' Adventures with FitNyx: August 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mag Mile Half Results

Ran that Magnificent Mile Women's Half Marathon today - as most of you know, this was my first half marathon.  We had mid-80 degree temperatures with humidity over 90%, so as you can imagine, this wasn't the best day to run the farthest I ever have.  Even the joy of getting to run with my dad wore off quickly in the blistering heat.  I failed to meet any of my race goals, but I DID finish and I suppose that's worth quite a bit.

For now, I'm just going to post my results, I'm quite exhausted and will put off any discussion of the experience itself for when I have time and energy to write a thorough review.  Check back in a few days for more!

I had clocked myself about a minute faster, but eh, I finished.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Gettin' lucky!

So, this is TOTALLY not fitness related at all - but I just had to brag a bit.  It isn't even all that impressive, but it was a big win for me, so just go with it, alright?

I spent some time at the local casino tonight, since my family is in town to support me at tomorrow's race and my mother enjoys playing slots occasionally.  She has a ridiculous winning record, and even hit a massive jackpot a couple weeks ago.  Me?  Not so lucky, usually.  When I arrived at the casino today, I didn't expect much.  I usually put a $20 into one of the penny slots, and complacently plod away until I have nothing.  Mom stays pretty far away from me, to avoid catching my bad luck.

Tonight, I specifically requested we stay together, since my dad and I have shared a few runs this summer but I have done very little with just my mom.  She obliged, but quickly regretted it: I stole her luck tonight.

This single spin on a two-cent machine was worth over $50.

Seriously.  We'd sit down at a couple machines, I'd pay for one spin, win a bunch of free spins, and let those free spins triple or quadruple my money.  Then I'd watch my mom make a few more futile spins on her machine before she got fed up and we moved.  We'd pick new machines, and again, one or two spins in, I'd win free spins and triple up again.

Awwwww yessssssss!

It kept happening!  Mom got a little grouchy, but by the end of the night she still had made a profit anyway.  I turned $50 into $200, which was the first time I'd actually left a casino with more than the first $20 I'd spent.  Which made this a HUGE mark in the win column for Amanda tonight!

Let's hope that luck carries through to the morning and helps me soar to the finish in record time...

It's not always about the run.

This past Fourth of July, I stepped off the course for a weekend and chose to instead participate in a different way: as a volunteer.

Along with a few other very kind-hearted women, I manned the second mile aid station, passing out ice cold water to the participants of the Firecracker 5k in beautiful Highland Park.  It was pretty cool to be on the other side of a race event for once, and it is something I hope to make a better habit of in the future.  So many of the races I've run have been phenomenal specifically because of amazing volunteers, and I owe it to their generosity and positive attitudes to pay that same courtesy and experience forward.

Plus, you sometimes get some sweet swag, even if it doesn't get to you for a couple months after race day!

How do you like to give back to your (running) community?  What's your favorite part of a race at which to volunteer?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Packet = Picked Up!

Made my way down to the good ol' South Loop tonight to pick up my packet Sunday's race.  It felt good to be "back home", as the pick up location was just down the street from my first two Chicago apartments.  While I love my quaint little house in the 'burbs, I do sometimes miss the bustle and energy that surrounded my old neighborhood.

Packet pick up was located at Fleet Feet Sports' home in the Roosevelt Collection shopping center, and they definitely used the prime location to set the stage for a very nice little Fitness Meets Fashion outdoor market.  They had a couple sponsors present, a couple athletic clothing vendors, even a balloon-tying clown on stilts!  I finally got to pick up some Fellow Flowers gear - I've been dying to get my hands on a Fierce dark pink flower shirt, and I was also able to grab one of my favorite inspirational quotes on a big magnet.

They lucked out with weather as beautiful as the view!

And of course, I snagged my race packet!  The performance tank top is pretty nice, though a little more pale than I'd anticipated!  The colors printed on it don't really stand out in the very middling grey color of the background.  A much darker or much lighter grey would be perfect.  But then again, it's a free, high-quality tank top, so really, who am I to complain?  The race packet also included a little "passport to the Mag Mile" with a miniature guide to the area.  I was actually really surprised and impressed by this genius idea, so big points to the organizers!

What's that in the corner?  A second race bib?!  But for who...

So I guess the next step is to reserve me some parking (using SpotHero, of course) and eat me some carbs tomorrow!  With packet in hand, it already feels like race day - I'm so excited!

***UPDATE: I found out after the race that the tank top, originally advertised as a UPF material, was switched in the final days before the race.  This explains why it seemed lower quality to me - it actually was lower quality than advertised.  Also, there were supposed to be slightly different designs for the two race distances, but they were condensed into one.  I didn't pay for it (this was a free entry for me) but it's a shame they couldn't provide what was advertised.***

Race Recap: Epic Fail Challenge 5k

For my first team event at my new office, I scheduled us to participate in the Epic Fail Challenge, a new 5k obstacle course for which Chicago is only the second city (perhaps that's fitting) to host an event.  Though there is always skepticism when participating in a race franchise that has yet to be proven, I certainly couldn't find any negative reviews from their first race in New York, so we plunged in headfirst.

We have NO regrets!

Race day was B-E-A-Utiful, despite some extra humidity, and we had sun almost the entire race.  Our little five-man team took most of the course at a walk, in the interest of staying together and making it a real team effort, but SOME members of our group are a little excitable, and took of at a sprint when approaching many of the obstacles!  I had a borrowed GoPro with me, so whenever I had fair warning I took some video of our crazy charges.  Oh, and an attempted video-selfie on the Dash'n'Dive!  While on the course, several of our team members had course photographers right up in their faces for some action shots - me included!

Yeah we were being pretty silly.  Obvi.

Since this was a non-competitive team-building type of event, I don't have splits information or overall course time to share.  I wouldn't have wanted to try to keep track anyway!  After running several similar events on my own, I much preferred to spend my first team event socializing and having fun with my team, which I think was a great choice.  We all got to know each other a little better, outside the office context, and the event served its purpose as a team strengthener.

We also found out upon arrival at the St Jude Childrens' Research Hospital fundraising tent that SpotHero was the top fundraising team for the event!  This was the cherry on top of the event for me, as I am a solid supporter of the St Jude mission.  We raised a quarter of the event's total fundraising, which is really impressive.  I received an awesome St Jude Hero cape for having been third overall for individual fundraising as well, and I wore the heck out of that thing both pre- and post-race.

It has the St Jude logo on the back - but I had trouble
getting a good photo of the logo while wearing it...

I'm choosing not to share too much about the details of our team bonding, in the interest of keeping my teammates relatively anonymous (and keeping out anything racy or inappropriate!), so I apologize if my experience recap is a little thin, but I'm happy to share how I feel about the race details overall.

