Tracy Swartz

I pun this town.

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Sept. 3: 2 weeks into 30s

Last year I made a “30 before 30” list of goals to complete before my 30th birthday. I turned 30 on Aug. 16, having completed some of the goals on my list. Others I’m now rolling over into a new list: 30 while 30.
The goals I accomplished before 30: Ran a race in every state, completed three stair climb events, took every CTA bus route from start to finish, completed the “L” challenge, saw a game in every Major League Baseball park, saw a professional soccer game, got a couple of new ear piercings, gave away 30 things to Goodwill, went to a fortune teller, had my first cup of coffee, stopped eating meat (for more than a year), got to 6,000 Twitter followers, got a new phone, visited a national park and went swimming in the ocean despite my fear of sharks
Here’s the new list:

1. Run a race in every Chicago community area.
I’ve run 11 races in Chicago (4 Shamrock Shuffle 8Ks, Nike 10K, Women’s 10K, Proud to Run 10K, Alivio y Salud 5K, Terrapin 5K, Turkey Trot 8K, Bucktown 5K)  in 13 community areas: Edgewater, Uptown, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Near North Side, Loop, Near South Side, Douglas, Oakland, Lower West Side, Near West Side, West Town and Logan Square.) I’d like to run a race in the other 64 communities. If a race is not available, I’ll make my own.

2. Run a race in 30 Illinois counties.
Started really working on this goal this year. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. Ran in 21 counties so far. Nine to go until next year.

3. Complete another marathon.
Finished my first one in 2010 (The Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Charles, Miss.) Would like to do another one without a stress fracture.

4. Run a race in another country.
I enjoyed running a 5K in Montreal last month (they count down the start of the race in French). Would like to run in another country.

5. Visit five countries.
Now that I’ve seen most of the US, I’d like to do more international travelling.

6. Lower my time on the CTA train challenge: Ride all the lines consecutively and visit all the stations.
I completed the chEllenge in August in nine hours, 17 minutes. I’d like to decrease my time.

7. Visit three continents.
I’ve been to Europe and North America (obvi.). I’d like to visit at least one more continent before my 31st birthday.

8. Visit every NFL stadium before I turn 32.
This is a project before I turn 32. I’ve been to 15 NFL stadiums, and I would like to see 22 before I turn 31 and the last 10 before I turn 32.

9. Go to a minor league baseball game.
What happens in Gary should be shared with all.

10. Take a pilates class.
That and yoga. This must happen.

11. Go camping.
I haven’t been camping since college.

12. Go skiing.
I haven’t been skiing since middle school. And by “skiing,” I mean sitting in the lodge near the fire.

13. Give 31 things away to Goodwill.
I need to be less of a pack rat.

14. Visit the Art Institute.
Not big into art museums but I’ve heard this is a must.

15. Take one organized tour of Chicago.
I’d like to take the architecture tour or one of the beer tours.

16. Go to an energy healer.
The fortune teller’s prophecy did not come true. I need to make it right with the world.

17. Learn how to work a coffee machine.
That’s the logical next step after drinking your first cup of coffee, right?

18. Try veganism for a week.
Cheese will be the hardest (sharpest?) thing to give up.

19. Take a yoga class.
Hot or not.

20. Take a cooking class.
This isn’t a want. It’s a need.

21. Take a golf lesson.
Not a mini one.

22. Take an improv class.
I hate LOL but like to laugh out loud.

23. Get 10,000 Twitter followers.
My slowest 10K ever.

24. Ride a horse.
Better than a bus or a train.

25. Read “War and Peace.”
Goalstoy.

26. Get a new computer.
I love vintage technology! think I still have a laptop around from 2003 with an AOL modem connection.

27. Visit at least 31 Chicago parks.
There are more than 500. Time to explore.

28. Go scuba diving.
Baby steps (kicks?).

29. Watch 30 movies on Time 100’s All-Time 100 movie list.
Six! I watched “Taxi Driver.” I’ll never look at Jodie Foster the same again.

30. Submit a book proposal.
Lots of ideas. Best to write them down.

0 notes

July 16: One month until 30

Last year I made a “30 before 30” list of goals to complete before my 30th birthday on Aug. 16. I have one month (it hurts to type that) until I turn 30. Here’s the progress on my list.

1. Run a race in every state. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Been working on this goal since January 2009. Raced in 49 states so far. Completed Delaware, Montana Wyoming and Vermont since my last update.

2. Run a race in 30 Illinois counties. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Started really working on this goal this year. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. Ran in 21 counties so far. Completed McHenry, Boone, Stephenson, Ogle, Carroll, Grundy and LaSalle since my last update. This is a slow slog.

3. Complete another marathon. NOT STARTED
Finished my first one in 2010 (The Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Charles, Miss.) Would like to do another one without a stress fracture.

4. Complete 3 stair climb events. COMPLETED
I raced up the RenCen in Detroit and all four Presidential Towers in March. I enjoy the stairclimbing races. I just wish they weren’t so expensive (require a $100 donation).

5. Ride every Chicago Transit Authority bus route from start to finish. COMPLETED
Completed this goal in December after 139 routes. I had been working on this goal since I took over as CTA columnist in April 2009. After I finished, I created this Pinterest board of the photos I took along the way.

6. Take the CTA train challenge: Ride all the lines consecutively and visit all the stations. NOT STARTED
The “L” challenge is growing in popularity. I’m trying to figure out the best time to do this amid the slow zones.

7. Visit three continents. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
I’ve been to Europe and North America (obvi.). I’d like to visit at least one more continent before my birthday.

8. Visit every Major League Baseball park. COMPLETED
Kaufmann Stadium was my last baseball park, which I visited in June. Earlier that week, I completed a six-parks-in-seven-days swing on the West Coast in the vain of my “9 baseball parks in 9 days” project last year.

9. Go to a soccer game. COMPLETED
Saw the Galaxy beat the Fire in early July. It was my first visit to Toyota Park, which is a bit dumpy. I did like Section 8, an area for raucous fans. I did not like how David Beckham was suspended for one Galaxy game—against the Fire.

10. Get another ear piercing. COMPLETED
I now have four holes in each ear. I got an orbital in each ear in February when I was in Vegas.

11. Go camping. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been camping since college.

12. Go skiing. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been skiing since middle school. And by “skiing,” I mean sitting in the lodge near the fire.

13. Give 30 things away to Goodwill. NOT STARTED
My closet will thank me.

14. Visit the Art Institute. NOT STARTED
Not big into art museums but I’ve heard this is a must.

15. Take one organized tour of Chicago. NOT STARTED
I’d like to take the architecture tour or one of the beer tours.

16. Go to a fortune teller. COMPLETED
When I was in Vegas in February, I visited a fortune teller stationed (?) in O’Sheas, the beer pong bar. Thankfully (?), none of my fortunes included beer pong.

17. Try coffee. NOT STARTED
Never had a cup—or a sip.

18. Be a vegetarian for 30 days. COMPLETED
Started at the end of August and blew past my 30 days. Haven’t eaten meat since.

19. Take a yoga class. NOT STARTED
Hot or not.

20. Take a cooking class. NOT STARTED
This isn’t a want. It’s a need.

21. Take a golf lesson. NOT STARTED
Not a mini one.

22. Take an improv class. NOT STARTED
I hate LOL but like to laugh out loud.

23. Get 6,000 Twitter followers. COMPLETED
Reached this goal shortly after my last update. As I type this, I’m at 6,439 followers.

24. Ride a horse. NOT STARTED
Better than a bus or a train.

25. Read “War and Peace.” NOT STARTED
Goalstoy.

26. Get a new phone. COMPLETED
After rocking a Blackberry Pearl since July 2007, I got a new My Touch Android in January. Who knew a phone could do so many things?

27. Visit a national park. COMPLETED
I toured Pearl Harbor and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which is run by the National Parks Service, when I visited Hawaii in March.

