Winter Training: Tempo Runs vs StairMaster and Staying in Shape When its Cold Out


 
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Mid October… a runner's dream come true. All of those hard hot months of training during the summer are finally starting to show some results and you don’t feel like death with every step you take. If you are training for a fall marathon you are probably just weeks away from your race and in top shape for your next PR, but what happens after you finish your BIG fall race?

 
 

THE COLD sets in…no longer do you enjoy getting up early in the morning and going out for a run, that cozy warm bed is calling your name. So what does one do during the winter to maintain fitness, especially on those snowy days when running outside is basically impossible?

Well most people will just run on a treadmill, which works great but can get incredibly boring. Our bodies crave change and changing up your workouts (muscle confusion) is proven to help you improve at quicker rates. This is where the StairMaster comes into play. Separate studies conducted by California State University, Northridge and Trinity College Dublin have shown that an exercise routine similar to a tempo run conducted on a StairMaster increased runner VO2max by comparable amounts compared to a person running at the same intensity.

 
 

Pace Note: If you are returning from injury and are looking for a lower impact exercise to help improve your VO2max the StairMaster tempo is a great option as well.

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So…Armed with this knowledge, how should you integrate this into your workout? We suggest to our runners to replace one of their weekly intensity training days, during one training meso-cycle (3-4 week training block), with a StairMaster workout. This will help keep your mind fresh during those indoor sessions, and maintain or improve your VO2max during those cold winter months. Here is how we structure our tempo StairMaster workouts.

 
 

A Typical StairMaster Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5-10 minutes @ Easy Pace (50-60% of Max Heart Rate)

  • Tempo Stairs: 15-30 minutes depending on fitness level @ Tempo Pace (85% -95% of Max Heart Rate)

  • Cool Down: 5-10 minutes @ Easy pace (50-60% of Max Heart Rate)

If you would like to read more about the research studies that we found you can find them on the NCBI website below

Physiological changes following a 12 week gym based stair-climbing, elliptical trainer and treadmill running program in females. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15470311)

Department of Physology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Effects of stair-climbing vs run training on treadmill and track running performance. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8289616)

Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Northridge


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Back to Basics: 6 Key Elements of Efficient Running Form

 
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During the first few weeks of our training program, we usually assess our runners form while they are completing some of the workouts. Some of the things we look at are below. Keeping these things in the back of your mind while you’re out on a run can help you practice efficient running form.

 
 

Legs/Stride – Cadence of around 180 BPM, and slight lifting of your knee

Legs and Stride are (obviously) the most important part of your running form, and also play a large role in running efficiency, and preventing or causing injuries.   

Cadence - The optimal cadence for a runner is around 180 beats per minute, or the tempo of Santeria by Sublime.  Running at 180 bpm cadence will be more efficient than increasing your stride angle and puts less strain on the body. Because of the gains in efficiency and reduced body strain focus on cadence before you work on stride angle.  

Stride Angle - Focus on opening up your legs as wide as possible.

Stride Angle is the angle between your legs at the widest point in your stride.  As a runner's stride angle increases so will the distance they cover during each stride and they will decrease contact time with the ground.  A runner with a larger stride angle will be able to cover more distance more efficiently at the same pace as other runners. As a runner you can improve your stride angle by stretching your hamstrings and glutes or through drills such as high knees.


 
 

Ankles/Feet - Imagine you are flicking sand with your feet as you push off with your mid-foot.

This will probably be the most controversial section of the article… Most coaches and online articles you read will talk about trying to strike on your mid-foot and that heel striking leads to injuries.  However, current research published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science on June 2017 states that there is no benefit to changing foot strike and could lead to additional injuries.

 

“Research conducted on the efficacy of changing one's foot-strike from a rear foot to a mid- or forefoot strike suggests that there is no obvious benefit to such a change for the majority of runners. In fact, it may be that the change in foot-strike may result in stressing tissue that is not normally stressed when running with one's habitual pattern, thus leading to the possibility of incurring a secondary injury. “

Journal of Sport and Health Science

Volume 6, Issue 2, June 2017, Pages 146-153

 

So we recommend to not be too concentrated on where your foot is striking the ground and instead focus on keeping your shin as close to perpendicular as possible to the road when your foot hits the ground.  By landing with your shin at a 90 degree angle to the ground this allows your hip, knee, and ankle to work in conjunction to absorb impact and propel yourself forwards. This can be affected by changing your stride angle, so be cautious of over-striding when trying to make corrections. Look forwards towards the horizon as you are running, you should not be able to see the tips of your toes in your peripheral vision. If you can see them you are probably over-striding.   

