Tuesday, January 31

Postcards from Philadelphia (guest post)

While I've covered quite a lot of ground, I haven't been everywhere. (Yet...) So, I've enlisted some help from local experts in the running travel guides series.

Today, we're going to Philly!
Our running tour guide is local ultra-runner and trail-lover, Kristin, at Every Day is Run Day. Kristin's blog is funny and honest, and she is serious about her running. Drop by her blog and say hi! In the meantime, here's where she would take us on a running tour of her hometown:
Image source
Forget the cheesesteaks, Philadelphia is a runner's town! Any season, morning, noon, or night you will find tons of runners out of the streets of Brotherly Love. If you ever find yourself in Philly, consider checking out some of my favorite routes:

The River Loop
This 8.4-mile loop can be run in either direction starting at the Art Museum and Lloyd Hall heading north to Falls Bridge on either West River Drive or Kelly Drive and coming down the other side. The entire course can be run on a paved bike path. In addition, West River Drive is closed to traffic between April and October so that runners (and bikers) can spread out on the road.

Schuylkill River Path
If you don't feel like being boxed into an 8.4 mile loop, the Schuylkill River Path, which makes up the Kelly Drive side of the River Loop, starts in Center City and extends 23 miles north to Valley Forge.

I'd say about 90+% of the path is paved with a few sections of rocky towpath which you won't find until you are slightly north of Philadelphia. As the main thoroughfare for runners, bikers, walkers, skateboarders, etc. in the area just make sure to stay to your right!
Image source

Forbidden Drive
If you're looking for that non-city feel without leaving the city then Forbidden Drive is for you! Part of Wissahickon Valley, Forbidden Drive is the 5.3 mile main drag through the park. You can drive and park at several different locations.
For more information about the park visit the Friends of the Wissahickon website.
If you want to stop for a quick bite, or a beer after the run,
be sure to visit the historic Valley Green Inn nestled right
along Forbidden Drive.

The Rocky Run
There are many versions of Rocky Balboa's running route. The obvious inclusion would be his infamous run up the Art Museum steps (complete with celebratory jumping up a down of course).
Image source
Below is my own personal 6-mile version, which also includes passing other major sites such as the Ben Franklin Parkway, City Hall, Market Street, Independence Park, South Street, Broad Street and Rittenhouse Square. Tack on parts of the Schuylkill River Path for an even greater sightseeing extravaganza.

Benjamin Franklin Bridge
If there is one thing Philly is lacking it's hills. There are a few here and there in West Philly and to the north in Manayunk, but Center City is pretty flat. If you're in town and looking for a bit of a kick, head to Ben Franklin Bridge, which connects Center City to New Jersey over the Delaware River. The bridge is about a mile across and offers great views and a healthy incline.
Image source

Local Run Clubs
Philly has several run clubs, some of which are very active including Philly Runners and the Wissahickon Wanderers. The local City Sports and Lululemon also host a number of runs each week.

Where would you take tourists on a tour of your town?
If you're interested in guest-posting about your favorite running routes, send me a note and let me know!

Sunday, January 29

Virtually in Texas

Hubby and I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Dallas-Fort Worth. In less than 30 hours we...

...visited family.

...learned the Cupid Shuffle.

Sad that the song is 5 years old and I just now am catching on.

We flew into DFW for a wedding. The wedding was mid-afternoon, so cake at the reception was "lunch," and line dancing was my workout for the day.

Then we...
...ate dinner at a grocery store.

Texas has amazing BBQ and Tex-Mex food, but the salad bar and prepared foods section at Central Market is incredible - everything from roast chicken to vegan meatballs and from gooey mac & cheese to four grain salad... It is one of my favorite places to eat in Fort Worth. I'll have to remember to take pictures next time, in the meantime, you get grainy photos from their website:
Image source
And when I woke up I...
...ran a 5k (virtually).
Sunday morning we worked out in the hotel gym, since most of suburban Texas has lots of freeway and very little sidewalk. I ran 6 x 400 sprint intervals. Officially this run, with warmup and cool down time, counted as my contribution to the Freeze Your Thorns off 5k hosted by Adam, The Boring Runner.

