Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Was a Good Year

It literally seems like yesterday that I was hungover on a couch, watching the Florida Gator's bowl game, eating orange and blue nachos on January 1, 2011. And now 2012 is a mere 2 days away. I don't have a hefty list of 2011 resolutions to recap for you but I do think I accomplished some pretty great things this year. Here are the highlights:

I skiied my first double black diamond in the Rocky Mountains. I had skiied double blacks on the east coast but, in my opinion, those are about on par with a blue run on the west coast. So this was a huge bitch of an accomplishment. I also taught Josh to ski for the first time.

This is actually before my second double black, which
I skiied with Nathan the day after my first.

I moved into Washington, DC. Finally, after two years of living together, Josh and I got to live alone together. And it has been as much fun as I always thought it would be.

I ran my first half marathon. The National Half Marathon in March.

I joined Capital Bikeshare. I didn't use it enough but I still have four months left of membership so that would make for a good resolution in 2012.

I rode my bike through New York City's Five Boros. I later learned that I basically biked the NYCM backwards. I also learned that 30,000 people and their bikes can NOT comfortably fit on 42 miles of New York City streets.

I began to truly LOVE running. It became part of my lifestyle, not because it could help me lose weight or let me eat more calories but because it made me feel good. It changed my life. And, yes, this list is in chronological order and, no, I did not truly love running until after my first half marathon.

I hosted, and cooked, a vegan birthday dinner for my dad, during which my family dreamed of, and became serious about riding our bikes across America in the Summer 2012. That was a very defining night in my life and was the inspiration for such great things.

I virtually rode Ragbrai. Really I just wrote about it and vicariously rode it. But whatever, a girl can dream. And next year I will actually ride my bike from river to river, across Iowa.

After actually completely Ragbrai, Summer 2010

I survived an earthquake. Good thing because, that same day, I got to see one of my best friends from high school.

Then I survived a hurricane.

I bought a Garmin and learned what it meant to race for speed.

I began to take blogging seriously. And I have found so much support and awesomeness in this community.

I ran a half marathon in under two hours. It was my second half, in Baltimore, and it was one of the  hardest and best things I did this year. It was also the day that one of my great friends ran her first marathon, on her 26th birthday. I will always remember that day.

With Nikki after my sub-2 and her first marathon!

I ran/walked a race with my brother. I basically forced him to do this with me, by signing him up and paying his way before he had even agreed to do it. He did not run the whole time but I like to think he is glad to have done it.

My bike ride across America was approved and, therefore, became real. It was just a random Thursday but it should go down as one of the most noteworthy days of the year. Because it opened the door to one of the best dreams my family and I have ever had.

Joyce and I, as jazzed as humanly possible about biking.

A lot more happiness was had in December but I think I'll end on that note. Because that door, that was opened by approval for leave from my boss, is exactly how I want to look ahead into 2012. This year was full of a lot of love and good times and I feel very fortunate for that. But to end a great year, and be even more excited about what the next has in store... I think I could ask for nothing better.

Happy 2011 and I hope everyone has great things to look forward to in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


A few months ago, after the Baltimore Half Marathon, I started to dream about running a marathon. For the first time in my life, I had really raced something for a particular goal time and I wanted to push myself even more. I wondered when I could fit running, and training for, a marathon in the near future of my life. For a very short period of time, next summer's bike trip felt like a nuisance because it would mean two months off of running and it would postpone any potential marathons for another two years or so. Because, when I do commit myself to running that whopping 26.2 miles, I better be focusing on that alone.

I think my biggest problem was that the bike ride seemed so overwhelming and almost unreal. I was a little scared of it. But the wonderful series of events that occurred in late November, starting with a call from Joyce and ending with approval for leave from my boss, changed my attitude completely. Am I still a little overwhelmed? Yes. But am I excited beyond belief? Hell yes.

Ok ok, where am I going with this? My point is that I'm realizing that I have to prioritize. The idea that I sent Nikki in an e-mail last fall saying "do you think I can fit a marathon in next spring before the bike ride?" was just insane. Maybe if I was a seasoned runner with many marathons under my belt, then yes, I could. But for my first one, that is just crazy talk. Even the idea that I'd like to run a few half marathons this spring probably isn't my best.

