Saturday, June 30

Goal checkup

Back in January I set a few key goals for the year. With 6 months down, and 6 to go, a checkup is in order...

Goal - Run Faster:
5k in less than 24 minutes

Progress: My one and only first 5k (so far) this year was a fun-run clocking in at 25:48.
While I was consistent about form drills, speedwork, and other pace-improving activities through the winter and spring, summer heat has sapped my speed. December looks much more promising...
**Late breaking update: I ran a 5k this morning, but the goal remains elusive. Race report will be posted tomorrow.**

Goal - Run Longer:
Complete 5 half marathons

Progress: (1) Gulf Shores, (2) New Orleans, (3) Pensacola Beach.
A fall marathon would round out this list because 2 half marathons = 1 whole marathon, right?

Goal - Learn New Things:
Read 15 non-fiction books

Progress: When I last checked in on this goal, I was way behind schedule with only one non-fiction book completed by April.

I blamed it on a winter and spring of working two jobs.

Now school's out for summer, and I am proud to report that I've polished off five (5!) non-fiction books in the past 8 weeks (ok... ok... 2 of them were nearly done back in April). I need to maintain my blistering reading pace since reading-for-fun will come to a screeching halt when school starts up again.

Goal - Travel/Explore:
Visit one new-to-me place every month

Progress: Six solid months of exploring like a tourist.
  • January: Gulf Shores, AL
  • February: Indian Temple Mound museum in Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • March: A jazz club, Maison, in New Orleans
  • April: This month was a new-to-us trail double header.
    • The Blackwater Trail 10k took Hubby and me to a part of the Florida backwoods we'd never seen before. (So new, in fact, that I nearly skipped the race out of fear that I'd get lost...)
    • We followed that up with a hike in the Naval Live Oaks National Park
  • May: Audubon Park in New Orleans. (Given the number of times I've been to NOLA, it's a serious shame that this trip was my first visit to Audubon Park...)
  • June: Another two-fer!
    • I ventured into new neighborhoods and new-to-me museums while in Washington, DC.
    • Hubby and I went back to Gulf Shores, AL for an "adventure day" of exploring new beaches, shops, and restaurants.

Goal - New 2 U Cross Training Challenge:
Just ask Kim...

Progress: Six months and still going strong!
Did you set any goals for the year? If so, what's your progress to date?

June's cross training challenge

It's the end of June, which means that by now I should have checked another month off of my New 2 U Cross Training Challenge list.

In May, I was down to the wire, squeaking a skipping drill in on the last day of the month. This month I planned better, but held off on posting.

To be honest, I was hoping to have something more exciting to report than another review of Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred.

But Ms. Michaels is compelling.

Without Kim's challenge motivating me to try new things, I would have thought all the JM hype was just that: hype.

Back in February, for Kim's challenge, I tried two cardio kickboxing videos. One was (quite honestly) awful. The other video was by Jillian Michaels. That comparison was my first indication that JM's workout videos might be better than average.

So, after months of reading 30 Day Shred hype, I decided to take the plunge and try one of the workouts. I started with Level 1. (What? No, I did not pay for the video series. I streamed it from Youtube like every cheap frugal blogger should.)

The verdict: This 20-minute workout packs quite a punch! (No cardio kickboxing pun intended...)

Michaels begins with a dynamic stretching warmup, and then rotates through a series of strength, cardio, and core exercises, moving quickly from one to the next. The exercises are basic (e.g. push ups, squat with overhead press, jumping jacks) but the combination, timing, and number of repetitions left me sweating and sore.

Quite frankly, I was shocked at how sore I was. While I might not be the slimmest reed in the pond, I lift weights three times a week. My guns... ahem... show. If you told me, beforehand, that a 20 minute exercise video would leave me noodle-armed and aching for two days, I'd have challenged you to an arm wrestling contest.

But sore I was.

Maybe I over-estimated the weight I should be using, not knowing how many reps we'd be doing? Either way, the workout kicked my butt.

I am not going to go through the entire 30 day series - running is still priority #1 - but I will re-do Level 1 when I need to mix up my lifting routine, and I'll be checking out Level 2 and Level 3 in the near future.

For a list of other cross training I've tried since January, scroll to the bottom of this post.

What cross training would you recommend I try in coming months?

Friday, June 29

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another weekly roundup: the Friday potluck!

Today I'm serving up sports scuttlebutt and booze news, topped off with recommended reading and a quote of the week.

The anti-superhero?

