chicago trip day 27

chi151park

I’ve packed almost everything, just the last minute items to go in before leaving tomorrow morning. For the longest time I thought I was flying on tuesday, because I usually fly on a tuesday. I checked my ticket a few days ago and realised I was actually flying monday, so one less day than I thought.

Went to Aunt C’s house for lunch. So wonderful to see so many family members there! The kids have grown so much. I remember little A when she was a baby and J is now an adult and sporting a beard too (it’s for an event and he said he’ll shave it off afterwards). The spaghetti and salad were delicious as always and I had two generous helpings.

Day 27 of my trip and looking back, I didn’t do a whole lot. Except for the week of the conference it was mostly staying in or doing laundry or going to the supermarket. Went out to the city twice, once to walk around and another was yesterday’s disasterous go fest. I feel rested and not stressed until this past few days when I started thinking about having to go home. There’s a part of me that can’t wait to go home, to see mm, read at my own desk and sleep in my own bed. There’s another part that has been enjoying how laid back staying at Car’s house has been. We went out or called out for meals a few times, to the usual places–steak, mexican, beggar’s, portillo’s, cracker barrel. We also cooked a few meals at home–pasta, potato frittata, cheeseburger. Sometimes I simply made ham & egg sandwich or toasted some waffles. We would be sitting at the dining table reading, and it’d be peaceful. There was no schedule, no anxiety. Grateful to my friend Car and her cat Midi for making me feel so at home (and I’m not saying this because I know she will be reading this, waves to Car).

neighbourhood walk

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Nice day to go out for a walk around the neighbourhood. Clear skies but dry enough that I’m not dripping with sweat. Quite pretty around St Walter Church.

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The houses in this area are pretty. To my standards, they are all large and even the ones that look small from the outside are deep so there is plenty of space inside. This interesting one has the remains of a wall around the front gate. I wonder what the story is.

chi168breadbottle

I walked to the orphanage again, and over to this small store. It’s a pokestop too. But I didn’t go inside, apparently it’s a dodgy place where suspected drug dealers hang out. Safe enough during the day (from across the road) but I won’t go near it when it’s dark.

There were very few pedestrians around. This being America, with drive-thru restaurants and ATM machines and even drive-thru postboxes, most people out and about were driving. I saw a postal worker delivering mail, a couple of people walking their dogs, a kid on his bike, people waiting for the bus, that was about it. There was a group of 4 women having a picnic at the lawn near the church. Perhaps having lunch? It was around noon.

conference day 05

The last day of the conference. Brief opening remarks then brunch and goodbyes. A was checking out today so I packed my bags and left them in the main room. I helped break down the vendor table, packing books in boxes. Then I went off with Car to look for a staples to get packing materials.

We were one of the last ones to leave. We packed up official boxes into 2 cars and returned to the storage place–the stuff will sit there until next year.

beggarspizza

Totally pooped so we just ordered pizza. Around 5.30pm my eyes couldn’t open so I took a nap. Turned out I was asleep for 2hrs. I was still able to sleep, just to show how tired I was.

conference day 04

Didn’t really go to any sessions in the morning. Saturday is always a stressful day for me and I spent the morning finishing up the awards presentation.

The keynote speaker was after lunch and we had Lesléa Newman this year, the author of Heather Has Two Mommies as well as a huge portfolio of books. She talked about how she stood on the shoulders of giants to influenced and guided her. She also read from some of her work. I don’t read poetry but I was so moved by her recital of several pieces of her poems. There was a beat, a rhythm, to her reading and I was tapping my fingers following her. I sat next to a friend T at an earlier author spotlight session and she said she always listened to people reading with her eyes closed and I spotted her tapping out a beat with her fingers at a reading too.

The very last session I went to at this conference was moderated by two authors who run a successful writing group. Our group exercise was to talk about setting up a writing group and we had a nice discussion. Our group focused on what we wanted from a group and we agreed that honesty and having common goals were important factors.

While the majority of the conference goers went off to rest and have dinner, our stress started. Rehearsal for presenters went well. I had about 30mins to eat dinner–I asked for a takeout box at lunch to grab some turkey salad I put in the fridge. A had a can of coke zero for me too, it was perfect. At 5pm it was setup time. The helpful staff at the hotel helped us set up computers, sound, video cameras, the stage, furniture and lots more. We had a small team–2 of us at the tech table, 2 at the awards table next to the stage, 3 videographers, 1 photographer and the MC. People tried to come in early but we sorted them out.

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The awards started and for the 4th year in a row, I was running the deck. Started off well until the first award that was announced. As soon as the presenter announced the winner my powerpoint crashed. Luckily the hotel AV person had set up a dump screen (static screen of our logo) for us so Car switched to it quickly while I restarted and found my place. Altogether we were down for about 20 seconds. People said to me afterwards they noticed the glitch but were amazed we got it back so quickly. It’s not about the glitch or error, it’s about how you recover.

The rest of the presentation was fine. I kept up with the presenters and followed the scripts for special awards. We did away with proxies coming on stage this year and the whole ceremony took only around 2hrs. We had lots of praises, about how smoothly it went and how they appreciated it finishing early.

As usual, I spent the dance in a perpetual state of drunkeness. On our table we had writers tears, port and wine. I wasn’t drinking that much, but it was the relief of getting the awards over with. Someone bought a beer for me late in the evening too. Went to bed at 2am.

conference day 03

ladder

Again, being good students, we woke up early to go to the 8.30am sessions. I was so glad I did. The one I went to, the presenter talked about the ladder of inference. We all do this, we take external data, filter and make decisions or perform actions based on our own experiences and belief system. The trick is to recognise we are doing this and learn how to expand our thinking and be open to unfamiliar experiences. It’s very interesting, so much so that I texted mm about it. We’ll need to discuss it more when I get back.

There was another great session on the intersection of identities, where the panel made up of authors from different ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, nationality, ages. They talked about their personal experiences and how they incorporated their different backgrounds into their books.

At the break I got talking to a new friend and missed the session before lunch. Not sorry at all. My new friend S had lived and travelled all over the world and was in her previous life a tv and film producer. We bonded over our shared view of Cannes (a dump) and shared life stories. I would need to read her books asap as they sounded like they would be wonderful. She gave me a tip, to approach someone I looked up to and who had the closest style to mine (or what I aspire to) and ask for their help. I realised I may have been asking the wrong people or asking the wrong questions. I need to be more focused and targeted.

After lunch was our special speaker. The great thing about this conference is I learn about and meet people who I would never have the chance to. As ever, our special and keynote speakers talked extensively about their lives, their writing and impart great wisdom for us to take away. After the special speaker I went to a session about juggling romance with kids (real life and in books) and one where authors talked about how their faith influenced their lives and writing. I hadn’t planned on going to either of these, but I was glad I did. I also got to sit with my friend Jane who I haven’t had much chance to chat with this year.

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A and I decided to go to gibson’s for dinner. It’s in the hotel next door and a short walk. Yes, expensive but we both liked a good steak. We shared half a dozen oysters to start, they were good flavoured and balanced. Shared a bone-in ribeye for mains, which was really good. Not quite as good as hawksmoor because it wasn’t chargrilled enough. I also found it needed a tad more seasoning. For drinks I had a cinnamon infused makers mark 46. Wow, yummy.

The evening social event was karaoke. Good atmosphere this year. My name was even called out but it was because I got the group together to sing “I feel pretty” for our late friend Pam Butler. Stayed later than I expected.

conference day 02 | hamilton

To get up early for the 8.30am session or not, that was the question. We were good students, so we did. The day was full of educational sessions. One that touched on the current political climate, a masterclass on great openings, an update on the legacies project documentary, a discussion on swearing. The membership meeting highlighted the contributions made by volunteers and that the organisation was in good hands.

One of the most important meetings I went to was the one on awards changes. I had some input to this and we were excited with the improvements suggested. Seemed to be well received by the membership too, so the effort wasn’t wasted.

