Monday, October 05, 2015

MMM - January 2015

When I look back at all the playlists I created for Maya over the past year, my January mix was kind of a dud. There were a few songs she already liked that I included, but otherwise it was kind of boring and not much to her liking.

But alas, here goes (and listen along on Spotify):

Celebration - Kool & The Gang
This was about the time Maya starting requesting specific songs for her monthly CD. "Celebration" was one of those. She performed this song for her winter program at her preschool and wanted to hear it over and over, much to my dismay. It's like being trapped in a wedding reception.

Winter Winds - Mumford & Sons
I thought I'd play off the winter theme with this song. Plus, it's got a banjo, and I hold out hope that the girls will eventually learn to love the instrument and play Nashville as an act someday. But alas, she's just not that into it.

One and One Makes Two - Johnny Cash
Fortunately, she does like this style of Americana. And anything that involves simple math is a win in Maya's book.

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
I loved this song when I was a kid. I have a vivid memory of listening to this song while running around and around my parents' oval coffee table. This, and Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time." I've since lost my liking for the piano man, but I still dig The Boss from time to time. Maya did end up liking this song, but it's not one of her favorites.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke & The Pearly Chorus (Mary Poppins soundtrack)
After receiving Mary Poppins for Christmas, the girls quickly took a liking to this song. Easy win for me.

My Kind of Town - Frank Sinatra
Always attempting to ensure the girls appreciate their Chicago upbringing, I blend Chicago propaganda into their entertainment diets. Not sure if this one stuck though. Maya liked the concept of a song about her hometown, but it was a little too slow for her tastes.

Rarotonga - Cafe Tacuba
Because we went to Mexico in January, I continued prepping the girls for the trip with some local music. They pretty much said no bueno.

William's Doll - Marlo Thomas & Alan Alda (Free To Be...You And Me soundtrack)
Another easy win. Maya already knew and liked this song, so it was a simple way to extend my anti-gender-bias education to the car.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz soundtrack)
After the atrocity of Maya's love for "Legends of Oz," I needed to balance out this crappy sequel with some mandated viewings of the original. Thankfully, the girls enjoyed it and this song.

Married Life - Michael Giacchino (Up soundtrack)
Pixar can do no wrong. The girls love this track, and sometimes in the car, the song even had a surprising calming effect. But as an adult, just try to listen to it without tearing up a bit.

Friday, September 11, 2015

JPMorgan Corporate Challenge: Race No. 12

I’ve heard a lot about this race from friends and family. They told me about the food, the drinking, all the fun they’ve had. So this year I recruited some coworkers to form a team. But here’s the deal (which I didn’t realize until after signing us all up): It’s only fun if your company has tons of cash to splurge on a tent, catering and kegs. My employer at the time was not that type of company, and so, the race was simply a group of 20-30-somethings getting together to run around the streets of Chicago.

Overall, the race wasn’t well organized. It took us nearly an hour to get to the start line because they weren’t prepared for the crowds.

Way, way over there is the start line. But we were stuck in a line literally nearly a mile long to get there.

The race was packed from beginning to end, which made running a decent pace difficult. And by the time we got to the first water station, it was out of water.

Still, we had fun on our own, got our free t-shirts and finish-line banana. So there’s that.

"Action" shot

Race Summary

Race name: JPMorgan Corporate Challenge
2015 Challenge Race No.: 12
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: JPMorgan Chase
Beneficiary: Get In Chicago
Cost: $47
Distance: 3.5 miles

Best parts of the race:
- My coworkers

Worst part:
- Lack of organization.

Following events:

Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Run For the Zoo 10K, June 7 @ Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL
The Original 5K, June 11 @ Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL
Susan G. Koman 5K, June 13, Downtown St. Louis, MO
Tiki Run 10K, June 20 @ Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL
Chardonnay 5K, June 27 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Tough Mudder: Race No. 11

Of all the races I’ve done in 2015, this is the only one I fully, hard core, trained for. And for good reason: Tough Mudder is a 10-mile mud and obstacle course run. Most of the obstacles require some serious upper body and core strength, which I seriously lack.

My training began in March when I joined a local Cross Fit gym to prepare. In addition, I started eating paleo almost exclusively, and Chris and I both gave up drinking about 6 weeks before the race.

At the height of my training, I was sometimes working out twice a day, and I definitely started to notice a difference in my overall fitness and endurance. I have no doubt this is why I ran my fastest 5K a few weeks before Mudder. That said, for all the work I was putting in and all the food I wasn’t, I didn’t lose much weight. My already fairly toned shoulders gone even more toned, but my jiggly middle didn’t change at all, which was really discouraging. But that’s another post for another day.

