Wednesday, February 27

Rants & Raves

RANT

BP sucks.

This week testimony began in the trial to determine whether BP was somewhat negligent or grossly negligent in the lead-up to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that befouled the Gulf of Mexico and continues to affect the coastline.

There is no question as to whether or not BP is guilty - they already plead guilty to 14 counts of criminal misconduct. The question, now, is what restitution they will be required to pay to the affected communities

Early testimony is uncovering some pretty damning evidence that while BP had a safety plan, they did not actually implement the safety requirements at the Macondo well...

This story hits close to home because these are my beaches we're talking about.
How could anyone do anything to spoil these beaches?

And if you think the oil is gone, you're sadly mistaken. (Though BP's marketing campaign would have you believe otherwise...)

On Sunday, at the end of my 4 mile walk on the beach, I had a souvenir from my trek: a sticky clot of tar lodged itself on my foot. After 20 minutes of scrubbing, I finally removed most of the nasty goo, but no amount of scrubbing erases the disgust I feel about how often this happens.

Every time the surf is up - whether from a storm or just a swell - more tar is washed onto the beach. Clumps of tar, from tiny droplets, to manhole-cover-sized chunks, wash up and litter the shore. Workers pick them up, weaving between beach-goers as they do, but no matter how many workers go out with nets and trash bags, the tar balls keep coming.

Last year my nephew was diving for seashells, and pulled up a fist-sized tar ball. The "put that down, honey, it's toxic" conversation is not one I wanted to have with a 9-year-old. And I'm bloody tired of getting gooey feet...

Yes, folks, this saga is not yet over...


RAVE

As runners, we've all done our fair share of dodging cars.

Sadly, a few of my friends have not dodged quickly enough and have been struck by reckless drivers (when they shouldn't have to dodge in the first place). Some have walked away with minor scrapes and bruises, some with more serious injuries...

Image source
Given the danger of a person vs. vehicle crash (The vehicle always wins. Always.), wouldn't it be nice if we had a superhero to protect us from reckless or distracted drivers?

In Mexico City, which allegedly has the world's worst record for pedestrian safety (an average of one pedestrian death each day, according to The Atlantic Cities), one man has taken the issue of pedestrian safety into his own (superhero) hands.

Dressed as a luchador (a wrestler in the Mexican tradition of Lucha Libre), Jorge Cáñez and his superhero colleagues...
"get out into the street and physically block cars that are infringing on pedestrian space, paint crosswalks where they are lacking, give speeches about pedestrian rights, and clear sidewalks of obstructions so that people on foot can pass through. The reception, he says, is good -- because he always stays positive."
Bravo Jorge! (...or should I call you Peatónito?)

What are you ranting and raving about this week?

Monday, February 25

In search of the 5k PR (week 7 training)

The quest for the sub-24 5k continues...


Last week's plan / actual:
  • Monday plan: strength circuit + 4 mile run or 50 min bike + stretching
    Actual: 60 minutes on stationary bike (Grr... PFing foot!) + 2 circuits of the Fitness Blender 100 rep workout (which equates to 50 reps of each exercise) and I stretched.

  • Tuesday: 6 x 800 meter intervals
    Actual: 1 mile warmup + 6 x 640 meters (stupid 1/5th mile track!) at 7:30 pace with 1 lap (320 meter) rest interval... The wheels were falling off by my 5th and 6th intervals (slowed to 7:48 pace. Blergh.) so maybe I'm glad the track is short?

  • Wednesday: yoga
    Actual: 25 minute Yoga For Runners from YogaDownload.com + 4 mile walk

  • Thursday: 5 mile tempo run + core / I postponed my run to meet up with the Helen Back run group for a nighttime 3-miler through downtown Pensacola. Read: I didn't run 5 miles and I didn't run tempo, but it was good to see my running buddies. Oh... and that nagging crunchy feeling is back with a vengence in my right arch.

  • Friday: rest day
    Actual: REST

  • Saturday: 8 mile run
    Actual: Thunder. Lightning. And foot pain... The last time I felt this pain, I tried to keep going and as a result, I tore my calf muscle. The wheels that fell off during my run on Tuesday stayed off. All weekend... Zero running. Sometimes recovery is more important than mileage.

  • Sunday: anything goes
    Actual: 4 mile walk

This week's plan:
It's time to test my training with another 5k. So this week's plan is to rest - both to get ready for the race and give my aching foot a break.
  • Monday: strength circuit + 60 minute bike ride + stretching
  • Tuesday: 4 mile run
  • Wednesday: yoga
  • Thursday: 3 mile run
  • Friday: rest day
  • Saturday: RACE DAY!!!
  • Sunday: recovery


Are you working today or do you have a long weekend?

Morning motivation: give 100% (or not)

Whatever you do, give 100%.
(Unless you're giving blood.)

Source: shape.com via Beth on Pinterest



Under what other conditions are you happy to give less than 100%?

Friday, February 22

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!
This week we're serving fitness news, funnies, poultry, and adulthood.

Oh... and it's National Margarita Day!
One of my favorite margaritas ever EVER is a grapefruit margarita made as simply as possible: grapefruit juice + tequila + triple sec. Cheers!
Grapefruit margarita

The more you know (about yoga)

I love yoga. I would not, and could not, claim otherwise. However, yoga is an athletic pursuit, just like any other, which means that there are risks to yoga. Muscle strain and... surprisingly... stroke are among the potential hazards.

