Tag Archives: fitness friday


Hiking at Starved Rock [Fitness Friday]


So, we’re all still here, yes? Some of us might not want to be right now. I know I’ve spent the past few days with that feeling you get when you could cry at any minute and there’s a heavy ball that moves between your chest and the pit of your stomach. But, I have to remember that there are still beautiful and wonderful people and places in this world and that we all fight for what we believe in, yes?


One of those beautiful places (ugh. I feel so ridiculous writing that. Anyway…) is Starved Rock State Park. I distinctly remember going there as a kid but, until last weekend, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been there. My friends Margaret and Vinod invited Jason and me to tag along on a photography outing last Sunday. I honestly had no idea what to expect since it had been so long.


We met up with another one of Margaret’s friends and they chose our starting location. We ended up hiking from Parkman’s Plain to Kaskasia Canyon, which I’m guessing is about two miles. I was wearing my GPS watch but didn’t turn it on because I just wanted to enjoy the walk.


Oh, yeah, I was also carrying all Jason’s camera equipment. He’s been my sherpa at enough races, we figured it was about time I did some work around here!


The boys taking photos

I figure it was about a four mile hike, round trip to the waterfall in the canyon and back. We started our hike around 9:30 or 10:00 AM so there weren’t that many people on the trail. It was lovely and peaceful. img_1902

And we would have stayed out there for longer if we had brought more food! As it was, we (okay, I) got hungry and needed to find a real meal STAT.


I think this farmhouse is a little too far away to ask if they have sandwiches

So, back to the car we went and, after a few snafus, we ended up at a great restaurant in downtown LaSalle called the Uptown Grill. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in the area!

Overall it was a nice day with some fun memories and something I’d like to do again. I hear it’s quite lovely in the winter, too. If you need an escape and have the means to get to Starved Rock, I would recommend it.



  • Monday 10/31 – Upper body strength workout + 4 mile run
  • Tuesday 11/1 – Upper body strength workout + 4 mile run (6×400 on treadmill w/ warm up & cool down)
  • Wednesday 11/2 – Rest
  • Thursday 11/3 – Lower body strength workout + 6 mile run
  • Friday 11/4 – Lower body strength workout
  • Saturday 11/5 – 9 mile run
  • Sunday 11/6 – 4 mile hike

Marathon Training This Time Around [Fitness Friday]


I’ve been slacking on writing my Fitness Friday posts. I kept meaning to lump them into my October goals post but that didn’t happen, either. Maybe my slacking at blogging is because I haven’t been slacking at workouts.

As I’ve mentioned briefly before, I’m currently training for the Miami Marathon at the end of January. I’m training with Live Grit and we’re in week 3 of training.

It’s fun, for once, to have someone else give me a training plan. Although I’ve run 4 other marathons I’ve either used a training plan I found online (typically Hal Higdon) or made one up myself. I’ve never marathon trained with a coach or a group so this is a new experience for me!


Illinois Marathon 2013 | Las Vegas Marathon 2011 | Milwaukee Marathon 2011 | Chicago Marathon 2010

However, I’m not giving up my strength training regime until it’s absolutely necessary. Thankfully I have a job where I can hit the gym on my lunch break to do the strength training stuff and I’ve been running before and after work.

Of course, it’s dark before work right now and if my run is any longer than 4 miles it gets dark before I get home. I prefer not to run in the dark by myself, even though Chewie would probably eat anyone if they tried anything funny. Still, I’d rather not take the chance.

Plus, after training for Gasparilla last winter I know I can do my runs on the treadmill if need be so I’ve been doing that here and there instead of running the dark. I’m going to make it work because I have plans for Miami.

So, here’s to marathon training for the first time in almost 4 years!