As for the race itself, all that prep definitely helped, but a lot of Mudder is mental. Sliding into a bath of ice water doesn't require upper body strength. But that obstacle (Arctic Enema) was the one I feared the most, and it was one of the "toughest" for me. Going under, your lungs contract from the shocking cold, and you have no air. It's terrifying, I'm not gonna lie.

I'd go through each obstacle one-by-one, but that would be pretty boring. A lot of the race this year was in a river, so what I remember most about the race was wading through waist-deep water for miles. There were a a few I couldn't complete, but those were the ones most other people couldn't do either (Balls Out, Funky Monkey). But I did conquer Everest, which still amazes me.

Shawshanked was another one that was pretty tough and I'm amazed I did it. You climb up a tunnel and drop out the end into water. It sounds easy, but the tunnel is slippery and already caked in mud from other people. There's a rope inside to help you, but that's also slippery and caked in mud. There was a minute inside I didn't think I could make it, but someone else was already behind me so I had to keep pushing forward.

Overall, the best part of Tough Mudder was doing with it Chris. It was just the two of us, and although the race requires teamwork, strategy and support, we never argued or got upset. Considering we've been together for 13 years and we still argue about whether or not he's driving erratically (he always is), it's amazing we got through it drama-free.



Race Summary

Race name: Tough Mudder
2015 Challenge Race No.: 11
Location: Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Tough Mudder
Beneficiary: Wounded Warrior Project
Cost: $170
Distance: 10 miles
Best parts of the race:
- Physical demand
- Camaraderie
- Organization

Worst part:
- Location. The site itself is perfect for this race, but it's a two-hour drive from Chicago. In fact, the parking lot for this event is technically in Wisconsin. 

Following events:

JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

MMM - December 2014

Like some many grand plans I have, and then never follow through on, I was soooo going to blog about my monthly Maya mix CDs. And now it’s September and I’m planning Maya’s 6th birthday CD, and I’ve written how many posts? One.

M'kay, well, let’s make this two.

The good news is, I did manage to make a new 10-song CD for the girls every month since November (save for the month of June, when Maya spent most of the month at her grandparents). And slowly, I’ve converted her into a fan of some non-Disney-related songs.

Here’s the December 2014 mix:

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Maya had previously shown some interest in this song after watching Mom and Dad's full Wayne’s World reenactment. And despite the nearly 6-minute length, this song continued to hold her attention after multiple listens. Her favorite line? “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?” Parents of the year, over here.

Happy (from Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams
She already loved this song before I put it on the CD, so that was an easy win. Plus, I must admit I love it, too. So catchy!

Blackbird – The Beatles
My continual attempts to get the kiddos to like The Beatles. Once again, not all that interested. Maya mentioned that her teachers play this song during naptime at school, so I’m probably not winning any brownie points with any song associated with sleep.

Twelve Days of Christmas – John Denver & The Muppets
I immediately regretted putting this song on this CD. It got annoying and repetitive after about two plays. Fortunately, Maya agreed and didn’t really want to listen to this one much.

New – Paul McCartney
As previously mentioned, I have Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 to thank for the girls interest in this song. Whatever it takes.

(I’m Your) Hoochie Coohie Man – Muddy Waters
For my two little born-and-bred Chicagoans, I thought it was only appropriate to begin indoctrinating them into the blues culture. Maya, bless her, pretended to like this to humor Chris and me, but I know she’s not really a fan. But I hold out hope she’ll come around someday.

Daughter – Louden Wainwright III
Children under the age of, say 30, are in full ego, center-of-the-universe mode. It's not their fault; that's just part of growing up. And I'm not above using that to my advantage to get my kids to like different kinds of music. So this song was a hit simply because Maya feels like it's about her.

When I See An Elephant Fly - Jim Carmichael, Cliff Edwards & Hall Johnson Choir (Dumbo soundtrack)
Disney movie. Easy win. I like this song because of the grammatical puns in it ("I've heard a diamond ring, I've seen a front porch swing"). I think it's long overdue for a modern, and perhaps less offensive, makeover, don't you? I could totally see Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros covering this, right?! Or Billy Corgan.

