Thursday, July 21, 2016

Marathon Packing List

 My First Marathon

A common question I have received recently is whether the Chicago Marathon will be my first 26.2 mile race. The answer is no. It's my second after the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in Louisville in 2015. I signed up for the race in January 2015 when I lived in Phoenix, and the plan was to spend a week in Louisville to visit family. Two months later, Graham and I made the decision to move to Chicago for his new job. Luckily Louisville is only a 5-hour drive from Chicago, so the marathon trip was not too long and difficult. In addition to being my first marathon, the Kentucky Derby marathon was also the first race I traveled for. I am so glad I made a packing list before I left for my first marathon, because the whole trip was a whirlwind. For my fellow runners, I'm attaching a marathon packing list of items you might want or need on your trip! Leave me any feedback in the comments about what you would add. This is meant for weekend or day trips for a race. 


I hope this list makes packing for your race much easier. I typically put every item on the bed and then check each off as I put it in my bag. If it won't be traveling in my bag, I place the item directly next to it so I can grab everything and head out the door.


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Have you traveled for a race? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: L'Oreal Voluminous VoxBox

I recently received the Voluminous VoxBox full of L'Oreal Makeup, courtesy of Influenster. The box contained eyeliner, mascara, lash primer, a brow kit and eye shadow, making it one of the best VoxBoxes I've received. I've been wearing the products nonstop this week to try them out, and here's what I think of the makeup so far:

*While these products were free, these are my honest opinions of each.


  • Infallible Never Fail Mechanical Eyeliner. On first glance I liked the pointed tip of the pencil and the application. On the second try, I wasn't able to be as precise as I'd like. I wish the tip of the pencil would be a little smaller. On subsequent tries, I smudged the eyeliner easily (without intending to do so). It has a smudger on the other end that it a nice touch. I wish it were a little more pigmented.
  • Voluminous Primer. It goes on smoothly and easily and lengthened my lashes. My lashes also looked thicker, which I liked. I noticed that my eyelashes didn't hold a curl for as long though. I had to re-curl them throughout the day.
  • Brow Stylist Prep & Style Pro Kit. I like this small kit for travel or to carry in my purse for touchups, if needed. It comes with a mirror, mini tweezers and a little brush/spooly. I was impressed with the tweezers; they work well. The powder wore for a long time and didn't smudge off; however, I am not as precise with this kit as I am with a brow pencil in certain areas. I don't really feel like the wax did anything for me.
  • Voluminous Mascara. I liked this mascara and the volume it provided. I had to be careful not to overdo it to avoid clumps. 
  • L'Oreal Paris Color Riche Monos eyeshadow. I received these single shadows in Paris Beach (200) and Pain au Chocolat (207). I used Paris Beach as a brow highlight and Pain au Chocolat on my lids, along with a neutral color (by another brand) as a transition. On me it kind of looked like a grayish purple and I prefer warmer shades. I liked that both eyeshadows were a little creamy and applied easily, though Pain au Chocolat wasn't as pigmented as I thought it would be. I fixed that by spraying my brush with elf Setting Spray for a date-night look. 

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 5

Week 5 of Chicago Marathon training was a recovery week, so I decreased my mileage to allow my body to recharge. I still worked out five days though. I am starting to notice a difference in my speed, though only in short distances so far. I don't have a time goal for the marathon, but I would love to drop my half-marathon time at the Chicago Fall Half Marathon in September.

Week 5 marathon training recap:

Monday: 1.5 miles at Orangetheory. We did a run/squat/row block, where we went back and forth between the treadmill (with lots of inclines) and the rower. We did ISO squats with calf raises (30 reps) in between.

Floor workout included:

  • Dead lifts, for which I raised the weight to 20 pounds instead of the typical 15. It was tough, but I'm glad I went a little harder that day.
  • Side V-ups.
  • Knee tucks on the Bosu ball.
  • Roll outs on the TRX straps.
  • Plank jacks with hands on the upside-down Bosu ball. (Jumping out, in, forward and back to plank.)
Tuesday: Rest day. I didn't intend for it to be a rest day but Graham was off work and we went to the beach after work and on my lunch break. It was for the best because I was still sore from the previous night.

Wednesday: 2 miles at group marathon training. We did two half-mile repeats and one full mile at 80-90 percent perceived effort. My times were 4:20 and 4:22. My mile pace was 9:10. We weren't able to do anything else because a thunderstorm rolled in. Our coaches cancel workouts if lightning is present.