Yes, I know I was a day late.
This is the first race I've ever shown up for on the wrong day. But it's virtual. So I virtually ran it on Saturday, OK?

A quick shower, change, then...
... one last visit with family.

And last, but not least...
...we virtually had BBQ in Fort Worth.
We did eat brisket and smoked sausage. But our short-duration trip didn't leave us much time for lingering over meals, so we grabbed a quick bite at Railhead BBQ in the DFW airport. The airport outpost is definitely not as good as the original, but it will do in a pinch. (And either way, we have leftovers in the fridge... Mmm...)

Have you ever run a virtual race, and if so, which one?
What is your favorite quick and easy meal when you're traveling?

Saturday, January 28

Data Privacy Day vs. 11 Random Things

The Running Historian and the Sweet Tooth Runner tagged me for Eleven Random Things. Just Keep Running tagged me for 7... And what better way is there to honor National Data Privacy Day than posting a bunch of personal stuff on the interwebs?
Update 1/29/2012 - Alma also tagged me! Head over to The Average Woman's Running Blog to see how I answered her 11. (See the comments section of this post.)
The rules are: (1) Post these rules. (2) You must post 11 random things about yourself. (3) Answer the questions set for you in their post. (4) Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer (5) Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them (6) No stuff in the tagging section about "you are tagged if you are reading this." You legitimately have to tag people! It's my blog and I can do what I want in it.
11 randoms + pictures! = i was bad at math...
  1. I have a fondness for peanut butter that is borderline unhealthy (like a jar-per-week habit), but it is better than an addiction to meth, right?
  2. Look how beautiful it is!
  3. I lost a toenail once (5 years ago) running a marathon. I now have 2 that look like they're ready to jump ship, but so far, I've only ever lost the one.
  4. I grew up swearing I'd never live in California... Then I did.
  5. Once I lived in California, I swore I'd never leave... Then I did. The moral of this story: Never swear.
  6. I swear. A lot. If my life were on television, the FCC fines could eliminate the budget deficit, but somehow I manage to keep the blog PG-13.
  7. My closet is filled with fancy dresses and gym clothes. I have little in between. Working from home is only partly to blame.
  8. I won't run without my toe socks, which is funny, because I mocked them when I first saw them. Now I'm a zealot.
  9. I lived without a TV for many years, and never felt like I was missing out. Hubby owned a 40-something inch flat screen when we met. Now I get excited when Big Bang Theory is on. My how life changes...
  10. Source: Nationaal Archief
  11. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Lady Gaga.
  12. I believe in Karma.
  13. I nearly failed trigonometry in junior high. Now I (successfully) do math as my day job. The moral of this story: Don't quit!
  14. Source: a4.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net via Beth on Pinterest
Raquelita's questions for me:

1. If you had to enter a different profession from your current one, what would it be?
I used to dream of being a chef, because I love to cook. But cooking and chef-ness are not the same. Now I think I'd become a librarian.

2. Apart from running, what is your favorite way to work out?
Hands down.
Image source
(What? Not punny?)

3. Would you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person?
This must be a trick question. Who could resist a face like this?

4. If you could spend the day with one celebrity, who would it be and why?
It would be a toss up between Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice -- to pick either brain about politics, power, and attitudes toward women in the workplace.

5. What is your favorite thing to cook?
Cooking (anything) is my stress-relief. No matter how bad a day is, I can chop and mix and saute my way to at least one accomplishment. That said, I'm most proud of baking bread.

6. Where did you grow up?
In the smallest state in the union (with the longest name).

7. What is the last book that you read?
John Irving's A Widow for One Year.

8. Why did you go to the college that you attended?
Undergrad - for the scholarship money. Grad - program reputation and location.

9. What is your favorite kind of ice cream?
Maple walnut... but I rarely see maple outside of the northeast?
10. If money were no object and there was no need for concern about exploitative means of production or harm to the environment, what would you splurge on?
Definitely travel.

11. Why did you decide to start blogging?
I moved to a new place, had no friends (here), and my work schedule dropped to 30 hours/week. So I figured I'd use all my new-found boredom free time to obsess about running and maybe meet some like-minded souls.

