Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Workout Update

It feels like I'm immersed in all things exercise, between running, Planet Fitness, and having our running club start up again.  If I'm not actually doing a workout, I'm making arrangements for one - check out my phone alarms:

I usually workout at Planet Fitness five times a week; off days are always Saturday, and usually one other day during the week.  I know I've said it before, but I'm really loving the 30-minute circuit they have.  In my mind, that's all I have to do on any given day.  Of course, Julia and I always get some planks done when we go together, and often we'll go use other machines on the main floor, but it's a mental thing for me to know that the circuit is enough.  And as long as I'm willing to wake up early, I have people to run with, which makes it that much more enjoyable.  My schedule looks like this:

Monday - Run, then PF
Tuesday - Run, then PF
Wednesday - PF (we took out the long walk since we're running more now)
Thursday - Run, then PF
Friday - PF (or rest day, depends on how I'm feeling)
Saturday - Run
Sunday - PF

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Running club has been going for two weeks now - we had a great first day kickoff!  What a relief, especially from a bit of chaos last season, when the other running club in town decided to move up their start date by two weeks to compete with us (ridiculous, since they are a highly competitive group of runners and we are not, so we attract different members), plus they met at the same location as us!  This season, we started at "our" park instead of in front of the running store, and it was really, really nice.  I had registration helpers, in the form of Joni (who was co-organizer when I joined back in 2010), Pam (who is recovering from knee surgery caused by a snow skiing injury, not running), and Sadie, of course:
Poor Sadie - she didn't understand why she wasn't running with the group!

Our official team picture:
Julia, Jeff, me, Damien (also from our 2010 season, back to coach our marathon group) and Amy.

And it wouldn't be a running club post without a picture from Blue Baker:
After our second week of running club.  Jeff and I had boring multigrain bagels (there was a splurge with a side of strawberry cream cheese that we split), while Amy had that tempting blueberry scone (and bacon).  Another fun morning with my running club peeps!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Time to Diet? Well, Sort Of...

I'm not unhappy with how I look - well, the exception being my stomach, but even at my lowest weight, I wasn't thrilled with it (it is obnoxiously big compared to the rest of me - and yes, I am calling a body part obnoxious because it didn't used to behave this way 20 years ago).  I have no idea what I weigh since I gave up weighing myself about three years ago, but I'm pretty pleased that I settled into a stable size; having success at weight maintenance was something that always, ALWAYS, eluded me, so I feel like a victor, truly.

But.  There's the matter of two half marathons in my not-so-distant future.  Two...and the second one is a really big deal.  It will most likely be the only time I'll run the Houston half marathon, and I'm running it with a group of really good friends.  I want to get to that start line healthy, injury-free, and ready to run a good race. 

I began thinking about how things went during the training season for my first half marathon back in 2010, and what's been different since.  Two big things came to mind:  One, I was coming off of training with Brad, so my body was much stronger, more muscular and more toned than it was during later training seasons.  The other thing was that I weighed less.  I was a faster runner, and it didn't seem quite as hard back then.  So of course I wonder if being lighter on my feet translates to having an easier time with running...and after my struggles with running during seasons past, I'm ready and willing to find out.

I've been working out with the weight machines at Planet Fitness for a couple of months now, and I can see a difference in my muscle tone.  I'm hoping that the legwork I'm doing will also show up in the form of better endurance when it comes to my longer runs.  So there's that.  Now, I need to see if I can get a little smaller via dieting...sort of.  I said I was done with dieting nearly three years ago, and I meant it.  There will be no weigh-ins, no self-flagellation, no massive restricting of food - in fact, I'm going to try for the most positive experience possible.  I'm sure you're thinking that this sounds all well and good, but will I actually lose weight?  I mean, look how hard it was for me back in 2008 and 2009...I was no speed demon when it came to getting the pounds off.  I don't have a huge plan other than to make some substitutions for some meals (like a little more protein at lunch instead of almonds and fruit), drink more water to fill me up (plus the extra hydration will be helpful with all the sweaty running I'm doing), limit my sweet treats to one per week (sigh...BIG sigh), and eat more salads.