This does not mean that yogis need to roll up their yoga mats and quit, but it is important that participants have full information, just as it is important for runners to know about the risk of stress fracture, and football players to know about the risk of concussion.

William J. Broad's new book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards aims to fill in some of those gaps in knowledge - documenting both the risks and the benefits of yoga practice.


Effing PF

Surprise, surprise... Doctors and scientists have no idea what causes plantar fasciitis, but new tests indicate that it is not caused by inflamed tissue. (Does that mean I can stop icing my right foot? Maybe heat would be a better treatment after all?)


Because you know we're all thinking it...
Image source

ABCs of PE

In an attempt to protect physical education classes from budget cuts, and to ensure that every second of the school day is used to prepare children for standardized tests, schools are turning to math and vocabulary instruction during gym class.
Image source
To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this turn of events...

As a teacher, I know that different students have different learning styles, and perhaps physical learning will illuminate subjects that a classroom lecture might not. On the other hand, as a runner, I know that sometimes the mental "down time" of my workout is the time when my brain makes connections and gathers insights that do not flow when I am engaged in active thought.


Wild Turkey

Turkeys are terrorizing one California town...

The turkey takeover started in November. Perhaps it's payback for Thanksgiving?
Florida Governor poses his daughter for a photo with the Thanksgiving turkey
 before dinner (Thanksgiving 1959). No wonder the turkeys are mad.
Source.

Adulthood

This week I did adult things like meet with a lawyer to do the paperwork for a will and power of attorney, surf real estate ads for property, apply for jobs in DC, and... load the dishwasher:
Source: themetapicture.com via Beth on Pinterest

Quote of the week:
(Learning to count while working out)
At the gym doing push ups... "1... 2... 3..."
Attractive person walks by... "97... 98...99."
Unknown

Happy Friday, friends!


Wednesday, February 20

Rants & Raves

RANT
(Alt. title: Cover that cough!)
Image source

Last Saturday night, Hubby and I went to see a theater production of Servant of Two Masters. The performance, a 3-hour marathon of slapstick comedy, mistaken identities, and other hijinx, was marred by the person sitting immediately behind me.

This person, we'll call him Patient 0 (like they would in an epidemiology investigation) decided to show up to the theater with a cold. He sniffed and sneezed his way through the first act, and by the finale he was coughing -- mouth uncovered -- over my head.

I was so disgusted that I took my scarf and wrapped it around my face. I'm sure faux pashmina doesn't stop germs, but I was hoping Patient 0 would take the hint.

No such luck.

Next time I'll carry a bottle of disinfectant spray and spray it at him between acts...


RAVE
(Alt. title: Another one bites the dust!)

At last weekend's Millrose Games, a total of 7 (SEVEN!!!) records fell. Competitor magazine writes:
"In a span of nearly 85 minutes at the Millrose Games on Saturday night at The Armory, a total of seven records were broken in the distance disciplines, making for one of the most memorable renditions of the meet in its 106-year history. Five of seven evening races measuring 600m and up saw either an American, junior, collegiate, or meet record go, causing the capacity crowd to stand on their feet for a majority of the evening session."
Among the record-setters:

That sort of speed is motivation for any runner, no?

... and I've got a couple of other stories rave about this week.


What are you ranting and raving about this week?

Tuesday, February 19

Daily dose of awesome x 2

Little awesome moments happen every day. They just don't always make headline news...
Daily Dose of Awesome highlights the awesome little things that don't make headlines (but should).


A little bit of awesome...

On Saturday I was out for a run. It hurt. I wanted to throw in the towel and try again another day. (Given the crunching, pinching pain in my right foot... maybe that would've been a wise choice? *cough* plantar fasciitis *cough* But I digress...)

A few miles in, I passed another runner who was bundled up in a black and hot pink outfit, topped off with a black fleece vest. She seemed focused on the music streaming from her earbuds. We nodded a brief greeting and moved on.

Half an hour later, as I was headed for home, I passed the fleece-clad runner again.

This time she gave me a big smile, a thumbs up, and a huge WOO HOO!

That made me smile (and made the last couple of miles far more pleasant).

I'm sure my fellow runner had no idea how much I needed that nudge, but it made a huge difference for my run and for my day.

Thank you fleece runner!


... and a BIG dose of awesome

While watching the local news last night, I couldn't help but be stunned by the story of 9-year-old Alyssa Cravatt, a young girl who has spent many long nights in the hospital undergoing treatment for severe asthma.

Rather than let her medical condition dampen her spirit, Alyssa decided she had a mission in life. She started asking friends and family to give her gift cards for her birthday...

She uses those gift cards to buy trunk-loads of toys, and then she personally delivers the toys to other children in the hospital.

(Ok, the Alyssa story did make headlines, but only here in the local press. And a nine year old giving up her birthday toys to cheer up children in a hospital? That story is too good not to share!)

Monday, February 18

In search of the 5k PR (week 6 training)

The quest for the sub-24 5k continues...


