Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hadley's 26.2

Tomorrow morning, my friend Hadley will run her first marathon. She is following in her dad's footsteps who ran his first marathon in Washington, DC many years ago. She will be challenged by the rain that is predicted for only the second time in Marine Corps Marathon history but she is strong and brave and her motto has become "hurricane Sandy's got nothing on Hurricane Hadley!"

I wish her the best of luck and can't wait to cheer her on from the sidelines!

Go Hadz!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brats, Apples, and Hiking Galore

My friend Julie's parents have a beautiful home in the Virginia countryside, only a two hour drive from DC. Each year since we graduated college, she has invited Josh and I out there for a fall weekend, usually in conjunction with her birthday. It is always a lovely place to get away and it's a fun place to celebrate her. This year, she planned her Oktoberfest birthday bash well in advance and I have been looking forward to it for a few weeks.

After a busy Saturday morning, we drove out the the house with our friends Brendon and Jenny, stopping at an apple orchard on the way. We arrived at the house late in the afternoon and spent a few hours drinking pumpkin beers in the beautiful, chilly air behind the house.

We were served a delicious October meal that was perfectly on par with everything Julie has ever cooked me. It was brats, home-made pretzel buns, sauerkraut, salad, and cheese crackers with fondue. Dinner was followed by the birthday cake I made her modeled after her beloved blog. It was funfetti from a box, much less gourmet than the meal that preceded it, but it was pretty and that's all I was going for. Check out my post on Cake Styling for more details on making the cake.

The combination of heavy fall beers and the yummy meal left me feeling more full and tired than I do on most thanksgivings. I fell asleep for a few minutes in the basement and then rallied to cozy up by the campfire while everyone else roasted marshmallows. Sadly, I was still too full for that...

After a warm sleep in the basement, I woke up Sunday morning to chai tea and pumpkin pancakes. It is really great to have a friend who loves to cook so much. Because even on her birthday, she is still the one serving you!

While I was out of the room, the group decided to go on a hike. I was, obviously, all for this but knew no details of where we'd go. In terms of attire, we were an eclectic group. I was in nike frees and a sports bra. Josh was in hiking boots, jeans and a flannel shirt. And others were in leather boots.

When we turned uphill from the driveway, into the woods without a trail at our feet, I knew that most of us were ill-equipped for this hike. It turned out to be 100% bushwacking and 80% steeply uphill. My frees weren't great on the leaves or the rocks but I enjoyed the adventure and unpredictability of the terrain.

At the top, we sat for a few minutes admiring the foliage around us. I knew that a steep descent would be harder and less fun than a steep ascent. I slipped once coming down but, otherwise, sped along and hoped not to get lost. It ended up being about 30 minutes up and 30 back and made each one of us sweat, no matter our footwear or our level of style.

We departed after the hike, sad to leave this peaceful country behind. Julie seemed to have a happy birthday weekend and I always feel lucky to get to celebrate with her!

Did you do anything relaxing or outdoorsy this weekend? Did someone feed you endless amounts of deliciousness? Do tell!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cheesy Mac with Sausage, Feta and Tomato

This weekend, I actually made a menu plan for the entire week. That never happens. But Tuesday night I got home from my run and wasn't feeling what I was scheduled to cook. I guess that's why we never decide a week in advance what to have for dinner each night.

So, instead of following the plan, I raided the kitchen to see what I could throw together. It was chilly and cloudy outside so I was in the mood for something with a touch of comfort. But I also wanted to enjoy some time on the couch so I was hoping not to spend too long preparing dinner.

I pulled a box of elbow macaroni out of the cabinet and was reminded of the many times in college when Josh and I thought we were making "gourmet" mac and cheese by cooking our own macaroni and throwing fancy cheese, olive oil, and salt in it. It was settled- I'd experiment with a creative, healthier mac and cheese based on the ingredients in my fridge.

Here's how it went down:

1 box elbox macaroni
3/4 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
olive oil
1 package uncooked spinach and feta chicken sausages (or other chicken sausage)
1 c. shredded mozerella
4 oz. crumbled feta
8 thin slices fresh mozerella
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Pinch dried thyme

I cooked the pasta according to box directions while cooking the sausage over the stove, breaking apart into crumbled pieces as it cooked. I mixed the cooked pasta, cooked sausage, tomatoes, shredded mozerella, feta, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and stirred together. I spread into a casserole dish and topped with fresh mozerella and thyme. I baked it at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese was melted. I served with spinach and felt perfectly warmed but not too greasy after this lighter version of my favorite comfort food. Josh loved it too which worked out well since we had almost 2 meals worth of leftovers! We will definitely be making this again.