Thursday: 2.55 miles at Orangetheory. I warmed up for .37 mile, then did two separate running blocks of about 10 minutes each. (We did a floor workout between them.) I ran 1.08 in the first block and 1.10 in the second.

Floor workout included:

  • Low rows on TRX strap.
  • Single-leg V-ups on the Bosu ball.
  • Plank single-leg raises with hands on upside-down Bosu ball.
  • Two 300-meter rows.
  • Pikes on the Ab Dolly (affiliate link).
  • Chest presses on TRX strap.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: 5 miles. Instead of 5 slow miles, I did a warm-up mile, two mile repeats and a cool-down run. My repeat times were 8:50 and 9:16. 

Sunday: 2 miles at Orangetheory. I was phoning it in; I won't lie. I walked at an incline a lot instead of running, because I didn't have a snack beforehand and I felt weak. I'm still glad I went though.

Floor workout included:


  • Squat jumps on the TRX strap.
  • 350-meter rows.
  • V-ups.
  • Ultimate burpees: Burpees with weights as well as bicep curls and overhead press.
  • Bicep curls.
  • 2-minute plank challenge.


Week's mileage: 13.05


Reflections:


I am disappointed to have not gone to  yoga in the studio last week. It is my top goal this week to go back to class led by someone other than myself. Overall, I am so happy with how marathon training is going. I am doing things differently from last race, and it's paying off so far. I hope to share more about those differences soon.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

My First Chicago White Sox Game at U.S. Cellular Field

I often write about Chicago Cubs games and how much I love them. There's no place like Wrigley Field; it's magical. But I just had to also visit U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox play. A low-key goal of mine is to go to baseball games at all the major league stadiums. So far I've been to Wrigley Field, Chase Field, Coors Field, Nationals Park, Miller Park and U.S. Cellular Field. As you can see, I have a long way to go.



My friend and I opted to drive to the stadium because we live on North Side of Chicago and taking the train would take too long. I purchased parking in advance on the White Sox website for $10 on a Sunday. (The cost goes as high as $20 from what I could tell.) The parking was in Lots F or L. We had no idea where to go, but by chance we ended up at the south entrance of the parking lots. Fans were tailgating and playing corn hole with elaborate setups as we walked toward the gates. At the entrance, we had plenty of space to line up to pass through security. By contrast, Wrigley's lines get so long that you are sometimes wrapping around the ballpark or crowded into the street.

When you enter, you immediately take an escalator to the next level, where the 100-level concourse entrance is. We walked around and marveled at all the food options. We liked that there are different choices available, and Coke products are served (vs. Pepsi)! I'm a lifelong Coca-Cola fan, so this is an important detail for me. I went with fried mac and cheese as my first pick, and then went to grab some Mexican corn (mixed with butter,  mayo, chili powder, cotija cheese, lime juice). I loved that this is available, because it's a constant craving for me in the summer. My friend and I shared tater tot nachos, so needless to say we ate a lot of cheese.



The weather could not have been more perfect. It was a sunny day with a cool, refreshing breeze. The stadium still had plenty of seats to fill, but the atmosphere was fun and friendly. I'm glad I checked U.S. Cellular Field out!

Our seats were in Section 102 and only cost $15 for a game against the Atlanta Braves. I liked the view, and our neighbors in the row said they'd catch any balls coming our way, so I felt comforted. My hands were full of food, after all.

I share clips of the game in my weekending video below. Please subscribe to my channel for more weekending updates. 



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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Taste of Chicago

I finally made it to Taste of Chicago (one of my Chicago summer bucket list items) over the weekend. I was dying to go last year but I had no one to go with. Womp, womp. Normally that doesn't stop me, but it's a huge festival that can be kind of intimidating to do alone. I was determined to try Taste after the SoFabU conference on Saturday, and I made it happen!

I took the train to Grant Park after the last session and met up with Graham and two of our friends.



We started off with 24 tickets each (12 tickets cost $8.50). We were walking around and mulling over our options when I saw Lou Malnati's. I had yet to try it, so I rushed over immediately to grab myself a cheese and Graham a sausage pizza. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

We next headed to Dia de Los Tamales to grab tamales. I tried the black bean and corn while Graham chose pork. Again, yum! I loved the salsa on top. I also tried my friend's veggie burger before moving on to Chicago-style fries from Gold Coast Dogs

It was then time for desserts. We chose watermelon Italian ice from Franco's Ristorante, then headed to get the Mexican paletas at La Mexicana. I immediately gravitated toward the lemon lime. AMAZING! I wanted another, but instead we tried sea salt and caramel gelato from Franco's. (We ended up buying another 12 tickets for the last two desserts.)

