Returning from the “Thai of my Life”

16 Jan

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. I’ve been on lots of adventures, of course, plus lots of other things have been occupying this mind of mine. One adventure, though, cannot be ignored. My trip to Thailand was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done for myself and I can’t wait to share it with my reader(s?) despite the fact that my reader base consists of my best friends, all of whom know all about the trip. WORK WITH ME!

So Kayla’s been trying to get me to go to Thailand for a couple of years. As a successful waitress at the ever-popular Big Bowl, she’s had a hankering for authentic Thai food that she just couldn’t kick. I wasn’t convinced that we needed to fly half way around the world for some temples and pad thai (foreshadowing: Pad Thai is AWESOME). Then, one fateful Monday night, it hit me like a ton of bricks bad TV show. The cast of the Bachelor went to Thailand and it was BEAUTIFUL. I told Kayla to sign me up.

We tried last winter to book a trip for March, but the cheap tickets we found online didn’t turn out to be legitimate. Then, last August, we took a leap of faith and bought airline tickets for December through January. I thought a winter vacation sounded perfect, so I bought the two-week ticket and never looked back.

Phi Phi Island Thailand long boats

Long boats on Phi Phi Island

In September Kayla and I bought the domestic flights to fly within the regions of Thailand. We decided we wanted to be in the picturesque islands for New Year’s so we would go to the mountains and jungles of Chiang Mai the following week. Kayla found a lot of the hotel accommodations on AirBnB and we slowly started to fill our Google Doc of a schedule with excursions and activities.

I know my recap of Thailand can’t all fit in one post, so here’s what I’m proposing:

  • Day 0 – Fears of traveling to Asia
  • Day 1 in Thailand – Bangkok
  • Days 2-6 in Thailand – Phuket
  • Days 7-13 in Thailand – Chiang Mai
  • Day 14 in Thailand – Bangkok pt. 2
  • Layover in Hong Kong
  • Things I wish I would have known before traveling to Thailand/Tips
  • Final Thoughts/ Reflection

Wow, that’s an additional eight posts, but I think I can do it. Will you join me?

Ran Tong Chiang Mai elephants

Showering the elephants in Chiang Mai


A Very Chicago Weekend

23 Jul

I feel so fortunate for incredible weather this weekend! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were gorgeous and I made the most of them all!

Friday night I grabbed drinks with my roommate and it turned into a late-night bar crawl. Saturday I woke up, ran around the city and enjoyed the sunshine then headed home to the suburbs for some QT with my fam, neighbors, and girlfriends. Kayla and I went on a bike ride around Busse Woods with two guys that I probably haven’t seen since 2005, so that was interesting. Of course with Facebook it feels like I’ve seen them every year since, so it was pretty normal.

After that Jamie, Lili, and Loredana joined us and the seven of us tried to play Risk (the 1975 version). We couldn’t figure out how to play and lost interest pretty quickly, but then one of the guys ran to his apartment to grab a game he plays with his family: Telestrations. It’s basically the game of telephone but with drawings. It sounds like it’d be pretty tame but it is actually unbelievably fun. There were seven of us adults playing (his game only supported six players, so one person had to be the timer) and we were crying from laughing so hard. If you buy the game I suggest making sure you play with as many people as possible!

I stayed at Kayla’s until about 12:30 and then ran back to my parents’ to drop my bike off and head back to the city.
Sunday morning I woke up at 9:30 and headed over to church before our scheduled beach day could begin. Jamie and Kayla came over and we loaded up my new bike cargo cart (the girls used Divvy) and we found a spot on North Ave. beach. I didn’t get to use my paddle board at the beach because it was just too crowded but it is one of my goals by the end of the summer.

Bike Cargo Trailer

After the beach we cleaned up and made our way to Jonquil Park (right by my place) to watch Ghostbusters. While we waited for the movie to start we ordered Lou Malnati’s, played Telestrations (this is when we learned the more people, the better) and hung out. It surprisingly got chilly by the end of the night but I love Movies in the Park no matter what.