If Alysia Montaño's post-race interview made her my new running hero, Nick Symmonds' interview did just the opposite. Symmonds used his Olympic Trials fame to score a date with Paris Hilton
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(Seriously, Nick, all that fame and all that speed, and you used it for evil?)

Grunts be gone!

The Women's Tennis Association is implementing a grunt-o-meter at tournaments.
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I can't think of another sport that takes its cues from Planet Fitness...

(Sooo many other potential punch-lines! So little time!)

Can't wait 'til happy hour?

Just thinking about a drink can help you relax!

(Try explaining that one to the officer... Sir! I didn't have anything to drink, I was just thinking about drinking!)
Source: via Serena on Pinterest

On the other side of the relaxation spectrum, just thinking about the price tags on the world's most expensive beers has given me a headache. (Can you imagine the bar tab for a couple of those babies?)

And just because the beers are expensive, doesn't mean you'd want to drink 'em... The world's second most expensive beer is 55 percent alcohol by volume (which is about 10 times higher than the average neighborhood brew) and costs a whopping $765 per bottle... and... (wait for it!)

...those bottles are made of taxidermied animal bodies! Beer served in a dead rodent!
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Seriously. Who would spend money on that???

Recommended reading:

This week's recommendation isn't a book, it's a concept.

Kathryn at Pavement Runner started a program she's calling Pave it Forward. Kathryn's plan is to give away a book that she has read, usually on endurance training, and the recipient agrees to write a review and send the book on to another lucky reader.

I like this idea so much, I might have to imitate her. (Sincerest form of flattery, no?)

 of the week:

This week's quote was so good, I had to repeat it.
“The flower is.. to me, means strength with femininity. I think that a lot of people say things like 'you run like a girl.' That doesn't mean that you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you're strong. We are the givers of life."
Alysia Montaño (after winning the women's 800 meter race to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic team)"

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, June 28

Thursday thanks

Thank you to the drivers who stopped to let me cross intersections while I was on my morning runs.
There were 5 of you - a record for one week!
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Thank you to the moving company employee who pulled his van over (and initially freaked me out a little) to ask me to stop running for a moment. Thank you for noticing that the moving truck behind you had a high roof, was going under a low-hanging tree, and would knock branches and debris onto me if I didn't stop where I was.

Thank you to the white-haired lady who regularly stops by the pond downtown to feed the ducks. The highlight of my week was eavesdropping overhearing you talking to the ducklings and to mama duck.
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What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, June 26

Run like a girl (the real Alysia Montaño quote)

The US Olympic Trials have captivated the attention of more than one American. (I can say that with certainty because Hubby + me = 2, which is definitely more than 1.)

In my case, the Trials have given me a new hero in the running world: Alysia Montaño.

In about 45 seconds of post-race interview, after winning the women's 800 to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic team, Montaño summed up everything that "you run like a girl" really means.
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“The flower is.. to me, means strength with femininity. I think that a lot of people say things like 'you run like a girl.' That doesn't mean that you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you're strong. We are the givers of life."
Alysia Montaño (after winning the women's 800 meter race to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic team)
(For the record, most news agencies have botched the quote. I spent time today transcribing it from the post-race interview video.)

Monday, June 25

Postcards from Lower Alabama

Greetings from LA!
Ahem... that's Lower Alabama - southern Alabama, along the Gulf Coast - for those of you who aren't from around these parts.

Coastal Florida and Alabama are known for their snow-white sand beaches. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach do not disappoint.
Gulf Shores, AL
The locals have a sense of humor, and life here revolves around the Gulf of Mexico. So it's no surprise that the free newspaper "Mullet Wrapper" is named for how it gets used... What self-respecting angler would waste money on newspaper to wrap fresh-caught fish when this one is free?
The local free newspaper: Mullet Wrapper
Lower Alabama boasts Lambert's Cafe, home of the "throwed rolls." (No, that is not a typo.) Lambert's employees serve bread by throwing it to customers, and owners coined the "throwed rolls" tagline.

Be prepared for a raucous dinner, complete with birthday and anniversary announcements over the PA and servers who play practical jokes on customers, including faux pitchers of iced tea that get "dumped" on unsuspecting victims. (Not that I would know from experience...)
Lambert's employees getting ready to throw rolls at customers
Lambert's is also home of heart attacks served on plates. I ordered "hog jowls" - thinking it was the most adventuresome item on the menu. When served, my plate appeared to hold 2 pounds of bacon, surrounded by a sea of side dishes. A single plate could feed an entire basketball team (and give them all high cholesterol) or could satisfy one hungry runner after a marathon...
Heart attack on a plate
But don't let the cholesterol fool you.

