Race review: Chicago Marathon, WMM #3

Friday, November 24, 2017

Kit lay before the race.  Thanks to my husband for the card.

This year was the 40th anniversary race of the Chicago Marathon who took part in the first weekend of October.  There was a big opening ceremony with the press as the expo opened, featuring some of the more famous participants of the race over the years.  I met one of the eight men (pictured below) who has run them all, who said to start off slow.  While waiting in the start pen, I learned there was a lot of security because of the recent Las Vegas shooting which was a bit sad to think about- how we live in a day and age where that needs to be a consideration.

The eight gentlemen who have ran every Chicago Marathon.

Race entry and fees:
 There is a ballot entry, along with charity places, legacy finishers and time qualifier (good for age).  In 2018, it will be $195 for US residents and $220 for non-US residents.  I feel very lucky to have won a ballot for my first and third World Marathon Majors (WMM) so far.  Direct flights to Chicago are mid-price.  As I added a stop in Houston to my trip, mine were a bit more.  I also was lucky enough to stay with friends in the suburbs which allowed me to save a lot of money during my one week stay in Chicago.  There are hostels local to the start line though if you plan ahead (or wait till the week before the race for people to cancel, we learned).  I arrived Wednesday to allow my body to adjust to the time difference but it didn't seem to be too much of a problem.
Obligatory bib shot at the expo

Course and bogs:
 The course travels through 29 neighbourhoods in 26 miles of the race.  I really enjoyed Mexican part of town as it was one big party with lots of fun music.  There were lots of bands long the way too with varying genres of music.  The portal loos were deserted at 6:30am in the morning but as my pen time approached at 8|:30am, the line was probably the longest I have ever waited in for a race.  Along the way, loos were available at some of the drink stations but I only used them once (big improvement from Berlin)  There were 20 aid stations long the way, some with medical tents and/or Gatorade.  I was pleased to find the aid stations were not bottlenecks along the race route.  They were so long, as well as on both side of the road, that I was able to keep a constant pace.  To compensate for the warmer temps, wet sponges were distributed at a few points, along with fire trucks and sprinklers offering mist across the road for runners to cool down.

6|:30am portaloos without a line

Come start time, the lines were the longest I have every been in

Location: 
Throughout the "Windy City" in the midwest of the United States.  The city is easily accessible by most major airlines.

Such a cool display to get the runners going in the early morning.

Atmosphere:
I love Americans.  They are excited to be there and cheer for the runners.  There was rarely a lull in spectators along the course.  Signs were in abundance and made me chuckle.  Favourites included 'You are running better than our government" and "Make America chaff again". People were also handing out candy, donuts, pretzels and beer.  I even heard someone say "Who shows up to watch a marathon for four hours and doesn't bring beer?"

Custom sign from my friend, Pattie, who flew in from Atlanta for the weekend

Race bling and goody bags:  I might be a bit biased, but the medal is pretty cool as it means I am 1/2 way through my WMM quest.  Goody bags had various drinks and snacks.  Everyone got a free Goose Island beer too at the finish.  Unfortunately, I don't drink beer but I took one to share with friends or fellow finishers.  No one was up for it though so I ended up throwing it away.

So happy to be done
Tips if you want to take part next time:  I did a lot of research before the race to look for other tips.  The best one I read was that the GPS get confused in the city because of the tall buildings.  The suggestion was to keep track of miles as "laps" for your mile splits.  I found this a good distraction tool but did miss the mile marker a few times.   As I have found for many of these big races, there isn't a need to carry water as the aid stations are so frequent.  I decided to wear my Osprey Duro rucksack to keep a small amount of water on hand in the heat.  I sipped it along the way and took Gatorade on board at the aid sessions where I could.

Halfway there!

