Running with the Bride, Chicago-Style!

Sara’s sister made her an adorable top to run in pre-vows. (And yes, this beach is in Chicago!)

I just love a June wedding–especially when it takes me to a city I’ve never visited before. A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of watching my friends Sara and Iain tie the knot in front of family and friends at an art gallery in Chicago. Craving a girls’ weekend, I made Baby Sister come along as my date and we took the Windy City by storm.

Brrr! It was so much fun that after climbing out, Sara and I just had to jump back in again.

There’s no better way to learn about a city than to go for a run! The morning of the wedding, I pulled Baby Sister* out of bed early to meet Sara and her sister for an easy 4-miler. We took an out-and-back route along the water front, which included a loop of the zoo in Lincoln Park. Then, we jumped into Lake Michigan!

One all-beef dog, mustard, onions, sweet relish, pickle, tomatoes, peppers, and a shake of celery salt on a poppy seed bun.

After all of that sweating and swimming (30 seconds of treading water totally counts), I felt as though I’d earned a hot “dragged through the garden” dog. This one from Portillo’s was topped with everything under the sun–everything except ketchup, that is. (Surprise!) Chicagoans love their cheesy, saucy deep dish pizzas, but they’re not big fans of that other kind of tomato sauce.

Speaking of hot dogs… It’s time for me to find a grill and get my BBQ on. Happy 4th of July! And congratulations again, Sara and Iain!

Did you go for a run before you walked down the aisle? Have you ever tasted a Chicago-style hot dog?

*Baby Sister isn’t a big fan of running, so I’d like to thank her for being such a good sport. Not only did she hold her own at a 9:00 min/mile pace, she also threw herself (and her new Lululemon capris) into a Great Lake just for me. Baby Sister, you rock!

Look Ma, No Watch!

My running buddy took the morning off.

It’s not often that I hit the roads without a timepiece strapped to my wrist, so when I stepped onto my front stoop this morning and realized I wasn’t wearing a watch I was a bit surprised. Slightly panicked, actually. I stood on the bottom step of my building for a minute, debating whether or not to go back up the five flights and get it. In the end, I simply started moving.

Sure, sometimes I’ll go for a run and I won’t start the chronograph—I’ll just stop when my body tells me to. But I always know what time it is, and I can happily share that info with the world when asked. Which also means, I can always give a rough estimate of how long it takes me to run a certain distance. And I definitely play mind games with those numbers, factoring whether I’m getting faster or not pushing myself hard enough.

I have no idea what time it was when I reached the park, and even less of a clue as to what numbers were on the clock when I finished my 4-mile loop. But by the time I made it back up all of those stairs and into my apartment, I forgot all about checking. It’s like time stood still for me today, so that I could have an easy, number-free run and simply enjoy being outside. Thanks, Universe!

Do you know exactly how long all of your runs take? Do you ever leave your watch behind? 

What’s The Plan, Stan?

I’m training for Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon on 1 October and I’d like to do well. Of course, well is relative. My last half marathon was in January—it was 14 degrees outside and I finished in a respectable 1:57:02. This time, I’d like to push myself harder and cross the finish line in 1:49:00.

I’ve learned that when you set a goal (in running and in life) it helps to have a solid plan to get there. Figuring out that plan can be a challenge. Do you ask Google for one? Get it from a magazine? Hire a coach? I’ve tried all of those routes and they’ve all gotten the job done… when I’ve stuck with them.  That’s the key: A training program can’t tie your shoes for you—it only works if you’re dedicated to seeing it through.

Today my plan had me knock out three easy miles. But for some reason getting started was tough. I didn’t feel like getting out of my pajamas. I didn’t feel like going to the park. And I questioned whether a slow, low mileage run was really worth my time. (Clearly I woke up on the wrong side of the bed!) So I thought about my goal and I visualized what it would be like to look up at the finish line clock and see those numbers. Suddenly, snoozing for an extra 30 minutes just didn’t seem worth it.

What keeps you dedicated to your plan? What motivates you to run?

This Bridge Makes Me Feel Groovy

I had to drop my foster dog off at the vet to get neutered this morning. And since the clinic is conveniently located near the 59th Street Bridge, a.k.a. the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, I decided to run over it a couple of times before heading home. (Sans pooch, since he was getting snipped.)