12. What did you eat for breakfast?
Besides 3 cups of coffee?
Scrambled eggs with broccoli and feta. One of the perks of working from home -- I can have green eggs (and ham) every day!
Source: plus.google.com via Beth on Pinterest

...and Emma's questions:

1. What is your biggest goal/dream right now?
Finishing these 11 questions?

2. Which place in the world would you like to visit the most, and why?
My parents' back yard. I travel all the time, but I don't get back home very often.
Parents' back yard - where you can pick your dinner, literally.

3. What is your favourite book?
Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy. One of the few books I've read several times.

4. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A chef.

5. What has been the best moment in your life so far?
The moments I like best are the everyday awesome ones. So this week: Coming home, after a late night of teaching, to find Hubby elbow-deep in pasta. He made homemade mac & cheese so I wouldn't have to cook. It's the little things...

6. Your favourite colour?

7. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?
Stephanie Germanotta.

8. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Extrovert! (And a loud one, too.)

9. If you could run any race, what would it be?
Comrades Marathon in South Africa.

10. Do you have any fears or phobias?
Nothing severe, but I dislike being in enclosed spaces. Those "warrior" races that make you swim through a narrow tunnel...? Yea... That won't be me.
Image source
11. In a film of your life, which actress would play you?
Tina Fey!

11 questions for the next victims (ahem...) tagged bloggers:
  1. What is one bad habit you want to break?
  2. What is the best compliment you have ever received?
  3. If you were stranded on a desert island and had a case of food -- only one type of food -- what would it be?
  4. If you could have a beer with any person (living or dead) who would it be?
  5. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  6. Favorite song of all time?
  7. Guilty pleasure song? (You know - that one you rock out to when no one else is listening...)
  8. Favorite vacation location?
  9. Are you a re-reader or one-and-done?
  10. What is the career you secretly dream about starting when you retire from your current job?
  11. The place you wish you were right now, instead of being at a computer?
Tag, you're it!
Just Keep Running (you haven't gotten the 11 yet, right?)
... My method here: Introducing you all to some wonderful new(ish) blogs -- most of the "mature" bloggers have been tagged already! So... if you haven't gotten steamrolled by 11-things yet, and you want to join the fun, send me a note and I'll tag you!

Everyone else... what's your answer to #4 - If you could have a beer with any person, who would it be?

Friday, January 27

Offbeat Friday

Hello friends! Happy Friday!
The weekend is here and so are some offbeat odds and ends for your reading enjoyment...

Maybe someone should have told Paula Deen...?

In other "health news," Susan Lacke posted a clever list of reasons why running doesn't suck.

In other things that aren't going to get me onto the Olympic team... This week I discovered that in the world of business travel, my frequent flier status is (apparently) "only" gold (at least according to CNBC's non-scientific, Cosmo-magazine-like online survey). Yes, I realize that I was a sucker to take the survey in the first place...
Frequent flyer status: Gold
You are the meat and potatoes of the business travel world – a person who keeps the economy running, but doesn't completely sacrifice their personal life to the company. You know the tricks of the road better than most of your fellow travelers, but you also know the importance of a work/life balance.
Why does that description rankle me so much?
Normally I'm proud of having a work/life balance.
I guess I just don't want CNBC telling me so, especially not when the phrase "meat and potatoes" is involved. I don't ever want to be considered meat OR potatoes.
I'm more of a salmon and asparagus girl thankyouverymuch.

But it's Friday, so enough about work...

What weird or offbeat news did you hear this week?

PS - Don't forget about my book giveaway!

Thursday, January 26

Door prizes! (upcoming blogiversary giveaway)

Has it been a year already?
I tentatively dipped my toe into the blog waters in February 2011, and much like running, I got hooked.

To thank you all for your wonderful comments (this blog thing would be boring without you!), I'm hosting a self-funded giveaway. No corporate sponsors. Just a good, old fashioned door prize, to be announced on Superbowl Sunday, February 5th.

