Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Pittsburgh StepTrek 2015

I've started a new feature called Travel Tuesdays. Each week I'll post photos, recommendations, or itineraries from trips I've taken or am planning to take. You can see past posts here

The first staircase on the Black Route
Last weekend Alex and I went to Pittsburgh to visit our friend Tricia and attend Pittsburgh StepTrek in the South Side Slopes neighborhood.

The weather forecast looked pretty bleak in the week leading up to the event. Until the day of, it looked like a 90-100% chance of rain all day Saturday. We were prepared. We each wore our rain jackets, rain pants, and baseball hats. Luckily, the rain stopped around noon and we didn't have to deal with much more than a few sprinkles while we were trekking. It was a little chilly, but perfect weather for climbing.

Black Route
There are two routes to follow. We chose the Black Route. Each route was estimated to take about 90 minutes. The event program included maps for both routes, so we could always go back and do the Gold Route on our own someday. (Or just do StepTrek next year.)

Here are a few photos from our trek:

Some steps along the way
Thanks for the photo, Tricia!
Alex looks like he's in a sci-fi movie
One of the first vistas
Downtown behind a valley of green
This guy (or gal) was not a happy camper when we walked by.
One of the last views near the end of the walk
Overall, we walked 3.3 miles and – according to Tricia's Fitbit – climbed about 85 stories.

I'd recommend the event to anyone who likes seeing different houses, exploring a unique neighborhood, and getting in a bit of workout. I'm so happy the rain held off so we could enjoy our time.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Books of September 2015

So, September was quick. I don't even remember what I did for Labor Day. Oh wait, I ran. Of course. Anyway, the month included a weekend trip to Indiana, a few parties, a wedding, an arcade opening, and my first Oktoberfest. And overall, just lots of [quality] beer. Gose(s?) and sours are my new jam.

I spent most of September "reading" the same book: Once a Runner. And by reading I mean falling asleep after each chapter. Unfortunately, it kept me from other stories, so my list is a bit lighter than normal. On the plus side, I'm now about 60% through that book and it's getting better. On to September's books...

- - - - - - - -

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Review: 3 / 5
This the second book in a teen series with embarrassing names (Book 1: Anna and the French Kiss). AATFK was a cute, quick read. I really enjoyed it. This one? It was just okay. There were parts of it that went so fast and were really great (a few scenes really stood out), but it was a bit too predictable and the conflicts seemed so manufactured. Plus, it was weird to have Anna and St. Clair (the people from book 1) as side characters.

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Review: 5 / 5
This isn't a "favorite book ever" 5 star book, but it is a good book. I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to as it is a graphic novel that deals with her parent's old age and eventual decline into death. If this were a traditional memoir without the comics it might be too depressing. Luckily interspersing text with drawings helped illustrate familiar interactions and her parent's day-to-day life. It was an honest mix of humor, frustration, and sadness.

Review: 4 / 5
(I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I entered this and another giveaway for a book about microwave mug meals and got the healthy one. Figures!) I appreciated the division of raw food meal plans. The author sets up three timelines: a weekend, a week, and a lifetime. It's nice that she understands many folks won't have a 100% raw diet. I didn't know much about raw food and preparation before I started reading and I think it was an easy-to-follow introduction. 

The recipes are pretty straightforward and I am very happy there were photos for each. Even though the foods are raw, I wouldn't consider every recipe to be super easy as some require a dehydrator or curing time overnight. Regardless, there are some tasty ideas in here and I'm happy I won a copy of the book.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Review: 3 / 5
The story was fine and funny. There were some clever bits, but I think I'd enjoy the original audio drama or the more recent movie better. (I know, I'm the worst. I love sci-fi, but this wasn't my favorite book. Perhaps my expectations were too high?)

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Review: 4 / 5
Great, fast read. I don't feel like I can say much without spoilers, but I'd recommend this to most people. It's a light read that may be qualified as chick-lit, but I didn't find it overly ridiculous or eye-roll inducing. And you know what? It was so nice that not a single character was murdered or missing! (Seems to be a major theme in these post-Gone Girl times.) If they make a movie I certainly hope they don't screw it up with a bad cast. And, yes I did like one better... but I can't tell you which until you read it. 

- - - - - - - -

As always, these reviews were taken from my Goodreads.