Fresh produce is easy to find in Lower Alabama. Farm stands dot the roadsides. Summer brings fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, squash, watermelon, and a variety of other fruits and vegetables. In the hour drive between Pensacola, FL and Foley, AL we passed at least half a dozen roadside stands (and stopped at one to stock up on corn and squash).
Farm stand on Highway 59 near Foley, AL
Lower Alabama also has its share of beachfront bars that double as live-music venues. The Hangout is one of the most famous. Hubby and I whiled away a few hours sipping cocktails and listening to live music at the outdoor stage. The Hangout's motto is "be nice or go home" and the relaxed beach attitude could soothe even the most stress-addled brain.
The Hangout
Other local favorites include Flora-Bama (the very first stop Hubby and I made when we moved to Florida) and LuLu's Homeport (which hosted the 2011 Gulf Shores Half after-party).

On the running front, I must admit that I did no running on this trip. That said, I have run the beautiful and scenic Gulf Shores Half Marathon around Shelby Lakes in Gulf State Park.

In addition to some fantastic races, Lower Alabama is also home to a couple of active running groups, including the Orange Beach Running Club and LA Fleet Feet. The Fleet Feet group meets (conveniently) at The Hangout every Tuesday night for a 3-6 mile run.

Where have your travels taken you recently?

Sunday, June 24

Recommended (and not) travel reading

I read quite a lot of travel/memoir.
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I recently filled you in on how much I enjoyed Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. As for other travel/journey/memoirs, some are equally entertaining and some are... well...

Let's be honest, sometimes there's a dud.

Last week I wasted 5 bucks on LIVING LIKE A LOCAL: Stories of Our Life in France. Reading that "book" was like reading a diary. A poorly written diary. A poorly written diary in which the phrase "couldn't be better" pops up often. (Really, are there that many things that "couldn't be better?") And the passive voice pervades the text: "There were posters around town..." "The movie was shown..."

The CAPS LOCK in the title should have been my first clue...

That said, there are plenty of excellent tales to be read. A couple of travel books I've loved:
  • Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools is the tale of a couple that packs up and moves from London to Andalucia, managing to chuckle their way through linguistic and cultural barriers while adopting half a dozen chickens along the way.
  • I'm not an Alcoholic, I'm just European! is the story of a widower who leaves his housebound life behind to move to Madrid. The book benefits greatly from the author's sense of wonder as he opens up to a world he once only watched on television.
Combined, those two books made me want to pack my own suitcase and move to Spain.

What books have you loved (or loathed) lately?

Saturday, June 23

Happy Birthday Title IX

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance" Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972
On June 23, 1972 Title IX was passed by Congress, and on July 1 Richard Nixon signed the law that ensured equal funding for men's and women's educational activities, including (and probably most well known) sports.

Today, with women enrolling in college at higher rates than their male peers, we may wonder why such a law was ever needed. So let's not forget why the rule was written in the first place...

Prior to the passage of Title IX:
  • Many schools prohibited female students from enrolling in "male" classes like auto mechanics and criminal justice.
  • Male students were not allowed to take home economics.
  • Most medical schools limited the number of women admitted to 15 or fewer, as did law schools.
  • Double 1964 Olympic gold medal winner, swimmer Donna de Varona, was not eligible for college swimming scholarships. For women those scholarships did not exist.
  • In a 1971 ruling that prohibited a female cross country runner from joining her high school's team, a New Haven Superior Court Judge was quoted as saying "Athletic competition builds character in our boys. We do not need that kind of character in our girls."
  • In 1967 a Boston Marathon race official tried to wrestle Katherine Switzer off the course because women were not allowed to run.

Today we are not surprised to learn that more than half of finishers in road races are women (53%, according to 2010 statistics from Running USA), but it wasn't until 1984 that women were allowed to run the marathon in the Olympics. (Surely Flanagan, Davila, and Goucher are glad that rule changed before they entered kindergarten, but it did change after our 2012 Olympic marathon team was born.)

Granted, after forty years of legal protection, participation is still not even across all sports. According to the NCAA Gender Equity Report 2004-2010, almost no women play football and almost no men play field hockey. But the playing field is more level than it ever was, and for that, I say:

Happy Birthday Title IX

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Friday, June 22

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome, friends, to the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!

