Squashing the Post-Boston Blerch

Oh hey there! It seems I either forgot I have a blog or had no inspiration to write. I think both happened, to be honest. 

Now that I’m a month removed from the sting of Boston, I’m beginning to get more excited about running and racing the rest of this year. I spent a few weeks feeling pretty bummed about my race. It took me awhile to process and, I think, for good reason. Marathon training and racing can be so tough because you have to work your a** off in order for the fitness gains to follow and then you still have relatively little control over how the race actually goes. Not to mention you spend months avoiding even entertaining the idea that you won’t meet your goal — you have to think you will run your goal time when you spend hours, days of your life training. Because that’s how you get through it. You hope and believe it will happen.

And then, when I didn’t run my goal time, I let myself feel bad about it for a relatively short while. And now, just this week, I feel excited to just … run, with no real attachments or concrete goals. 

On Thursday, I went to a spin class in the morning. I haven’t gone to a class in awhile and I was looking forward to creating a pool of sweat under the bike. It was just what I needed. A longggggg hill along with plenty of sprints & jumps — and an hour later and I felt like a million bucks. And then, I realized that The Man had a workout to do after work. And I thought, “yeah, I could join him”. So, we ran to the lakefront together and started his workout shortly after. We ran 4 x 3 min “surges”. I let him set the pace on the first repeat and then we alternated. (So I guess I’m now I’m a rabbit-coach-girlfriend.) And damn! That dude can run! I wasn’t expecting to see a “6” on my watch that day, but it appears he has a lot more pick-up than I do these days. Note: He may or may not have given me the middle finger on one of those repeats. But this only means that I’m doing my job as Coach, right? I’m not sure I’ve ever gone to a spin class AND run in a single day before. It was my first ‘workout’ since Boston – and while it felt a wee bit creaky, it felt so good to run fast again. 

Sunday’s run was even more fun. I didn’t really have much of a plan, but I thought I’d run 10-12 miles. I had an extremely lazy morning after sleeping for approximately 10 hours (what kind of heaven is this?!) before heading out. It was a GORGEOUS day, fairly warm with a breeze off the lake. The lakefront was BUSY. It’s officially the season of dodging tourists on Segways (I must have seen 50 of ’em on this run) and yelling at cyclists that are riding slower than I am running (no, I’m not kidding). I promise I was happy to see a busy lakefront but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let a few curse words fly. I ran 2 miles to the lake with Man and then ran south. After mile 5, my legs started to feel super energetic. I had so much ‘get up and go’, I was shocked. By mile 8, I felt amazing and I thought it would be fun to see what the legs could do the last few miles. My last three mile splits were 7:01, 6:50, and 6:34 (say what?!), so I basically ran an impromptu 11-mile progressive. CUE RUNNER’S HIGH. I’m not sure where the pep came from but I’m glad it returned. I was beginning to think most of my runs would continue to feel like running through sand.

Annnnnd because I’m just letting the good times roll, I signed up for the Soldier Field 10-miler this weekend. I’ve never run a 10-mile race before, so the automatic PR will be joyous. I’m planning on skipping the free post-race beer and heading to a beer fest that afternoon instead. Run hard, beer hard right? 

Speaking of beer, here’s a fun fact for you:

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So, post-Boston “blerch” has been squashed & I’m looking forward to a fun summer and fall. Who’s with me?

-J 

 

My Personal Chicago Coffee Shop Tour: Part 1

I have an obsession with coffee. I’m addicted to caffeine. My version of a happy Saturday afternoon is holing up in a coffee shop somewhere in the city with a big cup of joe and good book. For real. Include chocolate and it really is one of my “happy places” (the most obvious of which is the lakefront….duh).

This year for the holidays, I was gifted with the longest vacation since college. Back then, I was extremely spoiled with my school’s quarter system, as we had just before Thanksgiving Day up until just after New Year’s Day off. Six weeks is a long time to be idle as a college student. By week 3, I was pretty sick of a routine that didn’t include long days. Nowadays, I work for a super small company (think “two people small”) and it was decided about a month ago that we’d both take two full weeks off work to prepare for a busy 2013.

I didn’t expect to take so much time off at the end of 2012, but I wasn’t about to pass it up. But, after getting over the fact that I wouldn’t have to (key phrase: HAVE TO…I literally can’t stop myself from working, so it’s not 100% down time), I realized that I’d need to do something to keep myself from spending everyday at home in my pjs in front of the t.v. (when not running, of course).

