Chicago Marathon Prep & Setup

Running the Chicago Marathon?  If so, I KNOW you are super psyched right now, as well you should be!  Most of you are probably out-of-towners or suburbanites who won’t step foot in the CHI until this weekend.  Therefore, most have no idea that the city actually starts setting up for the marathon a week in advance.  The first thing I noticed this week, Streets and Sanitation workers had started dropping barricades.  Shutting down 26.2 miles of major city streets takes a bit of preparation!  You’ll be seeing lots of these on Sunday whether you are running or spectating!!

barricades  image 

I was amazed today as I strolled thru the start area at Congress & Monroe by the “little” things that I saw that are up and ready, that I would NEVER see on race day.  Today the streets look normal and traffic has not yet been rerouted.

Columbus_start   Monroe_start

But the “behind the scenes” I saw tents, trailers and fencing is up.  Lookie here, the Elite Start tent.  You’ll probably never even notice this on race day with all the start line hoopla, the TV cameras + crew members, the starting officials, the massive START LINE setup, the added gates and fencing along the streets, the runners packed in beside you, and oh yeah, the fact that you are only thinking about the 26.2 miles in front of you.

Elite Start

Then a stroll thru Grant Park and the surrounding streets brings port-o-potties galore.  More potties than you can imagine.  More potties than I want to can capture.  More potties than I’ve ever seen previously.  In fact, I’ve ran the marathon here many times and never “see” a fraction of what I saw today.  They are tucked away in every crack & crevice, beneath trees and sometimes just “hidden” in plain sight.  Chicago is preparing to accommodate 45,000 runners and 2 million spectators.  Trust me, when you need one of these, you won’t be able to find one without a  “mile long” line in which to wait.  Good luck.


The tents are going up in Charity Village, Grant Park and the finish area.  Chicago moves closer to “marathon ready” each and every day.

finishline setup  grant park_gates & potties 

Anyone else find it odd that they have to gate off the flowers/trees/shrubs (above) so that people don’t trample them?  Everything in Grant Park is pretty “protected” right now. 



All of this and much, much more is just awaiting your arrival!!

I know many of you might be first timers and/or extremely nervous and that’s totally normal.  It might be helpful to take a minute to read this post HERE with some tips on marathoning in general, the Chicago Marathon and ENJOYING the experience.  I wrote it last year at this time but it’s still a good read.  Smile

** Chicago Is Getting Ready for YOU ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

The Countdown …. Chicago Marathon 2013

To say that I’m not excited would be a total lie.  I’m SUPER PSYCHED about the 2013 Chicago Marathon!  This year seems particularly special since I had to sit last year out with a nasty injury.  At this point last year, I was walking again and had started running but my mileage was very low.  I was facing what would turn out to be a long, slow buildup to ensure that I would be “up and running” for a long time after my recovery.   The goal was long term health NOT the speed at which I could return to the run.  It seems to have worked well.  I’ve done a few fun things this year, including Ragnar Key West, the Lansing Marathon and a lot of races from 5K to the half marathon distance.  However, I’ve just recently noticed that my “run mojo” is returning.  I’m excited to see what that means for me and the Chicago Marathon.  Maybe I’ll be running side by side with Ritz?  Or maybe not.


I don’t have a time goal.  I know that seems odd to so many of you but I don’t.  This is a race that fields so many people, both runners and spectators alike.  We will have approximately 45,000 runners and just under 2 million spectators.  If you are running, you don’t need to worry about feeling lonely during THIS marathon.  You will always have people around you both running and cheering for you by name.  I know from past experience that things get crowded.  I don’t want to worry about trying to weave around people rather than enjoying the journey because I’m too focused on the clock.  I just want to have fun.   I want to read all the signs.  I want to see all the crazy outfits.  I want to cheer back those who came to cheer for us.  I want to laugh and smile and high five the little ones who came out in the cold to see us crazy marathoners.  I want to be present and in the moment.    Who knows what next year will bring?  Possibly a real lottery for the Chicago Marathon?  Possibly more of the same?  There are no guarantees that there will be a 2014 marathon for me, so I’m going to enjoy this one like it might be my last.  Who really knows?  Plenty of smaller marathons that I can run for time so I don’t want that to be my focus here, in my home town, in one of the BEST marathons in the world. 

The city is ready.  The signs have been hung. 

CHI Marathon_sign - connected   CHI Marathon_old town sign

The preparations have been made.  The game is ON.  Let’s run Chicago together!