The Prize: The best book I read last year was The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete, so I will send a copy (your choice of hardcover, paperback, or Kindle edition) to one lucky reader.*

How to Enter: You get an entry into the door prize drawing for each of the following (post a separate note in the comments section for each entry):
  • Follow using Google's "connect" feature -- see the "let's run (subscribe)" link in the sidebar (+1)
  • Follow on Facebook (+1)
  • Re-post about this giveaway on your blog (+2)

*Entries close at noon Pacific time on February 4th. I will draw a door prize winner at random, and will post the results on Superbowl Sunday (Feb 5th). To claim your prize, you must contact me within one week. If I do not receive a response by 11:59pm on Sunday, Feb 12th, I will choose another winner (also at random). There is (obviously) no cash redemption value for this prize.

Thursday thanks

This week I'm thankful that Hubby encourages this running stuff.
I had to wake up before 5am last Sunday, but (technically) he did not have to. This is one of the few races that I registered for, but he did not.

I'm a big girl, I could go on my own...

He woke up anyway.
He grabbed the car keys, and drove for an hour down dark, foggy roads, to get me to the starting line (which gave me time to put on my toe socks and pull my hair into a bun -- I was running late).
And then he ran from checkpoint to checkpoint, covering more than 6 miles, with a bouncing backpack, just to take photos.
Hubby: world's best personal photographer.
After the race, he ferried my things back to the car and returned with my flip-flops, while I sat back and finished a bottle of water.

In all seriousness, I think Hubby enjoyed the race, too. I mean, he did get to meet a macaw from the local zoo.
But all he "really" got out of the morning was an early wakeup call, a bowl of jambalaya, and an hour drive back home in a tiny, enclosed space with a very smelly girl.

Ahh... true love!

What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, January 24

Places to run - Arizona

Another state down...
I've added Arizona to the "places to run" list.
Sedona trails
I'm working on Washington soon...
If you are interested in writing a guest post about running in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, etc... let me know!

Monday, January 23

Did I run hard enough?

In the hours immediately after a long race, I start second-guessing my effort. My mind reels with questions of:
Did I run hard enough? Could I have pushed harder? Did I really do my best?

I don't know why this happens. I was elated after Sunday's half marathon, but halfway home, I started to wonder if I could have run harder/better/faster/stronger?*

I see the clock as I cross the finish line. I start out proud, but then I begin mentally lining up this race against those I've run before. I get back home and do the math... 4 minutes faster than this one (good!)... but 15 minutes slower than that other race...

No one wants to be slower today than they were yesterday/last week/last year. And while I know I could not have run a minute per mile faster, I wonder... Could I have shaved off another minute from my finish time? Two? I had enough kick for the last half mile. Could I have started my final sprint sooner? I didn't hurl at the end. Shouldn't I have been dry heaving at least?

I tried to distract my nagging brain. I made popcorn and sat down for an afternoon of football. I napped through part of the Pats / Ravens game, but was wide awake for the fourth quarter nail-biter finish. I got up and walked around. Stretched. I made dinner and mostly ignored the Giants / 49ers. (You can take the girl out of New England...) I went to sleep.

...And woke up so sore it hurt to get out of bed.

Today stairs are my enemy.

And I have my answer: I may not have puked at the finish line, but I really did run as hard as I could yesterday.

How do you evaluate your performance after a race? Comparing stats against prior races or pre-race goals? By how your body feels? By whether or not you enjoyed the ride?

*PS - I gave up hating Kanye when Watch the Throne was released. It is too good to ignore... But running playlists will have to be another discussion for another time. Anyone else have a love/hate relationship with K. West?

Sunday, January 22

Race Report: Gulf Shores Half Marathon

The start: Low key starting area with maybe not enough port-o-potties. The Gulf Coast Half Marathon at Gulf Shores was definitely a small race (fewer than 500 runners) but what they lacked in pre-race frills, the organizers more than made up for in post-race awesomeness.

The bad: I'm having a hard time thinking of anything negative. So I'm going to stop trying. (Quitter, I know. But this is good quitting.)

This is the best half marathon I've run. Ever. And I don't throw around terms like "best" lightly, at least not with races.

