Friday, January 23, 2015

Five Things About Me

It's Friday! I'm here with another Friday Five Link up (my third!) with MarCynthia, and Courtney. Please check out their blogs to learn more about each hostess!

Hamming it up in Colorado, September 2011.
1. I've visited 48 of the 50 states.
My mom and step dad were able to take off time in the summer and we completed several multi-state excursions by car. Which states do I have left? Alasaka and North Dakota. Right now, I plan to visit Anchorage, Alaska in June and visit North Dakota whenever there's a good deal on a flight. We're aiming for a long weekend in Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

Pretty close to what it looked like.
2. My first car was a Dodge Neon.
My mom bought the car when I was in fourth grade. I remember her asking what kind of car I wanted when I was 16 and I said a Neon. (The "Hi" ads were all the rage during the Olympics.) I'll pretend she bought it for me, but she drove it until I was old enough. (I didn't get my license until I was 18 because I wasn't in a hurry.). It lasted many years until it finally kicked the bucket after I graduated college.

I also looooove rolling coins.
3. I am frugal (AKA cheap)
My rules: Don't pay full price. Never have a credit card balance unless earning super special rewards (pay it off immediately). Use the library and Netflix for entertainment. Try to dine out during happy hour or with coupons. When shopping online, always use ebates. (I have made $330 to date!) If this sounds like a horrible existence, I promise it isn't. I have nice things (bought on sale) and go out pretty often. I also spend money on travel. (I find the best deals possible via Kayak, Priceline, Hotels.com, and AirBnb.) I occasionally spend more than I should on running, red wine, and good beer, so there's always room for improvement.

4. I have the best dog in the world. 
His full name is Tobias F√ľnke Featherbottom for a character on Arrested Development. Tobias was born April 4, 2006. I was a cat person growing up, but as I got older I preferred the friendly nature of dogs. Tobias is a perfect catdog. He's low maintenance and knows how to shake, sit, lay down, stay, high-five, beg, bark, and howl. As morbid as it sounds, I sometimes think of a future without Tobias and get really sad. 

Pololu Valley, February 2014
5. I want to live in Hawaii (for real). Ohio's fine for now.
Alex and I are obsessed with Hawaii. We've been a couple of times and are planning another trip in November. We would move there in a heartbeat but for a few issues we're working through: distance from friends/family, we own too much crap, and we have to quarantine the dog. [I can work remotely, so my job isn't an issue. Alex has skills in line with many Hawaiian job postings, plus a local hook-up.] We've been talking about it for a year or two and sometimes it feels like it will happen... then I get freaked out by all the preparation required. We'll see...

Thank you for reading. Remember to check out the other Friday Five participants!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Five: What's in My Gym Bag

I’m back with the Friday Five Link up with MarCynthia, and Courtney. This week's topic revolves around gym bag essentials. Check out their blogs for a great round-up of gym bag suggestions! 

To begin, I must confess: I don't have a gym bag because I never go to the gym. I do, however, have a few items I like to have at the ready for a good long run:

1. A Buff
I love Buffs. Alex gets a ton of these for free and I bought a smaller headband size last summer. I sweat a lot and my hair is really thick, so I need something that will stay on and soak up sweat. I've been using these regularly since October. I'm curious to see how they'll be in the summer, but so far I love them. I can use them as a headband, headwrap, or neck warmer.

2. My Garmin
I've only had my Forerunner 10 since December, but I'm so happy I don't have to lug my phone around with me on every run. It syncs with Map My Run so I can still keep my account up-to-date.

3. Good, non cotton socks
I've made the mistake of running in normal socks a few times and I've paid the price. I love my Nike Dri-Fits (from Kohl's) or the more expensive alternative, Balega. Prior to Christmas, I owned one pair of Balegas. Thanks to my mom and step dad (and a free pair in a race swag bag) I have 6 pairs.

4. Water + Nutrition
I carry a handheld water bottle on all long runs. I have two sizes depending on the length of the run and each has a pocket where I carry my nutrition. Last year I swore by chews, but when they didn't cut it for me on my first trail run, I went back to gels. I believe my decision was less than scientific: I went out of town for work before a half marathon and came home to discover I didn't have any chews, so I grabbed a Clif Shot. I'm pretty sure it was Alex's because it was Espresso (which I would never buy)... but I loved it.

