Tag Archives: travel

Austin Trip & Running Tour

Mike & I took a weekend trip to Austin recently and it was great to get away!  Between the Chicago Marathon, NWM Half, and now this, I feel like I haven’t really been wokring in October.  Doesn’t feel too bad…

Anyway, here are some highlights from our trip:

  • Good margaritas!  At pretty much every place we went
  • Caught a movie at the Austin Film Festival
  • Good tex mex food, and Texas BBQ
  • Tour de Fat in Austin
  • adventures cycling around on crapalicious bikes we rented
  • road trip to San Antonio! Visiting the Alamo


We signed up for a running tour because, why not? We signed up for a tour with City Running Tours which had multiple run options in Austin, and also does tours out of other cities, including Chicago.

We picked the 5K Beer Run, I think primarily because of the time of day, and also that we enjoy beer (& running).  We jogged the 1.3 miles from our hotel to the meet-up location at the Texas Running Company, a local running store. 

We headed out for the run, lead by our guide Rusty.  We started by heading down to the Lady Bird Lake, where there is lakefront running in Austin!  Rusty did a good job of keeping us on track while also telling us about Austin and the local sites we were seeing.

The lakefront trail was pretty (and a gravel-packed trail, as opposed to our asphalt-paved LFT), and there were a lot of people out.  One nice thing that we saw is that there is a running club that puts out several water coolers at a few points on the trail so that runners & walkers can stay hydrated along the way. 

We headed into the Austin city center, where Rusty pointed out key historical buildings and gave us an idea of what Austin was like during its early city formation.  We stopped at a bar that is owned by the same group that makes the Shiner’s beer, and stopped in to sample a few!  We also took a photo at one of the many statues paying homage to Austin’s musical history, including Willie Nelson.


All of the other runners that participated were also visiting from out of town, although many from either suburbs or other parts of Texas.  We continued onward toward the state capitol, and actually went inside!  The state capitol is pink due to the pink marble that they used in the construction of the building. 


And a photo at the Statue of Liberty in the Capitol’s garden:


We then finished up the run going past the Governor’s mansion and then onto a Pacman arcade bar where we enjoyed another excellent Texas beer- Firemans’ #4.

All in all, this was a fun way to learn about the city we were visiting and also get a run in! 

Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon

Today I completed my second triathlon at the Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon in Wisconsin. Mike was doing the “du” with the Dare2Tri club, and I had signed up for the sprint as part of the Chicago Tri Club

Pre Race:

  • I was very nervous for my 2nd triathlon. I’ve been very skittish about my cycling recently, and was worried about that.  I also realized (this week) that I hadn’t really done much overall in training:  two swims (one in open water), and a single brick workout of swim-run.  None of the standard bike-to-run brick workouts.   
  • Weather was great! We had cool, clear weather and luckily the thundershowers forecasted did not show up! 
  • Mike and I went up to Pleasant Prairie on Saturday, and got to hear the course overview, talk through the swim while actually seeing the buoys, and drove the bike course.
  • We also got to meet up with CTC’ers for dinner, which was great to meet more people and have some friendly faces on race day. Melissa, Renee, Cristina & Matt were all great to talk with! 

The Swim:

  • I chose not to wear my wetsuit given the 77 degree water temperature. I’m glad I was wearing only my tri kit as that was more than enough for me! 
  • It felt longer than my first tri swim– mostly because it was deeper so I had to do more real swimming.
  • I still felt pretty strong on the swim. I definitely didn’t panic and was passing quite a few people. 
  • Coming out of the swim and into T1, I couldn’t find my spot!  Where is my bike?!!! I definitely lost some time on that transition, and need to work more on these in general. 

The Bike:

  • I was really worried about riding on my new (six-months-old) bike.  I was even debating whether to clip in or not.  I decided to clip-in, and am happy about it!
  • I felt very good about my shifting decisions, although I did have some trouble initially getting from the small gear in front to the bigger one.  More familiarity & time on my bike would help me execute these shifts more confidently & quickly. 
  • Overall I felt pretty strong, and I tried to keep a high cadence up as much as I could. I executed quite a few solid turns
  • The Not-So-Good:  I’m still not as comfortable as I’d like.  As I said in my South Shore recap: 
    • I have a fear of falling, which while under control in normal circumstances, increases exponentially if any of the following occur:
    1. Attempting a turn – there were two 180-degree turns on the course.  I had to stop at each point to redirect my bike.
    2. Taking my hands off the handle bars (adjust sunglasses, take a drink)
  • That is still definitely true.  I avoided taking a drink (although I’ve done it successfully in practice a few times) while riding, and am so happy about my new sunglasses. 
  • I also had a little bit of a spill around mile 9.5. My calf cramped up as I was about to take a turn, and I couldn’t keep pedaling to keep the turn going, and then had trouble clipping out to stop for a moment.  Just a few scrapes, and I got a free calf massage & hug from a safety official!
  • T2 was also a bit slower than I’d expected.  What am I doing in these transitions?