Organization:  Holy number of volunteers, Batman!  The Epic Fail team pulled in so many great smiling faces to man their tents, obstacles, and course.  And everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing!  Check-in at registration took five minutes, and that's only because I didn't sign a waiver in advance.  They were ready for my unpreparedness with an entire tent dedicated just to waivers.  The registration tent was divided by last name, which kept lines short and made it really easy for the volunteers to find my name.  Every obstacle had multiple volunteers encouraging, joking with, and efficiently guiding participants taking on the challenge.  Poorly trained or too few volunteers can really ruin a race-day experience, but Epic Fail really knocked this out of the park and gave us a truly great experience.

Plenty of registration help = awesome.

The Course:  From the moment we started (in small waves of about 10 people every 5-7 minutes), the course was well-marked and exciting.  Every turn gave us another great view of our beautiful city, and another set of obstacles to tackle.  We went up a small hill, did a few loops around the Solider Field parking lots, curved back towards the stadium, and then... went up ON the stadium!  Not only did this unexpected path give us an extra obstacle (stairs) but it also gave us a full loop around Soldier Field's exterior areas, which gave us even better city views, and some amazing lake views!  We were too eager to continue to stop and take photos, but trust me, it was a great vantage point.  A very scenic course, and probably pretty true to the 5k distance, though honestly I was too distracted by the obstacles to keep proper track of time or length!

The Obstacles:  These were a blast!  My previous "silly obstacle race" had only five obstacles on the 5k course; Epic Fail had MANY more!  There was a great fusion of silly inflatables with some tougher obstacles like wall climbs - though nothing was too high or difficult as to preclude beginners from eagerly taking the challenge!  Volunteers were able to explain any confusing obstacles, and they all did a great job to keep things SAFE: slides and such were policed to ensure the previous participant was clear of the obstacle before the next person could go, anything with water involved had lifevests and life guards on hand, and there were medical personnel everywhere!  The only complaint I could muster about the obstacles was that some of the advertised challenges were missing, like the Leap Frog ball bounce.  While they certainly would have provided additional types of fun, I honestly didn't even notice they had been missing until I checked the event page after the race to look for obstacle names, so I don't think missing obstacles really detracted from the race experience at all.  You can see some of our group's video highlights on my YouTube channel.

Swag:  I would have to say that the Epic Fail's biggest point of opportunity for next time is the gear.  For the race's price tag, a whopping $$$, participants received only a cotton t-shirt and a free beer.  I don't drink, but from what I hear, the beer was the usual low-quality cheap stuff, so they weren't doing us any favors there...  I understand that a race like this, especially in a big city at a major site, costs quite a bit to put on, and that a large portion of our entry fees goes to the actual race production - and after seeing how well this race was produced, I do believe they poured every penny into making this event the best possible - but it shouldn't be too hard to throw in a little extra for your participants.  Even something as simple as a sweatband with the logo on it would make the "race packet" a little more upscale.  But again, I do firmly believe that our registration fees were put right back into the event costs, and not into some bigwig's pocket, so I will let this one slide.  Especially since they're providing free race photos!  That's a big added value.

The race bib was actually a big sticker!

Bottom line: We had a blast!  All of my teammates thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and I was thrilled to share the experience with a group of friends.  The Epic Fail folks certainly didn't fail with this race!  If they come back to Chicago, it is highly likely I will attempt to make this an office team event again, and hopefully we'll have more people on board after such a success this year.

What's your favorite silly obstacle course race?  If the Epic Fail came to your city, would you accept the challenge?

FitNyx on My Pink Musings!

Dawn over at My Pink Musings was gracious enough to feature ME in this week's Five for Friday runner profile!  I'm very honored and excited to be a part of her excellent blog.

Head on over and check it out!

Want to be featured on MY blog?  I'll be looking to kick off some fellow runner profiles in the upcoming weeks, so email me (fitnyx@gmail.com) with your interest and we'll get it going!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A slave to the runger

Ugh, I KNOW I'm not working off all these extra calories, but my husband suggested mac'n'cheese burgers the other night and I just can't get enough!

It may not look like much, but mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

What's your runger craving?

Race Recap: Fort 2 Base

The annual Fort 2 Base races have a solid history in Chicago's northernmost suburbs (actually, it's probably too far north to still be considered a suburb), and with quirky race distances measured in nautical miles, I just had to take a crack at the naval station based run!

Racers have two distance options: a 3 nautical mile course (3.45 miles) and a 10 NM course (11.5 miles).  I had originally registered for the shorter distance, but once I learned I had won an entry to the Magnificent Mile half marathon (now less than a week away), I switched my registration to the longer course.  The idea was to have a no-excuses, money-down, have-to-get-back-to-my-car reason to run such a long distance, as I'd never before run more than maybe four miles in a single go.

I was extremely nervous the night before, and my race day did not get off to a good start, so I didn't have the confidence I would have liked when the race began.  Fortunately, I met some really amazing people who not only calmed my nerves before the race, but also ran the entire distance with me, and then helped me get the rest of my day back on track despite my morning setbacks!

Me (left, obvi) and my new friends Lois (top) and Lynne (bottom).

We took off, and immediately Lois and I eased into a relaxed pace and launched into a great conversation that lasted from start to finish.  I attempted to track our entire race on my phone, but sadly my five year old device is on its last legs, and the battery gave out at about mile eight.  I do know that we stayed at a pretty consistent pace through the entire race, right around 12:30 miles, though we slowed for a bit somewhere between miles seven and nine as military vehicles at some of the aid stations blasted some music to get runners pumped for the finish.  For me, this triggers an unfavorable heart pattern reaction thanks to a rare condition called hyperacusis, and I was forced to slow down until we were able to get away from the thudding stimulus.

Though the entire course was both beautiful and interesting, winding first through the old Fort Sheridan, then making its way north along a shaded woodsy bike path before turning into the Naval Station Great Lakes military base, my favorite part of the course was the Hero's Hill.  Sure, it was tough to run up a big hill at mile ten, but I barely noticed the extra effort thanks to some fantastic volunteers who spent their morning running up the hill with exhausted runners, then hustling back down to meet the next wave.  The man who ran with Lois and I (sadly, I do not remember his name) had a great sense of humor, and we went through a variety of pose ideas for the photographer at the top of the hill.  I settled on a jumper, and even got the photographer to give me a countdown to ensure we captured the right moment - but somehow, in the hundreds of event photos posted, my Hero's Hill jumper did not make it into the mix.  I'm bummed, but I do believe this excellent thumbs-up is right after the hill too:

The "Hill" sign behind me was a big clue.

After that hill, finishing the race was a breeze, and I managed to cross the finish line about a minute under my 2.5 hour goal!  I also learned that I set my goal a little easy (having no idea that my body would be capable of running for 11 straight miles) and that I had plenty left in my tank to have run at a faster pace.  I'll be taking that valuable information into the half marathon on Sunday for sure!

Down the final stretch and crossing the finish!  I made it!

Enough of my personal experience, let's get down to brass tacks here...

