Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Half Marathon: 33
State: 7
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to visit Chicago.  It was always a goal to go for St. Patrick's Day to see the parade and the river dyed green.  Then when I started running, everyone but everyone said the Chicago Marathon is the best out there. I'm not kidding.  I'd be in random corrals and hear conversations between runners and the consensus was Chicago, Chicago, Chicago.   When I set the goal to do a run in each of the 50 states, I still had the marathon in my mind, but the timing is bad for me, plus, let's face it, the lead time for training is hard.  It's a major commitment, and a scary one if you get derailed by something along the way.  I found out Rock and Roll Chicago happens over summer break and I was sold, despite the fact that last year they had record high temps. 

The event seemed to be worthy of some kind of special shout-out clothing wise.  I decided to go with a nod to the most famous film I could think of featuring the city.

My mom was my travel buddy, which makes things easier.  We have a pretty good traveling relationship that usually involves us getting irritated with each other at least once per trip, usually if we're tired and worn out, but we roll right past it.  I can't say the same for traveling with friends all the time, although I've had some fantastic racecations with other runners over the years.

So we flew out and got there late afternoon on Friday.  Unlike Los Angeles, Chicago has great public transportation and you can hop on a train at the airport to get you in the city.  We found our hotel and just kind of wandered around.  I am unable to relax in a new place.  I always want to explore.  I can't see sitting in a hotel room, no matter how tired I am if there are new things to see.  My mom had been there before, it was my first time and I was in awe at the beauty of the buildings and the cleanliness of the downtown area.

Saturday morning we got up to go to the expo.  Walking toward the expo meant going through Grant Park, which would be the run's start site the next morning.  It was also a great opportunity for touristing!
The only hiccup in the weekend was getting to the expo.  It seemed to be a straight shot along the park area.  My map ended at the huge landmark of Soldier Field, but indicated that the convention center was 3/4 of a mile further along Lakeshore Drive.  Unfortunately, the sidewalk ended and Lakeshore basically became a highway!  We tried to walk west to Michigan Avenue, but found the same situation.  We ended up backtracking to the edge of the park to get a cab to take us the rest of the way.  The roads were swirly and the driver had to go that way to get this way.  I'm sure there was a way to walk it, but without a decent map or directions posted on the website (which only gave driving directions to parking areas) we just gave it up.

Race morning was beautiful.  It was warm enough to be comfortable in a tank top, but not overly warm or so humid that you're sweating just by being outside.  The route was beautiful!  It was flat and it went past all kinds of landmarks, and over bridges, through tunnels, and under train tracks.

The forecast leading up to the trip was crazy.  It seemed like every time I looked at the weather app on my phone it changed.  One day it called for thunder showers, the next day sun, the next day the thunder shower forecast would be back again.  On the day of the half marathon, the app called for rain at about 8pm.  After a while it got windy. Several miles in, I started to feel drops, but didn't think much of it.  A light mist is always welcome, especially warm one.  By mile nine it was pouring, and by mile ten, the band I was passing was announcing that they were suspending the race and calling for people to take shelter due to lightning!  There didn't seem to be any place to go, so I just followed the crowd and kept going, getting soaked and loving every second of it.  I eventually got back to the convention center and the route took a tunnel underneath. Does that count as taking shelter?  By the time I got through it, the rain had pretty much stopped and I made my way to the finish.  When I got there, I found out that they'd suspended the race for about 20 minutes.  Go figure.  Nobody around me followed directions.  They must have all been from California!  We have no clue about how to deal with weather.  We just trundle through like idiots.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
The one decent shot from MarathonFoto is blurry.  I'm not sure if this is a thing now to keep people from doing what I just did here with their sample, but I'm not willing to pay money to find out.  You can tell here that my skirt is soaked.
It was a fantastic race and a beautiful city.  My Garmin clocked over fourteen miles, but that's likely due to all the interference from things above me in terms of tunnels and buildings.  It was slightly disheartening at the time.  The wind had blown down a lot of the mile markers and it was hard to tell where I was.  I knew the signal was off by about a mile for certain parts, then it seemed to be correct, then it was off again.  Regardless, I would absolutely do this race again!  There was so much to do in the city, I could spend weeks there and probably not see everything!