Movies in the Park

In my opinion it was the perfect weekend!

Lake Zurich Triathlon – 7.13.14

17 Jul

Gracelyn and I woke up at 5:00 and were on the road by 5:30 am for the Lake Zurich triathlon. I’ve never been to a tri that did morning-of packet pickup, but this one, we would learn, is pretty small and not too intense so it was not a big deal to arrive by 6:00 and get our gear. Plus, you couldn’t get your timing strap until day-of, so why bother?


Our stickerts for our helmets and bikes looked like they were printed on Office Max labels on someone’s home printer if that gives you any indication of the professionalism of the race. Actually, I take that back. Everything detail-wise was perfect and up to par with a big company putting it on, so I was happy to have a smaller, cheaper race without skimping on safety or quality.


Oh, and another thing. People here were WAY more serious than people at my other races. My first indication (of what will be many) was the fact that despite the 76 degree water temperature (can we say bath water?) 99% of the racers were wearing full wet suits. It wasn’t because they were cold, it was because they wanted that competitive advantage. Fast-forward to my final indication that this was pre-pro racing. 90% of the bikes were tri bikes. The expensive, $2,000 minimum kind. I was using my $400 Craigslist road bike.


Did I mention I haven’t done a race of this distance?


I thought I trained decently. I knew I probably should have trained more, but I was totally unprepared for the ass-whooping I was about to get.


I finished the almost-mile (0.93) swim in 44 minutes. It was hard, but nothing compared to my swim in Lake M on Thursday. I noticed my entire wave had passed me and most of the wave behind me. This was my first inclination that I am going to finish at the end of pack.


Ran to transition and had a decent time. Maybe because I was one of the few people not taking off a wetsuit. Jumped on the bike and I was tired. Really tired. I had some patches of 14 mph and I knew it wasn’t fast enough to keep up (but hey! I did go 21+ mph down the hills!!). My average speed was just under 16 mph. Again, I noticed I was getting passed by almost everyone and I only passed one person ever. The bike is my strongest leg so this was concerning. It should be noted that the bike portion was shortened by about 5 miles the week before the race because of some unannounced road work. That was kind of a relief to me, but then again, the bike is my best part. Why couldn’t they take some miles off the run!?
The scenery on the bike leg was notable. A couple of horse stables and some nice nature patches. Plus, it was blocked off almost completely from cars, which was nice.


Oh, and then the run. The run. My tummy was growling come run time so I had one of those goo packets. Gross.


I feel like I was least prepared for the run. This is my own fault, it’s the easiest to train for – no equipment necessary! For some reason, my legs didn’t feel quite like Jell-o as soon as I started running. I kinda feel like I might not have pushed it enough on the bike, which is sad for me, but the overall race was hard so I don’t regret that – I don’t think.


The first lap of the run was fine, lots of walking breaks for the hills, but whatever. Then, the weirdest thing happened. I saw my mom right before the second lap and noticed I was the only person continuing the loop, not going to the finish. I actually thought something was wrong, but the course was so well marked I knew I was just on the lonely trail to finishing this race by myself. That was pretty hard, mentally. Luckily the race staff were still there and supportive but it was pretty lonely. I had a lot of chats with God about how grateful I am for an able body and I asked Him to help me push through.

Melissa Run

I finally finished that second set of 3.1 miles.
Gracelyn got third in our age group – she rocks. Sadly, we don’t have a photo together. Also, there are no race photos for me to steal because this was a pretty low budget race.


Now the biggest question for myself is – do I want to strive to do another Olympic distance and really, really train? Or, should I train harder for the sprint distances?


I’ll get back to you on that, but in the meantime I’m getting excited for Beach Day on Sunday and Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson at Ravinia on Monday! Stay tuned for posts on those!

My busy Thursday – sorry no pics!