Organization:  Very well-put-together event!  With a course that was not out and back, nor a closed loop, Fort 2 Base did a great job handling shuttles from the parking lot to the start line (big thanks to the bus drivers who had were great, genuine people).  Race day packet pick-up was very smooth, as they only distributed race bibs at the start line, and had any race day pick-ups retrieve their shirts after the race.  Gear check was quick and efficient, both dropping off at the start line (they bused the bags back) and picking up at the finish line.  There were volunteers EVERYwhere, which is always great to see, especially when they're all so excited!  Dozens of people manned the aid stations (well stocked and at every mile, excellent) and were always on the ball; military personnel were sprinkled along the course giving runners splits and encouragement; and the festival tents sported some serious manpower to keep everything moving apace and well stocked.  I was very impressed, even though the volunteers towards the end of the race couldn't seem to agree on how much farther the course would take me!  I was also particularly impressed with the naval band that played in the festival area - these guys were REALLY GOOD!

Great festival, great volunteers, great band...  Great race!

The Course:  As I mentioned before, the course was gorgeous.  The humidity was going to be a problem no matter what, but running the majority of the race in the shade really helped keep participants cool - as did the great aid stations at every mile, providing both water and Gatorade to all runners.  The bike path occasionally had some bike traffic, and there were some communication mishaps that nearly resulted in collisions, but the route was straightforward, and any direction changes were staffed and communicated clearly.  Every mile was marked - but for a race measured in nautical miles, it was a little confusing to see the signs indicating regular miles without knowing that's what they were!  Lois and I assume early on that we were seeing the nautical distance, only to find out around mile ten that the signs were actually regular miles and we still had a ways to go!  I loved looping around the base, and really enjoyed that hill (see above); I definitely think the course amenities and route helped make the event so successful and enjoyable.

Swag:  Okay, I admit it, part of the draw to this race early on was the bling.  What can I say, I'm a sucker for medals!  And this one is BIG.  Bold and shiny, and really heavy, it's definitely my favorite medal so far (but I only have four, we'll see how long Fort 2 Base stays on top).  Participants in the shorter course received medals patterned after dog tags, which were also very cool.  The shirt is pretty neat too.  It's not quite tech material, but it's not cotton, and I'm a big fan of the "Train Race Conquer" slogan on both the shirt and the medal.  The race also provides free event photos afterwards, and though my two posed shots (on Hero's Hill and with Lois at the finish) mysteriously vanished, there were still a LOT of great shots of everyone.  A very generous move on the part of race organizers!

I think the absolute highlight of this event's swag, though, was the mind-blowing post-race food tent.  As we had started the last leg of the run, down the main road entering the base, we'd seen all of the early finishers carting big cardboard boxes of food out to the shuttles.  I saw entire boxes of Cheerios and tons of other food in the piles, and worried there wouldn't be any left for us back-of-the-packers.  All these worries were erased upon stepping into the food tent: piles upon piles of snacks, from full bags of rice cakes and pretzel bites, to stacks of granola and energy bars, to pouches of energy beans and breakfast cookies.  Every runner was being handed a big box to fill, and though we had finished very late in the pack, it was clear that there was MORE than enough for us to stuff in our boxes without remorse.  And, I assure you, stuff we did.  Maybe this is normal for longer races, but I'd never experienced a feeding frenzy like this after any of my previous 5k races.  I could definitely get used to food tents like this one...

Race packet, food tent, and 3NM race medals.

Bottom line:  I'm doing this next year.  Hopefully, I can snag a race ambassador position for Fort 2 Base, because I'd LOVE to advocate for this race.  A very exciting experience that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for something just a little different from your regular city races, run by people who deserve our respect, admiration, and gratitude.  A must-run for Chicago area racers!

A special thanks to all the military personnel who helped make Fort 2 Base happen - both for your race day efforts, and for your service to our country - you are the people who make America great.

Photo credits to Gameface Media for most photos.  The images of me at the starting line, and of my shirt and bib, are my own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A stunning realization

Went for a very easy short run tonight to stay loose, only logged about a mile and a half, but still happy I went out and moved tonight.

Then I came home and checked in to MapMyRun to jot down some notes on tonight's run - and was incredibly surprised to see my total mileage for the month.  By the time I complete Sunday's half marathon, I'll be over 50 miles for the month of August.

That's not a lot for veteran runners, but it's an awful lot for me.  Prior to August, my most run-tastic month only charted 10 miles, and those were pretty hard-fought.  This month, I've pushed myself a lot farther, but haven't really felt so much strain.  And to me, that's what this summer was really all about: finding myself on the road.

I am so thrilled to be not only meeting, but surpassing my goals by such wide margins.  It makes me incredibly excited for the future, and for all the things I have yet to accomplish - but know now that I will.

Two thumbs waaaaay up!

To ActionCam or NOT to ActionCam?

Ahhhh the GoPro.  People can't seem to stop raving about this tiny little camcorder.  I never thought I'd do anything that would make such an investment worthwhile - but then again, I never thought I'd be a mud runner either.

Now that I've participated in four obstacle course/mud run events, and am considering a fifth before the year is out, I'm starting to wonder if an action cam might be a reasonable purchase.

One of my office mates brought a GoPro to the Epic Fail Challenge last Saturday, and we brought it on the course with us to give it a go.  I haven't yet seen the photos or videos, so I can't speak to the quality yet, but I loved that the little thing fit in my race belt and lasted the whole course.  I just still can't decide if it's worth hundreds of dollars to have one "just in case" I keep doing adventure racing.

So, like any smart poor kid, I've been keeping an eye on Woot.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, Woot is a daily-deal website that has achieved astonishing success.  They offer multiple item categories and always have great items available.  I missed a few GoPros and other action cam deals due to sellouts before I could pull the trigger, but thankfully Woot likes to offer grouped deal pages, and these often include cameras.  A quick visit to the site today proved fruitful, and after doing some research into product reviews, I finally purchased myself an action cam.

Look at all those goodies! (photo from Woot)

It's a Nabi Square HD Rugged 1080p Action Camera (that's a mouthful), and I snagged it for only $50!  Even if it's not the greatest quality in the world, that's a pretty great price.  It comes with all the trappings of any other action cam, and it has received quite a few five-star reviews.

But other reviews don't mean anything until the item has proven itself in my own hands!  So once I receive my new toy, you can be sure I'll be playing with it and then sharing my findings and thoughts with all you lovely readers!

Have an action cam you already use and love?  Ever tried a Nabi?  What'd you think?  Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shivering with antici....

As a new fitness blogger, I'm anxious to get more practice with the art of race recaps.  This weekend, I participated in TWO phenomenal events, and I'm itching to tell all about them - but I'm waiting for the race photos to be released so I can use pretty pictures in my write-ups.


Free race photos are a coveted luxury in the racing world, with many events opting instead to provide photos at a very high cost, often due to the cost associated with taking thousands of high-quality photos and editing them for participants.  When a race or event offers freebies, who am I to complain about waiting more than 24 hours to get a look?!

But here I am, two marvelous race recaps drafted and waiting in the wings, but I can't send them into the spotlight just yet, and all I can think about is "why are my free photos taking so long?"  Oh the woes of being a blogger...

