Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween was always my favorite holiday growing up. I loved to get creative with my costumes and I obviously loved the candy. Some of my best costumes were thought up in recent years.

But this October, for some reason, I just didn't have the energy to think too much about it. I guess I'm getting old and lame. Luckily, Josh came up with an amazing idea, requiring very much creativity so I just helped him be crafty and dressed in some of my abundant supply of vintage attire to turn it into a couple costume.

We were Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. And people loved it. Some of them, at least, knew who I was.

But still I was more jealous of my multiple friends retreating to the mountains and the bloggers were racing this weekend than I was excited to dress in costume and drink beer.

So today, when dressing for the costume party at work, which we were instructed to come to as "a famous girl scout alum", I decided to stay more true to me. I was Shannon Macmillan, Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion on the US Women's National Team. An excuse to wear a sports bra, athletic shorts, and soccer cleats to the office?? Sign me up.

I had an actual number and name on my shirt, and wore a medal around today. But I failed to take a picture of anything but the basics. And since I still had to sit at my desk and do work for 7 hours, I didn't get to actually sweat in the soccer gear. So I came home and put on my best orange and black dri-fit clothing and ran my Virtual Halloween 5k, half of which was with Nikki. We saw some cute little kids along the way and felt super urban when we watched them waltz into convenience stores to trick or treat.

I wasn't sure exactly how Josh and I were going to celebrate tonight but, unfortunately, I knew it wasn't going to be by trick or treating. When I got home, we made grilled cheese, spinach, and tomato soup. We ate cupcakes, drank woodchuck cider and are now trying to pick out a good, but not too scary, Halloween movie. That's a tough one.

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween! What is the best thing you've ever dressed as?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's been real, October.

One of the advantages to blogging so regularly about my many sweaty endeavors is that it motivates me to try new things and it holds me accountable. I run and bike and play sports because they make me happy but sometimes the knowledge that I'm going to go home and write about doing those things gives me that extra incentive to go further or to push harder. It would have killed me to come home on October 15th and put in writing, for all the blogosphere to read, that I failed to run the Baltimore Half Marathon in under two hours, a goal I'd been reminding the world of daily for weeks.

But still, I often set very vague goals for myself and then procrastinate more than I sometimes should. So I began the practice of setting, and posting on the internet, monthly goals. Here's how I did for October...

3. I did not visit my best friend Inna in NYC. But I did get to hang out swing dance with her in DC. And I am currently working with her to find the perfect weekend to reschedule New York.

4. I did not complete the long awaited photo shoot and reveal the perfect blog header that I've been dreaming about for months. I might be happy with the one I have. And I don't want to confuse people too much. I'm obviously a little indecisive on this matter.

5. I did research on which DC bike shops offer maintenance classes and learned that City Bikes in Adams Morgan has free classes every Thursday evening at 6:30 PM. Perfect bullet for my upcoming list of November goals.

6. I stretched almost every day.

7. I did not begin planning a budget for 9 week bike ride next summer. That has to happen ASAP.

8. I stopped eating dessert every day. I continued to drink chocolate milk after a good workout.

9. I ate lots of protein and whole grains leading up to the half marathon. And I have since.

10. I reduced caffeine intake in the weeks before Baltimore. I'm back to drinking tea daily.

11.  I did not get 8-9 hours of sleep every night.

Seven of eleven October goals were completed successfully. And let's face it, 8-9 hours of sleep a night is probably going to re-appear on these lists for months. But that's why I'm doing this- to hold myself accountable and to keep getting better and better at living life and treating my body right.

Do you feel accomplished even when you can't check every last thing off your list? Do you have trouble giving your body as much sleep as you know it needs?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snowy Soccer

I realize that I look a little silly in yesterday's post, wearing short sleeves and shorts and rambling about the onset of winter. I failed to mention the cold streak that hit our city after the rain during my Thursday evening run, and the fact that snow was in the forecast for this weekend. Cold weather was not only on my mind but was in the air.

But I am determined to not let it stop me. It can't stop me. So yesterday after work, I ran in pants and gloves to Nikki's apartment to feed her cat, Ren, since she's out of town for the weekend. I ran fast on the way there, averaging an 8:12 minute mile, and then slower on the way back, at 9:26. She does only live a mile and a half away so 8:12 isn't that impressive. But it made me sweat and Ren liked the sweat.