We probably could have tried more food, but it was time to head home after an exhausting yet fun day. 

Have you ever been to Taste of Chicago? What did you eat?! Let me know in the comments. Also, check out my video of the weekend and subscribe to my channel for more.



What you should know before you go:

  • The free festival is packed! The security line at the gate was long, but it moved quickly.
  • You can pay for tickets with cash or credit/debit, but the cash lines were shorter.
  • Each booth had Taste portions and bigger portions. The Taste portions were usually 3-5 tickets, which full-size portions could be 8-9 but I also saw some items listed for 12-13.
  • Booths typically had lines but most seemed to move quickly.
  • Check the schedule if you're looking for a particular restaurant because some were only there on certain days.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

SoFabU On the Road Chicago Recap

I have been a member of Social Fabric for months now, but I haven't been selected for as many opportunities as I'd like. I decided to attend the SoFabU on the Road event in Chicago to learn about what I can do to improve my blog, and I'm so glad I did!



The event was held on the 16th floor of the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The venue was perfect: it was in a great location and offered nice views of the city. I signed up as soon as I heard about the event to get early bird pricing. That also meant that I received a bit of swag that not everyone appeared to get: a notebook, pen, stickers, portable charger and a thumb drive. I used the notebook to take notes and jot down my ideas throughout the day.



SoFabU on the Road is a full day of learning. You check in for breakfast at 9 a.m. and the sessions don't end until 5 p.m., when the reception begins. 

Our first session was about building a newsletter. It was taught by Kirsten Thompson of Sweat Tea LLC. We analyzed fellow bloggers' blogs and gave feedback on the placement of their newsletter sign-up forms. I used the time and advice to add a sign-up form for my own newsletter onto Facebook, which was easier than I thought. We also learned about opt-ins and content upgrades and I came up with various ideas to use soon! 

Newsletter takeaways:


  • Your blog should have a minimum of three sign-up forms.
  • Set up separate opt-ins based on post topics. (One for travel, fitness, etc.)
  • Put a sign-up form on your most visited page. 


A photo posted by SoFabU on the Road (@sofabuotr) on



During lunch, we were given the opportunity to ask questions to the Social Fabric team about applying for Shoppertunities.

They gave us tips for how to be selected and stand out:

  • Don't use their conversation starter topics in the application; many people do and you won't stand out.
  • Include a link to sponsored work and non-sponsored work so they can see what your sponsored work is like.
The next session was on Pinterest. It was taught by Becca Ludlum. We learned strategies for success on Pinterest that I was not implementing, including writing longer descriptions with more keywords for my pins. We spent time adjusting our most popular pins, and by the next day I noticed those pins were seeing more action on Pinterest. Becca even told us how many times she pins a day -- 70 -- which gave me an idea of what I need to be doing.

Pinterest takeaways:


  • It is OK to repin your own stuff many times. I had previously heard that you shouldn't do this, but Becca seemed to think you can make your own rules, and that has worked for her.
  • We can't really rely on group boards all the time. Make your own boards.
  • Use interests in the Analytics tab to create new boards on similar topics.

The final session was on crafting the perfect post, and it was led by Megan Tenney. She gave us a check list ahead of time for everything we need to do before, during and after publishing our blog posts. It reminded me I need to be updating the meta descriptions every time, something I don't always do. Her session also inspired me to look at the topics I write about and analyze which of them I can let go.

What I loved about SoFabU On the Road:

  • We got time to actually work on our blogs and fix the issues we were talking about, like SEO-friendliness, descriptions, newsletter sign-ups and more.
  • There was no shortage of food. We received a filling breakfast and lunch, along with cookies as a snack. The reception had plenty of beverages to unwind after a long day.
  • The instructors walked around to ask if you needed help.
  • I met some awesome bloggers!
I included some footage of the conference in my most recent Youtube video. Subscribe to my channel for more videos such as this.



Have you attended a blogging conference? What did you learn and how did you implement it?


P.S. Linking up with Blush Blonde and Fairy Princess Diaries today!