28. Go swimming in the ocean for 30 minutes despite fear of sharks. COMPLETED
Made my triumphant return to the water since the Summer of Arbogast in 2001. The beaches of Oahu are so beautiful, and thankfully, no sharks ruined this moment for me.

29. Watch 30 movies on Time 100’s All-Time 100 movie list. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Six! I watched “Taxi Driver.” I’ll never look at Jodie Foster the same again.

30. Submit a book proposal. NOT STARTED
Lots of ideas. Best to write them down.

0 notes

May 19: O. Henry Pun-off Speech

On Saturday, I competed in the annual O. Henry Pun-off competition in Austin, Texas. I learned of the contest last year and made it my New Year’s Resolution to sign up for it.

It’s a two-part competition: Punniest in Show, where 32 participants perform a planned monologue, and Punslingers, sort-of a rap-off with puns.

I participated in the Punniest in Show portion. When researching how to write my monologue, I noticed there were not a lot of sample monologues on the Internet.

So hopefully this may help future participants. I wrote this earlier this month after being inspired by the "Tan Mom." I received a score of 29, out of 40. One participant received a perfect score.

The s-peach

GOO afternoon. My SALLOW Americans, I’m here to SHED SOME LIGHT on a COMPLEX-ION but TOPICAL issue: the RAY rights movement.

I’m not going to get eLOTIONal but we need to rePEEL the Constitution in favor of the BRONZEtituion.

Now, this may seem like a BED idea but we shall require a set of TAN commandments to honor our Lord, thy BOD, and a GRILL of rights to PROTECT our SKINdividual liberties.

The commandments will SKINclude: honor THIGH mother and LEATHER, thou shalt not bear false WHITEness and thou shalt not PEEL.

The GRILL of rights will BROmote our freedom of PEACH, our right to BARE ARMS and our right to HUE process.

I’m also here LAMPaigning for a new YAMbassador. ORANGE you RED-dy for change?

Forget GLOWbama and BALMney.

They BOOTH don’t support GELigion in schools. Students should be ALOE-d to SPRAY.

I HASSLEHOFF-er a new conTANder: Our founding FARMER, George Hamilton.

Now, he can be a real son of a BEACH.

He’s a FLIP-FLOPPER but he’s been thoroughly SCREENed.

He champions many important COSmetics. He didn’t attend UVA, tho he’s from TANnessee.

MOIST importantly, he’s a NATURAL BURN leader.

His HOTTO and MAGENDA: Yes we TAN!

Yes we TAN!

Yes we TAN!

And if these best SHADE plans are not a SHORE thing, my CREAMS will be crushed but it’s OK, O-LIVE.

Filed under puns pun-off austin texas tan

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April 16: Four months until 30 

A few of months ago I made a “30 before 30” list of goals to complete before my 30th birthday on Aug. 16. I have four months (eek!) until I turn 30. Here’s the progress on my list.

1. Run a race in every state. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Been working on this goal since January 2009. Raced in 45 states so far. Completed Florida, North Dakota and Hawaii since my last update.

2. Run a race in 30 Illinois counties. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Started really working on this goal this year. Ran in 14 counties so far. Completed McLean County in March. This is a slow slog.

3. Complete another marathon. NOT STARTED
Finished my first one in 2010 (The Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Charles, Miss.) Would like to do another one without a stress fracture.

4. Complete 3 stair climb events. COMPLETED
I raced up the RenCen in Detroit and all four Presidential Towers in March. I enjoy the stairclimbing races. I just wish they weren’t so expensive (require a $100 donation).

5. Ride every Chicago Transit Authority bus route from start to finish. COMPLETED
Completed this goal in December after 139 routes. I had been working on this goal since I took over as CTA columnist in April 2009. After I finished, I created this Pinterest board of the photos I took along the way.

6. Take the CTA train challenge: Ride all the lines consecutively and visit all the stations. NOT STARTED
The “L” challenge is growing in popularity. I’m trying to figure out the best time to do this amid the slow zones.

7. Visit three continents. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
I’ve been to Europe and North America (obvi.). I’d like to visit at least one more continent before my birthday.

8. Visit every Major League Baseball park. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Baseball kicked off a few weeks ago. I visited the parks for the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Miami Marlins this month. I have nine parks to go. I’m planning on a weeklong swing on the West Coast in June to knock off the five California and one Arizona parks in the vain of my “9 baseball parks in 9 days” project last year.

9. Go to a soccer game. NOT STARTED
Not big into soccer but would like to try a Chicago Fire game. We’re shooting for a game in early July when David Beckham will be in town.

10. Get another ear piercing. COMPLETED
I now have four holes in each ear. I got an orbital in each ear in February when I was in Vegas.

11. Go camping. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been camping since college.

12. Go skiing. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been skiing since middle school. And by “skiing,” I mean sitting in the lodge near the fire.

13. Give 30 things away to Goodwill. NOT STARTED
My closet will thank me.

14. Visit the Art Institute. NOT STARTED
Not big into art museums but I’ve heard this is a must.

15. Take one organized tour of Chicago. NOT STARTED
I’d like to take the architecture tour or one of the beer tours.

16. Go to a fortune teller. COMPLETED
When I was in Vegas in February, I visited a fortune teller stationed (?) in O’Sheas, the beer pong bar. Thankfully (?), none of my fortunes included beer pong.

17. Try coffee. NOT STARTED
Never had a cup—or a sip.

18. Be a vegetarian for 30 days. COMPLETED
Started at the end of August and blew past my 30 days. Haven’t eaten meat since.

19. Take a yoga class. NOT STARTED
Hot or not.

20. Take a cooking class. NOT STARTED
This isn’t a want. It’s a need.

21. Take a golf lesson. NOT STARTED
Not a mini one.

22. Take an improv class. NOT STARTED
I hate LOL but like to laugh out loud.

23. Get 6,000 Twitter followers. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Have 5,978 as I write this. So close! Just 22 followers to go!

24. Ride a horse. NOT STARTED
Better than a bus or a train.

25. Read “War and Peace.” NOT STARTED
Goalstoy.

26. Get a new phone. COMPLETED
After rocking a Blackberry Pearl since July 2007, I got a new My Touch Android in January. Who knew a phone could do so many things?

27. Visit a national park. COMPLETED
I toured Pearl Harbor and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which is run by the National Parks Service, when I visited Hawaii in March.

28. Go swimming in the ocean for 30 minutes despite fear of sharks. COMPLETED
Made my triumphant return to the water since the Summer of Arbogast in 2001. The beaches of Oahu are so beautiful, and thankfully, no sharks ruined this moment for me.

29. Watch 30 movies on Time 100’s All-Time 100 movie list. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Six! I watched “Taxi Driver.” I’ll never look at Jodie Foster the same again.

30. Submit a book proposal. NOT STARTED
Lots of ideas. Best to write them down.

1 note

Feb. 16: Six months until 30

A few of months ago I made a “30 before 30” list of goals to complete before my 30th birthday on Aug. 16. Today is my half birthday. I have six months (yikes!) until I turn 30. Here’s the progress on my list.

1. Run a race in every state. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Been working on this goal since January 2009. Raced in 42 states so far. Completed Rhode Island, South Carolina and Alabama this year.

2. Run a race in 30 Illinois counties. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Started working on this goal this year. Ran in 13 counties so far. Completed Kane County this year. Tried to run a trail race in Marshall in January but I got into a car accident on the way to a race.

3. Complete another marathon. NOT STARTED
Finished my first one in 2010 (The Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Charles, Miss.) Would like to do another one without a stress fracture.

4. Complete 3 stair climb events. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Did my first stairclimb at the Hancock Tower in February. Want to do two more around the country.

5. Ride every Chicago Transit Authority bus route from start to finish. COMPLETED

Completed this goal in December after 139 routes. I had been working on this goal since I took over as CTA columnist in April 2009. After I finished, I created this Pinterest board of the photos I took along the way.

6. Take the CTA train challenge: Ride all the lines consecutively and visit all the stations. NOT STARTED
The “L” challenge is growing in popularity. I’m trying to figure out the best time to do this amid the slow zones.