Sure, I could probably race 13.1 miles three or four times over the next few months and be alright. But, my bike ride and many summer plan conversations with my parents this past weekend made me realize something very important. 2012 is the year of the cross country bike ride. I'm sure it will be a year for many other things, at work especially, but, for the sake of my body, it is the year to focus on biking.

I will still race the RNR USA half marathon in March but I have decided not to try out the Run Less Run Faster training plan and strive for a speedy time (I had my sights on 1:50 or 1:52). I will train the way I did for Baltimore, on my own terms, and I will simply aim to PR. I will still write about running but I better also be writing about a lot of bike rides and campground research. I have my whole life to run far and long but I may not have my whole life to squeeze in 10 weeks on a bike with my mom and dad.

My priority in 2012 is to plan and execute this epic bike journey that I have been dreaming about for so long. I am going to do everything in my power to stay in shape and do what I love (running included) but also to stay injury free and prepared for 3,000+ miles on a bike seat.

And, when I return, that will be the time to set my sights on a new (26.2 mile or otherwise) adventure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Weekend Recap

As I finally catch up on all of my favorite blogs, which I've been neglecting the past few days, I thought I'd join in the merriment and tell you about my long, very red and green, weekend.

 It started with a Friday afternoon hike on the Billy Goat Trail with my Inna. That's right, she's mine. We got our feet a little muddy, we climbed on rocks, and we ate fruit and granola.

That night, we ventured to U Street with Josh for our first speakeasy experience at The Gibson. I'm not one for liquor, especially when it tastes like licorice, so I can't honestly say that my drink with absinthe in it tasted good. But it was still a fun time with great conversation about the world. After finishing our expensive drinks, Inna and I sent Josh home and went on a romantic little date at Bistro La Bonne. It was very french, very tasty, very reasonably priced and I would definitely return but my heart will still always be with Bistro Du Coin.

I don't have photographic evidence but I wore green pants and a red scarf out on Friday. 

Having had only the one cocktail and a glass of rose with dinner, I woke up with a mild hangover on Saturday morning. If you've ever read my first ever blog post, you may remember my belief in windy bike rides as the #1 way to cure a hangover. Luckily, I had a long-standing date with my dad to meet at 9:30 am on the Georgetown waterfront and set out for a Christmas Eve bike ride. We rode south to Alexandria, across my favorite bridge to the National Harbor, and then back to Old Town for hot soup and tea/beer by a fire at our favorite Irish bar. We rode to the new MLK memorial, which I hadn't seen yet, and then back to my parents' house. It had been a long time since I'd biked up the Capital Crescent Trail and it was nice. The whole day was very cold and windy but the sun was out so we survived. 

My ride ended up being 36 miles and my dad's 42 because he had a much longer ride to our Georgetown meet-up. I couldn't even remember the last time I rode my bike over 30 miles and that is sad. We are excited to plan many more father-daughter bike rides this winter to rack up the miles in preparation for our epic journey in Summer 2012.

Within ten minutes of our return home, Josh arrived with a car full of presents and overnight clothes. He and I headed to a bar in Bethesda to watch a disappointing Broncos game. Afterward, we showered and got dolled up for the traditional Shaw Family Christmas Eve feast. Can you guess who insisted we set up the tripod for a lovely photo? It was me.

We talked about many things and then we played our made-up telephone/memory/pictionary Christmas game from last year. And, thanks to the game, we laughed a lot.

We also all wore red or green or, in most cases, both. We are very festive.

 The grown-ups went to church and, because we stayed home to watch Friends Christmas episodes, I guess that makes Josh, Nathan, and I the kids. I fell asleep on the couch and then woke up at 8am the next morning to run my Virtual 5k.

Running, sweating, blah blah blah. Then we gathered around the tree and opened presents. Nathan and I always sit on the floor while the grown-ups sit in real chairs. I guess overnight, Josh entered the world of grown-up and earned a seat on the couch. It is fun to get presents, but I am finding more and more that I have five times as much fun giving them. Christmas is so much nicer now that we're all adults and we take a long time to sit around the tree enjoying each others company instead of ripping paper wildly.