Last week's plan / actual:
  • Monday: strength circuit + 4 mile run or 50 min bike / Jillian Michaels 6 week six-pack workout + 50 minutes on stationary bike (lightning is not my favorite running buddy)

  • Tuesday: 8 x 400 meter intervals / I swapped the planned track workout with Thursday's 5 mile tempo run: 1 mile warm up, 2.5 miles at 8:00 pace... (ok... the last mile was 8:30 - my legs and core were exhausted from the JM workout on Monday!) and 1.5 mile recovery.

  • Wednesday: yoga / 30 minutes of gentle yoga via YouTube... The first 5 minutes of this video taught me that the past several weeks of sprinting, strength training, and power yoga have been wreaking havoc on flexibility my hips and lower back. I used to be able to do a forward fold... Note to self... must stretch more.

  • Thursday: 5 mile tempo run + core / Tuesday's planned track workout: 4 x 800 at a 6:53 pace! (And I did some planks and crunches, too.)
  • So proud I took a picture of my stopwatch as evidence.
  • Friday: rest day / 3 mile walk

  • Saturday: 6 mile run / The weather was so good, so perfect for running, that I thought I might turn Saturday's run into a double-digit run. Within a mile, I knew distance was delusional. With track work at the end of the week, by Saturday my legs were dead. D.E.A.D. Dead. I considered postponing. Two voices waged a war in my head over whether it was smarter to run on tired legs to get used to the fatigue or to hobble home and avoid injury. In the end, I kept moving forward. I paused several times to stretch my screaming calves. Ugh. But I ran those 6 miles... (if only barely).

  • Sunday: anything goes / 3.5 mile hike at Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Gulf Islands National Seashore

This week's plan:
  • Monday: strength circuit + 4 mile run* + stretching
  • Tuesday: speedwork: 6 x 800 meter intervals
  • Wednesday: yoga
  • Thursday: 5 mile tempo run + core work
  • Friday: rest day
  • Saturday: 8 mile run
  • Sunday: fun day - any workout

*Or 60 minute bike ride, depending on how my calf / potential flare up of PF is doing... I suspect this will be a bike ride kind of week...

Are you working today or do you have a long weekend?

Morning motivation (Play ball!)


Today's motivation is in honor of baseball spring training and Babe Ruth's famous quote (grammar issues and all):
"Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."



Friday, February 15

Weekly roundup: world records and more

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck! This week's theme: world records.


Age is just a number

Ida Keeling, at 97 years of age, set a world record in 100-meter dash. Ida needed to break 59 seconds to set the record in her age group: 95+. She completed the run in 51.85.
(Try this link if the video does not play...)


(More) World records

National Geographic Kids amassed the largest collection of shoes for recycling, setting a new Guinness World Record.
Image source
(And even more) World records

6 runners will line up on the beach in Destin, FL this weekend to compete for a world record in the longest distance run on sand in 24 hours. All I can think of is the sand-related chafing...


Good for a giggle

I have no idea why this made me laugh as hard as it did... but... enjoy!


Running shoe inflation
...and no, I don't mean Reebok Pump or Nike Air

The Running Moron dug through the data for four major shoe companies to compile information about the number of brands offered, and the price per pair of shoesAs a number-cruncher by day, and a runner by night, I say "bravo" to TRM for his painstaking research.



Men aren't from Mars

New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology offers proof that men and women are not as different as pop culture headlines, like 'Men are from Mars' and 'The End of Men,' would lead the public to believe.


Quote of the week:
"Never underestimate the strength of a woman. Never mess with a woman who runs 26.2 miles for fun."
Tweeted by OneToughMotherRunner

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, February 14

Daily dose of awesome

Little awesome moments happen every day. They just don't always make headline news...
Daily Dose of Awesome highlights the awesome little things that don't make headlines (but should).


I love the beach. I enjoy long walks on the beach. Occasionally I'll even run a couple of miles along the water's edge.

But 80+ miles? On soft sand? Running the same mile-long-loop for 24 hours?
Hmm... All I can think of are blisters, swollen ankles, and chafing from the sand.

The Emerald Coast
Thankfully (for one national charity) not everyone sees things that way...
On Saturday evening, six endurance runners will line up on the beach in Destin, Florida. They will run on the sand for 24 hours to attempt to break the world record for "greatest distance run on sand in 24 hours." The current official record stands at 83.04 miles.

The runners’ goal, in addition to a world record attempt, is to raise funds and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Early reports indicate that participants have already raised more than $35,000 for the charity.

$35,000 in fundraising isn't bad for a day's work!

Best wishes to the runners!

For more information, see my article on the world record sand run Examiner.com

Wednesday, February 13

Rants & Raves

This week my rant and rave both follow the same train trail of thought... The Florida Trail.
Interactive Florida Trail map from the Florida Trail Association

RANT
(Alt title: People are pigs)

Last week I spent the bulk of my Sunday volunteering with a trail maintenance crew on the Florida Trail.

Trail maintenance work is supposed to focus on keeping the path clear and well-marked with trail blazes (painted orange markers that let hikers know they're on the correct path). Trash removal should not be required. There should be no trash.

Unfortunately, as we cleared and chopped and painted our way along the trail, we saw beer can after beer can, candy wrapper after candy wrapper, peaking in what looked like a small landfill's-worth where the trail crossed a rural road near the Blackwater River.

There were old boots.

Dirty baby diapers.

Dozens hundreds of beer bottles and cans.