7. Visit three continents. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
I’ve been to Europe and North America (obvi.). I’d like to visit at least one more continent before my birthday.

8. Visit every Major League Baseball park. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
I knocked off a bunch of states with “9 baseball parks in 9 days” project last year. I’ve visited 18 parks so far with 12 to go. I already have some plans for parks when baseball begins next month.

9. Go to a soccer game. NOT STARTED
Not big into soccer but would like to try a Chicago Fire game.

10. Get another ear piercing. COMPLETED
I now have four holes in each ear. I got an orbital in each ear this past weekend when I was in Vegas.

11. Go camping. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been camping since college.

12. Go skiing. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been skiing since middle school. And by “skiing,” I mean sitting in the lodge near the fire.

13. Give 30 things away to Goodwill. NOT STARTED
My closet will thank me.

14. Visit the Art Institute. NOT STARTED
Not big into art museums but I’ve heard this is a must.

15. Take one organized tour of Chicago. NOT STARTED
I’d like to take the architecture tour or one of the beer tours.

16. Go to a fortune teller. COMPLETED
When I was in Vegas, I visited a fortune teller stationed (?) in O’Sheas, the beer pong bar. Thankfully (?), none of my fortunes included beer pong.

17. Try coffee. NOT STARTED
Never had a cup—or a sip.

18. Be a vegetarian for 30 days. COMPLETED
Started at the end of August and blew past my 30 days. Haven’t eaten meat since.

19. Take a yoga class. NOT STARTED
Hot or not.

20. Take a cooking class. NOT STARTED
This isn’t a want. It’s a need.

21. Take a golf lesson. NOT STARTED
Not a mini one.

22. Take an improv class. NOT STARTED
I hate LOL but like to laugh out loud.

23. Get 6,000 Twitter followers. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Have 5,811 as I write this. Got about 300 new followers since my birthday.

24. Ride a horse. NOT STARTED
Better than a bus or a train.

25. Read “War and Peace.” NOT STARTED
Goalstoy.

26. Get a new phone. COMPLETED
After rocking a Blackberry Pearl since July 2007, I got a new My Touch Android in January. Who knew a phone could do so many things?

27. Visit a national park. NOT STARTED
Go green.

28. Go swimming in the ocean for 30 minutes despite fear of sharks. NOT STARTED
Very afraid since the Summer of Shark.

29. Watch 30 movies on Time 100’s All-Time 100 movie list. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Six! I watched “Taxi Driver.” I’ll never look at Jodie Foster the same again.

30. Submit a book proposal. NOT STARTED
Lots of ideas. Best to write them down.

0 notes

Dec. 29: 42 states in 2011

Between my baseball trip to nine parks in nine days and my 50 states running project, I managed to visit 42 states this year. I traveled to states I had never been to before: Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Nebraska and Wyoming.

There are still two states I have yet to visit in my lifetime: Montana and North Dakota. I hope to go there in 2012.

Here’s a look at what I saw and what I did in 42 states this year.

Alabama
» Traveled through the state from Georgia to Mississippi in December.

Arizona
 » Drove through Kingman on the way from Vegas to Utah in June.
 » Ran the 12Ks of Christmas in Gilbert in December.
 » Saw the Cardinals beat the 49ers in December.

Arkansas
» Ran the Texarkana Half-Marathon in February.
» Saw the Texarkana post office half in Arkansas, half in Texas in February.
» Bar hopped on the Arkansas side of Texarkana in February.

Colorado (my first time in this state)
» Watched the royal wedding on a TV at a downtown Denver hotel in April.
» Toured the Rockies field then saw the Pirates beat the Rockies in April.
» Toured the New Belgium Brewery in Ft. Collins in April.
» Ran the Colorado 10K in Ft. Collins in May.
» Used Denver as home base for a New Mexico race in September.
» Avoided going to the Tilted Kilt in downtown Denver in September.

Connecticut
» Rode to/from Massachusetts in August and November.
» Saw my cousin get married in Guilford in August.
» Rode through to New York in August and November.

Delaware
» Rode through Delaware to Maryland in August and November.

Florida
» Spent the night in Jacksonville in November on the way back from North Carolina.

Georgia
» Ran Pacemaker 10K in Hampton in August.
» Saw the Braves beat the Diamondbacks in August.
» Stopped at the Atlanta airport on the way back from Florida in November.
» Saw the Falcons beat the Jaguars in December.
» Ate at Richard Blais’ restaurant Flip Burger in Atlanta in December.

Idaho (my first time in this state)
» Flew into Boise, my first time at that airport in September.
» Went to a Boise State bar and watched the team crush the Georgia Bulldogs in September.
» Ran the Payette Lake 8.6 mile race in McCall in September.
» Peeked into the state capitol, Boise State blue field in September.

Illinois (home state)
» Ran a race in 26 Illinois cities throughout the year.
» Saw various Cubs and Sox games throughout the year.
» Saw the Bears beat the Seahawks in playoffs in January.
» Saw the Bulls beat the Pacers in playoffs in April.

Indiana
» Drove to Ft. Wayne and ran the Fanny Freezer 5K in February.
» Rode through Indiana to Ohio in March and to Pennsylvania in March and October, from D.C. in July and to/from Michigan in July.
» Rode through Indiana from Kentucky in September.
» Saw Notre Dame beat Boston College in November.
» Rode to Indianapolis and flew from the Indianapolis airport (my first time there) in December.

Iowa
» Drove to Dubuque and ran the Iowa Winter Games 5K in January.
» Rode through Iowa on the way to Nebraska in April.

Kansas
» Rode through Kansas City and Wichita on the way to an Oklahoma City race in June.

Kentucky
» Went to the Hofbrauhaus in Newport in August.
» Rode through Kentucky from Ohio in August and Tennessee in September.

Louisiana
» Flew to the New Orleans airport (my first time there) in May.
» Ran 6-mile Barathon in downtown New Orleans in May.
» Toured the French Quarter and took a New Orleans trolley for first time in May.
» Drove through Louisiana on the way to Houston in December.

Maine (my first time in this state)
» Rode to/from Massachusetts in October.
» Ran the Augusta trail 10-mile race in October.

Maryland
» Rode through Maryland to Ohio in July and August and to Virginia in November.
» Saw the Orioles beat the White Sox in August.

Massachusetts
» Saw the Red Sox beat the Yankees in August.
» Rode to/from Connecticut in August and November.
» Flew to Boston and rode to Maine in October.
» Flew to Boston and rented a car and ran the animal sanctuary 10K in Norton in November.

Michigan
» Saw the Giants beat the Tigers and the Tigers beat the Giants in July.
» Ate at a Bob’s Big Boy in July.

Minnesota
» Drove from Minneapolis to South Dakota in July.
» Spent the night in Granite Falls, declining a room with a hot tub in July.
» Ran the Como Lake 5K in St. Paul in August.
» Went to the Minnesota State Fair in August.
» Watched the Tigers beat the Twins in August.

Mississippi
» Went to a casino in Biloxi in December.
» Ran the Pass to Bay 10K in Pass Christian in December.

Missouri
» Rode through Missouri on the way to Tennessee in January.
» Stopped in St. Louis on the way to Arkansas in February.
» Flew into the St. Louis Airport on the way home from Denver in May.
» Rode through Missouri on the way to Oklahoma in June.
» Saw the the Rockies beat the Cardinals in August.

Nebraska (my first time in this state)
» Rode from Chicago to Omaha in April.
» Rented a car at the Omaha airport (my first time there) and drove to Louisville.
» Ran the Ni-Bthaska-Ke trail 12K in April.
» Bar hopped and antiqued in Omaha in April.
» Drove by Creighton University in April.

Nevada
» Used Las Vegas as home base for a Utah race in June.
» Ate at a buffet in June.
» Neither lost or won money in June.
» Stayed at Whiskey Pete’s at State Line in June.
» Had a layover in the Vegas airport on the way to Boise in September.

