Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Mishmash - Squirrel vs. Dog

It's autumn and our backyard squirrels are getting ready for winter.  Burying acorns, making nests...lots of activity, and it's all making Paco crazy.  Well, crazier than usual.  I think it's the same squirrel who is torturing Paco (and me by proxy, what with having to listen to him bark all the time) - here's the staredown:
What you can't get from this picture is the "rowr rowr rowr" gutteral throat noises Paco is making as he and the squirrel give each other the stinkeye. 

The next day, the squirrel decided to rip up our weed-prevention fabric and use it for his nest:
Oh no no NO.  Paco did not like this AT ALL.  The squirrel would tear off a piece and run up the tree with it, then come back for more.  I finally got tired of the barking and let Paco outside to run the squirrel off - for a little while, at least.  He'll be back...

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Last month I decided to try a Stridebox subscription - it's a monthly box of goodies tailored for runners.  At $15/month, with free shipping, I figured why not?  I placed my order and soon received an email saying the October box had been shipped, along with a tracking number for the U.S. postal servise.  I waited a bit and checked - no updates.  Waited a bit more and checked - no updates.  Finally I emailed Stridebox, who couldn't have been nicer - they shipped out a second box to me, priority mail, and I received it within a few days.  They said if the other box showed up, it was mine to keep as well.  Finally, the shipping status on that box was updated.  I don't know what strange system the USPS has for sending mail, but the package started in Washington state, then went to Pennsylvania, then to Ohio, then to Iowa, then finally to Dallas, and two days later, it arrived here.  Here's a map I skillfully drew on, in Paint, to show you the route:
...and they wonder why our postal service has issues.  This box shipped on October 7 and I received it on October 22, more than two weeks later!

After all that, here's what was inside:
A nice assortment of energy drinks and fuel, plus a Bottle Band, which you can use to make any water bottle a handheld...we'll throw this in with our running bag, just in case we ever forget our water systems.

I'll go ahead and do another month of Stridebox, first out of curiosity to see if the postal service can get it here in a timely manner, and second, because we've had fun trying out all the goodies.

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File this under "true connections" - I've been needing to clean out my main drawer in the bathroom.  I put it off and put it off, but finally on Tuesday, I remembered it was my BFF's day off, so I figured I'd call her while I cleaned it.  I dialed her number and she answered with "I just sent you a picture!" - and this is what it was:
HER bathroom drawer - cleaning in process!!! 

Freaky, right??  There's a reason we are friends.  I didn't take a before shot, but here's my drawer after I cleaned it out:
Got the drawer cleaned, the bathroom cleaned, and had an excellent talk with my best friend.  Life is good.

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I hung out with my friend Loretta yesterday - she had surgery for her hip stress fracture, so I kept her company and brought her ice packs when she needed them.  Mostly we chatted and watched movies.  Plus, there was Moose:
He was a sweetheart.  When he wasn't busy sneaking a lick on my bare feet, he spent most of the day looking out the window and not barking at everyone who went by outside.  Paco could take a lesson from Moose!

Have a great weekend - we are running 10 miles tomorrow (eeeeekkkkkk!!!!!).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WWU - 8 Muggy Miles

In the week leading up to our 8 miler on Saturday, the weather was beautiful for running - early morning temps were in the mid-50s, with humidity in the 70-ish percentile.  Running felt AWESOME.  One thing about slogging through months and months of running in heat and high humidity is that as soon as a cool front comes in, I can run like a Kenyan.  OK, maybe not quite that fast, but in comparison to the effort I have to put in during the hot months, I feel like I'm flying.  In fact, Cary and I even ran the first mile of our Thursday run straight through - no intervals.  It felt great!  But then we decided to do the remainder of the run with intervals so we could chat, which, let's face it, is a big part of why we like to run together.  Still - I had two super runs that week.

And then, Saturday morning dawned.  I was happy to see that it was only 60 degrees, but ack - the humidity level was 100%.  So it was foggy and muggy - but at least no rain.  It was a business as usual run at that point...just one of those "get 'er done" runs.  And while it wasn't a run where I felt like I was flying, I did feel pretty good, which is something noteworthy considering it was an 8 miler, and the last time I ran 8 miles I felt awful for pretty much the entire run.  As Amy and I ran together we saw five deer (two beautiful bucks and three does), and a gorgeous orange sunrise coming up through the fog and over the trees.  I couldn't have asked for a nicer start to my day, truly.

For this long run, I changed up my fueling a little.  I normally run on empty, meaning I don't eat before I run.  It works fine for my weekly runs, because I'm awake and running within 45 minutes of my alarm going off.  But on Saturdays, I'm awake at 4:00 am, on the road at 5:00 am with Jeff setting out water and Gatorade for the stops along the route, but I don't actually begin running until shortly after 6:00 am.  By then, I'm getting a little hungry.  So I actually ate something while I did my warm up walk - a package of Special K Pastry Crisps.  Cary recommended these to me a while ago, and I've tried them at home and knew they sat well with my stomach - they are just light enough (and taste like a pop tart, truth be told) to quell that little bit of hunger.  I also bribed myself with M&M's as my fuel for this run, instead of using my usual GU.  While the M&M's don't have the same sodium and potassium amounts of GU or other specially formulated sports fuel, they were pretty darn tasty and I didn't have a stomachache after the run.  I'll probably add in at least one GU to the M&M's for next week's run, since it's even longer (ack), but I'll keep the candy in the picture as well.  Hey, whatever works, right?

After the run, there was a lot of general merriment going on - we manage to have a good time together.  Each week we award one runner with a "GU'd Job" pat on the back, along with a packet of Salted Caramel GU, and after the run, when it's light enough, we take a picture of the runner with their prize for the newsletter.  This week, Cristy was the recipient, and she also wins the best pose award:
Dramatic reenactment - she ate her GU on the run.

Then we went to Blue Baker - there were so many of us that we couldn't fit into our regular booth, so we took up one huge section of the restaurant.  I got my baby fix again with Loretta's grandson:
It's all good when you have a sweet baby in your arms.

And naturally, there was the usual food ordered, although this week Jeff and I just split one bagel (multi-grain with strawberry cream cheese, yum):
This was good, but I think I'm over the bacon...Jeff isn't, so he'll get all three pieces next week.

I felt fine for running 8 miles, but around 2:00 pm, Jeff and I both had a massive case of runger (hunger brought on by running).  As we were just settling in to watch the (terrible) Aggie football game at home, we ended up throwing a frozen pizza in the oven and ate that...times two.  Next time, we'll skip watching the game and head out for some Mexican food - I think there would be less heartburn, all things considered.  And in case you're wondering, yes - Saturday eats are pretty much a free-for-all; comes with the heavier mileage.  I figure one wonky day per week won't be the end of me, and we'll scale back after the Houston half marathon in January.

Monday, October 20, 2014

HydraQuiver Review!

Last year, around this time, I noticed that my right elbow was hurting.  Now, being a left-hander, I couldn't figure out what in the world I was doing that would cause pain there - I even considered knitting as the issue, but you use both hands for knitting, and my left elbow felt fine.  Eventually, I realized that the pain was coming from holding my water bottle while running - think about bending your elbow at a 90 degree angle and keeping it there for a couple of hours at a time once a week during a long run, plus doing that for a shorter period several other times throughout the week for 45 minutes or so - add in the weight of the water in the bottle, and yep.  That was the cause.

So, even though I didn't really like wearing a fuel belt back in 2010, when I was given one at the USAFit organizer's conference back in March, I figured I'd give it a try again.  Guess what?  I lasted through one short run with it and swore it off - I just do not like having anything around my waist like that when I run.  I continued to run with my handheld water bottle, but I kept looking around, thinking surely there must be something out there that would work for me.

Finally, just on a random Google search for hydration systems, I happened to see the Orange Mud website, where I found the HydraQuiver.  I was intrigued.  I watched their video on how the system works.  I read some reviews.  I waffled on ordering one based on the price - I'm not opposed to spending money on something that I'll use, but not knowing if I'd really like it?  That gave me pause.  However, they have a 90-day return policy, and once I decided I'd like to order, I asked for a discount, which they generously gave me.  Being a ::cough cough:: famous running blogger has its perks after all...(please know I'm being facetious - I might blog, I might run, but I haven't received any offers from the running community in years, sadly)
Post 8 mile run...

My take on the HydraQuiver?  I love it!  I was a little surprised at how quickly I adapted to wearing this backpack system - I wondered if it would feel too heavy, or make me overheat, but nope.  After the first run with it (3 miles), I was hooked!  The only thing I noticed, and that was just for the first time I used it, was that I could hear the water sloshing in the bottle, which made sense since it was located closer to my ears.  But after that, I tuned it out and haven't noticed any sloshing since.

The padded pack sits pretty high on your back, between your shoulder blades.  You cinch it snug with their super-soft webbed straps, and it doesn't bounce at all.  I wasn't feeling any bouncing, but I asked several of my running buddies to observe me during our runs, and they all said it wasn't moving, just as I thought.  The straps fit under your arms, and you might think there could be chafing potential, but nope.  I used this for our 9 mile rain run, and I had zero chafing.  Not even a mark anyplace where the pack touched my body - I think that's pretty amazing.
Post 9 mile run - I forgot I even had it on as we posed for our rainy pictures!

The bottle that comes with the pack is 24 oz.  While we have water set out on our routes to refill our bottles, with this size, I don't have to stop at each station now.  It has a tapered bottom that makes fitting it into the holder really easy, which is nice considering you're doing that action blind.  And even though you have to reach behind your back to get the bottle out, the pack sits high enough that I don't feel like a contortionist - they say if you can scratch the back of your head, you can get the bottle out, and they are right.
There is a huge zippered pocket on the back - I use this for items I don't need to quickly reach.  My iPhone 4 fits in with tons of room to spare; the new gigantic iPhone 6 would fit in with no problem.  The pack isn't completely waterproof, so I'd still put my phone in a baggie before zipping it into the pack.  There is also a key hook inside the zippered pocket.  You can see how the barrel holder for the water bottle is tapered slightly bigger at the top, which helps to fit the bottle in easily.

The shoulder straps have soft expandable pouches that can hold things you need to get to while you're running - for me, it's my fuel and my lip balm.  I randomly crammed three GU's into one side and there was plenty of room for more.  Last week I filled both pockets with all kinds of fuel...I didn't need nor did I use most of it, but I just wanted to see how it felt.  I didn't notice it at all once the pack was on.  The pouches have a Velcro closure system, which makes it easy to open and remove items as you run.

Other things of note:  The pack doesn't have a chest strap - it just cinches at the shoulders.  I like this a lot...being female, I don't want anything crossing my chest other than my sports bra.  The pack is made in the USA.  The construction is solid; it feels like it's going to last, but if something goes awry, there is a limited lifetime warranty.  

I'm really glad I took a chance on the HydraQuiver.  If you'd like to try it, Orange Mud is offering my readers a 10% discount on any of their products - click here and use the code MYJOURNEY.  And please, let me know if you get a HydraQuiver for yourself, and if you like it as much as I do!

 Disclosure:  I was given a discount to purchase this product, and this review includes a referral link for me.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Mishmash

We've all had it happen - trying to text when autocorrect takes over.  It's not funny, except when it is...and it's especially funny watching it happen to someone else!  Such was the case last week at the Aggie football game - the man sitting next to me was responding to a text and as his phone was practically in my lap (the seats are really close to each other), I couldn't resist taking a peek.  He was trying to type the word "maroon" as in "I'm sitting here wearing my maroon."  Only it went like this:  ...wearing my Marion (bksp bksp bksp), ...wearing my Marion (bksp bksp bksp), ...wearing my Marriott (bksp bksp bksp) - I was in quiet hysterics at this point.  Finally he got the word "maroon" through - you'd think an Aggie's phone would recognize that word, but apparently not.

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Our local running store, Brazos Running Company, had a Ladies Night last week, and I won the cutest thing ever:
An Asics shoe keychain...but wait, there's more!  It has a USB inside!!  Love it.

OK and now here's my true confession:  I don't quite know how to work a USB properly.  I can make it work if I plug one into my computer and take the info off of it, but getting something from my computer to the USB?  That is a challenge to me.  Can you tell I haven't worked in an office for several years?  Technology is marching on without me!

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I looked outside my window to see Kip enjoying a sunny morning.  Then movement caught my eye, and I also saw a squirrel a few feet above him, in the tree, monitoring the situation (Kip was probably laying on some coveted acorns):
 Kippers blended in really well with the dead leaves on the ground - he's CamoKitty!

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You know how you can live with something wonky for quite a while, until one day you just can't take it anymore?  I had that with a drawer in my kitchen, the one that holds everything that I use most often, and therefore that I see just about every day.  The dividers that I bought a couple of years ago from Ikea were off-kilter and making me crazy:
This won't do.  Well, it did do for a couple of years, but finally, I couldn't stand it.
Enter these baskets...
Ahhh!  This is more like it.

If you'll notice in the last picture, you can see stuff on the floor.  That's because, as we all know, if you clean out one drawer, you have to keep going.  So now all my kitchen drawers have been cleaned out and reorganized, as well as that lower cabinet, plus my pantry.  I think I just hit on why I waited so long to fix that one drawer - because deep down I knew it would end up being a bigger project than I wanted to deal with.  It feels good to finally have it done!

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I wish I could show you what I've been knitting, but that would spoil my Christmas surprise for a few people.  Come January, I'll have quite the knitting update post with lots of pictures, I promise!

Have a great weekend - we only have to run 8 miles tomorrow.  Woohoo!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WWU - 9 Rainy Miles!

 Me, Becky, Amy - three soaked, but accomplished, runners! 

It's week 14 of our half marathon training, which meant that we had 9 miles on tap for our Saturday run.  I hadn't run this far since January, and after my brutal 8 mile run a couple of weeks ago, I was not really looking forward to it, especially since the weather had warmed back up.  Not only were we looking at warm temps, but it was super humid...and then, rain came into the forecast.  Ohhhh joy.

As it turned out, thunderstorms also entered the forecast, so we went to bed Friday night not knowing if the run would even happen - we will run in the rain, but thunder and lightning?  No way.  Well, we woke up and it was dry, but checking the weather radar, we could see a line of green (rain) heading our direction.  No word on thunder/lightning, so Jeff and I went ahead and set out the water and Gatorade along the route for our runners.  We started our warm up walk - it was muggy and warm!  Got to the half-mile point and whoosh - the front was here, in the form of wind and cooler temperatures.  By the time our runners arrived at the park, it was starting to sprinkle...but we weren't hearing any thunder, so we decided to go ahead and run, cautioning everyone to turn around and get back to the park if they heard thunder. 

I started off with Amy and Becky, with Diane running near us - she doesn't do intervals but keeps about the same pace as we do with them.  Sounds odd, but different runners, different strides (she's quite tall), and it shows how everyone does what works for themselves.  Anyway, as we started running, it started raining.  We were about one mile in when it began absolutely pouring!  All I could hope for was that I'd used enough Body Glide to prevent any unfortunate chafing incidents.  At least it was still fairly warm, so we weren't getting chilled - that would have been really bad. 

Funny story - during the worst of the downpour, Becky and I were running in the street while Amy and Diane were on the sidewalk.  I think it was Amy who yelped - I looked over to see that the automatic sprinklers had turned on and not only were they getting wet via the rain, but the sprinklers were hitting their legs pretty good.  It was like they were in a car wash, getting sprayed from all angles!  Ahhh, running adventures make for fun memories.

Amy and I both started our Garmins at the same time so our interval beeps would coordinate.  Only, they didn't.  And between the rain and the darkness, my brain didn't register right away that my Garmin was still set for 1:30/45 intervals, which is what I do during my shorter weekday runs.  Ack - for a 9 mile training run, I definitely wanted to have that full minute to walk!  Once we reached mile 2, I closed out that segment and reset my intervals, but we kept walking, so my mileage was a little off at the end - we hit the park and I showed 6.95 miles on my Garmin.  Now, I know I was at 7 miles, but dang it, I wanted the official Garmin credit which I know many runners, as well as Batman, understand:
I didn't run in circles, but I did run past my group until I hit 7 miles!

So here's the weird mental thing that happened when I restarted my Garmin.  I knew that I already had two miles done, but whenever I would glance at it and see, say, it reading that I just hit mile four, I'd think "oh that's not too bad" - and continue on.  Mile five?  I was fine.  Even when I hit mile six, I still wasn't thinking "OMG I'VE RUN EIGHT FREAKING MILES AND I'M STILL NOT DONE" - nope.  Apparently I tricked my brain with the two "secret" miles and I never got that feeling of "I can't do this" - it really was strange...but in a good way.

Here's a couple of pictures of our group afterward - minus 8 people who had already left before we got it together enough to get the shot:
Fred, me, Andi, Diane, Becky, Amy, Brian, Karen, Kasey, CC, Cary, and Julia

And just a few other shots - lighthearted camaraderie happening all around:
Soaking wet and tired after running 9 miles (or 16 miles as was the case with Fred and Brian), but still having a good time.  I love my running club peeps!

 Afterward, you know breakfast at Blue Baker was a must:
Why YES, that is a full cinnamon twist on my plate!  Jeff and I each got our own.  Nine miles deserved that kind of treat.

I got all the food, but had a hard time eating it.  Jeff whipped through his meal and at that point I think I had finished my chocolate milk.  When we run a lot of miles, my stomach doesn't feel great and it takes me a while to feel like I can eat, even though I want to.  I picked at everything over the course of the 90 minutes we were there.  I finally managed to finish the cinnamon twist, but Jeff kept eying it and I thought I was gonna have to take him out, ninja-style, if he made a move toward it!

P.S.  I'm happy to report that I had no chafing, which I think was a first for a rain run - hurray for that small miracle!  I guess the trade off was my hair; I had the biggest rat's nest in it after that rain run - ugh.  Tons of conditioner and leave-in detangler and it still took me forever to come it out.  Guess I should try braiding it next time?

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Don't Know How to Aggie Football...

But I gave it the old college try!  Or should I say the "ole" college try since we were playing Ole Miss?  OK, this is getting bad, even for me.  Jeff won tickets through his employer for the big game, and even though we knew we'd be pretty tired from waking up super early that morning, running 9 miles, and the game not starting until 8:00 that night, OF COURSE we would go.  We don't turn down free tickets, especially good seats in a sold-out game.  As it turns out, there was a record-setting crowd of 110,633 people in attendance, so it was pretty cool to be a part of that.

Texas A&M University, home of the Aggies, is steeped in tradition, many of which we are unfamiliar with.  If you attend this school, students go to a "fish camp" (freshmen are called fish here) where they indoctrinate you with all of the traditions, songs, and Aggie ways.  Since the only Aggie ways we've picked up on have been through living in this community for the last 14 years, we don't know a lot.  No matter, we still had a great time both before the game as well as during, although the Aggies didn't play very well.  The crowd was fun and getting to watch the band in person at half time was awesome!

We took the free bus to the game - you get on it at the mall, which is really close to our house.  We figured it would be nice to not have to deal with traffic and parking on campus.  We waited in line for about five minutes before boarding our bus - they crammed us in like sardines:
 We were standing in the aisle...packed so tightly that there's no way you could move. 
 This was our bus.  People in red and blue are Ole Miss fans.
We wandered around the Corps of Cadets quad - Jeff tried to get me to pose with the cannon but I would have felt like an Aggie imposter, so we just took a picture of random strangers instead.
Jeff in front of Kyle field - you can see the new part behind and to the left of him, and the older part to the right.  They've been doing renovations to the field during the off-season - it's looking really nice!
We watched the Corps march in - the band came first, followed by the rest of the regiments.  This shot shows just some of the tailgate tents in the background - they take tailgating seriously around here!
The band - so cool!
The cannon being brought in - I'm not sure if it's the same one that was being used for pictures before.  They shoot it off during the game whenever an A&M touchdown is scored (spoiler alert:  we did not hear it go off very often).
 In our seats with our giant tub of popcorn.  Neither of us were feeling great about food (dang, that runner's gut lasts a long time) - we split a burger outside the stadium and also shared a bottle of chocolate milk.  There were a lot of BBQ options available, but while it smelled good, we weren't up for it.  Salty popcorn hit the spot - I think we managed to eat close to half that bucket!
 Pre-game.  Picture taken by Jeff's coworker Lisa, who had the seats in front of us.  Fun fact:  the section we were sitting in will be imploded on December 14th, as part of the Kyle Field renovations.  Why do I know the particular date of implosion?  Because it happens to be the same day as the BCS Marathon/Half Marathon.  Normally part of the race goes right by Kyle Field, but that won't be happening this year!
Getting ready to start - I think there was singing at this point?
The mascot, a collie dog named Reveille, is  on the field...
 And here come the football players!  Along with fireworks - I wasn't expecting this!
Pretty sweet fireworks show both on the field and above the new Jumbotron.
 The game did not go well for the Aggies.  So let's just leave it at that, and with a picture of game via the ginormous Jumbotron.  We had fun with the people sitting around us - the man next to me decided to make lemonade out of the lemon of a game and started high-fiving everyone whenever the Aggies made a first down.  Celebrate the small victories!
 Half time - the band. 
 They were doing an intricate diamond design - I don't know how they pulled it off without running into each other!
 The Aggie band looked EXCELLENT out there!
 I was taking this picture when Jeff asked me why I wasn't taking a picture of the field...
 So here you go...two views of the block T.

We ended up leaving shortly after the fourth quarter started and a fumble resulted in Ole Miss scoring again.  The line for the bus was a lot longer this go-round, but it still moved fairly quickly and we were home just before midnight.  Long day, but a fun one.  I'd do it again!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Mishmash

Hey, did you hear about the latest skinny app for photos?  It's really effective:
 Hmmm, I guess it might still need some work - it only made the top half of our bodies skinny.  
Take two - nope, now just the bottom half is skinny.  

Hair growth app:
 Makes your hair long but there are unfortunate side effects to the body...

OK, this one just made me laugh because Barbara's giant hair and glasses makes her look like a mind reader:
Funhouse mirror exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History - we entertained ourselves for quite a while there!

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I've been doing a lot of knitting lately, and Paco has been doing an excellent job of keeping me company.  Sure, it might look like he's napping, but he's near me, so that counts, right?  Usually he sleeps under the footstool, but this week he picked the couch.  You know how they say babies looks so cute when they're asleep?  I think dogs do, too:
It slays me when he puts his head on a pillow to sleep!
Sunlight!  Must move toward it...
I call this one "chicken legs" - I think he calls it "stop waking me up with all the picture taking"...

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Speaking of knitting, my citrus shawlette is finished!  I soaked it in a special wool wash and then pinned it out on foam boards to straighten it out and also open up the lacework on the edge (this is called blocking):
On the guest bed - took less than a day to dry.
On me - I love it!  Too bad it was 90 degrees when we took this picture.  Here's hoping the weather will cool down soon so I can actually wear it (and long sleeves, too).

I think the leaf design on the edge came out really nice - I could see them developing while I knit, but it took blocking for them to really pop out clearly:
 Leafy...

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We have 9 miles on tap for tomorrow.  Then Blue Baker, then a nap, because (honestly a nap probably would have happened anyway) Jeff won tickets to the A&M-Ole Miss game, which doesn't start until 8:00 pm.  Considering we wake up at 4:00 am on Saturdays, this is going to be a long day - but I'm excited about getting to go to the game!

Have a great weekend!