Who knows if this is enough to see any changes.  Quite frankly, while I'm willing to do something to see if I can get a little lighter on my feet, I'm not willing to go on a diet diet.  Time will tell...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Mishmash - All Things Yarn

On the corner near Downtown Knits in Apex - a yarn-bombed tree, a little free library, a cool mural - so charming!

I like to check out yarn shops when I travel, and managed to make it to four of them in the Raleigh area - Downtown Knits in Apex, Warm 'n Fuzzy in Cary, Great Yarns, and Yarn Tree Studio, both in Raleigh.  I was surprised that when I walked into Great Yarns, they remembered me from my visit in March!  I had some birthday money earmarked for yarn, and some ideas of what I was wanting to knit, so I shopped with projects in mind, instead of what I normally do (which is go crazy with all the colors and buy random skeins because they are so soft and pretty). 

Here's what I ended up with:
To make a Woven Ladder hat - I've been intrigued by this hat/yarn combo even since Susan Anderson designed the hat, so when I came across the exact yarn during my travels, I had to buy it.
To make my first colorwork project - Little Scallops hat, which will have a (you guessed it) scalloped brim.
Probably another Sugarpine Rasta hat, although who knows.  Any case, I have a hard time resisting the lure of a beautifully dyed skein of Malabrigo Rasta...
I had so much fun seeing the yarn self-stripe and pattern when I made my Hipster Baby Flappy Hat that I had to get yarn in more colors.  Hipster Baby Flappy Hats for EVERYONE (say that in Oprah's voice)!
Malabrigo Mecha, in Azules colorway.  This picture isn't doing the yarn justice, but I'm making a Barley hat with it.  I had the yarn wound when I bought it and started knitting it while I was in NC.
The purchase of this yarn evolved from being intrigued with a different gradient yarn called Crazy Zauberball, which I've looked at for a couple of years now.  One store in NC carried it, and instead of buying it with no plan in mind, I went on Ravelry at the store (they have a computer available for customers to do just this, which I really appreciated) to look at the patterns I'd saved, with that yarn in mind.  As it turned out, I wasn't crazy (ha!) about how the Zauberball knitted up in those patterns.  I WAS crazy about how beautiful this yarn looked when it was knitted up into Zuzu's Petals, which is a really pretty cowl.  So I ended up ordering a skein (you could even specify how you wanted it wound, so you'd start out with a specific color, which was pretty neat).  I think I'll be happier with this yarn, and it feels like I'm maturing a tiny bit in terms of getting a little more selective with choosing yarn.

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I finally finished my pink shawl!  I seriously thought it would take me pretty much this entire year to knit, because it was complicated enough that I could only work on the lace pattern for a little bit at a time...anything more than about one hour and I tended to make mistakes.  Um, yeah.  Speaking of mistakes...I was weaving in the ends and discovered that I had live, loose stitches in the middle of the lace border!  This was a very bad situation, as there was no way to easily rip back (other than undoing more than half of that lace border)(and that WASN'T going to happen).  Luckily for me, my knitter/runner friend Cary was able to work some magic and fixed it - I swear, she's a true detective when it comes to figuring out mistakes and correcting them. 

Finished shawl after blocking:
Top two were shot outside, the others were inside...funny how the yarn color looks so different!

Finished shawl before and during blocking:
Top two pictures shows how you HAVE to block lace - it's hard to distinguish the pattern otherwise.  Bottom two pictures are after I soaked it in special wool wash, and then pinned it out to dry.  Huge difference!

Traditional shot of Paco modeling the shawl:
Pink iz not my color, Mom!  So embarrass.