Plastic takeout food containers and styrofoam cups.

Cardboard boxes and plastic bags.

It was a disaster.

Our work crew spent half an hour picking up litter. In that short time we filled two industrial-sized trash bags with junk. Smelly, foul junk. And there was plenty more trash around. Had we had the time to keep working, we could've filled a dumpster.

I cannot fathom how someone could think it is OK to leave their dirty baby diaper (3 dirty baby diapers) in the woods, or how someone could think it is OK to toss beer cans out the window of their car (doubly wrong because you'd have to be drunk-driving to aim your litter at this stretch of trail).

Sometimes people are pigs.


RAVE
(Alt title: Sometimes people are awesome)

Despite all the trash, there are people who volunteer to clean it up. Events like International Coastal Cleanup Day get a great deal of publicity, but much of the volunteer work goes unnoticed.

Each week volunteers from the Florida Trail Association dedicate time and effort to maintaining the 1,400 miles of trial that stretch from the Panhandle to the Everglades. They make sure the trail is navigable, that signs, bridges, and other infrastructure are in good repair.

Many volunteers show up week after week, spending hours of their time and effort to protect this resource for others.

Without their tireless work, the jungle would retake the trail in a matter of months.
Image source


What are you ranting and raving about this week?

Monday, February 11

In search of the 5k PR (week 5 training)

The quest for the sub-24 5k continues...


Last week's plan / actual:
  • Monday: strength circuit + 5 mile run / free-weights + 50 minutes on stationary bike (running in the dark at the end of a 12-hour work day just wasn't appealing)

  • Tuesday: hill repeats / 1.5 mile warmup + 8 x 200 meter hill repeats at a consistent 7:30 pace

  • Wednesday: yoga / 30 minutes of vinyasa yoga + 3 mile walk

  • Thursday: 5-6 mile easy run + core / 5.5 mile run (Sort of forgot about the planks and pushups... Oops. I made up for it with several hours of strenuous manual labor on Sunday...)

  • Friday: rest day / rest!

  • Saturday: 8 mile run / 8.25 miles cheered on by Wonder Woman (no. really.)

  • Sunday: anything goes / 4 hours of trail maintenance on the Florida Trail Association (Yea... I got into a car with strangers and let them drive me out into the woods.)

This week's plan:
Runners at the London School of Economics (circa 1920)
Image source
  • Monday: strength circuit + 4 mile run or 50 minute bike ride (I'll gladly run in rain, but not in lightning or tornadoes.)
  • Tuesday: speedwork: 8 x 400 meter intervals
  • Wednesday: yoga
  • Thursday: 5 mile tempo run + core work
  • Friday: rest day
  • Saturday: 6 mile run
  • Sunday: fun day - any workout


What are you working on this week?

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

As I wrote last year, Mardi Gras is a Gulf Coast thing, not just a New Orleans thing.
Krewe da Ya Yas, Pensacola Mardi Gras parade

King cake
Hubby and I have been stuffing ourselves with king cake since January 6th.

King cake is a Carnival holiday staple, but watch out. There's a "baby king" hidden inside. If you get the baby in your slice #1 - be careful that you don't chip a tooth, and #2 - you're on the hook for bringing next year's cake.

While New Orleans gets all the media attention for its Mardi Gras madness, the entire Gulf Coast goes crazy for this holiday. In fact Mobile, AL is credited with the first Mardi Gras celebration in 1703 (or 1699 - depends on who you ask).

Mardi Gras revelry was suspended during the Civil War, but was revived (again) in Mobile in 1866. Legend has it that that one man, Joe Cain, rode through the streets on a coal cart, dressed in Chickasaw Indian regalia. Obviously, Joe was also drunk as a skunk (which explains a lot about Mardi Gras parades...)

When Joe passed on, his second funeral procession (it's a long story) was the precursor to the big Sunday parades. Now the Sunday before Mardi Gras is now known in Mobile as "Joe Cain Day," with celebrations rivaling Fat Tuesday.

To an outsider, it seems like the party just keeps adding days (but I'm not complaining)! So here's the schedule:
Mardi Gras costumes from the Krewe of Bowlegs
exhibit in Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • January 6th, Epiphany kicks off the season. Krewes put the finishing touches on their floats. Carnival celebrations and masquerade balls fill up the social calendar.
  • Saturday before Fat Tuesday - parades and partying begin in earnest
  • Sunday before Fat Tuesday - Joe Cain Day (at least in Mobile, AL)
  • Monday before Fat Tuesday - Lundi Gras (You thought I made that one up, didn't you!)
  • 40 days before Easter - Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras!
  • ...followed by Ash Wednesday (or "hangover recovery day?")
Pensacola's Mardi Gras parades are far more family-friendly than those in the Big Easy. Here in Florida you will not see people flashing their chests for beads. In fact, that sort of behavior will get you hauled away by the local police. (Apologies to anyone who was hoping for scandalous photos...)
Beads!
Krewes here throw beads, candy, moon pies, and other goodies to everyone in the crowd. (A Krewe, pronounced "crew," is a social club that centers around Mardi Gras parades, festivals, and usually hosts a formal Mardi Gras ball for krewe members.)
Krewe of Seville, Pensacola Mardi Gras parade (note Wonder Woman on the bottom tier of the float)
Most of the beads and decorations are purple, gold, and green.
  • Purple represents justice.
  • Green for faith.
  • Gold for power.

