Monday, September 26, 2016

Chicago Fall Half Marathon Recap


I ran my second half-marathon of the year over the weekend! The Chicago Half Marathon is the second race in the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series 26 Challenge. I signed for the 26.2 mile challenge in January (I think) and it's part of my training for the Chicago Marathon. We got awesome double medals for finishing both the Spring and Fall half-marathons.

I was nervous going into the race because I really wanted to PR. My best half-marathon time was 2:10 at the first half-marathon I ever did in 2012. Since then my times have only gone up. The Spring Chicago Half was the first drop I've had in a while, to 2:13. My goal this time was to get 2:08 or better.

In the week before the race I only worked out twice, both times at Orangetheory, and I only ran a couple of miles each time. I wanted to run Friday but I never made it out the door. My legs had three days of rest when I entered my corral on Sunday morning. From the moment I started running I knew I would beat my time. I felt great and I kept up a 9:30ish pace for most of the race. My pace didn't start dropping until I hit Mile 9, when I stopped for water and had a tough time speeding up. I kept telling myself I didn't train all summer to NOT beat my time. It was around this time that I saw one of my group marathon training coaches and she asked me how I was doing. When I assessed myself I realized I was doing just fine. I did start to struggle mentally around Miles 11 and 12, but then a funny thing happened: My Spotify app randomly changed the song on its own, to "Run the World (Girls)" by Beyonce. It was just the motivation I needed. Another song that inspired me was "The Greatest" by Sia  and Kendrick Lamar. I repeated it a few times and even got a little emotional when it was on. I was so happy when I crossed that finish line!




The medal this year is the best I've ever seen. First, it's huge. It also contains the Roman numeral for 20 (XX) and it spins! The second medal I got for finishing the series has Chicago landmarks. I love both so much.


Check out my video of the race on Youtube and subscribe if you enjoyed it.






Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Canada Road Trip Itinerary + a Radisson Giveaway!




Graham and I have been planning a trip to Canada for a while. I recently read an article about amazing places to go in Ontario and I became inspired to plan a 2017 road trip from Chicago. The destinations we want to check out in Ontario are only about 7-8 hours away, and since we are pros at road trips  we have done three 1,700-mile road trips!  the distance doesn't seem far at all.

One of our cross-country road trips in 2015.

We will save 20 percent on our Ontario hotels when we stay at Radisson and book with Radisson's Advance Purchase Rate. 

Our road trip would go to Niagara Falls first, where we would stay at the Radisson Hotel & Suites Fallsview, Ontario. We would try to book one of the rooms with a view of Horseshoe Falls.




Then we would head to Radisson Admiral Hotel Toronto-Harbourfront. Its SPLASH Pool Patio and Terrace overlooks Lake Ontario and the CN tower.


Our last stop in Ontario would be Kitchener Waterloo, where we would stay at the Radisson Hotel Kitchener Waterloo. Its location makes it easy to check out some of our ideal destinations below.



What we will do at each destination:
  • Toronto: Check out the views from the CN Tower. We'd also go to a baseball game to see the Toronto Blue Jays play at Rogers Centre. (If visiting all major league stadiums is a goal of yours as well, print my ballpark checklist below!) Lastly, we'd shop and dine at local businesses.
  • Kitchener: Day trip to Webster's Falls, one of 100 waterfalls in the Hamilton area. We'd also explore the Huron Natural Area for a hike. The hotel also puts us close to historic St. Jacobs Village, which has river trails and charming shops.
  • Fallsview: I've always thought it would be fun to do a Niagara cruise, and the Radisson Hotel & Suites Fallsview is just six minutes from this activity! I'd also like to check our Journey Behind the Falls, which takes you through bedrock tunnels to see water crushing down in front of you. We could also have lunch or dinner at Skylon Tower to get a different view of Niagara Falls.



Want to go on a Canada vacation? Create your own dream Canada trip with Radisson and take advantage of savings of up to 20 percent by visiting the website. Also, to help you plan your next Canada getaway, I'm giving away an e-certificate for a stay at a Radisson hotel!

