Swallow Cliff Adventure…

It is no secret that I love to explore new to me trails!  I have been meaning to get out to run Swallow Cliff for a while but it isn’t exactly in my back yard, nor did I know much about the trails there other than the fact that they were somewhat technical in spots and there were the nasty stairs left from the old toboggan runs that people flock to daily to torture themselves get some exercise.  Hello Swallow Cliff Stairs!

I must say, I was impressed.  I was impressed in a way that only people who are in love with crazy feats of fitness could understand.  The above photo was taken a little before 9 am and the stairs were already busy but nothing like the chaos I saw when I returned at 10:30am and the parking lot was full and the stairs were packed.  Wow!  I, of course, had to make a trip up these babies or the adventure would not have been complete.

I know this is a crappy photo but the stairs are so steep I couldn’t get a full picture of “the down” because I didn’t want to fall to my death the stairs just drop off.  I only made one trip up  after my run but most people come to this spot for the stairs alone and they are there to workout and make multiple trips.  At the top of the stairs is wall and there are numerous rock piles where people pile pebbles to keep track of the number of trips they have made up.  Old fashion lap counter?  Smart!  Many of those rock piles had 10 or 12+ pebbles.   Amazing!

My plan was to run the yellow trail today.  Photo of Yellow Trail below is off one of those “You are Here” signs, which I totally love.  I like knowing my progress on the loop!

I knew the yellow loop was approximately 8 miles in length and that’s about what I like to run on Sundays.  I also don’t mind the more technical trails for a Sunday run because I really take my time, I love to stop for a billion photos and just meander along in a very unhurried fashion.

I must say that I’ve run a “few” trails in my day and this was the most unassuming trailhead I’ve ever encountered.

No sign, no movement in that direction, just a bit of disturbed and trampled grass to indicate foot traffic.  As soon as I got thru those trees though, it was obvious that I was on a trail, I just had no idea which one but I came to run so I ran.

 It didn’t take long before I saw a trail sign and knew I was on the right trail!

The trail was very easy to follow, beautiful and well shaded with lots of old growth and foliage.  This is definitely a great trail that I will return to in the future.  It is in Palos, IL and only took me about 30 minutes to get there from “the country”.  There are several access points but I went to the one by the stairs.  Next time I will access on LaGrange, south of Rt 83 at the South Swallow Cliff access point.  Closer for me.  I would highly recommend heading to Palos to run Swallow Cliff; it is absolutely worth the trip!

The yellow loop was mostly dirt or crushed gravel, a few technical spots, a few nasty hills but mostly just a nice run thru the woods.  I was concerned that I would need trail shoes, and I don’t own a pair at the moment, but I was fine in my road shoes.  My only complaint is that there was quite a bit of evidence of equestrian traffic on the trail.  Although I only saw a few horses, I saw and ran around alot of horse manure.  Not ideal but certainly not a deal breaker either.

There was only one place where I even had a question as to which way to turn.  Most intersections on the trail had a marker depicting which trails went which way and I just kept following the yellow arrow.  However, the trail had some flooding issues earlier in the year and was actually closed around Rt 45.  It is now open and has a fresh trail & grass but all of the markers haven’t been replaced.

When I went under the bridge, then up the hill on the other side, there was an intersection.  Right or left?  I went right for about 10 steps, saw a trail sign for the green trail, turned around, passed the intersection again and in another 10 steps saw a trail sign indicating the yellow trail.  Not a big deal and my confusion was quickly resolved.  I anticipate it not being an issue next time as they will soon replace the sign upon completion of the construction.  This was the only spot where I questioned my direction other than when I first entered the trail during the trip.

Here is one of the nasty hills that was straight on and I could photograph.  I tried to get a photo of one hill but it was curved, blind, very dangerous and I’m not really sure how people get down it without crashing.  If it were remotely slippery out, I don’t think I would have made it down without taking a tumble!

Thumbs up for Swallow Cliff!  If you like to explore new (or old) trails, I’d highly recommend taking the trip to Swallow Cliff.  If you just like to buzz your run as fast as possible, then go ahead and just run your normal route, this isn’t a good speed run for multiple reasons.