  • Monday 10/3 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 10/4 – Upper body strength workout + 4.5 mile run
  • Wednesday 10/5 – 3 mile run
  • Thursday 10/6 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 10/7 – 4 mile run (treadmill w/6×30 second buildups)  + upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 10/8 – 5.3 miles
  • Sunday 10/9 – Rest


  • Monday 10/10 – Leg strength workout + 3.5 mile run
  • Tuesday 10/11 – Rest
  • Wednesday 10/12 – Upper body strength workout + 3 mile run (treadmill)
  • Thursday 10/13 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 10/14 – 4 mile run
  • Saturday 10/15 – 6 mile run
  • Sunday 10/16 – Rest


  • Monday 10/17 – 3.1 mile run + leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 10/18 – Upper body strength workout + 4.5 mile run
  • Wednesday 10/19 – Rest
  • Thursday 10/20 – Leg strength workout + 4.75 mile run
  • Friday 10/21 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 10/22 – 7 mile run
  • Sunday 10/23 – Rest

Redemption in the form of the Hero 10K [Fitness Friday]


Remember how I said on my Park Ridge 5K post that I have more fun when I just run and don’t worry about my time? Well, the Hero 10K I ran on Sunday was proof.


This was my third time running this race (and every time it was thanks to a giveaway from Valerie) and it’s still one of my favorites.


I love wearing my costume. I love the course that goes through the Indiana Dunes park (not the dunes themselves, though. Thankfully). I love the small town feel and, I have to say, the fact that I win an age group award because the race is so small.


First place in my age group (and second woman overall!)

I had zero expectations for this race. I ran my 10K PR at this race last year but since I’d been 5K training and not 10K training I didn’t think I had a chance of doing anything too spectacular.

Not to mention the liter of beer I drank the day before.

Anyway, the weather was cool but still a bit humid. It was really windy on the beach but once we got into the wooded areas there was no breeze. Still, I was having a good time dodging puddles and admiring the leaves. Lots of people commented on my costume and cheered me on when they realized I was in the top five women!


I swear I’m having fun

There was another woman who passed me in the last mile but for some reason she didn’t show up in the results (I think she accidentally registered as a male) so I’m still claiming second woman!

You know what I get to claim? A new 10K PR!


See, I told you I run better when I don’t put any pressure on myself. I got myself a 20 second PR and I am still stoked about it. I suppose that’s a pretty good start to marathon training, don’t you think?



  • Monday 9/26- Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 9/27 – Upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 9/28 – Rest day
  • Thursday 9/29 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 9/30 – Upper body strength workout + 20 min HIIT on the stepmill
  • Saturday 10/1 – 3 mile run
  • Sunday 10/2 – Hero 10K

Park Ridge Charity Classic 5K [Fitness Friday]


As you probably know, I’ve spent the last 8 weeks training for a personal record in a 5K race. Specifically, I wanted to break the 23 minute mark. I would have been happy with a 22:59. My PR is 23:24 which I hit in April with no 5K specific training, just HIIT, some long runs, and lifting weights.

I had my eye on the Park Ridge Charity Classic 5K because it’s known as a fast and flat course. Basically, perfect for PRs.


Sadly, to cut to the chase, I did not PR at the race last Saturday and I didn’t break 23 minutes.

I honestly don’t know what happened. Was it my training? Did I not do enough fast runs? Did I not hit the right times on the interval and tempo runs I did? Did I do too much strength lifting and not enough power and conditioning lifting? Was it too humid? Was I too stressed out?

I do know that when my friend Annabelle ran alongside me towards the finish line, yelling encouragement at me, all I could say was, “I don’t know if I can do this.” And then I burst into tears.


Was it hormones? Was it not enough confidence building runs? Was it that I’ve gained some weight since April?

I cried when I finished. Several other runners asked if I was okay and gave me encouragement. But it still sucks to fail at a goal, you know?

Was I so upset because I’d told everyone about my goal and then I didn’t achieve it? Did I feel like I was letting everyone down?

Running is so funny. You can train and do everything you think is right and you can still not hit your goals on race day and you might never know why.