The RunSurprised smile

  • Once I was out on the run I just wanted to finish happy!  I tried to keep it easy for the first mile, to get my legs back, although they didn’t feel to bad.  I kept zipping along, and mostly passing 40+ aged men.  Caught up to Christina who I’d met the day before at the CTC dinner. 
  • I didn’t think or push way too hard on this run, and probably could have gone harder sooner. 

Overall Thoughts & Tips for Next Time:

  • This was a very well organized race!  Lots of very clear direction & support on all three legs of the event, quite a few spectators both on course & at the race base, and lots of liquid & food post-race for everyone! 
  • More practice on the bike – longer distance rides and getting comfortable with turns, drinking, etc.
  • Practice transitions.  Make those times tighter!
  • Swim more!  Get my swim time down to what it could be. 

Times (and age group rankings):

  • Swim: 16:53 (4/17)
  • T1: 4:28 (15/17)
  • Bike: 44:28 (11/17)
  • T2: 2:47 (13/17)
  • Run: 27:52 (5/17)
  • Total: 1:36:27 (9/17)

What’s  Next? 

I have the Grand Haven Sprint Triathlon coming up in two weeks!   A few goals I have for that that I’d like to work toward: 

  • Sub-15 Swim
  • Bike:  17.9 MPH ( my pace w/o the “rest stop”)
  • Faster transitions- get both transitions to the length of today’s T1
  • Maintain my near PR run! 


I’ve been away from blogging for a little while – did you miss me? I’ve been busy – between wedding stuff, honeymoon, race support & now staycation time!  Here’s a potpurri of some things that have been going through my mind to share with you all:

Wedding Stuff:

The big day went great, and I’m so grateful for all of the love and support shown by our friends and family throughout the wedding weekend (and months leading up to it)! A few links to share with you:


  • Pre-wedding, I got in ~ 3 runs that week, one of which was a 9 miler by surprise! I just kept running and running, and didn’t need to get back for anything.  I wish I had taken some Gu or ShotBlocks though. 
  • During this almost 10-miler, I composed a blog post in my head, and meant to write it out sometime less than 2 weeks before that run.  The post would have been titled “I’m ready for professional running.” It was such a beautiful day out, the sun was shining, and I was spontaneously on a long run when I’d initially planned for a quick 3 or 4 miler.  Bring it on, Kara. 
  • I did 3 runs in Tuscon (our honeymoon spot) and they were hard!  I figured out a few days in that there are a few key differences between CHicago & Tuscon:
    • Heat – 90 degrees v/s 50s that Chi-town had been getting,
    • Hills – my workouts were on trail or road that happened to be situated on hills, oops I mean the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains,
    • Elevation – Tuscon is situated at ~2000 ft elevation, compared to our 579 ft. While Tuscon’s not the highest spot in the US, I have been known to experience issues at elevation and this trip seemed no different. I feel “off” for a few days, feel pretty bad around day 4, and then great from 5-6 onward. (Oh wait, the honeymoon was 6 days long)
  • I’ve gone to some yoga classes – 3 so far, but there’s potentially time for some more! We’ll see! I did think I’d be ready for Yoga Teacher Training after these two weeks tho.

Honeymoon / Staycation:

  • Honeymoon was in Tuscon AZ – if you didn’t figure that out before.  We selected it as the new “hipster” honeymoon spot.
  • Mike also happened to compete in the US Paraduathlon National Championship Event.  They conveniently scheduled it during the honeymoon so we wouldn’t have to travel somewhere else.
  • We also enjoyed the pool at the resort we stayed at, and ate some really great Mexican, Tex-Mex, Native American & Contemporary American cuisines while we were there. 
  • Staycation has been going on before & after honeymoon. I’ve been catching up on rest, reading, completing errands that fell by the wayside when Hurricane Wedding arrived. I’ve also been able to work out most days during Staycation, and not feel like a crazy lady combining work/workout/extracurriculars/food/blogging all in a single day.
  • I have been enjoying cooking during the past few days – I made some Cheesy Quinoa Fritters yesterday, pasta & a peanut butter cake today. More meal prepping has been going on as well! 