Have your ran any new trails lately?  Where is your favorite trail?

Happy Running,                                                                                                                          Amanda – TooTallFritz

Locked & Loaded….

I missed my 4am wake up call for the morning run due to a little man who was wide awake at 3:45.  I struggled getting him back to sleep and that didn’t happen until almost 5.  By then, I no longer had time to run, get home, shower, and get Aby to the bus for her track meet.  So I “slept” in for another few minutes before the thunder and lightning started, then I was awake again counting my lucky stars that I wasn’t out there in the dark watching the lightning show on the road while finishing my run.  Things really do happen for a reason, even when they seem to be a giant pain in your bum.  🙂

Aby’s track meet ended up canceling so I hauled my bum out the door for a run before life got in the way.  The best advice I can give you when it comes to rainy, windy weather is to lock & load your hat!

By the time I got out the door, it was 44 degrees with a big nice wind and the rain was down to some drops and a bit of mist.   I tried to convince myself to just get  moving and I’d be fine but the wind took it to another level and I ran with my hands tucked into my sleeves 99% of the 10 miles.

The hat being locked & loaded help keep the wind from blowing my hair around, kept the rain out of my eyes and helped me keep my head down and focus on the task at hand.  The hat I wore today was a Nike hat that I won from Pound to Miles.  I have a couple Nike hats, an Athleta Hat, a Brooks Hat, one HeadSweats & one generic off brand.  When the weather is bad, Aby & I fight over the Nike & Athleta hats.  These hats lock & load on our heads the best and keep the weather out of our eyes.  Here is a pick of Aby in our Athleta hat.

Bottom line, find a hat you like, that you can lock & load and force yourself out the door even when the weather is less than ideal.  You’ll feel like a bad ass when you get home and I guarantee you’ll be happy that you went.  Just don’t be stupid and go out in a storm when the lightning is raging but that goes without saying, right?

What is your favorite running hat?

Happy Running,                                                                                                                Amanda – TooTallFritz


I normally don’t take the bait join challenges because well, I’m frequently at a different level than the target audience.  I’m not being pretentious, I just don’t need much motivation to get out the door because I enjoy getting out the door.  I enjoy moving.  I enjoy the time away from my screaming kids chaotic family.  I enjoy quality ME time. 

There are a few challenges to which I fall prey.   Not so long ago, my Ragnar Relay Chicago teammate Run with Jess put on a week long series of virtual races called the Jelly Bean Virtual Race.  She offered a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon & a 21K bike.  I took that as a “challenge” and did all 4 events.  My theory has always been “Go Big or Go Home”. 


I know I’m not a snowboarder but the pic above is just too cool!  By the way, can somebody replace that snowboarder with a runner?  Love you people with mad skills in graphics & Photoshop!

So I haven’t really been “challenged” since the Jelly Bean but Jeni at Sparkalish Roar threw down a small informal challenge this week.  She suggested just focusing on one small goal for the week, like drink more water (which I do) or do 10 pushups every day for a week.  Well, the pushup thing is something with which I really struggle.  YES, I need this!  I’m in the challenge for 10 pushups (minimum) every day this week and hopefully everyday for the rest of my life!  So on Tuesday, I did 12 pushups.  Sounds pathetic, right?  Well, I struggle with upper body strength so this is good for me!  You have to remember  not  to compare yourself to others when setting a goal or accepting a challenge.  The purpose of a goal or challenge is to do something for YOU that will improve YOU.  So don’t go out and run 30 or 40 miles because TTF you know somebody who does that each week.  Focus on choosing a goal that is challenging for you personally.

I have been really focused on dropping the pudge for the Palos Half eating clean this week and drinking my water.  Then I added this little challenge to my schedule.  TUE – 12 pushups, WED – 15 pushups, THUR – 15 pushups & today I did 17!   Whoooooop!

I also upped the ante by eliminating Starbucks from my calorie count occasional routine until after the Palos Half.  Jeni upped the ante on her end by adding chin-ups/pull-ups to her routine.  Damn, that bitch she is tough!  So I went shopping.

pull up bar

In case you are confused, that’s a chin-up/pull-up bar that hubby so kindly put together and installed for me while I was sleeping last night.  