Purple, gold, and green have been the primary colors of Mardi Gras for more than a century, according to most accounts.

History aside, the 4-day holiday weekend is still a bit of a drunkfest, but it's all in good fun. There's time for being a proper adult the other 361 days of the year.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Do you have any Mardi Gras stories to share?
Right now my dining room looks like a bead factory exploded... Maybe one of these days I'll figure out how to work those into a giveaway?

Sunday, February 10

Stuck in a car with strangers

This morning I woke up at the crack of dawn, brushed my teeth until the cottonmouth feeling subsided, poured a cup of dark, strong coffee, and drove to a lonely parking lot an hour outside of town.

There I exchanged "good mornings" with a handful of strangers.

I got into a pickup truck with two of them.

The bed of the truck bristled with power tools and razor sharp shears.

We drove farther off into the wilderness, headed toward Alabama - so far from civilization that my cell phone would not take or make calls, would not send or receive text messages. Google maps were useless.

I usually have an excellent sense of direction, but overcast skies made it difficult to figure out east from west.

I had no idea where the #$@% we were.

We rumbled down red dirt roads, rutted from recent rains.

I realized that for the first time in months... (years?) I couldn't find my way home if I needed to. Roads had no names. There were no homes. No businesses. And... no cell service. It would be a long and lonely walk to something approximating civilization, and if I walked in the wrong direction, I certainly wouldn't find my way out before dark. If a got lost and a truck did happen to pass, I'd have to think twice before flagging it down. This, after all, is Deliverance country. (Ok, Deliverance was filmed in Rabun County, Georgia, but you get my point.)

When our truck stopped, and we tumbled out of the cab, I realized driving into the woods with strangers might not have been the most prudent decision I'd ever made.

But I made a commitment, and I would stick with it.

For the next four hours we hiked our way along a narrow ribbon of trail, pausing to chop away overgrown vines and re-paint orange blazes (the primary trail marker on the Florida Trail). A couple of volunteers pushed heavy-duty lawnmowers over the trail to beat back the undergrowth.

We paused at noon to have a bite to eat, but otherwise we worked non-stop until mid-afternoon. All total, we tidied up several miles of trail and filled two extra large trash bags with discarded beer cans, boots, baby diapers, and assorted other litter. (People really are disgusting. But that's another rant for another time...)
 Blackwater River at Peaden Bridge Road
Violet blooming trail-side on the Florida Trail
Each week volunteers from the Florida Trail Association dedicate time and effort to maintaining the 1,400 miles of trial that stretch from the Panhandle to the Everglades. They make sure the trail is navigable, that signs, bridges, and other infrastructure are in good repair. Without their tireless work, the jungle would retake the trail in a matter of months.

This week I was fortunate to be part of the effort. I am bone-tired now. And hungry. And late - I had to re-schedule a sports massage...

But I suspect I'll sleep better tonight than I have in weeks.

I'm glad I trusted strangers.*

Sometimes the things that are uncomfortable (waking up too early after a too late night), that are outside my comfort zone (being a passenger in a stranger's car), that are exhausting (hiking and bushwhacking and picking up garbage for 4 hours)... sometimes those things are more rewarding than everything else we do.

How have you stepped outside of your comfort zone lately?

*Because it's an important safety detail: Hubby had the appropriate contact information for my little volunteer adventure in the wilderness. I'm brave, but not stupid. PS - I still generally don't advocate getting into cars with strangers.

Fit date ideas for Valentine's day

So... I've never been much of a romantic-dinner-for-two person on Valentine's Day. In fact, one of my favorite Valentine stories is from the year I went out with a group of also-single-then co-workers to a swanky dessert restaurant in San Diego.
Loving my dessert at Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego (circa  2008)
Our group included surfers, kayakers, and swimmers. At the time, I was training for a triathlon. We were conversing over chocolate cake and a bottle of wine when talk turned to wetsuits. All of us, at one point or another, had answered to the (ahem) call of mother nature in the ocean. Olympic swimmers pee in the pool, so, we wondered aloud: Why should surfers be any different?

The couple seated next to us waved for a waiter and asked to be re-seated.

Oops.

I guess peeing in the pool isn't romantic chit-chat?

Needless to say, traditional candle-lit romance and overpriced flowers aren't the way to this runner's heart.

So, what does a girl like me do on Valentine's Day?

Here are a few of my favorite non-traditional Valentine's dates:
  • A run followed by brunch (especially if the run involves Sunset Cliffs in San Diego)
  • We weren't the only people who thought Sunset Cliffs was a nice spot for Valentine's
  • Couples sports massage
  • A hike and picnic lunch
  • Hiking in Mission Trails
  • A walk on the beach (yes, even in the winter in cold climates)
  • Tandem kayaking*

*Seriously, tandem kayaking can make or break a couple. (Honest) kayak salespeople refer to them as "divorce-makers." But I swear that's not always true. Hubby and I paddle well together. I paddle, and turn around to find him taking photos.

For more ideas, see my new posts Five fit and fun Valentine's dates (for any location) and Four fit and fun Valentine's dates in Florida.

Are you a Valentine's lover of V-day Grinch?
Favorite V-day date?