All too soon, it was time to come home again.  As sad as it is to end a trip sometimes, there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Life & Stuff

Once upon a time, I had this blog.

No. Seriously. This blog.  The one right here.

Here's something funny - the less I update, the more emails I get from companies offering me the opportunity to shill their products.  Go figure.  When I was deep into blogging I wondered how people got hooked up with that stuff.  I guess the blogging world has gotten smaller, so mine is actually not so buried among the blogs with larger readerships.

I may blog more during the summer.  I have plans, but I'm getting kind of wary about sharing them before they happen.  Even after years of Facebook, it's still odd to me when people mention my plans to me when I've never actually told them about them.  Then I realize I must have posted something.  In the case of an open blog, it's even harder to control because you don't always know who is reading.

My other issue involves my phone no longer talking to my computer.  I can pull out my laptop and download photos onto it, but that's more of an effort than just using the desktop.  Talk about a first world problem!  I've been more enamored with Instagram lately anyway.  I like looking at photos and there's much less political arguing there than on Facebook, but I do miss the blogging community.  To be honest, I haven't been reading my regular blogs either, so my dropping out is on all counts.'s out.  We had a few field trips, including the Environmental Nature Center and a field day at a local park.  Sadly, the bugs seemed to enjoy my sunscreen, because my legs were covered with bites after that day.  I packed up my classroom.  Again.  Because temporary contract.  Ugh.  My principal said she'd see me next year, but since it's not official yet, everything came home.  Now my bonus room looks like a storage facility. 

A couple of weeks ago, I did one of those painting classes with a friend.  It was fun!  I'd been seeing people post pictures of big groups of girlfriends doing them.  It seemed like a really social thing to me.  As it turned out, the place was pretty silent!  Everyone was concentrating on their projects!  I'm definitely no artist, but it was fun.  I'd love to do it again. 

Without giving away too much in the way of future plans, I'm doing my staycation thing involving piles of books, Netflix, heading to the movies and local exploration.  This summer I'll actually get to travel for a few days and once again I'm teaching Summer Engineering Academy.  I'm going to really try to get on a decent workout and healthy eating regimen again.  The last month or so has been filled with a lot of cake and donuts! 

What's new in your world?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

San Diego Rock and Roll Half Marathon 2016 Race Recap

For the third time in my running career, I ventured down to San Diego to do their Rock and Roll event.  The first time was in 2008.  It still stands as one of my favorite experiences ever.  This was the year I'd quit my corporate job and was in school full time getting my teaching credential.  I had no stress about anything and happily trained to do the full 26.2 miles.  I cut a half hour off of my previous marathon time that day and had a great weekend with fun people.

A couple of years later, they added an option of a half marathon.  I think that was 2010. It was okay, but it had a long portion on a freeway that was very hard on my feet and back, so I didn't go back again until I heard they'd changed the route and gotten rid of the freeway part.

This time in an attempt to save some money, I opted not to do a hotel.   I've done runs in San Diego before and while it's an early morning, it's manageable.  Unfortunately,  Competitor doesn't offer packet mail-out for their Rock and Roll races, so I had to go to the expo which meant driving down there two days in a row.  My "monthly visitor" was also in town this weekend.  In the old days, it would have been a minor inconvenience, but over the last year there have been some physical issues that make "that time of the month" a time where I'd just as soon stay home.  I keep having date conflicts with it lately.  The timing seems to always coincide with things I've got planned. This time it even showed up four days early just to mess with me!  The bottom line is it takes a lot of effort to push through things that would otherwise not be an issue.  My thought was that I didn't want to completely bail because I didn't know how I'd be feeling on Sunday, so I went and picked up my stuff on Saturday just to give myself an option.