Long story short: race recaps on the way, pending the fruits of organizers' generosity!  And THANK YOU to both the Epic Fail Challenge and Fort2Base for affording us eager runners that generosity!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fall in love with prAna! [Discount Code and Sweepstakes]

Prana (प्राण) is an ancient word that represents the vitality of the spirit.

Or at least, that's what it means in Sanskrit.  Since 1992, prAna has taken on a new meaning, in its new guise as a clothing line for active and mindful people.  Always keeping in mind the roots of its name, prAna embodies fair trade, use of recycled materials, a commitment to organics, and over twenty years of proven faith pact of sustainability.

Shop now with code pranasweatspink for 15% off!

To celebrate their new fall line, prAna is teaming up with Fit Approach to offer both a great 15% off discount (use code pranasweatspink at checkout) AND a fabulous giveaway!  Visit Fit Approach to enter - three lucky winners receive a prAna product of their choice!

And always remember to SweatPINK!


I've notice since I started running as a more consistent hobby that I am hungry ALL THE TIME.  And yes, I eat more complex carbs and proteins and all that other "keeps you fuller longer" stuff...

Is this normal?  Do all runners feel like they want to eat 24/7?  What do you do to satisfy those cravings?!

A new level of SORE


I've got the DOMS something awful after yesterday's 11.5 mile race - but not in my legs, which despite mid-afternoon knee pain yesterday have recovered surprisingly well overnight.  Instead, it's my arms and back that are crying out in agony.

Though I'm no stranger to back pain, I'm used to having it in my very lower back and in my shoulders.  Today, my mid-back is on fire with every motion, and I am not loving it.  The awkward location seems impossible to crack back into place or reach with enough force to rub with any sort of effect other than that pushing-on-a-bruise feeling.  The plus side: I'm sore here because I kept myself more upright for the entire run, and didn't lean forward too much, so at least I did the "right thing" form-wise.

My arms were getting more used to the sore feeling earlier this year when I was lifting a little more, but it's been a couple months and apparently I got wimpy again.  I know these pains were more or less my own doing; in choosing to carry a towel with me while I ran, I added the grasping motion that inevitably would strain my tired muscles.  But it was soooooo humid!  I needed that towel!

I do have to say, I am VERY impressed with my legs for coping so well with the run!  I guess we'll see how the 48-hour recovery goes, but the 24-hour seems to have been great for the lower body.  The upper body?  Well, I'm getting stronger, right?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Diving deeper into the runners' community

Today I ran my first "long" race.  To me, long is anything more than 5k.  Though, 5k used to be long - so maybe in a year or two, this will change...

ANYway.  The Fort2Base 10 nautical mile (11.5 miles) race was this morning - I ran it, and I conquered it!  You'll hear more about the race itself when I have a chance to recap it, but for now, suffice to know that I ran the entire way and finished just under 2.5 hours, nailing BOTH of my race goals!

I didn't think I would make it.  Actually, to be completely honest, I almost didn't run at all.  You may have seen last night's post about my lack of preparedness and my extremely high stress levels...  That was just the start.  This morning, everything got a little worse.  First, I forgot to grab my breakfast.  Then, I got in the car with an *empty* water bottle, which wouldn't have been SO bad, if I had not proceeded to leave the empty bottle in the car when I got to the race.  THEN, some jerk in the parking lot swerved his big truck into the space next to my car, almost hitting my car, and smacking me in the shoulder with his rear view mirror.  Yeah, he gave ME the finger when I jumped out of the way - if your car is a full tire's width over the space line, you are not the one who should be upset.  His swerve prompted me to toss my bag in the car and slam the door to get out of the way.  Unfortunately, I had not yet pulled my keys out of the bag.

Yup, I locked my keys in the car.

So there I was, alone and hungry, locked out, not prepared, dreading the 94% humidity level in the forecast, in the dark at way too early in the morning.  I wanted to call campus security (we were parked in a university lot) or the police and have my car opened, so I could just get back in the car and go home.  Some people walking by seemed to be able to tell how hesitant I was to head to the race; they engaged me in conversation (typical "Oh is this your first time?") to get me moving with them in the right direction.  Runner Thank-You number one.

I took the shuttle to the start line (this was not an out and back course) and arrived at the start, only a little less nervous than before.  I plopped down on the curb and tried not to feel intimidated, but ended up overhearing the older couple next to me taking about being intimidated themselves!  I couldn't help but agree, and we started chatting.  That's how I met Lois and Lynne.

These people are amazing.  Lois is the president of the 50 States Marathon Club, and Lynne is a member as well.  They've done literally hundreds of marathons, and over the course of the day I got to hear incredible stories about many of them.  But even beyond running, it is clear that these people have made every day of their lives count, in their own ways.  I had the honor of running the entire race alongside Lois, and we chatted for the entire two and a half hours.  She's wonderful!  Such a wealth of experience and knowledge, on a huge variety of topics.  I can't imagine ever having quite so much fun on a long run ever again!  Runner Thank-You number two.

Lynne passed us early on, and we didn't see him again until we reached the festival, but he definitely had a lot to share too!  I got to know his story a little better after the race - when he insisted on driving me home to pick up a spare key, then driving me back to pick up my car!  He wouldn't let me pay the shockingly high cost for the police to send a tow truck, and unfortunately our second car is out of commission with a dead battery, so I hopped in the car with Lois and Lynne and we set off!  Runner Thank-Yous numbers three through six, seriously.

At the end of the day, I had really gotten to know Lois and started getting to know Lynne, and I am certain that our meeting today will stay with me for a long while.  They're both so inspirational!  I firmly plan to stay in touch, and maybe you'll hear about us running together again!  I really hope I get the chance...

The long and short of this is that the running community is stunningly generous and friendly.  I've heard stories, runners sticking together and such, but these two went so far out of their way to help a fellow runner in need, it blows other stories I've heard out of the water.  I'm thrilled and honored to be on my way to becoming a solid member of this community, I only hope I can uphold the high standards that are being set for me!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

SO not ready for tomorrow...

Tonight, I learned A LOT about what NOT to do before a big race.

1. DO NOT participate in a silly obstacle course, even if you "take it easy", the day before a big race.  Even if you had a blast with your office team.  Your shoes will be soaked, your legs will be tired, and you'll feel burnt out even before you get to the next day's race.

2. DO NOT ignore the packet pick-up and/or start times when you consider the race.  If you don't like waking up at 4:30am, don't sign up for a race you need to get to by 6 that happens to be 40+ minutes away.

3. DO NOT take one of those horribly unsatisfying afternoon naps - you know, that awful couple hours when it's too hot and humid to really sleep properly, so you just toss and turn, drifting in and out of sleep without getting any real benefit.  The stress isn't worth the lack of actual rest.

4. DO NOT invite friends over for a game night unless you're confident you'll be done at a reasonable hour.  Yes, that stunning Catan victory is awesome, but in the long run (get it, long run?!) you have to decide if the late night and high stress levels are worth it.

5. DO NOT expect much sympathy from the non-runners around you.  I mean, really, it IS my own fault.  I totally could have considered any of the previous points and avoided this entire bucketful of stress tonight...