I can’t do any,  not even one pull-up.  How long will it take before I can do 5?  Aby sent me a text message that she did 2 pull-ups before school this morning.  Great, I love it when my 10 year old is stronger than me.    Michael did 4 assisted pull-ups before heading off to a tough day at daycare.  Even better when my 2 year old is stronger than me.  I WILL conquer this.

How about you?  Do anything stupid lately?  Have you accepted any interesting challenges?  Wanna do some pull-ups with me?  Wanna spot me?  Go get yourself  a pull-up bar at Wal-Mart and for $19 you can suffer accept the pull-up challenge too!  How long will it take YOU to be able to do 5 pull-ups?  Let’s race to OUR 5 pull-up goal!  🙂

Challenge yourself, no matter how BIG or small, just step outside of you comfort zone toward a better you!

Happy Friday!                                                                                                                Amanda – TooTallFritz

Race Week Do(s) & Don’t(s)

I think we all countdown to our important favorite races.  We all know that I have personally been counting down to the Palos Half (aka:  Southwest Half Marathon in Palos, IL) since early this week.  Apparently, I’m not the only one so I thought this would be a good time to go through a few  tips for our upcoming race week. 


If you haven’t registered and would like to join the excitement , please register HERE now because the race is almost at capacity!  This is a premier running event on the Southside of Chicago and if you live in the southern suburbs then you are surely to  know ten one or two people racing on May 6th in Palos.  Come run with us.

Entering the weekend before the race, my legs are dead and very tired.  This is a good thing because by cutting back my mileage next week I will be fresh and a bit antsy on the start line.  You want to be antsy, to feel as if you haven’t ran/done enough “this week” when you get up race morning.  This is GOOD and means you are fresh and ready to bust out a fast pace!




Drink lots of fluids – water! Drink a lot of alcohol
Get plenty of sleep Stay up late watching the Twilight Zone TV
Cut back your mileage/workouts Stairmaster, Run 40 miles & Bike Hickory Creek (The Hills!)
Swim & focus on lower intensity activities that keep the blood moving Drown because you are trying to swim 20 miles to make up for “not” running
Run a few easy miles Take the entire week off
Eat some good carbs (whole wheat pasta with veggies & lean protein, non-spicy marinara if you have a sensitive tummy!) Stuff yourself at a pasta dinner the night before the race and use the excuse you are “carb loading”
Stretch & Ice Use heat for sore muscles
Visualize the race & the finish clock with YOUR time Sell yourself short or be afraid of race pace
Plan to take more fuel than you “think” you need to the race Try a new type of fuel or hydration on race day
Charge your iPod & GPS watch Forget your iPod & GPS Watch
Plan for post-race recovery Assume that the race will have what YOU need to recover.  I always have my Post Workout Recovery Drink in my checked bag along with a bagel, banana & water.
Have a confident, positive attitude Freak out or feel as if you didn’t do enough

For me, my race week plan will include:  SAT (4/28) – 10 mile run at an easy pace, SUN – Bike, MON – Swim, TUE – 2-3 miles with fast turnover, WED – easy 6 miles, THUR  rest, FRI – easy 3 miles, SAT- Rest, SUN – RACE.

I have to keep it very low key the week before a race so that I’m fresh.  I have arrived on the start line ready to race mentally many a times and then quickly realized that my body was not recovered enough to hit the times.  What do you do for race week; anything special?  Do you have any race week tips?  Help us out!

Happy Running & Racing,                                                                                              Amanda – TooTallFritz

Personal Savers & Self Defense Class WINNERS

We have winners!  I did two separate drawings, one for the PeronalSavers.com items and a separate one for the Safety Classes that Dennis Wright Martial Arts is offering.  I will spare you the behind the scenes details of spreadsheets/screen shots which I normally offer as “proof” of the winners.  We are all adults and I honestly want you all to win, so take my word for it that the winners via a random number generator are…..

Personal Savers:        

#5 – YoMommaRuns  &  #14 – Angela Compton

Please contact me with your name and mailing address.  Whoever contacts me first at amanda@tootallfritz.com will get to pick between the pink Personal Saver with the clip or the pink WristSaver (size small) which velcros onto your wrist.