I sat on her floor and drank water for a few minutes. I took some pictures of me and Renny to send her and confirm that he is still ok and happy. He liked my sweat.

It was basically dark on my run home which brought down my optimism about running in winter. I drank chocolate milk, wishing it was hot, and stretched  a little.

I did some spooky holiday things last night and then stayed in bed until almost one this afternoon, which is unheard of these days. I had little to do but anticipate the 4:15 pm soccer game that I may or may not be playing in, and that may or may not be in the snow.

It was mildly sleeting all afternoon and I wondered if the game would be cancelled. I wanted to play but I also wouldn't have been totally bummed if the league gave me a reason to stay on the couch in my sweats instead. But sure enough, 3:45 rolled around and the game was still on, despite the fact that the sleet had turned to snow. Josh and I headed out and I made sure to tweet and update my facebook status about how badass I was for playing soccer in the snow in October. Whatever Carrie, get over yourself.

I don't care, I still think we're badass for playing. It was snowing really hard at 4:15. It was hard to see through the flakes in the wind and it was really cold. The whistle blew and, all of a sudden, we were supposed to be quick and agile and know how to handle a soccer ball in the snow. If I've ever been good at handling a soccer ball in the snow, it hasn't been for at least seven years. But I tried- we all did.

My team was down a player and picked up a random guy from the last game who, miraculously, was willing to play a charity game for us in the terrible conditions. The other team, our arch rival in this league, scored an early goal on our goalie, Josh, who has never even dreamed of playing soccer this weather and was not at all used to the ball's slipperiness. He absolutely did the best he could to stop the ball.

They scored again and we were frustrated. But we got a goal early in the second half to put us down 2-1. I had two chances to score quickly after, in which I shot multiple times and the ball kept bouncing between the goalie or defense and my foot, with the shots never hitting the back of the net but never being saved either. It was a truly messy and slippery game. And it was frustrating as ever as this favorite (please read the sarcasm) team of ours dove and flipped and over-dramatized every moment of contact to their advantage. If you are a soccer player, or if you've ever watched Italy play soccer, hopefully you know what I'm talking about.

Bottom line: it got a little dirty. But it was snowing and it was a hot mess that somehow made it funny. We lost 3-5 and it was very frustrating. Who knows what may have happened had the air and field been dry. But it was snowing for them just as much as it was for us so the weather conditions are no excuse.

We did our best and we (I, at least) felt so incredibly good for having played 60 minutes of soccer in the snow. In October. I was wet and cold and tired and, I won't lie, it was pretty unpleasant at times, but there's not much else I could have done to make me feel more alive today.

I probably sweat a lot without even knowing it. All gear was sopping wet.

And I was very happy to come home and watch the second half of the Florida game on the couch with a giant mug of hot tea.

And then to mope about the tragic outcome of that game.

At the end of the day, I'm still ok with winter's arrival. Even more than toenails are for sissies, hibernating is for sissies. I plan to kick winter's ass this year and dominate a few races in its coldness. I may even be out on the frisbee field in the morning, bundled in many layers and making boys feel bad about themselves as they watch me run to the endzone.

A small part of me wants to get up early and cheer for runners in the marine corps marathon tomorrow morning. But I think the part of me that wants to sleep and be cozy will win that fight. Good luck to everyone running, including DC running blogger Sarah and her fiance!

Do you like to play (sports) in the snow? Did you get snow today?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Running Nostalgia

Yesterday after work, I ran with my friend Hadley through Van Ness, Friendship Heights, and Tenleytown. Fall was in the air and it was apparent that winter is on its way. Rain was in the forecast and, as soon as we left, huge drops started to fall heavily on our heads. Wind was gusting and leaves were falling. It was gray and getting dark. But it was pleasant and it brought back happy memories of last fall and winter when Hadley, Nikki, and I had many after-work runs together. It made me think about how far I've come with running in the last year. I used to struggle to keep up with them and fight through knee pains and cramps in order to not slow them down. But, yesterday, four and a half miles were easy breezy (and corny apparently).
It's funny how running a certain route at a certain time of day with certain people can bring back such distinct memories and nostalgia. Just like smelling a mincemeat (or pumpkin for more normal people) pie can make you think about that one thanksgiving when you were 12 and you and your cousins did a fashion show, running down Western Ave in FH made me remember specific lines of a conversation about a friend's job and running down Wisconsin Ave in front of Maggiano's brought back memories about revealing personal (and secret to most) things about my past that someone read in my journal.
I have been loving the presence of Fall and was so happy to say goodbye to summer that I've been ignoring the fact that winter is coming. And, even though I wore shorts and a t-shirt last night, feeling that nostalgia for the many runs of last winter made me see it approaching more than ever. Even though there are lots of stupid things about that dark and cold season, if it means that I get to relive so many memories by taking more after work runs with Hadley, then bring it on!