Well, what's done is done.  Time now to pack the bag as best I can, hop in bed, and HOPE.

Wish me luck.  I'm gonna need it.

You can check out my race progress/results in the Fort2Base 10NM run by looking for my bib, #1352.

Epic Fail Challenge - Top Fundraising Team!

Team SpotHero was first among all teams participating in this weekend's Epic Fail Challenge - not only in our hearts, but for donations to the wonderful St Jude Children's Research Hospital!

The five of us raised over $1000, which will go towards building a new St Jude hospital for children battling cancer.  A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who donated to this great cause, either under our name or through any of many channels - you are helping make a lasting positive difference in this world!

I'll be posting a full race recap once I have my hands on all the photos and videos we took today!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Who wants to SweatPink with me?

You run faster in pink laces...

LOTS of pink laces to give out!  If you're coming to one of my races, give me a shout and I'll bring you a pair so we can SweatPink together!

Race Recap Archive: Hit and Run 5k

Tomorrow, some of my officemates will be joining me at Soldier Field for the Epic Fail Challenge, a 5k silly obstacle course based on shows like MXC or Wipeout.  As the excitement and anticipation builds, I thought I'd take the opportunity to write up a little recap for a previous silly obstacle course I enjoyed earlier this summer: the Hit and Run 5k.

Photo credit to Yelp.

I've always been a fan of the Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) television series, which is essentially just a dubbed mash-up of a Japanese game show from the late 80's in which contestants attempt to conquer some very difficult - and often very, VERY silly - challenges or games.  It's ridiculous, it's hilarious, and it's dubbed for maximum entertainment.  And it has spawned several knock-off shows, the most famous of which is the American show Wipeout.

Now, those shows are not only inspiring more shows, but their reach has crossed into the world of obstacle course racing.  Mud runs like the Warrior Dash or Spartan Race have been gaining popularity as military-style challenges, but there are thousands of people who are not *quite* so hardcore but want a piece of the obstacle flavor in a more laid-back setting.  Enter the silly obstacle race, an untimed, bring-your-friends type of event that gives people the chance to look ridiculous and have a good time on any convenient weekend.  Race organizations are popping up everywhere, to varying degrees of success, but the industry is most certainly booming as more people than ever before are starting to participate in races of all kinds.

My opportunity with the Hit and Run 5k came about as the result of a blog giveaway from the Chicago Jogger.  I'd already done a zombie run and a mud run, but threw some entries at the giveaway to try the sillier side of the obstacle scene, and lucked out with a win.  The date was convenient, I got my hubby on board to come take photos, and set off for adventure!

Toyota Park is home to the Chicago Fire.

Organization:  The race seemed really well organized - at least in my experience.  Check in went pretty quickly despite a growing line, start times were well spaced, volunteers were pretty on-the-ball, the venue was well-prepped...  I think safety was considered adequately, as well as convenience and amenities (row of bathrooms about two-thirds of the way through, great idea), which made my race-day pretty smooth.  I did hear later that the organizers ran out of race packets halfway through the day, but I do not have any way to verify this.  There was one obstacle in particular where the volunteers seemed to have lost some control, and people were kind of making up their own way to deal with the obstacle rather than attempt it as it was meant, but that was a pretty minor inconvenience.

The Course: Hit and Run is slated as a 5k course.  I did not measure, nor could I have accurately timed to estimate, but I do feel pretty confident they covered the right distance.  I'd previously done the Run or Dye at the same venue (Toyota Park), which was also a 5k and likely reasonably accurate; at worst it was maybe a few tenths of a mile short.  The course was not as well marked as it could have been, especially around the back end - many people took what looked like an obvious turn and missed probably a half mile of course that was poorly labeled.  I also noticed people skipping from the approach to obstacle #2 all the way to the very last obstacle because the course doubled back, and the proper direction was not marked; these people missed out on 80% of the race!  While I had my head on a swivel and paid pretty close attention, not everyone does so, especially with a group of friends.  It did not surprise me to see people going astray.

The Obstacles: This is an obstacle course, right?  So let's talk about what was in my way, and how I conquered them!  Most 5k obstacle course races seem to advertise anywhere from 12 to 20 obstacles along their course; Hit and Run only had five.  At first, I thought that would make the event pretty lame.  If I were less of a runner, and was considering the run for a group event or as something silly to do with friends, I probably would have passed.  The race only charged $40 per person, though, which may be why the obstacles were so limited, versus races that charge $80+ and offer more challenges.  But I am a runner, and the thought of having more space to actually run between obstacles was actually a little appealing.  On the course itself, the obstacles were nicely spread so I really could stretch my legs a bit.  There were three located in the general festival area, and two more behind the stadium.  For the most part, they were executed properly and safely, with the only exception being the Wobble Walk: you're supposed to try to walk on top of the inflated pillars, like you're crossing a pond on stepping stones, but by the time I got to the obstacle, that was NOT happening.  I tried to do it right, but there was nowhere to go, as this was the only over-crowded obstacle on the course.  The lines did move quickly at all the obstacles; I don't think I ever waited more than ten minutes even for the Whacking Wall, which only accommodates one person at a time (you can see a video of me on the Wall right here).  I think the four obstacles that were properly executed were a pretty good mix of challenge and silly, and I definitely had fun trying to get past them!  I succeeded with only one obstacle (one of the ones around back) but my husband got another good video of me failing on the final obstacle, which is most like the famous Wipeout obstacle.

Swag: As usual, the race entry includes some free stuff.  For the Hit and Run, everyone received a unisex cotton t-shirt and a headband, plus the typical flyers from sponsors.  I could have sworn the registration website listed the shirts as gendered sizes, so I ordered a medium.  With unisex sizes, my shirt was definitely a little big, but still wearable.  The headband was more of a sweatband, but fit nicely.  I didn't wear either for the course (I rocked my "lucky" mud run/obstacle course outfit) but many people did, and I did not see too many discarded headbands, so I'm guessing they stayed pretty snug.

I did it!

Bottom line, I had a good time, but not a great time.  It's a little lonely sometimes to be by yourself amid lots of teams and families, but I also get to do things at my own pace and control how much I push when there is an opportunity to do so.  I love the videos my husband took, and I'm really happy he was able to enjoy the morning.  Similar to my experience with Run or Dye (I promise I'll post about it soon), I don't think this is the kind of event I will be looking to repeat without a good team of friends with whom to share the experience.  Tomorrow's Epic Fail should be really awesome, though, because I WILL have some great people with me, and we'll have a blast.  I'm excited to see what a race like this is like when you're with a group and tackling things together - stay tuned for the recap!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Does furniture assembly count as "lifting"?

I'm not even sure I care.  After assembling four chairs and several desks this week - plus moving the old ones out of the way - I'm going to count all of it as "arms day" and leave it at that.  Especially considering I also carried buckets of water around the other day for the office's participation in the ALS ice bucket challenge.  That all counts, right?

I'm such a lifting wimp.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Get PINK with Skirt Sports #10on10 virtual race! [Race Discount]

I'm super excited to share with you my very FIRST SweatPink race discount!