The expo was pretty standard.  Rock and Roll expos tend to be relatively large, and San Diego is a huge event for them, so it was crowded and well set with vendors.  Interestingly, runDinsey had a booth there.  I've noticed lately that there don't seem to be other races at runDisney expos anymore.  Whether that's because the vendor charge is too high to be practical or if it's because Disney wants to control the message and limit competition, I don't know.  They were doing something that's been unheard of in recent years.  Offering a discount.  Yes.  I said the "D" word.  They were offering the Avengers Infinity Gauntlet Challenge for $315 instead of $340.   As an aside, I read this morning that the Star Wars Half will be $15 less than it was last year.  Evidently Disney thinks that $185 will sell better than $200.  There may be some sales science that says people will welcome a price in the $100 range before they'll pay $200.  To me, $185 is still two hundred bucks.  But...I do think it's pretty telling that they're realizing it has become an issue.

At 3am when my alarm went off, I felt like I really didn't have any reason not to go do the run.  I knew it wasn't going to be my best ever, but I'd paid for it, so I might as well get down there.

One of the less appealing things about doing this race and not staying locally is the parking logistical snare.  You buy a parking pass for $20 that gets you a spot at Horton Plaza, a big shopping mall downtown.  The ride down to San Diego was fine.  The 5 Freeway at 4am on Sunday is about the best you'll ever see it.  I foolishly got off at the wrong exit and had to right myself.  Ultimately, I think I may have gotten a better deal because people said they were stuck in awful traffic getting into Horton Plaza.  I ended up bypassing it and coming around from a different corner to park.  Then there was a tremendously long line for the shuttle to the start.  It went all the way to the rear of the shopping center.  After a few moments of not moving at all, it moved pretty well.  The directions said the last shuttle was leaving at 6am.  I think I got on just before that, but there's no way that was the last shuttle.  There were still hundreds of people behind me.

The new route was okay, if sometimes a little dull.  The people out on the course more than made up for it.  There were several people out in the residential areas handing out booze.  One guy had a whole bar set up on his front sidewalk.  Another was handing out tequila shots.  San Diego's a happenin' place!

Mile 5 was the blue mile from Run to Remember.  When I did the Seattle Rock and Roll,  they were out lining the course through a park area.  This time it was along a residential street.  It was incredibly impactful. First there is a long line of placards with photos and names of fallen military personnel.  Then there are people holding out American flags lining both sides of the street.   You can't help but wipe away tears when you're going along this memorial.

It would have been nice to be more in the moment throughout this run, but I wasn't feeling well physically and I just wanted to be done. 
When I finally did finish, they directed everyone a few blocks down the street to the finish festival in a park along the waterfront.  It seemed a bit small for the number of people involved.  I wandered around trying to figure out if there were shuttles back to the parking.  Finally I asked at the volunteer check in tent and the woman there told me we had to walk back to Horton Plaza.  She gave me directions and said it was about nine blocks.  I wasn't horribly thrilled, but at least I didn't have to do that trek after 26.2 miles like others were going to have to do!  As I walked back, there was a group of women behind me, one of whom was loudly going on and complaining about the situation and saying they were going in the wrong direction and on and on.

For the record, the directions I was given were correct.  No issues, but it wasn't the most welcome adventure.

So, another half is done.  Despite a $50 special to sign up for next year, this one is not likely to be on my to do list anytime soon.  Other than a lack of clear instructions on what to do after the race to get back to parking, I can't complain about the organization.  Competitor really has this one down.  It just wasn't one that I loved.  The route isn't enough for me to think it's worth the $200+ for a hotel room, and also not really worth the effort of a long drive two days in a row.  There was terrible traffic on the way home on race day, too.  As far as races in San Diego go, the Hot Chocolate Run or the San Diego Half Marathon in March are much nicer courses and preferable to Rock and Roll. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Five Things Friday (First Part is Long)

This week I hit a milestone, people!  A milestone!  Spoiler first - I completed BTSA.  Now, for those of you not familiar with the teaching profession in California, it works like this:  You get your college degree in your preferred area of study.  BA, BS, whatever.  You then take what is called a fifth year (actually more than a year) that makes up your teacher training program and you earn a teaching credential, either multiple subject allowing you to teach elementary or some middle schools if you teach across subject areas, or a single subject that allows you to teach in your subject area in high school.  Say, science or mathematics.