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Monday, July 11, 2016

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 4

Week 4 of Chicago Marathon training was busy, exhausting and fun! I mixed in four days of race training with plenty of entertainment. I was able to explore more of Chicago, work on my fitness goals and even learn how to improve my blog! 

Week 4's marathon workouts:

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: 2.5 miles at Orangetheory, including some incline work. It was an endurance, strength and power day. The floor workout included:

  • High rows on the TRX strap.
  • Chest press on the TRX strap.
  • Bench step up with later raise (with dumbbells).
  • 1-minute all-out row.
  • Side V-ups.
  • Triple squat burpees.
  • Torso rotations with dumbbell.
Wednesday: 2.5 miles at group marathon training. We ran .5 mile between stations, where we did:

  • Jumps over small hurdles (1 minute, twice).
  • Walking side planks.
  • Side skiers.
  • Plank.
  • Squats.
  • Walking lunges (for a looong way).
  • Side shuffles around a small garden in the park.
  • Speed drill stepping in and out of a ladder.
Needless to say, we were exhausted. It was 70 percent humidity and warm, so I felt like I weighed 1,000 pounds during our short jogs between stations.



Thursday: Orangetheory. I originally wanted to take the day off but I didn't want to waste classes in my monthly package. I ran 2.25 miles as part of a switch class in which we went back and forth from the treadmill to the floor in shorter blocks. The running blocks included 11, 9, 7 and 5 percent inclines. So much for my plans to take it easy during class!

Floor workout included:


  • High rows to low rows on the TRX straps.
  • Chest press.
  • Weighted situps.
  • Split lunges with bicep curls.
  • Weighted toe touches.
We also did an all-out row for distance. We had to row 250 meters as quickly as possible. I was slightly annoyed that someone had changed the distance measurement setting on the rower to miles instead of meters, so I rowed a ton more than necessary and didn't accurately track my time. We never measure in miles in class, so why the setting was changed was beyond me!

Friday: 10 miles. My long runs are usually Saturdays, but I had a conference to attend that weekend, and I wouldn't have enough time for it. It was a muggy day and I was tired. I ran/walked most of it.

Saturday: Rest day with a lot of walking around Chicago.

Sunday: Rest day with a decent amount of walking. 

Week's mileage: 17.25
Yoga: 10


Reflections:


It's unusual for me to spend an entire weekend without a workout, but it was a nice change. I shifted my long run to Friday because I had plans to attend So Fab U On the Road on Saturday and an important appointment and a baseball game on Sunday. It was a fun yet exhausting weekend. I'm ready to get back at it this week! I increased my mileage in Week 4 in just four workouts, which I consider a win. Also, I've now been tracking my calories and macros daily for two weeks. I notice it holds me accountable, though it didn't stop me from indulging at Taste of Chicago on Saturday night.

What are your current fitness goals? Have you tried any new workouts lately? Let me know in the comments!

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga
on Lake Michigan

Photo by Chicago SUPYoga

Last weekend I crossed off another Chicago summer bucket list item. I have wanted to try stand-up paddleboard yoga since last summer, but I let fear and the whirlwind that was my first year in Chicago prevent me from doing it. When plans fell through for Sunday I knew this was my chance. If I didn't take advantage of a free day, then who knows when I would be able to do it again? I checked Dabble, which is a site that offers classes in tons of topics. Dabble just so happened to have a Fourth of July sale on classes, including SUP yoga. I booked it immediately.

I didn't know what to expect. Surely I would fall into the water. Would I even be able to stand?

I drove to Montrose Harbor with butterflies in my stomach. Of course, it was extremely difficult to find parking because everyone was at the beach for the holiday weekend. I drove around for 20 minutes before I found a spot almost a half mile away from the Kayak Chicago hut. I checked it right at noon, when classes was supposed to start. I dropped off my belongings and kept only what I was taking on the water: myself, a waterproof camera, a paddle and a PFD. Note: You don't really need to bring a camera because the instructor, Mary Lou, takes photos during class. I ended up not really using my own camera.

Once we all were outfitted with what we needed, we walked to the beach for an intro to paddleboarding. We all introduced ourselves and Mary Lou covered the basics of how to turn around, where to stand on the paddleboard, how to paddle, and getting onto the board from the water. We even picked our own super heroes to channel during class. (I picked Beyonce, obviously.)

