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Surf City Half Marathon – Take-Aways and Happy Places

shirt medal

Last Sunday I had the thrill of running my third half marathon – The Surf City half marathon in Huntington Beach, CA.  It was a thrill for a couple of reasons:  1) I traded in the 2 degree temperature of Eastern WA for the 68 degree temperature of the beach: before after

2) I ran the race with my sister, Andrea.  We are both loner runners but we made an exception this time and ran together.  We even came up with little hand signals to communicate with each other so we didn’t have to take out our ear buds.

Andrea was really sweet and ran at my slow pace which, at times, ended up being a fast walk.  She was a great running partner and terrific cheerleader…which I really needed toward the end (as usual).

READY FOR HALF1BEFORE AT SUNSET  Beautiful pre-race sunrise

After a race, I like to think about what I did well and what I would do differently.  Here are my take-aways from the Surf City half marathon:

WHAT I DID WELL

  1. I finished – I savored each moment of the race, enjoyed the scenery, took my time, then crossed the finish line.  OK, that’s crap.  I did finish but I sucked air the whole time, I whined about my toes hurting, I took lots of short walk breaks toward the end, then I did that thing I do at mile 11 – I feel like I can’t do it.  Thankfully, Andrea was there doing the countdown for me, “We only have 2 more miles.  We only have 1 more mile.   Now only 5 more minutes. We’re almost done.”  That extra encouragement really helped!FOLLOWING ANDREA1
  2. I learned about the importance of stretching – I always stretch after a run.  Short run, long run, whatever…I stretch.  What I didn’t realize is that my body needs additional stretching so I have incorporated daily stretching into my hard core workout routine.
  3. New hard core workout routine – OK, it’s not really hard core but I did participate in a 12 week training program twice a week called Strong Runner.  It focused on running drills, TRX and core strengthening.  It was a great class and I learned so much about speed, form, strength (and I met some great people to boot).   Unfortunately, I was a little over zealous with the speed training and hurt my foot, which was actually the result of my hips being super tight, hence the significance of item #2 above….stretching.  Even though my program is over, I plan to incorporate the things I learned into my regular exercise routine.
  4. I can’t think of a 4th thing I did well.  Oh, wait.  I really enjoyed my post race beer.  I think beer should be the new recovery drink.  So long chocolate milk, hello brewski.

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:

  1. Stick to a training plan – I’m usually pretty strict about sticking with a training plan.  This time, however, I was all over the place.  I started with Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk program (which is what I always use).  Then I got into Chi running and threw a bit of that in there.  Then I made up my own schedule.  Then I changed my schedule because I didn’t like it.  Then I just did what I wanted when I wanted.  Then 4 weeks before the race I hurt my foot and stopped running all together.  Then I went to physical therapy for some help with my foot.  Then I did some indoor cycling training since I couldn’t run.  Then it was race time and I felt ultra unprepared.  Next time I’m sticking to a plan (and not getting injured).
  2. Do not run 13 miles 2 months before the race – Why?  Because deep down inside I became a little over confident of my abilities since I knew I could run the distance.  The result…I did not stick to my semi-non-existent training plan.   What usually works for me is to schedule my longest run at 12 miles so that there is a sense of excitement when I cross the finish line at 13.1.  Running 13 miles before the half was anti-climatic for me.
  3. Improve my mental preparedness – I do not know how to overcome that feeling of “I can’t” toward the end of a race.  It should be the time when I get excited that the end is near but my brain does not go to that happy place.  When I looked over at Andrea I could tell she was a happy runner.  She was running effortlessly, good form, energized, smiling.  Smiling?? What the what?  I have all kinds of things I say to motivate myself (“run the mile you’re in,” “if you feel pain,  that means you’re alive,” “smile…look like you’re having fun.”).  None of those things worked.  The one thing that did work was whenever we saw a photographer, we would pick up the pace and smile so there was evidence that we were running and having a blast!

    HAPPY RUNNERS1

It was a great day and I really did have a blast!  After we crossed the finish line, Andrea was chanting, “I feel so great,” and I was chanting, “I need to stretch.”  Then we made our way to the VIP lounge, enjoyed our recovery beer, recounted the race with other runners, and BOOM, my brain found it’s happy place.  I guess my endorphins kick in a little later than most (or I need a beer at mile 11).  I was proud of finishing this race and proud of my sister for sticking with me.  She could have left my sorry ass behind but she didn’t.  What a good little sister!