Christmas Time Is Here - Vince Guaraldi (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Hearing it immediately makes me think of watching snow fall on a quiet, dark night, sitting at my parent's fireplace. All of which is a very strange thing to think about when it's 90 degrees out in early September. but back in December, it made sense of course. Maya liked it, although she really hasn't seen much Charlie Brown. We'll have to fix that this year.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ravenswood Run 5K: Race No. 10

Amazing what a difference a day makes. The Race to Wrigley and Ravenswood Run was my first set of back-to-back races. Saturday’s Race to Wrigley was cold, rainy and, for me, slow. Sunday’s Ravenswood Run was crisp, sunny, and my fastest 5K to date.

This was also the first race of the year both girls participated in – not the full 5K, but shorter kids dashes.

And they were all about it.

This is always one of my favorite races of the year because it’s in my neighborhood, the weather is generally great for running, and it’s relatively small — small enough that I spotted my neighbor Rahm on the sidelines cheering on the runners with his family this year. Yes, that Rahm.

Race Summary

Race name: Ravenswood Run 5K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 10
Location: Ravenswood, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Fleet Feet Chicago
Beneficiary: Ravenswood Community Services Food Pantry and the Student Health Centers at Lake View and Amundsen high schools.
Cost: $29
Distance: 3.1 miles
Best parts of the race:
- Location
- Size
- Organization
- Easy packet pick-up

Worst part:
- No complaints! Love this race.

Following events:

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Monday, July 13, 2015

Race to Wrigley 5K: Race No. 9

The Race to Wrigley provided my second opportunity to run with someone else this year. For this one, my sister, a fellow die-hard Cubs fan, joined me. My sis and I also got to hang out a bit before the race with a childhood friend who was also running.

Like my last non-solo race (Shamrock), I paid little attention to my speed and instead chose to chat the majority of the run. Also like the Shamrock, the weather for the Race to Wrigley was not the best. It was rainy and so cold I needed to wear gloves: Understandable in mid-March for Shamrock; not so understandable in late April for a baseball-themed race. But alas, chilly temps and rain are becoming the norm this year in Chicago.

The race itself was a nice route through mostly residential areas near Wrigley. Post-race there was the ubiquitous bananas, beers and giveaways, the most exciting of which were individually packaged steaks from PRE. The line for this giveaway was insanely long, but my sister chose to skip it and instead go straight to the guy transporting the freebies from their truck to their booth. So in addition, to getting our steaks faster, we also got the opportunity to tell our husbands that we brought home meat we got from the back of a truck. #truth

Race Summary:

Race name: Race to Wrigley 5K & 10K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 9
Location: Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: ATI Physical Therapy
Beneficiary: Cubs Charities/Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Cost: $45
Distance: 3.1 miles
Best part of the race:

Cubs tie-in

Worst parts:
The weather. Not anyone's fault, but it was freakishly cold. 

Next race:

Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Be The Match 5K: Race No. 8

After the massive Shamrock Shuffle, it was nice to go back to a smaller, lakefront race. The Be The Match 5K in early April also provided the first opportunity this race season for the kids to watch in an outdoor environment. We got lucky with some gorgeous Spring weather, and the kids had a blast running around and not standing still for a photo.

Maya also managed to sweet talk an organizer into giving her a dozen helium balloons.

This was also a charity that really struck a chord with me. So much so that I signed up to join the bone marrow donor registry on the spot. You can too! Check out bethematch,org and learn how.

Race Summary:

Race name: Be The Match 5K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 8
Location: Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Be The Match Foundation
Beneficiary: Be The Match Foundation
Cost: $30
Distance: 3.1 miles
Best part of the race:

  • The charity
  • Size of the race. Nice & small!

Worst parts:
No complaints! This was a great race.

Next races:

Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shamrock Shuffle: Race No. 7:

Up until now, I’ve done a lot of smaller races. But if there’s one big, official-start-to-running-season race, it’s the Shamrock Shuffle. This was the third time I’ve done this race, and kind of like childbirth, I blocked out the unpleasant parts of the first two times I ran it. But this year, I’m documenting the unpleasantness, dammit. And like childbirth, I am probably never doing this race again.

Here’s the deal: The run itself is great -- 5 miles through downtown Chicago. Yes, the weather can be dicey in late March, and it’s always crowded. But otherwise, it’s a great race … on race day.

The day before, on the other hand, is a huge pain in the ass. I’m looking at you, packet pick-up.

The past two times I did this race, pick-up was at Navy Pier, which is the painiest of pain-in-the-ass locations in Chicago. There is no good way in or out of Navy Pier. In addition, packet pick-up was always located at the farthest, most-eastern point of Navy Pier. So no matter where you get into Navy Pier, you’ve got a good half-mile walk just to get to packet pick-up.