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We finished early and met at the lobby for the drive into the city. The destination, Hamilton the musical. Car had gotten tickets as soon as the booking window opened and a group of us piled into her car. There were a number of our friends who were there also. I hadn’t had dinner so I bought some of their “pyes” ie small apple and cherry pies. The theatre was completely full and as soon as the house lights went off the audience cheered loudly. And the cheers didn’t stop. The show was really amazing. I know very little about Alexander Hamilton except he was one of the group that included George Washington, James Madison. I was able to follow the story easily. The music was a departure from usual musical style, I had listened to the soundtrack so I knew it was mostly hip hop. Simply put, very well done and a fantastic show. Up there with Les Miz.

conference day 01

tealiqueur

If I’d thought about it more, I would have bought croissants, yogurt, fruit for breakfast. But I forgot so breakfast was a bagel and cream cheese from the hotel café. Wednesday morning of the conference is usually setup and I found myself in the main room helping with the silent auction, moving stuff, introducing the official photographer to various people. This year’s silent auction has so much stuff. A and I each brought whisky. There were plenty of books, posters, gifts, food baskets. A member donated a lovely bowl she made herself; there was a set of 3 beautiful pics taken at venice; lots of doctor who and xena memorabilia too. Editors offered manuscript critique, writers offered characters in their books, a leathercraft company offered custom made gloves. I have my eyes on a set of miniature bottles of tea spirits from thomas and sons distillery that my friends J and H brought from portland. I wonder if they were one of the ones I could have visited when I was in portland in 2014.

A and I planned to go to one of the nearby steakhouses for lunch but we were invited to lunch at the hotel by the awards review committee. I had the burger and a glass of wine. I heard the burger was good, it was okay.

And so after lunch the conference officially started. Over 350 attendees, the biggest yet. After the opening remarks the sessions started and there were so many to choose from. I went to an open mic, a coffee chat and had some ice cream at the meet’n’greet in the evening. They also had hot dogs (we being in chicago and all) but I only had the sausage and some tomato slices; I was calling it sausage salad hahaha.

Had some official things to do afterwards, which didn’t take long.

In the evening, I and a group of others were invited to a dinner celebrating the wedding of our friends L and C. They had officially gotten married a few months ago and wanted to celebrate with us, it was very sweet. The event started with a lovely, loving movie and several people stood up to make short speeches. Very touched to have been invited and I wish the couple the best.

chicago trip day 08

Woke up at 5.30am because we had an early start. We loaded up my suitcase and muji bag of things for people and the silent auction and were off at 7am. It being a public holiday the roads were relatively clear. I took a chance and asked reception if the room was ready and it was. I dumped my bags and joined the group for breakfast and part of their meeting.

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Very interesting meeting but I and another meeting attendee had to leave at 11am to get a lyft to Wrigley to see the baseball game. A was at a downtown hotel and would meet me at our seats. I’m not sure why we needed to get to the park so early, we got there at 11.45am and they wandered off to their seats. I walked around the outside of the stadium, made my way inside and explored the concession stands. Lots of food–beer,hot dogs, snacks. Souvenir shops too. I got a goose island beer (had to look for it, it was mostly budweiser) and a giordano’s pizza–I asked for cheese and got pepperoni, sigh. Our seats were in the shade behind first base. The game started at 1.20pm, I had over an hour to wait. Again, not sure why the friends took that lyft so early.

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It being Independence Day, there was a parade of military personnel, a display of an American flag that covered most of the field, and we stood for the National Anthem.

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To be honest, I found the game boring. There’d be short bursts of action then long periods of waiting around for teams to get organised or change positions or talk strategy. It’s not continuous and makes the game very long, total I think this game was 3 hours.

The cubs were playing tampa bay rays. Cubs took a 1-0 lead but rays in one innings went up 1-6. It wasn’t till the end of the 9th innings that things got exciting. Cubs fought back to 5-6. Two out and two strikes there were people on bases. If the batter hit the ball far enough they’d have a chance to win. But in the end they didn’t so final score cubs 5 rays 6.

We took the red line to A’s hotel, stopping off to get some stuff at walgreens and visit cheesecake factory. Taxi to a blue line station, L to rosemont then taxi to the hotel.

chi113quesadilla

A little tired but hungry. Walked over to the retail park 5mins from the hotel. There was a band and food stalls as people celebrated the holiday. We found seats at a mexican place and I had blackened shrimp quesadilla which was quite good.

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Had a wine at the hotel bar and joined others to watch fireworks. Long day and tired.

chicago trip day 07

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Conference starts this week. Today we needed to move the boxes that are in storage to the hotel. We took a few larger boxes and drove over to the hotel, around 30mins away next to the airport. It’s my first time at the hotel.

Just a couple of steps into the lobby and I started seeing familiar faces. Lots of hellos and hugs. Couldn’t talk to someone for long because someone else would coma along and there would be a new round of hellos and hugs. It’s good.

Eventually we rounded enough people and cars to go to the storage place. Total 5 cars. I rode with Brenda since I know the way, BadgerBliss followed us. Good drivers, Brenda always knew where Karen was and Karen followed closely.

When we go to the storage place, we found that one of the cars had gone missing. Yikes!! Luckily everyone had mobile phones so no one is completely cut off or lost. We started loading and were so efficient that we were done within 10-15mins. The lost car arrived, and it turned out we didn’t need it. Clearly it’s a group who knew how to stuff and pack because we got everything into the 4 cars. Great teamwork.

The staff at the hotel met us at the loading dock and helped us unload the cars and bring the boxes to where they needed to be. We were quite tired at the end of the exercise, said goodbye to people and went home.

chicago trip day 06

Laundry day. Boring.

Finished off some work that needed to be done for the conference.

Watched the live action version of beauty and the beast.

chicago trip day 03

Carleen had a hair appointment so I went with her to the mall and walked around during her appointment. Didn’t by anything, although towels and a suitcase ($109 only) were tempting.

Mostly, I hit the 4 pokestops in the middle of the mall. Pokemon go is very disappointing here, now I understand what people are saying about suburbs and rural: I can see pidgeys and spinaraks around the house and there is one stop at the now-empty Radioshack store. That’s it. St Walter’s is a gym and there are 2 stops there. There are no chance for raids. I’ll have to figure out a way to go to a stop once a day. That said, I think I’ve evolved all the gen 2 level 2 that I can and for the others I have the evolution item and need more candies. I’ll have to find a way to go into the city one day to try to find tauros.

The salad I bought at the supermarket was nice and the fried chicken too.

chicago trip day 02

I woke up in the middle of the night, as expected. But managed to fall back to sleep and woke up at a decent hour.

Mostly resting today. Went to the supermarket and bought food: ham, bread, eggs, milk, yogurt, snacks, wine. Plus 10 instant rice that was on sale for $10.

Got tired early so went to bed early too.

chicago trip day 01

cxpe

Left at 8.15am and should have remembered it’s rush hour. Took around 15mins to get a taxi, I was looking at uber when one arrived. The driver was joking that he was looking for a public bathroom, so I told him about the one in the small park. He was okay, he could wait till we get to the station. Hahaha, TMI.

Check-in was fast. The plane was full, I got upgraded to premium economy. But no lounge access.

Had breakfast in the airport, made an attempt at walking around the shops and sat at the gate for over an hour. Not bored, though. Because it was a US flight, there was secondary screening security theatre. Another queue, and then another to get on the plane. The seats are 2-4-2, so not that much extra width; slightly more legroom than regular economy. I was in seat D and the 3 seats next to me were a group of three colleagues so they never got in my way.

Saw Hidden Figures, Passengers, Star Wars ep 7 and 5 eps of X-files 2016 season. Not sure why they only had 5 eps instead of all 6. Hidden Figures was wonderful, justifying every positive review I’ve seen about it. Passengers was meh, it was the best of the meagre superhero/sci-fi film selection that I like watching on the plane.

Food was okay. Overcooked beef filet for one meal and sea bass with skin still on and bones for the other. Ate everything because I was hungry. Got instant noodles too.

Arrived at around 1.30pm, taxi to the terminal was around 10mins. Got through passport control super fast–the e-passport really works. One suitcase came out relatively quickly but the other one was almost the last one out, after a long wait. Another queue to hand in the custom form at the end. Carleen met me at the carpark and we were on out way soon.

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Carleen had been tracking my flight. Look at all the planes over US airspace at one moment on a weekday afternoon.