Saturday, February 9

A little encouragement from your friendly neighborhood superhero

Just a normal Saturday morning run in Pensacola...

6 miles into my run this morning, I passed a group of superheroes hanging out in a downtown Pensacola parking lot.

Wonder Woman waved to me and said:

"Good for you for getting out and running this morning!"
Image source

No, I'm not on drugs (performance enhancing or otherwise).

No, I wasn't dehydrated and hallucinating.

No this is not a joke.

Superman was walking with Wonder Woman when she gave me a little encouragement for my run. Ask him. I'm sure he'll corroborate my story!

And Spiderman was hanging from the top of a truck in the background. Maybe he heard Wonder Woman cheering me on?

Anyway... my reply to Wonder Woman was: "Thanks! I'm trying to burn off some calories before I start drinking at the parade this afternoon." (complete with drinking-a-beer hand gestures)

She laughed. I waved and ran on. She went back to help out with her Krewe's Mardi Gras float.

On my run I passed no fewer than 8 krewes putting the finishing touches on their parade floats. My run would have been good anyway - 67 degrees. Blue skies. Cool breezes.

But this run improved considerably when I swung through downtown and my trek turned into a traveling dance party, with songs like Scream & Shout and Party Rock Anthem blaring from speakers all along my run route. (Some days I really do love this town...)

...now it's time for a quick shower before I go back to catch beads!

Laisses les bon temps rouler!

Friday, February 8

Weekly roundup: winter storm edition

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!

First, before we go any further, let me say as a born-and-bred New Englander... No snowstorm should have a name. Ever. And if we insist on naming snowstorms, they most certainly should not be called Nemo. (He's a fish. Not a snowstorm! Who's responsible for this ridiculousness?)

For those of you in storm affected areas, I hope you've stocked up appropriately...

...and by appropriate, I mean restocking your party supplies and making sure your sleds are in good repair.


Flight cancellations

Airports all around the northeast are closed in advance of the storm, but that won't stop us from gossiping about them! Travel Leaders, an industry group, conducted a survey to identify the best (and worst) airports in the United States.

Top in almost every category: Atlanta.

The airport everyone loves to hate: Chicago O'Hare.

Neither of those ratings comes as a huge surprise. But I find it suspicious that airports like DFW wind up on both the "preferred for connections" and "avoid at all costs" lists.

The only two I really disagree with are: Phoenix taking a top 10 spot for connections (that airport is a sprawling mess) and Seattle not making top 10 on the amenities list! C'mon people. One of the best pedicures I ever had was in Sea-Tac!


Running in heels

Apparently the hottest new workout craze is step aerobics in stilettos!

Call me crazy, but I don't see a workout here. I see future bunions and broken ankles. Clearly these women haven't heard about the minimalist shoe movement... Maybe I should send along copies of Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them?


Cooking up a storm

This week our household culinary adventures included an experiment in making homemade gnocchi. (I had leftover mashed potatoes. It shouldn't have worked. But it did. And I will never look at mashed potatoes the same way again..)

And Hubby made flan.
Flan with spiced rum
We ate half of it during the Superbowl blackout...


What's your job... really?

NPR's Marketplace Money team asked people to describe their jobs in honest terms. The responses to "What's your job, really?" are hilarious.


Quote of the week:

This week's quote was proposed by my friend M. I couldn't have said it better myself...
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming 'WOO HOO what a ride!'"
Hunter S. Thompson

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, February 7

Daily dose of awesome

Little awesome moments happen every day. They just don't always make headline news...
Daily Dose of Awesome highlights the awesome little things that don't make headlines (but should).


Today's feature: 9 days of nice.
"...what if we devoted nine days to showing the world (and everybody in it) that we loved them?"
Yes and Yes
Starting today Sarah Von of the blog Yes and Yes is coordinating a get-out-the-nice effort. Each day, Feb 4-14, has a proposed do-gooder task including: write a positive yelp review for a small business you love, pay off someone's layaway plan, or clean up a public space...

Closer to home, I've learned that the Florida Trails Association organizes weekly work crews to do trail maintenance. (Trail runners rejoice!)

What good things could you do this week?

Wednesday, February 6

Rants & Raves

RANT

$178 for a yoga sweater that doubles as a meditation blanket?

$995 for yoga sweat pants?!

#$%@#$%

I'm so disgusted by the idea of paying a month's rent for a pair of sweatpants that I'm not even sure where to begin this rant...

What I will say is that clearly these people have missed the entire point of yoga... Yoga is a practice of non-attachment. It is about observing your current situation and being ok with things as they are.

Yoga can also be an excellent form of exercise, both physical and mental. But no matter what yoga means to you, what you wear is of little, if any, importance.

From Yoga Journal...
A couple of years ago, when I had just returned to Yoga Journal after six months of traveling to ashrams and holy sites in India, I got a call from a writer for Mirabella magazine who was researching a fashion spread on exercise wear.

"I was wondering" she said, "what is the traditional outfit for doing yoga?"

I thought of the naked yogis I had seen on the banks of the Ganges, their skin smeared with ashes from the cremation pyre to remind themselves of the body's impermanence, their foreheads painted with the insignia of Shiva, the god of destruction. I couldn't resist.

"Well, traditionally, you would carry a trident and cover your body with the ashes of the dead," I told her.