New Hampshire (my first time in this state)
» Ran the XTerra Trail 14K in Hanover in August.
» Rode to/from Connecticut in August.
» Rode to/from Maine in October.

New Jersey
» Rode through to Delware in August and November.

New Mexico (my first time in this state)
» Drove from Denver to Raton in September.
» Ran the Capulin Volcano 10K in September.

New York
» Saw the Mets beat the Padres in August.
» Saw the Yankees lose to the Angels in August.
» Rode through to New Jersey in August.
» Watched Mike run the New York City marathon in November.
» Saw the Rangers beat the Jets in November.

North Carolina
» Ran the Veteran’s Day 10K on Ft. Bragg in November.
» Toured downtown Fayetteville in November.
» Saw the Panthers lose to the Titans in November.
» Traveled to and from South Carolina in November and from Virginia in November.

Ohio
» Rode to Columbus and ran the Arnold 5K in March.
» Toured the Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland in March.
» Rode through Ohio to Pennsylvania in March and October and from D.C. in July and Baltimore in August.
» Saw the Tigers beat the Indians in August.
» Saw the Reds beat the Padres in August.

Oklahoma (my first time in this state)
» Rode from Chicago to Oklahoma City in June.
» Ran the St. Anthony 10K in downtown OKC in June.
» Got heat cramps from running in downtown OKC in June.

Pennsylvania
» Traveled by train to Erie and ran the Leprachaun 10K in March.
» Traveled through Pennsylvania to Ohio in July and August.
» Rode to Pittsburgh in October.
» Saw the Pitt Panthers lose to Utah in October.
» Saw the Penguins lose to the Sabres in October.
» Saw the Steelers beat the Jaguars in October.

South Carolina
» Traveled to and from North Carolina in November.
» Saw the Gamecocks beat the Gators (grr) in Columbia in November.
» Ate at a terrible Ruby Tuesday in Columbia in November.

South Dakota
» Drove from Minneapolis to Watertown in July.
» Ran the Kampeska 10K in Watertown in July.

Tennessee
» Rode from Chicago to Memphis and ran the Hill and Dale 8-mile race in Millington in January.
» Saw the Memphis Tigers beat ECU in January.
» Wandered around Beale Street in January.
» Rode from Nashville to Chicago in September.

Texas
» Took a train from St. Louis to Texarkana in February.
» Ran the Texarkana Half-Marathon in February.
» Toured the Texarkana Wal-Mart twice in February and saw the post office half in Arkansas, half in Texas in February.
» Was not allowed into the Texarkana Knights of Columbus in February.
» Had a layover at the Dallas Airport (my first time there) on the way to Phoenix in December.
» Spent the night in Houston and saw the Panthers beat the Texans in December.
» Flew out of the Hobby Airport (my first time there) in December.

Utah (my first time in this state)
» Drove to/from Las Vegas in June.
» Ran the Utah quarter marathon in Cedar City in June.
» Ate at an In N’ Out burger in Cedar City in June.

Vermont (my first time in this state)
» Rode to/from New Hampshire in August.

Virginia/D.C.
» Saw the Nats lose to the Rockies in July.
» Ran the Strike out Sarcoma 5K in July.
» Rode through Virginia to North Carolina in November.

Washington
» Ran the Mukilteo 7.6 mile race (was supposed to be a 10K but the race volunteer accidentally had us do an extra loop) in May.
» Saw the Chicago White Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 6-0 in May.
» Ate at a Seattle-area Sizzler in May.

Wisconsin
» Flew into the Milwaukee Airport from New Orleans in May, Phoenix in December. Flew from the Milwaukee Airport to D.C. in July and Boise in September.
» Saw the Brewers beat the Giants and the Giants beat the Brewers in May.
» Rode through Wisconsin on the way to/from South Dakota in July and Minnesota in August.
» Saw the Brewers beat the Dodgers in August.

Wyoming (my first time in this state)
» Drove from Ft. Collins to Cheyenne and ate at a combination restaurant/liquor store in April.

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Dec. 21: Races in 26 states

I am attempting to run a race in all 50 states by the time I turn 30 (Aug. 16, 2012). This year, I ran a race in 26 states. Here’s the run-down:

» Hill and Dale 8-mile run, Millington, TN: Jan. 8 (1:14:29)
I took a bus from Chicago to Memphis for this race. The wi-fi wasn’t working on the bus so I was pretty anxious to arrive in Memphis. My high school friend Chad picked me up, and I stayed at his family’s place just outside Memphis. This was an out-and-back race in the paved roads of Meeman state park. There was one monster incline to tackle but otherwise pretty flat. Afterwards, there was chili and other snacks for runners. I do wish they had race bibs, though, because I like to save them. After the race, we bummed around downtown Memphis and saw a Memphis basketball game and visited Beale Street before heading home.

» Winter Games 5K, Dubuque, IA: Jan. 30 (25:57)
I had already run in Newton last year on the Iowa Speedway, but I try to get at least six race miles in every state. I almost didn’t make this race. My GPS konked out by Rockford, and I had to use my phone to try to figure out where I was going. I arrived only a few minutes before the race, registered on the street. I think it was the adrenaline that pushed me to finish. Hilly because the city is on the Mississippi River. Hot chocolate for runners after the race. Very nice medals. Afterward, I picked up some Dubuque wine and headed home.

» Fanny Freezer 5K, Fort Wayne, IN: Feb. 12 (25:51)
As with Iowa, I had already run in Indiana last year: The Running of the Irish 5K in Chesterton. This year, I drove to Fort Wayne. The race was in the afternoon so it was easy for me to get to. It was a loop around a park. Pretty basic. Afterward, I stopped at the Chik-Fil-A, which was a big draw back when I was eating meat.

» Run the Line Half Marathon, Texarkana, TX/AR: Feb. 20 (1:57:59)
This was by far my favorite race of the year. I had been hemming and hawing over whether to do this race but the logistics worked out. I took the bus to St. Louis, stayed there for a couple of days, then took the overnight train to Texarkana. The train drops you off in downtown Texarkana (yes, there is one) and I took a cab (yes, there is one) to my hotel on the Arkansas side of the state line. I had a whole day to explore Texarkana before the race. I went to Whataburger for the first time and visited Wal-Mart twice. The race was Sunday morning. The half-marathon was the only event so it was the focus. It’s an annual showdown between the runners from Texas (who wore shorts with the Texas flag on them) and Arkansas (who wore Razorback temp tattoos on their faces). You started in Arkansas, where you ran through a park adorned with Razorback gear, then you ran the line into Texas, where there were Hooters girls passing out water. I PR’d in this race, and the race director gave me a hug afterward when I told her I was from Chicago. Nice medals, nice town (though there’s not much to do on Sundays). I took the train back later Sunday night. This was also the first race where we prayed before we ran. I’ve done that a few more times since.

» Arnold 5K, Columbus, Ohio: March 6 (25:06)
This was a last minute addition to my sked. Last year I ran the Flying Pig 10K (half in Ohio, half in Kentucky) was looking for an Ohio 5K. I took an overnight bus to Columbus, which dropped off right by the convention center, where the annual Arnold Schwarzenegger fitness expo was taking place. It was nice to warm up in the warmth. I had a guy at the help desk watch my stuff as we ran loops around the downtown. It was icy and there was some construction but I enjoyed seeing the Blue Jackets hockey arena. I got a PR in this race but didn’t break 8-minute miles, which was my goal. This race also has a pump-and-run option, which was sold out before I registered. I would like to do one of those in the future. After the race was over, I got back on the bus and headed back to Chicago.

» Leprechaun Leap 10K, Erie, PA: March 12 (53:35)
I took the overnight train from Chicago to Erie. It was more crowded than I expected so I didn’t sleep as well. The train was running a bit late, which was fine. I had to call a cab to take me to a state park not too far from downtown, which looked a little run-down. We waited in a cabin for the race to start. It was sleeting on and off, and I was just ready to go. We did loops in the park, which was paved. I started slow hoping not to slip and fall. As I made the turn and hit mile 4, two deer crossed my path. So cool. There were no water stations to stop at, so I didn’t stop. This was my fasted 10K this year. The taxi driver was kind enough to wait for me to finish (no charge) and drive me to the bus stop, where I took a bus to Cleveland, toured the Great Lakes Brewery, barhopped and then took a bus back to Chicago. State 21 complete.