So this year when I saw that pick-up was at McCormick Place, I was optimistic that it would be slightly easier. Because for some reason picking up my packet at the largest convention center in North America seemed like an improvement.

I should note that the Shuffle’s pick-up is actually a race expo. And you can’t pickup your packet anywhere else. No early shoe-store pick up, no race-day pick up. Attending the expo is a requirement.

Here’s the other thing about the Shuffle packet pick-up: They force you not only to attend the expo, but also to weave through all the vendor booths. Twice. On one end of the expo, you pick up half of your packet. Then you are required to go the entire length of the expo, past and through dozens of sponsor tents, to retrieve the second half. Clearly this is by design, as these sponsors paid big bucks to ensure that every runner be exposed to their moisture-wicking socks, electrolyte chews and lactose-free energy shakes. And yes, I realize the funds raised are all for a good cause. But seriously, I will give you $20 to not make me deal with that madness.

Like the expo’s previous location, there is no good way to get in or out of McCormick place. I easily walked 3 miles alone just going to and from the parking garage to the pick up. You may think this sounds like exaggeration, but McCormick Place is a collection of four connected buildings, and just the exhibit hall space alone totals 2.6 million square feet. Sucker’s huge.

But the final reason this was a humongous pain the ass was entirely my own fault: I brought both kids, but not Chris. The only thing worse than attempting to navigate a convention-center race expo is doing so while chasing two preschoolers.  For some reason, I left the house at noon with the girls and thought I drive from Lincoln Square to the McCormick Center, pick up my packet at the expo, then make it back up north to Lincoln Park for Maya’s gymnastics at 3:15.

As a result, I was stressed, frazzled and angry until about 2:45, when I was still at the expo, chasing both kids, and had not yet picked up the second half of my packet. At that point I finally conceded that gymnastics was never going to happen, in fact, no other Saturday activities were going to happen. This was it: Our entire Saturday was going to be devoted to Shuffle packet pickup. Once I finally admitted that ugly truth to myself, I relaxed and let the kids do their thing. We played the sponsors’ games, tried all the samples, took silly pictures. I even had some wine. And we didn’t get home until after 5.

Needless to say, I was exhausted the next day for the actual race. But I ran with my friend Tara, we talked the entire race, paid no attention to our speed, and did brunch after at Meli.

Was the pleasantry of race day enough to make up for the trials of the previous day? Perhaps, but my friends and I can do other races. Shamrock Shuffle, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, we are never, ever, ever getting back together.


Race Summary:

Race name: Shamrock Shuffle
2015 Challenge Race No.: 7
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Bank of America
Beneficiary: Various
Cost: $50
Distance: 5 miles
Best part of the race:
  • Race route and distance
  • Green headband/neck warmer thing included with race packet
Worst parts:
  • See entire rant above.

Next races:

Be the Match 5K, April 11 @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Get Lucky 7K & Half Marathon: Race No. 6

This was my second Team Ortho race of the year, and I have to say, they put on some good races. The first was my first race of the year, the Polar Dash. My love for the Get Lucky race goes back to the Polar Dash -- they offered a dual packet pick-up, meaning that when I picked up my packet for the Polar Dash, they also had Get Lucky packets ready for pick up the same day. Two races, one packet pick-up, total win in my book. And as I’ll get to in later posts, I’m getting to the point that packet pick-up can make or break a race for me.

Like the Polar Dash, this one featured great swag as well: a green & black zip-up hooded fleece. It was actually too warm on race day to wear it, but I put that hoodie to good use training this winter.

The race course was again along the lake front, this time starting at Soldier Field and heading south. The distance -- 7K, or about 4.3 miles -- was a nice warm up for some of the longer runs of the season. And like all the other early season outdoor runs, the race wasn’t too crowded. My only complaint has to do with the race start -- again, like my issues with the Polar Dash. I worked my way up toward the front of the race because I wanted to go for a good time, but some other folks who pushed their way all the way to the front of the start line walked immediately. So, I spent the first 5 minutes running around walkers.

Otherwise, this was a great winter race. And with sunny, mild temps, I felt like a lucky gal.

Race Summary:

Race name: Get Lucky 7K & Half Marathon
2015 Challenge Race No.: 6
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Team Ortho
Beneficiary: Team Ortho Foundation
Cost: $50
Distance: 4.34 miles
Best parts of the race:
  • Early packet pick-up, distance, location and swag.
Worst parts:
  • Non-corraled start

Next race:

Shamrock Shuffle 8K, March 29 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Be the Match 5K, April 11 @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fight For Air Climb: Race No. 5 of 35

After my first stair climb, I was somewhat dreading this climb. My first climb was 80 floors, and I got seriously dizzy throughout. How was I going to handle 180 floors?