CHI marathon_start sign

** See You On Sunday ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Women Rock Chicago Half Marathon


Today was the inaugural Women Rock Chicago race series presented by Team Ortho.  The series offered a half marathon, 10K and 5K so basically you and ALL your girlfriends could go and enjoy one of the distances.  The event had a fun theme and provided  AHHHHMAZING swag so that drew in a lot of ladies for the inaugural event!  Since I ran specifically for the swag, I’ll just put that up now and get it out of the way.  Women Rock Tech full zip jacket, sliver finishers pendant with a small ruby & large “W” (valued at $110), and a champagne glass.

Womens Rock Chicago_SWAG   Womens Rock Chicago_necklace

The race was a women’s themed event so my girlfriends and I used that as an excuse to dust off our sparkle skirts!!  Michelle, Nicki, Dawn, April & I showing off our “sparkle”.  🙂

Womens Rock Chicago_group

The half marathoner started at 8am with the 10K and 5K participants following at 8:30 am.  The course was the typical Chicago Lakefront Trail run so I fully anticipated it to be 1) crowded, 2)  slow and 3) have lots of newbie runners that are “all in” for theme more so than the running.  I was not disappointed.  I was not running for time, in fact needed to keep myself in check and run a controlled, focused race that didn’t push my endurance or stir up too much lactic acid so that I can run our F’N 20 miler tomorrow with my run club.  I managed to do that and to be honest the crowds helped.  I did find myself in the outside lane all most of the time passing a lot of other runners but when I looked at my watch, I was in a comfortable range, felt good and was definitely controlled so just kept moving forward and passing.  In fact, I kinda chuckled once the half marathoners ran up on the back of the 10K participants.  I knew they had joined us and that did in fact add to the congestion but they were staying to the right so I just kept moving past them.  I passed a couple ladies and one said to the other, “Wow, they are running fast!”.  Her friend said, “Yes, THEY are running the half”.  Made me chuckle cuz the runners I know have a much faster 10K than half marathon pace.  However, the new people on the trail were refreshing and I enjoyed interacting with them and LOVED, LOVED, LOVED seeing all the sparkle skirts, tutus & my F’N run club friends who came out to run!!

The aid stations were plentiful, every 2-3 miles.  They offered water and a blue electrolyte drink.  As much as I like blue ANYTHING, I passed due to my sensitive tummy.  Lots of potties too.  Volunteers were plentiful but some of the aid stations were short.  I had to backtrack one time to get water.

Typical Lakefront Trail view.  Beautiful.  Some shade and a breeze once we headed back north.    A course that was a bit of a maze for the half marathoners:   One sidewalk loop around Grant Park to get onto the Lakefront Trail heading north, turnaround at the Riverwalk (just south of Navy Pier), run south to 31st Street Harbor, then back north to the Riverwalk, then return to Grant Park to run the sidewalk loop again to the finish.  No my favorite course by far.  A bit of confusion at the end once we hit Grant Park, especially toward the end when the crowds thinned out for the half.  However, overall it was a decent race. 

Bottom line, I’m a ROAD RUNNER for a reason.  I prefer a fast street route where we bust thru the CHI like the pros.  Most of the themed races are designed for the masses, not for running fast.  I wouldn’t run this race if my objective was to run fast (between the race participants, the bikers, the normal runners, dog walkers and rollerbladers it was VERY busy).  This is a race designed for FUN so just enjoy it!

Best part, hanging with my friends at the finish!

Womens Rock Chicago_me & nicki_champagne  Womens Rock Chicago_champagne

** Women Rock ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

How to Love Life …..

It’s true that I haven’t always been in love with my life.  My job.  My city of residence which is far away from my family.  However, running has taught me to appreciate the little things.  It has given me an avenue with which I can process life.  Destress.  Regroup.  Recharge.

Lake MI_6-13-13_me

If you don’t run then I’m not sure why you are reading this unless you are my mother, you may not understand what I’m trying to say.  You possibly think that running actually makes a person tired when in fact it actually recharges the “battery”.   It makes me feel alive.  It gives me a sense of self.  It gives me time to think.  It gives me peace.  Possibly you can find this thru another activity but that isn’t the case for me. 

I also find the running gets me outside in the sun far more often then if I were NOT running.  I go out during lunch at times and just cruise the city of Chicago.  It’s a bit of “stolen” time that helps me feel free.  Less like I’m always tied to a desk and more like I actually have a life that I enjoy.  It also enables me to see MORE of the city than if I were just strolling along.  Today I hit the lakefront trail to see how the lake faired after yesterday’s nasty storm.  Apparently it’s still angry and expelling that energy.