» Ni-Bthaska-Ke 12K Trail, Louisville, Neb: April 2 (1:41:35)
This was my first trail race and my toughest race of the year. I took a bus to Des Moines and then a bus to Omaha. Got a cab and spent the night on the Iowa side of the Iowa-Nebraska border. The hotel shuttled me to the Omaha airport (among the smallest airports I’ve ever seen) and I rented a car and drove 30 minutes outside Omaha to a large park in Louisville. This race bills itself as the toughest course in the Midwest, and I believe it. It is a single track trail for much of the way, and the tough part in the beginning is figuring out your pace because it’s rolling hills and mud. Finally, a few miles in, I got my footing (sort of). We crossed downed trees and avoided barb wire. I slide a few times. I was just happy to see the finish line. I went to my rental car to cry but no tears came out. There was a long line to get the pig they were serving for race finishers but I just wanted to get to Omaha to sightsee. That was my favorite part of the trip. I had never been to Omaha or Nebraska, and I enjoyed bar hopping and antiquing downtown. I definitely want to come back when I have more time to explore. I took the bus back to Des Moines and another to Chicago. I couldn’t walk for four days.

» Colorado 10K, Fort Collins, Colo: May 1 (54:26)
I had never been to Colorado before and was really anxious to go. I’m trying to see every ballpark before I’m 30 so my buddy Mike and I traveled to Colorado to see a Rockies game and run the 10K. I flew from Chicago to Denver. First of all, never take a cab from the Denver airport. It’s $55. We learned that the hard way but at least we got to split it. We stayed at a hotel downtown. We took a tour of the Rockies stadium the next afternoon (warm and sunny) and then watched a Rockies game later that night (inexplicably snowy). The next day we rented a car and drove to Fort Collins, where we took a tour of the Fat Tire brewery and had dinner in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The race was Sunday morning. The race was downhill, which helped because I was struggling with the elevation. The course ran along the last few miles of the Colorado Marathon, which was running at the same time. Very pretty among the mountains. Finished near the Fat Tire brewery. After the race, we headed back to Denver, dropped the car off, bar hopped. I then took a plane to St. Louis and a bus back to Chicago (cheapest option).

» Inspiring Hope 7.6-mile race, Mukilteo, WA: May 7 (1:04:09)
I met my friend Mark in Seattle, where he was staying for a few days. We had been to a Seattle Seahawks game last year but had not done a Mariners game. On Saturday morning, we rented a car and drove up to Mukilteo, a suburb of Seattle. I was hopeful that morning because it wasn’t raining. I don’t do so well in the rain. The race began well. I felt I was running at a good clip. Then somewhere, somehow a volunteer directed us to do an extra loop. On the way back, we ran into the race’s walkers, literally. We were dodging them, and it occurred to me towards the end that we had run more than a 10K, which the race was supposed to be. (I don’t run with a watch.). I started to worry about when the finish line would arrive. It finally did. Some runners did 7.6 miles like me while others only did a 10K because the mistake was corrected on the course. Sigh. The race director apologized and said she would host a make-up race, which was later canceled because of low registration numbers. After the race, we went to the Sizzler (awesomely bad) and then saw the White Sox beat the Mariners. Flew home to Chicago the next day.

» Barathon 6-mile race, New Orleans, LA: May 13 (1:14ish)
This was a last minute addition to the schedule. I was looking at flights and noticed the flights between New Orleans and Milwaukee were very cheap, and then stumbled across this barathon race: 6 miles, 6 beers. I was supposed to fly from Chicago to San Antonio and take a train to New Orleans but the San Antonio flight was delayed so they booked me on a flight the next day directly to New Orleans. I stayed in a hotel off the trolley line and explored the area. The race was Friday night, and I got there and had my first beer (Abita, obvi). I didn’t really “train” to run and drink but figured I’d take it slow if I felt nauseous. It actually went better than I thought. We ran from bar to bar, downed the beer and then ran to the next bar. Everything was going well until the end, when I followed some drunk girls to the finish line. We went the wrong way and went through the finish line backwards. A first for me. After the race is one big party. I spent the next day recovering and walking along the Mississippi and tasting my first muffaletta. Flew from New Orleans to Milwaukee, where I was picked up to go home.

» St. Anthony Downtown Dash 10K, Oklahoma City, OK: June 4 (58:20)
I was supposed to run a race in North Dakota this weekend but a river flooded there, so Amtrak canceled my trip. I scrambled and found this race in OKC, which I had never been to. I took 3 buses to get there: Chicago to St. Louis, St. Louis to Kansas City, Kansas City to Oklahoma City. The third bus broke down as it was leaving Kansas City, so we had to wait to use a different bus. My plan was to get to OKC a few hours before the race, which was on a Saturday night, eat and take a look at the federal bombing memorial. The bus was late, and I had to hustle to the hospital where the race was being held to register for it. I hurriedly ate a meal before, which was a mistake. The race was two loops through downtown OKC. I figured since it was a night race it wouldn’t be too hot. Wrong. It was 93 degrees. I felt it. I felt nauseous throughout, partly because I wasn’t drinking the water at the water stations, which was warm. I was just happy to finish. Afterward, I went into the hospital to cool down. After taking some water, I left to go to a restaurant to kill time before the bus arrived. About halfway between the hospital and the restaurant, the muscle in my right leg started pulsating and I felt like I couldn’t stand. I fell over. Luckily, three guys who had finished the race helped me up and took me to the restaurant and got me some food. We chatted about fracking, and then took me to the bus stop. I’m very grateful to them. I took the same three buses home, which I was not so grateful for.

» Groovefest Quarter Marathon, Cedar City, Utah: June 25 (1:01:59)
I almost didn’t run this race. I was having trouble with my leg since OKC and I had to see a doctor, who wasn’t so keen on me running. But I had non-refundable tix to Vegas, where my friend Mark was staying so I thought I should just go for. I flew to Vegas, picked him up and we drove through the night to St. George, Utah. We slept for a couple hours and then drove to Cedar City. The race was point to point. We ran through the town. The elevation started to get to me at mile 2, and I was pretty tired from the drive so I was happy to finish. I had never been to Utah before or Cedar City, which is beautiful. Visited In N Out Burger and then drove back to Vegas, where I slept more than partied. Flew home to Chicago in a 1 a.m. Monday morning flight, then went back to work.

» Strike Out Sarcoma 5K, Fairfax Station, VA: July 10 (27:58)
This race was put on by my 17-year-old cousin as part of a community service project. She did a great job. It was a paved out-and-back race in a park in a suburb outside D.C. Unfortunately, it was my slowest 5K of the year. I fell on the way back. I spent more time kicking myself than running. She’s hosting the race again this year, and I look forward to improving. I flew to D.C. to get there, saw a Nationals game, and then my family dropped me off on their way to their cabin in Minnesota.

» Lake Kampeska 10K, Watertown, SD: July 23 (I can’t find the official result)
I took a bus to Minneapolis and then rented a car at the airport and drove as much as I could of the 200 miles between Minneapolis and Watertown. I ended up staying in a hotel in Granite Falls. The guy at the registration desk asked me if I wanted a room with a hot tub. I declined. There was a major thunderstorm on the way to South Dakota. I pulled over a few times. Made it to the race. The weather cleared up. It was 6.2 sweaty miles through the fields near the lake. Hilly. I wish I could to see more of the lake. The neighbors were hosing runners down on the way to the finish line. I got back in the rental car, drove to Minneapolis airport, hung out at the Mall of America and then took a bus home.