AFTER HALF1

So tell me, toward the end of a race, how does your brain find its happy place?

the joys of doing it yourself

This holiday season I have been busy with Do-It-Yourself projects (or DIY for the totally hip and crafty folks).

I wanted to share some of the cool things I’ve been working on this holiday season.  I’ve broken the projects down into 3 levels of difficulty:

  1. Easy, requires very little concentration – You can work on these projects while drinking a couple glasses of wine as your iPod blasts your favorite tunes.
  2. Easy, requires some concentration – You can accomplish this project while enjoying 1 glass of wine, however loud-ish music might throw off your concentration.
  3. Hard – Don’t drink and craft.  Music is optional, might want to listen to smart music like classical music.

So here are the fun projects I have been throwing myself into lately:

  • Level 1- The DIY Dog Toy.  You can probably even drink a martini and manage to successfully make these guys.

diydogtoys

These are simply scraps of material braided with cotton batting used for quilting.  Just cut 2 strips of batting + 1 strip of brightly colored fabric (2” wide x 28”-30” long) then braid.  That’s it!  These are puppy tested and approved!

  • Level 1 – Adorable Hair Ties.  These are so easy, I’m embarrassed that I even gave them as gifts this holiday season.

diyhairties1 diyhairties2

These are great for girls because boys don’t usually wear them.  They’re great for runners, too (girl runners).  If you can tie a knot, you can make these.  If you can’t tie a knot, I’m sorry.  To make these adorable hair ties, cut 8.5”-9.5” lengths of fold over elastic and tie in a knot.  Congratulations, you’re done.

What’s fold over elastic, you ask?  It’s the cool patterned elastic used to make hair ties.  I found a great wholesale place on-line that sells most elastic for approx. $1.00/yard (some are a few cents more, some less).  You can make around 4 hair ties with 1 yard.  My new go to place for hair tie supplies:  My Sunshine Shoppe.  If you like this kind of stuff, you must check it out!

  • Level 2 – Headbands.  I wrote about my headband adventures here and demonstrated how easy they are to make.  I’ll be honest, they are a little harder than braiding or tying knots.  They include a teeny tiny bit of sewing…which is why they are in the Level 2 category.

diyheadbandfinishedside Instructions for these easy headbands can be found here.

  • Level 3 – Funky, Awesome, Sweet Pencil Case (or to put it more generically, zippered pouch).  I found this idea on Pinterest and bought a bunch of candy, ate it, then made these cute ‘zippered pouches’:

diyskittlesbag diymms

Here are the instructions for making these tasty pencil cases!  Now this project requires zipper installation so if you’re like me and don’t have much zipper experience, don’t get discouraged.  Who am I kidding…you’ll be discouraged but don’t stop trying.  You’ll get it!

  • Level 3 – Tool Roll.  What’s a tool roll, right?  It’s this:

diyrolluptool

It’s something for artsy people to use to organize their artsy tools, like paint brushes and such.  You place said tools in the Tool Roll, roll it up, tie it then consider yourself organized!  This is for my mom for her belated Christmas gift.  Surprise, Mom!!!  This is a level 3 but could almost go to Level 4.  It requires an immense amount of concentration and direction following…neither of which are my strong points.  So this gift took a little longer than usual…thank goodness for seam rippers!

I found the instructions in a book by Lotta Jansdotter called, “Simple Sewing.”  When it comes to me and a sewing machine, there is nothing simple about sewing.  Despite the misleading title, it’s a great book!

So these are the projects that have kept me busy ‘doing-it-myself’ this past month.  Working on projects for others brings me joy (when I’m not cussing at the sewing machine) so I hope the recipients experience a little joy and happiness when they open their awesome ‘DIY’ gifts!

Merry Christmas!

Trail running – A Beginner’s Observations

I recently signed up for an 8-week trail run training program.  I thought it would be pretty cool to get off the concrete, see some new sights, get some exercise and train for the Wild Moose Chase 10K trail run coming up on 9/29. (side note: I’m not crazy about the name of that run…I mean really, “Wild Moose Chase?’  Not enticing to a slow runner who is terrified of moose. )

Anyway, next Monday is Week 7 of the training program and, as a new trail runner, I have made some observations I’d like to share with anyone out there who might want to try out trail running.