Lake MI_6-13-13_2

A few friends and I “might” be doing a swim clinic down at Ohio Street Beach tomorrow, so I wanted to take a peak and  see how it looked.  Rough.  Really rough.  Hope it calms down by tomorrow!!

Ohio Street Beach_waves

So a 5.5 mile jaunt thru the city and on the lakefront trail at lunch left me happy and smiling again.  Loving life.  Loving my job almost.  Loving the city of Chicago.  I encourage you to steal a bit of time for yourself to recharge your batteries …….. in any way that you are able. 

** Love YOUR Life ** Amanda –  TooTallFritz ** **

Spring Has Sprung, Virtually & In Real Life

I’m so enchanted with the sights and smells of springtime that I was really interested to see what YOU were discovering in YOUR neighborhood!  So yesterday, I threw down a quick challenge on my Facebook page asking readers to send me a springtime photo from their run/walk/bike adventures. 

Deb M sent me a couple cool photos from her morning run at McCarthy Park in Tinley Park, IL!

McCarthy Park Lagoon  McCarthy Park Lagoon2

Kelly The Culinarian took a stroll with her pooch, Napoleon at Centennial Park in Addison, IL.

Kelly J_pooch

Keith G was running between the raindrops at Brookfield Woods, in Brookfield, IL when he spotted a beautiful flowering tree.

Brookfield Woods

Kelly over at Running Kellometers is taking it easy while nurturing the development of  Baby #1; however, she didn’t have to put much effort into capturing an amazing spring photo.  This magnolia tree is just outside her front door.  Yes, I’m jealous.  I think this is my favorite flowering tree.

magnolia tree

Christina P, outside of Indy, has been enjoying some time with her favorite 4 legged BFF.  This little one doesn’t look like it will be moving up to the long run anytime too soon but it will definitely take first place for being such a cutie pie!!

Christina P_pooch

What spring means to me depends on the day.  I’m a springtime “baby” so love spring by default.  For me and my little ones, each year we look forward to baby birds, flowering trees and well manicured lawns.

baby birds_5-9-13  flowering trees

I also look forward to my lunchtime runs thru the city of Chicago and on the lakefront path.  It’s all good when I’m running with the wind but it wasn’t so funny on the way back!  My favorite days aren’t necessarily the sunny, warm ones but I have a particular love for the foggy, gloomy, rainy days like today.  Mom, was it raining the day I was born?  The gloom brings me cool running temps and fast feet.  That I LOVE!


So spring has definitely sprung in the Midwest and everyone I know is loving it!  Get out there and enjoy the fresh crisp mornings before things turn hot and humid.

** Spring Has Sprung & I’m Loving It ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Changing Things Up…..

Yesterday, I went out to grab a salad at lunch and just couldn’t force myself to go back inside.  It was a beautiful day in Chicago and I couldn’t remember the last time, I had been out just wandering around the city.  I was longing for my running shoes so I could cover more ground faster! 

Being downtown on a daily basis, I tend to be constantly rushing around, back and forth to the train or my car, or running errands for work.  I rarely even leave the building for lunch so yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to see some small changes like new store fronts and brightly painted sidewalks which had not been present in the spring.   Yes, the spring.  That was the last time, I was out running and/or wandering during lunch.  I remember specifically going out for that springtime lunch run so I could see the spring colors (March 27, 2012) and I haven’t been back out for fun or running since.  Kinda sad.

Millenium Park__3-27-12

Yesterday, I spent some time on Michigan Avenue around the Art Museum. 

Art Institute_8-22-12

And strolled thru the Art Museum Gardens:

Art Institute Gardens_8-22-12

I also was pleasantly surprised to see an increase in healthy lunch options and stopped into Kramer’s Health Foods on Wabash for a Supreme Veggie Salad and Faux Chicken Salad.  Really tasty, I’ll definitely go back! 

Today will be another beautiful day in the city and I plan to change things up from the norm and head out to “see what I can see”.  I hope you get a moment today to stop and enjoy the day.   I think we work too hard, are too busy in general and miss a lot of the beauty around us.  I’m going to get out and enjoy some of that beauty and I wish the same for you.

Do you ever have the opportunity to break up your work day by relaxing in a beautiful park or strolling around town?

** Enjoy the Beauty ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Whirlwind of Travel….

After a 500 mile whirlwind trip to participate in the swim/bike portion of the abbreviated Ironman 70.3 Muncie (Race Report HERE & travel/expo details HERE), it was time for vacation.  Fortunately, the kiddos got to spend a few days at the lake with my parents and Mick and I had a few solo days prior to the chaos!