Have a friend video tape your stride on a track to see where you are striking, or have Perfect Pace perform an online form assessment.



Arms - Swing forward and back, elbows bent at 90 degrees

One of the most common things we see as coaches, especially in new runners, is the classic body cross with your arm.  When you run your arms should be swinging from front to back and not across your body. When your arms cross your body you are losing forward momentum and wasting energy, which over long distance races can add up to seconds or minutes off your time. Luckily, it is a pretty easy posture fix, but just takes a little practice to adjust yourself. To fix this, imagine pulling yourself forward on ropes or poles as you run to keep your arms from crossing your body.  Your arms should be relaxed as they swing, with your elbows at hip level, and forearms bent around 90 degrees. Lastly, as you run your hands should not pass more than an inch or two behind your back. Fixing body crossing is the first step to an efficient stride. One more thing to keep in mind has you run is to unclench your fists, you should have a relaxed grip with fingers slightly cupped. Think about lightly grasping a roll of quarters.


 
 

Head Tilt - Looking Straight Out

As you run your head should be looking straight out and forward. Your eyes should be scanning the course ahead of you, especially for trail races where you should be thinking about 3-5 foot strikes ahead.  This will help prevent falls and sprained ankles. As you run, you should not see your feet below you, if you can, you may be over-striding. Lastly, keeping your head forward will help with your posture by straightening your back and neck, which will help with running efficiency.


Shoulders – Keep Them Relaxed and Low

It's very common for runners to shrug their shoulders as they run. You may not start out running with them shrugged but they can creep up during long runs as you get tired.  As you increase your distance this can become a fairly painful problem, leading to lots a neck, upper back and shoulder pain. The key here is to remain relaxed, and occasionally shake your arms out to relieve any tension.


 
 


Chest – Run Proud

You are a runner…you got up early this morning to put in all that hard work to achieve your goal…be proud of what you are doing and run proud too. Try not to let yourself sink forward or arch backwards, concentrate on keeping yourself straight with your chest forward.  As you run your body should have a slight forward lean, with your chest out. You should feel like you are about to fall over if you were standing still.


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NoDa Brewey Run Club Presents Oniversity

 
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On Wednesday night our very own Coach Flavia, Captain of the CRC/On Running Racing Team was invited with several other teammates to Oniversity, hosted by On Running and Charlotte Running Company at NoDa Brewery.  The brewery hosts a fantastic Run Club on Wednesday evenings at 6:30PM, featuring running specific vendors and events each week. This week they stepped things up a notch with the Oniversity Panel Discussion with local elite runners from the CRC/On Running Race Team.  


The Oniversity series was created to help support the local running community and provide new and experienced runners with a forum to talk about the sport. Runners had the opportunity to not only chat with race team members, but also wear/test some AWESOME On Running shoes.

 
 

The group run started with a few quick announcements from the On Running representatives, then a brief introduction of the race team members noting the chance for some Q&A about best practices for training, nutrition, and gear post-run. With dark clouds and rain on the horizon everyone was eager to get the run started. Coach Flavia wished everyone a good run and the group took off!  Soon after the run started, the black clouds unleashed sheets of pouring rain…but as many of us know, a little rain never stopped a runner from getting in all their miles.

 
 

As people trickled in from the 1, 3 and 5 mile routes, NoDa provided dry towels for everyone to dry up as much as they could.  Not to be deterred by the rain, Oniversity moved their event inside with casual discussions with the Elite team over some delicious beers. Runners mingled around the bar, ordered frosty brews, and took the opportunity to speak with Flavia, Caleb and Amanda about running related topics. You could overhear conversations about everything from running form to marathon day nutrition, and favorite race day shoes…Which are obviously On Clouds!    