Then we ate our traditional brunch,

read books, greeted an afternoon visitor,

played a chess tournament (resulst: 1st place- Dad, 2nd place- Joshua, 3rd place- yours truly),


ate leftovers around the dining room table, drank a 1985 bottle of Bordeaux, had a lesson in wines of the world,


and watched Water for Elephants. Christmas was a day full of coziness and that is exactly how I like it. I really didn't want it to end.

To wrap up the weekend, Josh and I returned home and I ran the Home for the Holidays 10k yesterday afternoon. Then I went to Inna's for one final night of best friendness, and to catch up with her parents and eat her mom's kickass cooking, before she flies to Kuwait and Italy to ring in the New Year.

Sometimes I am cynical about Christmas because of the disgustingness of Black Friday and the 500 e-mails I get a day in December trying to sell me things, but it really is the best time of the year. If every weekend could be four days long and full of love, family, food, wine, and sweating, I think life would be just about perfect. Cheesefest over.

I want to know! How was your Christmas/ Hannukuh/ Holiday Celebration?? Did you go anywhere exotic or stay home? Did you sweat a lot? Did you loose a chess tournament? I hope it was merry and bright!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Virtual Holiday Races and Stylish (sweaty) Presents

Happy Holidays!

I have been gloriously out of touch with the blogosphere this weekend, as I sweat and relax with my family. The closest I've been to technology has been in texting merry Christmas to many loved ones and in reading my new Kindle Fire (thanks Santa!) I'm not quite ready to recap all the holiday festivities but I would like to quickly report on three things.

First: Virtual Christmas 5k, Daily Vitamin F

I ran my third virtual holiday race, hosted by Kiley of daily vitamin F, yesterday. I can honestly say that I had never woken up early on Christmas morning to lace up my asics and go for a run. I'm usually the type to wear the most festive pajamas I own, and cozy up by the fire all morning with tea, sometimes not leaving the house all day. But the whole point of Kiley's race series is to encourage us to be active through the holidays. And it worked. I love to run anyway, so once I decided to do this, I was actually really excited to hit the streets at 8am on Christmas morning and appreciate the deserted feeling in Bethesda.

I ran from my parents' house to the house I grew up in, only 1.7 miles away.

I ran the two blocks from there to the house Ingrid grew up in and embraced the strong nostalgia of running that terrain I had walked so so many times as a child and as a teenager.

Then I ran home. Actually, I ran away from the place I called home for 18 years of my life, and back to my family.

As usual, I was not prepared enough to print the race
bib and photograph myself with it. If that disqualifies me,
whatever- I'm just happy to have been encouraged to run. 

Then, just like old times, I jumped on my brother's bed, this time dripping sweat on him, so we could begin opening presents.

Second: I got Sweating in Style Presents

I hope you people are ready because I was gifted very much awesomeness this christmas that will support my stylishly sweaty lifestyle and my trans-america bike ride. Here is a little fashion show of my favorites...

Nike running pullover with thumb holls and a
finger pouch to keep my hands warm from Joshua.
(or so I can run and do a puppet show at the same time)

Detailed Northern Route cycling map and
bumper sticker from Adventure Cycling
(from Santa)

Sleeveless cherry blossom bike jersey from my dad
(this deserves major props as he doesn't shop ever
for anything but food and wine)

Fleece pullover and silk sleeping sack (the green thing)
from my Mom It's like a sheet shaped like a sleeping bag-
for warm nights in tents. I think we'll become
very good friendscome summer 2012

Nike cold weather running vest from Joshua

New mummy sleeping bag from parents. I am a mummy!
Ok, sorry for bragging about all my cool new stuff. I'm clearly very excited. I hope that everyone who exchanged gifts yesterday got many things to be excited about!

Third: Home for the Holidays Virtual 10k

I ran my fourth virtual holiday race, the Home for the Holidays 10k hosted by StephanieRobin, and Ashley. The nice thing about this race is it gave people the option to participate any time from December 23-26. With a hike on Friday, bike ride on Saturday and another virtual race yesterday, I had only today to squeeze the 10k in. Josh and I didn't get home until 3pm this afternoon so I set out pretty much immediately for the race.