My only complaint today: the weather sucked, but that's not the race's fault. With fog as thick as pea soup, this was a warm and wet 13.1. As one runner told me while we were waiting in the port-o-potty line, it was "not a PR kind of day." But that's ok... because it was an awesome-race kind of day!
When I said "thick fog" I meant it...
Note that you can't read street signs.
The good: Where do I begin...
Spectators were few and far between, but water stations were frequent (one at almost every mile) and the water station volunteers were wonderful. Seriously, a girl could get spoiled with this kind of course support. The Gulf Shores half might have ruined me for other races...
LA Parrotheads water station.
They even had a live parrot!
Water station mascot.
The course was gorgeous. Even in the thick fog, or maybe because of it, the run covered some beautiful scenery -- coastal dunes, salt marshes, pine forests. I want to go back to this part of Alabama when I have time to stop and enjoy the view.
9 runners who look just like me!
(Hubby found a new feature on his camera. I am a fan!)
The finish: Holy after-party, Batman! (Or should I say "Lulu?")
Jimmy Buffett's sister, Lucy, runs Lulu's Homeport in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and man does she know how to throw a party!

The entire indoor/outdoor restaurant was open to runners, which meant plenty of seating and plenty of food. Runners and guests had access to unlimited jambalaya, red beans and rice, fresh fruit, cookies, beer, and sports drinks. And even more important, race-walkers had plenty of hot food still available when they finished (all too often the food is gone by the time walkers wrap up).

A live band played tunes for a couple of hours. If the guests weren't doing the "post-race shuffle" it would have felt like just another vacation day at a beach resort.

My race: If you've been reading awhile, you know I don't run well on hot-and-humid days. But I still shaved 4 minutes off of my last half marathon time. I'm convinced that on a cooler day I'll be able to break 2 hours.

The weather put a damper on my A-game goals, but I solidly accomplished negative splits. I ran smart in the first half, and strong in the second. Unofficial results have me at 40 out of 215 female runners, and I had a smile on my face (almost) the whole time.

I can't wait to go back next year and move up the ranks!
(Hell, I'd go back and run this race again next weekend if they'd let me. It was that good.)

What's the best post-race party you've ever been to?

Saturday, January 21

Perfect conditions

Tomorrow I had hoped for temperatures in the 40s. Dry weather might have been nice, too.

Instead, no matter how many times I check weather.com, the forecast remains: mid-60s, 94 percent humidity (yes, folks -- 94 percent humidity -- 6 points shy of a swimming pool), and thunderstorms.

Ideal race conditions these are not.

I started to second-guess my race: Maybe I should have run last weekend when the weather was perfect for a half marathon! Why did I spectate when I could have been running?

Source: fierce-fit-fabulous.tumblr.comvia Beth on Pinterest
Maybe I should sleep in...?

Yeah, right!

Tomorrow's race isn't just about seeing how fast I can go after a couple more months of training. It is the first 13.1 in my goal of 5 goal half marathons this year.

It is also another notch on my "race in a different state" belt.

And I knew I wasn't going to "win" the race anyway. That's not why I run.

So I'm going out there tomorrow. I may be fast (gotta' outrun those lightning bolts!). Or I may be slow (this is running, not swimming, right?)

But no matter what, when I come home tomorrow, I'll have covered 13.1 beautiful new miles.

Friday, January 20

Fitness and funnies

Source: Uploaded by user via Swade on Pinterest
Each day week I spend hours culling the interwebs for weird and wonderful (read: f-ing hilarious) goodies to share with you.

I do it all for you, dear readers!

(Just) Trying is for Little Girls threw down a "new to you" cross-training challenge... One new activity every month to bust us out of our comfort zones. Brilliant! As a result, I tried burpees for the first time (not a fan), and Sweet Tooth Runner completed a new circuit training routine.

MeGo talks about why strong is the new sexy.

AbbyNYC loves yoga, but has some valuable warnings about safety.

Gross or hilarious? Adam (the Boring Runner) posted an entire series of body hair "art" photos... Umm... Don't read if you're eating dinner.

If you haven't seen it yet, the video interview of Shalane Flanagan on her opinion of Kara Goucher, and Kara's opinion of Shalane is hilarious.

And last, but not least...
Source: Uploaded by user via Jean on Pinterest

Beyond the health benefits

"For artists, entrepreneurs, and any other driven creators, exercise is a powerful tool in the quest to help transform the persistent uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that accompanies the quest to create from a source of suffering into something less toxic, then potentially even into fuel." ~Jonathan Fields, Fast Company
Of all the places I would expect to see an article extolling the virtues of exercise, Fast Company magazine would not top my list of likely sources. I'll admit, I read this article months ago, and only now am getting around to sharing it.