Overall it was a wonderful evening filled with friends enjoying a good (wet) run, great beer, and the opportunity to learn and improve in our local running community.

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Pace Picks - Best GPS Running Watch 2018

 
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Maybe you just started running or you’re a seasoned runner looking to improve in the sport, either way we believe that one of the most valuable tools you can have as a runner is a good running watch.  Before we get into our picks let's talk about why a running watch is superior to a phone or regular watch/stopwatch.

Heart Rate Tracking & Other Metrics

Heart rate tracking is the key metric to ensuring that you are training efficiently. It is an objective measure of your effort during a run and allows you to control your pacing from easy to threshold pace and race pace. This is key to maximizing your training, and achieving faster times.

GPS Accuracy

In general running watches have a higher degree of GPS accuracy (especially for trail running) compared to a phone.   

Durability

Most running watches are waterproof which means they will work if you get caught in a rainstorm, and sweat won't affect them.  Most will also work in more extreme temperatures from freezing to hot summer days. Phones have been known to shut off or become damaged during longer runs.

Reliability

Running watches are dead on reliable, we have seen phone apps crash during races because there was no cell service.  Running watches do one thing and they do it well, it's a nice piece of mind on race days when there are tons of other things to worry about.

Battery Life

Running watches have significant battery life, that for some, can last for weeks between changing.  This means that you can make it through a 4 hour race or practice run without losing track of your pace and heart rate.

Here are our top picks for running watches.


Best Overall GPS Watch - Garmin Forerunner 235

The Garmin Forerunner 235  packs in a ton of key features for runners.  It checks off all of our key points above, offering long battery life, sturdy waterproof design, accurate GPS, wrist based heart rate tracking.  It can usually be found for around $250 online, and at that price it's heard to beat.

Here is what we like the most:

  • Lightweight

  • Large Color Display

  • Exchangeable Straps

  • Accurate HR data

  • 4 activity profiles that can be individually customized

  • Customizable training tools where you can to set interval distance, duration and time

  • VO2 max estimation

  • Activity alerts during a session for heart rate zones

What we dislike:

  • Interface on the watch has a learning curve

  • No virtual pacer feature

  • User reports of Bluetooth issues


Best Budget GPS Watch  - TomTom Spark

Sometimes simpler is better…The TomTom Spark doesn’t have a heart rate monitor, but its does have accurate GPS tracking.  If you want just the basics and none of the distractions like text messages and Garmin pay this watch is perfect. It also has a nice multisport mode so you can take it swimming and the TomTom online app is easy and simple to use.  If all the sounds great but you want a heart rate monitor, the Spark 3 cardio is also an excellent choice. I personally run with a spark 3 cardio.

Here is what we like the most:

  • Long battery life

  • Waterproof with Multisport Mode

  • Simple and easy to use GPS tracking

  • Great only app that’s good for reviewing your runs

  • Interchangeable bands

  • Easy to read black and white screen

What we dislike:

  • GPS can be slow to sync

  • No Heart Rate monitoring


Best Running Watch with Music - Garmin 645

The Garmin 645 is a stylish running smart watch, with all of the essential features from the 235 with a smattering of extra nice to haves on top.  If you are looking to completely ditch your phone and still have music this is your best option. Plus you get Garmin’s advanced running dynamic tracking (when used with running dynamic pods) which provides tracking on stride length and contact time.  If you are a tri-athlete or cross train with swimming, this watch is also a great option for the pool with excellent lap tracking.

Here is what we like the most:

  • Good battery life (up to 7 days in smartwatch mode; 5 hours in GPS mode with music.)

  • Nice shape and size, and its waterproof

  • Great display that's not a touchscreen

  • Excellent swim training mode

  • Music storage up to 500 songs

  • Quick recharging

  • Garmin Pay (no more running with a credit card)

What we dislike:

  • Price, not the most expensive but getting there

  • Button navigation can be confusing

  • Music cuts out occasionally

  • Bluetooth pairing issues with headphones (Garmin has an approved headphones list)


Best Running Watch for Professional Athletes - Garmin Fenix

If you have been running for years… or are trying to reach that Olympic qualifying time and you need that extra edge to help get you there this is probably the watch for you.  It's the big kahuna, the power house, the great bambino of running watches. This watch could cook a steak for you if it could… This is the ultimate running multisport GPS heart rate monitoring watch money can buy.  It comes with more advanced features than an advanced calculus class; from full color topographical maps of your terrain, blood oxygen levels, music on your wrist, and even Garmin pay to but snacks on your run. Excessive yes, but really cool tech absolutely.  If you have the money and want to know every detail about your run this one is a real winner.