5. Road ID
When I'm going on a run around town, I like to have my Road ID bracelet just in case something happens. I especially like to wear it if I'm not carrying my phone and during races. Road ID is a great company and I also purchased a set of reflective wrist bands that I wear on after work runs in the winter.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Race Recap: Rocks and Roots #1

Sunrise over the lake
The Rocks and Roots Trail Series includes two races over two months. Race #1 took place Sunday, January 11 at Alum Creek State Park. I ran the 10k. [Race Information]

Pre Race
Alex and I left the house around 7:15 and arrived at sunrise. We found a parking spot by the marina and joined a half dozen folks taking photos from the shore. It was super cold, so we took advantage of our pre race downtime by wearing our coats and sitting in the car. Unfortunately, I had to go to the bathroom really bad, so around 8:00 we began the almost half mile walk to the starting line.

The starting area included a place for gear, packet pickup, the starting arch and clock, potties, AND a firepit to gather around. That was a nice touch. If the February race is as cold, they should get one or two more... By the way, my Garmin says it was 23 degrees ("felt like 17") while we were running. I know it was 18 or so when we arrived, so I wore two long sleeve shirts, a t-shirt over to keep my core warm, two pairs of pants, gloves, and a bunch of Buffs. I had a Buff around my neck and put it over my face as we stood at the starting line. I kept it on for the first mile or so.

The 50k runners had the option to start at 7am or 8am. The 40k and 30k folks started at 8:00 and at 8:15 the 20k wave rolled out. The final group, 10k, started at 8:30. We had plenty of time to make our bathroom pit stop and warm ourselves by the fire. Alex was pretty grouchy, but that might be because I made him get out of the car earlier than he wanted to.

Typical trail condition. Photo by Rocks and Roots Trail Runners Association

Trail Conditions
I ran almost the exact same course in my first trail run last September. Alex and I scoped it out last weekend when it was 40 degrees. The trail was horrible–very wet, very muddy, and huge water crossings. We made it about a mile in before the sixth water crossing stopped me in my tracks. I was pretty nervous. When we picked up our race packets on Saturday the race director told us all crossing were completely frozen and covered (minus one, but it had a rock path). That eased my mind, but I still had no idea what to expect. Deep down, I wanted to beat my summer time, but wasn't sure if it was possible.

The Run 
The line up for the race was informal and I stuck to the middle / back while Alex headed for the front. The first 3/4 mile crossed a relatively flat prairie with the single water crossing. The group went single file at the crossing, but once cleared it was smooth sailing. I tried to stick with folks running a steady pace. I knew I needed to save my energy for the woods and hills. Even though the entire trail was covered in snow (sometimes slick, sometimes grippy), the conditions were way better than the week before. I felt so much better by the time we reached the woods than I had when running with Alex.

My first mile clocked in at 12:17, which was in line with my overall pace from the summer race (12:35), albeit a minute or two slower than my first mile in the summer. I figured I'd see how mile 2 and 3 went before deciding if I would try to beat my previous time. By this point, I was hanging steady with another runner and gearing up for the first big "I have to hold on to trees to get down this" hill.

Somewhere around mile 4 or 5
If you've ever run a trail race you probably know not concentrating on the trail is a big no-no. As my focus shifted to the hill ahead, I missed a root and lost my balance. It felt like a cartoon. I wibble-wobbled as time slowed down and my arms flailed around. I really thought I'd made it through without falling, but then I bit it. Luckily, the snowy trail didn't hurt. I remembered a girl falling at the beginning of the Summer Squatch shooting back up with her hands in the air and yelling "woooooo!" So when the ladies behind me started the, "Oh gosh, are you OK"s and looking like they wanted to stop (but not really), I shot up and woooo!ed, made a stupid joke, and kept running. So yeah, that was a little after mile 1...

It was more difficult in the woods. The elevation was up and down. Made me kind of happy I haven't signed up for Run the Bluegrass yet. Maybe I'm not ready for the hills... I ran through the aid station at 2.5, but decided to eat my gel soon after. As a result, I may have run/walked a teeny tiny bit around 2.8. I was already pretty tired and I think the gel helped. At mile 3 I was happy to be halfway finished. I felt pretty good between 3 and 4 as that section of the trail was the flattest. It wasn't without hills, but they weren't as terrible as those between 2 and 3.