For those of you who did not win, this is honestly one of the best purchases I have ever made, in fact I just placed an order for both a pink personal saver and a pink wrist saver for myself & Aby.  If pink isn’t your color, no worries they have a non-pink line too that is “possibly” more popular for now.  The $1.50 off code, which includes a free microfiber towel is:  TTF

Dennis Wright Martial Arts Self Defense (May 19th, 12pm – 2:30pm) Winners:

#5 – Kim Janik & #6 – Jen English

For those of you who did not win and are interested in self-defense:    Dennis Wright offers a fully equipped space with classes 6 days a week in Mixed Martial Arts, Muay Thai Kick Boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He also does specialty classes on self-defense, runner safety, women’s safety, etc.  Dennis is a 5th Degree Black Belt Kenpo Karate. Classes located at 15225 Ridgeway Avenue, Midlothian, IL.  You can contact Dennis @ 708-921-8205 or djdmenace73@aol.com.  If you are not local, look around in your area for a self-defense course to help you be better prepared in life and on the trail.

Thanks for participating in the giveaways, if you didn’t win, keep trying! 

Happy SAFE Running,                                                                                                        Amanda – TooTallFritz.com



Suggestion Box….

I want to send a huge THANK YOU out to everyone who commented yesterday and gave suggestions, advice & encouragement as to my race strategy for the Palos Half.

The tips are much appreciated and I have already implemented a few by going out and running relatively hard this morning.  Once I warmed up, I tried to focus on getting good/fast foot turnover to try to increase my speed.  I only ran 4 miles but it was pitch black dark without any star and/or moon support at 4am.  It was also 31 degrees so it took me a bit to get warmed up and stop thinking about the weather.  I believe my splits were:  8:25, 8:21, 8:23 & 7:53.  I was aiming more toward low 8s but I was running by feel since it was dark, using my KnuckleLights, and I was honestly more focused on what was happening around me in the dark than my pace.   Technically, I just wanted to attempt running fast in the dark down the middle of the road where it is flat and not sloped.  Overall, I was pleased, particularly with the last mile but don’t we all run that last mile hard back into our safety zone driveway?  My normal early morning, run in the dark, pace is 9:28-9:30 so this was definitely a successful run.  Yes, the foundation has been laid.  The miles have been ran.  The work has been done.  All of you know the drill and had wonderful advice.  Please know that if I finally get my 1:50, all of you can own it too with your many words of wisdom and constant encouragement! 

Do you have any training or race questions?  If so, let me know and we will get a suggestion box going for you! 

Thanks Again & Happy Running,                                                                                        Amanda – TooTallFritz

Hard Work Hangs In The Balance….

I was looking for something motivational today but I guess that really wasn’t what I was seeking.  I was actually looking for something to express my fears concerns over the upcoming race which I wish were this Sunday instead of next.  As I’ve mentioned before I have been chasing a 1:50 half marathon for quite some time.  I have a knack for selecting races, or allowing races to select me, that bring horrid weather conditions on race day.  I refuse to die in order to chase the 1:50 or a decent marathon time for that fact, so I will do whatever it takes to merely cross the finish line because I’m in it for fun & fitness first and foremost and I fully understand that my finish time is not always going to be a good indication of my fitness even if it is a good indication of the amount of “fun” I had out on the course

This year my race schedule took a few unexpected turns and my half marathon schedule has been cut in half.  Since I only have a few of those races, I really feel as if the pressure is “on”.  It’s now or I wait until September, if not in September, then not until 2013 and another year of age/pounding miles on the body.  So I’m looking to run strong, really strong in Palos but, of course, I’m scared shitless that I’ll come up short again.  My feelings are below.  I’m sure the style of the writing doesn’t fit the rules of a “poem” so I hesitate to call it such but this is certainly a TTF version of a “poem”.  🙂 

Hard work hangs in the balance,                                                                               Depending on factors unknown.                                                                                        Rain, Sleet, Snow or Horrid Heat,                                                                                            Can my pace compete?