Early dinner at the steakhouse. Then back to the house. Rested, read, washed the sheets.

I lasted till 9.30pm, then my eyes started drooping and it was bedtime. Tired, long day but glad to have arrived.

nano day 04: 1945 words | 9025 total | flight home

nanoicon

1945 words | 9025 total

Day of the flight. Car’s cousin Mike kindly took me to the airport and I was checked in and through security in no time. Bought a Balvenie triple cask 16 that we first tasted in Heathrow, then bought 4 pork buns at wow bao for lunch. Beer at the bar next to the gate was expensive, $11.

The flight was full, and I got upgraded to premium economy. Here’s the dilemma, which is the better seat: an aisle seat in economy or a middle seat in premium economy? I would have preferred an aisle seat but the lady sitting next to me was nice and slept most of the way. The additional seat width and leg room were good in helping to make 15hrs pass faster.

Disappointed that there wasn’t much to watch, no big action film, no Bake-off and too many old tv programs (Prime Suspect s1, Entourage s1, ugh). Watched Spy (funny, good) and The Hundred-Foot Journey, which was a real gem. An Indian family’s car broke down in the middle of the French countryside and they decided to settle down roots, opening a restaurant directly opposite a Michelin-star establishment. War ensued, but of course it was a happy ending in the end. Helen Mirren was brilliant in this predictable feel good movie, perfect for watching on the plane.

PE had better food. Filet steak and creamy shrimp on rice. I had half a glass of wine, but mainly stuck to coke zero and sparkling water.

Door to door was 20hrs, and I lost most of Wednesday. Got home around 9.30pm, showered and unpacked quickly.

My nano time is based in Chicago so when I woke up at 5am there was enough time to write and assign it to day 4. I wanted to get around 1000 words in, and am pleased that I got almost 2000.

 

kristin chenoweth in concert

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We went to see Kristen Chenoweth in concert at the Chicago theatre. I don’t get many chances to see live concerts, and I think this is the second concert I attended in a theatre setting; I remember seeing kd lang in singapore when I was travelling there a lot. Oh and I saw Fleetwood Mac at Wembley when I was in college, that was it.

 

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It’s also the first time I’ve been inside the Chicago theatre. It’s such an iconic landmark, especially in the city of its name. We had nice stall seats, about 2/3rds of the way down. A slight incline meant I was able to see the stage with no problems.

The concert was great. A 11-person band including string and brass sections. The musical director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell played wonderfully on the piano.

Ms Chenoweth herself. Ahhh. What a voice. We were treated to Moon River, Somewhere over the Rainbow, Popular and an emotional Bring Him Home. She was personable, lively and had great presence. She sipped from a Cubs cup and told of her steak dinner at Gibson’s, conncecting her with the audience. During her tour she always sings For Good with a member of the audience or an invited guest—this time she had a young local singer Jess Godwin, who is certainly destined for a great career. She also invited a group of local youngsters to join her for the last few numbers. And she shared the stage with them, generously giving them credit and attention.

 

Pics not allowed, so here’s a youtube video of her singing.

 
 

chicago marathon race report

chimarathon101split

42.2km 6.35.15hr 9.22min/km

overall: 36785 / 46033
gender: 16841 / 16955
age division: 1029 / 1041

Set alarm at 5am but woke up at 4am. Tea, a couple of waffles, a banana and a cereal bar for breakfast. Superfriend Carleen dropped me off and I joined thousands of people walking towards the start line. Found a quiet spot to watch the sunrise then joined the horrendous line for the portaloo. After half an hour in the cold wind the line hadn’t moved much but then someone came over and told us about other portaloos with shorter lines.

The corral was crowded. Wave 2 start was 8am, I crosssed the start line at around 8.11am. I felt great and happy. The crowds were fantastic and pushed me on, soon I found myself at LaSalle and 5k already. Lots of fun signs from spectators urging us on.

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Things haven’t changed from 2010 and 2011: I stopped for the traditional pic outside the chicago theatre, there was warm support at Moody’s church, music at boystown, Japanese drummers at mile 10, the lasalle church opening their toilets up for us at mile 11. The roar of the crowds really did help.

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I also caught up with a runner holding an American flag at lincoln park, same as 2011 but different guy. Saw a fireman in full gear too. And a man in his 70s with “50th marathon” on his shirt. I spent quite a bit high-fiving kids and grinning.

Around mile 10 was when it started going pear shaped. First I got a nasty side stitch, which I hardly ever do. Then my left knee started hurting, which affected my calf and then moved to my right leg and finally my back. Basically anything that could hurt, was hurting. So disappointing, the wall came early. Even the biofreeze and tylenol at mile 12 wasn’t much help.

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It’s always good to reach halfway, located just behind the old office. HM was at almost exactly 3hrs. I was pretty behind schedule at that point. After mile 13, the crowds thinned out and there wasn’t much shade. I started slowing down significantly and walked a lot. From mile 14 onwards it was boring and tough. Mile 19 was good, loud crowds through Pilsen. Lots of music and drums. Still a lot of walking. When first the 5.10 then 5.25 and finally 5.45 pace groups caught up with me, I tried my best to follow them for as long as I could.

After mile 22 from chinatown to sox park it was awful. Walking and walking. Turning into IIT and back north on michigan was more walking. I was keeping track of my time and I knew I was perilously close to the 6.30 cut off time. At mile 25 it was the final push. I picked up the pace and ran the last mile. It seemed forever before I saw the screen and the right turn up the hill. 400m, 200m and then it was finally the finish line. My iphone registered 6.33. I think they pushed the cut off time because of the hot weather.

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I collected my medal, a couple of bottles of water and a banana. There was a beer truck right at the finish, but unfortunately the beer was warm. The best thing was a cool, wet towel they gave us. Had my pic taken with the medal, couldn’t be bothered to go to the other side of the park for the tents. The exit closest to me was nearest the train station so that was where I headed.

I had more than 30mins to wait for the train. Felt a little dizzy and realised I hadn’t had much to eat for 7 hours apart from gu, bloks and gatorade. Fished through the goodie bag and found chocolate, and chocolate milk. That helped.

Carleen picked me up at the train station and we had pizza for dinner. I was more tired than hungry, and my feet were hurting. I came back to the house with the news that my fb friends had been tracking my progress online and there were dozens of comments and well-wishes. So moving. I posted a thank you status plus a pic of the medal and there were even more well-wishes. My fb friends are so wonderful. I didn’t even meet my most basic goal (beat 6.30) but the overwhelming support from the organisers, volunteers, fellow runners and my friends more than made up for the disappointment. Looking on the positive side, I finished. And that’s the most important accomplishment.

I didn’t take my camera with me, just used the iphone: uploaded to flickr.

p.s. this also counts as #99 of 101.1001 because I found a race, and I trained for it.

#chimarathon prep

Race day prep consisted of resting and getting into a positive, relaxed state of mind. Packed for the race and for Ptown, since we will be leaving first thing Monday morning.

Race goals:

  • D goal: finish before cut off time of 6.30
  • C goal: beat 5.38 (Chicago time)
  • B goal: beat 5.05 (Brighton time, all time PR)
  • A goal: 4.59.59

I signed up with the 5.25 pace group, I hope I can keep up with them. My aim is to keep them within sight at all times and it’ll be a bonus if I can go past them.

 

Here’s a really nice view of part of the course, taken by drone. It shows the city at its best. Drones are, of course, not allowed on the race (except officially sanctioned ones).

Some of the good things I remember from last time: the excitement going through the Loop, beautiful Lincoln Park, noisy crowds at Boystown (but that’s also where I lost my sunglasses clip-on), halfway point near the office, the nice Hispanic grandmother who gave me an orange ice lolly at mile 19, struggling back up Michigan and then hitting the crowds and cowbells on the final right turn.

People are joking about why runners run and put ourselves through this. The answer is simple:

runforbeer

There’s a free 312 waiting for us at the end, plus pizza and bananas and water and free massages. I’ll see what my time is, and how long I have to hang around the park afterwards. May be a second beer before I have to catch the train.