SO, I CAME UP WITH A PLAN. I’ve had a list of coffee shops I have yet to visit in Chicago for the past 8-9 months. And even though I have a flexible work schedule and the ability to work from home 50% of the time, I haven’t been able to tackle the list and actually visit these coffee shops in 2012.

GOAL: Visit one Chicago coffee shop I’ve never been to each day for 7 days.

(Spoiler alert: I failed miserably at the streak but still made it to plenty of new spots!) 

Kickstand Espresso Bar: 824 West Belmont Ave

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I ordered the Mexican Chocolate Mocha with Cayenne. And it was full of spicy deliciousness. I’m never in this neighborhood but I was nearby at a physical therapy appointment and realized how close it was as I started walking to the train. I really appreciated the ambiance at Kickstand. It was really bright and cheery, which is exactly what I needed on a gloomy winter day in Chicago. I also ordered a sesame bagel toasted with cream cheese, which wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t disappoint either. The decor was a mixture of cool art and repurposed tables ‘n chairs. The wainscoting on the walls was made of old meter sticks. I appreciated its DIY-ness. Seating is somewhat limited for this little espresso bar, but there are two larger tables and bench seating that looks out onto Belmont—perfect for people-watching. They serve Metropolis coffee so if you’re a fan, go there for the good beans and the good space.

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Buzz: Killer Espresso: 1644 N Damen Ave

Ok, I admit it. I failed. I didn’t make it to a new coffee shop on NYE or New Year’s Day. Guilty as charged. But after rehydrating and learning how to become a human being again, I sauntered over to Buzz for a little caffeine kick in the pants. From the outside, Buzz looks like it’s “cutesy”. You know…like one of those places that is covered in pastel paint and probably harbor young mothers with cute little children. But NOPE! I was mistaken! Buzz is nestled between a bar and a restaurant in what looks like a cute family home, but the inside if very modern and sleek. The bar is made of reclaimed wood (aren’t they all nowadays?) and the lighting makes the space really fresh. As you walk in and past the coffee bar, the seating is really cozy. Silver-brushed tables with spotlight lighting overhead make it a place to cozy up with a book or work on your own. The customers were a mixture of people working silently on their computers to a few people have a very deep intellectual conversation to people like me that just wanted a quiet place to sit and think for a bit. I work from coffee shops often and this is one that I would visit if I didn’t need a ton of space. Small tables make for small tasks sometimes.

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Oh! The COFFEEEEE! I ordered a delicious Brazil pour over. It was exactly what I wanted. I’m not a creature of habit when it comes to how I take my coffee. Sometimes I go for cream, sometimes I don’t. That day? No cream. Just pure delicious coffee. They have over 6 different pour overs and they all cost $3.50, which isn’t bad in the city. I highly recommend giving this place your time.

Ipsento Coffee House: 2035 N Western Ave 

After a short run in the morning and an overall slow start to my day, heading to the coffee shop was a bit of a chore (I know, I know…). But this place truly made up for it. I walked in and immediately ordered the first thing on the menu, the Ipsento Latte. I’m a sucker for anything with coconut and this latte was full of coconut milk and honey, two of my favorite things.  I ordered a 16 ounce and sipped on it for a good, long hour. It was also spiced with cayenne just like the Kickstand Mexican Chocolate Mocha —I think it’s safe to say I like spice. Ipsento is SUPER cozy. Again, limited seating like Kickstand and Buzz, but that’s likely why people frequent them. I cozied up with my latte in a comfy corner armchair initially and then moved to a little table in the opposite corner to get some work done. They played really good music that put me into a productive mode for a solid 4 hours. I’ll be back (especially because it only took me 10 minutes to get there, including time to walk to the train).

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Side note: I have yet to go on one of Caffenture’s coffee bar crawls but Ipsento is included on their blue line crawl. And I can totally see why.

I still have a solid list of coffee shops I have yet to visit but I’m happy I’ve been able to finally cross some off of that list. I work best in a coffee shop with delicious beans, good music, and ambient noise from conversation among customers. Happy to have found three more spots I can frequent in Chicago when I’m looking for a change of pace (heh…get it, runners?).

What’s your favorite coffee shop in Chicago? Do you try to visit all local coffee shops or do you stick to chains like Starbucks? If you could visit one coffee shop in a different neighborhood everyday, would you? What should I add to my list?!

-J