Do you want fries with that?

Deep fried butter not to your liking? Try deep fried cereal for all the sugar-rushing, artery-clogging, sad commentary on humanity that you've come to expect at your annual county fair.
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Obesity epidemic: 2, Humanity: 0

Speaking of sad commentary...
Weight capacity on the loo.
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Not the answer:

The obesity epidemic is horrifying, but pro-ana isn't the answer. Urban Outfitters had to pull this shirt off their shelves.
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Why can't we have a happy, healthy middle ground?

There's a championship for that?

Runners might lust after entry to the Boston marathon or watch the Olympic Trials with rapt attention, but our sport is not the only one with serious world championships.

In fact, if you can think of a game, there's probably a world championship for it. Case(s) in point:

Recommended reading:

Maybe it's not "reading" as much as it is "viewing," but 21 Pictures that Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity warmed my heart and made my week. Here's #4:
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Quote of the week:
"I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story..."
Cheryl Strayed on hiking the PCT, in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 21

Thursday thanks

Today I'm thankful for "the foot that is up..."

Let me explain...

Just 12 days ago, Pensacola was underwater. Today I awoke to a breathtakingly gorgeous summer day - hot air, cool breeze, bright clear blue skies.

Similarly gorgeous, clear, blue day a few months ago
Walking along the north shore of Santa Rosa Sound, I could see for miles out across the water. Looking closely (glasses on, of course) I could pick out the Pensacola Beach "beach ball" water tower more than 5 miles away.

Neighbors said "good morning."

An osprey flew overhead.

My steps and my heart felt light to be surrounded by so much beauty.

With a day this perfect, it is nearly impossible to believe that bad weather has ever struck this part of the world, or that it will again. But, of course, it has - and it will. And in some ways, those dark days make the bright ones even brighter.

One of my all-time favorite quotes, from The Count of Monte Cristo, sums up this principle nicely:
“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.”
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

I feel that way after a hard race or a long run. The last few miles are sweaty and painful - with blisters, quads, and lungs screaming equally for attention. But two hours later, when the running is over, and after a long cool shower, the feeling of being still is a kind of peace that has no equal.
"My head monk asked how it was walking. I said it hurt without shoes. And he said, 'It hurts on the foot that's down, but the one that's up feels really good - so focus on that one'."
Deepak Chopra (on preparing to be ordained as a Buddhist monk)

Today I'm thankful for the foot that's up.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, June 20

Odd advice for beating the heat

Last summer was my first Florida summer. I've lived in hot places before (Hello, Phoenix!), though I'd prefer to forget about that bad-and-short-lived decision...

I won't give up running.
The Florida Panhandle won't give up being hot and humid.
So summer running and I have had to come to an understanding.
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Here are some of the tricks I use to help beat the heat:
  • Carry a frozen water bottle. The bottle gets bathwater warm by mile 3, but at least I have cold water for the first 20 minutes or so.
  • Wear a headband to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
  • Chew mint gum. Sounds crazy (be careful not to inhale the gum!) but it does have a psychological cooling effect.
  • Run very early in the morning.
  • Move to the treadmill when temperatures rise into the mid-90s.
  • Take walk breaks. Yes, folks - I'll take a walk break from time to time on the hottest days. You can call me a wuss if you want, but I know my limits. That's not wussy. It's wisdom.
I thought my list was pretty solid, but every once in awhile someone gives a little advice that seems counterintuitive.

Miss Zippy provides some guidance on acclimating to the heat (which I, admittedly, do - but I don't often write into my list of "beat the heat" strategies.

To date, the award for "strangest advice anyone has ever given me" goes to the gentleman I met at Jazzfest who told me he "loves running in the heat and loves the sweat." His trick is to cut up a lemon, and put a wedge in his mouth before he heads out the door for a run. That keeps him feeling refreshed during his sweltering summer runs.
When life gives you lemons... suck on them while you're running!
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So am I, but I might try it anyway. Who knows? I thought chewing gum while running sounded dumb, too. Until I tried it.

What tricks do you use to beat the summer heat?
What's the weirdest advice you've ever gotten from a stranger?

Tuesday, June 19

Book review on the run: Wild

Last weekend two full days of flash flooding kept me indoors. It probably comes as no surprise that I like to be outside. I get cabin fever if I am cooped up for more than a day, so I needed a good book to help me maintain some semblance of sanity.