Looking toward the same goal,                                                                                           Can really take its toll.                                                                                                              Is this the race;                                                                                                                  Where I can finally hold the pace?

Hard work hangs in the balance,                                                                                Depending on factors unknown.                                                                                            Rain, Sleet, Snow or Horrid Heat,                                                                                   Please let this goal become complete.

I know I can accomplish this goal under decent conditions.  I definitely believe in it. 

I also have the ability and I am confident in the foundation that I have laid.  Now I just have to get though one more week of moderate workouts, then next week will be very low-key so that I am fresh and fast on race day.  I normally don’t taper for a half but I will hit the start line as fresh as possible.  I may even take my iPod for the final 5K push……just wish I had some wireless earbuds!  The wire issue is the biggest reason why I avoid music.  The wires are not worth any added benefit the music might bring since I have lots of tangles and time lost trying to get the earbuds in place midrace.

Note to self:  Race 10 miles, then “hang on” for the final 5K.  Break the race into 2 distinct segments in order to manage it mentally. I know I can nail 10 miles fast. Now just figure out how to race the final 5K. 

Any motivational tips on how to keep pushing toward a race goal?  Do you race with music?  I normally don’t as it distracts me and I can’t focus on the “push” but I expect I may be out of “push” by mile 10 because that’s where I normally top out on speed.  Thoughts? 

Happy Racing,                                                                                                              Amanda – TooTallFritz

Sporty Spice….

Growing up in the era of the Spice Girls, I have always considered myself a “Sporty” Spice.  I’ve never been particularly glamorous, have never been particularly outgoing, never had a ton of friends but what I do have is my sportiness and I do my best to own it.  Normally, I am perfectly happy to be a Sporty Spice.  I do have nice clothes and do dress up to go out on the rare occasion when we can secure a sitter.  However, for the most part, I am content to live and sleep in my workout/running clothes, do errands, pick up the kids and go to track meets between workouts and usually possibly before I’ve showered off the last sweat fest.

On a rare occasion, I notice get a glimpse into the other side and it always makes me go hmmmmm?  Last week I caught glimpse of a mom who looked and dressed like the skinny version of Marie Osmond with aviator shades, heels and a nice leather jacket…….cruising the bleachers at a track meet.  Hmmmmmm…..

Then today I dropped Aby off at a friend’s house and Mom was all made up, dressed to kill and walking the house in heels.  Hmmmmmm……..  Is our small town turning into home of the Stepford Wives?

Everywhere I turn women are looking hot & sexy and I’m covered in sweat, wearing dirty clothes and running shoes, hmmmmm…..

As of today, my Sporty Spice look and attitude isn’t feeling too “cool”.  I try to reassure myself with, “Hey, but YOU ran 20 miles this weekend”.  However, I didn’t get in my FRI night bike ride due to scheduling, my SAT run was a nice press but not uncomfortable and the run today was down right leisurely.  My body feels like I took the weekend off, which is not how I normally feel on a Sunday night.  Hmmmm…..

Are you a Sporty Spice, a Stepford Wife, or something totally different?  How do you label yourself?  Or are you lucky enough to live without and/or beyond labels?

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for the PersonalSavers.com pepper spray and the Woman’s Safety classes from the Safety post HERE.

Amanda – TooTallFritz

Positively Positive….

There are so many things which I can’t change, like this rainy, gloomy day in Chicago.

Or the fact that I have Chocolate Cheerios scattered throughout my car due to an early morning ziplock malfunction.  Or the fact that my car keeps screaming at reminding me that I need an oil change, filter, & maintenance which is on the “to do” list for today!  But one thing I can change is my mood/attitude.  I am Positively Positive that I can find something on the net to make me smile.  🙂

Enjoy your weekend and try to pound out some miles for your own sanity!

Happy Friday,                                                                                                                   Amanda – TooTallFritz

Safety 1st, 2nd & 3rd….Plus Giveaways

Just call me the “fact finder”.  I think that’s an actual paid position for some publications but as a blog writer, the fact-finding job comes down to me, myself & I. 