Mick and I took a trip into the city (Chicago) the day after the Muncie event – 100 miles driving.

me_chicago 7-2012         Chicago_7-2012

  Navy Pier_Flags

We then spent a day deep cleaning the house and throwing things away in the playroom while the kids were away and nobody could scream or go thru the trash.  Trust me, you don’t need a photo of that!

Then we headed to Saugatuck, MI for a day of fun in the bars sun with old friends – 150 miles.

Saugatuck Chain Ferry

Upon sobering up waking, we then took a cross country trip back to the lake to pick up the kiddos.  The phrase, “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go”, never really meant as much until this little cross country jaunt with no direct route.  120 miles later we had our “babies” back!

We stuffed the “little ones” in the car and prayed they would nap for the trip to Wisconsin Dells for a few days of family fun!   350 miles

I’m pretty sure that we left very few rocks unturned at the Dells.  WI Dells_fort dells

We did the Ducks & Upper Dells Boat Tour:

WI Dells_boat_kidsWI Dells_ Ducks WI Dells_Boat Tour

Ghost Outpost, Lost Temple, Top Secret, & the WI Deer Park:

  WI Dells_Deer Park_kids     WI Dells_Deer Park_Michael2

WI Dells_Deer Park_Michael

Go Carts (or “Gofe” Carts as Michael calls them) & Alligator Alley:

WI Dells_ go carts  WI Dells_  Alligator Alley

Tommy Bartlett Water Ski Thrill Show with Aqua the Clown & Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum:

WI Dells_Aqua the Clown          WI Dells_ripley believe it or not

Water parks small & large:WI Dells_ water parks


Michael’s favorite slides were these yellow & blue ones:  WI Dells_Chula Visat 

Then we made the trip home with Michael screaming that he didn’t want to leave the “Consin Dells” and Aby pouting that we didn’t make it to the Mining Company – 225 miles, just in time for a bit of NMCA racing (Mick’s old car in second photo):

Michael_rt 66  Micks old car

And the FNRC Splash & Dash, the kiddos ran a mile then hit the pool!

Splash N Dash_2012Michael_diving board_jumpin    Michael_diving board_gone

That was a very full 8 days of “vacation” which started with the Muncie race and ended with the Splash N Dash.  I’m exhausted just reviewing it all!

Any family fun on your horizon?

PS – If you missed it, I’m giving away an entry to the Chicago Half Marathon on September 9th!  Click to enter HERE.  Good luck!

** Summer Lovin’ ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Beautiful Day in Chicago!

This week has been a bit of a scramble but I did manage a swim on Monday (70 laps = 1750 yards = .99 miles = 40:04 minutes) when Aby’s track meet was canceled due to rain.  Yesterday I squeezed in a lunchtime shake out run.  My legs were still heavy from Sunday’s race so I needed something slow and relaxed.  When I run at lunch, I always hit Chicago’s lakefront and it was a perfect day yesterday for lollygagging and photo taking!  I ran out on the lakefront, then came back thru Grant Park to get a view of the fountain!

Sears Tower:

Picture 001

Entrance tunnel (under Lake Shore Drive) to Grant Park by Museum Campus:

Picture 003

Shedd Aquarium:

Picture 016

Chicago Skyline looking North toward Navy Pier:

Picture 017

Grant Park:

Picture 021

Buckingham Fountain:

Picture 006

All in all, I ran 4.5 miles at a very leisurely pace.   The City is so alive, there are lots of people milling around doing the tourist thing and I love seeing them and seeing the sights myself in the brightness of spring.  It’s the days that I can get out and run at lunch that really help me appreciate the beauty of Chicago.

People frequently ask what I do when I get back to work and am hot & sweaty.  I wash up in the bathroom!  If I actually go to the gym, to run on the treadmill, I can shower there.  However, I normally run outside so I just wash up and use the Yes to Cucumber Wipes.  Then I tell people to stay away from me.  🙂

Picture 013

Over the next 3 weeks, I will be focusing on increasing my run miles.  A couple days a week I will be running more than once (2x and eventually 3x per day).  My first multi run day will be this Saturday with a hilly 13 miler in the morning and a 5K Fun Run in the afternoon.  I will continue to build the bike miles.  I will also be focusing on getting out as much as possible on mid-day lunch runs to acclimate to the heat pre-Ragnar.  The heat is the one thing we can not control and we will be running all hours of the day & night, particularly since there are only 6 of us running the 200 miles.  Stay tuned for lots of fun training in the weeks ahead!  Oh, and send me a truck load of ice for ice baths, okay?

What is your next goal and/or focus?  Everyone needs a goal, please share yours with us in the event that something YOU are doing might inspire and/or intrigue someone else!