 

 

#chimarathon expo

Caught the train to the city and walked about 15mins to the Hilton to catch the shuttlebus to the marathon expo. The queue for the bus was long, I had to wait for bus #4 before it was my turn to board. Took about 15mins to get to McCormick Place. The expo started at 9am this morning and I got there around 10.30am. The place was big enough that it didn’t feel crowded.

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Got my confirmation scanned, got my bib, got my shirt. Nice shirt colour this year, a deep red, more maroon than the bright red of 2010. I made it a point to systematically visit every stall. I had on my shopping list the race cap and a few gu packets. I bought the cap ($30!!!) and resisted the t-shirt ($45). Bought a combination of gu and bloks. Sampled many cereal bars, bloks and gatorade. Bought a set of 3 bondi bands since the ones I have are getting grubby. Looked into socks but decided the pair I brought is good enough and I’d buy socks when I get back.

There were also tons of freebies. Encouragement signs, cowbells (sponsored by ML so in ML blue), a poster, space blanket, shoe bag and lots of leaflets in the official bag. Got a 30 second massage on my ITB at the free massage stand. Chatted with people at other marathon desks. Osaka marathon in October (though I’m wary of autumn marathons now) and Dusseldorf marathon in April. The lady at the Dusseldorf desk was super nice, it’s just a shame that it clashes with Paris.

chimarathon029pizza

By the time I was finished it was 12.30pm. The bus back downtown was less crowded and I walked around the corner to go to Lou Malnati’s. It’s been a while, and I had a craving for deep dish. The wait was around 15mins for a table, during which we were encouraged to put our order in to shorten the wait for food. I ordered the lunch special — small pizza with salad and a drink for $8.95. The pizza was smaller than expected, very tasty especially the crust and the sausage. It appeared that many people had the same idea for carb-loading, I saw many people with the marathon bags or marathon t-shirts in the restaurant.

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Train back and it was time to empty the bag and sort out my gear. Less than 2 days to go, it’s getting closer.

 

 

chicago first day

I went to bed at 9pm last night, so no surprise that I woke up at around 5-6am. Had cereal bars and a nice cuppa. No particularly plans today, relaxed till almost lunchtime. Went to the laundrette then to the cinema.

I hadn’t been to the cinema for ages. Can’t even remember the last time, probably also at Crestwood. We saw Sicario. I’m so out of touch with what’s on that I haven’t heard of this film at all.

It was a very intense film. Set in the chaotic lawless world of Mexican drug gangs on both sides of the border with the US. Emily Blunt is the FBI agent who was volunteered into an interagency task force led by a dubious flipflop wearing Josh Brolin and a mysterious Benicio del Toro who was clearly involved but not from law enforcement. Blunt gave the audience their POV and we felt for her when she realised that things weren’t as black and white as she had previously believed. What the drug gangs were doing were certainly illegal, but what the taskforce was doing was too, so who was the bad guy?

The film was violent, very much so. But that’s realistic because we’ve all read about the mass killings and the missing schoolkids and the turf wars. It’s also realistic that conventional policing methods may not be effective against gangsters who were above the law or even controlling the police.

The performances were brilliant. Emily Blunt was a perfect blend of tough FBI cop and naïve citizen expecting law enforcement to follow the law. Josh Brolin, I didn’t recognise. He reminded me of surfer dude Jeff Bridges. The best performance IMHO was from del Toro, wonderful wonderful wonderful.

By the end, some of the problem had been solved but it was the tip of the iceberg. Other issues, especially Blunt’s character’s conscious, are unresolved at the end. That did not detract from the enjoyment of the film. It’s the sort of film that makes you think afterwards. As EW said in its review,

Sicario is a brilliant action thriller with the smarts of a message movie. And the message is this: Are we willing to bend the rules and sell our souls to fight a war that will probably never be won?

 

beeftaco201510

Dinner was homemade beef taco. Minced beef, taco seasoning, refried beans, shredded cheese. It was nice, and hit the spot.

the day of the flight

Woke up at 6am. Showered, did quick laundry. Out the door at 7.30am. I thought I’d beat the rush hour madness but every taxi that went past was either occupied or on call. It was raining very heavily (10cm this morning already) so chances of grabbing one off the street was zero. Had to call one at the end.

Already checked in so dropping my suitcases took less than 5mins. Two suitcases total less than 20kg, hahaha. I was meeting mm at the check-in counter, she was early and was already there. We had a nice breakfast, had time left so I treated her to starbucks.

yamazakinas201510 kavalan201510

Security and immigration took another 5mins. Wandered around the duty free, but I know I can’t buy anything. There was Yamazaki NAS and Hakusu NAS, but nothing else. Texted mm and we decided that it’s not worth getting, since it’s NAS and not Nikka. Then again, to complete our collection I may, if I remember, get it on the way back.

Flight was around 80% full. If I’d just picked the row in front or behind I’d have a free middle seat. Unfortunately I was sat next to a young couple. And probably the only mainland people in the whole cabin. Ugh. Why do I have to be near those effing people. Ugh.

Food on the flight was forgettable. Beef with mash and beans plus ice cream for lunch. Chicken with more mash and beans and creme caramel for dinner. Had instant noodles in the middle. Watched Pitch Perfect 2, Entourage, Ant-man and 10 episodes of Veep. No bake-off this trip.

The flight was early. Landed at 1.30pm. Immigration was fast, now that I have a new passport I can use the machines. Luggage came out fast too. Carleen picked me up at the car park and we were heading back quickly.
Had food at our favourite steakhouse, then went to the supermarket. Lots of pumpkins out in the front, aha, it’s Halloween coming. Bought some stuff to take back, aiming at not too many purchases this trip. Unpacked, showered and relaxed. Lasted till just before 9pm, my eyes can’t close anymore. Time for bed.

 

#chimarathon countdown 3 weeks

chimarathonguide

It’s starting to sink in. Three weeks till the marathon. The participant guide arrived via email, the hardcopy would have been sent by post. I need the hardcopy to claim my bib and packet at the expo. No escaping anymore.

With the guide also comes confirmation of my start corral. I’m in corral G, wave 2 8am start. I also have a map to see where my gear check is, and where the corral will be located. It’s quite a way down, almost to Buckingham Fountain. The guide has lots of information about the expo, start line and also where aid stations are. Even what is available at each aid station in addition to water and gatorade (chews at mile 12.5, powergel at mile 18, bananas from mile 20 onwards).

There are pace teams for 4.40, 4.55, 5.00, 5.10, 5.25 and 5.45. I haven’t seen pace teams go this much down the order. I’m tempted to sign up with them. In years past I followed them, but was never part of the group. I’ll chat the pacer at the expo to see.

What I don’t see is anything about a BoA customer tent. It was really useful in 2011 but it’s been 4 years. I have been tempted to sign up for either the official hospitality tent or the CARA VIP experience. Not sure if it’s worth $40 for private gear check, lounge, food & beer. They’re at the Radisson Blu, which is little bit of a walk to the start. I’ll probably just hang out like the other 40,000 people in the park.

 

laundry, chinese takeaway

18boring

My last full day in Chicago. Woke up at 11am. The biggest plan for the day was to do laundry, because I didn’t have a clean shirt or clean socks for the flight. So after we played online, we went off to the neighbourhood laundry. It’s always difficult on a long trip, bring enough clothes and they fill up the suitcase; bring only enough for a week or so and I’m always obsessing about laundry.

chitung201507

Did a couple of errands at walgreens and best buy then we ordered chinese food. It was around 3pm so we were hungry. Never order chinese food when you’re hungry. We ordered enough for 6 people, although it was strategic: leftovers keep for a few days. Rest of the day was spent repacking and reading. I have enjoyed this holiday, but it’s time to go home.

costume shop, baking, faster run

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We went to visit Car’s friend Tom at his place of work. Very interesting, it’s a costume shop at a college where he teaches. There are lots of costumes, dummies, hats, props and several sewing machines there. Haven’t seen a working sewing machine for a while—the one at the retreat house in Florence probably was working too, but we weren’t sure.

It’s always fascinating to visit other people’s place of work, especially if they don’t work at a boring cubicle in an office. Tom showed us boxes upon boxes of different hats and we were having fun trying them on.