On September 15th, Skirt Sports is celebrating 10 years in business!  To celebrate, they are hosting a virtual race - with some excellent swag!  You can run 10k or 10 miles, whatever your preference, any day during their anniversary weekend (September 13th, 14th, or 15th).  And it's virtual, so you can do it wherever you like!

The race package includes some great stuff.  They have three "finisher" awards to choose from (I'm getting the PINK skirt, of course), plus every registration includes a $50 gift card to their store!  You'll also get a race bib and sponsor samples.  You have the option to "upgrade" your entry for a bigger gift card, too, which gets you even MORE sweet gear at an even better price!  And since Skirt Sports has grown by leaps and bounds, there's tons of cool stuff from which to choose.  I'm eyeing down some pink compression sleeves...

As an added bonus, Skirt Sports will be giving away additional prizes to anyone posting photos or videos to the Skirt Sports Facebook page or Instagram!  Use the tags #10on10 and #SkirtSports - or you can email your experience to Skirt Sports and they'll post for you.

I know what you're thinking: "I WANNA SIGN UP RIGHT NOW!  How do I do it?!"  Here's your answer: click HERE to register, and be sure to get 10% off using my code SkirtPink10 when you register!  Also, help me out in return by adding my name and email (fitnyx@gmail.com) as your referral at checkout in the Order Comments box.  Registration ends September 15th.

Run it, tell it!  Let me know your virtual race results!

Finally feeling like a "real" runner.

In April, when I made the decision to sign up for a mud run and a 5k trail run, I thought I would just be "giving this running thing a try" to see what it's like.  I signed up for the mud run first because I wasn't too keen on "just running" for three miles, and figured I'd be more likely to enjoy training if I had reason to really mix things up a bit.

Then I caught the bug.

My mud run, the Zombie Run: Extreme, was an absolute blast.  I'll post an "archive" race recap about it sometime soon, but for now suffice to say it ROCKED!  A week later, my first Muddy Monk trail run gave me additional confidence, especially for "just running" events.  And after that, I was hooked.

So far this year, I've done two mud runs, a wacky obstacle course, a color run, a trail run, and two timed 5k races.  By the end of October, I will have a total of (at least) 13 races under my belt - possibly more, as my September schedule is looking a little thin and I'm considering adding at least one more event.  As I registered for multiple future events, I thought to myself, "Surely after I finish all of these, I'll finally feel like a real runner."

Turns out, I don't even have to finish those races to finally feel like I have earned the "runner" label.  I know, I know, "once you switch from walking to running, you become a runner," blah blah blah.  We all know that feels true in name only, not in essence - you do really have to earn the title, if not for others' sake, certainly for your own.  This morning I realized I already have earned that title.  What made me come to this epiphany?  Flipping through running posts, I saw my hundredth "Tips for Your First 5k" post, and I quickly passed it by, thinking to myself that I no longer need those tips, that I am no longer a beginner and I know what is ahead of me.  Heck, I'm not even limiting myself to just 5k races anymore!

A few seconds after passing the post, it hit me: I am now, mind and body, a runner.

Ready to RUN!  That's me in the purple ;)

What was your "I am a runner" moment?  I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ZIN 52 has landed! With Step bonuses!

One of the best perks for being a Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) member is the monthly mailing.  Every other month, ZIN members are sent a new ZIN album: a CD/DVD combo with new music and multiple choreography options for each song.  In the months between ZIN albums, we also receive Mega Mixes, with new music but no choreo.  With the constant influx of new music and routines, it's easy to keep a Zumba class fresh and fun!

My licensing class was one month late to the party for ZIN 50, which many instructors seem to think was one of the best ZIN albums ever released, but I did get my license in time to receive ZIN 51 - and after listening to both 50 and 51, I firmly believe 51 is WAY better.  But that's just my opinion.  Now, with ZIN 52 in my hands, I'm almost nervous to pop it in for a listen!  I'm not entirely sure I want to unseat 51 as my favorite so quickly, but I'm also worried 52 will be a big disappointment!  Do I really have to go through this every other month?!

Honestly, I'm sure it'll be great.  And if it isn't, I just have to wait a month before I get the next disc!

I also got a little extra this time 'round: my first two Zumba Step specialty albums arrived!  The Step specialty license gets me four additional CD/DVD combos for Step-specific routines - and I'm *definitely* excited to give these babies a spin!  I'll receive a total of four Step-specific albums, so once I've mastered these, I have plenty more coming!  Zumba Step is such a cool idea, and I firmly believe it has the potential to really take off as the next Big Thing in fitness classes.  Hopefully, with a little practice and a lot of energy, I'll be able to provide the best instruction possible for a Step dance class!

As always, you can check out my Zumba class schedule on my ZIN page.  It's a little thin as I adjust to the new job in the city, but you should see more classes popping up soon!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Victory is MINE

Just about one year ago, my loving husband gave me the greatest gift I've ever received: a three-gallon tub of bubblegum ice cream.

In all its frozen glory.

Bubblegum ice cream is - as you can guess - my absolute FAVORITE flavor, and it is incredibly hard to find.  We only know of one place on our end of the city that has it, and it's expensive to get a single serving each time we were over there.  So hubby decided to just stock up and save!  I eagerly dug in, expecting the trough to run dry very quickly.

Much to my surprise, even so delicious a flavor as bubblegum does eventually get a little old.  I had to take a couple weeks-long breaks from the stuff, and I took a much longer break at the beginning of the year when I vowed to eat healthier (I do eat much healthier than before now, but I let myself indulge more often now).  But still my scoop kept finding its way back to the basement freezer, and I continued to fill bowls with the cold pink dessert.  I chipped away at the tub, a little at a time, until finally...

...I scraped the bottom.  Tonight.

Scoop for scale.

It's gone.  Every last bite, every last chicle of gum.  That's all there is; there ain't no more.  It took me the course of a year, but I ate it all.  You can even see the scrape lines at the bottom of the tub where I tried to drain every last melty drop of goodness.

It puts the ice cream in the basket...

And now, I have dairy belly.  And a nice big smile.  And an even bigger calorie surplus.  WORTH IT.

Conquering that long run!

I got off my bottom and did my long run yesterday - and crushed my goal.  I learned a heck of a lot yesterday, out on the road.

The first thing I learned was that motivation for the long run only needs to get you out of the house.  Once I started moving, it was surprisingly easy to KEEP moving.  It probably helps to have been running more often than usual lately; my body knows what to do and the actions feel familiar.  As my feet found their rhythm, I could really get into a groove, and at no point in the run did I feel as awful about the thought of running far as I'd experienced immediately prior to lacing up my shoes.  Getting started was the hardest part, but next time I anticipate having a lot less trouble!

My second lesson was about pacing.  It's actually pretty easy!  Perhaps it was my music, which was steady and uplifting, that allowed me to keep my feet moving at just the right speed.  Occasionally I tried to slow myself down a bit, but it was too hard to run so slowly, so I just let my natural pace go.  I've often heard people talk about that "pace you can run at for hours", and I didn't believe it existed until last night.