Enter to win a Radisson e-certificate:


Check to see which Radisson is near your favorite Canada destinations and share where you would go in the comments for a chance to win a certificate that's valid in U.S. or Canada! Winner will be randomly selected on Oct. 3 at noon Central Standard Time. Winners must be 18 or older and live in the U.S. No purchase is necessary to win. There will be one winner and the winner will be chosen via a random name generator. Winner will receive the e-certificate via email. I will reply to the winner below to notify that he or she has won. If winner does not respond within 24 hours with an email to send the prize to, another winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Want an extra entry? Sign up for my newsletter with the toolbar at the top of this page.

Related: MLB check list




More on road trips:




Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fall Bucket List


I sat down to write my 2016 fall bucket list and quickly realized I wrote almost the exact same activities as I did in 2015, so why reinvent the wheel? I'll be customizing the above activities for the Chicago area, of course, like I did last year.

For the stroll at a garden or park, I'll most likely visit Morton Arboretum.

For apple picking, hot apple cider, corn maze and pumpkins I can visit All Seasons Orchard. I'll definitely also be eating apple-cider doughnuts. Actually, to be honest, I didn't really like the cider all that much, so let's make that local apple ale. Why not?

Last year I made a pie with Granny Smith apples for Thanksgiving, and I'll likely make that again. Not to toot my own horn but it was pretty good. 

I'd also love to go on a fall foliage drive to Wisconsin, but if that doesn't fit into our schedule I know I will see some fall colors in Chicago as well.

I plan to reprise my gratitude list from last year and find any way I can to give back, whether it's donating canned food, volunteering or giving to a cause.

Last but not least, I will be watching "Hocus Pocus" many times. "Casper" is another Halloween movie that I absolutely adore.

Bonus: Run a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning.

What's on your fall check list? Share your must-dos in the comments!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My Favorite Things I've Done in Chicago & a Giveaway!



I've tried to explore Chicago as much as I can since moving here in March 2015. I love trying different things to do and checking out new restaurants. I like to share the activities I have enjoyed most so far with anyone who is visiting Chicago for the first time. All of these fun things to do are easily accessible from the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago, which is conveniently located in The Loop, or downtown. The hotel puts you just moments from popular Windy City attractions like Millennium Park, where you can take your seemingly required "Bean" selfies, and the Lake Michigan lakefront. The Chicago skyline is gorgeous (see above), and this hotel lets you be in the middle of it. Plus the hotel has amenities like rooftop and indoor pools, a fitness center and pet-friendly rooms!

My picks for must-do things in Chicago:
  • Architecture cruise on the Chicago River.

  • Chicago Cubs games at Wrigley Field (or White Sox game at the Cell if you prefer). Both are just a short train or car ride away.

  • Taking in the views from the John Hancock Tower and Sears (Willis) Tower. You don't need to pay for a ticket to the observation towers. You can grab a drink from the Signature Room if you don't want to feel like a tourist!

  • Walking, running or riding a bike along the Lakefront Trail.

  • Eating at local restaurants! It is tough to nail down a specific place, because Chicago has so many amazing food options. And if you venture outside of the Loop you can find even more amazing eateries.


Attractions near the hotel that are still left on my Chicago bucket list:

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Field Museum
  • A show at Chicago Theatre

It's easy peasy to book a stay at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel by joining Carlson Rewards, if you haven't already. By joining, you get the Members Only Rate Exclusive from Club Carlson, which saves you up to 10 percent more at participating hotels when you book directly on Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (that includes Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inns & Suites By Carlson) brand websites and mobile apps. You can also enter to win 30,000 Club Carlson points -- did I mention hotel stays start at 9,000 points?! (To be eligible, you must be a member of Club Carlson (or become a member).

In addition to the rate exclusive, Club Carlson members get perks such as:

20 points per U.S. dollar spent on rooms and food and beverage buys, plus food and beverage discounts.
Elite status after just 10 eligible stays.


To enter the giveaway for 30,000 points, sign up to become a member and visit the Carlson website to find hotels! Comment below with where you would travel. Please provide an email address or social media handle so I can contact the winner and obtain your Club Carlson account information.