This is not how I run in real life.
Only for running jumping pictures.

I knew I didn't have anything festive enough to put me in the running for the best race outfit prize but I wanted to sweat in a little Christmas style nonetheless. I was also fooled by the sunny skies so I suited up in my shortest shorts and a little cotton tee.

There is a christmas tree on my shirt, I promise.

I guess, even when you're sweating, beauty is pain because this outfit did not make for a pleasant 55 minutes of running.

This is me in pain post-race

I was really cold and, somehow, I think that made the run harder. My body must have used quite a bit of energy to warm itself, leaving less to fuel my legs up the beast of a hill that is Mass Ave. I finished the race in 55:12.30 and I'm very happy to just to have completed the thing.

I hope that everyone kept active this weekend and that. Thank you to Kiley, Stephanie, Robin, and Ashley for providing the perfect motivation to run this weekend! Those prizes you're offering are pretty sweet but simply knowing that so many other runners are out there participating in this virtual race with me kept me going!

Tell me: did you get any sweaty presents this weekend? Did you (or have you ever) run a virtual race for the holidays?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mastering the Track Repeat

Yesterday, I completed my third ever speedy track workout. And I realized that I have a whole lot to learn. I am figuring out how to navigate the whole Run Less Run Faster training plan workouts this week and next so that, when I officially begin my half marathon training in January, I'll be an expert. But the track work is hard.

The book says that the point of the track run, what they call "Key Workout #1" is to improve maximal oxygen consumption, running economy and speed. It is not designed for you to run as fast as you can but to run the entire workout at the target time with little or no deviation in time for each repeat. According to their speed chart, RLRF instructed me to run each 400m lap in 1:53 seconds.

I did a 10 minute warm-up, 12 400 meter laps (aiming for 1:53) with 90 second rest interval jogs in between each, and a 9 minute cool-down. If I was to do this right, there should only be a 2-3 second difference in my time for each lap. That is where I really struggled. You can see that my times (circled) are all over the place.

Running in circles can get monotonous and my mind wanders. I did a lot of slowing down and speeding up because I wasn't 100% focused on the movement of my legs. I learned how that is the most important thing- to be really in touch with my body- with how fast my legs can move and how consistently they are moving. Every stride needs to be identical to the one before it. I need to do each one of those identical strides repeatedly for 400 meters and then I need to do eleven more identical 400 meter laps with those same identical strides. And then the next week, the distances and the number of repeats will change. But, as long as I can learn to control my body enough to make every singly stride identical, every single time, then I will be good to go.

It's no small feat. But it's an exciting one. Running, itself, is so wonderful but running that requires you to know every move and every capability of your body so intimately is even better. I am athletic, I am aggressive, and I am a hard worker. But I am not precise and I am not graceful. I may be a hot mess in my next few attempts at these track workouts but I look forward to mastering it!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Sweat in Style: Running in the Dark

1. Hi-Viz light-weight glove, 2. Brooks nightlife headband, 3. Road ID Slim, 4. Reflective Belt, 5. iPhone, 6. Reflective Vest, 7. Insulator Stabilyx Tights, 8. Brooks Nightgear shorts, 9. Reflective waist pack, 10. Saucony Hi-Viz shoes, 11. Mynx coldgear jacket, 12. LED Headlight

The good news: yesterday was the shortest day of the year so our hours of sunlight will be slowly increasing from now until June. The bad news: there are still very many evenings of early darkness left this season.

I am one to naturally worry so I prefer to avoid running in the dark when I can. But I've learned that, with a 9-5 work schedule, the only way to avoid it is to not run at all. And I'm sorry [mom] but that's not going to happen. So I do the best I can to stay safe. I don't run in the morning darkness when there are far fewer people out than at night. I wear bright neon outfits. I stay on well lit streets that are busy with pedestrians. I wear reflective gear. I run with buddies when I can. And I try to run with a phone in case of emergencies.

If you have no choice but to run in the dark through the winter, here are some pieces of clothing and accessories that I think will help make you more easily visible. Remember to sweat in style (preferably in neon) but don't do anything that you feel unsafe about. Enjoy!