I mentioned my dilemma, and a friend recommended Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The timing couldn't have been better. Another friend is through-hiking the PCT right now, and I've been following his progress through scheduled email "newsletters." Needless to say, I've got a bit of PCT-envy this summer. (I've hiked sections of the trail, but never more than day hikes.)

I finished the book in less time than it took the author to get through her first 20 miles on the trail. Wild was one of those tales that kept me up well past my bedtime, so I could read "just one more chapter."

In an attempt to avoid spoilers, I will not go into vivid detail, but I will say that the author Cheryl Strayed makes some very poor life choices before starting her trek. I started the book wondering whether I wanted her to finish the hike or not. Thankfully, unlike so many other authors, Strayed takes full responsibility for her bad behavior (or at least doesn't try to blame anyone else).

I should warn readers that Wild is nothing like sappy-happy Eat, Pray, Love. There is no upper-middle-class ennui. There are no superficial-seeming spiritual experiences. While divorce kicks off both books, and both authors go on a journey, the similarities end there.

That is not to say that fans of Eat, Pray, Love will dislike Wild. In fact, I think Wild takes the elements of EPL that everyone loved (travel! adventure! life changing journeys!) and ups the ante with a lead character who is at once both more frustrating and more lovable (not to mention more believable).

One of my favorite passages:
... and then there as the real live truly doing it. The staying and doing it, in spite of everything. In spite of the bears and the rattlesnakes and the scat of the mountain lions I never saw; the blisters and scabs and scrapes and lacerations. The exhaustion and the deprivation; the cold and the heat; the monotony and the pain; the thirst and the hunger; the glory and the ghosts that haunted me as I hiked...

In my humble opinion, Wild is every bit as gritty and compelling as a backcountry trek should be.

But don't just take my word for it... Read it yourself and let me know what you think!

What book has kept you awake at night to read "just one more chapter?"
What did you think of Eat, Pray, Love - love it or hate it? I thought EPL was an entertaining "beach" read, but I didn't particularly like it.

Sunday, June 17

More postcards from DC

On my last day in Washington, D.C., I had just enough time for a nice, long sightseeing run. I spent about two and a half hours on the move, covered 10(ish) miles, and stopped at half a dozen museums and memorials.

I started on Capitol Hill.
The Capitol
I wove through the streets of downtown DC, until I spotted a 5k on Pennsylvania Avenue. I paused to watch runners cross the finish line near the Woodrow Wilson building.
5k finish line
I ran through Pershing Park and past the White House. (Fortunately no guards thought my smelly sweat was a threat to national security.)

I stopped to take a photo with Einstein, who sits quietly in a tiny park just north of the National Mall.
Einstein memorial
I headed toward the river, stopping to chat with a couple of runners. At their suggestion, I looped under and back up over the Memorial Bridge to cross on the bridge's south side - which offers better access to the Mount Vernon Trail.
Memorial Bridge
I ran toward Arlington National Cemetery (no running on the grounds, of course, out of respect) and spent some time at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

Then I turned back toward the Potomac and ran part of the Mount Vernon Trail on the Virginia side of the river.
View of Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument from the Mount Vernon Trail
I crossed back over Memorial Bridge, stopping to pay my respects to President Lincoln.
Lincoln Memorial
By this point, I was parched. Fortunately there are dozens of drinking fountains and concession vendors along the Mall, so finding water was a breeze - a $2.25 breeze - but a breeze nonetheless.

I wrapped up my tour with a stroll through the sculpture collection in the National Galleries.
Sculptures in the National Galleries West Building

Have you ever gone sightseeing on the run?
What museum or monument would be first on your list of places to see in DC?

Friday, June 15

Friday potluck

Welcome, friends, to the weekly roundup we refer to as the Friday potluck.

Global brands try their hand at local flavors:

If you travel, you may have walked into a convenience store and noticed packaging that looks familiar, but, on closer inspection, the goodies are just a little bit different. My favorite find, so far, was roast-chicken flavored chips... ahem... crisps in London.
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And chicken-flavored crisps are just the beginning! There are tzatziki flavored chips in Greece and bolognese-flavored ones in the Netherlands.

In China, Wrigley's sells cucumber-mint flavored gum, but red bean paste oreos didn't go over so well. (So sad! Red bean paste is delicious!) Reuters lists some other food hits and misses that the big-name brands have tried.

Speaking of success:

Small races are not always better, but sometimes a small field means that organizers and volunteers can go the extra mile. (I might be a small race convert...)