Giveaway rules: No purchase is necessary to win. Winners must be 18 or older and live in the U.S. to participate. Club Carlson will deposit the 30,000 points in the winner’s Club Carlson account. I will notify the winner via email and obtain the winner's Club Carlson account number. The winning entry must follow the rules stated above. The winner will be selected randomly and notified by email on October 10, 2016. The winner must reply within 48 hours or another winner will be selected from the remaining entries.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Our Second Anniversary


Jana Dillon Photography, Hawaii

Two years ago today, the Rev. Kahu Kamuela blew a conch shell to let me know it was time to walk down the grassy knoll to my soon-to-be husband. I won't recap the whole wedding, because I already did that on this blog. Today, on our second anniversary, I just want to share my thoughts on our two years of marriage so far. When this post goes live, Graham and I will be watching the sunrise before a breakfast date. (I hate waking up early, but Graham loves sunrises and I love Graham, so I will do it with a smile.) We'll spend every minute that we can together, and that's enough to be grateful for.

Our first year of marriage was about adventure and moving to Chicago. It was a blur. A fun blur, but a blur nonetheless. Year No. 2 has been about growing and adjusting. We have become more comfortable in our new city. We learned that we need to be more of a team in our marriage. I came into marriage thinking it'd be 50-50 all the time, but it's not. Sometimes one of us has had to pick up the slack, and I think our marriage is better for it. We have had our disagreements and struggles like every other couple. But we were reminded this year, as I am sure we will continue to be reminded, that we have to make a choice to never give up on each other. Graham says this a lot, and I am so glad he does.

This year Graham and I have had our patience tested. It continues to be tested right now. We have been waiting for months to hear about a huge, exciting change that is coming our way, and we have to keep waiting. There is so much uncertainty, but we know we will be OK because we are a team. We can get through anything together. Our two short years have already taught me that as long as we choose to work together we will be all right. We will be more than all right!

Jana Dillon Photography

Highlights:



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


“Tutu


Monday, September 19, 2016

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 14


I'm ready for the marathon! I ran my longest distance of Chicago Marathon training on Saturday. I now have the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday, a long run of 10 miles the following weekend and the marathon on Oct. 9. It's all happening!

Recap of Week 14 of marathon training:

Monday: Rest. I planned to run 9 miles but I felt sick and exhausted. I slept instead, and it was just what my body needed.

Tuesday: 2-mile run before work to evaluate how my body was feeling. I felt great and the weather was perfect.

Wednesday: 2.4 miles of hill workouts at group marathon training. Our coach told us it was runner's choice night, which meant each of us could decide what we wanted to do. It had to be one of the workouts we have done, so I chose hills. I felt like since I live in Chicago I don't get enough of a hill workout, and they are extremely beneficial.

Thursday: 1.7 miles at Orangetheory. I waited until after work to work out, which meant I was mentally spent, but the workout was great. It was an all-woman class and coach played mostly Beyonce and Rihanna -- the perfect playlist if you ask me. 

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: 20 miles at group marathon training. I have been doing my long runs by myself, but I felt it was important to run the 20 miles with my team to motivate myself and to have run support (water and cheers). All of Chicago seemed to have their 20-miler that day as well. The trail was packed and it was an exciting atmosphere. It felt like race day. Shoutout to the high-school kid who handed me his cold water bottle, a police officer who gave me a whistle with a compass and a light, all the stations by various running groups who handed out water and Nuun without caring which team you are on, all the people cheering along the trail, my coach and all of my teammates, who made the run a lot more enjoyable! That night, however, I felt dehydrated. A headache hit me during dinner and it only intensified. By the time I got home I was ready to be sick. I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. that night and I felt better by that morning.

Sunday: Rest day.

Week's mileage: 26.1


Reflections:


I felt like my 20-miler was like race day. I was even a bit emotional at times, because it felt like all of Chicago was supporting us. By us I mean the hundreds of runners on the Lakefront Trail over the weekend. Many other running groups had their 20-milers as well, and everyone cheered each other on and even shared water. I am so excited for the marathon!

Marathon training recaps:


Current running favorites**:



** This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Travel Bucket List: Celebrate an Anniversary at Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas





As I've said before, Graham and I are outdoorsy people. When we vacation we look for destinations with 1. a beach and 2. outdoor activities. Those waves and sunshine just call our names. A bonus is seeing animals and flora.