» XTERRA Stoaked Trail 14K, Hanover, NH: Aug. 6 (1:38:55)
I was in New England for my cousin’s wedding so I met up with my friend Mark, who took me to New Hampshire for this race on the Dartmouth ski slopes. I fared much better in this trail run than the Nebraska one. I had a nice rhythm going but the finish line is on top of a hill so they make you work for it. There’s Shipyard Ale for the finishers. Went to the wedding in Guilford, CT, afterward. And then it was off to our "9 baseball parks in 9 days" trip, which ended in Milwaukee.

» Pacemaker 10K, Hampton, GA: Aug. 20 (55:24)
This was another last-minute add for me. The tickets from Chicago to Atlanta were $75 each way last minute. I had not seen my friend Lisa and her husband Paul in their place in Atlanta yet, so I was excited to travel to Georgia. Picked up a rental car and drove 30 minutes to Hampton. The race was held through neighborhoods. A little hilly but not bad. It was a night race so the weather wasn’t awful. Nice post-race party but I ended up walking back to get my car in the dark because I didn’t realize there were shuttles. Drove back to Atlanta, went to the Braves game (my first time there) and bar hopped. Flew home to Chicago.

» Challenge Arthritis 5K, St. Paul, MN: Aug. 27 (25:50)
My friend Mike had never been to Minneapolis and I had not seen the Twins in their new field so we headed to Minneapolis for the weekend. I took the bus up and met him there. We ran the race Saturday morning, a pleasant double loop around a lake in a park in St. Paul. After the race, we went to the State Fair and saw the Twins play. The next day, we went to the famous Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown (waited about two hours to sit and eat) and then I took the bus home to Chicago.

» Payette Lake 14K, McCall, Idaho: Sept. 4 (1:19:42)
This was also a last-minute decision. I had a free ticket that I was saving for Boise or Albuquerque and I saw a chance with this race. I drove to Milwaukee, flew to Vegas, then transferred to Boise. I picked up a rental car (that airport is so tiny) and spent the night in Boise after watching Boise State beat Georgia on TV. I woke up very early, drove 100 miles to McCall, this gorgeous resort town north of Boise. The race was part of a 30K so we were shuttled on a small school bus to the midway point. It was cold. I didn’t expect it to be this cold in September. The race was mostly flat or downhill. Beautiful by the lake. Afterward, I drove back to Boise, enjoying the pretty river sights I didn’t get to see when I drove in the dark in the morning. Flew to Nashville, then took a bus back to Chicago, where I took a train to Milwaukee to pick up my car. It was a long day.

» Capulin Volcano 10K, Folsom, NM: Sept. 25 (59:56)
My mom was at a conference in Denver, so I flew out to visit her. I couldn’t decide between a race in Wyoming or this race but this one had a draw because it was by an extinct volcano. I picked up the rental car in downtown Denver, then drove to Raton, NM, the closest town with hotels to Folsom, which has a few dozen residents. Early the next morning, drove to this small schoolhouse, where registration was taking place. We were shuttled to this area by the volcano. It was surreal. The course was mostly down hill. There was lots of cattle to look out. We finished outside the schoolhouse. Had a nice smalltown charm. Drove back to Denver, barhopped for a few hours and then had a very early Monday morning flight before going back to work.

» Bond Brook 10-mile Trail, Augusta, ME: Oct. 23 (2:03:33)
I needed to start getting the races in New England off my list, and this one worked out with my schedule. I flew to Boston, then took a bus to Augusta. Spent the night near downtown Augusta then took a cab to the race, which was part of a trail system in downtown Augusta. The course was difficult. It had rained, so it was muddy. Single track part of the way. I did OK, but not my best trail running. Afterward, they showed us how to shoot air rifles, which was my first time. A race official was kind enough to take me to the best restaurant downtown (Applebee’s), where I hung out before taking a bus to Portland, then one to the Boston Airport, before flying out Monday morning and heading to work. Had never been to Maine, would like to go back.

» Goodness Gracious 10K, Norton, Mass: Nov. 5 (No official time yet)
I was visiting New York to watch my friend Mike run the New York City Marathon so I decided to knock off a race beforehand. I flew to Boston early Saturday morning, rented a car, then drove 45 minutes to Norton, Mass. The race was held at an animal sanctuary, which has llamas, which was pretty cool. Unfortunately, most of the race was on the roads, not at the animal sanctuary. There was no race clock at the end, just a guy telling us to stop running. Drove the rental car back to Boston, then took a bus to New York.

» Joint Special Operations Trail 10K, Ft. Bragg, NC: Nov. 11 (1:02:10)
After New York, I took a bus to D.C., stayed with my family for a few days, and then took a bus to Raleigh and another bus to Fayetteville, NC. I ran the trail 10K on Fort Bragg the next day, Veteran’s Day, which was really special. It was not single track, thank goodness, but a lot of sand. It was neat to run near the military in uniform. They gave out finishers coins at the end. I took a cab back to Fayetteville, then walked to the train station, where I headed to South Carolina, to meet up with Mark for a Gamecocks and a Carolina Panthers game. Flew home from Jacksonville that Monday.

» 12Ks of Christmas, Gilbert, AZ: Dec. 10 (1:04:55)
Visited my cousin in Arizona for the Cardinals game. Took a bus to Indianapolis and then flew to Phoenix. He lives in Paradise Valley so I rented a car and drove to Gilbert, which isn’t too far away. The course is paved and the theme was 12Ks of Christmas, which was maintained throughout. There were carolers along the course, which was hot. The race started at 10:30 a.m., a little later than I’m used to. Went to the Cardinals game Sunday, then flew home to Milwaukee and took a train home.

» Pass to Bay 10K, Pass Christian, Miss: Dec. 17 (54:16)
My last race of the year. Visited Lisa and her husband in Atlanta for the Falcons game, then took a bus to Mobile, where Mark picked me up. We drove to Biloxi, visited the casino and then I ran the Pass to Bay 10K. Very pretty over the Bay bridge. It was tough to imagine the town underwater from Hurricane Katrina. Went to Houston afterward for the Texans game. Flew home to Chicago that night. State 39 complete.

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Dec. 7: 26 Illinois races for each letter of the alphabet

Tonight, I ran a 5K in Zion, the 26th Illinois city I’ve raced in this year: One for each letter of the alphabet. This was my New Year’s resolution that came about because I’m always looking for silly goals to motivate me to run. When I started, I had no idea that it would be so difficult to get to some of these cities and then run in them.

» Aurora Mercyfest 5K: Oct. 8 (26:27)
This was my third carnival race of the year. (I never thought I would write that sentence.) The race started early in the morning, and we ran near the carnival rides, then made a loop on a trail nearby. We ran through a softball field then finished by the rides. At this point, I had run 21 5Ks and I had to start psyching myself up for 5Ks. The course was flat and fast but I would have preferred running during the carnival so the rides would have been open while we waited for the awards ceremony. The trophy I received for being second place for females 20-29 is of a sweaty cross. Have mercy.

» Burbank Frosty 5K: Jan. 15 (25:34)
This was my first 5K of the year, and I was pleasantly surprised at my performance despite the cold. The course was flat through neighborhoods near Chicago. At the end, there was an ambulance, which I was happy not to need.

» Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8K: April 10 (42:17)
The Shamrock Shuffle is always special to me. Shamrock Shuffle 2008 was my first race, and I’ve been shuffling every year since then. This year was different because the race was moved from March to April. Typically, there’s terrible weather for the shuffle. One year, it sleeted. This year, it was very hot. Temperatures reached into the 70s, according to the Tribune. I’m very into running with the pace group in this race. But this year, the group was wilting earlier than usual because of the heat. I watched police officers passing out water at mile 3. I set a Shuffle PR by 16 seconds from 2010. Afterward, the media team met in the South Loop. Solo < SoLo.