Well, that’s all for now! Good night!

Amsterdam Marathon Race Report

Someone ran the NYC Marathon yesterday, and I’m determined to get my marathon from 3 weeks ago recapped before she does!  This is part 2 of my Amsterdam Marathon posts.  Catch up on the pre-race preparations if you skipped out on them!

Well, after a not-so-filling Italian dinner, I went to bed. Carb-loading resumed at 3 AM when I was hungry and we had a leftover chocolate waffle that was supposed to have been dessert the night before. Then back to bed.

Up again, for real “Clif Bar” breakfast and getting ready! Yes, those are leg-warmers with my hat & jacket!


I headed out to the Amsterdam Metro to get over to the race start.  It was amazing to be waiting there with so many other runners who travelled in from all parts, all heading toward a common goal! Once we got to the Olympic Stadium, where the race starts from, it was pretty cramped to get to what you needed to.  The corrals are around the corner from the Stadium.


I did the typical for pre-race – get in the bathroom line, check gear, and get back into the bathroom line again! Bathroom lines are one thing that’s common in foreign races:


And guys relieving themselves outside were also pretty common:


Here’s me in my European trash bag warmer:


As we got started with the race, we began by running around the track within the Olympic Stadium, and then headed out into the streets of Amsterdam.  The first mile or so was on open streets, and then we headed into the “Vondelpark” for a little bit.  This was a nice park area, and then we headed out to the Amstel River. Since we’re in Europe, the race is measured in kilometers and the aid stations were going to be roughly every 5 kilometers.  A bit more spaced apart than I’m used to, so it was important to me to drink at each aid station.  I felt really great in the first several miles, and was straining to not go too much faster than an 11:27 (5 hour marathon) pace.  Although I didn’t hear English way too often, I did enjoy watching and listening to the runners around me.

Running along the river was so much fun! This is where it was the most scenic, and we ran approximately miles 8-14 along both ends of the Amstel River.  First we headed south (?) and were entertained by bands entertaining us from river boats! We also hit the 15K mark right around a major turnaround point, saw one of the kid’s festivals.


See the red river boat?  There was music coming from it!

We also hit the point to cross the bridge over the Amstel River and also the 21K and half-marathon points just after that.  I still felt really great, and was on track to run a 5 hour marathon! I was amazed, especially as I’d been taking photos and appreciating the view.  A 5 hour marathon had definitely NOT been the first thing on my mind that morning.  I was amazed, and I felt great!

Around mile 14, we’re running along the 2nd side of the river and right along the homes that border the river.  People had their doors open, or were sitting in chairs just outside.  The running crowd was pretty thin at this point, but I was plugging along.  I passed someone who had a “cheese stop” at their house and I sampled a piece!

During mile 15 we turned inland off the river.  I also started to notice my leg hurting and my gait changing.  It began to hurt to run. I realized that my left leg was throbbing, and that it was much more bruised than it had been that morning, battle wounds from the bicycling the day before.  This was the hard part for me, as I tried to do a run-walk, but it hurt too much too run.  One marathoner I’d passed earlier, Theo the South African walker, came up from behind and gave me a pep talk.  I was trying to run just to keep up with him, but he told me we were definitely on track for a 5:15 finish and that his plan was to go all out at the 32K mark. 

At first I was a bit confused (32K seems like an odd choice, I had planned to race at the 35K mark, an even 5), but just followed him.  When we hit the next aid station, he paused to refill his handheld water bottle, and I gave it a try at running again.  Didn’t feel too bad, so I kept onward!

Miles 17 introduced us to some industrial parks, but at least there was some entertainment: 


I kept onward and was a bit surprised at how many people I was passing.  There were also people coming up strong from behind, so I tried to keep those ladies as my “rabbits” to keep me at a good pace. 

I felt amazing at mile 20 – also known as 32K (!) and let loose! I achieved some pretty good splits, getting at and even below the 11:27 pace for miles 20-24. 

Around mile 24 I began to fade again.  Partly that I’ve run 24 miles, but also that the half marathoners were beginning to catch up with us.  So I’m going along as fast as I can, and then some crazy comes speeding by me, having only run 11 miles at that point.  NOT FAIR.  I can’t consider those speed demons a rabbit.  At this point we’re back within the Vondelpark again, and loving the shade that the park provided. 

We passed the 40K mark – only 2K to go to the finish! and I was pushing as hard as I could.  But that still wasn’t very fast at all. 