11 Jul

I have a lot of posting to catch up on, specifically my trips to Charlotte, New York, and my big fourth of July festivities, but first I have to talk about what happened yesterday.

My morning started off better than ever. My 10:00 on-site meeting got changed to a call/webex so I was able to sleep in until 8:00 and take the call from home before going into the office afterwards. That extra sleep and WFH (work from home) time allowed me to do three loads of laundry, some dishes, straighten up and pack for my post-work activities. It was so relaxing and glorious. Plus, I rode a Divvy to work at 11:00 when the sun was shining and everything was a little less hectic. Finally, the best part was arriving at work at 11:30 and realizing it was almost lunch time!

After work I did the unspeakable. Actually, if I would have known how bad this was there’s probably no way I would have gotten through the day anticipating what I had to do.

Since my Lake Zurich Triathlon is in three short days, I had to get some open water swimming in. Last Tuesday I tried to go to the Chicago Triathlon open water clinic, like I did last year, but they were out of wet suits when I arrive so I had to face the 68 degree (at its warmest) water in just a swimsuit. Needless to say I was cold and only got in a half mile swim. Yesterday I was determined to get a full mile in since I’ll be racing at 0.93 miles on Sunday.

I wore my Craigslist wetsuit (which some onlookers pointed out is a jet ski wet suit, but it was 100% warmer than no wetsuit) and spent over an hour in the water. It was cold, but not bad (Tuesday was bad), but the water was ROUGH. I can’t believe how difficult it was to swim in that wavy water.

Anyway, I made it. And for anyone who lives in Chicago you know there’s no easy way to get home from Ohio Street Beach. It’s a good third mile walk to Michigan Avenue (to get a bus and connect to another bus to get home) and well over a half mile to get the el. Also, I was carrying a wet wet suit. So, as soon as I climbed the steps to make my decision I saw a Divvy station and decided to Divvy home. (Triathlon training…amiright?)

I made it home and had less than five minutes to change out of my swimsuit and put on fresh clothes before my friends picked me up to meet for dinner before my ukulele class. We went to Bad Apple in Lincoln Square and I got a mushroom and goat cheese sandwich with truffle oil fries. YUM. Then, I showed up about 30 minutes late to uke class (food took a while) and was surprised with a fun jam session in the Old Town School of Folk lobby with guitarists, banjo-ists (?), harmonicans (?), etc. It was fun.

Why am I telling you all about my busy day? Mostly because I’m afraid I’m going to grow a third limb from exposing myself to Lake Michigan for so long without showering right away(I showered after I Divvy’ed home from uke at about 10:30 pm). So now you guys know, if I end up with extra body parts and stop showing up in your instagram feeds, that’s why. I’m ashamed of my new lake body.

Le Tour de Shore 2014

25 Jun

Ever since I bought my road bike in August I have been addicted to cycling. There’s something about a road bike that makes you feel lighter and go faster (oh yeah – it’s the wheel size and overall design). I loved my fall 2013 Bubbafest tour of the Florida Keys and I wanted to continue my touring rides. I saw an ad for Le Tour de Shore in my copy of Adventure Cycling that I am trying out as a result of Bubbafest but I didn’t think anyone would want to do the two day, 100+ mile ride with me. Jamie and Kayla had plans for that weekend and I didn’t think I knew of anyone else with a road bike. Luckily, my friend Gracelyn who really introduced me to triathlons, had a group of cycling friends that had signed up for the ride independently and I was able to tag along with their group.

Friday morning I met the group of riders along the lake shore path around 6:40 am and we rode down to Millennium Park for the start of the event. It was chilly but perfect for riding. Gracelyn had told me she didn’t want to go “too slow” but wouldn’t be “holding 20 [mph]” which she translated to mean 17 mph. I saw that as a challenge but as it turns out she and two cycling friends really held 20 mph for a lot of the ride which left me cycling by myself, which was actually kind of nice.