I also ran in my toenails are for sissies shirt for the first time and that makes me extra happy. Stay tuned for more this weekend on crafty Halloween costumes and maybe even playing sports in the snow!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My First Attempt at Swimming

With the hope of not sounding too obnoxious or full of it, I'm just going to be honest. I am very competitive and I have played a lot of sports in my day but I normally don't like a sport or activity if I'm not good at it. That being said, I am a fairly good athlete and am usually able to pick up a sport pretty easily and be decent. Especially now, that I'm finally in the best shape I've been in since High School, I thought I could just buy a swim suit, show up at the pool, dive in and go.

I obviously know how to swim but I have never swum for exercise. I usually breast-stroke/ doggy paddle my way around a pool or lake to avoid submerging my head and getting water up my nose. But being a lover of biking and running, I know that I want to at least attempt a triathlon at some point in my life. And way before I can even fathom that, I knew I had to attempt a swim. So I made it a goal to "swim for sport" on my list of 25 things to do before I turn 25. And then I put it on my list of October goals. And then I waited until the 25th day of the month to buy the necessary equipment. And then, on the 26th day of October, I went swimming. And it was really hard.

Luckily, Kate is a swimmer who has done two triathlons and has taken recent swim lessons, so she offered to join me and show me what to do. We went from work to the Wilson Aquatic Center in Tenleytown. We took the most roundabout route and got lost in the High School before we finally found our way into this hot, chlorine scented building that is free for residents of the disctrict (ie. me). We found the locker room, changed, and then showered. Apparently you shower before going in the pool- I didn't think anyone actually followed that rule.

I put on my first swim cap and looked ridiculous.

Kate struck up some swimming conversation with a nice guy about what the standards and traditions are at this particular pool while I played with the straps of my new, too tight goggles. Then I looked even more ridiculous.

We meandered over to the 50 meter swimming pool and jumped in one of the "medium" speed lanes. We swam one lap and I was a hot mess. I took a breath with each stroke, held my head too high, and let my legs sink. I wasn't sure whether I was going to drown, hyperventilate, or leave the pool and never try swimming again. But I made it to the end and laughed. I was really cocky to think I could jump in a pool and just be a swimmer. Oh hell no.

Kate gave me some tips about how to hold my head, how to slow my strokes, how to kick properly, and how to breath to make the whole process much more efficient. We did a few breathing exercises. And we did many more laps but I never made it an entire length of the pool in one comfortable, consistent swim. I would always get flustered, tired, or inhale water along the way. Eventually, a lifeguard came up to us and told us to move to the slow or walking lane if we wanted to swim slowly or have a lesson. So I "swam" one more length and felt incredibly self conscious about all the eyes in the facility that I was sure were watching me. I got out and left Kate in the medium speed, 50 meter lane to find a more suitable place for my haphazard style. 

The 20 meter pool, with only three lanes and a kiddy pool attached, seemed the perfect fit. I got in and the water was warmer and sweatier smelling if that is possible. Maybe it was full of more chlorine and my senses don't know the difference. Anyway, I probably did 20 or so laps in that pool and, relatively speaking, they were awesome. The length was perfect, giving me a chance to practice my form and my breathing but take more frequent breaks in between. I slowly felt myself getting better and more comfortable with what I was doing. Because what I was doing was so foreign to me. My confidence was also boosted in this pool because I was not blubbering around, unable to complete a single full lap, looking like an idiot among all of the experienced swimmers. I was actually swimming and I was going faster than the majority of the people around me.