When it's not stupid hot, I'll take some pictures of me wearing it - I've got a couple ideas on styling it and I think the shawl will look pretty sharp over a black longsleeved t-shirt.  But that will have to wait for a cool front to blow in...so maybe October?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday Workout Update

I'm just going to admit this right now - I am extremely jealous of the residents of the area where our son lives in North Carolina.  The Greenways and trails are incredible.  You can run, walk, or bike for miles without having to deal with road traffic; plus, the lush vegetation makes for such a pretty view...that area really embraces the whole "quality of life" ideal and it's hard to not be dissatisfied at the thought of running our usual routes in Texas.  But, we live where we live (for now, anyway), so I'll focus on the enjoyment I get from running with my friends...and make plans to return to NC again soon.

We kept seeing marked entrances to Greenways all around Cary and Apex, so one morning Jeff and I drove out to one; there was a small dirt area about 500 feet from the entrance where a few cars could park - not sure if this would be an issue on a weekend when more people might be using the trail, but we were the only car there on the random Tuesday morning a couple of weeks ago.  This Greenway was nicely paved, plus there were several wooden boardwalks that went over a wetlands area - it's mostly flat, which of course you know I appreciated.  We ran for just over a mile and then turned around and ran a mile back.  We were still on the path so we were able to take some pictures:
These signs make it easy to find the entrances to the Greenways.
Jeff was trying to decipher the map...
 
The maps are pretty detailed and probably make more sense to residents who are familiar with the area, but we did OK with finding our bearings.
 One of the boardwalks that went over the marshy wetlands area.
So green!  Such trees!  Much happiness.
 Two-mile selfie with a nice background!
 
You can see a bit of the marsh here...
Cattails in the marsh - we also saw a giant blue heron but it flew away before I could get a picture.  Still, it was quite cool to be so close to one like that!
 Beautiful path, perfect for running!
 Another boardwalk - we crossed over three of them in the span of one mile.
 I asked him to pose for a picture - he responded with the "victory finish line" stance, LOL.

As you can probably tell, we really enjoyed running in North Carolina!  And if we lived there, I'd buy a better bike and ride the Greenways and trails on my non-running days.  They make it so conducive to lead a healthy outdoor life!

Monday, July 14, 2014

North Carolina BBQ and How I Ate My Way Through a Vacation Without Gaining Weight

Living in Texas, I'm quite familiar with barbecue, which is not to be confused with grilling food on the barbecue, which is how I used to refer to cooking anything on one of these:
Note to self:  this is a grill, not a barbecue.

Anyway, Texas barbecue is beef-centric...of course, my favorite is smoked turkey, but then I'm not a born-and-bred Texan, so there you go.  North Carolina BBQ is pork-centric, and apparently there's two types - regular, and Eastern North Carolina, otherwise known as ENC BBQ, which has a spicy vinegar sauce.  We went to The Pit in Durham and had quite the experience, from the free valet parking (at a BBQ joint?  I was shocked) to our super-friendly waiter, Dante, giving us the full explanation of everything on the menu.  We all got different meats and sides and traded bites once the food was delivered.  Here's my plate - I ordered the chopped barbecue, ENC-style.  With cole slaw and potato salad...oh and they also delivered homemade biscuits and hush puppies (which were soooooo good) - you can see them in the small plate at the top of the picture:   
Enough for a food coma, as Sam put it...if you ate it all.
Sam and I - he's got a goofy look on his face because he won't just smile like a normal person.
I also had my first Cheerwine at The Pit!  Cheerwine is THE soft drink of the south, and it was created in North Carolina nearly 100 years ago.  I don't normally drink sodas, but just once, I had to try it.  I've heard it tasted like a Dr. Pepper with grenadine syrup in it - not sure I completely agree with that, but I did like it and was surprised that it wasn't overly sweet.

That was a lot of food.  And I was definitely full when we left, but I wasn't completely dying.  Why?  Because I managed to not finish anything.  I had a bite of this and three bites of that, enjoying everything, but was mentally fine with leaving food on my plate (although Jeff and Sam couldn't stand it and scavenged what I didn't eat).  I did this throughout our visit to North Carolina - if something looked intriguing, I ordered it, but I was very aware of how I felt as I ate, and I stopped well before finishing my meal, and also before I felt stuffed.

Jeff and I also split a lot of our meals - for example, at Zinburger in Durham, we ordered one hamburger (the Samburger - how could we resist?) and also a chopped salad; our waitress used the term "split and marry" when she saw what we wanted, and we each received a plate with half a hamburger and half the salad.  Anna's Pizzeria in downtown Apex had the most amazing Crostino pizza:
I had a slice and a half.  Yes, I could have eaten more, but I liked walking away from lunch not hating myself for jamming all the food down my gullet.

We happened to be in downtown Raleigh one day around lunchtime and went to The Pit there, because that ENC BBQ was just too good to resist, but this time we got salads with a side of meat.  Here's the picture I texted to Sam, who was at work:
Jeff was holding up the bottles of BBQ sauce - Sam instantly knew where we were (and we got a "no fair!!!" from him)

Most days I ate either my usual breakfast (Fage/granola/fruit) or sometimes I had a turkey bacon eggwhite breakfast sandwich from Starbucks (if we'd gone running in the morning).  We managed to cook some meals at Sam's place but still ate out every couple of days or so - hey, we were on vacation and wanted to try all the new (to us) places!   But by keeping myself in check with portions and hunger cues, I came home feeling pretty good, which is a miracle considering who I am, where I've come from, and the fact that I ate a lot of really tasty food.

Couple more pictures of the good stuff (honestly, I forgot to take pictures of most things):
Ginormous pretzel (hand for scale) from Tyler's Taproom, where we met blogger friends Rachel and Dave for dinner.  Last March, when I traveled to SLC with Amy, I learned that brewpubs tend to have really good homemade pretzels so I had to order this as an appetizer.  It WAS good!  Shared with everyone; I got the taste I wanted without too many calories.

Here's the peaches we bought in South Carolina on our drive home - there were billboards pushing fresh peaches (I did not know SC was such a peach place...thought that was Georgia's domain), and they looked so good we had to stop at a fruit stand to get some.  Bought them in SC, ate them in Georgia when we took a lunch break (at Subway - meh, but we had the dog with us, so we needed somewhere with outside seating and this fit the bill):
Juicy, drippy, messy and so very yummy!

I'm sure the fact that we ran and walked a lot helped with leveling the calories in/calories out part, but I have to say I'm pretty content with all that I got to eat plus the fact that I'm still fitting comfortably in my clothes!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Mishmash

Random pictures from our trip to North Carolina:
 Blogger meet up!  This time, Jeff and Sam got to meet Rachel, who I first met in person in March, and we all got to meet her husband, Dave.  Nice picture, eh?  Well, the first go-round didn't turn out quite so well...
 
Turns out not every random stranger you hand your phone to for a picture has mad photography skillz.  To her credit, she WAS really short, so maybe that's why Jeff's and Dave's heads were cut off? 

We met up in a restaurant-y area just outside of the Durham Bulls ballpark.  While we were waiting to ask someone to take our picture, Jeff stepped onto a rock in the water, and I joined him for a picture:
Having short legs meant I had to jump across!  Credit Rachel for getting the action shot.
Durham, NC - a nice place to be!

Rachel brought a little gift along for Paco - a hula girl cookie from Gourmutt's Bakery.  It smelled so good, I was tempted to take a little bite!  But I didn't...Paco got the entire thing, although, not without some tortured waiting:
He's such a good dog - I can give him a cookie and say WAIT, and he will wait, until I give him the OK.
More torture...the tongue licking the cookie kills me.  And, if you look closely at the bottom two pictures, you can see that Paco ate the frosting off first.  I wasn't kidding when I said it smelled good!  He loved it - thanks, Rachel!

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Sam taught Paco to do a high five when he was giving him a treat:
Paco is a fast learner when there's food involved!

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Many states have toll roads, but Georgia makes me wonder why they bother - look how much it costs to drive on this one:
TWO cents!  At what point would this become cost-effective to administer?