Here is what we like the most:

  • Exceptional battery life (Garmin claims up to 20 days in smartwatch mode and 13 hours in GPS mode with music)

  • Durable design that can survive anything from the toughest obstacle course races to your hardest marathons.

  • Music storage up to 500 songs

  • Garmin Pay so you don’t have to carry your credit card

  • This watch is accurate... It can track 3 separate satellite networks (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo)

  • Tons of tracking metrics (heart rate, altimeter, barometer and compass)

  • The ClimbPro page provides the climb gradient, distance and elevation gain for upcoming hills

  • No touchscreen, navigation with buttons only.

What we dislike:

  • The Price

  • Issues with open water swim tracking

  • Watch is huge

  • The navigation can take a little bit to get used to


Obviously Garmin has dominated our list of watches and for good reason, they are all high quality watches with a great feature set. We feel you can’t really go wrong with any of them, so get out there an enjoy your runs.

Remember! Train Hard, Run Strong

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The Best Couch to 5k Training Plan - Hint It’s Not About Running

 
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If you google Couch to 5k training plans, you will get hundreds of search results for generic training plans and phone apps that use the run/walk method to start your training. Of course there is nothing wrong with this approach, it’s the same approach we take with our beginner runners. Everybody needs to ease their body into the stresses of training, which is why the run/walk method is so popular (Here is a link to The Perfect Pace C25K training plan). But easing into your training is the easy part, anybody can write a program that gradually increases from walking to running.

 
 

 

What’s the real key… the secret sauce… the magic bullet that will have you running marathons at breakneck speed, well here is it… BEING PERSONALLY ACCOUNTABLE to yourself. Every strong runner holds themselves accountable to achieving their goals and consistently sticks to their plan. So now you have your C25K plan, here are 7 tricks to holding yourself accountable to achieve your goals.

 
 

7 Traits of Successful Runners

 

1. Running is a Lifestyle

It's not something you do after work, it's not something you only spend 30 minutes a day doing, IT’S A LIFESTYLE. You are a runner! Become engaged in the running community. Find a local race to volunteer at or join a running group. You will meet tons of new people and make lifelong friends along your training journey. Remember to keep it fun and enjoy your time with the sport.

 

2. Have the Right Mindset

Running is an interesting sport, because you need to put in hours, days, weeks, and months of training for an event that will last 30 minutes. It’s a game of patience and slow methodical training. You must be willing to accept the amount of time and dedication that will be required to achieve your training.

 
 

 

3. Make Running a Habit and a Priority

Every runner has days when they wake up in the morning and want to skip a run because it’s too cold outside, or it's raining in the evening when they get home from a long day at work. Pushing through the initial couple weeks of your program and solidifying your training as a habit and a priority will help you stay on track on the tough days. Making training a priority in your schedule will pay dividends on race day. Don’t feel bad if you miss a day every once in a while. Even elite runners struggle with this occasionally.

 

4. Have a Running Accountability Buddy

Find a group to run with, or other people with common pace and training goals. The running community is huge, and running groups are great places to make new friends. Having somebody there to help you stay focused will help you stay on track. Although, we highly encourage new runners to engage with your running community, sometimes you need a little more accountability and a running coach can be a great asset to keep you on track. Running coaches can also help answer questions and provide specific guidance to the nuances of running from shoes, to running form, and when to see a doctor for that nagging pain in your shins. If you are interested in a running coach we offer online, in-person private and group coaching. Check us out… ok shameless plug over.

Personal TRaining Program Details →

 

5. Track All of Your Runs/Walks

It can be easy to lose track of your progress and become disheartened or you may feel as if you are stuck in a rut. Tracking your runs will help keep you motivated. I personally track all of my runs by hand in my Excel training plan, and with my TomTom watch.  We do recommend running with a running watch, especially if you want to take the sport further and track helpful data points. Side note… heart rate tracking is one of the best ways to see if you are training properly so a watch with a heart rate sensor is a must.   If you are looking for a running watch here is what we recommend. 