But, eventually, it was time to be done so we relaxed in the massive hot tub, stretching out our calves in the hot water. We cleaned up in the locker room and headed out. I told Kate probably a million times how grateful I was that she showed me the ropes of this new sport because of how truly lost I would have been on my own. And I did not want to be discouraged. Instead, I was encouraged and I can cross another thing off my big list.

3. Swim for sport.

I may not have been able to pick up swimming easily and I may not exactly be decent at it. But I am ready to get over my pride and not dislike the sport just because I can't dominate just yet. I realize that it will take time and I am up for the challenge. I very much appreciate Kate's patience with me and know that I would have been hopeless without her. But I am now comfortable going back and jumping in a pool on my own. I intend to get my money's worth with the pricey gear, to successfully swim 50 meters soon and to, one day some day, complete a triathlon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Food Lover's Challenge: Diverse Breakfasts

Meet Kate. She is my coworker and friend and she is now my competitor in the weekly food lover's challenge.

We both like to be active and we both love food but we've come up with a way that we can love food creatively and in moderation. A few weeks ago, instead of snacking on the usual girl scout cookies one afternoon, we thought up the idea of a breakfast challenge. Each week, we'd  come up with a new way to inspire ourselves to eat better, more filling, or more unique breakfasts.

Not wanting to mess with my diet too much before the Baltimore Half Marathon, we waited until last Monday to begin. I was given the privilege of deciding the challenge for week one and I decided on: most diverse breakfasts. This was a big challenge for me, as I eat oatmeal or granola pretty much every day when I wake up. I planned carefully but a few days I got lazy. I had a very healthy mix of morning meals but too many days I included english muffins, yogurt, and/or eggs.

Kate, who really strove to vary her means of consuming protein, won the challenge with weird (and clever) breakfasts of spoonfuls of peanut butter, egg and pita pizza, salmon, and rolled up cheese and salami.

Another coworker, Julia, has been appointed our judge and I think she was fair in her assessment. My food was more colorful but it was less varied. But you better believe I will be competitive in this, as in all things. Kate proposed an expansion to include anything food related in the weekly challenge and, for this week, chose: a salad (of any sort- not necessarily green) a day, or most salads consumed.

I am very excited about this week and about the whole thing. We plan for this to go on indefinitely and I know it will be good for us. It is important to think about what you eat but is critical not to obsess about it. I am not doing this to lose weight or to lower my cholesterol. I am doing it to get creative with my meals, to try new things every week, and to participate in some healthy competition. 

Do you have any good salad recipes? Any clever ideas for the next week's challenge?

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Gear and an Old Running Buddy

Tonight, I hurried home from work and dressed myself in one of my newest outfits. I know I said that the Friday before Baltimore was like Christmas Eve because of all the excitement and anticipation. But it was really more like Christmas because of all the wonderful new presents I bought myself. It's pretty fun to still be testing out those many presents.

Tonight I wore New Balance running shorts an Insport top. Both were awesome.

I have quickly learned that there is life beyond the realm of brightly colored Nike tempo shorts, with these and the new saucony shorts I tested out on Thursday. These are a little prettier and more girly which I like. They also have a vel-cro pocket on the right butt cheek, about the size of a credit card, designed with a small hole in it so that it can hold an ipod and feed the headphones through. This may be an old trend but it's still genius.

The shirt was a last minute purchase at the expo because it was cute and simple but looked really short.  It was but it fits perfectly otherwise and I decided to give it a try tonight. It ended up being fine and din't ride up at all. I googled "insport running" to learn about this company I had never heard of and their website redirected me to So I guess they don't exist anymore. But if you find any insport running gear on sale at your next race expo, I would suggest you get some. It's light and pretty and the armpits smell better than any other shirt I own after a 5 mile run!

The sparkly pink headband I wore was not the most secure but beauty is pain, right? And by pain, I mean frustration. Not something I'd wear in a race but it's good to have for the next 80's throwback party I get invited to.

But enough with my sweaty style. The important thing about tonight is that I ran with my old running buddy Nikki for the first time since our races last weekend, and possibly since our 13 mile run together in September. It was nice to just run and was much easier to plan now that neither of us are training for anything specific. It's funny though, we ran faster together tonight than I think we ever have before. We've obviously come a long way through our race training over the past few months, especially Nikki who I was a little worried about keeping up with. But we ran fast and we talked the whole way.

We really need some new pictures running together...