Fortunately, the dizziness didn't happen this time around. I'm not sure why, but I have a few theories:

1. Each tower is only a 45-story climb, so the spinning is kept to 8- to 10-minute bursts, followed by 10+ minutes waiting for the elevator back down. 

2. Because the towers have staircases at each end, the organizers flipped the climb rotations. In other words, for the first tower, I made a series of 90 left-hand turns. On the second tower, it was 90 right-hand turns. I think this helped reset my equilibrium a bit. 

3. The staircases are narrower than the Aon center. I thought this would make the spinning/dizziness worse, but the tighter turns actually seemed to help. Or maybe it was all in my head. 

All in all, this climb wasn't too bad. But I'm not sure if I'll do another stair climb. For one, they're expensive. Both this climb and the Step Up For Kids climb required $100+ in donations to be eligible to climb. Yes, it's for charity, but it was still pricey for me. Second, they're kinda boring. I mean, you're trapped in a gray stairwell for the race. They try to liven it up with posters of encouragement along the way, as well as water stops with music. But otherwise, it's pretty monotonous. 

That said, how cool would it be to climb the Sears/Willis Tower, especially considering the race benefits an organization near and dear to my heart? So we'll see...

Race Summary
Race name: Fight for Air Climb
2015 Challenge Race No.: 5
Location: Presidential Towers, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: American Lung Association
Beneficiary: American Lung Association
Cost: $25 + $100 required fundraising
Distance: 180 floors (4 towers @ 45 stories each)
Best parts of the race:
- Organization - Unlike my first climb, this race was surprisingly well organized. And they had pre- and post-race snacks!
- Seeing fireman in full gear complete the climb. You can actually smell the smoke on their suits before you even see them. I can't imagine climbing in all that gear. Amazing.
- Seeing this guy, who plays a fireman on TV, but will always be Steve Brady to me.

Worst parts:
- Waiting for the elevators down in each tower.

Following events:

Get Lucky 7K, March 14 @ Jackson Park, Chicago, IL
Shamrock Shuffle 8K, March 29 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Be the Match 5K, April 11 @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mardi Gras Chaser 5K/10K: Race No. 4 of 35

I'm horribly behind on my race posts. But with a race-free weekend ahead of me, I'll try to use this time to catch up. So let's rewind three months to Chicago's still-snowy winter (I know, I don't want to go back there either) and revisit my first 10K of the year.

Although I hadn't really trained much for a 10K, The Mardi Gras Chaser was, and still is, one of my favorite races of 2015.

For starters, it was an outdoor race in February, and as I learned during my first race of the year, outdoor winter running rocks — especially when the route is plowed and salted. The high that day (Feb. 21) was 33 degrees, although at race time on Montrose Harbor, it was probably in the teens or 20s.

I ended up running my fastest 10K, and I think the day's cold temps played a big part. Now that I'm running in much warmer spring weather, I've realized how much harder it is to run in the heat. I'd take a race day the 40s over the 60s anytime.

In addition to the weather and distance, this race also had great post-race snacks. Being Mardi Gras-themed, the finish line had cupcakes, snack cakes and sweets galore ... and I ate none of them. Instead, I loaded up a bag of goodies and brought them home for the girls. In fact, since going mostly paleo last year, I rarely eat any post-race freebies, other than the requisite banana, of course. In turn, my kids have developed a Pavlovian response when I come home following a race. "What'd you bring us, Mom?" And this time, they were pretty stoked to find something other than Luna bars.

In addition to the post-race snacks, I also loved the swag. Instead of a shirt (because I really don't need any more of those), the giveaway was a neck warmer. I haven't needed to use it yet, but I'm sure I will next winter.

Race Summary
Race name: Mardi Gras Chaser 5K/10K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 4
Location: Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Back on My Feet
Beneficiary: Back on My Feet
Cost: $45
Distance: 10k (6.2 miles)
Best parts of the race:
- February race!
- Post-race snacks
- Swag

Worst parts:
- Despite its name, the race took place after Mardi Gras, so if you're into giving up stuff for Lent, you can't really partake in the post-race sweets or beer.

Following events:

Fight For Air Climb (180 floors stair climb), March 8 @ Presidential Towers, Chicago, IL
Get Lucky 7K, March 14 @ Jackson Park, Chicago, IL
Shamrock Shuffle 8K, March 29 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Be the Match 5K, April 11 @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MMM - November 2014

I'm starting to plan the Monthly Maya Mix (MMM) for March 2015, so I thought I'd start recapping some of her MMMs to date.