Tell me: Do you run in the dark? If so, do you do so only during certain, safer hours? Do you have a go-to piece of clothing or accessory that helps make night running more safe?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tennis, Tempo, Tired.


I like my job but I do not like sitting under fluorescent lights in front of a computer all day. So, to blow off some steam, I left the office at lunchtime yesterday to play tennis with Kate. We crossed the street to UDC, whose courts are "open to the community" according to their website. We got there, though, and the giant padlocks on all of their gates said otherwise. I called the number on their rule board and was told by a friendly woman in the athletic department that you must be a student or a paying member of the tennis club in order to use the courts. We were neither and even if we were, we'd have had to make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance.

So we wandered up the street to a park that I vaguely remembered seeing on a walk two years ago and hoped that I hadn't just been dreaming. Sure enough, the park was real and it had tennis courts! Tennis courts with cracks and grass growing from them but tennis courts nonetheless.

We played for 35 minutes and by "played", I mean "hit the ball back and forth wildly, getting a pretty good workout from all the ball-chasing". Neither of us had used a racket in a while but we had fun and agreed to make it a regular thing. Tennis Tuesdays or Tennis Thursdays. Or Tennis Twednesdays or basically tennis on any day that Kate doesn't have afternoon meetings. It will happen and we will get really good.


I broke a good sweat at lunch but I hadn't run in a few days and I was getting antsy for it so I decided to do a quick tempo run after work. Also, the temperature was 51 degrees and that, my friends, is my idea of perfect running weather.

Really December? 60 degrees? And does it have to be 47 and rainy on Sunday, the 25th? Really?
With my Garmin sufficiently charged this time, I planned to do a full five miles as follows: warm-up, 8:30mm, 7:45mm, 8:30mm, cool-down. I came pretty close to goal and it was, as always, a challenge. But it was a good one.

One of the hardest parts for me continues to be running a slow warm-up mile. It feels unnatural to start out a run so slowly and I hate to get in the groove of such a pace when I know I will need to run almost two minutes faster later. But I know the body "needs" the warm-up (I guess it's the healthy thing to do) so I spent the mile telling myself to slow down and take it easy. On the fifth mile, with my feet burning (not sure what that was about- my arches/soles were burning the last 20 minutes of the run), I did not tell myself to take it easy. It was coming naturally and that means I was well-worked.


I have only ever done four hard tempo runs but I'm finding that, at the end of each, my stomach is all wack. I often have to go to the bathroom within a few minutes of finishing and it is upset for hours after. This has happened before, definitely post-Baltimore, but it seems even worse (and more immediate) after any tempo run. TMI? Too bad, that's real life. Does anyone else experience this or have any advice?

I took the quality mirror picture above for your viewing pleasure and then I showered, blew a fuse blow-drying my hair, and made myself a dinner of random stuff in my fridge. I skipped my usual chocolate recovery beverage, assuming the mac and cheese and veggie burger would provide the adequate carb/protein ratio for recovery. They didn't and I got a headache. Lesson: even when it's warm enough for shorts and a tank top, drink hot chocolate after a hard run!

Trader Joe's frozen mac and cheese: SO GOOD.
And that one serving is almost as many calories as I burned on my entire run. YUM!

Josh got home from a work happy hour and wondered why I was "ignoring" him. Sorry that I just say "hi!" and don't jump up and down on the couch cheering in my excitement to see you. I am tired and you are buzzed. For real, though, I was suddenly SO tired. I was like a zombie and my head was more tired than anything. We talked for a while, watched an episode of SNL, and then were asleep by 10:30. Before sleep, my burning feet got a wonderful massage and my head was fed two advil to cure the headache.

Please excuse my nasty feet. They have actually been much worse.

Should this day of double-sweating really have hit me so hard? I know that I've had much harder days and I've survived their aftermath better than I did last night. Maybe my body is still recovering from last week's sleep deprivation. Maybe it's just saying, thank you for pushing me, Carrie, now let me recover fully. So that's what I did. And I can't wait for the next Tuesday or Twednesday Tennis outing and the next Tempo Run.

Please SHARE: Do you play tennis? How often do you work out twice in one day? Do you have stomach issues after a hard run? Is it so unseasonably warm where you are?