I’ve never trained specifically for a 5K PR before. I have to say, though, it’s really discouraging to do the training and see basically no tangible results. Jason kept saying that maybe I would have done worse if I hadn’t done the training (I finished in an official 23:44, by the way), but I’ll never know.

I’m debating doing another 5K race this fall. I just don’t know if I have it in me right now to set a goal time. I will say, I had much more fun earlier this year when I was just running with no time goals in mind and being pleasantly surprised when I PRed.

So, I have some things to think about. For now, though, I’m going to enjoy lifting and doing whatever cardio I want. At least until marathon training starts!


  • Monday 9/19 – Leg strength workout (easy & light)
  • Tuesday 9/20 – 3 mile run and upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 9/21 – 30 minute tempo run (treadmill)
  • Thursday 9/22 – Leg strength workout (easy & light)
  • Friday 9/23 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 9/24 – 5K race (with .8 mile warm-up)
  • Sunday 9/25 – Rest

Doing the Chicago Triathlon as a Relay Team [Fitness Friday]


Last year the Chicago Triathlon was my “big” race for the year. Although it wasn’t technically my first triathlon (I did the Esprit de She tri earlier that summer), it was the one I’d been training for for most of 2015.


This year I had plans to sign up for the sprint distance again but then my neighbor and friend ended up getting injured and needed someone to fill in for her as the runner on team “Tri Me a River.” They were signed up to do the Olympic/International distance as a relay team. One person would do the 1 mile swim, one person would do the 25 mile bike, and I would do the 6.2 mile run.

Although I attended the mandatory course talk before the race there was very little information provided about the relay portion of the event. To be honest, the two other times I’ve done a triathlon as part of a relay team they also provided very little information! Something about the relay aspect just always feel tacked on. Still, I knew as the runner I had ALL morning to figure it out. As long as I showed up near the “Run Out” sign before my cyclist got there, all would be well.


My knee was acting up a bit so I got it taped at the expo on Friday. Not pictured? The iced coffee I went and got while I waited for my turn.

Interestingly, for as strict as they claim to be about who can get into transition, there were NO volunteers manning the relay corrals. For all the warnings we got about not leaving bags laying around unattended, that’s mostly what was going on in the relay area. We had two fenced off areas outside transition where swimmers come in and runners go out. Thankfully our cyclist had her bike racked within spitting distance of the relay transition area so I could easily see her coming.

However, other than the slightly weird logistics, our race went well. Our swimmer did better than she expected and we had no missed hand-offs with our timing chip. The run was HOT though. Oh so hot. Thankfully some of the aid stations had ice that I was able to dump down my sports bra and the Chicago Fire Department had a water truck out and were spraying water on the course.


By the time I finished I was just as drenched as if I’d done the swim myself!

I ended up having a lot of fun but was really glad that I wasn’t doing the whole race all by myself in that heat. Whew! Hopefully next year, when I plan to do the Olympic distance on my own, the weather will be better.



  • Monday 8/22 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/23 – Upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 8/24 – 35 minute tempo run
  • Thursday 8/25 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 8/26 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 8/27 – Rest
  • Sunday 8/28 – 10K run portion of the Chicago Triathlon

Nike Unlimited Chicago Decathlon: Olympics for the Mere Mortal [Fitness Friday]


Last Thursday evening I rode a Divvy bike over to Soldier Field to partake in a Nike-sponsored decathlon-type event. Nike hosted this event so we could all get a taste of what their sponsored decathlete, Ashton Eaton, had to do as he competed for Olympic gold that same evening!

I knew very little about the decathlon other than an article I’d read about a week earlier. I wasn’t even sure what the actual 10 events were! And I had no idea what the 10 events Nike chose were going to be. Pretty sure they weren’t going to let us throw a real javelin, though.


Not me! But this is a photo from the event.

Anyway, I was one of a team of five Windy City Blogger Collective members and two boyfriends who gamely agreed to be the male part of our co-ed team. Our team of seven was assigned a “pacer” who would make sure we got from event to event and that our scores were recorded.