The fact-finding mission for today was to determine the validity of a message circling our local Facebook running club pages regarding the attack of a woman on the LaPorte Road access trail in Mokena.  Status of the attack = TRUE.  The woman had an incident where a man , whom she had previously seen riding a bike in dark sunglasses & a hoodie, approached her on foot/running and attempted to push/pull/drag her to the ground.  She screamed and shoved him and he ran off.  She was uninjured.  The man was in his late teens/early 20s and has not been found.

The Will County Forest Preserve Police have jurisdiction over most of our trails, including this one.  I have been assured that they have increased patrols and police presence on the trail and they are visible and alert.  In response to the initial emergency call, they had 10-15 officers canvasing the trail the day of the attack; however, never managed to find the attacker.  I was also assured by Mokena PD that although the trail is not their jurisdiction that they are more than willing to back up the Forest Preserve Police for assistance at any time.

If you have an emergency on the trail, please call 911 or the Will County Dispatch so they can dispatch the Forest Preserve Police.  The Will Co Dispatch #:  815.727.6191, program that number in your cell now (pretty please?).  If you have information regarding a situation on the trail that is non emergency, please call:  815.727.8700.

Although I hate to be redundant, I will once again address safety.  If you need additional info or a full-fledged refresher, go to my original posts on safety:  Tips on Running Safety HERE and Tips on Running in the Dark HERE.

Please be vigilant while running and make eye contact with everyone you encounter.  Only use one ear bud with music so that you can hear what is going on around you/possibly coming up behind you.  Run with a friend or a group, if possible. 

Local Group Runs

If it’s not possible to run with a friend or group, then decide how you plan to best protect yourself if necessary.  Think about what you would do if somebody approaches you and tries to knock you down for an assault.  This is not supposed to scare you but help you THINK about what action you plan to take.  For me, I have limited knowledge in self-defense and I have made the choice to carry pepper spray but above all, I am always “watching and listening” to what is going on around me.  For pepper spray, I have chosen the Wrist Saver from PersonalSavers.com.

I know that pepper spray is not for everyone, I’m not saying its the right choice for you but I feel confident in my ability to use it correctly and be able to flee from an attacker with its aid.  Look HERE for the proper ways to use/spray pepper spray so that you will know how to use it, and not lose it to your attacker.

PersonalSavers.com has generously donated a PINK Wrist Saver and a PINK Personal Saver for me to giveaway.  The Wrist Saver attaches to your wrist via velcro (see the pic of mine above), bike handle, or stroller handle for easy access & use.  It also has reflective accents, an id card and a small light.

The Personal Saver has both a key ring and a clip to attach to your waistband, hydration or Spi-Belt. 

If you would like to order from PersonalSavers.com now, use the discount code:  TTF for a $1.50 off your purchase and a free Personal Savers microfiber towel.

Another way that a person (YOU) might be proactive about safety is to take a personal safety/self-defense course.  Dennis Wright Martial Arts of Midlothian has generously offered two slots in his next Self-Defense Seminar to giveaway.  The class is on May 19, 2012 from 12pm to 2:30pm.  If you want to be entered in the giveaway for this seminar, please be local or willing to travel.  🙂  Mr. Wright offers classes in a variety of genres from boxing, martial arts to self-defense.  He also frequently offers self-defense and/or runner safety seminars to area locals for a low price. 

If you know of other locations which offer these type of short seminars, please feel free to share with us!  I would love to start a list of places to call for self-defense training. Let’s work together and be knowledgeable about our options for safety and self-defense!

That was long, I know.  As a reward for getting this far, all you need to do to be entered in the giveaway for the Personal Saver & Wrist Saver (2 items to be given to 2 separate individuals) is make a comment below.  Bonus entry, go “like” Personal Savers on Facebook HERE.  If you want to be entered for the Dennis Wright Marital Arts Self Defense Seminar (2 slots for May 19th at Noon) please do so indicate an interest since this is a “local” perk.  One comment per person, I’ll sort it out.  Giveaway goes from now until Wednesday, April 25th at 9am.

Comment Example:  I would like to be entered in the personal saver giveaway, I “liked” them on Facebook, and I would also love to be entered in the giveaway for the self-defense seminar.

Happy “Safe” Running & Good Luck on the Giveaways,                                                  Amanda – TooTallFritz