Wooden medal
Man, in mile 4 I was ready to be done. I think I walked and let some people pass me. I didn't walk for long. I looked at my Garmin and would see I was near a milestone: 4.5, 5, 5.5, whatever, and I'd make myself keep going. It wasn't pretty, but I told myself I'd be done faster if I just kept running. Even if I went really slow, it was better than walking. I heard a photographer up ahead and made myself keep running. Somewhere in there I tripped on a root (again) and my gels fell out of my water bottle pocket. I had to stop and collect them. Maybe around mile 5 I was starting to feel drunk (my legs were unstable) and I tripped on a rut with a dude behind me. I yelled the F-word, but didn't fall over. Whoops. He was nice and concerned, but I just said something like, "I'll be ok. I'll make it to the finish." But mannnnnn my ankle killed.

Around this point I just kept telling myself the end was near. I looked at my Garmin a lot. I was expecting to come out of the woods, cross the road, and finish in the FLAT prairie like last time, but we took a different turn and the race ended differently. Ohmigod it was so terrible. At mile marker 6 there was another steep downhill to uphill. The last three tenths were really tough. I wanted to walk (I may have walked for two steps then started trotting), but I could hear the finish line. It felt like it took forever to get there. I remember glancing at my watch around 1:15:00 thinking I may not beat my previous time of 1:18:17.

There was one last hill before the finish line and a photographer. I didn't let myself walk and even smiled. He said, "look at her, this hill is so easy she's smiling!" I said, "ha!" or something, but man I really appreciated his words. It was one of those I can do this moments. Like, I just ran on a snowy, hilly trail and I wanted to die, but I didn't. (Unfortunately, that photo isn't online.) Anyway, the finish line was in sight and I saw Alex hopping up and down cheering for me. In fact, a lot of folks cheered when I crossed. How lovely for such a small race.

Sweet swag
Post race and swag
My legs felt like jello. My joints hurt from all of the right turns. I tried to stand still but found I needed to keep walking for a while. Alex finished about 20 minutes before so he was really cold. He stood by the fire pit as I collected some goodies: M&Ms, peanut butter cups, Gatorade, chili, Clif shot blocks...etc It was an amazing spread. Standing around the fire we chatted with some of the other runners. A few 20k folks crossed the line. It was such a nice group of people. As other 10k-ers finished, the cheers continued. We hung out for at least 30 or 40 minutes post race, but Alex was turning into an icicle, so we grabbed some coffee and hot chocolate and headed back to the car.

I like this photo and my outfit.
Stats and feelings 
Well, I walked a little bit near the end which is a first for me since last September. The course conditions were much more difficult than September, but overall I think I did better. I am not in peak shape, my longest run post-Hot Chocolate 15k was a slow 5 mile training run, and I did not run at all last week due to the negative temperatures. Despite all of that, my clumsy footing on the slick trail, and the new, more difficult last half mile, I beat my previous trail time. Barely. But I did it!

Final time: 1:16:51 (12:24/mile)
My previous time on a similar course was 1:18:17.

Overall 76/189 (40%)
Division 31/112 (27%)

I'm really hoping the February Rocks and Roots isn't wet or muddy. I could handle snow again, but feel like I could cut off a few minutes from my time on dry land. Especially if I'm in better shape.

As an aside, my legs are sore today, but it's not debilitating. Directly after the race I had a lot of energy. Alex, on the other hand, finished in third place and was wrecked (he hasn't run 6 miles since high school and still did that well!). He was pooped after and already feeling the burn, so he took a nap and went to bed around 9pm. He works outside so he'll probably work out his kinks faster than I do.

The next Rocks and Roots is February 8! I'm sticking with the 10k. I cannot imagine an almost half marathon (20k) on this trail!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Race Recap: First on the First 5K + Bonus Let It Snow Virtual 5K

I've been putting off this post as I waited for my Let It Snow medal to arrive in the mail. I thought I'd combine the two races as they happened days apart.

Photo by Rob McCormick
Let's start with the in-person race. The First on the First 5k took place January 1 at 11:00am in Westerville, Ohio. [course map]

Tobias likes the swag. (Men's shirt left, ladies right.)
Pre Race 
We weren't able to pick up our packets before, so we arrived early. Packet pickup was a breeze. I saw a running buddy almost immediately and we were able to chat with her and her husband as we pinned on our bibs. The race began at Westerville's new-ish recreation center. It's huge and has a ton of meeting rooms, a large multipurpose gymnasium, a climbing wall, fitness center, indoor track, etc etc... a great space.