TomTom Spark Cardio

I love the TomTom watch for its simplicity, heart rate tracking, and easy to use phone and web app.  This is the watch we both run with, and have been running with for years. 

 

Garmin Forerunner 235

Another great watch that’s popular for runners is the Garmin Forerunner 235 which is very accurate and also has built in heart rate monitoring.  

 

6. Create Mini Goals

Sometimes having one overarching long term goal can be too ambitious and overwhelming. Breaking up your training in to mini goals can help keep you focused and on track, and prevent burn out. Typically we do 3-5 week training blocks with a mini goal at the end of each block. You could set a goal of increasing your per mile pace by 15 seconds per mile by the end of the training block… or increasing your weekly mileage by 2-3 miles per week.

Remember SMART Goals

  • Specific - what are you trying to achieve, the actions needed, and why it's important

  • Measurable - ensure that your goal has a measurable outcome

  • Achievable - your goal should be challenging, but also reasonably achievable

  • Relevant - you goal should be relevant to your end goal i.e. increasing distance or pace

  • Time-bound - you need to set a deadline for yourself, 3-5 weeks is a good target

 
 

 

7. Celebrate your Accomplishments

Last be not least, celebrate all you have accomplished! Nothing about this sport is easy, and it’s important to remember that. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and have fun!

Now that you know the biggest secret to being a successful runner, here is our base C25k training plan.  So get out there and start your adventure! If you are curious about running gear check out what we run with here. Here are some of our top pick from Amazon too!

My Picks

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By: Flavia Coppolino

Head Coach & Runner

Perfect Pace CLT | Marathon Training | Running Coaches

flavia@perfectpaceclt.com

 

Our Running Gear

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Perfect Pace Runs the Chicago Marathon


 
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4 Day Chicago Itinerary


Day 1 – Saturday

Getting into the City

We decided to fly into Chicago on Friday evening, a few days, before the race to catch the marathon expo and scope out the starting line.  

There were a couple of options for getting into town:

1) There was a Blue line Train station in O’hare airport which goes straight into the city.  We recommend buying a multi-day pass, which works on the trains and city bus and it’s the easiest way to get around. 

2) If you don’t want to take the train, Uber was 21$ took about 45 minutes (depending on traffic) to get to the hotel.

We ended up staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago – Magnificent Mile.  The hotel was affordable at around 100$ per night, and was less than a mile from the starting line so you could walk if you wanted to.  

 

The Chicago Marathon Expo

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First things first we stopped by the Expo at the McCormick Place for packet pickup and to get some gear.  Everything opened at 9am and if you are planning to pick up some Chicago Marathon gear go early because the lines were long and they sold out of things like jackets and visors.  Luckily for us Nike had the entire marathon gear lineup online, and we ended up having a jacket shipped to the house.

 

Starting Line

After the expo we headed to the Millennium Park area to scope out the starting line and grab lunch.  There were a bunch of trendy spots to choose from, and we picked the Intelligentsia for a chic coffee and a quick bite before exploring. 

The Washington/Wabash stop and Lake stop were about 2 blocks away from the start of the Marathon and would be the best way to get to the race in the morning.  But do as I say not as I do... we ended up taking an Uber to Michigan Street because we were worried about taking public transportation.

After we figured out our race day plans, we walked through the park to check out the Millennium Monument (the bean) and the Cloud Gate statue.  If you have a little extra time The Art Institute of Chicago is worth a visit, but it’s a lot of walking the day before your race.

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Dinner

For dinner we took the Blue line train out to the Damen stop to check out the Wicker Park Area.  We have a marathon tradition of getting Italian food the night before the race and ended up at Club Lucky.  The place had a cool old-school Italian diner feel to it, and they had the food to match.  We highly recommend trying the Caramel Ricotta Cheesecake and Tiramisu.

Don’t forget to take it easy and rest up for your big day!