The first 10-song mix I made for Maya was in November. After listening to her 5th birthday CD for a few weeks leading up to her party in late September, then for a few weeks following, I was ready for some new tunes by late October.

By the way, this is a good time for a little PSA: If you're a parent and you encourage your children to like some of your favorite songs, and they actually do like them, hooray! ... Within 3 weeks, you'll hate those same songs. Because no matter how great the tune is, if you listen to it on repeat for weeks on end, it will become the most annoying sound in the world. So, you know, proceed with caution.

Anyway, the November mix incorporated "mommy/daddy" songs Maya had shown an interest in after hearing them on the radio, plus a few songs I knew were sure-fire kids' hits, plus some songs that had some relevance to the time of year or plans we had for the month:

1. Blister In The Sun - Violent Femmes
This is one Maya has heard me sing along to on the radio, and due to my over-animated sing-alongs, became a quick favorite. The songs gets really quiet, then very loud, à la "Shout." What could be more exciting for a five year old!?

That said, when the same five-year-old sings, "I'm so strung out. I'm high as a kite; I just might stop to check you out," in public, cue the parental embarrassment.

2. How You Like Me Now - The Heavy
I thought this might be upbeat and repetitive enough for preschooler enjoyment, but no dice. Maya's not a fan.

3. Behind Blue Eyes - The Who
By and large, Maya likes any song that include lyrics about blue eyes (because she has blue eyes) or blonde hair (because she had blonde hair). What she doesn't know is that I've secretly been attempting to make her a fan of The Who since Superbowl 2010. This plan has been somewhat successful, although for this particular song, she only likes the first 2 minutes and 19 seconds. So in other words, the boring part. Once it gets good, she loses interest.

4. Touch the Sky - Julie Fowlis (from the "Brave" soundtrack)
This is my favorite of the recent Disney movies, so Maya pretends to likes this song for that reason. Otherwise, I don't think it's her favorite.

5. Changes - David Bowie
Another excellent song I can attribute to the Shrek franchise. A cover of this plays during one scene of Shrek 2, and that's enough to capture Maya's attention. Thank you, DreamWorks!

6. Nasty Dan - Johnny Cash
I gotta give props to Melinda for introducing this gem to our repertoire, back when Maya was born. We're now fans of the whole Johnny Cash Children's Album.

7. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da - The Beatles
My first of many attempts to get the girls to like The Beatles. I mean, c'mon, it was the theme song to "Life Goes On." What's not to like!? Apparently all of it, say the girls.

8. When the World - Lea Michele (from the "Legends of Oz" soundtrack)
A cartoon sequel to "The Wizard of Oz" came out a while back starring Lea Michele of "Glee" fame. I actually always liked Lea Michele, so I gave this cartoon a chance on Red Box one night. The verdict: It's one of the worst movies ever made. I honestly could not watch this movie from beginning to end without getting up and pacing angrily around the house for the Wizard-of-Oz blasphemy taking place before me. For a sample of this horror, let me offer this clip from the movie:

If you couldn't sit through that clip (and I don't blame you) let me give you the abbreviated version: a soldier made out of marshmallows brings his miniature porcelain doll love interest back to life by removing parts of his marshmallow body, melting them in a fire, and using those melted body parts to glue her broken body back together.

OK, first of all? Ew. And second of all? Eeeeewwwww.

Still, I'm a parent. And like most parents, I'm a pushover and will do things that go against all my moral fibers just to see my children smile. So I put a different song from this movie on Maya's November mix to make her happy. And it did, immensely. What can I say? I'm a big meltable, marshmallow softie at heart.

9. Oh My Sweet Carolina - Ryan Adams
Every year, we head to North Carolina to visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving, so I thought this was an appropriate choice for Maya's November mix. I suspected this song might be too slow and quiet for her tastes, which was a correct assumption. But at least I tried.

10. Mexico Lindo (Pretty Mexico) - Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos
In November, we started talking to the girls about our upcoming January trip to Mexico. So in an attempt to get Maya in the Mayan spirit, I added some mariachi to the mix. She was mildly intrigued, but mostly chose to skip this tune. Once again, at least I tried.

You can also listen to the mix here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Paradise Coast Marathon Half & 5K - Race No. 3 of 35

After some internal debate, I decided not to do the Cupid's Undies undies run, mostly because it wasn't timed and was only a mile. That just didn't feel like a real race to me. But that left me needing to do another race in February just to keep pace for my 3.