From L to R: Caitlin, Zachary, Emily, me, Ali, Sheena, and Aleisha

And what were our events?

In order we did:

  1. 100 meter dash
  2. Standing long jump
  3. Shot put
  4. Vertical jump
  5. 400 meter run
  6. 60 meter hurdles
  7. Medicine ball throw
  8. Sled pull
  9. Javelin
  10. 1500 meter run

I totally forgot to take a picture of my final scores! Actually, I forgot to take pictures of a lot of things. Honestly, I was having too much fun! Well, up until the javelin where my lack of dinner and the almost 9PM hour were making me grumpy.

Each person on the team got to attempt each event at least once and our pacer recorded our best scores. Each team had 10 minutes to complete each event so for some of them we got to try more than once. My personal favorite was the hurdles. Leaping over things while running is probably as close to flying as you can get.

Emily is doing a great recap of each of the events so if you want more detail I suggest you check out her blog! For me, I just want to focus on the highlights and lowlights.


  • Free shoes! Seriously. As a “media” participant I got free shoes, a free duffel bag, and a free pin. The pins are allegedly even the same ones that Team USA took to the Olympics to trade with other countries.


  • My fastest 400 meters ever (probably)!
  • Second best vertical jump on my team
  • Not knocking over a single hurdle


  • Feeling really strong until I saw how awesome other people were! In the end, though, this just made me realize that we’re all good at something and, for not having any previous track and field experience, I’m not bad! That’s right. I never ran track and I never ran cross country!
  • Hitting myself in the head with the javelin. Thankfully it was a plastic toy javelin. Still, it hurt!
  • Getting tired, hungry, and grumpy by the 8th event. Now I know why real decathletes break their events up into two days!

The event ended with all the participants doing the 1500 meter run and ending on the field in Soldier Field. Then we took a bunch of photos before watching the awards ceremony while eating pizza in the stands. They put the Olympics up on the Jumbotron but I was way too tired to stay and watch.


I promise I’m in this photo. I’m actually in the second row hidden behind a sea of raised arms.

After this event I have so much more respect for decathletes! You have to be super well-rounded and have lower body, upper body, and core strength galore. So, props to Ashton Eaton for winning the gold in Rio this year! You have my utmost respect.


5K PR Training

  • Monday 8/15 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/16 – 3 mile run & upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 8/17 – 6×400 run
  • Thursday 8/18 – Leg strength workout and Nike Decathlon event
  • Friday 8/19 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 8/20 – Rest
  • Sunday 8/21 – 6.4 mile run
iron girl pleasant prairie medal

Something new on race day


The rule of thumb for racing is, of course, nothing new on race day. Meaning that you should wear clothes you’ve worn before, eat foods you’ve eaten before, and don’t try anything you haven’t practiced.

iron girl pleasant prairie medal

Well, I had to throw a big piece of my triathlon “training” out of the window on Sunday at the Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon. You see, the water temperature in Lake Andrea was 82 degrees. According to USA Triathlon,

When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees, but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wet suit at their own discretion, provided however that participants who wear a wet suit within this temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards.

So, yeah. I mean, I probably wasn’t going to get an age group award anyway, but the announcement that wetsuits weren’t technically legal freaked me out. See, I’d never done any open water swimming without my wetsuit. And I’d never done swam in a pool longer than 25 yards. And now I was going to swim a half a mile without a wetsuit in a lake?


But, you know what? I did it. I swam that half a mile without a wetsuit. Sure, it took me 16 minutes longer than the world record (that means it took me just over 20 minutes for those of you who aren’t watching the Olympics) but I did it.

And I felt really strong on the bike. The run was tough but I think that was because of the lack of shade.

Overall I finished 22nd out of 113 in my age group. But I think the biggest takeaway is knowing that I CAN swim half a mile without a wetsuit. My mantra for the day was “she thought she could, so she did.”

And I did.