Rest of the day was baking some lovely poundcakes. When it wasn’t so hot I went out for a 5k around the field. Feeling a bit better as the wind and cooler weather meant I wasn’t as sluggish. I also think it’s a mental thing, if I know it’s only 5 or 6k I can run faster vs if I know it’s a long run day I subconsciously try to conserve energy.

early steak dinner

friedpickles steakshrimp

I should go do something, or rent a car and drive to the bourbon trail, or something, but I don’t feel like it. Stayed in almost all day, reading and doing stuff on the mba. We did go out for a late lunch / early dinner at lone star steakhouse. Shared a fried pickles starter, which I’ve had before and liked. Very greasy and deep fried of course, so good. The crunchiness and the tartness of the pickles complement each other. For mains I had a combo of bacon-wrapped sirloin and grilled shrimps. The sirloin was tender, although I didn’t like the bacon wrapping (to keep it moist?). The shrimps were a little salty. Took away dessert of apple pie and cheesecake to have later.

chicago revisited

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I scheduled a meeting with my FA to go though finances and stuff. I was early so I detoured to millennium park on my way up there from the station. Of course I’ve taken many, many pictures of the park, the art institute and the bean over the years, but a couple more can’t hurt.

After the meeting I stopped off at naansense for a snack. It’s a great street food idea—naan, roti or salad with various fillings like chicken, lamb, vegetables, paneer. I had the lamb korma naan.

chi201526billy chi201527billy

I missed the train, and the next one was in one hour. I ended up at the Wells branch of billy goat tavern because it was opposite the station and it’s a Chicago classic I hadn’t visited before. Had a cheeseburger (“cheezborger” in their lingo) and their house dark. No chips, the burger was big enough. I liked that the condiments were on a table so we could serve ourselves. I couldn’t finish the burger, but I did finish the beer.

It was nice to walk around the streets where I used to hang out. I’d forgotten the geography, having to look up addresses. Once I got there, I sort of know the direction and the way. I didn’t have enough time to walk all the way to Sears Tower and the office, but I covered a fair bit of ground. Good day for a walk around town anyway.

#07: new musical on your feet

onyourfeet01oriental onyourfeet02curtain

Task #7 of 101.1001 is to go to a new musical. Today I went to see on your feet at the oriental theatre in chicago.

There are so many new musicals that I’ve lost touch at what is showing and which one is new. On Your Feet is a show about Gloria Estafan and her husband Emilio: how they met, how they worked to become successful in the music business and how a bus accident almost derailed their lives and careers. Some reviews likened it to a feel-good tv movie. Although there are similarities to a tv movie, the energy, the music and the overall production pushed the standard much higher.

I can’t name a single Gloria Estafan (with or without Miami Sound Machine) song, but I could recognise the bigger hits when I hear them. And I did, the bigger hits. The songs I hadn’t heard of before were a revelation to me, I enjoyed them too. The dancing was great and the energy was infectious.

The singing. Wow, the singing. Ana Villafane plays Gloria, looks like Gloria, and sounds like Gloria. Superb. The other cast members were memorable too, from Josh Segarra who played Emilio and the family members: Gloria’s mom, grandmother, father and sister all excelled. The boy who played both her son and a dancing bar mitzvah boy was wonderful. At the end of both acts, the audience were on their feet, clapping and dancing, that was how much everyone enjoyed the show.

i know i’m back in the US when…

blueberrypancakes

i know i’m back in the US when I have pancake breakfast and then go outlet shopping. The pancakes were at one of my favourite place, Cracker Barrel. I could have had the big breakfasts with bacon, sausage, eggs, hash brown, biscuits and gravy. The blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup were a little lighter, I was able to finish the entire order.

nikefree5.0

We were going to go to Costco, but drove further south to an outlet mall. I checked off one of the items on my shopping list by getting a new pair of running shoes. I had nike frees in mind and they had several colours. The ones I wanted, in orange and blue, were $85. A few colours were 30% off so I opted for grey. Quite pleased with it.

chicago summer races

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I have a small 10-12 day window in July between my arrival and our trip to NOLA for a Chicago race. The CARA race calendar is surprisingly disappointing, nothing in July except a few in the suburbs.

Another race site is more useful, listing races that were held in 2014 with the expectation that they will be held again in 2015, useful for reference:

  • stars and stripes 5k tinley park on 04-jul — fun run, probably full of families and kids
  • bastille day 5k/8k 10-jul-2014 at lincoln park — this is the most promising in terms of date and location
  • chicago challenge 11-jul-2014 — it’s a scavenger race for teams of at least two, so unless I can find someone to team up with, this won’t work
  • chinatown 5k 12-jul-2014 — chinatown is mile 21 on the marathon, the last stretch where there are crowds before the long stretch home, the location is pretty good for a race

Confirmed 2015 races:

  • bubblepalooza 18-jul-2015 — this looks so fun! Running through bubbles. The biggest downside, it’s at libertyville, more than 50 miles from where I will be staying, sigh
  • rock n roll half 19-jul-2015 — would have been perfect except a) we are probably starting our trip to NOLA that day and b) I missed the one day coupon code because I wasn’t paying attention to my twitter feed, RNR races are expensive and a discount code is definitely needed

 

tl;dr: as of today, I have no Chicago race in the summer.

marathon training, smart sock sensor, heel strike

chimarathon013state

Four years ago today on 10-10-10, I ran my first marathon, Chicago, in 5:38. This coming Sunday, 45,000 people will race the course over 19 neighbourhoods. Next year, I hope to join them. I deferred my 2014 place so I basically have a guaranteed entry for 2015.

I’m both scared and excited. I have not been running as much for the past year or so. I found a 52 week training plan which includes runwalking and allows short breaks during longer runs. Towards the last 18 weeks, it puts in more mileage than the Higdon novice 2 plan and gets up to 24miles (vs 20 for Higdon). Sounds good.

Technology and theories have changed since 2010, the market is flooded with wearables and fitness trackers. I retired my garmin, because it’s too bulky, too limited, and takes too long to find a satellite signal. Saw a new sock sensor that does real-time analysis of foot-striking position and stride and gives feedback via an app. Not sure I want a voice shouting “you’re heel striking!” in my ears when I’m struggling in the middle of a run though.

chimarathonbbheel

Ah, heel striking. That’s me, 2011 chimarathon. Note the knee brace, the KT tape, the orange sauconys and the heel striking. I have repeatedly been told that heel striking is bad, it increases the chances of injury and all that. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to change to fore- or mid-foot striking, and whenever I manage it, I feel quicker. When I’m tired, I lapse back to my natural heel striking form.

Turns out, heel striking isn’t the enemy of good running form. Changing footstrike may reduce knee injuries, but it may also lead to other types of injuries. My takeaway from the article is, it’s okay to heel strike at slower paces, it seems that both stride and strike will change with faster speeds. Since I’m aiming for a 12:00/mile, it probably doesn’t matter that much. 

sundowner 5k

sundowner02start sundowner03firedept

Sundowner 5k at Joliet. Carleen kindly drove me there and waited till I finished. I was early, so I picked up my packet, pinned my number and checked the rest of the gear. There was time to wander around and queue up for the massage table. Only about 5mins of massage, but it was very good, the therapist found my problem spot on the left right away. A little hungry but there was no food so I drank a couple of small cups of gatorade.

There was a kids’ race before the adult race. 200 yard dash in groups of 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds. So cute.

The adult race started at 7.15pm and by then it was getting dark (hence, sundowner). The course was through a park, the path was uneven and narrow. The majority of people were courteous and aware of others, just one or two runners pushing through the field unnecessarily rudely, we always get those at the start of the race: young men (almost always young men) who were late and trying to sprint up.