When I think about my dream vacation destinations, the Bahamas, specifically Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, comes to mind. I would love to celebrate an anniversary at Atlantis, which has many amenities that make it an ideal place to mark a major life milestone.



We can enjoy the thrills and relaxation of the Aquaventure water park, stroll through the largest open-air aquarium in the world and lounge poolside, among other activities. Additional outdoor activities we love, such as snorkeling, can also be arranged.



After working up a sweat with our outdoor adventures, Graham and I can summon quite the appetite. Atlantis is all-inclusive, something I've never had the pleasure of enjoying before, which means we'd have TONS of options for dining each day. If you've been around this blog before, you know I love to eat. In addition to restaurants, you'll have a variety of nightlife choices to toast to your milestone event. I can picture us sipping delicious cocktails to celebrate another year together.

Of course, Atlantis Resort is not just ideal for anniversary celebrations. Atlantis can help you celebrate any milestones, such as weddings, family reunions, birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, honeymoons, holidays and even a change of season! Want to see how you can celebrate your milestone moment at Atlantis? Check out the Atlantis website or call in to learn more! Planning your wedding and honeymoon? Find special offers and lots more information on the Atlantis wedding homepage. Graham and I had a destination wedding ourselves, and while ours was in Hawaii, the views from any beach destination make for incredible wedding photos.

 Visit Atlantis Resort website.
Visit the Atlantis Resort website to learn more.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Recent Beauty Empties



I've been hoarding my recent empties for the purpose of telling you which products I liked and which I didn't like in this post. After using the beauty products below, I found some of my August favorites, so I am thankful for that. As you will see below, I am gravitating toward more natural or cruelty-free products. I am not pretending to be fully cruelty-free or vegan, but if I can find a product I love that is cruelty-free I would prefer that to one that isn't.


Boots Botanics Cleansing Toner: I liked this gentle toner. It cleans, tones and brightens (slightly) without stinging or smelling like chemicals. One thing I don't like is that it isn't cruelty-free, so I am going to look for one that is.

e.l.f. Makeup Mist & Set: I can't really say my makeup lasted all that long, but it did make my makeup look less cakey. It's super affordable, and you can't beat that. I didn't hate it but I am now using another setting spray.


Shea Moisture Peace Rose Oil Complex Nourish and Silken Shampoo and Conditioner: Only the Conditioner is pictured above, but I ran out of both. These did leave my hair softer and more nourished, but I wasn't in love with the scent, which is sort of citrusy. I believe it's the date palm extract that I am smelling. What spurred me to buy them is that the package said Shea Moisture donates part of their proceeds to community programs, as well as the fact that they have no iffy chemicals and don't test on animals. While I liked those qualities, I found a shampoo and conditioner duo I like much more: Yes To Coconut.

e.l.f. Poreless Face Primer: What I dislike about this primer is mainly the packaging. It appears as though you get much more than you actually do. I also can't say it really is "Poreless," at least for me. I won't be repurchasing this primer.

Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Pore Scrub: I liked the gentle cleanser and its rich lather, as well as the mild scent. The packaging says this scrub is cruelty-free; however, not all Neutrogena products are, in case that is important to you. I found a cleanser I love much, much more, so I won't be repurchasing this scrub.

Yes To Tomatoes Daily Pore Scrub: This is an exfoliating scrub and it worked well, but I didn't enjoy the scent. It had little beads that I believe are bamboo. If you don't mind the scent you might enjoy this scrub. It's affordable, natural and cruelty-free.

Alba Botanica Good & Clean Dual Textured Exfoliating Towelettes: I found these randomly at Marshalls and picked them up because the exfoliating aspect intrigued me. I liked that I could exfoliate and then cleanse and tone with the other side of the wipe. You don't need to scrub too hard to exfoliate. I can't remember the scent, but I obviously didn't hate it. These are also free of harsh chemicals and cruelty-free. I would buy these again.


