. But this wasn’t just any tote bag: this bag carried a white, shaggy, Muppety -looking tiny dog, who appeared totally content to just hang there like he (or she) lined up in a race corral every weekend.

Inching closer, I heard the woman say she and her husband brought the dog, but didn’t expect to run the race with it. Somehow, though, here she was, in the 12:00 +/mile area, getting ready to start her 6.2-mile race with the dog and purse in tow.

I turned to a girl behind me.

“We HAVE to be able to run faster than the woman doing the race with the DOG,” I said.

We eyed the lady suspiciously. She was blonde. Maybe in her 40s. Maybe in her 50s. Lithe. This description definitely did NOT apply to either of us.

“I don’t know if I can,” said The Girl Behind Me.

“Yeah, um. I’m not sure if I can either,” I said, eyeing Dog Lady like I was on my third drink in a bar.

With that, the race started.

I moved to the side and tried to find my pace and entertain myself, leapfrogging a few other run-walkers. I’ve been working hard to improve my pace, so I tried to accelerate a bit with every passing mile. The race had a few weird moments: the 5K group seemed to miss the turnaround. We all seemed to miss the first water stop.

Mile 4 dragged. At Mile 5 I decided to try to pick up the pace even more, figuring the faster I’d run, the faster I’d be done. That’s when I spotted her: Dog Lady was walking ahead of me. And holy hell, I was going to catch her.

I ran faster and inched closer. Every time I got close enough to start to pass her, she’d begin to trot, dog carrier in hand. It went like this for almost a mile. Then finally – FINALLY – around the 6 mile marker, I did it. I PASSED THE WOMAN AND HER DOG.

“HAHAHAHAHA,” I thought victoriously to myself, as I approached the last turn before the finish line. “ I'M GOING TO BEAT THE WOMAN WITH THE DOG.”

We ran under an underpass and entered Grant Park at the base of a hill that’d lead us to the finish line. That’s when it happened. Woman With The Dog began to speed up the hill. I have a firm policy to always sprint the end of the race, but she was starting well before I was ready. Pumping my arms and legs I tried to catch her as an onlooker yelled: “Look! First place in the dog division!"

I won't lie: I contemplated a "bite me" retort.

Blonde Lady kept going, crossing the finish line about five seconds before I charged through.

I stopped my Garmin and tried to breathe. I looked up, hoping to find her and her furry companion to at least say "thank you" for pushing me. Thanks in part to the two of them, I’d cut about 2:20 off my best 10K time that'd I'd recorded in November.

But by then, she and the dog had disappeared into the crowd.

Maybe next year we'll have a rematch.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We run this town.

My view on a run. (Well, one of them.)

I used to be intimidated by Chicago's Lakefront path. In the warmer months, it's overflowing with people -- runners, bikers, rollerbladers, walkers, teenagers, tourists, beach goers, dog walkers, stray children who don't look before they dart in front of your bike, giving you a heart attack at 6 a.m. on your commute to work and making you think that you'll hit them and either kill them or die yourself in a crash. (Sorry... projecting.)

It took me a while to get used to frantic pace while still being able to keep my cool. (It's been more than six years since I moved here, and I still know my sanity will always be tested if I ride south of Fullerton on a warm summer afternoon. Been there, been hit in the head with the football by the drunk frat boys.) (True story.) (I also got hit by a flag attached to a passing triple-wide stroller. You can't make this shit up.)

I live about two blocks from the 18-mile-long paved path that runs along the waterfront. To dodge the crowds -- and my own insecurities when I started running -- I'd usually veer along winding dirt paths that splinter off from the main north-south thoroughfare. Sure, they might be muddy and devoid of bathrooms and water fountains. But they offered this incredibly different experience of exercising in the city. Running right along the water's edge, I'd loop around Montrose Harbor, following the shoreline south past the golf course and then trace the outline of Belmont Harbor before turning back north to finish a 5-mile route. You'd get spectacular views of the skyline while passing a few runners and picnickers off the main drag. (I learned the disastrous way NOT to bring the Mutt Puppy on these runs after an ill-fated outing where she stopped roughly every 500 feet to roll around in smelly goose poo and fish detritus.)

A storm washed out a huge part of my favorite splinter path last summer, so I've found other routes to call my own. In the winter, when the sun sets before 5 p.m., I hit the main trail. (Because treadmills are the devil.)  It's a wholly different experience to be out there in January. Bundled up in gaiters and balaclavas, you still see just a few runners and cyclists who are out in the cold. You nod as you pass each other, offering the trail version of a high-five. (I've been known to let out a loud squeal when the snowflakes start falling and the wind gusts kick up in single-degree weather.)

RunChi shirt from CafePress.
This past summer, I'd ride my bike six miles down to Oak Street Beach on Saturday mornings to get in a swimming workout while I was training for a triathlon. One morning in particular it felt like the path -- and the entire city -- was alive. It was warm and sunny on the way south as I passed my Chicago Endurance Sports teammates training for the marathon. Along the way I spotted an outdoor yoga class, cycling groups, people doing bootcamps, tennis players, people flying kites, walking dogs, fishing, picnicking and swimming. I finished my workout with this ridiculous grin, so proud of my city and the people in it. It was just one of those moments when I felt so much civic pride. I was so stoked to be able to call myself part of Chicago's dynamic running community.

The path is this weird place full of conflict when it's crowded and yet full of serenity when it's not. (And the views of the city are mind-blowing.) When I saw this photo posted on a Facebook page, I knew I'd have to share it.