Once you have that credential in hand, you go out into the workplace, walk into a job and ideally your district pays for you to do two years of BTSA.  The acronym stands for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment.  They refer to it as an "Induction Program."  You're matched up with a mentor and you go to lots of professional development workshops, lots and lots of meetings, you fill out lots and lots of forms, have lots and lots of deadlines and are under a lot of pressure because it's done in tandem with your regular work day and responsibilities.  There's also a clock ticking.  BTSA is supposed to be at least started within five years of obtaining your preliminary credential, but some of us had the brilliance of timing to be in our teacher training program in 2008 and walk out in 2009, newly minted and searching for a job in the beginning of a recession, when school districts were laying off teachers by the hundreds those first couple of years.

Because we subbed for several years before finding contracted positions, all of the people in my school site as well as many I've met from other districts at the PD events going through this with me are in an extension of our original credential to make this happen.  That's how bad it has been.  This is something that's about four years overdue for me.  Even longer for others.'s done!

On Wednesday I made my final presentation.  I then stopped at the grocery store to pick up a cake to bring in to work the next morning.  Three of us at my school finished this week.  I felt like we were due for celebration, so I brought one with me.
The monkey that is now off our backs has been a heavy one, indeed.  I've had a lighter step since walking out of that office after the presentation.  I'd have posted a lot more about all of it, but when I first started BTSA, I tried to find information about what to expect.  It seems the first rule of BTSA is nobody talks about BTSA.  It's not a secret society.  I think people are just afraid of being interpreted as being negative about the whole thing, so they keep their thoughts off the interwebz.

But...IT'S DONE!!!!


Global Running Day?
I did nothing.
See above about presenting work to a panel and buying cake afterward.
Well...I did go on a short walk in the evening.  Better than nothing, right?


So, um, remember me eating my words about the Pandora bracelet?  Yeah.  That may happen again.  I'm not a huge fan of the Dooney and Bourke Disney bags.  There was a Haunted Mansion one a couple of years ago that I kind of liked, but not enough to part with $300 for it.  They just released this picture of this Small World one.  I love the colors and the fact that you either know or don't know what it represents.  Plus, I'm sentimental enough to adore that kitschy ride.  With summer coming and a trip to Chicago, and my contract ending with no promise of next year (my school site had to transfer one permanent teacher out for next year due to low enrollment) I have no business even considering a $300 purse.  My only hope is that when I see it in real life, it's hideously ugly. 


Disney peeps, while I have your attention, this book was laugh out loud funny and worth the read.  It's about an artist who is hired at a fictional Disney-like park in Orlando.  The book was written by a former Disney World employee.  I downloaded the kindle version, otherwise I'd ask who wants it and just pass it forward, but if you're looking for a quick and funny read, check it out on Amazon.


How are the summer movies going for you so far?  It seems like every year I see the listings at the beginning of summer and get excited.  Then when they come out, I have more of a "meh" attitude and don't even bother heading to the theater.  This year, though, there seem to be a lot that are interesting.  I've already seen superheroes fighting superheroes three times.  Batman v Superman, Captain America, and the latest X-Men.  I liked them all, but we need to move on theme-wise.  Come on.  Bring in some actual bad-guys.  Borrow some from James Bond, maybe.
Down the line there's the new Star Trek, Ghostbusters, and Suicide Squad (super villains teaming up).  I didn't make it to Jungle Book, but I may sit in the theater for Finding Dory.  I'll leave you with a picture of Tarzan.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Magic at Hogwarts

When people describe Disney experiences as "magical" I kind of roll my eyes. I mean, it's so manufactured, expensive and crowded, I can't wrap my head around the use of that adjective.  "Fun" yes.  "Entertaining" works, but "magical" just seems a bit silly to me.  Not that that matters.  Magic or no, we know I'm still a Disney person.