5K PR Training

  • Monday 8/8 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/9 – Upper body strength workout & 3 mile run
  • Wednesday 8/10 – 30 minute tempo run (on treadmill)
  • Thursday 8/11 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 8/12 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 8/13 – Rest
  • Sunday 8/14 – Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon

5K Training with a PR in mind


In 2007 I decided I wanted to run a 5K. Several of my online friends were doing it and I thought, hey, if they can do it so can I! So I found a group in Urbana, Illinois called the Beginning Women’s Running Group that had a goal of getting you to run a 5K by the end of the summer.

I had a BLAST, met the woman who is now in charge of the Illinois Marathon along with many other awesome women, and I ran my first 5K in September 2007. Since then I’ve run more 5Ks than I can count, 19 half marathons, 4 marathons, 3 sprint triathlons, and many races of a variety of other distances.

My 5K PR is currently 9 minutes and 59 seconds faster than my very first 5K. But other than that first 5K I ran back in 2007 I haven’t ever trained specifically for a 5K.


Photo from my very first 5K. Yes, that’s me.

All of that changes now. This past week I started the Intermediate 5K training program from Hal Higdon with my eyes on trying for a new personal record at the Park Ridge Charity Classic on September 24th.

I haven’t followed a running training plan for quite a while. And I’m certainly not giving up my strength training. Plus I’ve got one more sprint triathlon on the calendar. So, it’s going to be interesting figuring out how to fit it all in.

I plan to include my current week’s training in upcoming Fitness Friday posts so I hope you’ll follow along if you find it interesting!

Training started in earnest on August 1st and this is what I did:

  • Monday 8/1- Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/2 – Upper body strength workout and 3 mile run
  • Wednesday 8/3 – 5×400 run w/1 mile warmup (on the treadmill)
  • Thursday 8/4 – Rest day
  • Friday 8/5 – Upper body strength workout and 3.25 mile run
  • Saturday 8/6 – Half mile swim and 5 mile run
  • Sunday – Rest


P.S. If you’re looking for a fall 10K or half marathon to run I highly recommend the Hero Half & 10K. As you can see from Valerie’s race entry giveaway post, I even like to dress the part. Head over there to enter to win a race entry yourself and join us. Super hero costume not required but definitely encouraged.


How to ride your bike from Chicago to Joliet [Fitness Friday]


Last Sunday I wanted to get in a long bike ride but I also wanted to see Jason race his car at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. “How many miles is it from here to the track?” I asked.

“About 45,” Jason replied.

Hmm, I thought. I was hoping to ride 45 miles with Live Grit anyway.  Their route would take me almost exactly half way to Joliet. Was there a way I could keep going after the halfway spot?


After some Googling and asking around, I came up with the following route which I’m going to detail for future reference:

This first part is the typical Live Grit route leaving from the store on Monroe in the West Loop.

  • Southwest on Ogden
  • South (left) on Ridgeland
  • West (right) on 41st
  • Stay on 41st and cross Harlem Ave. 41st will turn into Historic Route 66/Joliet Road and then into 55th Street
  • South (left) on East Ave which will turn into Santa Fe Dr
  • Turn right at 75th when Santa Fe Dr ends
  • South (left) on Willow Spring Road
  • Right (west) on 79th
  • Stay on 79th and end up at the Shell Station in Burr Ridge. Fuel up with Gatorade, water, and salty snacks.

At this point I broke off from the Live Grit group and continued onto Joliet.

  • Head back north and turn right (east) on 83rd Street
  • Right (south) on Madison St
  • Right (west) on Jeans Rd. Take a left when it forks.
  • Cross Kingery Road/83 and get on the sidewalk on the west side.
  • Take the first right onto the ramp down to the Centennial Trail.


The Centennial Trail is lovely

When you get to Romeo Road, stay on the trail and take a left. Cross the bridge and then take a left at the bottom. Go under Romeo Road and get on the Gaylord Donnelly Trail. Note: this trail is crushed limestone and not paved!