There was a long pause, during which I could practically hear her thinking, "This will never fly with the Beauty Editor." Finally I took pity on her. "But alternatively," I said, "a leotard and tights will work just fine."
Naked, or covered in ashes, or in spandex, or in your pajamas... Whatever you wear, yoga is most certainly not about acquiring material possessions or showing off your wealth.

The silver lining in this story is that very few people were willing to pay $178 for a yoga sweater. So now it's on clearance...
Now on the Clearance rack

RAVE

High school runner Mary Cain finished her SATs then shattered the all-time high school mile record with a pace of 4:32.78 - a pace 6 seconds faster than the previous indoor mile record and more than 2 seconds faster than the outdoor mile record!
Image source

But she wasn't done yet...

For her encore Cain went on to finish third place overall in the 2 mile race, with time (9:38.68) that crushed the prior high school track record by more than 17 seconds.

Coached by Alberto Salazar, it looks like Cain's running future is bright.

I hope she also nailed the SATs...

What are you ranting or raving about this week?

Monday, February 4

In search of the 5k PR (week 4 training)

*sigh* Despite my best efforts at Saturday morning's Double Bridge Run, the quest for the sub-24 5k continues...
Starting line of the Double Bridge 5k in Gulf Breeze, FL


Last week's plan / actual:
  • Monday: strength circuit + run or bike / 30 day shred + 45 minutes on stationary bike

  • Tuesday: 3 mile run / 3 mile run (felt like a 6 mile slog. How is it 80% humidity in January?)

  • Wednesday: yoga + foam-rolling / 20 minute power yoga (My foam roller is gathering dust...)

  • Thursday: 3 mile easy run / 3.1 mile run

  • Friday: rest day / ... and I rested.

  • Saturday: 5k RACE DAY! / 25:05. Not a PR, but fast enough for an age group award, and a good baseline race to help me fine tune my training plan

  • Sunday: recovery day / long, leisurely walk on the beach

This week's plan:
  • Monday: strength circuit + 5 mile run
  • Tuesday: hill repeats
  • Wednesday: yoga
  • Thursday: 5-6 mile easy run + core work
  • Friday: rest day
  • Saturday: 8 mile run
  • Sunday: fun day - any workout

How often do you incorporate strength training into your workouts?

Morning motivation: be happy

Be happy with what you have while working for what you want...

Source: brandypham.com via Beth on Pinterest

Sunday, February 3

Race report: Double Bridge Run (15k and 5k) 2013

For three years in a row I've run the Pensacola Double Bridge Run - either the 15k or the 5k.
(I even returned after swearing, last year, that the timing company's terrible attitude and abysmal customer service would keep me from running again...)

The start:
The Double Bridge Run 15k changed courses this year, starting at the new Community Maritime Park in downtown Pensacola. This point-to-point course takes runners over the 3-mile bridge to Gulf Breeze, then across the Bob Sikes bridge over the intracoastal waterway into Pensacola Beach.
Image Source
Despite a 7:00am start time for the 15k and an 8:30am start time for the 5k, runners need to wake up extra early, drive to the beach, and then shuttle-bus to their start area. Shuttles for 15k runners are only available from 5-6am, so if you are not an early bird, run the 5k (shuttles 6:00-7:30am).

The advantage of the early start time...
Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico before the Double Bridge Run in Pensacola Beach
...watching the sun rise over the Gulf.

There are no post-race shuttles for runners who want to park at the starting area. Those runners need to arrange a ride or double-up on their double-bridge running.
View of 15k runners from the pedestrian bridge in Gulf Breeze

The bad:
My only real complaint about this race (this year) is that the finish area is over-crowded, as is the post-race venue.

I am pleased to see a local race gaining traction. But given how big this race has gotten (a sellout crowd of 4,000 this year), I think it's time to rethink some of the logistics. 4,000 runners + spectators do not fit on the comfortably on the boardwalk at Quiet Water beach.

The beer lines were long. The food lines were long. The venue was unpleasantly over-stuffed.

(Also, not having post-race shuttles is an annoyance, but is not a deal-breaker.)


The good:
The Double Bridge Run is an iconic Florida race. How many times in your life will you get to run more than three miles of your race directly over beautiful emerald-green water? Not alongside it. Over it.

Also, the crowd support is fairly impressive for a small town race. While Pensacola is a runner's town, it is not a spectator-haven. This race is an exception. Because of the staggered start times, 5k runners line up to cheer on the 15k racers, and there is excellent crowd support in the home stretch.
Pain now. Beer later. 
Also a rule, I don't love shuttle buses. In general I prefer the start/finish area to be one and the same. However, the logistics of the shuttle busing are perfect. No lines. No waiting. The process couldn't be simpler.

In fact, the same can be said of almost everything about this race. The organization this year was nearly flawless. (Well... except that the finish line banner fell across the course and blocked runners. Oops!)

The finish:
The post-race feast included a respectable spread of bananas, oranges and bagels in the finish area, plus red beans and rice and cold beer at the after-party.

But it's crowded.

I skipped the food line entirely* and got one measly thimble-full of beer because I couldn't bear to wait in a 100+ person line more than once. (Yes, I'm impatient. But really, it's too crowded.)