What did you read in September? 
What are you reading now? 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Travel Tuesday: Indianapolis

I've started a new feature called Travel Tuesdays. Each week I'll post photos, recommendations, or itineraries from trips I've taken or am planning to take. You can see past posts here

Today, we're going to talk about Indianapolis. I've been a few times (once for an wintertime *NSync concert and a few times on Megabus pass-thrus), but until a few weeks ago I'd never explored the area. While we went to Indianapolis so I could run a race, we ended up taking an extra day to sightsee. We had a great time despite the overcast weather and I think we're going back next year. Here are a few areas to visit:

Downtown - Monument Circle
When we arrived Friday afternoon Monument Circle was dressed and ready for Oktoberfest. Since I had to run we skipped the beer and walked around. There was a sidewalk fest featuring games and prizes, but we had our sights set on Chipotle. Columbus is trying really hard to revive downtown, but for years everything would close at 6pm, so it was pretty amazing to see such a lively downtown in a smaller city. 

Downtown - Canal Walk
Our hotel was on the canal and it was more beautiful than I anticipated. After my race was canceled I ran 3 miles around the canal. You can rent paddle boats, walk, run, and bike along the water. There are sculptures and murals along the way. It's a hidden gem I'd recommend making time for. 

When we checked into our hotel the guy at the front desk recommended Massachusetts Ave if we wanted to avoid chain restaurants and stores. (I think he thought we were hip). We had a really tasty brunch and went into a few cool gift shops, including Silver in the City which had pretty sweet stuff. This area also had the sculpture and mural above. (Kurt Vonnegut was an Indianapolis native.)

That's all for this week! Have you been to Indianapolis? Next time we go we're going to check out the art museum and surrounding gardens. Anything else we should see? 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

September: Life Currently...

All photos from my Instagram
Reading Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr. for Long Distance Reading Club #LDRClub

Listening to my new playlist of upbeat music 

Watching Chopped on Netflix. Weird because I don't normally watch cooking shows

Wearing Oiselle everything for running. (I'm going to do a Roga shorts review soon.) I'm slowly going through my non-running clothing and I need new everyday stuff badly.  

Eating + Drinking Well, I just finished a Boston Cream donut... Last night we went to the opening of my boss's new arcade and celebrated with plenty of tasty pizza and beer(s). The past month has been filled with lots of beer. 

Exploring Indianapolis while we were in town for the Indy Women's Half. 

Making ... well, drawing some illustrations for a kid's book. 

Feeling a tiny bit stressed this week. I'm booked solid for the next three days. Sunday will be amaaaaaazing.

Planning the rest of my racing year. We signed up for a Turkey Trot, now we need to figure out December race(s).  

Working on freelance again. Always. 

Wishing for a little downtime and a good six mile run later tonight. 

Loving the warm weather. I AM NOT READY FOR FALL. (Really, I'm not ready for the earlier sunsets and chilly weather.) 

Looking forward to running 11 miles this weekend with the group. Also looking forward to Oktoberfest volunteering and finishing one of my major freelance projects! 

You can view past months here

How is your month?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Race Recap: Indy Women's Half

Spoiler alert: The course map, and what I ran.
The Indy Women's Half took place Saturday, September 19 at 7:30 am in Indianapolis, Indiana. The race was black flagged after 30 minutes. 

Swag city
Expo and race morning
We checked into the Residence Inn on the Canal, then walked a few blocks to the expo. I got my bib around 6pm (no line!), wandered around, then left. I'm not a huge expo person, but there were lots of vendors and the swag bag was pretty incredible: lotion, vitamins, snacks, coupons, energy tabs, etc... all in a reusable Athleta tote bag. After packet pickup we walked around, grabbed Chipotle, then headed back to the hotel to watch HGTV.

I set out my gear and got to bed at a reasonable time. I slept well. In fact, it was the best sleep I've gotten before a half marathon...until we awoke to a large clap of thunder at 5:40. Uh oh. I got up and watched the storm, dressed, and ate my pre-race toast and peanut butter. It was my smoothest race morning ever. The rain stopped around 6:20. We left the hotel at 6:45 and made it to the start with enough time to take a bathroom break (no lines!). I corralled with the 9–10/min mile group and waited 'til takeoff. The race started a bit late, but I wasn't listening to announcements (if they made any) because I'd started my playlist. (By the way: I enjoyed running with music.) Eventually the countdown began and we were off.

Some blurry photos! I'm the yellow blob above ^^
The Race: (I finished in 50 minutes!)
Things went pretty well for the first mile and the race was full of polite runners. I was never cut off and stayed with a pod of ladies running a consistent 9:30–9:40 pace. It felt good. Somewhere around mile 1 it started to sprinkle. I was relieved because it was hot and humid (71° and 94% humidity) and I was already wiping away sweat. At mile 1.6 the sky opened up and it began pouring. I've run in rain before, but nothing like this. I attempted to dodge high water, but gave up. You could feel the energy from the other runners and I was having fun. At mile 2.5 we crossed the canal and I saw the first flash of lightning. Uh oh. I think we all tried to pretend it didn't happen.