I highly recommend you to do the 5k the day before the marathon.  It was a lot of fun and can be something to do with your friends and family who are in Chicago with you but not taking part in the marathon.  After the race, there is an awkward/stiff walk to the park where you can get a free massage at the after party.  If you tend to be stiff after a race, let me warn you that the walk is long to get there.  It is worth it though as you walk by the picturesque fountain and there was hardly a wait line.  Plus the massage feels so good after your efforts on the course.   I didn't stay for the party in the park because we had dinner plans but it didn't seem too busy.

Line to enter the massage tent

Finally, the weather is unpredictable for that time of year so be prepared to give up a PB (PR) if it is hot outside.  I know it sucks, but you need to take care of you.

Start of the 5K with friends
I want to say thank you to my friends, Pattie, Lisa and Mel who came to Chiacago for the weekend.  Also, big thanks to Christian, Leigh, Mia and Moo for allowing me to move in for week and for a fabulous celebratory dinner.  It was so good to be back in my homeland.  I was lucky enough to earn three medals and a belt buckle in eight days in two different states.  It is a trip I will never forget.

Napping in Central London

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Central London has a new place to recharge and relax.  Pop & Rest is a new boutique studio in central London near Monument.  When they first contacted me, I was intrigued about the concept.  A place where I can nap?  During the day?  I was in.  At my new work building, I have yet to discover a secret place to nap on the rare occasion where I overcommit myself and sacrifice my sleep.

On Thursday morning, I made my way down to their building.  Unfortunately, I got a bit lost in Bank Station which made me arrive right at noon.  The building has a reception desk, so I suggest that you arrive five minutes before your appointment in order for the Pop & Rest team to collect you.


I was escorted to their space, which was dimly light with electric tea light "candles".  The room is kept at 20 degrees Celsius as that has been proven to be the best temperature to fall asleep to, according to the Pop & Rest team.  I was shown to my 'pod' which was made of cubicle walls enclosing a bed, nightstand with lamp, and a place to hang my jacket.  The door was an accordion door for privacy.  The walls did not go all the way up to the ceiling, but I was told this would be happening soon.  There was also a little booklet on the nightstand, giving some tips on how to make the most out of your time in the pod, whether it be for napping, mediation, or relaxing.

The host explained that he would wake me up in 30 minutes, all I needed to do was get into bed.  I took off my shoes and curled into the "half crawl" position recommended by the booklet.  I opted not to use the blindfold or ear plugs.  The bed was super comfortable, as were the pillows.  Even though I was in jeans and a hoodie, I was still comfortable.  My FitBit didn't record me as sleeping, and I don't think I did either.  I was too worried about whether I would indeed fall asleep, how the host would wake me up, and all the crap I had to do when I got back to work. 

Even though I didn't officially sleep, I felt very chilled out when the host gently knocked on my door to wake me up.  I took a minute to stretch out and put my shoes back on.  I admit, my main concern was whether or not they change the sheets!  I learned that it takes only two minutes to do so and yes, they change them after every booking.

Another service Pop & Rest offers is a shower facility.  There are four shower cubicles and lockers to store your items.  Towels and toiletries are provided by Pop & Rest, which means you don't need to carry around extra things with you.

The business model for Pop & Rest has does very well in Spain, and I think will do in London too.  Not only can freelancers or athletes use the space for catching 40 winks or cleaning up, but people travelling into and out of London can too.  I was thrilled to learn that Pop & Rest are looking to open another site near my work at St. Pancras station due to the proximity to the Eurostar station. 

I cannot wait to return to Pop & Rest the next time I have a long day of work booked in.  If you are going to try, my top tips would be:

  • Arrive 5-10 minutes early to check in with reception.
  • Wear comfy clothes if you plan on sleeping or pack some pj's.
  • Book in for 60 minutes rather than 30.  It just didn't seem like long enough, even though a 20 minute nap can improve performance by 34% (according to Pop & Rest).
  • They offer free coffee, tea and fruit.  Place an order before your nap for a pick-me-up on the way out.
If you decide to book in, please let Pop & Rest know you heard about them through me.  I really hope this model takes off because I love a good nap and you should too.  Having a place to rest without having to travel all the way back home is a great way to recharge without loosing time on a commute.  It is also much more economical than renting a hotel bed for a few hours.  People who work multiple jobs, students, freelancers, those headed for a night out and more will soon be seeking out a pod.  Hopefully, Pop & Rest start offering monthly memberships or multi-packs soon.  A 30 minute nap is only £9 and worth every pence.