Happy Running **  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

Like a Ton of Bricks…..

Yesterday was a great day for running in the CHI with temps in the low 50s around lunchtime.  I wanted to head out to see if I could get a few photos of the flowers and trees which are starting to bloom.  This is an exciting time for me, possibly because I am a springtime baby, I definitely love this time of year the most!

My first stop was at Millennium Park because Hubby called my cell as I was passing by.

Soon the fountains will be turned on and you won’t be able to pass this area without hearing the squeals of laughing children playing in the water, awaiting the spitting fountain of water out of the “faces” and then the waterfall from the top of these towers.  It’s a lot of fun for young and old alike and always makes me smile when the fountains are on and alive with activity.There are always various pieces of abstract art displayed in the park.  The art pieces change periodically and add a different flavor to the environment with each new exhibit. 

Once I hit the lakefront, I ran south toward McCormick.  It’s less crowded that way, has more foliage, has a little gravel path at the side for softer surface running and also passes all the museums. 

Monroe Harbor:

Path beside Burnham Harbor:

This last photo is pretty much where the fun ended.  I turned around shortly after this because I didn’t want to run too far.  My legs are still a bit tight and fatigued from the Shamrock Shuffle so I have been trying to get in a few miles this week but not get crazy yet.  When I made the flip, I was back in this same area, running on the left side of this photo, in the crushed limestone area (off of the black top) and I tripped.  I was looking at the ground like always so was definitely focused on the task at hand.  No iPod.  No distraction.  No excuse.  I stubbed my toe on “something” and went down like a ton of bricks.   Since I was in mid stride and was running a decent pace, I was immediately airborne.  There was no catching myself, I was going down.  I put my hands out, one of which was carrying my phone, realized I was traveling to fast for this to turn into anything but a face plant so opted for a tumble roll to save face….as if that were even possible at this point.  The good news, I rolled, got up, brushed off and was unharmed other than a few grass stains on my hands and Aby’s new Fort2Base half zip which I had stolen plus a few clover leaves stuck in the case of my phone, which I did not drop.

Of course, I immediately wondered what made me trip but by the time I brushed off, removed the impacted dirt and clover leaves from my phone took off the grass stained half zip and tied it around my waist, there were people coming down the path.  At this point, I opted to just RUN so that I possibly didn’t have to talk to them about WHY I fell.  Who knows but when Ms. TooTall goes down, there aren’t any ballerina type graceful moves, its full force LIKE A TON OF BRICKS.  Thank goodness for the tumble roll.  Thank goodness I ran south instead of north so I wasn’t swimming in Lake Michigan instead of brushing off a few dirt and grass stained spots!  Thank goodness I wasn’t in a group run where I would have most likely taken out Aurelia and Susan too!  

I would also like to add that through all of these acrobatics, the damn PunkeeLove Headband did NOT move!  No joke.  I knew they were awesome and have been wearing the ones that I bought at the expo on every run but this really made me a believer.  There is your next giveaway:  PunkeeLove Headbands!  The package is in the mail, I’ll post it as soon as it arrives.  Stay tuned because you NEED a few of these headbands!  Here is a pic of my green one below.  I also have a double strand red/gold one which I wore yesterday.  I was told the double strand bands should be up on the website this week.

I also squeezed in a quick swim last night which was much less dramatic.  I just tried to focus on getting my rhythm back and using the full length of my arms to not “short” my stroke (thanks, Jackie!!).  My main swim goal for the year is bilateral breathing but I did not work on that yesterday, just focused on my stroke.  I swam 40 laps which is 1000 yards or 0.567 miles.  I normally swim 80 laps but swimming is like everything else and I need to get acclimated and build my endurance.  It will take a couple of weeks and I should be back to 80 laps per swim.  The 40 laps took me approximately 23 minutes.   The 80 should be right around 45 minutes once I’m reacclimated. 

If you want real details on swimming and proper technique, go over and check out Kelly the Culinarian’s post on her first swim lesson.  My approach to swimming is a lot like Dori from Finding Nemo:  Just Keep Swimming.

“Run & TRI”way fashion for the day:  Fort2Base half zip; Athleta Relay Capri (best capri’s EVER!), PunkeeLove Headband,  TRI Tank, Speedo Vanquisher goggles (from, Swim Cap – Freebie from USAT.  I actually never buy swim caps because I get a free one in every race so I just keep them and use those in the pool.  I don’t have a brand preference, just use the freebies.

What did you do yesterday?  Any trouble staying on your feet lately?  Do you fall down gracefully or like a ton of bricks like me?

Happy Running & TRIing!                                                                                             Amanda – TooTallFritz