Finally, I learned that I am better than I expected!  My goal was to do six miles in an hour and a half.  I had no idea how do-able that goal would be at my current levels of fitness and experience - and was thrilled to see at the end of my run that I'd done seven miles in an hour twenty!  My last attempt at a longer run had been four difficult miles at a 12:00 pace, so I had assume a longer run would result in a much slower pace.  The 11:30 miles surprised me, big time.  I know this isn't some major accomplishment compared to other runners, but it's a HUGE deal to me, and that's what matters!

The results of last night's run have truly inspired me to push harder.  I know I can do it, I have the proof.  Next Sunday, when I head out to the Fort2Base race, I'll be requesting a distance change, upping my run from 3NM (3.45 miles) to 10NM (11.5 miles).  Not only does this seem the next logical step in my racing progression (maybe it isn't, but it feels right to me), but it's the last chance I'll have to add distance before that half-marathon in two weeks.  It'll be a massive confidence boost to have run the 11 miles before I try for 13 miles!

And really, everything is worth it for that bling at the end of the race ;)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Psyching myself up for the long run.

Dear Other Endurance Athletes,

What in the WORLD do you do to get yourself going for the long distances?!  I mean, obviously, the reason we're all running is that we see some benefit in it...  And for certain, I have some great reasons to go run, which have been pushing me to try harder than ever to keep a running schedule.  But I cannot for the life of me convince myself I am comfortable with setting off on my long distance day!

Maybe it's my sprinter background.  Maybe it's that I'm lazier than I want to admit.  I just cannot seem to find that boost to start extending my runs.  I have no problem popping out for a quick two-miler, or even for spending an hour shuffling as far as I can, but when I think about pushing to six miles, ten miles, that half marathon in *two short weeks*...  I kinda freak out.  Is that normal?  Will that feeling go away once I've done a few - just as the 5k used to intimidate me, but I tried anyway and now love it?

I set my goal today for six miles, but that's two miles longer than last week!  Can I make it?  Will trying this be a disaster and make me hate running?  Am I going to be able to move afterwards?


At the end of the day, I have to decide how badly I really "want it" - so I'm heading out to run.  See you on the road!

<3, Amanda

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Be a Hero!

This time next week, I'll be taking on the Epic Fail Challenge 5k with my office team.  It's a crazy, silly, largely inflatable obstacle course race taking place at Soldier Field, and we can't wait to tackle the fun!

Now, I've participated in quite a few race events so far this year, and I have at least as many more scheduled for the next couple months, and all of them have had some element of charity involved - but I am not one to go around pestering people for money every time I do a race.  In this case, however, I am inclined to put the request out there, for several reasons.

The Epic Fail Challenge partners with St Jude Children's Research Hospital, a foundation that helps families of children with cancer handle the expenses that come with the burden of the disease, while also funding top-notch research into how we can better treat children with cancer.  St Jude's is an amazing charity that has been doing amazing things for decades.  The St Jude Heroes program channels all donations directly to the organization, with no middle men or suspicious donation trails, and you can be sure your money will be going straight to families and children in need.  If you can spare a few dollars, you can make a difference.

I am very selective about the charities I promote, because I will only donate to a fund that I have 100% faith will use their resources to the best of their abilities.  St Jude's has proven year after year to be a charity that can be counted on to do the right thing, and I am proud to be a St Jude Hero.  I encourage you to join me, and St Jude's, in making the world a better place, one child at a time.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Race Recap Archive: Muddy Monk I (Heart) Momma Trail Run

I ran this race back in May, as my first-ever timed 5k event.  Originally, I had written about it on my Zumba Fitness blog, but I wanted to bring it over here to reach a wider audience, and to spread the word about a fantastic racing organization here in Chicago.

The Muddy Monk trail running group hosts races throughout Chicago year-round, including distances ranging from 5k to half-marathon.  Their runs are cost-effective, and their swag is top-notch!  Plus, the people - oh the people!  Anyone who has ever been to an event with volunteers and/or organizers who clearly weren't in it to please their entrants knows that the human element can make or break your race experience.  The people running the Muddy Monk runs are just phenomenal, and are probably one of the major reasons why I decided to make racing a regular thing in my life.  I felt welcome, included, well cared-for after the race, and honestly, a little like part of a family!  This should have come as no surprise, as the first thing they say about themselves on their website is "We love people."  It definitely shows!

The I <3 Momma 5k, held just before Mother's Day, was a very cool event.  I was thrilled to see so many families running, and was interested to see how the stroller runners would handle the trail course - but the stroller path was all paved, and well-tended, which allowed everyone to have the race experience they deserved.  The actual trail course was technical but not too much for a beginner, with only one or two spots where extra caution was needed.  A few bits were a little swampy, but that's all part of the experience!  I snagged some photos of the trail from Muddy Monk, as they photographers on the course and provides all event photos FREE after the race:

As for the race itself - this was not as new an experience as I was expecting.  Sure, the race atmosphere and the distance were fresh for me, but running through the woods was more familiar than I realized.  I'd attempted to train in a trail setting only once before the race, and had gotten pretty distracted by some deer, which led to me getting lost in the woods, which ended up being a totally different kind of fun...  But I digress.  I had grown up doing orienteering events with my dad, which usually involved, well, running through the woods!  I'd forgotten how much fun it was to enjoy the sensation of bounding through the trees, and the race was a welcome reminder.

I also made a friend at the event!  After a brief chat while waiting for the run to start, I ran into Mary again on the last leg of the trail, and we paced each other to the finish line.  We spent the post-race together, she won an awesome pair of Chicago flag shorts, then we exchanged numbers and parted ways - only to meet up again later at a couple other races!  I love my new running buddy, and even though it's tough to sync up our schedules, it's great to follow her progress and achievements online, and catch up in person when we can.  She's kicking butt!  I hope to add many more running buddies over the next few months, but it's going to be hard to find someone as inspiring and awesome as Mary!

I finished the race in the middle of the pack and was thrilled to not have been last - that had been my biggest fear going into the event.  I learned a lot about running a 5k; first and foremost was that it's *not that hard*.  The thought of running sooooo far was, for someone who had been a sprinter her whole life, incredibly daunting, but now I know I can do it, and I've been snapping up as many runs as I can find/afford to keep pushing myself.  My Muddy Monk experience really inspired me to get more serious about running, and now three months later, I'm in great shape and loving every minute of my running hobby.

Long story short here: trail running is AWESOME, and even better with Muddy Monk.  They have lots of events, all year, and I'm already signed up for two more - the Four Stars four miler in September, and the Thriller 5k in October.  There is not a doubt in my mind that both of these experiences will be absolutely incredible - and that this time you won't be waiting for me way back in the middle of the pack!

Finally, on a related note, Muddy Monk is hosting their annual Nearly Sane Half-Marathon on Sunday, August 24th, and they could really use some more volunteers!  Anyone who helps out receives lots of free gear (and they really do have great swag), free food, and a free entry to another event, which means you could go have a blast with THEM and then come run with ME!  So you should do it!  You can volunteer by emailing hello@muddymonk.com or checking the website.  I'd be helping out myself, if I didn't have another race already scheduled that day!