» Downers Grove 5 miler: June 12 (41:49)
This was maybe my best race of the year. I was coming off a very hot and stressful 10K in Oklahoma City the week before. The race was unexpected because my family was in town for my brother’s graduation from University of Chicago law school so I didn’t expect to run any races that weekend. I ran this race on a whim. There were more hills than I was prepared for but I fared better than usual. This was a PR for me for the 5-miler. Downers Grove is a pretty cute town and easy to get to. The race was also well run with time clocks and water stops positioned well along the course.

» Evanston Dance Marathon 5K: March 5 (24:01)
There aren’t many Illinois cities that begin with “E,” but luckily Evanston isn’t too far from me. This was a race organized by students to accompany their famous Dance Marathon events. It was extremely windy for the race. I had bought a new hat at the Nike store for $20 two days before. Less than half a mile into the race, along Lake Michigan, my hat flew into the wind. I opted to let it go (flow?). The race was on campus, which was a nice change of pace. It wasn’t well-marked, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a full 5K. I don’t talk about this race in my PRs because I don’t think it was the required length. But, the next day, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, and ran the Arnold Schwarzenegger 5K in 25:06, which was a PR, so I like to think Northwestern prepared me for the future.

» Frankfort Phoenix Phun Run 5K: May 15 (25:30)
I ran this race after having run a 5K in Lincolnshire the day before to benefit a school. This was also a school run in Will County, not too far from Joliet. The race circled Lincoln-Way High School. It was nice to finish on the football field, and hear your name read on the PA system. Cute medal.

» Great Lakes Fort 2 Base 3.5 miler: Sept. 11 (30:18)
I had tried to run a 5K in Geneva to celebrate the Super Bowl in the first week of February, but Chicago was the site of a massive blizzard that week and I was unable to get my car out to drive to that race. I fell into this race because the other races that weekend didn’t jive with my schedule but this was a great race that honored the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, and I’m so glad I did it. The run was an inaugural race (which I typically avoid because they haven’t worked out the kinks) but I was drawn to it because it was at a naval base on Sept. 11. It was a bit difficult to get onto the naval base because the military was checking each car. The race was delayed as runners slowed by the check-in process made their way to the start line. It was so inspiring to have military personnel cheering you on. I wholly recommend running on a military base. It really puts life and goals into perspective. I also like the dogtags they handed out at the finish.

» Highland Park North Shore Love Run 4 miler: Feb. 13 (35:14)
This was another inaugural run. It was right by Ravinia, a popular concert site. I had never been so it was nice to sightsee while I ran. Unfortunately, the roads weren’t well marked so some runners had to double back onto the course. The race even had its own Heartbreak Hill. I enjoyed the post-race treats and sweatshirt goody bag.

» Itasca Feets for Seats 5K: Sept. 17 (26:25)
I thought that “I” would be an easy city to get because I live in Illinois. But there are no “I” cities, just “I” villages and towns. Itasca falls in the latter category. I had been tracking Itasca races all year. It’s a cute town. All the pre-race announcements and pomp occurred at a park, which was near the start line, but it was still difficult to hear because it was yards away. The finish line was at the bottom of a hill, which is always helpful. They were also nice to mail me my medal.

» Joliet Poultry Predictor 4 miler: Nov. 24 (34:29)
I knew for awhile that Joliet would be my “J” race. I have run in Joliet before, and I was waiting for the perfect race. This run was in a large park in Joliet that I’m sure would be beautiful in the summer. In the fall/winter, the trees were dead and there was not much to look at as we completed two laps. This race had a unique aspect because runners had to guess their finish time. The closest times received turkeys. I was a minute faster than my predicted time. A win. And a loss. Also, this was a 4 mile PR for me.

» Kankakee YMCA 5K: July 3 (25:37)
I almost missed the start of this race. I took I-57, which was undergoing construction and I underestimated how long it would take to me to get to Kankakee. I got there about 15 minutes before the race. I think the adrenaline helped propel me through the heat. There were some nice shaded areas in the trail near Bears training camp. My second running plaque.

» Lincolnshire Run for the Fields 5K: May 14 (25:15)
This was a rainy day, and it was not easy to motivate for the race. We ran in neighborhoods and ended on the soccer fields for a Lincolnshire school. The rain made the field a bit of a slip-and-slide. One of the best running medals I’ve ever seen: Red with cut outs.

» Mt. Prospect Strive for Five 5K: June 18 (26:10)
I had a friend in town that weekend and didn’t expect to run a race. I woke up and the weather wasn’t bad so I signed up. It was another neighborhood run with not much to look at. Ended at a park. I did like how the race officials let you know immediately how fast you ran and what you placed. My first running plaque.

» Northbrook Liberty Loop 5K: July 4 (27:06)
Sometime this summer I learned I’m not a good hot weather runner. And we had some hot weather this summer. I typically wilt around mile 2 in stupid heat as I did in this race. I learned that I need to spend more time running outside or in a sauna (such as Florida). The race was in a park, which was partially shaded (thank goodness). Lots of families.

» Oak Forest OakFest: July 1 (26:44)
This was my second carnival race. It was also my first Friday night race. It was very hot and sweaty in the neighborhood by the carnival. The race started in a grocery store parking lot but ended at the carnival so you could ride when you were done. But I only wanted to ride home to an ice bath.

» Palos Heights Chocolate Chase Rabbit Race: April 23 (25:37)
What a cute race. Ran, again, through the suburban neighborhoods but there was a massive chocolate table at the finish line to celebrate Easter.

» Quincy Jingle Bell Run 5K: Dec. 2 (26:32)
This may have been the most difficult race travel of the year. I was supposed to take the Amtrak train to Quincy on Friday, spend the night, run the race Saturday morning, then return to Chicago that evening. But a freight train derailed early Friday morning and the Amtrak train turned to an Amtrak shuttle, which took about three hours longer to reach its destination. The race was fine. The packet pickup was at the mall, a first for me. And because Quincy overlooks the Mississippi River, the race had some hills. It also rained. I really couldn’t win that weekend (but was happy to place No. 2 in my age/gender group).

» Rockford Shamrock Shuffle 5K: March 19 (25:30)
I had only been to Rockford once before to fly out of its airport. This race started at the famous Clock Tower and wound around at roads nearby. There was a lot of camaraderie in this race, but I’m still upset they didn’t make enough shirts for day-of registrants since I have the shirts made into quilts. Nice medal though.

» Spring Valley Walleye Run 5K: March 26 (26:28)
This was the first race where I walked away angry at myself for lack of planning. I made it out to the race, more than an hour southwest of Chicago but around the 1.5 mile mark I noticed my shoe was untied, and I fumbled with it for what seemed like forever with my running gloves. Now I always check my shoelaces before the race—so lesson learned.

» Waterman Gobbler Gallop 5K: Nov. 19 (25:47)
I really messed up on “T.” I had been tracking races in Tinley Park, Troy and Tuscola but none fit my schedule. After it was too late, I chose the Waterman race because there’s a “T” in Waterman and “Turkey Trot” has a bunch of “T“‘s. It was a dreary day in DeKalb county that day and it really took some motivation to run among the dead trees. I appreciated time clocks at the mile mark. They were also nice to mail me my medal.

» Urbana Zombie 5K: Oct. 29 (26:08)
I had not been to Champaign since I was a high school senior looking at colleges. I took a bus to Champaign and then a cab to Urbana to run this race. It was fun to run on campus, and then they had “zombies” along the way to tag you with blood. If the “zombies” tagged you, you were “infected,” which affected (infected?) the prizes you could receive upon finishing the race. I love running on college campuses, and I appreciated this was a different approach to the race (even if I did have to travel back to Chicago wearing “bloody” handprints).

» Villa Park St. Alexander Memorial Day 5K: May 30 (25:24)
This was my first warm Illinois race of the year. I enjoyed how residents of the town were hosing runners off. Nice shade on the trail by the end of the race. I also liked winning a pizza gift certificate for placing first in my division. This will come in handy the next time I’m in the western suburbs.

» Westmont Race to the Flag 5K: May 29 (26:43)
For the first time ever this year, I missed the start of the race. I thought the race started at 8 a.m., when it really started at 7:45 a.m. I was dawdling at the back of the race when I heard the gun go off. I did a pretty good job of catching up, but I was still frustrated. This was also a carnival race, and I, like everything else, was fried afterward.