I can't say that I've done my own scientific study of the effects of exercise, but I believe strongly that there is a physical fitness / mental health connection. Fortunately the research backs me up on this. Exercise:
"has been shown to lead to reductions of more than 50 percent in the prevalence of the symptoms of anxiety. This supports exercise training as an additional method to reduce chronic anxiety." ~Richard Milani and Carl Lavie, New England Journal of Medicine
Granted, the authors warn, clinical anxiety or depression cannot and should not be treated with exercise alone. But exercise is a helpful addition to a comprehensive treatment program. And for the rest of us, the benefits are clear: less anxiety, less stress, more creativity, more productivity. (In addition to all those other health benefits.)

Why am I finally sharing this article?
Maybe it has something to do with "taper brain."

I woke up this morning anxious about the weather for race-day Sunday, which is forecast to be 70. Humid. With possible thunderstorms. These are not ideal racing conditions. I'd prefer 45 and dry, thankyouverymuch.

Normally when I am anxious about something, I lace up my shoes and run. Some of my most challenging work dilemmas have been solved after I've thrown in the proverbial towel and worked up a good sweat.

Staring down the keyboard doesn't make a solution
appear. But sometimes running down a long road can...
My clearest personal example of the exercise-brain connection occurred a couple of years ago while I was working on statistical/programming problem.

My coworkers and I were walled up in a room for hours trying to hammer out a solution. I got frustrated, broke up the meeting, and went out a 3 mile run through downtown San Diego. One of my project teammates is also a runner. I'm sure he understood. The other two, well, I'm sure they thought I was a quitter...

I beat the pavement in frustration. I hadn't stopped thinking about the problem, but I needed a change of scenery. But here's the interesting thing... as I rounded the last corner back to the office, the solution came to me in a "duh!" moment. I raced back into the office and explained my idea to the project team, sweat still dripping from my ponytail. (Now the other two coworkers also thought I was gross, but who cares!)

After dozens, maybe hundreds, of similar instances I have learned that sometimes going for a run is the best way to relieve stress or bust out of a mental rut. (Obviously my life is not a scientifically designed case-control study, but it works for me, and that's all that matters.)

Which is why it can be so hard to accept rest days.

Thank goodness the race is only two days away.
In the meantime, I'm going for a walk.

How do you deal with stress when you're sidelined from running?

Thursday, January 19

Do Shalane and Kara really get along?

Do Shalane and Kara get along, or do they secretly hate each other?

This video interview attempts uncover the real answer:

(funniest thing I've seen on the interwebs in weeks!)

Thursday thanks and race-day goals

"What am I thankful for this week?" I wondered to myself while I ticked off the miles on this morning's run. The thought: "I need to post something soon for Thursday thanks" was nagging at me.

Then, as often happens in the days before a race, I got distracted by my race goals:
  • Stretch goal: Sub-2 hour half marathon. I've run 1:53 before, but if November's race is any indication, my return to longer distances still needs some work.
  • Bringing my A-game goal: 2:04 finish time, while still being able to walk back to my car at the end of the race. Dropping several minutes off of my last half marathon time (or more than 30 seconds per mile) over the past two months would be a major accomplishment. My shorter-distance pace says I can do it. I say I can do it.
  • If all else fails goal: Negative splits. I trained myself to run negative splits in 5k and 10k races, but I always seem to fall apart a little between miles 10 and 12 in longer races. I want to finish Sunday's race as strong as I start.
Normally I'd throw a goal in there to "have fun" or "enjoy the ride" or "finish strong."
But who am I kidding?
I care about this race.

I just want to be faster
than my neighborhood turtle.
Is that so much to ask?
In November, I could blow off a not-my-best showing pace by saying that I was injured and had not run a half marathon in a couple of years. November was a "getting back into the swing of things" race.

This one counts.

Which brings us back around to Thursday thanks:
This week I am thankful that I have the physical, mental, and financial ability to train for half marathons.

Are you racing this weekend? If so, what are you goals?
What else are you thankful for this week?