Markers were in miles. I got to mile 1 around 12-something and mile 2 around 24-something. I was a little slower in mile 3 and crossed the line when the clock as at 37-something.

sundowner04bug sundowner05loot

This is the first race I’ve participated in that had mosquito repellent, may be because it was through a trail-like course in a park. Queued up for food and drink afterwards: water, beer, doritos, banana, sandwich and cookies. The sandwich was soggy so I threw it away, and I only had about 1/3 cup of beer. They even gave us a small medal.

proud to run 5k

chiptr007medals

5.0k 39.52min 7.58min/km (12.49min/mi)
overall: 539/702
gender: 225/351
age gender: 20/35

This is my first race in over a year. After I booked my Chicago flight, I started looking into races during the time I’m in town and I found proud to run the day after I arrive. Everyone I talked to was unanimous in saying I was crazy to run a race the day after I arrive on a 15hr flight. But, well, I registered anyway. This was the 33rd annual PTR race, which is awfully impressive. There were a combination of regular racers and LGBT folks, the event was held during pride weekend. The organisers described the race as:

an annual 10K run & 5K run/walk focused on celebrating pride in a healthy way and raising funds to support the greater Chicago area LGBTQI&A community

I was very tired on Friday when I arrived and I was very, very tempted to DNS. I didn’t sleep very well either, but I woke up with the alarm at 5.15am so I thought since I was up, I’d go anyway.

I deliberately arrived early so I can find parking and do pack pick up. Parking was easy, I parked 5mins’ walk away at beautiful Montrose Harbor and I was one of the first to pick up my stuff. This meant I had loads of time before the official race start. I did a mile of warm up around the harbor, pier and flagpole area, went back to sit in my car, queued up for the portaloo, got water and generally hung around until it was time to start.

Official race start was 8.15am and they were prompt to the dot. I kept up a steady slow pace and didn’t significantly speed up when I got overtaken by what seemed to be the entire field. The course went north towards Foster and it was just like I was back on my home course again. Man, I have sooooo missed running along the lake. Sigh.

I got to the 1 mile marker just over 12mins and the 2 mile marker around 25mins. Mile 3 was tougher as it got hot, there was a point when I felt I was becoming overheated, a little dehydrated and my left knee started tingling. But I didn’t stop or walk, I kept trudging on. As the finish line came into sight I watched the clock tick close to 40mins but when I crossed it had gone past 40mins. Obviously official time I just beat 40. Considering I was jetlagged, not trained and still carrying an injury, I’m reasonably happy with the result. No, it’s a long way from my sub-30 PR, but it’ll be a while before I can hope to PR in any race.

I’m glad I made the effort to go. I have missed racing and especially racing in Chicago. They were giving away boxes of cereal bars so I got a bunch for Mum so it paid for itself.

chicago marathon 2014->2015

chimarathondefer

I got into Chicago marathon 2014 through the lottery. But I’m not running. Scheduling, fitness level and not psychologically prepared for it. I kinda knew it when I entered the lottery, but I went ahead because I knew I could defer.

So today I filled in the form to defer my entry to 2015. I can’t defer to 2016 so I have to make myself do it.

In other running news, running isn’t happening. I felt a strange twinge in my left leg on the plane and it’s now developed into this awful stabbing pain that originates from this point below and behind my knee. Tough spot to roller, sigh.

chicago race planning 2014

Been trying to figure out if I can fit in a race when I’m in Chicago in the summer. I like races in Chicago, they’re usually well organised and I know the paths around the lake very well. Narrowed it down to a few options:

    proudtorun

  • 28-June: proud to run 5k/10k $35
    pro: part of pride week, my “home” course around Montrose, good value
    con: I arrive only the day before, I’ll be jetlagged
  • rnr1013turn

  • 20-July: rock’n’roll chicago Half Marathon $85
    pro: it was my first HM, so a bit of nostalgia
    con: expensive, overly commercial, expo on 18/19th, not sure if I’ll be back in chicago from portland
  • espritdeshe

  • 24-July: esprit de she 5k/10k $45/$55
    pro: date is good, easy 5 or 10k near the lake, same day packet pickup
    con: never heard of this event before, they seem to be combining a beauty treatment event with a running event, plus the free shirt is this girly purple sleeveless tank that i will never be seen dead in, ugh
  • sundowner

  • 24-July: sundowner 5k $35
    pro: date is good, easy 5k, low price
    con: in Joliet, clashes with esprit de she

Although I really would like to do a HM, I’m leaning towards either the Proud to Run or Sundowner. Pros and cons with both. Heck, I might register for both.

chicago marathon registration problems

chimarathon2013

Registration opened on the 19th. I didn’t register; it’s like going to the supermarket when you’re full, I didn’t feel like signing up while sick. Anyway, this year isn’t good for a marathon so far away. So I was surprised when I read about how the registration system ground to a halt 3 hours after registration opened. Likely too many people trying to get into one of the last world class marathons that didn’t operate an impossible to get into lottery system. Registration will be closed till the 28th, with apparently 15,000 place still left. This is too painful! Just get filled up already so I’m not constantly tempted!

chicago marathon registration

chimarathon012start

Registration for chicago marathon starts in just over 2 weeks, at noon CST 19 February. I’m nowhere near marathon readiness, even though it’s in October and I have the whole summer to train. I also know that logically I should go for marathons nearer home, like Tokyo, which recently celebrated being added to the world marathon majors. Or Great Wall (um, no. Way too tough). Or at least VLM or Paris or Berlin.

The problem is, my heart tells me Chicago is my home marathon. I don’t have a lot of time to decide. Places will go very quickly, as it is one of the few major marathons that are still first come, first served. Sigh. I’m in so much trouble.

10.10 26.2

chimarathon013state

I ran my first marathon 2 years ago, on 10.10.10. It was a struggle due to the heat and slight undertraining. Still, I did it and no one can take it away from me. This past weekend, I followed the 2012 Chicago marathon from afar, saw that two Ethiopians won and, most importantly, a couple of my close ex-colleagues finished. I was sad that I couldn’t make it, and sadder that I haven’t kept up my running. The sooner I get my life back into normal mode, the better.

set

The flight was uneventful, watched the Iron Lady and Adele’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The food was okay. The guy sitting next to me spent the whole flight sleeping, so crawling out was difficult. Arrived almost half an hour early. Car picked me up from the airport and we were back at the house having pasta in no time. Yum.

Unpacked a bit, and then we went off to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Interesting film, a modern, darker, special-effects filled take on the familiar story. I was waiting for the dwarves to appear and I wasn’t disappointed.

Very hot. Over 30°C. Two days of rest then we’re off to the con. It’s good to be back in Chicago.

blue island

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My friend Carleen posted in her blog (she posted in her blog, that’s already something amazing) about her town, Blue Island. It’s a suburb of Chicago and has history that is really interesting if you dig deeper. I won’t go into it, google is our friend. I do remember my first visit, almost 6 years ago. I had never visited Chicago, everything was fascinating and unusual and new. The tiny unmanned train station, the street she lived on — cute detached houses and pretty front gardens. The fact that it was not that pedestrian-friendly and we drove everywhere.

Everything was so big. What are these giant structures in the middle of the field? To this day I don’t quite understand why water has to be stored in these ginormous tanks perched on top of towers in the middle of a field. Alas, I looked through my flickr account and I never took any pictures of that huge Blue Island one, or the one at Alsip or Merrionette Park that we drive by all the time.

There were tons of grocery stores. The first time I went to one I was flabberghasted by the amount of stuff on these shelves that seemed to stretch miles and miles and miles. The local gas station is called Thornton’s, just like the chain chocolate store in the UK. Pizza came in squares (and is delicious). Drive-thru banking, which always brings the “what? seriously?” when I tell my non-US friends. There’s a street where you have to drive at snail’s pace because a golf cart might suddenly decide to cross the road. Or you might get stuck at a railroad crossing for 20mins while a freight train passes. And cemeteries everywhere!

After that first visit, none of us were sure we’d ever see each other again. It was a long way to travel (28 hours door to door). I believe it is God’s gift that I was able to return (6 times in 2008, talk about extremes), and definitely a blessing to have spent 2 years living there. Being able to bring my parents to visit my Chicago family…there are no words.