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Day 2 – Sunday

Race-Day Nutrition

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Here is the race day lineup for nutrition:

 

Keep it lite the morning of your race, Flavia really likes Bananas and I prefer the Stingers which are easier on your stomach. She also brought along (4) 2nd Surge Gels, and a pack of Cliff Blocks Energy Chews for the race. The plan is to take the energy gels every 7 miles, and the blocks for cramping if necessary.

 

Marathon Start

The starting line is on S. Columbus Dr., however everything east of Michigan Ave is blocked on race day to only runners.  We were able to get an Uber to Michigan St. from the hotel but it gets crowded between Randolph and Jackson Street (Highlighted with the Green Box on the map).  There are a few coffee shops open early in the morning around the start, but if you are looking for a bathroom the lines are really long.

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Spectating the Race

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From here on Flavia and I said goodbye and she headed to the starting line for the race.  If you are a spectator my favorite place to watch the race is on the south side of the S. Columbus Dr. Bridge, where you get a really unique view of the runners coming out of the tunnel.  From there you can use the River-walk to catch your runner again on the LaSalle Bridge and Orleans Bridge.  If you are feeling really ambitious you can catch the Green line or Red line down to Chinatown before meeting your runner at the finish line.  I marked all of the spots I was able to see Flavia on the map above with green circles.

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Post-Race

After the race we were both exhausted, Flavia a little more than I was, so we headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner.  That evening we headed out to the West Loop area to meet some friends and get dinner with one of our trainees, who also ran the marathon.  We ended up eating at Forno Rosso, a small upscale pizza join with classic Neapolitan pizza.


Day 3 – Monday

Chicago Dogs and Italian Hot Beef Sandwiches

Monday morning we headed out to explore the city.  We started off with a coffee in the downtown area and then stroll down the River-walk  towards the Navy Pier.  The River Walk is great with lots of sights to see along the way, but we would suggest not going to Navy Pier during a weekday.  Navy Pier looked like a lot of fun on a weekend or in the evening as there were a lot of Bars but everything was closed during the morning when we were there.  

 

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After visiting the Navy Pier we headed decided to try a famous Chicago Hot Dog and Italian Hot Beef sandwich.  A friend had recommended Portillo's, so we headed to the closest one on Ontario St.  Portillo’s was amazing and 100% worth the trek to get a hot dog, which was a classic as they come; all beef, on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet relish, dill pickle, tomato slices, and peppers.   I would also recommend trying the Hot Beef sandwich but get it “Dipped” in gravy with peppers, cause you just ran a marathon and you deserve it!

Architecture Tour

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After experiencing true Chicago culture we headed back uptown to catch an Architecture cruise.  We booked a cruise with Shoreline Sightseeing which left port around 4:30 pm.  We recommend booking your cruise ahead of time to skip lines, and show up about an hour early so you can get a seat on the top deck of the boat.  The tour was guided by local Architecture students and each one puts a different spin on what they point out.  We ended up catching the tour right at dusk so by the end of the tour we got some great night views of the city by Navy Pier.  When we go back for the next marathon we will be doing this tour again!


Day 4 – Tuesday (Let be Tourists Day)

Sears Tower

On our last day in Chicago we decided to be real tourists and check out the Sears tower… you can’t come all the way out to skip this sight right.  We just had to have that iconic picture in the Sky Deck to round out the trip.  That morning we set out towards the town, and little did we know every other marathon runner and tourist in Chicago was also on their way.  When we arrived there was a line out what appeared to be the door but was in reality the line to the next line.  It probably took us about an hour to get to the observation deck, but the glass balcony was so packed we decided it wasn’t worth it to try and cram in for a picture.  I will admit the views from the tower were breathtaking, but if you are on the fence I would skip this one.

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Prohibition Tour and Blues Bar

After hanging out around town for a little while killing time our final destination was a Chicagoland Speakeasy Tour.  The tour covered tour covered 4 speakeasies and plenty of history and drinks were served.  After the speakeasy tour we stopped in at the Kingston Mines blues bar for some live music  and delicious pub food to finish off the trip.  The Kingston has been open since 1968 and is one of the oldest running blues joins in Chicago.  If you're a music love this one is a real treat.

 

That's it for this trip, next stop Tokyo Marathon! See you soon runners, and remember

Train Hard, Run Strong!



 

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