Blowing through the Windy City

Last Thursday, the girls in my family flew up to Chicago for the Windy City National Qualifier.  Alli and her teammates were looking to get a bid to Nationals in the 12s division.  Luckily, I was able to meet some Twitter running friends and squeeze in some sight-seeing and drink A LOT  of beer before the whirlwind trip was over!  The weather was so cooperative and beautiful – it was *almost* like Texas!!

The Important Stuff: Volleyball

After a series of unfortunate events, we finally opened the door of our hotel room at 11:30 PM Thursday night.  (Hint: this was NOT the way to start a weekend of virtually non-stop volleyball.)  Luckily, Alli was asleep before midnight.  Those few extra moments of sleep didn’t help much, though, because the team was meeting for breakfast in the lobby at 6:45 AM before heading to the convention center to start day 1 pool play.

We were at a disadvantage, as our first 2 matches were scheduled back-to-back.  Our girls played like zombies, as if they had never seen a volleyball before in their life.  We lost the first match in 2 sets (should have easily won) then had to go right into the next match, which would be the most difficult team in our pool.  The girls still didn’t have their wits about them because they had not recovered from the first shocking loss and lost in 2 sets….again.  Me?  I was in my own zombie-like state court side, too tired to care that we had just screwed ourselves for THE ENTIRE TOURNAMENT.

Alli has....defensive issues. I get SO EXCITED when she digs the ball!
Alli has….defensive issues. I get SO EXCITED when she digs the ball!

After a break, we played again and this time, won easily (LIKE WE SHOULD HAVE THE FIRST TWO GAMES!!).img_8001

Saturday proved to be much better and we easily won all 3 matches, even though they still didn’t play up to their normal level.  Sunday play was the same – the competition was a tad bit more difficult but we still pulled off wins easily.img_8007

When it was all said and done, we ended up 9th.  Not too shabby, but still disappointing because we know how much better these girls can play – how much better they actually do play!!img_8029

Running Friends are THE BEST

I have some Twitter friends in Chicago that I was hoping to connect with and…..it worked out!!

Jenn came up on Friday after the tournament and drove me all around Chicago showing me the city.  She even brought me some protein balls so that I could have healthy snacks for the tournament!  She is just as fun and sweet as she comes across on Twitter!  We made it back just in time to have dinner with Alli’s team.  I enjoyed visiting with her so much and am so thankful that I was able to get that opportunity!img_7946

On Saturday, Elizabeth and her husband, Steve, drove in and actually spent the afternoon stuck in the convention center with me!  I am so glad that I was able to meet them both!!  I LOVE Elizabeth and would have been so sad if meeting up hadn’t worked out.  She came bearing gifts as well.  She definitely knows the way to my heart!  (I feel the need to confess that we also had a beer in the hotel bar that is attached to the convention center! LOL)

I shared Jenn's protein balls with Elizabeth :)
I shared Jenn’s protein balls with Elizabeth 🙂
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SO. GOOD!!!

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Wisconsin beer. Pretty damn good.
Wisconsin beer. Pretty damn good.

I am SO LUCKY that my running pal, Rebecca, came along on this trip.  I actually met her through this team and am SO THANKFUL that our paths crossed.  We are actually very compatible runners (or at least I think so), and we had the most wonderful time running along the lake and river fronts early Saturday morning.  This was the highlight of my trip (besides meeting new friends), for sure!!img_7954

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Beer, Beer, more Beer and Other Things

I am not going to lie – I drank quite a bit of beer in Chicago and it was all DELICIOUS!!!  In between my beer breaks, I managed a little sight-seeing.

I downed this in the airport before leaving Texas. It just seemed appropriate.
I downed this in the airport before leaving Texas. It just seemed appropriate.
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The Poet Oatmeal Stout. You can never go wrong with an Oatmeal Stout.
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Eh. I drank this one because it was Easter weekend and this was called Messiah.
Left Hand Milk Stout - my new favorite!
Left Hand Milk Stout – my new favorite!

I took Alli to Dylan’s Candy Bar on Saturday….not surprisingly she claims this as the most treasured part of her trip!img_7979

Sunday included a MUST – deep dish pizza at Giordano’s.  It was SO GOOD.  If I lived in Chicago, I would have to work out a lot more because I would be eating ALL THE FATTY FOOD!img_8044-1

Taylor and I managed to get to “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park on Sunday before leaving for the airport.  Most people call it “The Bean”, because of its kidney bean shape.  Whatever you want to call it – it was cool!img_8054

And, of course, couldn’t resist a pic of the famous “L”!!img_8031-1

I still haven’t recovered from the trip, but it was so worth it!  We had a great time!!