Shop the products:





** This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stand-Up Paddleboarding on Lake Michigan | 4 Places to Go Next Summer


As much as it made me nervous, one of my top items on my Chicago summer bucket list was stand-up paddleboarding. I wanted to try it for a year before I finally took the plunge. This summer I was able to try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Michigan via three different companies. I discovered that not only is stand-up paddleboarding a tough workout, but it's widely accessible here in Chicago.

The first time I ever tried SUP was during a yoga class I found via Dabble. The class was held at Montrose Beach, and you meet at the Kayak Chicago paddleboard rental shop, where you can store your belongings. This class was $45 for an hour and a half. Of my three SUP experiences, this class was the most helpful in terms of teaching you how to paddle. As I wrote in my post, the teacher spent time in the beginning talking about how to maneuver on the board.



Another place to rent paddleboards is at Leone Beach in Rogers Park. Graham and I tried to rent paddleboards one day so he could try it, but sadly we didn't realize that the Leone/Loyola Beach SUP company, which sets up outside the lifeguard office, is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer. I can't speak to how well they set you up to paddleboard, but it's a nice option if you are in the northern part of Chicago. It costs $20 per hour to rent a board here and they have two locations. Yoga classes and group outings are $35 for 90 minutes.

After our unsuccessful attempt at Leone Beach, Graham and I went to Chicago SUP at North Avenue Beach. Of the three times I paddled, this location had the best view of the Chicago skyline. It's amazing at sunset! Graham and I rented boards for $30 an hour each, and we ended up paddleboarding with a large group. It was fun to chat with other random people we met on the water. The water on this day was a bit choppy, so I sat for most of the time. I was too sore from Orangetheory Fitness to want to stand. This paddleboard experience was the most challenging. Also, we got here kind of late and without reservations, so we almost couldn't paddle. The guy ended up saying he had two boards left but we had to carry them to the water. (They can be heavy. Luckily Graham carried mine like a gentleman.) He didn't provide any instruction whatsoever, because it wasn't a class.



The last paddleboarding session I went on was via Chicago Paddle Company at Hollywood Beach in Edgewater. This was the trickiest social paddle to get to because Hollywood Beach doesn't really have a parking lot. My friend and I had to find a parking spot in the neighborhood and then walk about half a mile to the beach. The paddle was called Chicks with Sticks and was held every Monday at 6:45 p.m. On this particular day it was raining, so we were worried the session would be canceled, but it wasn't. Paddles happen rain or shine as long as the rain isn't too heavy and there isn't lightning or dangerous wind. This paddle was $35 but was part of a two-for-one paddle session deal. (I ended up not using the second class before the season ended.) I also didn't stand the whole time during this session because it was a little choppy. And, as usual, I was sore from marathon training. This paddle was fun because we decided as a group how far we wanted to go, and we went farther from the starting point than the other paddleboarding classes/rental sessions I did this summer.

Have you ever tried SUP? What did you think? I suggest adding it to the itinerary next time you're in Chicago in the summer!

** Some of these companies are now closed for the season but some are still offering rentals depending on the weather. Check on their websites or call them to make sure.

Shop cute wetsuits (affiliate):


*** This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fall Running Playlist



Fall is almost official upon us, so it's time for a new running playlist! Fall is my favorite time to run. The weather noticeably changed in Chicago over the past week, making running a thousand times more enjoyable. It's nice to not have a waterfall of sweat gushing off me after every workout.

I've started compiling songs for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 and the Chicago Half Marathon on Sept. 25, which are approaching at lightning speed. As usual, I mixed old and newer songs as well as slower and faster tempos. Do you need some running or workout music? See how you like this Spotify playlist! Follow the playlist and let me know what you would add.

Featured artists:

  • Beyonce.
  • Daya and the Chainsmokers.
  • Sia, of course.
  • Outkast
  • Many, many more.

I am constantly updating my playlists as I go. I find new songs everywhere, and my favorite trick for adding them to my list is using the Shazam app and then clicking "Listen in Spotify." If I notice I am skipping a song frequently during my runs I sometimes move the song to another playlist or delete it altogether.


What's on your workout playlist right now? How often do you update your music lists?


Fall 2016 Running Playlist




Related running posts:

Chicago Marathon training recaps:



Running favorites**:




** This post contains affiliate links and ads.