We did this run last year, so we knew what to expect. However, this time it was SO COLD.  My new Garmin tells me it was 27 degrees. There was a a biting wind, which made it a bit more difficult to figure out what to wear. Thank goodness the sun was shining. In the end, I layered two long sleeve shirts (including my awesome new snowflake compression shirt from Marshall's) and a Buff under my fleece headband.

The Race
This is a cool shirt.
I won't spend too much time recapping my thoughts during this race because they were mainly: "gosh it's cold" and "I'm not running as fast as I'd hoped." My first mile clocked in at 8:40 which is about 30 seconds slower than my first mile at that Santa Race (PR). My second mile was 9:02. I can't say I'm surprised. Between 1 and 2 we turned into a wooded area and I remember thinking I didn't feel particularly fast. I was right!

Between miles 2 and 3 the 28:00 pace group caught up with me. Whoops. Earlier in the week, I planned to at least tie my PR (26:31), but to be honest I wasn't feeling it. I didn't drink too much on New Year's Eve and I was in bed around midnight, but my tummy was sensitive and my head wasn't in the game. I'm ok with that. I did really well in my last few 2014 races and my ultimate goal for the First on the First was to run it faster than I did in 2014.

When we came to about 2.9 the 28:00 pacers yelled, "Alright, if you want to finish in under 28 minutes now is the time to push it!" They were so supportive at the end; definitely the best pacers I've run near. (Usually they start out nice, but then they just talk to people they know. This guy and gal team did a great job supporting everyone.) I kicked it up in the final turn toward the finish. I didn't feel particularly great and got caught up in a group of people, but decided to push ahead so that the race photographer could see me. (Hey, I'm being honest. But it's because last year's photo was so derpy.) Unfortunately for vain little me, there were a few photogs at the end and I mouth-breathed towards the wrong one! Ha!

A minor improvement. Alex made fun of me for last year's photo. I hated it then, but now think it's just goofy (left).
Post Race + Swag
I finished, got my medal, and could not find Alex (he finished about 6 minutes before). I got a little PO'd, but he appeared; he went to get his coat from the car. We went inside the warm gymnasium and got in line for our chocolate milk and tacos. Please remind me when I do my year end review that the First on the First has the best swag. We came away with medals, shirts (glad I sized up), amazing chapstick, light up armbands (!), gear bags, and food. We stuck around for a little while to eat a few tacos and I saw a lot of familiar faces. Last year I didn't know anyone at the run, so it feels like I've made some social progress.

2014 and 2015 side by side
Mile Splits
1 mi       8:40
2 mi       9:02
3 mi       8:51
3.1 mi    8:49

Final Time: 27:31 (8:52 m/m)
My previous time on this course was 31:20 (I was mildly injured and had to wear my glasses because I ran out of contacts before Christmas, so not quite the amazing triumph it sounds like.)

Overall: 256 / 1,367 (18.7%)
Age Group:  29 / 247 (3.6%!)
Gender: 81 / 878 (9%)

Let it Snow Virtual 5K

Let's switch gears to the Virtual Run. My Let It Snow Virtual 5k took place December 30 after work. [More info about Jost Running]

Let It Snow Medal: Front and back
This was my first Virtual Race. I felt a little goofy about it, to be honest. I didn't even tell Alex I did it until I got the medal in the mail last night. I signed up for two reasons: 1. the medal is really pretty and 2. the charity (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). I figure more of the sign up money has to go to the charity in a virtual races. Can anyone confirm? I wavered on signing up for a few weeks, but bit the bullet on the second to last day of the year. I knew I couldn't run on the 31st and be in good form for the First on the First.

I left work early on the 30th, changed into running gear, and headed out. Here's the complication: we went out for lunch during work. To a place called Melt. If you know anything about Melt you know the sandwiches are gigantic and they have a great beer selection. I had an amazing 9.3% ABV beer (Weyerbacher Merry Monks, a favorite this season), and a grilled cheese sandwich / soup / salad combo. We didn't get seated for a billion years, so we didn't return to the office until 2:30 or 3. I tried to sober up a for an hour, then headed home to run. I know, no bueno. Don't do this.

