Worth the Run

(photo source)

On Sunday, I cranked out the best run I’d had in a long time. I ran a 7-miler in 58 minutes, which is a very strong, hard run for me. Ironically, despite my fast pace, the run seemed much easier than the runs I’d had in the previous weeks. It’s really strange how little (and big) things can affect my runs. This time, I think my time and amazing exertion are to due to two factors: sleep and weather.

For the last 3 weeks, I have had an incredibly difficult time staying asleep. No matter what time I go to bed – whether its 9 PM or 1 AM, I’ve only been able to sleep 4-6 hours a night. For those with insomnia or newborns, this may seem like a gift. But for a full-time professional, wife and mother of two, runner, and traveler, 4-6 hours is not enough to sustain all of my responsibilities with a smile.

On Saturday night, I managed to get a full 7 hours of sleep, despite staying out later than normal. That extra 1-2 hours made all the difference in the world for my mood and for my run. I woke up feeling refreshed and completely awake. This brief reprieve in sleep deprivation caused me to be extra enthusiastic about my typical Sunday morning run.

In addition to sleep, the weather played a significant role in the success of my run. It just happened to be perfect weather for a Fall run – 48 degrees and sunny. Just crisp enough to clean the air, but not too cold to make your lungs hurt after exertion. It’s the kind of weather that tricks you into thinking it’s cold enough to wear a running jacket, but then after your first mile, you are kicking yourself for wearing it.

I know my sleep issues are far from being over, just like I know that snowy and cold winter weather are merely days away. But it’s days like Sunday, where my run seems effortless, that make running on any given day worth it.

Not a Greek Yogurt in Site

During my travels over the last few weeks, I had my fill of restaurant food. For 12 days straight, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, consumed in a place other than my home sweet home. I know there are many people that would consider this a luxury, but eating out all of the time can get old fast. By my 6th day on the road, all I wanted for breakfast was a Greek yogurt, something I was used to having every week, if not every day at home. However, in our staff lounge, the convention center only provided “regular” yogurt. No matter how much I begged, pleaded, and flirted with our lounge staff, no one could seem to find a Greek yogurt within two miles. Sad, but true.

Little did I know what was waiting for me when I arrived home one week later.

While away, Scott called to tell me that I received several packages in the mail, one being a perishable package. Lucky for me, I arrived home to find a dozen perfect cartons of Siggi’s yogurt! Now I know Siggi’s is not “Greek” yogurt per se, but after tasting it for the first time that night, I can honestly say it is VERY similar to Greek yogurt, and maybe even better! Gasp!

Siggi’s yogurt is a type of skyr yogurt – the traditional yogurt of Iceland. It’s similar to Greek yogurt in that it is much thicker than regular yogurt because it’s strained several times. Because of the straining process, it has a significant amount of protein. But, unlike most Greek yogurt brands, Siggi’s skyr is comes in several flavors, including vanilla, grapefruit, blueberry, orange, acai, and more. Plus, Siggi’s is fat free and only flavored with real agave nectar  – no sugar or artificial sweeteners.

So how does it taste? I have to admit, the vanilla and blueberry Siggi’s hold their own against any Greek yogurt I’ve tried, but the orange flavor is more of an acquired taste.

Although I am still partial to my Greek yogurt (oh how I still miss you!), Siggi’s is really giving Greek yogurt a run for it’s money.

A Runner’s Travels: Leaving My Heart in Vancouver

As many of you have gathered, I’ve been MIA these last two weeks, traveling to such places as San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa Valleys, and Vancouver. In each of these destinations, I was able to experience a tiny bit of the local life through visiting the sites and tasting the amazing foods each city had to offer.

One of the things I loved about my time away, was that each city had it’s own spectacular views and equally spectacular places to run.  San Francisco offered a coastal path along Fisherman’s Wharf, with amazing shopping sites just a few blocks away. Napa provided a much needed peaceful run through, what seemed like, a sleepy bedroom town surrounded by green and gold vines. And finally, Vancouver…I have so much to say about running in Vancouver and most of it revolves around the beautiful Stanley Park. On three separate occasions, I was able to run from my hotel through Stanley Park. Each time I would nearly gasp in wonder at the beauty of the mountain-lined harbor, the fall foliage at its peak, and the pristine surroundings that are famous in the Pacific Northwest.

Unlike most people who judge a city by the sites, restaurants, and atmosphere, I find myself forming an opinion of the city based on my running experiences there. I have to admit, of all the places I’ve run outside of Chicago – and there have been MANY – Vancouver is, by far, my favorite.

I can quite honestly say, I left my heart, and running shoes, in Vancouver.

Destination Running

Like many people, before I travel I think of all of the sites I want to see, all of the restaurants I want to try, and the best places for shopping. In addition to these things, I also think about where I will run. I know I’m a little odd when it comes to running, but it’s true. When I’m out of town, finding new, fun places to run is just as exciting as finding a cool new bistro.

In my many years of running, I’ve run in 8 countries, not including the US, and have run in 22 of the 50 United States. I’ve had so many wonderful running experiences – running along old and winding streets in Ireland, past Gaudi’s legacy in Barcelona, by totem polls in Vancouver, and right up to the gates of the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. All of these places are reminders of wonderful trips and wonderful runs. However, I would not consider any my favorite.

In September, I was fortunate enough to be able to run my favorite route – a route I haven’t run in years – the Chicago lakefront path. If you’ve ever been to Chicago’s lakefront, you will know that the path goes on and on for miles. On one side of the path, you run with beautiful views of the Chicago skyline on the horizon. On the other side is the calming shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Years ago, when I worked and lived downtown, I would take my running clothes to work. After work, I would change and run home along the path, starting from Navy Pier and finally turning into the Lakeview neighborhood near Belmont Harbor. It was such an amazing feeling to combine my 45-minute commute with a strong running workout, something I’ve greatly missed while being in the suburbs. On days that I was not able to run home from work, I would get up extra early to run the lakefront. Rain, snow, or shine, I pounded that beautiful pavement with hundreds of other athletes, yet somehow, felt completely lost in my own thoughts and in my own world.

Each time I go back to the lakefront for a run, I have a slight melancholy feeling. I’m so happy that I’m running my favorite path, but sad – almost like not knowing when I will be reunited with an old friend. And when I do return, the path seems to say, “it’s been way too long my friend, way too long.”

Where is your favorite place to run?