Do you ever throw something totally random together and end up loving how it turns out? What is your favorite comfort food?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Letting Go of Busy

Work has been busy recently. I hate to say "I'm so busy", especially after Julie led me to this post and this one. But that's life. I had many out of the office meetings last week and spent several late nights working. When Friday rolled around, and the last of those late nights was through, I just wanted a break. Granted, I had plenty on my to-do list and I could have easily filled my Friday with work. But I decided that everyone deserves a break and asked my boss if I could take the afternoon off after working so many long hours.

I left the office at noon and headed directly to my parent's house where my brother was visiting for the weekend. From their front porch, I called into a meeting and then spent the afternoon eating an outdoor lunch and talking with the fam. That is, after we forced my dad to remove the headphones playing his precious Science Friday in his hears. It was the first time the four of us had been together since July. And it was the first time we'd been alone together in longer than I can remember.

It got me thinking about life and priorities. Before my summer away, a week like the one I'd had would have left me feeling stressed and anxious. But I think (at least, I hope) I'm better now at internalizing a stressful workload and not letting it negatively affect my life. I believe in working hard and achieving success. But I also will never be the kind of person who makes work my top priority. Family, love, friends, health and happiness will always come first. My to-do list may be never ending but I know I will get things done and sometimes life will have to get in the way.

And I will try not to complain (or boast, as one article calls it) so much about being busy. It's true that we live in this culture where our lives are purposely filled with much to do and sometimes we may think that busyness translates into fulfillment or success. I will say that life was much simpler and more peaceful when I was biking all summer and had nothing else to be busy with. But the demands of daily life will rarely be without busyness. 

What I'm trying to do is accept that, and manage it in a way that lets me happily live my life without a lot of stress. I will get my work done but I will also take days like Friday when I need to. In the grand scheme of things, they are what I'll remember.

What about you- are you always busy? Do you think it's a complaint, a boast, or just a simple fact to tell people that you are? Do you know when to take a break?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

10K: Run for the Parks Race Recap

This morning, I ran the Run for the Parks 10K in West Potomac Park in DC. It was advertised as a fast, flat course but a big part of the appeal in registering was the signature Saucony jacket that participants received. I also hadn't run a race since March and didn't want my next one to be Philly. It turns out that running this race was really good for my confidence and excitement in preparing for the Philadelphia Half.

In terms of prep, I didn't take things very seriously. I ate pasta for dinner and drank some day-time beers while watching Florida football on Saturday. I slept seven hours and then got up and dressed. I never planned to race this but wanted to use it as a training run. I hadn't run six miles since May and never thought I could beat my personal record which I set last November when I was in great running shape.

As I ate my peanut butter honey oatmeal, I re-read my recap of that Turkey Chase 10k for motivation and was reminded how hilly it was. I had made my goal in spite of the hills but I started to dream of setting a PR on this "flat and fast" course. It was a dream but I didn't actually believe I'd do it.

My wonderful Joshua came with me and stood in the rain while I lined up to start. I looked down at  my wrist a quarter mile in and read a 7:46 pace on my garmin. I was high on adrenaline but knew I needed to slow down. I finished the first three miles in 8:08, 8:21, and 8:36. The average pace for my fastest (only) 10k was 8:21 so I started to realize a PR on this day wasn't likely and I was ok with that.

At mile 3.1, we came to the turn around and I got a wonderful boost of speed and energy. The first half of the course had flown by and I was confident I could do the same thing backward...and faster. I picked up the pace but was careful not to push too hard. I ran a steady fourth mile, at the end of which I was pretty sure I'd PR. I started to wonder if I could finish the race in under 50 minutes, shaving 2:38 off my time. I took it one mile at a time telling myself to push to mile 5, then to mile 6, and then to the finish. I pushed myself so steadily for those three miles that I couldn't push any more when the finish line came into sight. I saw Josh, with his big golf umbrella, standing next to the finish and I smiled as I approached the finish line.

I finished in 50:42 feeling a great sense of accomplishment. I placed 88/642 among women and 282/1,048 overall. This set a new personal record that was 1:55 faster than my previous 10k time. It also resulted in an average pace of 8:11 min/mile which I think is the best pace I've ever held in a race.