The ribbon is so pretty.
I wasn't going for a PR, but I thought being able to choose my route without dodging people might help my overall time. My tummy sloshed and I knew I'd be happy with a revised goal of under 30 minutes. ;) Just after mile 2 Alex drove by on his way home from work. He circled around and stopped to chat. (I paused my Garmin.) We didn't chat past, "I'll be home in a few!" but I thought I'd include it in my report for full disclosure. After the interruption, I finished the run and actually half sprinted the last .11!

Mile Splits
1 mi       9:10
2 mi       9:19
3 mi       9:06
3.11 mi  7:53

Final Time28:27 (9:09 m/m)
Overall: 6 / 26 (23%)

Who knows how reliable the posted times are from the other participants. First place had a conveniently rounded off time of 20:00. I was a bit worried I did something wrong and would never get my medal, but reason took over (I began worrying about 2 days after I signed up) and the medal arrived in six business days. It's one of the nicest medals I've seen. Alex loved it (and didn't think I was weird for signing up)! I think I'd do another virtual race if the charity is something I'm interested in. I do enjoy seeing photos from other people's virtual races. I wish I'd taken some photos during my run!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Five Things I Love About London

I’m going to try something new today: the Friday Five Link up with Mar, Cynthia, and Courtney. I’ve been lurking on the Friday Five posts for a few weeks (mainly via Courtney’s blog, Run Away with Me, We Run Disney, and John via Twitter.) and thought I’d give it a go. Organizers, let me know if I’m messing up. ;)

I love a lot of places (like Molokai, Hawaii or most of Colorado), but my favorite city is London, England. I’ve been there twice: in 2004 I lived there as part of a study abroad program and again in 2010 with my mom. The second visit was much too short, but it was enough for my mom to fall in love with London, too. So, without further ado, Five Things I Love About London 

Tate Britain in 2010
1. Museums: My study abroad program was through the Art History Department. (I was an unofficial AH major. The trip gave me enough credit hours to graduate an entire year early, so I never finished my entire AH program. Officially, it’s my “specialization.”) Included in our tuition were museum entry fees for those that required them, but most museums in London take donations. I gave what I could (a pound here and there), but for all intents and purposes the main museums were free. My absolute favorite museum is the Tate Britain. It has a distinct smell. And seeing my mom excitedly standing in front of the ’The Lady of Shalott’ was pretty awesome.

I don't have a photo of public transit... so here's the Millennium Bridge.
2. Public Transportation: You can get anywhere with your weekly / monthly Oyster Card. I only road a bus once (along Oxford Street and it was absolutely insane), but used the tube every day. I became very familiar with the central lines. It’s the best underground system I’ve used. Amsterdam has nicer trains (above ground), but London is less confusing. Probably because Dutch is ridiculous, but that’s another story…

I was really proud of this photo at the time.
3. London Eye: Both times I’ve been on the London Eye I’ve gotten lucky. The first time was with my school group. There were at least two dozen of us so we had the car to ourselves and the sky was clear. The second time, I was with my mom’s high school group (mainly teachers and their spouses) and somehow a group of 6 of us got a car completely to ourselves! I would recommend the Eye to anyone visiting London for the first time. I would also recommend riding it on your first day. You will learn how to use the tube to get there and get a valuable lesson on the spacial relationships between famous landmarks.

View from the Tate to Tate boat
Another travel tip: take the boat between the Tate Modern and Tate Britain. It was £6 last time I went, but it is worth it. Kind of like the London Eye, it gives you another perspective on spacial relationships! And you get an amazing view of Parliament.

Arch-y building probably has an official name... 
4. This arch-y building: I have no idea why, but I love love love walking under this building. Maybe because it’s between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. Plus, it’s super cool looking.

Me in London in 2010.
5. Odds and Ends: I love the feeling I get when I’m in London. Anything is possible (!). I love the history. I love seeing extremely famous works of art close up. I love the mash up of different cultures. I love Pret a Mange (which is also in New York City these days). I love Marble Arch. I loved the University of London dorm, even though my room was ridiculously small and we had one shared shower that could not fit a large person. I love tea. I love the squares (parks). I love the H&M sale section. I love the omnibus editions of soap operas on Sunday (they play all of the episodes in a row).

I love London. What's your favorite city? Check out the other link up participants here.

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