» New Lenox Proud American Days 3.3 miler: July 31 (28:20)
There’s only one Illinois town that begins with “X,” which is Xenia, but I didn’t see any races by that town this year. So I picked a town with “X” in the name. New Lenox is in Will County. The race was along a trail, which was shaded. But we didn’t find out until at the finish line that the race was 3.3 miles, not 5K. There was a bit of celebration afterward but most of the chatter was guestimates for how long the race was.

» Yorkville Tax Dodge 5K: April 17 (25:37)
All the fun you can have in a business park! The course was pretty ugly and it was very windy that day, but I felt I turned out a strong performance. Appreciated the pizza at the finish line. A nice medal.

» Zion Festival of Lights 5K: Dec. 7 (25:45)
I almost didn’t make the start of this race, which would have been terrible because it was the last of three Zion races for the year. Traffic to the suburbs is terrible at night. Also terrible? No lights for the festival of lights 5K. Luckily, there was a guy in front of me who seemed to know where he was running on times. I was running on adrenaline for this race, and just happy to finish the alphabet project, especially in first place for my division.

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Nov. 16: Nine months until I turn 30

A couple of months ago I made a "30 before 30" list of goals to complete before my 30th birthday on Aug. 16. I have nine months (eek!) until I turn 30. Here’s the progress on my list.

1. Run a race in every state. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Been working on this goal since January 2009. Raced in 37 states so far. Completed Georgia, Minnesota, Idaho, New Mexico, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire  since my birthday.

2. Run a race in 30 Illinois counties. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Started working on this goal this year. Ran in 9 counties so far. Completed Champaign county since my birthday.

3. Complete another marathon. NOT STARTED
Finished my first one in 2010 (The Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Charles, Miss.) Would like to do another one without a stress fracture.

4. Complete 3 stair climb events. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Did my first stairclimb at the Hancock Tower in February. Want to do two more around the country.

5. Ride every Chicago Transit Authority bus route from start to finish. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Been working on this goal since I took over as CTA columnist in April 2009. Completed 133 routes, 6 to go. Completed 12 routes since my birthday.

6. Take the CTA train challenge: Ride all the lines consecutively and visit all the stations. NOT STARTED
The “L” challenge is growing in popularity. I’d like to do it after finishing the bus challenge.

7. Visit three continents. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
I’ve been to Europe and North America (obv.). I’d like to visit at least one more continent before my birthday.

8. Visit every Major League Baseball park. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
I knocked off a bunch of states with “9 baseball parks in 9 days” project earlier this month. I’ve visited 18 parks so far with 12 to go. Since my birthday, I’ve visited the new Target Field in Minnesota but I had already seen baseball at the old field, the Metrodome, so it doesn’t count toward my goal list.

9. Go to a soccer game. NOT STARTED
Not big into soccer but would like to try a Chicago Fire game.

10. Get another ear piercing. NOT STARTED
I have three holes in each ear including two tragus piercings. Would like to get another hole.

11. Go camping. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been camping since college.

12. Go skiing. NOT STARTED
I haven’t been skiing since middle school. And by “skiing,” I mean sitting in the lodge near the fire.

13. Give 30 things away to Goodwill. NOT STARTED
My closet will thank me.

14. Visit the Art Institute. NOT STARTED
Not big into art museums but I’ve heard this is a must.

15. Take one organized tour of Chicago. NOT STARTED
I’d like to take the architecture tour or one of the beer tours.

16. Go to a fortune teller. NOT STARTED
Always been afraid.

17. Try coffee. NOT STARTED
Never had a cup—or a sip.

18. Be a vegetarian for 30 days. COMPLETED
Started at the end of August and blew past my 30 days. Haven’t eaten meat since.

19. Take a yoga class. NOT STARTED
Hot or not.

20. Take a cooking class. NOT STARTED
This isn’t a want. It’s a need.

21. Take a golf lesson. NOT STARTED
Not a mini one.

22. Take an improv class. NOT STARTED
I hate LOL but like to laugh out loud.

23. Get 6,000 Twitter followers. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Have 5,328 as I write this. Got about 300 new followers since my birthday.

24. Ride a horse. NOT STARTED
Better than a bus or a train.

25. Read “War and Peace.” NOT STARTED
Goalstoy.

26. Get a new phone. NOT STARTED
I’ve been rocking my work Blackberry since 2007 and my personal phone since 2006. Work and phone companies have offered but I’ve never upgraded.

27. Visit a national park. NOT STARTED
Go green.

28. Go swimming in the ocean for 30 minutes despite fear of sharks. NOT STARTED
Very afraid since the Summer of Shark.

29. Watch 30 movies on Time 100’s All-Time 100 movie list. PARTIALLY COMPLETE
Finally, I’ll understand “The Godfather” references. Still at five.

30. Submit a book proposal. NOT STARTED
Lots of ideas. Best to write them down.

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Aug. 24, 2011: 30 before 30 list

I turned 29 last week, and thought it would be a good idea to create and post my 30 before 30 list. Hopefully, this will inspire me to Tumbl more to update my progress on the list. Here it is, in no particular order.

1. Run a race in every state.
Been working on this goal since January 2009. Ran in 32 states so far.

2. Run a race in 30 Illinois counties.
Started working on this goal this year. Ran in 8 counties so far.

3. Complete another marathon.
Finished my first one in 2010 (The Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Charles, Miss.) Would like to do another one without a stress fracture.

4. Complete 3 stair climb events.
Did my first stairclimb at the Hancock Tower in February. Want to do two more around the country.

5. Ride every Chicago Transit Authority bus route from start to finish.
Been working on this goal since I took over as CTA columnist in April 2009. Completed 121 routes, 18 to go.

6. Take the CTA train challenge: Ride all the lines consecutively and visit all the stations.
The “L” challenge is growing in popularity. I’d like to do it after finishing the bus challenge.

7. Visit three continents.
I’ve been to Europe and North America (obv.). I’d like to visit at least one more continent before my birthday.

8. Visit every Major League Baseball park.
I knocked off a bunch of states with "9 baseball parks in 9 days" project earlier this month. I’ve visited 18 parks so far with 12 to go.

9. Go to a soccer game.
Not big into soccer but would like to try a Chicago Fire game.

10. Get another ear piercing.
I have three holes in each ear including two tragus piercings. Would like to get another hole.

11. Go camping.
I haven’t been camping since college.

12. Go skiing.
I haven’t been skiing since middle school. And by “skiing,” I mean sitting in the lodge near the fire.

13. Give 30 things away to Goodwill.
My closet will thank me.

14. Visit the Art Institute.
Not big into art museums but I’ve heard this is a must.

15. Take one organized tour of Chicago.
I’d like to take the architecture tour or one of the beer tours.

16. Go to a fortune teller.
Always been afraid.

17. Try coffee.
Never had a cup—or a sip.

18. Be a vegetarian for 30 days.
I’ve watched friends give up meat with good results. I’d like to give it a try.

19. Take a yoga class.
Hot or not.

20. Take a cooking class.
This isn’t a want. It’s a need.

21. Take a golf lesson.
Not a mini one.

22. Take an improv class.
I hate LOL but like to laugh out loud.

23. Get 6,000 Twitter followers.
Have 4,983 as I write this.

24. Ride a horse.
Better than a bus or a train.

25. Read “War and Peace.”
Goalstoy.

26. Get a new phone.
I’ve been rocking my work Blackberry since 2007 and my personal phone since 2006. Work and phone companies have offered but I’ve never upgraded.

27. Visit a national park.
Go green.

28. Go swimming in the ocean for 30 minutes despite fear of sharks.
Very afraid since the Summer of Shark.

29. Watch 30 movies on Time 100’s All-Time 100 movie list.
Finally, I’ll understand “The Godfather” references.

30. Submit a book proposal.
Lots of ideas. Best to write them down.