For the longest time I got my directions mixed up because google maps had their house in the wrong street. What should be north was south and vice versa. There is a sort of grid system in the south suburbs that should make it easier, but it took me a few years actually until I was able to shake the wrong google map image. Then it was easy. Streets that go east-west increased the further south you go. Vertical roads had a pattern — Western, Kedzie, Pulaski, Cicero. Foreign sounding names that I eventually got to grips with.

shawnice01

What struck me about BI, again and again, was how family-oriented it is. It’s not the Gold Coast with its $1mm apartments, or the West Loop where all the yuppies live, or Belmont or, well, Andersonville, where all the gay hipsters hang out. (I’m not a gay hipster even though I lived in A-ville! Nor a granola-sandal-yoga new age…person, either.) It seems comfortable in its own skin. As Car said, people looked after each other. She already told the story about her lovely neighbour when her grandmother was taken ill. The neighbours surely got used to my car visiting after a while, and after the first few times, somehow I never attracted too much of a second glance. I certainly was fine with walking around during daylight hours. In fact, the last day I was in BI, I walked over to the nearby Aldi’s and then to the ice cream shop and had a very nice ice cream.

Car’s post is about her town. It’s not my town, Blue Island. But while I was living in Chicago it was sort of mine too. I don’t really have “my” town because I don’t have any affinity or loyalty or emotions about one particular place. “Where is home?” people ask me. “Where my furniture is,” that’s my answer. My life has been too strange and transient and a little disorientating. I will count Blue Island as one of the towns and cities I’ve hung my hat, so to speak.

finisher’s shirt

chimarathon2011080shirt

Went over to Niketown on Michigan to get my marathon finisher’s shirt. Hmm, orange. They also had finisher’s cap but I’d bought one already at the expo. I shouldn’t buy so much stuff anyway, trying to downsize.

Lots of people wearing the race shirt today. Also a fair few wearing their medals. In public. On the street. While shopping. Not something I would do. I wore it to the car, and I did take it to work to show people. Each to their own, I guess. Don’t want to take away other people’s achievement.

post-marathon breakfast treat

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Like some sort of hardcore idiot I’d organised a conference call for 9am. When I got in at 8am I saw an email request for it to be rescheduled because of people’s unavailibility. Sheesh.

So I said sod it, I’m going to treat myself to breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s. This famous diner is across the street from the office. I didn’t feel like omelette, otherwise I would have had their signature dish served in a skillet. I had french toast with sausages instead. Yummy.

chicago marathon RR

chimarathon2011005lake chimarathon2011016start

42.2km 5:38:14hr 8:01min/km | 26.2miles 5:38:14hr 12:55min/mile
overall: 29,985 / 35,558
gender division: 12,145 / 15,404
age division1,017 / 1,363

mile 0: start
It took less than 30mins to drive up to town, then 15mins to navigate around the road closures. I parked at Grant Park North, wanting to be nearby and in a car park that I know. By 6.30am I was in the Bank of America tent, which they laid on for customers. There was water, gatorade, bananas, cereal bars, bench seating and most importantly, private portaloos.

As I was walking towards the start corral, the sun came out. Lovely view of it coming up on the lake. It’s gonna be a glorious day. I had signed up with the 5:15 pace group (12mm) so I found my way there. Saw my colleague K, and we lined up together. She is injured and wasn’t going to finish the race, but I said I’d walk with her for a bit.

We were lined up so far behind that we could barely hear the national anthem and the announcements. Took about 18mins to get to the actual start. I did walk K for about 100m, then she dropped out, limping. It’s disappointing for her, to DNF on her first marathon, but at least she crossed the start line and it will be the start of a longer journey for her.

chimarathon2011020theatre chimarathon2011026flag

miles 1-3: the loop
This is the best part of the race. Legs are fresh, crowds everywhere, perfect for absorbing the atmosphere. I had my headphones but didn’t put any music on. I don’t often run without music, but I find I’m not missing it. Speedwise I was going slowly, with the sheer number of people it wasn’t feasible to run fast anyway.

Ran past all the familiar landmarks. My favourite shot from last year was in front of the Chicago theatre so I did the same shot this year.

miles 3-7: towards lincoln park
It got quieter up la salle into Lakeview. There was still lots of shade, running was comfortable. Mile 4.5 was where the supporters from the Moody Church were stationed. They had music and gave everyone a high five. I’m afraid to admit that I’m not sure which denomination the church belongs to (not Catholic, that’s all I can say) but they provided much needed encouragement at a point in the race for which I’m grateful.

Feeling strong into Lincoln Park. I remember last year I had to stop at the aid station near mile 6 to wrap up a blister. This year I stopped there again to tape up the KT tape which had fallen off. Didn’t last long. By mile 7 I’d ripped it off. It was also in Lincoln Park that I saw a guy running with an American flag. He passed me, so I sprinted past him to get the shot.

chimarathon2011035boystown chimarathon2011037japan

miles 7-12: boystown, sedgwick, back to the loop
Up towards mile 7 was by the LSD, where K cheered me on last year. I thought about her, probably back at the start watching the runners. Almost to mile 8 was the northermost point of the course where it turned back at Addision. Lots of crowd there.

And then it was fun for the next 2 miles. The atmosphere at Boystown can never be beat, lots of spectators dressed up, the ROTC troupe was there, it was like carnival. It was at that point that I lost my sunglasses attachment. I spent 10mins looking for it, but it was pretty impossible. Sad, but I had to continue.

Shady down Sedgwick, which was good. Japanese drummers provided support. The stretch down Wells was okay. I was trying to see if I was feeling ok. About 1/3 done and I felt like I had 2/3 in the tank. Sponges and something luxurious — I think it was the La Salle Street Church that had a sign out front that bathroom facilities were open to runners. Oh man!! Talk about not needing to queue up for the portaloos and having a real bathroom. I know I seem to be obsessed with bathrooms, but if you’re out for 5hrs constantly drinking, toilet breaks become strategic.

chimarathon2011041sears chimarathon2011043halfway

mile 13.1: halfway
Entering the Loop again brings back the strong crowd support, especially at the 2 cheer zones underneath Sears Tower. Cross Wacker and there was the 13.1 sign. HALFWAY!! Time was about 2:40. Slow, ah well. People were shouting “Spiderwoman!” close to me, and I turned around to see that yes, Spiderwoman was running behind me. She passed me at 13.1 and I stuck close to her until around mile 14.

miles 13-19: the hard slog
Ah. Mile 14. When there were hardly any crowds, the sun began beating down and for me, that was the toughest point. I realised that I probably didn’t have 50% in the tank and it would take some digging. Not the wall as such, but I slowed down a lot. I also finished my pack of chomps. I’ve been taking gatorade and water from every station, so energy-wise I was doing okay.

My friend M met me at between mile 17-18 where they were giving out gels. I took a couple and saw her next to a water hose. Ran through the hose, but she didn’t mind giving me a hug even though I was soaked through. I was feeling a little miserable at that point and seeing her gave me a push. Thanks, M.

chimarathon2011047pilsen chimarathon2011050mile20

miles 18-21: pilsen, halsted
Mile 18-19 was down a very hot Ashland. Most people around me were walking. Turning into 18th Street was a vast relief. The Hispanic neighbourhood of Pilsen was out in force, welcoming us. Lots of cheers, music and I got the BEST gift all race — an elderly lady at the side of the road gave me a cola-flavoured ice lolly (American: popsicle). It was absolutely delicious, thirst-quenching and gave me the energy to start running again. Thank you, Ice Lolly Lady.

And then, mile 20 came up. Instead of the wall, I got my second wind. People say a marathon is actually 2 races: a 20-miler followed by a 10k. As I reached the “second” race, I felt really positive. I can run 10k. I run 10k easy. I was going to make it.

chimarathon2011052chinatown chimarathon2011054turn

miles 21-26: chinatown, the long way home
Feeling good coming up to Chinatown. The second hardest part of the course, between miles 22-24, wasn’t too bad for me. I found the 5:30 pace group and followed them for about half a mile before dropping off. I was watching the clock and realised that I probably wasn’t going to make 5:30 so I may as well conserve some energy. Coming north on Michigan I passed a few people, then slowed down somewhat in the South Loop.

mile 26: mount roosevelt
I read somewhere that coming up to the right hand turn at Roosevelt to start kicking because of the uphill incline. I felt nice and strong and managed to pass quite a few runners. Hopefully the official photos look okay too. I tried to keep my mouth closed and to look halfway decent whenever I see a photographer.

chimarathon2011057finish

mile 26.2: finish line
200m, 100m and there it was: the finish line. I was almost sprinting to the line, and saw on my garmin that the time was 5:38. Exactly the same as last year. The iphone battery had died at mile 22, and I didn’t have a backup on the nike+. Not bothered. I know I’ll get my time from the official site.