Recommended reading:

Last weekend's flash flooding prevented me from pursuing my normal outdoor activities. Unfortunately I am seriously allergic to being cooped up indoors. Cabin fever starts setting in within 24 hours.

I needed a good book to help me keep my sanity.

A friend recommended Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The timing couldn't be better. Another friend of mine is through-hiking the PCT right now.

I am seriously hooked on this book. This is not your typical "Eat, Pray, Love" happy-fest about a woman going on holiday to find herself. This book is every bit as gritty and compelling as a backcountry trek should be.

And it is glorious.

(Full review to be posted as soon as I finish...)

Quote of the week:
To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.
Ancient Proverb

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, June 14

This week's thanks

This week I'm thankful for a geeky but stellar conference for work, and that I didn't flub any of my slides.

I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to travel to DC, to meet some incredible people, and to share ideas and best practices. (Yes, folks - days like this make me feel less alone in my geeky-glory!)

I'm thankful a delicious tapas dinner and for stumbling across a farmers market when I needed a snack to tide me over until I could get to tapas.
Downtown DC farmers market
I'm thankful for the incredible works of art in the Smithsonian American Art museum... Unfortunately the docents threatened to tackle me if I tried to take photos of the art.

(Ok... that last bit is a stretch, but it sounds much more interesting than admitting that I followed the "no photos" signs in the galleries!) Fortunately photography is allowed in the spectacular indoor courtyard.
Courtyard between the national portrait and American art museums
I'd also like to thank (again) the Capitol Hill Runners for a great Thursday morning run.

What are you thankful for this week?

Postcards from DC

I'd like to thank the Capitol Hill Running Club for a warm welcome this morning. I have been to the National Mall plenty of times, but never at dawn... In the early morning hours, the droves of tourists are gone, and in their place are a few dozen dedicated runners.

It was beautiful.
Sunrise over Grant
Jefferson memorial, as seen across the Tidal Basin
The Capitol... quiet before the workday begins
I'd also like to thank the Capitol Hill Runners for not shunning me when I whipped out my cell phone for some photos. (Ok, so the Mall wasn't completely empty of tourists...)

Wednesday, June 13

Packing tips and travel prep

I'm off to DC for a few days, and as I've been preparing for this trip, I realized I have a few travel tips to share:
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  • I travel so often that some things just stay in my suitcase... These three "kits" make traveling a breeze and make packing a snap: 
    • "Sleep" kit: contains an inflatable pillow, eye mask, and earplugs
    • "Emergency repairs" kit: consists of a couple of band-aids, a safety pin, nail file, tweezers, and a handful each of asprin and pepto-bismol tablets. I rarely have to use these goodies, but when I've needed to, I've been glad they were handy!
    • "Shower" kit: which has all of my 3-ounce or smaller travel bottles. The bottles always stay in their tote bag. I just make sure to refill each before heading out the door.
  • Back in the days when I didn't rack up so many frequent flier miles, I had a spreadsheet list of items to pack. Before a trip, I'd customize the list. For example, I'd move "scarf" and "gloves" onto the list for cold-weather travel, or add "flip-flops" and "swimsuit" for warmer vacations. Using that list, I never once arrived at my destination without a toothbrush.
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Destination Preparations:
  • Investigate the local running clubs (even if it is a work trip) because the best way to see a city is to run through it.
  • Solicit restaurant and sight-seeing recommendations from my Twitter and Facebook networks.
  • Print a map of the local transit system and a road map to review on the airplane. This reduces those awkward "looking like a tourist" moments wherein I'm standing on a street corner trying to unfold a map the size of a parachute. (I also use my cell phone's map application, but the text on screen is never as clear as a good 8.5"x11" sheet of paper.)
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What item is on your "don't leave home without it" list?
What types of background research do you do about your destination?

Monday, June 11

Duck, duck, goose!

13.13 inches of rain in one day, severe flash flooding, and a county-wide State of Emergency declared...

Clearly, some critters fared better during this storm than others. Two local ducks decided to use their wet-weather advantage to take over the world!

These two chased me through a parking lot while I was out running this morning!

I've been chased by dogs before.

But ducks?

This is definitely a first.

Of course, I thought these fowl beasts were such a threat that I went home, grabbed some stale bread, and went back with my camera.

Which, I suppose, means they did win after all. They chased me and stole my lunch. Regular high school bullies, those ducks!

What's your best wild animal story?