For a long time, I've been unsure of my running [near] future. I've been training myself to run a new way and experimenting with different kinds of shoes. I've had no clue whether I'll be able to run the half marathon I'm training for in a month and a half. Today made me believe that I'm totally fine. From today on, I will run in my Nike Frees and I will train for a half marathon like I trained for the others. I believe that I can finish 13.1 in Philly on November 18 and I believe that I might be able to PR. If I don't, though, that's ok too.

I appreciate Josh's coming with me and hanging out in the cold rain. Waking up early and doing this made us both feel good about cozying up in our apartment for the rest of the day. I spent it drinking tea, catching up on my favorite shows, and cooking a delicious fall meal.

Optimism and confidence are wonderful things and I thank the Run for the Parks 10k for giving me both. Here's to six great weeks of training between now and the Philadelphia Half Marathon!

How was your weekend? Did you sweat in style or in the rain?

*all photos by Josh Bassett Photography

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nikki in Chicago

Tomorrow morning one of my best friends, Nikki, is running her third Marathon and she's doing it in the windy city of Chicago. She's been planning for this race since January and I am very excited for her. Thinking about her race puts my my short little 10k in perspective but I think it's cool that we'll be running at the same time in the morning. That is, if I don't bail on my race which could end up being in 50 degree rain...

I've wished her much luck but I wanted to do it on the internet as well. She's a speed demon and I know she'll rock it!! Good luck Nikki P!

Are any of you racing this weekend? Have you run Chicago? I hear it's pretty sweet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I'm Running a Race

Hey, guess what?! I'm running a race this weekend! It will be my first since the RNR USA Half Marathon in March.

It is the Run for the Parks 10k in Washington, DC and I will be using it as a training run for my upcoming half marathon. I do plan [hope] to push myself but I certainly don't plan to set a PR over my previous 10k time of 52:36. This will be my longest run since May so I'll consider finishing a success. But I will consider not finishing a complete failure.

Otherwise, my only other plans this weekend are a soccer game and frisbee match. I am thrilled at the prospect of doing nothing but sweating, watching football, and chilling on my couch. I hope you all have happy, sweaty weekends!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Staying Fit

After my friend Nikki ran her first marathon, I remember her telling me how afraid she was of losing her fitness. Only six days after she ran 26.2 miles for the first time, she went out and ran 10. Marathon training led to a superb level of fitness and she didn't want to be at any other level. I told her that it'd be unhealthy to be living in such intensity all the time and that she'd have ups and downs. She needed to let her body rest for a little while.

But when I returned from my bike trip, I understood. Suddenly I was obsessed with maintaining the level of fitness that I'd developed through two months of continuous biking. The problem was- how could I do that while suddenly sitting at a desk all day?

I'd managed to spend two months eating something like 4,000 calories a day and still losing wait. I didn't want to gain the weight back, sure. But it was more than that. I didn't want to lose the arm muscles that had developed from gripping my handlebars on the downhills, the thighs that had gotten even more thunderous than before, or the flat stomach that comes from 8 or more hours of constant cardio exercise.

So how am I doing it? I'm not exactly, but I am trying. I am working out almost every day. I've combined my usual cardio of running and biking with a weight lifting routine designed to keep my upper body toned and strong. I'm filling my weekends with my favorite sporting events- soccer on Saturdays and frisbee on Sundays.

My body isn't what it was on August 17. There was something remarkable about living a daily routine that led to such health and fitness. Sitting at a desk all day and then doing a workout, no matter how intense, just isn't the same for me. But I am in touch with reality and I know that living a life where biking is the only way of life isn't real.

What is real is my realization that fitness is not worth obsessing over. I make fitness a priority but it isn't the only thing in my life. I will continue to do what I can to stay healthy and happy and if my arms get a little weaker or my legs a little flabbier, then that's just how it'll have to be. Except, they won't because I won't let it happen.

What's your take on obsessing about fitness? Is it worth it? Can one maintain a constant level of superb fitness or is it healthiest to have ups and downs?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

25 Before 25 Updates

I had a twenty-fifth birthday in July which I told you a bit about. But I never addressed the list of 25 goals I'd hoped to achieve in the year leading up to it. I am sad to say that I didn't get to everything on that list but I was also very ambitious in creating it so it wasn't very realistic to think I would. I've addressed, and written in detail, about some of them over the past year. But others I haven't. So here's the introductory post to a little series updating you on how I fared with some of the larger (and not yet written about) goals on my 25 before 25 list. The series will culminate in a numbered review of every goal with a giant CHECK or FAIL and then (drumroll..............) I will share my 30 before 30 list with you. Five years is a long time so that one will be filled with far more ambition than the last.

Take a look back at the list and stay tuned to see what I did and didn't do!