Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I’ve been calling myself a runner for over half my life now, but at the ripe old age of 30, 2011 was truly a breakthrough year for me.


Highlights included being selected as part of Team MARATHON Bars, achieving an official 5k time that starts in 19:xx, and taking several minutes off my 10K and half marathon times.


I obtained my RRCA Coaching Certification, participated in my very first marathon relay, and even survived a trail race.


We traveled to races and abroad for vacation.


I enjoyed spending more time with my mini-me during training runs and races, and except for a minor hiccup, remained relatively injury free.

 I’d say it was a good year.


Having now broken many of my long standing goals, it leaves me re-evaluating what I want to achieve in 2012. I’ve been chasing the same goals for so long it’s weird to think I can finally put some of them to rest. There are always new challenges to be had, so it’s time to freshen up my list.

Some possibilities:


First there’s the NYC Marathon. Registration for those meeting “guaranteed entry standards” opens on January 2nd. I’ve applied through the lottery system twice before, and didn’t get in either time. I have a qualifying time for guaranteed entry this year. Like Boston, they’re making the standards tougher for 2013…..impossibly hard in my opinion, so it’s either now or never if I want to take advantage of a guaranteed entry. Mr. Blondie has given me his blessing, as this race holds a special place in his heart too. His dad ran the NYC Marathon several times in its early years.

It’s been over 5 years since I ran my last full marathon. If you’ll recall, I didn’t exactly train properly for my previous marathons. I got by running on a whole bunch of haphazard mileage.

If I were to run another marathon I’d want to do it the “right way” this time around, by not only training harder, but SMARTER than I have in the past. My goal would be to break 3:30 which is in line with my other race times.

The longest I can run with the jogging stroller is about 10 miles, so I haven’t entertained the idea of racing anything longer than a half marathon since Emily was born. Since Mr. Blondie typically works weekends and my gym has a 2 hour childcare limit, this would mean doing my 16, 18, 20+ milers after work during the week. During the summer, IN GEORGIA. I get a little woozy just thinking about it.

Other people manage to do it. I know I could too. Question is, do I really WANT to do it?


Another option I’m considering is investing in a road bike so I can attempt duathlons and sprint tri’s this year. I’d have to learn one/two completely new sports. If that’s not a good personal challenge, I don’t know what is. However a road bike is a big cash investment. Mr. Blondie is supportive of this as well (He’s one of those people that likes to tell me knees aren’t going to last forever if I keep running. It's my eyes that may wear out from rolling them every time he says that.), but after talking him into the elliptical and treadmill, it doesn’t seem very fair to spend even more money on one of my hobbies.

Plus, if I’m worried about finding the time and freedom to do long runs for a marathon, where do I think I’m going to find time for group rides and swims?


TICK. TOCK. TICK. TOCK.

To add to the noise in my head is the amplified sound of my biological clock ticking. We were waiting for Mr. Blondie to make some more career advancements before that happened, but we’d like to give Emily a sibling sometime before she’s in high school kindergarten.

If it looks like there are going to be positive job changes, this may become a top priority. Bow chica wow wow.

  
Decisions, decisions……

Friday, December 23, 2011

So Full of It (Biscoff Truffles & More)

If you still haven't gotten enough sugar this holiday season, then come on in! I've got plenty for you in this post.

Last Sunday I was going to try my hand at making Oreo Truffles to give as gifts to our neighbors, but then decide to one-up it by using Biscoff Cookies. We happened to have a bunch of single serve packets floating around in our pantry. Surprising, I know. Now what to do with those mini packs of peanuts and pretzels....


I followed the standard formula for Oreo Truffles but substituted Biscoff Cookies (12 packs, 24 cookies total) in place of the Oreos. I also mixed in about 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and half a bag of white chocolate chips for good measure.


It made exactly 26 truffles. Mr.Blondie and I took care of the spares. Deliciousness.


Moving on to my next project, it was time to make Cranberry Bliss Bars for my co-workers. If you like the Starbucks version, this recipe is spot-on.

Starbucks Version
Cake Base:
 1.5 sticks butter, softened
1 C brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 tsp ground powder ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 C flour
1/4 C minced dried cranberries
1/4 C white chocolate chips

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla

Drizzle:
2 Tbsp minced dried cranberries
1/3 C white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 pan

Beat together butter and sugar and then add eggs and vanilla beating until light and fluffy. Add flour, powdered ginger and salt. Beat well. Fold in the cranberries and chocolate chips. Spread batter in pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.

My version
After the cake cools, mix all frosting ingredients together and spread over top of cake. Sprinkle with minced cranberries. Use a cake decorating bag of melted chocolate with a small round decorating tip to drizzle the chocolate over the cake. Cut into bars.

Bars and Truffles, wrapped up and ready to hand out.





I wasn't the only one getting crafty. Mr. Blondie helped occupy Emily while I worked in the kitchen.