Thanks to Pop & Rest for inviting me along for a complimentary experience.  All opinions are honest and my own.


Adventure at your fingertips

Monday, November 13, 2017


With Kilimanjaro coming up in March, I have been slowly accumulating the kit I need.  When I was in Houston in October, I found trekking pants, base layer leggings, and a down vest (gilet) at the outlet mall.  On the weekends, we have been taking longer dog walks in the park as I build up the time on my feet.

But the wanderlust is real and I cannot wait for the trip.  I am anxious to plan the next and the next trip after that.  To help satiate me, I have loaded up my Kindle with a few adventure and travel books.  I also reached out to my fitness blogger community for their recommendations too.  Here is a great list of books to inspire you to be more adventurous. 


Non-fiction



Wild: A journey from lost to found by Cheryl Strayed
I have yet to see the film starring Reece Witherspoon but this book is what got me thinking about going on an epic hike.  To help find herself, Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail solo and met some amazing people along the way.




Africa Solo by Mark Beaumont
This book I read before we rode from London to Paris.  Beaumont set a challenge to ride from Cairo to Cape Town (self-supported) as a world record attempt. To do this, he would have to repeatedly have to ride over 100 miles a day in intense African heat.  This book was shortlisted as adventure travel book of the year.  If you are a cyclist, check it out!

Me and Dean at his book signing

Road to Sparta by Dean Karnazes
With the launch of this book, I was lucky enough hear Karnazes speak here in London and talk about his passion for running.  This guy is the original ultramarathon man, running 100s of miles on little sleep all over the world.  He doesn't even have a chair in his office, just gym equipment and a standing desk.  This book explores his Greek heritage and retraces the steps of Pheidippides.




Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff
McNuff recently founded a Facebook Group called Adventure Queens and from the adventure told in Pants of Perspective, you can see why she wants many other women to go on a life-changing adventure.  It takes a lot of guts to pack up your things, fly around the world and commit to running across an entire country.  After finishing the last chapter, you will be ready to go too!




Cold: Extreme Adventures at the Lowest Temperatures on Earth by Ranulph Fiennes
Last weekend, I went to the European Outdoor Film Tour which featured Simone and Tamara climbing to the top of Kangchenjunga in Himalayas.  Winter is coming so I decided this is the next book I am going to read.



Fiction

End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker
Many people, including Sarah from Dreaming of Footpaths, recommended this book. I actually found it on my own when looking for new running books last spring.  It is a post-apocalyptic thriller that has a out of shape man running through a demolished landscape without any laws to find his family.  This is a #1 bestseller.




Call of the Wild by Jack London
We had to read this in school and it is still a timeless classic.  Read the stories of a wild dog in gold-rush Alaska.  Perfect for animal lovers and those wishing for snow this winter.




Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Written in 1870, this book dives deep into the ocean.  Of course, as a fish nerd, I loved this book.  You will probably find many references from modern day television or film originated in this book.  There is a lot of details about the submarine, so get your engineering hat on.


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Exercise will do you and your community good

Friday, November 10, 2017

There never seems to be enough time in the day.  You wake up, eat, commute, work, hit the gym, commute, and eat again before heading to bed.  As you repeat this routine day in and day out, there isn’t much space in there to give back to your community.  What do I mean by community? Your friends, neighbours, colleagues, and people who would benefit from your skills. Here are four examples of initiatives that allow you to multi-task your workouts while helping others.