If you're ever up this way, let me know -- I'll show you my trail. Just make sure you bring your camera.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Successes and failures

For years, I used to have dreams I was a secret runner. I’d fall asleep, lace up my shoes, and take off – running, bounding, practically flying through the air. It was easy and effortless. And the spectators – whoever they were on any given night – would be awed.  “Who is this girl? Why didn’t we know what she could do? How does she do that?”

I’d run, and run, and never get tired. The miles would fly by.  And I’d smile this big, huge crazy grin.

Then I’d wake up.  And lying there in the dark under the covers, I’d remember that feeling of effortlessness. I’d be inspired. “Maybe, one day,” I’d think, before rolling over and going back to bed, hoping the next dream would be just as good, vivid and real.

It’s been almost 23 months since I started Week 1, Day 1 of the Couch to 5K workout and 49 weeks since I ran my first half marathon. In 2012, I logged almost 689 miles on the path, finished 11 races, including four half marathons and a triathlon. (Since I started running, I dropped almost 40 pounds -- and gained roughly 10 back.) By my math, I worked out for well over 130 hours last year and went from being a running participant to a running leader – working out four to five times a week, pacing run-walkers with my training group and mentoring new runners who are trying to cross their own first-time finish line.

My 2012 medals and bibs.
With a turtle pace, my running isn’t effortless like those dreams from so long ago. But in two years, I’ve managed to transform myself from the girl who thought about things, to the girl who does them.

And so, catching up on TV yesterday I was surprised to find myself crying – REALLY crying. At every commercial break, there was another ad highlighting someone else’s weight loss success story. The married couple who’d shed more than 100 pounds on Weight Watchers.  The Medifast woman who has a tearful conversation with her future “leaner, happier” self.  

I was jealous. And defeated. And embarrassed. And frustrated.

I’ve worked so hard in the past two years, and yet here I am – still so far from where I want to be. I’m exercising harder and more frequently than I ever have in my life and the number on the scale isn't moving much at all. (I know, I know – it’s just a number. But when you stand there and stare at it, it sure feels like a measure of your own effort and self worth.) 

With every commercial, I felt more like a failure.  (Note to self: only watch things that have been DVR’d.)

I typed out a few tearful text messages to friends and after a few conversations, I had one of those knock-you-over realizations.

When I was fat and sedentary (instead of slightly less fat and active), I thought the hardest part of losing weight was going to be the exercise. When the thought of running even half a mile is intimidating and beyond your ability, exercise – and committing to make it part of your life – seems impossible.

Grand Rapids Half Marathon
But on a snowy Saturday two years into my journey, still sniffling from my meltdown, I realized that exercise is actually the easy part of the weight loss equation. It’s the food that’s the biggest, baddest mean girl bitch.

My life (and often my social life) now revolves around my training group. Some of my bestest friends in the city are athletic inspirations (ironmen, triathletes, marathoners, cyclocross riders). They encourage me and I support them.  We talk about training schedules, race bucket lists, rough workouts and speed drills. IT’S AWESOME.

(Pro tip, new Sporty Spices: When your community is all about exercise, it makes you want to be all about exercise. Who wants to bail on a workout if it means bailing on your friends? NO ONE, that’s who!)

So with a new year and new goals, I tried to talk me self out of my wallow fest. I decided to treat myself to a new yoga mat I’d been eyeing for months. (Shopping heals, y’all.) And I refocused. I thought about where I was and where I am and then how I’m going to get to where I want to go.  (Preview: it’ll involve a lot more mindfulness about food.)

Triathlon finish!
My word of the year is going to be “push.” Wallowing moments aside, I’m so proud of what I’ve done, but I know I need to push myself to keep going. I’m not where I want to be. and I’m working to be OK with that. Losing weight and changing your life aren’t supposed to be easy.  (Although seriously, you’d think the universe could have made losing weight nearly as easy as putting it on.) My wise BFF, The Modern Gal, points out that when I started this whole process, I would never have called running -- or any exercise -- easy. I've come pretty far to say that. So now it's time to do the same thing with the healthy eating. 

So here’s to another year of trying. And the reassuring fact that those skinny bitches in the TV commercials probably can’t run a half marathon.

So there.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Watch. Laugh. Repeat.


I first time I watched poor Henri contemplate his existential angst, I laughed so hard I cried.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My new toy

My birthday present came early today.

No, it's not a pony. (Although that'd be awesome.)
No, it's not a monkey. (Although last year I did research if I could rent one for my 30th birthday. Verdict: They're too expensive.)
And no, it's not (another) puppy. (I promised my mother that four-legged animals wouldn't outnumber the two-legged ones in my house, so I have to get a live-in boyfriend before I can get another canine friend. I expect to be waiting a while.)

So what is this birthday bit of awesomeness?


For the record, my birthday is still five weeks away. But the birthday fairy (ie: the parental units), thought it'd be nice to have this fancy-pants gadget when I run the Country Music Half Marathon in holy shit less than three weeks. This means that once I can can figure the damn thing out, I'll be able to use it during my runs this weekend, including my last/further training run of the season on Sunday. (11 miles. Oh, sweet Christ.)

As a run-walker who does 4/2 intervals, I've spent the past year+ using a patchwork of iPhone apps on my runs. One app gives me my intervals, another plays music and then I use Nike+ to track my distances and read me my pace every mile or so. The system has worked OK for now, but it also means I have to carry my phone in my fuel belt, which gets crowded on long runs with the accompanying ShotBloks, chapstick, inhaler, snot sock (in the winter), Body Glide (in the summer), water bottle, and emergency cash I sometimes remember to carry. Once I feel comfortable enough with the gadget, I can swap out the iPhone for my iPod nano and I should (knock on wood) be good to go.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Somebody I used to know

Holy shit, this song is gorgeous. The lyrics almost make me wish I was nursing a break up. (Yes, I typed that.)