*Lest you think I'd race and not eat... First: You should know me better than that by now. Second: There are dozens of delectable breakfast establishments in Pensacola. I availed myself of one of those for a post-race omelette and coffee.


Parting thoughts:
All things considered, I've run both the 15k and the 5k, and I prefer the 5k. But I'd recommend either distance to runners looking for a well-organized and scenic race.


My race:
It was the best of races. It was the worst of races.
The face of someone who knows it wasn't a PR kind of day
I didn't make my goal time, but I did run fast enough to take home an age group award.

Finish: 25:05 (official)
Place: 2/80 division, 110/1102 overall.

I have work to do to get faster, but it was a pretty good day overall.

Saturday, February 2

Happy Groundhog Day

Back by popular demand...

Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring this year, and runners everywhere rejoice. (Ok... runners in cold climates rejoice. Those of us in the South are thinking "Really? Swamp summer already??")

But really... Doesn't spring start on March 20, regardless of what the rodent says?
Who trusts an over-hyped rodent?
Honey Badger Day



I have work to do

This is the face of someone who has work to do...
Finish line at the Pensacola Double Bridge Run 5k
If you've been following along, you know I've been training to get faster in the 5k. This morning at the Pensacola Double Bridge Run, I had my first chance to put that training to the test.

Mile 0.0-1.0: 7:48 pace - Perfect!

Mile 2.0-3.1: 7:40 pace with a sprint at the end - Perfect!

It was that middle mile... 1.0-2.0... the mile involved a highway overpass (read: hill) and a bridge over the intracoastal waterway (read: hill). That mile bit me in the arse.

I powered through.

I ran hard enough that I wanted to hurl at the top of the second hill bridge. But I kept it together and gained speed on the downhill.

And yet... it wasn't enough.

Mile 1.0-2.0: 8:40(ish) pace.

My net time: 25:03.

Cue anger, frustration, and renewed dedication to Tuesday track workouts.

I could blame the tiered starts that left 5k runners weaving through 15k walkers. I could blame the fact that I forgot to schedule a massage this week. I could blame the 2 pounds I gained eating king cake last month. I could blame the fact that it's allergy season.

But I won't.

Clearly track work is helping. I was fast enough to take home an age group award.

But that's small comfort when my time isn't where I want it to be. I have a gap to cover in order to PR. Yes, I know I could sign up for a net downhill course, but that defeats the purpose. I want to be faster.

So... back to the track.

I have more (speed)work to do.

Friday, February 1

5k playlist

And with great fanfare, I present: My playlist for tomorrow's 5k.


Yes I know... I know... I don't usually run with music. But this is a race. This is different.

If I can't hear how hard I'm breathing... I. Run. Faster.

A cheap trick?

Perhaps.

But it works.

And while I'm not sure I'm ready to beat my PR this early in the season, I do plan to run 'til I puke tomorrow. If only to see where I am pace-wise...

Playlist:
  • Dog Days are Over - Florence + The Machine
  • Born Too Slow - The Crystal Method
  • Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z
  • Lonely Boy - The Black Keys
  • Gold Guns Girls - Metric
  • Ready to Start - Arcade Fire
  • Pumped Up Kicks - Foster The People
  • Busy Child - The Crystal Method
  • Times Like These - Foo Fighters
  • Keep Hope Alive - The Crystal Method

Playlist length: 46 minutes. I hope to only use half of that...

Playlist philosophy: Songs with 160 beats per minute or greater (or songs that make me want to run fast). Allegedly songs in the 170-180 bpm range are ideal for running.

What songs make you want to run fast?

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!

Today's assortment includes 80s music, nude running, writing advice, bad puns, and foam surfing. Bon appetit!


Nu Shooz

While there might not be new life for that old song, there can be new life for your old shoes. Recycling programs, like Nike's Reuse-a-shoe program turn old shoe materials into paving material for playgrounds.
Soles do live on!


No more nudity

A new ban on public nudity takes effect in San Francisco today. (Legal challenges, so far, have failed.)

I suppose the Bernal Heights bikini runner will be ok, but...

What will this do to Bay to Breakers?!


21 bun salute (photo from A Trail Runner)
Nude runners at Bay to Breakers (photo from ZeroDrop)
Ahem...
... moving on.


Stormy Foamy seas

Extreme weather conditions resulted in 9-foot-deep waves of foam along Australia's eastern shore.

Intrepid swimmers turned the tides... into a new sport: foam surfing.
(Apologies for the bad puns. I'm on a roll today...)



Un-blocking writer's block

If you've ever struggled through a case of writer's block, this list of writing prompts might be a useful tool to get un-stuck.


Travel writing fibs

When writing about your travels, it pays to be honest. We'll know if you're lying.

For example, extolling the virtues of London as a burgeoning culinary wonderland is just bald-faced fabrication. Sure. It's better than it was. But if my experience is any indication, there was nowhere to go but up. (Think overcooked-to-oblivion vegetables and boiled everything.)

Don't get me wrong. Some British foods are amazing. The cheeses, for example, are phenomenal. But calling London "Europe's new food capital?" Either the authors need to tone down their praise, or they need to get out more...


Quote of the week:
"Write drunk; edit sober."
Ernest Hemingway (allegedly)
(And one last link... about the power and meaning of simple quote.)


Happy Friday, friends!