Pushing and pushing, and finally I made it into the Olympic Stadium and finished! 



My splits by 5K:

Amsterdam Marathon Splits


Post-Marathon & Reflections:

  • I ran fast for a good portion of the race. For the first 15 miles, I kept it below 11:27 pace, apart from a quick potty break.
  • I ran fast from miles 21-24. Marathon pace again.
  • My previous marathon experiences this year definitely helped me to know what was possible and that I could push myself. 
  • I need to work on overall speed, and also on the mental game. For me this time, apart from my throbbing knee that slowed me down at mile 15, I was awesome and gave it my all at the end. I slowed down considerably, and I should work on more speed at the end of my long runs.


Amsterdam Marathon Expo & Pre-Race Report

Just over a week three weeks ago I surprise-ran my fourth marathon this year – and broke my streak of running marathons only in Illinois! I’ve struggled a bit with getting back into the “normal life,” and also with putting my experiences on this race down on paper.  This post will be the events leading up to the race, and I’ll post more this week!

Mike & I had been planning our trip to Amsterdam since back in March, and had realized (after we picked Amsterdam & October) that the Amsterdam Marathon & Half Marathon event takes places when we’d be there!  I had long envisioned running the marathon there, that it would be my fall marathon effort, until I fell ill after my spring marathon in Urbana-Champaign.  I was out for three days, and didn’t want that to happen while on vacation in a foreign country.

So we each registered for the half marathon. And I was happy with that at the time. But after my Fox Valley Marathon just over a month ago now, where I didn’t get sick, part of me wondered why I couldn’t do the full. 

And that thought turned into me thinking of the half marathon as “half of a marathon.”  Not the right mindset – the half is its own event in it’s own right.

So I decided (& Mike acquiesced) to see if I could upgrade to the full marathon at packet pickup.  It was an odd request to the help desk, but the guy was friendly and once he said that I could upgrade, there was no turning back! 


Once the business of upgrading to the full marathon was done, it was time to go down to the Expo! At the Amsterdam Marathon they had separated Packet Pick-up to a separate space in the same building as the Expo.  The Expo took place in a gymnasium, and Packet Pickup was in one of the outer hallways on the floor above.


The Expo was an interesting comparison to US expos.  Lots of similarities, but some key differences:

  • Not much in terms of large “warehouses” selling discount running goodies.
  • Not much in terms of running nutrition – we did find a few items being sold, but they were in unfamiliar flavors & possibly textures (containers were different than our GU’s).
  • Some interesting ones:
    • Rock’n’Roll is going international:  Edinburgh, Lisbon & somewhere else in 2012!
    • We all know race bib belts, but have you heard of magnets?  Actually could have been useful since the Amsterdam marathon bib did not have holes for the pins!
    • The same running shoe “laboratory” – you’ve seen them for Brooks at the RnR expos, they had the Mizuno one out here (Mizuno sponsored the half marathon).
    • Not as much any free stuff at the Expo. You know that’s my favorite part of the big expos, walking around & getting free swag!


Pre-Race Prep:

Once we left the expo, I began planning what I needed to do to get ready for the marathon. After all, I only packed for a half marathon.  On my list:

  • How to keep warm – part 1:  I decided I wanted arm warmers for the race, so I bought tube socks at the grocery store.  Mike smartly travels with scissors, and I cut holes in the toe to make these arm warmers! Cozy, and I didn’t feel bad throwing them off at mile 5 or 6!
  • How to keep warm – part 2: We were staying at the Renaissance hotel, and I hope I won the prize for oddest request of the week.  I asked the Concierge if I could have a garbage bag from their facilities staff.  Garbage bags come in baby blue in Holland.
  • Extra fuel: I had a Gu and some shot blocks, but no handheld and not enough fuel for a full marathon. So at the grocery store I looked for swedish fish, and instead left with Haribo peaches
  • Staying off your feet the day before: Well, we took a bike tour.  Since this was vacation, I didn’t want to just stay in the hotel, so we pedaled around on a City Bike Tour.  It was OK.  I would have liked it more had the bike fit me better, and not beat me up fallen on my left calf as much.  More about that later. 


  • Carb Loading: Well, there were the afternoon beers to wash away the tears from my beat-up leg. That counts, right? And then some pasta at an Italian restaurant that was only OK. Until we got back to the hotel and didn’t feel so good. Then it was wasn’t so good.


This was the primary method of carbo-loading both pre- and post-race! Stay tuned for Part 2!