You will end up in a small park on 2nd Street. At this point you can continue on the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail or you can switch to surface streets. I would HIGHLY recommend switching to surface streets. I would recommend Hamilton Street to Woods Drive to 171. I didn’t, and, other than a stretch of paved path in downtown Lockport, the trail was HORRIBLE. More mountain bike than road bike territory. I almost took a picture but I was trying too hard to navigate where the heck I was!

Once I finally got out of this weird section where the path went underneath 171 and basically turned into a hiking trail, I got out onto 171. It’s a busy road but you’re only on it for about a 2 miles before you turn left onto Woodruff Road and then take the right right onto Harrison.

Unfortunately, either the super rough trail or something on 171 did in my back tire and I ended up with a flat shortly after turning onto Harrison. This means I was unable to finish my ride since I’m still a beginner at tire changing. Thankfully Jason was able to come get me and my bike during his rest period.

And, I did technically  make it to Joliet city limits! I even got to ride past the old Joliet prison.

However, since I didn’t make it the additional six miles to the actual raceway, I want to try this ride again! After I practice changing a flat tire first, though



How to finish a triathlon with no training [Fitness Friday]


As I mentioned in a previous post, I signed up for the Esprit de She Sprint Triathlon in nearby Naperville at what was basically the last minute. Well, okay, I signed up 6 days beforehand.

Last year I spent every Monday night in January through May swimming laps in a pool and then most Saturday mornings starting in May swimming in Lake Michigan. I did long bike rides of 45 miles and ran once or twice a week. I was FREAKED OUT about swimming half a mile and had to do deep breathing exercises at the start of the 2015 Esprit de She triathlon.

This year? I hadn’t done a stroke of swimming since last August. I’d been out on my bike exactly once. Granted, I rode almost 60 miles, but still. But, I have been lifting weights 4 days a week and doing one or two days a week of cardio. I’ve run two half marathons since January 2016 and several shorter races.

And on race day this year I was completely calm. I let out a few curse words when I realized I’d forgotten my fuel that I wanted to take on the bike, but I figured I’d survive. I’d packed an emergency peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I had a leftover Clif Shot Blok in my bag and those would just have to do.

While waiting for the swim to start I ended up chatting with a girl I went to high school with. We were on the dance team together our senior year and apparently we still look close enough to how we looked in high school to recognize one another even in triathlon gear! Crazy, right?


The first few strokes of the swim felt a little awkward and it took awhile for my arms and shoulders to warm up. Swimming is way more of an upper body workout than I remembered!

Still, I finished the swim only 31 seconds slower than 2015.


My first transition was soooo slow. I’m definitely out of practice there. Of course, I think it’s partly because I stopped to scarf down some of that PB&J.

Out on the bike I caught up to my high school classmate and we leap-frogged one another for a bit. She definitely helped me push it when I was flagging because of the ridiculous headwind we had to ride into for half of the course. In the end, I completed the bike course almost a minute faster than in 2015. Thank you, squats and deadlifts.

My second transition time was almost identical to 2015 and I think the only reason it’s 9 seconds slower this year is because I actually remembered to put on my race bib number belt. I totally forgot it in 2015!

The run after riding always feels super weird and this year was no exception. Hilariously, I’ve probably done less than 10 “brick” (bike-run) workouts in my life. And this year my run time was one second faster than 2015. So, I’m definitely consistent there!


When I signed up, one of the Live Grit coaches said that it probably wouldn’t be my greatest race but I’d definitely finish. Well, finish I did and only 1:14 slower than in 2015!

So, if I had to tell someone how to do a triathlon with no training I’d say the following:

1. Make sure you’ve done at least one triathlon before so you know what to expect. Preferably the same event so you REALLY know what to expect.

2. Lift a lot of weights. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: lifting weights will keep you in amazing shape. Especially if you’re lifting heavy.

3. Don’t have a goal time for anything. Be pleasantly surprised when you do better than you thought you would.