The ride was split into two days. We rode ~65 miles the first day and camped in the Indiana Dunes Friday night and conquered ~45 miles the second day finishing in New Buffalo, Michigan.

The SAG stops (I think SAG stands for stop-and-go, but no one I ask really knows) on this ride were amazing. The first one was about 20 miles into the ride and had Chris Cakes pancakes – this guy holds the world record for highest pancake flipped in a frying pan), fruit, granola bars, water and Gatorade. I love pancakes and loved this stop. The next stop, right around noonish, had PB&J sandwiches and chips – heaven! I didn’t feel guilty about eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos AND a bag of Fritos because – hey – we just rode for 40 miles. The final stop before arriving to the camp site was just fruit and granola bars but I’m still really appreciative of the stops. Saturday morning’s SAG stops had Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee (mile 76) and fruit and granola bars (mile 96) before ending at a big barbeque on the beach.

The scenery for the ride was incredible. We rode along Lake Michigan for 60% of the ride, through corn fields, past beach houses and even stopped at a winery/brewery/distillery. The thing I loved most about the ride was how short and sweet it was. I’m not saying 100+ miles on the bike is short, but it was nice to be done riding after two days. I also liked the idea of riding one way and not having to turn back and see the entire route again. After our BBQ in Michigan we hopped on coach buses and headed home. The funny thing, though, is that the route that took us more than six hours on the bike took about an hour and a half to reverse on bus.


The weather couldn’t have been better. I did end up with a nasty sun burn, but I attribute that to the fact that the temperature was so crisp that I didn’t realize how strong the sun was. It actually got cold in the evening while camping. I slept in sweat pants, a hoodie, a bed sheet and a sleeping bag and was still cold. Saturday morning was chilly but I had a sweet jersey shrug that kept me comfortable until the first SAG stop. This is where I should have re-applied sunscreen (or applied for the first time to the previously covered areas). I have a sweet bike jersey burn on my back that hurts like heck.

I’m so grateful that I got to hang with Gracelyn and her friends. They were great. There were eight of us total and Gracelyn and I shared a tent Friday night. Other expert campers suggest we not keep our food in our tent because raccoons will actually rip through the tent to get it while we’re sleeping so we put everything we had in a bag of Gracelyn’s and inside the cabin at our camp ground. That actually turned out to be a pretty bad idea because the raccoons snuck into the cabin and had a smorgasbord of food throughout the night. We actually caught them sleeping on the bag in the morning!


My butt hurt for the next day but the ride was totally worth it. It is actually a fundraiser for the Maywood area fine arts programs, which I think is great! This ride is definitely worth the money and the day off of work. I can’t wait til next year!

Backstreet’s Back (again)

23 Jun

Remember last summer when Kristin and I went to the Backstreet Boys concert and it got shut down early because of the Chicago Park District’s curfew? Yeah. That sucked. But the Boys held true to their promise and ticket purchasers were offered a 25% discount on tickets for the 2014 show. Kristin and I jumped at the opportunity and I even bought a pair to sell for profit (which I did).

The concert was last Tuesday and was just as fun as the first round! It actually was the same exact show and the good news is we figured out that we hadn’t missed too much by them ending early last time.

I picked us up a few vintage (1998) concert t-shirts on eBay, but it was a little too cold to show them off, sadly.

Vintage BSB Shirts

The main difference between the two shows was the openers. Avril Lavigne (remember her?) opened for BSB this year compared to Pauly D and Jesse McCartney (which ultimately caused BSB to start late and get cut off). Avril was pretty good, surprisingly. She sang a few new hits and also reminisced with her singles from the early 2000s. She still had her dark eyeliner (I’m assuming) and a tutu on so it’s good to know some things never change.