Fortunately, a planned family trip to Ft. Myers, Fla. happened to coincide with a race in Naples, so I got to stay on track.

The race was a marathon, half and 5k, and because I'm nowhere near able to do a marathon or half, I opted for the 5k. Although this race took place in Florida, and the highs that day were in the mid-70s, at the 7 a.m. start time, the temps were in the 40s, so it was a little chilly before the race. While running, though, those chilly temps were perfect. That, plus the location — a swamp buggy race course — made this my favorite race of the year.

I also clocked one of my best 5k times, so this race will be tough to beat. Here's to Race No. 3!

Race Summary:
Race name: Paradise Coast Marathon Half & 5K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 3
Location: Florida Sports Park, Naples, Fla.
Organizers/Sponsor: Elite events
Beneficiary: None (from what I can tell)
Cost: $35
Distance: 5k (3.1 miles)
Best parts of the race:
- Location!

Worst parts:
- Early start time

Upcoming events:

Next race: Mardi Gras Chaser 10K, TODAY @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL

  • Fight For Air Climb (180 floors stair climb), March 8 @ Presidential Towers, Chicago, IL - I need some donations for this one, so if you can spare a few bucks, please donate! Full disclosure: This is probably not the last time I'll hit you up for donations this year, so you know, keep that in mind when choosing how much to donate. Seriously, even $5 helps.
  • Get Lucky 7K, March 14 @ Jackson Park, Chicago, IL
  • Shamrock Shuffle 8K, March 29 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Playlist for the Ages

When you're a parent, you hear numerous children's songs on repeat. Constantly. They all get irritating. Even the good stuff, like Yo Gabba Gabba! and the They Might Be Giants kids CDs, get annoyingly repetitive after a while.

Starting before age 2, Maya often wanted to hear the same song over and over again. Many times, she'd insist we start a song over again only 15 or 20 seconds into it. As she got older and started talking — and singing — more, we realized she was committing every verse to memory. She needed to know every word and sing along.

So, although we indulged this request, hearing one song everyday on repeat for the 30-40 minute commute into to the work, then again for the drive home, was insufferable. So we made a deal where Chris and I listen to the radio (almost exclusively WXRT) for at least half the commute, then Maya gets to pick her song(s).

Over the years, she has started to like some of the songs on the radio, and — being a child of the modern era with no concept of a live, non-DVR'd broadcast — would ask us to play them again or restart them halfway through.

That interest in our music, plus the frustrating task of navigating between her two favorite kids songs of the moment, which were often located on different CDs, led me to start making her mixes. This also gave me the opportunity to expose her to different music, even though some of my choices may be questionable for her age.

Many she deemed "too long" or "boring," but some stuck. And I now have a 5 year old who knows all the words to "Brass Monkey" and "Blister in the Sun."

Starting with her 4th birthday, I started making a mix of her favorite songs as a goodie bag giveaway for her friends. Full disclosure: I straight up stole this idea from my cousin who does the same thing for her daughter.

In addition, I also started making Maya a monthly mix of just 10 songs. Each is a mix of stuff I know she'll love (Disney, mostly) and stuff I want her to like. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. A few themes have emerged: She does NOT like The Beatles (sniff), but one Paul McCartney song has won her over ("New"), simply because it was on the soundtrack for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Same goes for any song even remotely associated with the Shrek/Puss in Boots franchise. Hence, Maya now likes Rodrigo y Gabriela.

I'll write more about the monthly mixes in the future, but for now, here are her last two birthday mixes:

Maya's Favorite Songs - 2013 (age 4) edition

1. Pool Party - Aquabats (Yo Gabba Gabba! Music is Awesome! Vol. 1)
2. When Will My Life Begin - Mandy Moore (Tangled soundtrack)
3. These Boots Are Made For Walkin' - Nancy Sinatra
4. Wombo Lombo - Angelique Kidjo
5. Sing After Me - Madeline Kahn & Grover
6. I Can Add - They Might Be Giants
7. I Love Bugs - Yo Gabba Gabba!
8. What I Like About You - ROMANTICS
9. Pirate Girls Nine - They Might Be Giants
10. Sisters and Brothers - Free to Be...You And Me
11. Hold Still - Yo Gabba Gabba!
12. Hot Dog! - They Might Be Giants
13. Baby Beluga - Raffi
14. Baa Baa Blacksheep - Patti Dallas and Alura Baron
15. Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 - Sergei Prokofiev - Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic

Maya's Favorite Songs - 2014 (age 5) edition

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
2. Hey Ya! - Outkast
3. Americano - Lady Gaga
4. La Seine and I - Vanessa Paradis & Sean Lennon (A Monster in Paris soundtrack)
5. Let It Go - Idina Menzel (Frozen soundtrack)
6. Blond Hair And Blue Eyes - moe.
7. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard - Paul Simon
8. I Love Rock N' Roll - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
9. Diablo Rojo - Rodrigo y Gabriela
10. Papa Paris - Vanessa Paradis (A Monster in Paris soundtrack)
11. For the First Time in Forever - Kristin Bell & Idina Menzel (Frozen soundtrack)
12. Brass Monkey - Beastie Boys
13. Sweet Adeline - Elliott Smith
14. Poor Unfortunate Souls - Pat Carroll (A Little Mermaid soundtrack)
15. Get Off Of My Cloud - The Rolling Stone
16. Everything is AWESOME!!! - Tegan and Sara (The Lego Movie soundtrack)
17. Tick Tick Boom - The Hives
18. A Monster in Paris - Sean Lennon (A Monster in Paris soundtrack)
19. Lovely, Love My Family - The Roots (Yo Gabba Gabba! Music is Awesome! Vol. 1)
20. Ladies First - Marlo Thomas (Free To Be...You And Me soundtrack)
21. Power Puff Girls End Title - The Hit Crew (The Power Puff Girls Theme Song)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Step Up for Kids - Race No. 2 of 35

Among the many perks of living in Chicago (six major league sports teams, endless free family activities, one of the highest bars-per-capita rates in the U.S., to name a few), are the abundant skyscrapers. Chicago is all about its architecture, and as a result, we've got tons of stair climb events.

Some of the more popular ones, like Hustle Up the Hancock and the SkyRise Chicago (at the Sears, er Willis, Tower) apparently sell out in minutes, at least for the full climbs. So, for people like me who aren't so quick to pull the trigger, I'm fortunate to have plenty of other tall buildings to climb.

Last week I did Step Up for Kids at the Aon Center, an 80-floor climb. This was my first stair climb event, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Overall, I did OK, finishing the climb in about 24 minutes. The winner did it in 9:57, which I can't even begin to understand.

Surprisingly, the climbing part wasn't very difficult. I didn't really get short of breath or feel the burn in my legs. Instead, I was slowed down by dizziness. Doing a climb like this means you're turning 180 degrees every 5 seconds or so. That was the hard part for me.

Part of the appeal of doing an stair climb is the view you get from the top. Unfortunately, this January day featured rain and fog, so here's the spectacular view of the city from 80 floors up:

Aside from the climb itself, this event didn't seem particularly well-organized. Chris and the girls came with me, but the area where spectators were permitted to hang out lacked amenities. The area was on the lower level of the Aon Center, and it was also where they had packet pick-up and bag check. So, lots of people were down there. Yet, there was only one bathroom with three stalls in the women's room. The lines were insane.

In addition, there wasn't any water, snacks, water fountains or anything for spectators, not even for purchase. The one plus was a kids craft zone, which worked out well for Chris and the girls. At the finish line, which only climbers could access, they had lots of kid-friendly snacks and drinks, so I loaded up and brought them down to the girls.

But otherwise, I wasn't super impressed with the organization. It's possible that all indoor events are like this, and I'm just spoiled by large outdoor events. I'll find out in a few weeks at the Fight For Air Climb. It's a climb at the Presidential Towers — there are four towers with 45 floors each. I'm doing all four, so it's a total of 180 floors. Hopefully I'll figure out to combat the dizziness between now and then. Got any suggestions?

Race Summary:
Race name: Step Up for Kids
2015 Challenge Race No.: 2
Location: Aon Center, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: KPMG
Beneficiary: Lurie Children's Hospital
Cost: $150 ($50 registration + $100 fundraising)
Distance: 80 floors
Best parts of the race:
- Indoor race in January

Worst parts:
- Lack of bathrooms in general area
- Lack of water, snacks, anything for supporters in general area
- Waiting for the elevators to get back down, which took longer than the climb up. I honestly would have taken the stairs down to avoid waiting in that line, but it wasn't an option.

Upcoming events:

  • Next race: Possibly Cupid’s Undies @ John Barleycorn, Chicago, IL – Feb. 7. Still trying to decide if I'm going to do this one. I would love to run it with Chris, but the childcare situation makes it hard. Anyone wanna run in your undies with me?
  • February:
  • March: