Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aix en Provence

Provence. Close your eyes and picture it. You see fields of lavendar, gorgeous countryside, quaint little homes and cheese, right?? Well, that's what I had pictured as well. And I believe it does exist somewhere in that region. But when we rolled into Aix en Provence, a town A's aunt RAVED about and was a late add to our itinerary, it was nothing of the sort.

I'll bypass the longwinded story that lead us to arriving in the town around midnight by bus at the dumpiest hotel I've ever been to. Needless to say, our first impression of Provence was nothing short of disappointing. I kept spirits high (even while having to use my borrowed travel sleeping bag on the hotel bed bc we didn't trust the bed sheets/blankets/etc) and hoped morning would bring something more pleasant.

Overall, it wasn't awful, but let's just say I didn't too much enjoy the city. The highlights were: touring Cezanne's last art studio (AWESOME!) for only 2 euro ($2.80), all the hoopla they go through to celebrate weddings (cars honking, people yelling, driving through town before and after the wedding sounding like a parade all the way) and the cute little fountains all over town. The lowlights: fashionobsessed, smoke inhaling, superficial young people, it's faster paced big city feel, and the high prices for drinks/food.

Yummy spinach/salmon quiche for lunch and fabulous choc cupcake/brownie goodness for dessert!

Cute little fountain good for people watching...just be careful the birds don't get you!

Fountain and round a bout

Cute little garden we came across that was prime spot for old ladies to gossip and the college kids to study!

Annie tries a drink her mom suggested, Pastis (black licorice liquer), which she found disgusting.

I love hearts so naturally when we came across this bakery shop window, I had to pause for a photo.

Our second and final night in Provence we got to tour a bunch of the museums that were open late for free!

Monday, June 29, 2009

some of my best hair days

...are hopefully in the very near future. WHY? Like most of you, summer inspires that feeling of change, of refreshment, of things flirty and fun. And my hair is feeling that very same need.

See this photo? This was at Versaille outside of Paris. Granted, I wasn't able to use a hair straightener in Europe, we were midsightseeing and I was bent over trying to uncork some wine, but still.

Now, totally sick of my hair, I scheduled a haircut with my stylist for tomorrow. That sounds so chic, right? Stylist. Ha. Well, for just $30 she'll wash and cut my hair pretty much any way I please. Awesome huh? Except that I tend to go with my standard "um, let's just cut a few inches off, you know, clean up the ends, and maybe add a few long layers" line.

My hair is starting to remind me of this much TOO long style from last summer (I'm second from the left). Click to enlarge. This was at a backyard bbq during the USA Track & Field Olympic Trials with some of the runner girls.

The only good thing about the long layers is that sometimes the shorter pieces add for some fun looking up dos of sorts. But really, it's just pure luck. The problem with these layers is that it makes running particularly difficult. I HATE having chunks of hair fall out of my ponytail and into my face. And bobby pins and headbands don't seem to do the trick for this stick straight hair. This photo btw is from a fun evening in Paris. We ran into a few French college students in the subway and this one decided to sing Opera to us!

Here are a few photos that are inspiring me right now in the hair cutting dept...

1. Reece Witherspoon's wispy, long layered look

2. Jennifer Aniston's golden honey blonde hair color

So, I want to know: do you sacrifice your running/workout capable ponytail for a cute, unpredictable haircut or do you go with the same ole cut each time you see your stylist?? The manfriend suggested I try some highlights. I however, am a highlight/hair dyeing virgin. What do you think? Should I make take a big leap? Or should I keep it long and freshen up the ends?

*Send me a photo and recap of a time you took a hairstyle leap of faith and I'd love to feature them in an upcoming post.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cake, run, yoga, groceries and oh...work

Busy day over here in Sassyland! We got home late last night after some food and beers with the runners and tracksters. After stopping by the grocery store, I proceeded to make TWO layers of yellow cake for the man's bday lunch (he requested yellow cake w/ choc frosting). So as requested, I bought Betty Crocker cake mix and then chose a recipe to make for the frosting.

This morning, the dog and I hit the pavement for a 25 min run. Then I did some yoga before showering and getting ready for work. After the manfriend headed on his merry way, it was operation decorate cake time (hey, he can't know EVERYTHING I'm doing for his bday)!

I wanted to make the cake a little extra special so I decorated it like a bike wheel. Not gonna lie, I felt kind of creative using the icing and sprinkles. The man cycles AND works at a bike wheel manufacturer so really, it just makes perfect sense.

I offered to bring lunch and cake today for his office (there are only six of them). So, what will they be having?

-Subway party platter (with four assorted types of sandwiches)
-Sweet Onion & Barbecue flavored chips
(made here in Oregon and oh so yummy!)
-Dole caesar salad mix
-Double layer round yellow cake w/ choc frosting bike wheel birthday cake! (Photo to come. I can't find the damn camera cable cord.)

I think I'm earning some serious girlfriend points, for the record.

Any fun weekend plans? I'm hitting the big track meet up tonight with a fellow runner! Fun fun!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Yeah, no one ever told me THIS (about running)

Hey hey hey, guess what? It's Thirsty Thursday! I mean, Take it and Run Thursday!

Today in the lounge we're talking about...what in running did you find out not by your running group, or in an article or friend, but by plain ole experience? I heard quite a bit that at first it would be hard, really hard, but it would get better with time and perseverance.

What I didn't learn from someone else until it happened to me, was that once running becomes "the thing you do," it could go back to being really, really hard. And I'm not just talking about after you take a month or two off, I'm talking about the days when one run is just awesome and you're flyin' and the next you feel like "oh my gawd, could I go any sloooower?!" Whether it be fueling or rest fluctuations, sometimes it just seems like those days the bod is saying "hello, this whole running thing...yeah, it's still hard no matter how many times we've done this before."

Sometimes those runs remind me that hey, it's okay to take a day off and take a walk and do yoga instead. And others, I think "what is wrong with this bod? get it together already!"

On another, but somewhat related note, I went on a 30 mile bike ride last night with wind coming at me from the front, side and back at various points on the ride. I decided to ride and save the knees for tonight's SPEED workout. However, I set out for the hills and the wind already hungry and with low energy. AND, it got cold quickly and I forgot to bring any arm or knee warmers.

When the wind hit me head on, the clouds started covering the sun, and I started to feel tired on the gentle rolling hills, I prob should have turned back, but I didn't. I kept saying "just a little bit further" until I was inching up the big hill and doing the full loop with no plans of turning back. I had a package of blueberry Luna moons (mmm, love the things!) with me so that sort of saved the day, but just by a hair. I got back to the man's at 830pm just as he was giving me a call to make sure I was okay. I was, thank goodness. Tired, but okay.

I hope I've learned from this. Learned that what can be jolly good fun can quickly turn to exhaustion, blood sugarless unfun if you're not careful.

And, here in Tracktown, USA, we have the Track & Field National Championships going on from today through Sunday! From my office I can hear the announcer. Literally feels like I'm at the meet right now. And tonight, after our SPEED workout, we'll head to the pub and rub elbows with all the real speed demons (prof. athletes) and track fans, while enjoying good beer, some food and live music! Gotta love it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is supposed to get easier, right?

This whole returning to running after two months off thing has thrown me for a loop. A loop I wasn't quite ready for. I forgot that when they say you lose double the fitness for the amount of time you take off, they mean it. Two months is NOT like taking four days off.

Each mile is a victory. My lungs and my legs feel like they're finished after just five minutes into a run. But because I know persistence pays off, I've been fighting the fatigue to get to at least 40-45 minutes before I think about stopping.

Last night, I worked until 630 and then having already missed the group run, I put on the New Balances, Nike shorts and Old Navy tank and drove to the park for my own little run on the bark. I took the long loop so I was forced to go all the way around with no turning back when it got tough.

Sunday's run was painful. After 2.5 miles with the girls I had to peel off and turn around and then pushed myself to do 6 miles since the 10k is coming up. But you know what? My right knee was wrenching with every step. The lungs were mediocre, but the knee, not so much.

Last night my knee wasn't hurting as bad, but still not good. Halfway around the loop, I realized I'm a fighter. I stay in the ring until the last bell, until I can't go any more. Why? Because I think anything less would be unsatisfactory. Incomplete. Below average.

I'd like to run without pain someday. I believe the lungs and legs will get stronger in the next few weeks and I'll be back to my running fitness level soon enough. But my knees, I'm not so confident they're up for the challenge. I wonder, how fast could I go if my body were to cooperate with my mind? One thing I know for sure is that Boston will be unachievable with this kind of knee pain.

But it's all in due time. I think this whole biking thing will help my joints, but it's hard when the time you see your friends is on the track, the roads and the bark paths and your goals require serious road time. The thing I keep having to remind myself is that patience is critical.

Without serious recovery time, we cannot improve. With the foresight that some goals cannot be met when you'd most like, we must find new and different challenges to keep the fighter in us fighting. Meanwhile, bikini season continues to come head on with no sign of stopping. :)

Take care of yourself!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Transplanted Baker up and running again!

If you haven't already, head on over to Transplanted Baker's (Siri) new blog! Her original one got deleted somehow on blogger so she had to switch over. This marvelous Minnesotan and I lived on the same floor during our Freshman year of college in Oregon. Then she sadly decided to head back to Minnesota where her family was. All the same, she's still Siri Mom in my heart (as well as fabulous baker and person)!

After marrying her husband Bent, they headed to Norway and she began this little slice of baking heaven, Transplanted Baker. I've used and drooled over many of her recipes and photos. Go on now! Trust me, this should make your Monday just a little bit better.

Did anyone bake anything fun this weekend? I made Joy's Peanut Butter Fudge Treats for a little wine tasting and potluck we had on Friday night with all the runners at a local winery. They were awesome, but rich! The manfriend even took the left overs to his six hour hilly bike ride to share with the other guys and said they were a hit (as if I would think they wouldn't enjoy something filled with butter, rice krispy treats, pb and choc!).

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Beautiful Cinque Terre

And here we are. The place where every turn you take is another breathtaking view in which you simply can't believe your eyes. During our three days in the Cinque Terre, I kept saying outloud "really, people live here?!" The five little towns on the Italian Riviera were once only accessibly by this small trail along the ocean that takes about 3-4 hours to hike with gorgeous views. We spent our one full day doing that as well as exploring each little town.

Our town was Vernazza, the fourth of the towns from the South to North. It is said to be the cutest and most expensive, however we felt all the towns were almost just as adorable. We stayed at the Pensione Sorriso, which I would recommend in a heartbeat to anyone traveling to the Cinque Terre. In fact, if I go back, that's definitely where I would stay.

I can't tell you how awesome this place was. The hotel was small and just a few hundred feet from the train station and the main part of town. The owners were a couple in their mid to late thirties with a newborn. Each morning we awoke to smells of fresh baked croissants and sounds of great music. As we sat down (at our assigned table) the husband would ask us what we'd like to drink. One morning I asked for tea (and got about 20 options for teabags) and the next I asked for a cappucino because A's looked soooo amazing. Can't tell you how awesome it was! With fresh flowers from their garden to boot! And the smorgasbord we ate each morning was INSANE. And of course we couldn't leave without trying EVERYTHING. So, we would have...cereal, yogurt, fruit, salami and cheese on a roll/bread (this is a regular breakfast necessity in Europe), a sweet croissant and more. We would nearly roll ourselves out of there and on to our sightseeing agenda for the day. Wow!

This place was just beautiful. If you ever get the chance, go there. I had been dreaming of it after seeing pics a few years back from other friends who had visited and I'm so glad we made the trek. People there truly have it made. Quality of life was rich in all ways. They thrive on tourism so naturally, they are friendly to tourists, although at points I did feel like it got a bit touristy when they would get dumped off by the bus or boatfull. For your viewing pleasure...

Can you believe how blue this water is?!

Yum, produce!

Crazy bar tenders at the Blue Marlin (thank you for the suggestion Lonely Planet guidebook!)

Another beautiful view of Vernazza

Adorable little restaurant umbrellas (U.S. needs to take a hint!)

Michigan or bust

I'll never be a Marathon Maniac like Absolut(ly) Fit Laura, but I do enjoy racing in new places. Next month the manfriend and I are traveling to Michigan for a long weekend to visit his family, which he only sees once or twice a year. I'll get to meet his brother, his brother's fiance and his dad. You may remember I met his mom and sister earlier this spring when they came to visit. Anywho, his parents live on the lake so I imagine the days will be spent sunbathing, boating, grilling and the nights will be spent enjoying beverages on the porch and laughing.

Since we'll be there from Thurs-Monday I figured hey, why not try to fit in a race? So, I emailed a local running group and asked for suggestions. I was given several websites to search and came up with Steve's 10K Run and I couldn't be more excited! The race goes through a golf course and Southwestern Michigan College campus with the option to hurdle hay bales and an authentic Irish stone fence. Plus, all funds raised will go to the Mayo Clinic Cancer Research and/or the Steven Briegel Scholarship Fund, which assists outstanding students (3.0 or better). So, what do you say? Run for a good cause AND hurdle some hay bails? Sign me up!

And what's even better is that the manfriend agreed to run the race with me (before we've even run the first one that he's not training for) AND his mom is happy to pile everyone into her minivan for a little road trip to the race! That way we can fit the race in while still enjoying family time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Polka Dots and Pink

In Jessica Schroeder and Academic Chic fashion, here's what I'm wearing today!

Scarf: Hippy store near campus that is now closed
Tshirt: Gap
Skirt: Gap
Sandals: Birkenstock
Not shown: Old Navy Jean jacket

WHY: It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, but today just seemed right because I actually enjoy what I'm wearing, and that makes a big difference.

I love love LOVE this skirt because a) it has pockets b) it has large polka dots and c) you can pare it with so many diff colors! Did I mention how awesome the pockets are? I don't wear the skirt nearly often enough because it's part silk and needs to be dry cleaned. I know I should just suck it up and get over it, but dry cleaning costs $$ and takes just that extra step. Plus, I loathe ironing so I'm not about to attempt to hang dry and then iron it myself.

The sandals are a new purchase as of two weekends ago. I like this style because they are casual enough to wear around this summer on the weekends with shorts or jeans rolled up, but cute enough to go with the right work attire.

Tuesday Trials

Ok, today's a lazy day kind of post, but still fun. Head on over to hear about Heather's Tues Trials. I love her recaps of what she's tried new in the past week and why it did or did not work for her.

My trials this week have been:

1) a homemade caprese salad on Sat night while grilling turkey burgers with the man
2) ROAD BIKING on my beautiful new Trek! Hint: hills are still a pain in the ass on a road bike (Photo to come soon)
3) Trader Joe's tomato basil hummus with carrots for my afternoon snack at work (packed full of flavor and a little protein)
4) Taking a day off from running to help my body recover and adding back some weight training
5) Remembering how much I enjoy reading this blog
6) Making the first gin & tonics of the summer and sipping on them outside with the man

Spill the beans. What have your trials been this week?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Step by step I'll get there (fingers crossed)

Last night was our group speed workout with our coach. This was our first week back to hills since it's actually light out past 7pm and boy was it a doozie. Coach Ryan had the longest and hardest hill workout I've ever done lined up for us and man was I feeling it.

At almost two weeks now of being back, my bod still hasn't fully remembered that this running thing is supposed to come easy and a bit more natural to me. We did over an hour straight of hill after hill after another hill. And on top of that, I chose to leave my car parked at work and do an extra 10 min warm up and cool down run to and from the park. Whew. By the time I got back to the boyfriend's, my face was red, my back was sweaty and all I wanted was a shower.

This morning, being that Friday is the man's rest day from cycling, I planned for us to go on a short run. I may have mentioned that he promised to run this Butte to Butte 10k on July 4th with me and he had yet to set foot into his new Nikes. Well, this morning, his running attire set out in the bathroom, I managed to get him up before 7am (without a bullhorn like I had threatened), grabbed the dog and headed out for a fast 15 min. I dropped him off and did another 5 min of easy jogging to recover my lungs. The guy doesn't run, but at 6'4", a cyclist and former high school track star, his easy jog forced me to suck some serious wind.

Afterward, I did some abs, pushups and stretches as he just stood there and watched. After all, it's Donut Friday for him so that 15 min was really overdoing it. I'm going to the gym after work and he'll prob sit on the couch and watch ESPN and tomorrow he'll still have lost a few pounds. Seriously, not fair.

Happy Donut (or nonDonut) Friday!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Firenze! aka Florence

Ah, Florence. We arrived there and made the short four block trek to our Hostel Archi Rossi, which offered free breakfast (you choose off a menu), free pasta/pizza dinner and free internet (trust me, we learned later in our trip that free internet and six computers was quite a treat!).

Here we shared a room with four other women, the room was clean, we had a bathroom in our room and we each had lockers. One of these extra women was a fortysomething German lady who spends part of her year in Vancouver, BC and the other part in Germany or traveling. She was sarcastic and hilarious. We ended up running into her at our next stop, the Cinque Terre.

After dumping our bags, we quickly made our way to the center of town, (which I believe I mentioned while I was there), grabbed a bottle of wine at a little wine shop and headed to the steps of the Duomo (old gothic church) to people watch. The Duomo square shown here is where everyone from tourists to local business professionals to young people walk through or hang out on their way to somewhere else. It was a great place to see the fashion and simply do some serious people watching.

The great thing about Europe is that you just meet people wherever you are. Luckily, guys didn't cat call us like I had expected, but they did easily chat us up on the streets, in the subways and on the steps of the Duomo. We spent about 20 min talking to these young guys and attempting to explain what A's job means (she's an accountant - gotta love the language barrier!)

First thing on our full day in Florence, we headed to check out the impressive David sculpture and other Michaelangelo pieces at the Uffizi museum. After grabbing some Italian pastries, we set off on our own tour of Florence by renting bikes for 7 euro each for the day. The great thing we discovered about the bike is that you get to explore so much more of a city you wouldn't have time for on foot, especially when you're just visiting for a few days like we were. AND, Europeans actually look out for and respect bicycles so even though we were clueless at points as to where we were going, drivers were patient and careful.

Thanks to my guide book, we biked our way to this awesome little gelato shop tucked away in some random sidestreet (as everything seems to be in Europe). For dinner I think we just ended up taking advantage of the free (and not so awesome) pizza at the hostel. Late that night we took the hike up to the top of this hill (i think sort of in the vacinity of this photo) that over looks the whole city. We found so many awesome wine bars and restaurants that we knew we would want to find again someday if we come back. And as we walked across the pedestrian bridge over the river, there was a man playing the accordian as lovers sat enjoying the evening. It was just one of those perfect Italian moments. And the buildings and alley ways and random cathedrals...Italy, you're good at that.

The morning we left Florence to head to the Cinque Terre (the place I'd been dreaming of for a while), A had to get a snack inside the McDonald's in the Train Station. I must admit, I despise fast food. I avoid it like the plague. BUT, I did have one grilled chicken salad at the McDonald's in a train station on our way to France and it was one of the better salads I've ever had. No joke, I think European's require better quality of products...produce, cheese, everything! Take a look at Annie's fried spinach/cheese blobs and her espresso! I just had to take a pic.

Next up: Cinque Terre! The most quaint little beautiful slice of heaven you could ever imagine.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fueling up

I almost learned the hard way today about not fueling up. This week I'm trying out a new gym to try to mix it up from my past eight years at the University gym I've been working out at. The advantages are: 1) it's a semi central location to my house and the man friend's 2) it's right next to the local running store I go to on Sunday and Monday's for group runs 3) they have a great lineup of classes (cycling, pilates, kickboxing, yoga) that are no extra charge and 4) it's about a 10 min drive from my office.

So today, after a meeting with a designer and a few coworkers, I headed to the gym for a quick workout. About 45 min before leaving the office I had half of a dark chocolate and nut Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix bar (approx 70 cals). After doing a good 35 min on an a new age elliptical type machine, I stepped off and instantly felt shaky and dizzy. I tried to justify the fact that hey this is just my second week of getting back into serious workout mode after Europe, but I'm just not confident an elliptical workout should have been THAT taxing on my body.

So, I'm chalking it up to fuel. I had a breakfast of fiber cereal with sliced banana and non fat milk for breakfast around 730AM. Coffee and 3 choc covered macadamia nuts around 930AM. And 1/2 trail mix bar at 1130ish. It seems like enough, but I know my body and I was reminded that my blood sugar drops quickly when I haven't given it some serious protein and real food.

It's a good reminder that while yes, I'd like to lose 5lbs (who wouldn't really?), I'd rather be well fueled than pass out in all my sweaty glory at the gym. I'm going to make an effort to search for some low cal/high energy snacks I can have on hand. Usually, that means trail mix bars or Clif Kids Z Bars I can stash in my desk, but I think my bod needs more than some sugar and carbs. What comes to mind is: string cheese, cottage cheese, slice of cheese and an apple, peanut butter and apple, pb on a graham cracker, a handful of almonds, yogurt and berries.

Does you have any great, easy snacks you like? The tough part is that usually I try to find something that's not too filling (or expensive) but lasts me for an hour or so.

P.S. Last night I made homemade mac 'n cheese from my fabulous Splendid Table Cookbook! It was a great meal to follow the man's bike race and filled the house with delicious cheesey smelling goodness!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

First stop: Rome, Italy

We arrived in Rome around 3pm and made it to our first hostel, Hotel Colors only 90 sweaty min or so after getting out of the train station (after a sloooow 2 hrs from the airport). Let's just say, reading road signs and trying to figure out where we were took a while, even after the police told us where to go. We finally arrived to a place that took the name colors to a whole new level. Bright shades were splashed on every wall, tile, bed spread, etc.

After showering, changing and calling our parents on my borrowed international cell phone, we headed out for dinner. Annie and I used our guide books a ton on our trip. She had Rick Steeves' Best of Europe 2009 and I had Lonely Planet's Europe on a Dime. Our first night in Rome we chose to head for a Pizzeria across the river that was suggested from my book. Not a bad call. This was the best margarita pizza and arguably the best glass of red wine I've had in my life. No joke. We quickly learned that the Italians don't eat dinner until at least 9pm so getting seated at 8pm was easy.

Here's the kitchen on our floor of the hostel. I made tea here both mornings, sat in the sun and wrote in my journal.

Sunday morning mass at the Vatican! We arrived just before 9 AM with our shoulders and knees covered (rules of entering the cathedral) for mass. A is Catholic and I for one am fascinated by religion and wasn't about to turn down the chance of going to mass at the Vatican. When the organ began to play and the priests walked to the front, my eyes welled with tears. It was just one of those moments you can't believe is happening to you. Then we saw these guys on the way out guarding the place. How many pictures do you think people have taken of them? Clearly, they're smiling for me.

And a bit more quickly now...(click to enlarge photos)

Gelato #1 (Who knew that from here we would go for 5 days straight on a gelato tasting streak?!)


The Colosseum

Inside Colosseum

Congress Building (or something like that...our fav building in Rome from the outside)

The biggest thing I noticed about Rome was that their driving was CRAZY and they park anywhere. It was hilarious. Seriously, cars (often tiny matchbox like Smart Cars) would be parked head first onto the sidewalk. People in Rome just make a parking spot for themselves where they need it. It was pretty much mass chaos to me anyway.

Next up: Florence, Italy! So many of my friends absolutely love this place and we did too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The lists we make...

It's interesting what we women do. The lists we make, the perceptions we have of what we must achieve to be a success. Those lists of mine are gathering dust in some corner of my brain and Franklin Covey planner because world, I have a boyfriend. I know it sounds foolish and one tracked, but it's reality. My brain, my heart and my life only have so much room and time and for now I'm okay with having a short list. A list that involves running, deciding what's for dinner, going to work, walking the dog, paying necessary bills and spending quality time with the man.

The girl whose lists used to involve hours perusing the bookstore, reading and relaxing at coffee shops, visiting the mall and Target weekly, hours of Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice, seeing new movies solo, baking, reading and commenting on blogs nightly, and attempting to determine my future, my career, my thoughts on grad school, is content. For now anyway. I haven't lost my goals or dreams, I've simply given the things that are priority some time and let the others fall aside.

Those long lists of things I enjoyed doing were more for need to fill some awkward space in time in which this successful woman felt unsuccessful, lost and scared. Scared of empty blocks of time left alone in a house with a couch, a tv, a cupboard and no one to share it with. So I ventured out...to the bike paths, to Target, on walks, to the gym. Because those places gave me a purpose.

But now, when the lists are short and mundane, I'm finding even less time to fit it all in. That's what happens. Priorities in life shift, you become okay with a job and a city you're not totally sure about and you find happiness in even the most basic of things. While I don't settle for ordinary, I'm not above settling for what makes you happy. The long, diverse lists don't make you happy, they keep you busy. And that's perfectly fine when busy is exactly what you need. But dog walking, that's not too bad either.

Update: You'll have to excuse me for the update, this is like a journal for me. Sort of. In reading Hope's post and simply reflecting on my writing, I have to make the disclaimer that I wasn't unhappy with my life before. In fact, I'd say I felt pretty fulfilled with all that busyness. But there was always that unsettling feeling of knowing I was searching, grasping for something MORE. Whether that be a major career that changed peoples lives and made a difference in the world, finding a new city I absolutely adored, or finding someone I couldn't live without. One day I'd like to have all three, but for now, one of three isn't bad.

Secondly, I in no way believe that finding a man or a person to love, will solely make you happy. Happiness comes from within and while someone else can surely enhance those giggly feelings of positivity, they cannot be responsible for it. I believe we have to be first and foremost lovers of ourselves and creators of our own destiny.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Relays, Ultras, and Tris - Oh My!

In honor of Take it and Run Thursdays (and because I haven't been able to do a TIaRT post in a while now), I want to give a heads up on the things I've learned through experience with the relay. Why? Well, I can't say I've done a tri (although I want to once I get a road bike) or ultra, but I have done a few relays.

Here in the great NW we have the mother of all relays, Nike Hood to Coast at the end of August. The race is 197 miles long going from Mt. Hood (a few hrs outside of Portland, OR) and heads west to the ocean. The race has filled up on opening day for the last 11 years, with about 1,000 teams coming from all over the world.

I've been lucky enough to run the race twice now. Once, in high school and once two summers ago with my local running group. The beauty of the relay is that by nature it's a fun event because you're stuffed into vans with 5 or so other sweaty, delirious runners and have some serious bonding time while getting lost on some country roads or waiting for your other team van to finish their legs of the race (or getting a phone call from your other van saying their vehicle has caught on fire.) Yes, this really happened.

Last HTC, the 1970 something suburban we borrowed from a teammate's neighbor caught on fire near the end of the race. Luckily, I was in the Astro mini van and about to run our final leg when we got the call. This year, we're renting two 12 passenger vans from Enterprise. Safety is key people.

Speaking of safety, when running a relay as long as this, it's inevitable that some people will be running in the dark. As a result, mini flashlights, reflective vests and blinking lights are most helpful.

And while safety is important, so is reading maps and directions well so your next runner arrives promptly at the CORRECT exchange spot. It's happened to our team and it happens to others. A few wrong turns or skipping down the sheet and all of a sudden you're at a different exchange point than you should be. Without another runner to handoff to, a relay is pretty hard to complete. So, if you can, convince a non runner friend into being the driver and designate a map reader/direction guru so everything runs smoothly.

So tell me, anyone out there run a relay? If so, which one? What made it special for you? Did you learn any tips to share with others?

Have any nutrition advice for us relayers? It's hard to eat something big/real when a) you're in a cramped van and b) you have to run every few hrs. In 2007, one of our teammates brought huge boxes of homemade choc chip cookies and a bag full of choc covered espresso beans. And our driver (and even a runner) swung through McDonalds around 2am. YUCK!

I can't say we were the healthiest bunch. But I'm pretty sure I threw a clif bar and some pb pretzels into the mix along with my cookie consumption. That's got to count for something, eh?

One foot in front of the other

Yesterday was National Running Day, so naturally, I had to run. I got up early and took the manfriend's dog for a 15 min jog. Then after a lot of meetings and last minute preparations for an event I'm putting on today, I headed to the Nike store to meet up for a group run. And let me tell you, this was one of my worst runs ever(excluding the last three miles of every marathon). Yes, it was THAT bad.

Monday didn't feel too bad. Yesterday, felt awful. After about two steady miles, I had to stop to double knot the shoes and walk for a bit. The stomach hurt, the knee was throbbing and my lungs were pretty spent. From there on out, the remaining 30 minutes required the mantra of "just keep going for one more minute and then you can stop" and "holy crap, I hope I don't throw up." I continued to run 4-8 minutes at a time and then walk for a minute in between until I finished.

The point is, sometimes this running thing sucks. You don't always have good days, especially when you're getting back into the swing of things. You have to take deep breaths and accept what your body is offering you. Putting one foot in front of the other will eventually get you there. And in the end you'll be better for it. Last night, finishing those five miles never felt so good (or bad, depending on how you look at it).

Monday, June 1, 2009

I'm baaaack!

Three weeks is a long time to be gone...from work, from the boyfriend, from the blogosphere, from familiarity. As a result, I cannot catch up on allll of your lovely posts, but I would love it if each of you would leave me a comment with your top three updates from the past few weeks.

My top 3 are:
1. It's crazy how slow three weeks goes by when everything is new and different.
2. I'm so excited to get back into running and get a road bike (due to the man friend's love for cycling and my interest in the sport)!
3. The man friend is pretty amazing. I returned to a pretty awesome, well thought out plan of relaxation and enjoyment upon my arrival.

Because I know you want more details, this is how my return to the states went. We arrived in Seattle, WA around 1pm on Saturday and made it back to friend A's house where my car was parked before 2pm. Promptly found two hefty parking tickets and large orange notice saying that my car was going to be towed within the next few days if it wasn't moved. Apparently, you can't park in the same spot on that street for more than 48 hrs and she didn't know it. Fabulous.

I then received voicemail from man friend saying he was headed by bus, north to meet me about halfway on my journey south and help drive since he knew I would be so exhausted. Thank the lord for good boyfriends! We stopped for dinner to see my parents and little bro and give a quick update before heading further south on our journey home. He asked if there was anything I wanted to do on Sunday and I said "nope, just see you." Ok, he said, well I thought maybe we could go for breakfast and then go on a short easy bike ride. Sounded good by me.

Sunday we took the dog for a walk and headed to breakfast (i had a fabulous stack of blueberry pancakes and some coffee - i guess getting back on the healthy eating wagon will have to begin today rather than yest). We grabbed my laptop so I could upload my photos and show him and then headed on a nice sunny bike ride. We made our way to the grocery store and picked up some snacks for later. Then I took the dog on a 30 min run in the hot sun, from which it took her about 1 hr for her breathing to come back to normal. *Note to self: be sure to run earlier in the day with the dog if it's going to be a scorcher.

I made mention of loving Sunday drives earlier that morning and the man friend suggested we head out to a local winery with a nice 20 min scenic drive. Taking our cheese & crackers, a pear and a blanket for lounging, we headed out to enjoy a few bottles of wine and enjoy the sun. After a bit of lounging, he mentioned that it wasn't a spur of the moment thing, he had been hoping to take me to the winery. So friggin' cute.

And did I tell you how I love Sunday drives? It was perfect. The windows were down, we were listening to the oldies station (that happened to be playing great songs that I knew and loved), driving along beautiful country roads, my hair was blowing in the wind and I had my arm hanging out the window, waving to the cows as I sang along to the radio.

Afterward, we headed to the park for a nice walk in the sun and grabbed dinner at a great local place right on the river. If someone asked me how I could have made the day more perfect, I couldn't. It was more than I ever would have expected.

It's nice to not only come home and see that someone you've been missing for a while, but to realize he/she has been planning your return with only your best interest in mind. This is exactly what my heart needed. Tides have shifted. Things feel different and new and satisfying. We both agreed there will be no future three week trips apart.

The trip was amazing. I'm feeling surprisingly well rested for being back in the U.S. for only 48 hrs now. Photo updates to come soon!