Under the gazebo, hoping to run more.
There was a water stop near mile 3 and someone was holding the black flag. It meant seek shelter, timing is suspended, and the race is over. We were re-routed to a gazebo-like structure to seek shelter. We stood under cover for a few minutes (I think we all hoped the storm would pass and we'd start running again–even if we weren't being timed). Another group of women ran past, so a bunch of us began running to continue on the course.

There was more lightning as we ran up to a major intersection and a cop. A group of fast ladies were running past us, back towards downtown. The cop said, "You're all adults and I can't tell you what to do, but you should turn back and seek shelter. Course support has been suspended." One woman asked if she could keep running because we could see others up ahead. He replied, "Those women are on their own. They will have to stay on sidewalks. The roads are no longer blocked off." Since I'm not from Indy, I knew it was time to head back. (Looking back, it's funny that we all wanted to keep running so badly in lightning. Runners be crazy.)

There were groups of ladies heading back and I followed along. It was about 2 miles to the finish, so I sped up and ran my miles in the 8s. When I arrived at the finish there was a line. Because everyone finished around the same time, there was a backup for medals, snacks, and roses. I felt bad for the volunteers. I was fine in the rain, but I was moving! I talked to some ladies in line and of course we were disappointed, but we understood. It only takes one terrible accident to ruin the race forever. The race directors did the right thing calling it off. 

So many snacks!
I met up with Alex, snapped some photos, and we walked back to the hotel. On the bright side, I got to take advantage of the free hotel breakfast! My clothes were completely drenched. I was able to wring out my tank top and socks. And my shoes...? Well, I'm glad I was planning to retire them after this race anyway. They smell baaaaadddd. After changing and eating breakfast, I went out for a quick 3 mile run along the canal trail. By that time (10 am) the weather had calmed down. I saw other participants getting their miles (in bibs or the event tee). I'd changed into my back up outfit so I was no longer soggy enough to demonstrate my solidarity.

Thoughts on the cancellation + some people are turds
I went on Facebook after and posted a positive message to the Indy Women's Half page. Yes, it's a bummer it was cancelled, but I had a really great time. There were some hiccups: we were confused on the course (the 5k and half turn-offs were a little bizarre, but I think the course marshals were preoccupied with the storm) and it was strange that the police left us alone on our return to downtown (no escorts across busy streets). Ultimately, those aren't things the director could control in the moment.

The beautiful hotel couch as a backdrop
I was really upset to see so many selfish posts on Facebook: "How could you cancel?" "What a waste!" "I trained months for this!" "I didn't earn this medal!" "Where's my medal?!" "I demand a coupon code for _____ [a race this event group isn't affiliated with]." I wanted to tell them to get over themselves. The race committee planned this race for a year. Do you honestly think they wanted to black flag? Luckily, the positive messages outnumbered the negative. I was happy to see many women ran the rest of the milage on their own (after the weather settled). Some even finished the course. I applaud these ladies who made it work for them!

Cheesing under a tree.
I remember my first half marathon and how pumped (and scared) I was to put my training to the test. Honestly, if it was canceled for weather I would have been amused. Maybe that's because I'd already caught the running bug and knew I'd sign up for more races? Maybe because I enjoy storms? Perhaps it's different for someone using Indy as a one-off bucket list event. At the end of the day, yes it stunk that it was canceled, but it was unavoidable. The weather didn't clear up until at least 9 or 10 (1.5–2.5 hours after the start), so even a 30 minute delay wouldn't have solved the problem.

Anywho, I had a ton of fun. I loved running in the rain and I loved the excitement and the "what the heck do we do now?!" camaraderie. (I like chaos sometimes.) I really love storms and I'll remember this race forever. Obviously, I have unfinished miles to run in Indy, so I'll be back next year.

Positive Odds & Ends:
  • I listened to music for the first time in a bajillion runs.
  • I ran a steady pace for the first 3 miles, though my GPS went nuts right before the rain began.
  • I wore the teeny Oiselle Mac Roga shorts and they were fantastic

Up Next:
Loveland Half Marathon (my goal race). I was hoping to use Indy as a gauge of my current fitness, but oh well. I guess we'll see what happens. 
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