I was excited to see what our pace would be because I felt like we were booking it. But then, when we stopped at our corner to continue talking before saying goodbye, I forgot to stop the clock, bringing mile 5 to a 13 minute pace. I sped home to bring it back down but it still finished close to 11 minutes. Thank goodness for Garmin connect, I can ignore mile 5 and still analyze our splits for the others. Not too shabby for all the chatting we were doing.

Since this little details chart, which I've never paid much attention to after previous runs, tells me my overall time and my "moving time", I can assume that I stood still with my clock running for 2:07. If I subtract that from our overall time, and enter all the info into the cool running calculator, I am told that the true average pace overall was 8:59.92.

And just for kicks, here's the elevation we dealt with in our city. It's no Baltimore but it'll still give your legs a run for their money. Ignore the little dips in miles 1 and 2- that happens when I run over bridges and it thinks I just fell into an abyss and then climbed a cliff to get back out. I'm not exactly that hardcore, garmin friend, but I'm workin on it.

It was a perfect fall evening and I am feeling really good about gaining speed. Again, I could give my new shoes and clothes credit, but I think my legs and the energy I get from my running buddy deserve it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

8k: Somerset Back to School Classic Race Recap

Last October, Ingrid and I ran in our Elementary School's annual community race. We had done it before but it was my first race in years and I was not at all prepared for it. But I like to think that it is part of the wonderful series of events that turned me into a runner. It was hard but fun and I knew it was something I'd keep coming back for.

Over the summer, when this year's date was announced, I immediately texted Ingrid and my brother Nathan about it. Nathan is a very good athlete and plays sports but he smokes and is not in the best endurance shape. But, by paying his way for the race, I convinced him to join me and to revel in the nostalgia of Somerset Elementary School. Having signed us up in July, I thought he might actually train for it and then have a great time on race day. Time got away from him and he didn't train but I'm pretty sure, overall, he still had a a great time.

We slept at my parents' house, a mere mile and a half away, and drove there together. It was so cold we could see our breath so we walked around a lot and hung out in the newly renovated (read: depressing) hallways until about 8:55. Then we lined up to start. I didn't really ask Nathan if he was nervous but he seemed good to go. I told him that our pace was up to him and I'd slow, walk, or sprint as much as he desired. For this reason, I was expecting to run an average 10 or 11 minute mile.

The first mile runs through the very hilly neighborhood and I think our big mistake was taking those hills too fast. We finished the first mile in a 9:14. Then we plopped out on Wisconsin Avenue and headed toward Friendship Heights. We stopped to walk and have a drink about a mile and a half in. He was obviously very pleased with me...

From there to mile four, we walked a lot. Nathan had a really bad cramp that kept coming back when he'd start to run. I just wanted him us to have fun so I was down to do whatever felt comfortable to him. At the mile four marker, we saw our childhood babysitter, Lolly, who was volunteering with her son, a current student at Somerset.

I told Nathan that we were going to run the last half mile and he responded "ok, let's start now". He is awesome for pushing himself.

We ran by the street we grew up on, Morgan Drive, so I sprinted ahead to run down the street and take a picture of our home. Then we met back up and ran to the end.

When we were about a quarter of a mile from the end, it had been 58 minutes. I told Nathan that we could push it and finish in under an hour.

 He pushed it to the point of near-vomit and then took a few walking steps.

He was fighting hard. He looks hardcore.

We saw my mom running towards us and cheering. She looked a little concerned for Nathan and kept yelling his name. Look- there is a smile on his face!

Josh was across the street from them, too busy snapping pictures to cheer, so I didn't even see him there. I ran ahead and turned around to watch Nathan cross the finish line. He did it!

We finished in just over an hour, averaging about a twelve minute mile which isn't bad considering we walked about two or two and a half of the five.

We stocked up on bagels and fruit and then headed out.

But not before checking out the vintage 5th grade pictures on the wall of the lobby. The class of 2001 was not hung but 1998, my year, was and it was classic.

Josh and I were in a hurry to get to our 11am frisbee game, which turned into an epic four games during which we ran and played really hard. All that and an uphill bike ride to a friend's house and I had a full day of sweating in the sun.

Nathan had a good sweat too and I am proud of him and thankful that he doesn't hate me too much for basically forcing him to join me. Next year I'm thinking I'll change it up and actually race the thing for the first time!