All event photos are courtesy of the Muddy Monk photographers.  All other photos are my own personal property, please be sure to credit any images you borrow from this page.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Girls' Night Out with New Balance Chicago!

It's hard not to love a fitness event - ANY event, for that matter - with so great a slogan as "Girls Run This Town".  That's the theme of New Balance's brilliant Girls' Night Out campaign, and let me tell you, they definitely put on an amazing event: hosted by local New Balance stores, GNO fuses running with other fitness forms to create a women-only fitness party, with an awesome in-store after party as icing on the cake.

I was a last-minute addition to the list, thanks once again to fellow blogger and GNO host Maggie (Mag Mile Runner), and was a little late due to another commitment I'd already scheduled, so when I arrived I was already behind on the run!  The store staff quickly helped me check my gear and sent me in the right direction to catch up, and I found the group right along the beautiful lake shore just finishing their stretching.

I hopped in at the back as we started with the first of several short circuit-style exercises.  I had not quite expected to go through a boot camp style workout last night!  But the trainers running the program were super, and their infectiously upbeat attitudes made it easy to push through the circuits.  I worked up an excellent sweat, and definitely felt the burn!  In fact, I'm still feeling it now - we really worked hard!

The highlight of my experience, though, had little to do with the GNO team (though they really were amazing).  No, the best part of my evening was when a handful of adorable little girls, visiting the park with their family, timidly inched closer to our group, twitching with nervous excitement.  It was easy to see they wanted to bounce around with all of us big girls, but weren't sure if they could just hop into the melee, so I waved them on over and encouraged them to work out with us.  They were so cute!  And they kicked butt, too!  When their mother finally made them leave, they all insisted on high-fives and hugged my legs (they were too little to reach any higher) and ran off saying they wanted to grow up to be "strong like her!"  Pretty much made my day.

After the circuit training, we all headed back to the store for the after party - which would have been even more awesome if I had known anyone.  I'm still new to the Chicago running scene, and attending events like this will hopefully help me meet some like-minded women, but last night everyone already had a friend, so I putzed around a bit, chatted with the store owner and staff, and did a little shopping.  New Balance provided a pretty sweet swag bag, and had invited Deep Eddy Vodka to offer bar services; plus, all attendees enjoyed 20% off on NB merchandise during the event.  They also had a photo booth, courtesy of ActionBooth.com (photo credit to them as well), with which I had a little too much fun!

Definitely a great experience, though next time I'll definitely bring a friend!  And who knows - maybe I can host my own in the future!

You can look for Girls' Night Out events near YOU by checking out NBGNO online!

Also, be sure to check out New Balance Chicago stores, and show them some Twitter love too!  These guys and gals do great things!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gearing up for my first HALF MARATHON!

Something you're going to learn about me very quickly: I LOVE free stuff.  Just a glance at my Twitter account (@FitNyx) will give you some idea of how frequently I throw my hat into the ring for giveaways.  Sometimes it feels almost like a part-time job - which makes every win even more rewarding.

I've had a lucky summer, at least as far as giveaways go.  I've won three race entries (one of which I sadly had to give away), some cool gear, and some tasty snacks.  To be sure, I'll be hosting some giveaways of my own once I get a little more firmly established!

The biggest win so far has been my exciting free entry to the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon, thanks to the generosity of Maggie over at Mag Mile Runner.  I've never run more than a 5k race in my life, and only just recently have passed the 5k mark in my training runs, so diving into a half marathon in just a few short weeks is incredibly daunting.  Really, it is not enough time to properly train and prepare for the undertaking, but I'm doing it anyway.  And for the purposes of this blog, we're going to ignore the fact that my free entry was for EITHER the half or the 5k, and that I willingly chose to torture myself with 13.1 miles at the end of the month.

You'll get to hear all about my "training" for this event, which so far is comprised of a handful of neighborhood runs that have yet to truly test me for what I'm facing in a few weeks, but for now I'd like to point out a great Woot deal that is highly relevant to my preparation: CamelBak Hydration Packs are available over 60% off today!

I've never used something like this, or taken any kind of mobile hydration with me on a run, so I don't know how to approach this deal.  Do I need something like this for a half marathon?  Will there be enough water stations along the way?  I knowst not, but if I can get an order in before they sell out, methinks I'll give it a try!  At the very least, I'll have one for that day when I go truly insane and tackle a full marathon - and I'll have gotten it for a steal.

Have YOU ever used a hydration pack?  Tell me all about it in the comments!  And be sure to keep an eye out for a product review, should I talk myself into this purchase...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The start of an exciting journey...

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Lao Tzu wasn't just whistlin' "Dixie".  I'm a person of many passions, and if there's one thing I've learned in this life so far, it's that if you want something, YOU need to be the one to take those first steps to make it happen.  No one is going to come along and simply hand you your dreams.  Well, for some people that happens, but I'm not one of those lucky few!

This blog is in many ways a first step for me, but I realize even now as I write this, I took some of the "first steps" towards this months ago, when I made a commitment to live healthier and return to the level of physical activity I enjoyed for most of my life prior to moving to Chicago.  Those other first steps were hard, but I took them, and this blog is the next step on the exciting road I've been traveling.

I have always been "fit", having played soccer and lacrosse almost my entire life - culminating in a highly decorated collegiate career, then fizzling out soon after as Life Happened.  I went through some hard times and fought through some of the roughest situations that can happen to a young woman.  I struggled to stick with my athletics, and after a couple more pleasant years in a new town, I had gained some unwanted weight and became grossly out of shape.  This year, I made a New Year's resolution I was determined to actually keep, and laid out some potential goals towards that resolution.

The first was to become a Zumba instructor.  Zumba fitness classes had helped me through some of my toughest moments, and I fell in love with the brand.  I realized my goal this past April, when I was able to attend a Basic training class and receive my license!  Since then, I have held class with two gyms, and provided a class for a very exciting community service group doing great things in Chicago's poorer neighborhoods.  I've also challenged myself with the Zumba Step specialty, and can't wait to teach the newest form of my favorite workout!

The second goal I set early this year was to try a mud run.  I've never been a competitive racer, except when I was a sprinter for my middle school track team, so the prospect of even a 5k was daunting.  Rather than tackle "serious running" head on, I opted to aim for a more "fun" version, and signed up in May for my first obstacle course race.  When that experience ended incredibly successfully, I threw caution to the wind and began signing up for any races I could afford!  So far this summer I have completed three 5k road races, one 5k trail race, and three obstacle course races - and I have a full schedule for the rest of the year as well!

Ultimately, I want to be fully immersed in the fitness industry, both as a hobby and as a career.  I can't make the full leap yet, but I am definitely making the journey despite life's speed bumps!  I encourage you to follow this path with me as I chronicle my adventures herein, and hope that my experiences in the world of fitness can help inspire others to enjoy the same happiness I have come to find.

Thank you for reading, I can't wait to tackle the horizon with you!