After finally getting to see the new Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios, Hollywood, I can apply the adjective.

I went with a friend and her daughter who was celebrating her 17th birthday.  When we arrived at the park, there was a heavy marine layer that assisted in creating the dark atmosphere of the Hogsmeade village.
Our first stop was Ollivander's Wands.  They do a show where they pick out a guest and "the wand picks the wizard."  It was dark inside and they didn't allow pictures, but by fate, the birthday girl got picked to be the person who gets a wand!  The show was cute.  They tried a couple of wands with the wandmaker describing them.  Then Z pointed them at different areas of the room and different effects occurred.  It was very cute, and also a seriously high-pressure sales pitch!  She ended up buying a $50 wand.

All the press when the attraction opened raved about how the the 3-D motion simulator ride was amazing and the top of the tops in the business.  When we rode it, I absolutely concurred.  You enter through Hogwarts castle and the line snakes through as if you're in the castle itself.  You have to lock up your items before you go in (as I write this, I'm thinking the no-photos thing is a great way to preserve the magic) so I don't have any pictures, but you see Snape's potions stores, Dumbledore's office, where he speaks to you, the greenhouse, and there is a classroom where Ron, Hermione and Harry are on a balcony warning you to be careful.  There is even a portrait hall with portraits that move and talk! Next time I'll just stick my phone in my pocket!

The ride itself is pretty spectacular.  You hop in a four person car on a moving sidewalk, kind of like the Haunted Mansion.  The car is on an arm, so it goes up and moves around.  At one point you're laying on your back.  There are different types of effects.  It's not just the 3-D movie.  You have fire and water and smoke and anamatronic figures hopping out at you.  It was quite an experience.

I also want to mention the incredible food at The Three Broomsticks!  It's a walk-up restaurant, but the food was fantastic!  You can't seem them on my plate because they're buried, but there were roasted potatoes that were perfection. To continue the immersion in the world, the bathroom next to the tavern is complete with Moaning Myrtle moaning and bubbling as you take care of your business.

We went on the studio tour and a few other rides.  Most every ride is motion simulators.  That makes sense, since it is a theme park that arose out of a working movie studio, but you really get knocked around. Even the tram tour has aspects where they drive into soundstages that are effects driven and simulate an earthquake and a car chase and King Kong fighting dinosaurs. It gets exhausting.  After a while I said I wanted to go on Small World.
There's a whole Simpson's Land that we kind of breezed through.  Moe's Tavern is there and a bunch of colorful Simpson's type design of the buildings.  There's also a motion simulator based on The Simpsons that is hilarious.

Jurassic Park is another feature at Universal.  There's a water ride and of course a shop!  We were standing in line for snacks when this occurred.  I stopped filming too soon, because just after this the dinosaur came up and looked me right in the eye.

We had a fantastic day.  I can't wait to go back!  My usual ritual of overspending and buying everything I see didn't happen because I was with other people.  I didn't even buy any of the Harry Potter merchandise.  I was too enraptured by the Jurassic Park stuff.
I'll go back and shop more, though.  I bought a season pass.  It was $95 for entrance for the day, but $140 for a pass. It seemed like a decent deal.  There are a lot of blockouts.  It's pretty open until the end of June, but we don't finish school until June 24 and lucky me, I have jury duty the Monday after school is out. Unlike my Disney pass, I can go on Saturdays.  Then it's blocked all summer until the end of August.  It's not the most convenient, but I figure that I'll get my money's worth if I go at least one more time before the end of the year. It's definitely worth the drive up there!