He also finished making a special Christmas gift for Emily. What started off as a standard plank of mahogany is now a seat for a rope swing in our yard.


Do you give any homemade gifts? Do you like receiving homemade gifts?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Safety First

Hey kids! Hope everyone finished up their online shopping. Today was your last chance to order in time for Christmas without paying for expedited shipping.

I made up for lost time and completed most of my shopping this week. There were just a couple more things I needed to order. Something skimpy and attention getting….

Mr. Blondie, if you’re reading you’ll want to stop right here.

First I ordered two of this little number. What’s sexier than some personal safety equipment?


There's less than 3 weeks until to go until we run the Ragnar Florida Keys. Don’t ask me why since only one person will be running at a time, but every member of our team needs to have their own vest.

Mr. Blondie joked that he’d swipe a couple the next time he was in Canada (they’re required to wear reflective vests when they do the walk-around to inspect the plane). However the Canadian authorities would probably frown upon that, so best we buy our own :)

Also in my order, two of these guys. Nothing says I’m sexy and I know it, like putting a flashing LED light on your butt.

Come and get it

We also need headlamps, but I think we might have some working ones with our camping gear. Remind me to check on that....

I plan to wrap everything up and put it under the tree. I’m sure they’ll be the highlight of Mr. Blondie’s Christmas morning (pun intended). I don’t think his reaction will top these kids though. Have you seen this yet? I challenge you not to crack-up.



On the fitness front:

I’ve been feeling a little wonky this week. I haven’t had an appetite which is so unlike me, and I’ve been getting bad stomach cramps after eating. Emily's told me her stomach hurt a few times too. It's probably some daycare bug. I took it easy with only two early morning workouts.

Tuesday: 5 miles treadmill (@7.0, 1% incline), 25 mins elliptical

Thursday: 4 miles treadmill (@7.5, 1% incline), 20 mins elliptical

To make up for the shortcomings of this week, the plan is to run at least 8 miles with the stroller tomorrow morning and then do a spin class/run combo on Sunday. Mr. Blondie has a nice stretch of days off until the end of the month, so hopefully I'll get to more of my beloved spin classes than usual this week. My gym bag is packed already! Oh the things that excite me.

Are there any odd unique gifts you bought for someone this year?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holidaze

Hey all! I know things have been slow around here lately.

I’ve been waffling back and forth about running one more race for the year, but I think I’ve missed the boat on that one. I don’t see anything nearby until New Year’s Day. It’s ok, I’m perfectly content letting 2011 end on the high note that was the my new half marathon PR.

Since I’m not training for anything particular at the moment, my workouts were just a mix of whatever I felt like doing. Let’s be honest, that's what my workouts are like even when I do have a race in mind.

Mon: 8 miles tm (@7.0, 1% incline)
Tues: off
Weds: 5 miles tm (@7.0, 1% incline), 15 mins elliptical
Thursday: off
Friday: 5 miles tm (alternated between 6.8 and 8.5, 1% incline). 20mins elliptical
Saturday: 3 mi tm (7.5, 1% incline), 1 hr spin class, 1 mi tm (7.5, 1% incline)
Sunday: 65 minute run w/ the jogging stroller

Baby, it's cold outside

The early morning workout thing turned out well. Morning exercise has always been my thing. Even in college I’d be worked-out, dressed for the day, and clicking away at some assignment before my roommates had rolled out of bed. It wasn’t until this year that morning workouts disappeared for the most part. Mainly because I have a hard time letting things go and have been staying up later and later at night. If there’s laundry that needs to be folded, or dishes in the sink, I can’t go to sleep until it’s all take care of. Oh, and there’s also that time suck known as the internet.

Making sure I was in bed by 9-9:30 last week made getting up at 4:30 not so painful. Actually I was so productive after work with all my newly found “free time”, I had most of my chore list already crossed off by the time the weekend rolled around.

Our Friday night was livened up with an impromptu visit from our friends Elijah and Adelle. They were making their way from San Diego to Miami for the RnR half, but the connecting flights out of Atlanta were too full. I thought I’d be envious, but after the whole FLL 13.1 debacle I was relieved not to be making this trip as well. Luckily they got the first flight out Saturday morning and didn’t have to drive the rest of the way!

I rather enjoyed having some down-time this weekend to hang out Mr. Blondie and Emily. However, approximately 0 of the dozen or so gifts I have yet to buy were purchased. Shopping for my family members is so hard. That’s something I have to get cracking on this week.

How’s ar eyour holiday plans coming along?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ahead of Schedule

Christmas is in the air!

Normally we're rushing around a week before Christmas trying to get all this stuff done.

The tree has been purchased.


And decorated. Emily makes a good extension ladder.

Go, Go, Gadget toddler!

Cookies have been baked.


Not sure what's up with the fleece hat. She insisted on wearing it around the house all weekend. It made for a good hairnet I suppose.