Happy Hump Day!

Testing my limits in freezing and fitness

Training

Many of you know that I have a new coach.  What you may not know is that he is making me work hard at some kick-ass workouts…..and I am loving it!  Saturday he had planned a cycle workout, which looking at beforehand I NEVER thought I could complete…..but I did! 🙂  I absolutely love pushing my limits to see what my body can do.  And I’m excited to have someone pushing me that can see the big picture (I am NOT a big picture person when it comes to my running), which means my workouts should help me get over this injury hump and hopefully stay on the not-injured side of life.

Yesterday I ran my “long” run, which I understand was conservative as a result of where I’ve been since running Plano 3 weeks ago.  It was a timed run (90 min) versus running a specific distance.  I am training almost exclusively by heart rate, which is probably the best way for me to train.  I tend to get caught up in splits (odd, I know, because I’m so S-L-O-W), but running by HR I can simply change the screen on my Garmin and I never have to see my pace! (Out of sight, out of mind….kind of)  The long run was hands down the best run I have had in months.  It was effortless.  My legs felt so fresh and my heel behaved quite nicely.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still fighting to put this injury to bed for good, but when I look back from where I’ve come I realize how much progress I have made.  At this point, I feel that I am working to keep reinjury from happening rather that working through the injury, if that makes any sense.

The beautiful sunrise on my way out for my run. God is good.
The beautiful sunrise on my way out for my run. God is good.

When your friends are named Elsa

We all have that ONE friend that continually talks us into things we probably would never do otherwise.  For me, that friend is Elsa the Ice Queen….I mean, Erica.  Erica has been trying to talk me into cryo for weeks.  In reality, I did want to try it, but I live in the sticks, people, plus I have 3 kids which results in me having a hard time just trying to fit my workouts in!  Saturday, Alli and I went shopping and I had cupcakes to deliver to Erica.  As we were trying to decide where we would connect, she *remembered* that she had a cryo appointment.  Alli and I were able to break away and meet her at the cryo place.  Since she was the only one there at the time, she graciously asked if they could fit me in…..OF COURSE they could!  LOL

I arrived with the cupcakes just as she was getting finished and she was wayyyyy too excited about me getting in to freeze my bum off.  The dude suggested that I limit myself to 90 seconds and since it was my first time, and I gladly agreed.

Perhaps my brain should have sounded an alarm when I was instructed to put 2 layers of gloves on my hands and these huge furry slippers on my feet – I’m assuming to avoid frostbite.

If only I had known how COLD I would be!
If only I had known how COLD I would be!

When I got in, the attendant raised the platform just enough so that my head was exposed and then the torture session began.  Before 30 seconds had even passed, my teeth were chattering and I was shaking all over.  So, so cold!!  (Have I mentioned how I HATE being cold?)  It seemed like an eternity, but at the same time it went by quickly, thank goodness!

My teeth were chattering! (OK...it doesn't take much to make my teeth chatter but it really was cold!)
My teeth were chattering! (OK…it doesn’t take much to make my teeth chatter but it really was cold!)

You do feel invigorated when you are finally out of the chamber.  The guy that was working said that it was because I had more oxygen in my blood.  Maybe that is true, or maybe it is because I was absolutely freezing and my body wanted me to get moving to combat the cold.  In any case, I did feel refreshed afterward and it was MUCH less painful than an ice bath!

Elsa, I mean Erica, had just completed a hilly half-marathon and swears that it helped her recovery.

Rock ‘n Roll St. Louis, baby!

My next race, <cough> I mean training run, is this coming Sunday.  I am flying out Saturday morning and can’t wait to spend the weekend with my favorite Twitter runners!  I know my heel isn’t ready for a race, so I am going to have to be happy with a training run.  But Crazy Jen is always lurking just around the corner and she wants to run this as a race realllllly badly!

How can I be disappointed when I get the opportunity to spend the weekend with some great people from across the country, even one from outside the country?!?  And this is just one more milestone in my coming back strong for Dallas Marathon, which is now a mere 2 months away. <GASP>

Happy Monday, all!

Jen