In NYC, the Brooklyn Bridge gets all the glory for being attractive and runner-friendly, while the humble 59th Street Bridge stoically performs its transport duties without fanfare. No fair! Here’s why this structure earns the title of MVB (most valuable bridge) in my book:

  • It’s long From on ramp to off ramp, the 59th Street Bridge clocks in at around 1.2 miles. At that distance, there’s plenty of length to meander up the slow incline and then enjoy the decline, which helps you mentally prepare to turn around a go over it again.
  • Traffic is light The running and biking lanes are completely separate from the lanes for cars and trucks, making it safe and spacious. But surprisingly, there’s hardly anyone on it. This morning I counted 7 cyclists and 4 pedestrians—not including myself, and the last time I crossed on a Saturday there were only a dozen or so more people.
  • The views are cool The bridge itself is fun to look at while you’re on it and crossing it gives you a neat look at Manhattan. Heading back across the river from Queens you get to check out all the buildings on the Upper East Side—a skyline that doesn’t often show up in movies.
  • It comes with a soundtrack You can’t have a bad run on a bridge that inspires lyrics like “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.” Simon and Garfunkel may not have pounded out the miles on this path, but they were on to something!

After going over and back twice, I stopped at Starbuck’s for a recovery grande mocha and went home to wait for the vet to call. In case you’re curious, the pupcake made it through surgery just fine, but he has to wear a cone collar for the next two weeks to prevent him from licking himself. That plastic lampshade was just too depressing to bear, so I got him an inflatable neck cozy that serves the same purpose. All aboard the puppy love boat!

Have you ever run across the 59th Street Bridge? Where is your favorite bridge?

Off And Running!

I recently left a full-time staff writer job, and now I work from home. Which is great because I can finally finish a couple of big projects that I started (what feels like) forever ago. And I can pick up more freelance writing gigs. (Assigning editors, feel free to contact me!)

But what’s not so great is that setting my own schedule means I’m free to do whatever I want, and I’m not always motivated to sit down and work during business hours. To give my day more structure, I’ve started to rethink the purpose of my morning runs. I used to run whenever I could find the time—usually in the a.m., but sometimes squeezed into a lunch hour or after work. Now, a daily workout anchors my 9 to 5 existence.

I get up, pull on some shorts, and head to the park for a loop. Once I’ve pounded out a few miles, I’m ready to focus on the other tasks I have planned. On days that I don’t workout first thing, I move aimlessly from one ultra-important activity (scrubbing the tub) to the next (watching yet another awkward date on The Millionaire Matchmaker). So in an effort to prevent myself from cheating or skipping runs, I signed up for Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon on 1 October in Central Park. Here’s to a focused fall!

Does running give your day structure, too? Do you run before or after work?

My New Four-Legged Friend Isn’t A Runner

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I often use stock images featuring adorable dogs to illustrate my posts. Clearly, I love the pups. This past weekend I took a step toward owning a tail wagger of my own—I became a foster mom to an adorable 8-year-old, German shepherd mix. He’ll be hanging with me for the next three months, which will give me a taste of what it’s like to care for (wo)man’s best friend 24-7.

It’s definitely a full-time job and this sweet creature has already put a cramp in my morning routine. Thanks to his walks, I no longer have time to run in the a.m. Sure I could get out of bed even earlier, but I hate being up before the sun and I get nervous running in the dark alone. Sadly, he can’t run with me—he’s completely out of shape after months of living in a cage at a shelter. (He also has sores on his front legs that he needs to stop licking and scratching—hence his crazy outfit in this photo.)

I packed clothes and sneakers with me today and plan to run home from work (about 7 miles). But running in the evening just isn’t as satisfying for me. I’m curious, how do other pet-loving morning runners fit it all in?

Got any scheduling advice? Do you run with your dog?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

I missed by bedtime last night because I was gabbing on the phone with a friend of mine who had spent the day giving birth (Baby Ashley, I’m so happy you’re finally here!). Not a bad reason to put off a date with Mr. Sandman. But when I did manage get under the covers, I had a really hard time falling asleep. The shut-eye came eventually and so did some very weird brain activity: I dreamt that my legs didn’t work.

In the dream, I was standing in a race corral wearing baby pink sneakers and a garbage bag, wondering if it was going to rain. I heard a gunshot and the people around me took off running. But I just stood there. I couldn’t move. I tried to lift my right foot, but it was unbelievably heavy. In a panic, I reached down and tried to tug it out in front of me. Then I tried the left, but it wouldn’t budge either. I looked up again and could see the other runners fading into the distance ahead.

I woke up in a pool of sweat.

Anxiety dreams during taper week are totally common—at least that’s what NYC running coach and former Olympian John Henwood once told me. He says his clients have all kinds of fears in the days leading up to a marathon: What if I forget how to run? What if I break my leg going down the subway stairs? I sneezed this morning; do I have pneumonia? As funny as they sound, they can really mess with your head.

When I stepped out of my apartment to run this morning, a touch of apprehension slipped in and I was concerned that my legs might feel like lead. What if the dream (nightmare!) had an ounce of reality? A few strides later I was breathing easy and laughing at myself. I really need to relax.

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 6 days!

Have you ever had the dream where your legs don’t work? What do you do to ease anxiety?  

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.