Our seats were in the more expensive section (compared to the seats I flipped) so we went to check out the difference in views and found they actually had a more elevated view of the stage. We continues back to our original seats (but stayed in the bleachers/risers) and found some open seats as we waited for the show to start. The seats’ ticket holders came and we scooted down a few and much to our surprise the seats were ours for the rest of the night! They were excellent seats and we totally lucked out. Speaking of luck, it had completely down poured the night before and the event was rain or shine, so I was nervous we might get rained out. Similarly to last year the weather held out for us! It was cool and in the 60s but it didn’t start to rain until we were driving home.

Awesome Seats

The show was fantastic. The boys were awesome and it was so fun to sing and dance along with them. I can’t say enough about how much fun Kristin and I had at both shows. I hope they keep touring so we can keep going. They are, strangely, coming out with a documentary so at least we have that. I also really like some of the songs from their new album which is a sign that they’re on the right track.


I’m looking forward to all the future BSB concerts with Kristin – easily a highlight of the summer!

Naperville Esprit de She Sprint Triathlon 2014

22 Jun

On Sunday, June 8, I completed my first triathlon of the season. It was an all-women triathlon, which I preferred last year to the co-ed (Lake Geneva) version, so I was really pumped. Plus, because I competed in an Esprit de She event last year (their inaugural year), I was supposed to get special perks (spoiler alert: BUST).

The weather had been iffy in Chicago and I was worried about air/water temps. One blogger I read, Kelly the Culinarian, had done a practice swim in the pool we were going to use and advised me that sans-wetsuit would be OK. She was totally right, the water was 76 degrees and perfect.

The morning of the race I woke up at 4:45 and the air temperature was 55 degrees when I headed to Naperville. The transition area closed at 6:45 am and my wave wouldn’t begin until 8:15 am which meant a lot of waiting around.

The race went perfectly. I have no regrets about the amount I trained or prepared. My swim started off a bit rough because I was at the back of my wave and probably didn’t deserve to be. It’s funny how you wait what feels like forever (almost two hours) to start and when it’s your time you feel rushed! I didn’t even put my goggles on my face until about ten seconds before starting. What the heck was I doing the rest of the time? Anyway, I got a lot of feet in my face and didn’t feel free to swim comfortably until about one third into the course.

My transition one (T1) time was long. I saw my mom and was kind of chatting with her while I transitioned to bike. My biggest complaint about the race was the way they had set up the transition areas. The run out and bike in were at the same spot so those of us in later waves (read: younger) had to run with the bike longer than the others. I know it’s not a big deal, but for some reason it really bothered me. Probably because it’s uncomfortable running when you’re exhausted and dragging a bike on your side.


The bike ride was great – it was actually my best leg. It was two laps and there was a strong head wind on the second half of each lap which made for some cold riding but the tail wind side was so great and I could hit up to 21 mph. I did see one wipe out because there were sharp turns and lots of lost water bottles.

Like I said I wasn’t thrilled about the way transitions were set up. Running with the bike is difficult. Nothing noteworthy during T2 other than I found my sunglasses in my cycling shoes (I thought I had left them at home). I wore a hat for the first time – mostly so my parents could see me – that I had won from my friend and former classmate Erin’s blog. Thanks, Headsweats!


The run was OK. There was little crowd cheering and it felt kind of lonely. I don’t know if I’ll ever master the jelly-legs feeling you get off of the bike that makes you feel like you are crawling when you’re trucking along at a regular run pace. No hills or surprises so that was a win for me!

My parents came out to support me and take photos and I really appreciated it. There was a fun “lifestyle market” at the end of the race that really wasn’t any different than other races I’ve finished. There was a VIP “founding finishers” tent for those of us that races with Esprit de She last year but it wasn’t very exciting. They didn’t offer anything exclusive other than private port-o-potties and sparkling grape juice.

Like I said – great weather and a great race. No regrets. Plus my mom and I picked up Portillos on the way home – WIN!


Swim (1/2 mile): 15:27

T1: 4:23

Bike (14 mile): 49:17 (avg 16 mph)

T2: 3:19

Run (5k): 33:17 (10:43/mi)

Total: 1:45:41