It was a long walk down the chute. Got a heat blanket, water, gatorade, free beer, , banana, a pack of snack and an official photo. Headed to the BoA tent for more food, drink and to use the portaloo. Lined up for 10mins for another free beer. There wasn’t a lot of food available — hot dog, chili and gyro. None of which I fancied so I ate a whole pack of mini cereal.

chimarathon2011033vol chimarathon2011036sign

volunteers, organisation, supporters
There are not enough good words in the world to describe how I feel about the volunteers. Fantastic, wonderful in every way. Every single one had a smile and a cheer for us. I stopped at every station except the last one and to see the mountain of cups with gatorade and water. And always someone clearing up. Like I said, wonderful.

The organisation too. There’s a lot of talk about moving the race back a week or two to avoid the heat. It got hot out there today, although thankfully it was dry. I’m sure the organisers will make the right decision. A race this size, there will always be someone not satisfied. For me? The organisation was flawless, from the expo, crowd control at the beginning and end, making sure there were enough supplies, aid stations were spaced out well, the results were out the same day. I have zero complaints.

The supporters. Wow. Hundreds of thousands on the street, cheering for someone they know or for complete strangers. I had a couple of friends, K and M, and it helped me a huge amount. I was told I’m really good at exercise. A complete stranger gave me an ice lolly. Kids waved at me and gave me high fives. At one point we were clapping with the music from a band at the side (can’t remember which song). This is why Chicago is one of the best marathon experiences in the world.

summary
I finished my second marathon. Who would have thought? I don’t feel like a marathoner, but technically, I am. I think it’s because my time is so slow. Everyone I meet have been so supportive, because to finish is an achievement. I wear my finisher’s medal proudly. Tomorrow I will go to Niketown and buy a finisher’s t-shirt.

I didn’t get into London 2012 but I’m confirmed for Brighton the week before. I’ll train for that, and then I’ll have to be very disciplined and not sign up for more. It’s imperative that I focus on speedwork. Halfs are fine, but no fulls.

Finally, my thoughts go out to the family of Captain William Caviness, who collapsed and later died at the race. He raised over $2000 for charity and was a real hero. This year’s race should be dedicated to him.

marathon gear 2011

chimarathon2011002gear

Getting my marathon gear ready for tomorrow. From top: spibelt, sunscreen, knee braces, garmin, small towel, headband, last year’s hat, phiten, shorts with bib, headphones, kt tape, pace tattoo, shirt, iphone, ipod, gu, cara card, sunglasses, gear check ticket, money/credit card/ID bundle.

Not in pic: keys, shoes, backpack, bank of america wristband (for getting into the special customer tent), other iphone, blackberry, spare shirt. Some of that will stay in the car.

the official chicago marathon weather obsession post

chiweather20111007

The obsession began a week or so ago, but every Chicagoan knows that it’s pointless to try to predict the weather here. But less then 36hrs from the start, I think I can officially start obsessing.

It’s been hot the past week, so it’s no surprise that the forecast is warm but not extreme. Probably better early in the day than last year, and then it will get hot towards the end. Another reason to work on speed next year rather than marathon distance races. The article, and the people on the rw forum say,

this is nothing drastically different than what they’ve been running in all summer and what they’ve been training in

Sigh. Except that some of us have been training during a

pitiful

summer that is coldest in 13 years.

turkey trot 8k

turkeytrot

8k 47.46min 5.58min/km

Race #12, the 33rd annual turkey trot.

This was my last race of the year, and likely my last race in Chicago for a while. Sigh. Very very sad. I had a great year of running, and will take away several PRs and tons of great memories.

The race was at Lincoln Park, starting at the zoo, heading a little north then looping south till North Avenue beach before turning north as far as Belmont Harbor and ending at the same spot as the start line. It had been cold all week, and yesterday it was raining cats and dogs. We caught a break, the sky was overcast but no rain. It was actually less cold than at the Hot Chocolate. May be it’s because I drove, so I was in a better frame of mind. And then I had a free bagel and hot chocolate, which warmed me up. I also lined up in the chute early and did some shuffling and stretching.

There were no corrals, we were asked to seed ourselves and judging from some of the people at the start line they have no clue what pace they were at. Can’t blame them, it looks like a lot of them are casual runners. So to be on the safe side, I stood fairly near the start. There were about 7000 runners, so it wasn’t as big a race as the others, but still large enough. I was happily waiting when this couple, the woman obnoxiously in a Boston jacket, pushed through and stood right in front of me. I glared at her but she was too much of a thick-skinned idiot to notice. I mean, Boston jacket, srsly?

Anyway, I went out faster than I normally would at other races, because it was only 8k. I also had my new garmin 305 with me, so I could tell my pace. I think I’m in love with my garmin. I still had the nike app open on my iphone, but I can see why now people swear by their garmins. Anyway, I was able to keep to under 9mm for the first 3-4k, before slowed down after half way. Had enough left in the tank to speed up at 7k. Could have been faster if I hadn’t walked through the water stations. Had to drive down to Car’s for thanksgiving so I didn’t linger at the finish, grabbed bananas, water and went straight to my car. Had to call mm back, cos she rang when I was at about 6.5k, so we talked for a bit. I’m thinking I placed better because of the number of casual runners and walkers, but it could also be I was consciously running faster. Results:

  • overall — 2092 / 5683
  • gender — 855 / 3275
  • age division — 35 / 166

hot chocolate 15k

hotchoc15k

15k 1:36:02hr 6.24min/km

Race #11, the hot chocolate 15k.

After last year’s experience, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this race this year. The course wasn’t that great, the chocolate fondue and drink post-race were not impressive at all, and it’s expensive at $55 for the 15k. But like many, I got caught up post-marathon and wanted to run another race soon, so there I was. Of course since the marathon I’d done a grand total of 8k — not good, not good.

There were many improvements from last year. The first was that packet pickup wasn’t somewhere in the UIC campus, but Union Station. How much more convenient can it get? I mean, I work right next door. The second improvement was the course moved from crowded Montrose to South Lake Shore — start at Grant Park, then south to museum campus and LSD, following the RNR route. The third improvement was a very nice and soft jacket.

They couldn’t do anything about the weather. It was dry but cold. They still had 2 separate starts for the 5k and 15k; and it got crowded with both groups in the area. The 5k racers were back when we were lining up in the start chute, I made my way to the barrier and saw them come back in. This meant the 15k racers were standing around for almost 30mins freezing our butts off. I was one of the few people in shorts. Not capris, normal shorts. And on top was the long sleeved marathon shirt, having gear checked the jacket. If the race started 5 mins later, I would have been shivering and chattering.

This meant it took me like 3-4k just to not feel cold, and more to warm up. The summer of training helped, even after taking almost 4 weeks off. At no point was I winded, and my knees held up. Because of the slow, cold start and wanting to conserve energy, I wasn’t aiming for any particular time. I did kick in a little with 5k to go, only to get side stitch at the last kilometer. But I ignored the pain, because that’s what i should do.

There was more food at the fondue — 3-4 slices of apple, half a banana, pretzel sticks, cereal bar and cake. All dipped in chocolate, this time provided by Ghiradelli’s. I dropped my drink ticket but they still gave me a hot chocolate with marshmallows. Lingered a bit, walking around to look at the park again. It’s my last race there this year. Got sentimental for a minute. Placing:

  • overall — 7689 / 12368
  • gender — 4432 / 8150
  • age division — 259 / 523

mm in town

chimm005bean

I was determined to take mm out to show her around. Even though she says it’s okay, cos I’m sick, I dragged her out. We hit the usual, the bean, the park, the lake. It was windy although dry. After visiting the town we went to Whole Foods. Made salmon at home, it was nice again. She’s now addicted to Bones and I just happened to have it on Netflix, so we’re watching it. Very domestic, watching tv at home.