Emily was the artist behind the cookies on the left. The green mess on the right was 100% me playing around with a pastry bag. If you can get past the looks, they taste really good.


Lights have been hung.


And Christmas cards are almost ready for the mail.


So with all the holiday hustle and bustle, not much running happened between the race last Saturday and this weekend. I ran for 45 minutes on Tuesday, and ran for an hour with the stroller on Friday night. That was it.

I was long overdue for a rest week anyway, and wouldn't have taken it otherwise. It was a good thing to have it sort of forced on me.

While some rest was warranted, I was feeling a little stabby by yesterday morning. Missing workouts makes me a turbo bitch little grumpy. I hit the gym for an hour spin class and 3 miles on the treadmill making everything right with the world again.

My plan is to get to bed at a decent hour every night this week so I can wake up at 4:30 to exercise before work. Shorting myself on sleep ain't pretty either. It's a delicate balance.

What's on your to-do list this week? Do you keep your workouts on track during the holidays? How do you do it?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zooma-ing to the Finish (Half Marathon Recap)

Let's just think of that half-marathon 2 weeks ago as my PR dress rehearsal shall we? I come bearing happier news this time.

photo courtesy of Lee

When I arrived at Chateau Elan on Saturday, it was an overcast morning with the temps in the upper 40‘s. It was going to be a good day for running and I knew it. I could feel the competitive spark re-ignite inside, the one I was missing in Ft. Lauderdale a couple weeks ago.

While waiting in the starting area, I chatted with Tina, Kristy, and Lee. We shared our goals for the day, along with words of encouragement. As a race ambassador, Kristy had run the course a couple times and was able to give us some pointers on what to expect. It really helped me get my head right.

photo courtesy of Tina

I had charged my Garmin the night before, but when I took it out of my bag at the race it was already on. Uh oh. At mile 2, I got the expected “low battery” warning on the screen. This sent me to the brink of an anxiety attack. Seriously, I was freaked out. There were no course clocks, so I’d be running completely blind.

I started bargaining with the man upstairs to take my iPod, please just leave me my Garmin!

My splits were 7:18, 6:49 (yikes!), 7:11 for the first 3 miles. I felt really good. Too good, and I was worried I’d set myself up for a crash with a fast start.

Just before mile 4 is when it shut off. Oh the terror, I was left to pace myself purely by feel now.

Literally running blind here  (source)

If I’m really pushing myself I can crank out 3-4 miles at 7:30/mi pace on my training runs. Typically I hover around the 7:50-8:00/mile mark for my runs. It still amazes me to see numbers in the low 7’s when I’m racing. To see a sub 7 minute mile during a half….how does that even happen?

It was probably a good thing after all. I know from previous races I let the Garmin mess with my head. I would have doubted myself and pulled back more had I seen a split starting with a 6.

Right around mile 4 is also when the pack had thinned out, leaving me as second female. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s harder to be the chaseé rather than the chaser. I could see the lead runner ahead of me the entire time, and while she served as a target, I was more worried about someone sneaking up behind me. I kept anxiously looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was there.

I’d rank this course as moderately hilly by Atlanta standards. They were the “right kind of hills” if you want to call them that, similar to the one pictured below. Even though you felt the burn by the top, you had a nice downhill to recover. Different muscle groups were being worked, and it keep it from feeling too monotonous.

We were treated to this roller coaster ride the entire way (source)

It was only the last 3 miles or so when you got back onto the Chateau Elan property where you encountered the short, steep variety of hills that were packed closely together. And don’t forget the uphill finish. With a half mile to go you could see the finish line...sitting on top of a hill with a meandering road to reach it.

NOT Chateau Elan.....just what it looked like through my eyes as I came into the home stretch.

 The killer? They were in the process of switching the finish line clock back from 5k timing (they offered both distances )to the half marathon as I crossed the line. I had no idea what my finish time was! I had to wait to find out.

I was a hurtin' chica, but I felt strong to the end. Boy was I psyched to see my finishing time was 1:33:33 when I checked at the timing kiosk inside. A new PR!!!


The post race refreshments they provided were, um, interesting….

I get that they were going for a healthy mix of carbs and protein, so I’ll give them that....but yeah, that is a peeled hard-boiled egg in a baggie (that had been sitting out unrefrigerated).


There was an ample supply of champagne flowing to make up for it though. Maybe not what an empty, dehydrated belly needed, but I was in a celebrating mood and sampled a little of each kind. (Not to worry, I was responsible :))

(source)

Not only was it a good day for racing, but it was fun day with friends. Everyone ended the day with some speedy race times, and a lot of smiles.

If you told me in the beginning of this year I'd be ending it with a 1:33:33 half marathon finish, I would have thought you were nuts! But there you have it, the 6th and final half marathon of 2011 is in the history books.

Stats:
Chip time: 1:33:33
Pace: 7:09/mi
Overall: 3/348
Gender: 2/321
AG: 1/51