I was nervous about getting into the lake because I was sure it would be freezing, but it wasn't too cold at all. We pushed our boards in and hopped on. At first I stayed on my knees to paddle before gathering the courage to try standing. I wobbled but committed to standing. It's an exhilarating feeling to stand and feel the breeze hitting your face. We paddled toward a pier, where we anchored for some yoga. We did several rounds of vinyasas to downward-facing dog. We also did forward folds (both sitting and standing) and lunges. The most daring move we did was standing splits, which can be tricky on the water. I loved every minute of it!

Savasana was spent listening to waves crash near us, putting our arms in the water and feeling the warmth of the sun. We opened our eyes to see the Chicago skyline. I was so grateful for a gorgeous day on the water.

Have you tried SUP yoga? Or just SUP? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Chicago SUPYoga can be found on Facebook. Mary Lou offers class packages that make the classes more affordable. 

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fourth of July Weekend Recap

Chicago is an incredible place to spend Fourth of July. Fireworks start Thursday during that holiday weekend and continue nonstop through the Fourth. People love setting off their own fireworks, and the madness intensifies as the day goes on. By the end of the night on the holiday, you can sit next to the lake and watch an unofficial show. Of course, you can watch the Navy Pier fireworks and many other planned shows around town, but I loved seeing the random bursts of light as people light their own displays (although it does get loud and scary).

Fourth of July afternoon was spent at the Chicago Cubs game, because what's more American than baseball? We arrived before gates opened to get in line for the giveaway: a camo apron. Truth be told I am not a camouflage person, but I won't pass up a giveaway!



After the game, Graham and I walked over the the pier in our Rogers Park neighborhood to see what the commotion was. We could hear so many fireworks reverberating through our block that it sounded like a war zone. Our dogs seemed OK for the most part, though they did get excited at some of the louder booms. I think I was more startled than they were. 

We watched the bursts for some time until it was time to check on the dogs again. This Fourth wasn't as intense as last year, when a person ran up and down our street lighting fireworks until 2 or 3 in the morning. Thank goodness for that!

The next day was my vacation day I took to channel Ferris Bueller at the Cubs game. Again, I arrived 30 minutes before the gates opened because the giveaway was something I was interested in: an Anthony Rizzo off-the-tarp catch bobblehead. I had so much anxiety built up as I waited in the longest game line I've ever had to be in, but I was successful in getting one!



How did you spend your Fourth? Do you ever like to take days off to do random stuff? Let me know in the comments! Also, check out my video below and subscribe to my Youtube channel.





Monday, July 4, 2016

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 3

Happy Fourth of July! I will be taking a much-needed rest day from marathon training and going to a Chicago Cubs game today.

Week 3 was a much better marathon training period than the previous two weeks, and I finally feel like I'm making progress. I tracked my meals every day this week, which I consider a win! I am using the My Fitness Pal app, which syncs with my Garmin. Using the app has kept me accountable and opened my eyes to how much fat I have been consuming (and how much more protein I need). 

Here's how Week 3 went down:

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: 2.6 miles, including .1 on the beach. I also did 70 bicycle crunches.

Wednesday: 3 miles at group training. We did mile repeats! Yikes! My times were 8:50, 9 and 4:25 for a half-mile. (We jogged another half mile after the last repeat.)

Thursday: 2 miles, including a short jog with our dogs.

Friday: I went outside to run but decided against it. My calf was tight and I had 8 miles to run the next day, so I decided against it.

Saturday: 8 miles at group marathon training. I stayed with the 10:30 pace group despite being assigned to 10 minute pace group. It worked out well because it was my first time running more than 3 miles since my half-marathon.

Sunday: Stand-up paddleboard yoga class. I have wanted to try this for a year. Graham and I originally had an important appointment for Sunday, and I didn't plan to work out at all, but sadly our appointment was rescheduled. A full recap of my experience is coming to the blog this week!

Mileage: 15.6
Yoga Minutes: 90


Reflections


I really want to get back into yoga in the studio -- or on the water! Lately I practice a bit at home but it's nothing like being in a class and being led by a fellow teacher.

I'm happy that:

  • I ran a decent amount of miles this week.
  • I made it to group training at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. I don't think I made it to any of the early sessions last round and waking up early is a huge struggle for me.
  • The weather this week was perfect! Chicago decided to cool off a little after weeks of heat and humidity.

I usually prefer to run long distances by myself, but I actually enjoyed running with a group. It's nice to chat with people vs. listening to music for a change. And group training is a great way to meet fellow runners. Have you ever participated in a group training or team?

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