Like animals?
Cinnamon Trust- Help out the elderly and terminally ill by walking their dogs or playing with their cats.  These pets are constant companions for people who might be bound to stay at home due to their health.  Their pets have needs too, such as regular exercise too. You can also foster a pet should the owner have to go into the hospital for a few days.

Prefer people?
Good Gym- Founded in London but expanding rapidly across England, this non-profit  has two programs to get you sweaty.  The first is performing manual labour for people or companies in the local area.  As a group, you may run to the selected location and clear a garden for an elder or paint the new community centre.  The other aspect to the Good Gym is being pair with a ‘coach’ (an isolated elder).  You will literally run to their home for a visit and then run back home again.

Want to empower women?
A Mile In Her Shoes- If you love running and helping women, this charity can use your help.  Simply obtain your Leader in Running Fitness with UKA and then volunteer at one of the many run clubs across London.  A Mile In Her Shoes work with women who are at risk or affected by issues related to homeless.  You can help these women get back on their feet too by encouraging, coaching and running.

Help orphans with Down Syndrome
RODS Racing- This global team of endurance athletes is recruiting athletes.  For every mile you run, bike, swim, your pledges and donations will help an orphan with Down Syndrome.  RODS raises $15,000 (~£11,000) for one orphan at a time.  This is half of the fees incurred for adopting these special kids.  Many of the children are from countries where Down Syndrome isn’t understood or accepted.  By relieving part of the financial burden, RODS ensures these orphans find a loving home faster.

Do you have other suggestions on how to multi-task your exercise with something else?  Do you run to work? Or have ‘moving meetings’?  Leave me a comment below with your tips.

My first ever marathon, repping RODS

This post originally appeared on the now-defunct H2 Life Blog.

Corrective exercise at Function360

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dorsiflexion assessment at our first meeting
It is no secret that I want to be a faster runner.  With three World Marathon Majors down and three more to go, improving my marathon PB is the best way to obtain entry to these exclusive races.  From January to June this year, I was devoted to #tracktuesdays with Advent Running and found that my speed did increase (I moved up from train 4 to train 3).  But then due to my Achilles tendinopathy, I had to stop going to track.  This month, I have returned to track but seem to be back to square one.

With each marathon, I realize strength training would make a big difference in my strength and endurance.  What I have done so far (basic full body training with free weights) just isn't working which I why I have started to work with Function360 Physiotherapy here in London so get my body into running shape.  My treatment program started all with a gait analysis that identified where my body's imbalances were.  Working off that base, I have twice met with Harvey, a corrective exercise specialist.  Our first session was primarily an evaluation of my mobility and ability to establish a baseline.  There was a variety of exercises and stretches we went through, some of which were given to me as homework.

Sure, stretching and reps of 10 sounds really easy, but I can assure you I was sweating throughout my sessions.  To increase the intensity up another notch, Harvey made me foam roll for over five minutes.  I targeted my quads and adductor muscles.

Foam rolling isn't my favorite thing to do

This week, I promised Harvey I would complete my homework.  After all, what good is meeting with him once a week if I am not doing my part outside of our meetings? Spending additional time on these exercises is just as important as going to track and getting my long runs done.

Harvey helping me work my tibia
Of course, I strained my hamstring on Sunday running for a train.  I experienced a bit of DOMS after our session on Wednesday.  I think I might have still been sore or stiff from that, which made the running tough.  I might swap my session with Harvey this week for a massage or myofascial release to see if I can help my hamstring heal.

Function360 is a one stop shop for physiotherapy, sports massage, personal training, corrective exercise and gait analysis.  I have now met several members of the team, including the owner, Jor, and everyone is lovely.

Book in today and get 15% off with my referral code #F360MM15.  Let me know what you are working towards below and how Function360 will help you.




Thanks for Function360 for supporting me as one of their sponsored athletes.  I will routinely be sharing my experiences with the Function360 team as I continue to prepare my body for the next 
challenge.