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The other thing that we saw as we drove home was a racist billboard in Alabama.  Right out there on the highway - I read it as we drove by and thought "what the hell did I just read?"  I repeated what it said to Jeff, and we both sat there with, jaws dropped.  I know this crap exists, but to be so blatant about it really shocked and saddened me.  I like to believe that everyone in this country has an equal chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and it makes me feel sick that others actively try to impede this.  I think I was also stunned to see this in the year 2014 - I know progress in terms of overcoming racism has been made, but this billboard made me question what century it was.  Anyway, I know I don't normally write about issues like this, and I'll go back to normal blogging now, but dang - that was bad.

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Have a great weekend - our running club starts up tomorrow, so I expect to pretty much not sleep tonight from nerves about pulling off a good first day for everyone.  Luckily I have a great crew helping, but until I get through the first day, it's nerves galore over here!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Le Tour de Carrboro Four on the Fourth Race Recap!

Instead of a race t-shirt, we got a jar of Norm's Farms elderberry jam!  

Last Friday, Jeff and I ran the Four on the Fourth race in Carrboro, NC.  This was the first of three races in the Le Tour de Carrboro race series, put on by the Cardinal Track Club. We ran it because, well, why not?  Seemed like a fun thing to do on the Fourth of July, right?  Carrboro is an eclectic, hippieish town right next to Chapel Hill, which is home to the University of North Carolina.

We lucked out with the weather for this race - hurricane Arthur had hit the North Carolina coast the previous day and at first it looked like the outer bands of the storm might bring some rain, but except for a little bit overnight, we were sunny and dry - plus the humidity was only 61%, which was so nice!  Compare that to the 91% humidity with pretty much the same temperature (around 74 degrees) in College Station, where my running peeps were participating in a Firecracker 5K, and I'd say we got the better deal...although, Carrboro is full of hills, so maybe it was a draw.
Pre-race...all smiles.  Please note the man in the yellow tank behind me - you'll be seeing him again later.
Watching the group warm up.

The race was fine, except that I had a massive case of race anxiety and a slight panic attack when it began.  I was a little nervous beforehand - why, I don't know.  But I had butterflies in my stomach as we were driving to Carrboro, and although we had plenty of time to do a nice warm up walk, chat with a few people, and watch the yoga stretch warm up from afar, once the race began, my heart started racing, my chest felt tight, and I could not get a handle on my breathing.  We ran the first minute, walked the second...and then walked the third minute while I tried to get control over this.  Not the way I thought the race would go, that's for sure.  I was able to do my 1:1 intervals after that extra walking break, but it took me about a half mile to feel like I had control over the situation.
Just before the starting gun went off...looking calm, cool and collected??  OK, there might be a little trepidation showing on my face.

Even with the anxiety at the start, mile one was my best pace, coming in at 13:48.  And this was with hills! You all know I'm not a hill-loving runner, but if I lived here, I'd have no choice but to embrace them because they really are unavoidable.  We settled into a good running/walking pace, and ended up staying near a big group of runners who train with the local Fleet Feet. They were all so nice - honestly, this was one of the friendliest races I've ever done, from the volunteers all throughout the course, to the spectators who came to the edge of their driveways and cheered us on as we ran through their neighborhood, to the man with a banjo who serenaded us - this was the 10th year for this race, and it showed in how well everything went.
Another race where my mileage was spot on!

We finished in 58:06 - seriously, I was shocked considering all the hills.  Average pace was 14:31...while I don't run races to hit a certain pace or finish time, I will say that seeing these numbers on my Garmin was especially nice considering the way I felt during the first part of the race.
Finished!  Sweaty, yes, but not nearly as bad if we'd raced in Texas!

There were some interesting people at the race.  I first noticed this man before the race and he ended up being in the background of our pre-race picture.  I call him Skinny Hulk Hogen:
You see it too, right? 
And this girl in her patriotic bikini - how did she run four miles in this outfit?  Didn't she chafe??

After the race we had some watermelon:
Best way to rehydrate after four miles!

And then we zipped back to Sam's place, where he had hot coffee and patriotic donuts waiting for us (no picture, because HUNGRY).  Even with the unpleasantness at the beginning of the race, I'm glad we ran it.