OBSERVATION #1 – Trails are hilly.  I don’t know why I pictured trail running like this:                           photo source here

Green, lush, soft dirt for my feet to pitter patter on.  Hell no.  The trails I have been running on look like this:

trailrunning1 trailrunning2  hillytrails

If you can’t tell by the pictures, this is some seriously rocky,  hilly and steep terrain.  My feet weren’t quite pitter-pattering on this stuff…they were more like galumphing.

OBSERVATION #2 – Trails are dirty.  Sure, they’re made of dirt with a dash of basalt rock, but I didn’t know I would get so dirty.  I came to the conclusion that if a runner is  doing it right, at the end of their trail run, they will have a nice coating of dust around their ankles and legs.  Maybe even some mud!!   Nothing cuter that taking off your socks only to find a perfect dirt circle around your ankle.  Kind of like an ankle bracelet from nature.  And speaking of dirt, your shoes will get thrashed so don’t even think about trying to keep them looking clean.  Trail running will take your shoes to a whole new level of dirtiness and smelliness.

OBSERVATION #3 – Trail running is harder than I thought.  I assumed that since I have been running for the last couple of years, I would be in pretty spectacular shape (she wrote sarcastically).  Well, not so much.  Running on those trails, up those hills in 90+ degree heat was really hard.  I was huffing and puffing as if I had never run before.  My calves burned, my legs quivered and my sweating was profuse.  I was a hot mess…literally.

OBSERVATION #4 – Trail running can have some dangerous elements to it so running in a group setting is the way to go.  There is safety in numbers! We all have our little quirks and mine is being a runner with an over active imagination.  I can’t help it.  I could never run on trails alone because I would be worried about so many things.  I’d worry about a deer or moose chasing me.  I’d worry that a serial killer was lurking in the woods, stalking me until his moment of attack.  I’d worry that I might stumble on the remains of said serial killer’s other victims.  I’d worry about tripping, falling, breaking my leg and no one finding me for days or weeks.  So, with that said, I believe running in a group, or with a buddy, is a safe bet (safer, at least).

OBSERVATION #5 – Trail running often translates to trail walking.  As a beginner, I can tell you that I do a lot more walking/hiking than I do running.  I kind of feel like I’m misleading you when I say I’ve been doing some trail running.   Truth be told, when I go uphill, I walk.  When I go downhill, I walk (only when it’s steep and rocky).  I try not to get disappointed over the amount of walking I do because I’m new at this trail running business and I still have a lot to learn.

OBSERVATION #6 – Trail running can be hilly, dirty, hard and dangerous but let me tell you….trail running is also spectacular, rewarding, breathtaking and well worth the extra effort!  Last week I completed a 5 mile trail run/walk/hike and when I got to the top of Eagle Peak, I completely forgot the challenges I experienced getting there!  The panoramic view of the valley was amazing!

trailrunningEaglePeak

rantothetop

I made it to the top and was able enjoy the downhill run on the way back.  Most importantly, I was proud of my trail running/walking/hiking accomplishment.

Anyone out there an experienced trail runner?  I’ve got my big 10K trail run coming up and I’m a little nervous and could use your advice.

It’s Fun to Play ‘Butcher the Lyrics’

When I run, I prefer to tune out my ‘deep’ thoughts and tune in to my pretty amazing running playlist.  I plug those neon pink Yurbuds in my ears, crank up the music, and play a fun game I made up called “Butcher the Lyrics.”   It’s a game you play when you’re alone on a long run and need something to distract you to make your run go by super fast so you try to figure out the lyrics of each song.  Sure, my cool game may sound rather dull but for someone with hearing loss, deciphering lyrics is anything but boring.  It’s like solving a mystery or putting the pieces of a  puzzle together and I just LOVE puzzles….and mysteries!

Sometimes, when I think I have the lyrics all figured out, I Google the actual lyrics only to discover how deaf I really am.   Check out some of my recently butchered lyrics:

  • Cups by Anna Kendrick – There’s a verse in the chorus that I swear says:  WENDY’S LYRICS = “You’re gonna miss me by my walk.  You’re gonna miss me by my taco.  You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”  Now you know and I know she’s not talking about ‘missing her taco’.  REAL LYRICS =  “You’re gonna miss me by my walk.  You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh.  You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”   Let’s face it, isn’t it more fun to sing “You’re gonna miss me by my taco?”
  • Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke  – I didn’t know “Blurred Lines” was the title of the song  for the longest time, which is why my interpretation of the lyrics is a little off.  WENDY’S LYRICS =  “I have these good times…..”  REAL LYRICS = “I hate these Blurred Lines….”
  • Brave by Sara Bareilles – Once again, not knowing the title of the song, I butchered the lyrics.  WENDY’S LYRICS = “Say what you wanna say, let the words fall out.  Honestly, I want to see you baby” (you have to stretch out the word “baby” so it sounds like “baybay”).  REAL LYRICS = “Say what you wanna say, let the words fall out.  Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”
  • Mirrors by Justin Timberlake – Ok so I couldn’t sing this song even with the lyrics in front of me because he sings so fast.  But the bridge is where I was thrown for a loop.   WENDY’S LYRICS = “Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soap, I can tell you there’s no place we could go.”  REAL LYRICS = “Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul, I can tell you there’s no place we couldn’t go.”  Whatever JT.

I guess the one good thing about hearing loss is I have a new, fun game to play while running.   The bad thing is, when I do discover the REAL lyrics, I’m often disappointed and prefer my WENDY lyrics…they’re much more entertaining!  Wouldn’t YOU rather have a pocket full of soap than a pocket full of soul?!

Do you have any songs that you have butchered?  Did you ever find out the real lyrics?  Were you disappointed?

Adventures in Seattle – Part 1: Death By Chocolate. Not Really, but Almost

News Flash.  I’ve lived in WA state for over a decade and had never once visited Seattle.  Never ever.  When people learned that about me they would give me a sad and confused, yet judgmental look.  Yes, it bothered me but I’m no longer a pathetic loser.  My husband took me to Seattle for my anni-birth-a-vers-day.  Or birth-a-versary.  You decide what you want to call a combo 46th birthday + 20th wedding anniversary celebration.

This particular post is about the “Chocolate Indulgence Tour” by Savor Seattle Tours.  My husband loves chocolate and I love my husband (and chocolate) so I bit the chocolate bullet and booked the walking tour that would take us to 7 different chocolaty places to sample 17 different chocolaty delights.  The two hour, $50/per person tour was awesome but at the end of the tour, I thought I was going to die of chocolate overindulgence.   In fact, they should change the name to the “Chocolate Overindulgence Tour.”  The thought of consuming another piece of chocolate was unfathomable…at least for the remainder of the day.  The feeling went away within 24 hours.

Here’s a look at how chocolate almost killed me:

Stop 1:  Cupcake Royale.  Here we sampled a mini chocolate cupcake and a mini-scoop of fudgy chocolate ice cream.  We also learned a bit about the cacao bean and raw chocolate.

cupcakeroyale

Stop 2:  The Chocolate Box.  Super tasty chocolate samplings included:  Mexican chocolate – salt & pepper flavored.  This stuff made my mouth happy.  We tried some REAL white chocolate, not that waxy crap in the grocery store.  The flavor – Lemon and Pepper…weird but wonderful.  Then we sampled some chocolate with chili peppers and something strange…POP ROCKS!  That was a rockin’ firecracker surprise.  Then we had a sip of some liquid chocolate (aka:  hot chocolate) that made me want to cry it was so good.

tazamexicanchocolate    chuaochocolate    gustochocolate

Stop 3:  Kukuruza Gourmet Popcorn.   Guess what they put on their popcorn…Chocolate!  Go figure.  We sampled Rocky Road popcorn, caramel and chocolate covered popcorn and cinnamon bun popcorn.  Crazy, huh?

Stop 4:  Fran’s Chocolates.  This was a real upscale chocolate joint.  We sampled a solid dark chocolate candy heart, a chocolate truffle and a WTH amazing salted caramel.  Check out this cool photo they had hanging in their shop.  An artist created the original chocolate masterpiece.   The first picture is from across the room, then I got a little closer and the last picture is right in front of the photo.

frans3   frans1 frans2

Cool photo……But wait……..It gets even cooler………What?  It’s made of chocolate!

Stop 5:  The Confectional.  This was where I started to go downhill.  This was a cool place in Pike’s Place Market.  It was a “cheesecake gone wild” situation.  We sampled quadruple chocolate cheesecake, regular cheesecake and then topped it all off with more liquid chocolate with some chili powder sprinkled on top.

Stop 6:  Perennial Tea Room.  This was a non-chocolate joint.  Thank you Lord!  We sat and had a spot of tea and relaxed before heading to our final chocolate destination.

Stop 7:  Dahlia Bakery.  I think I was in a pre-chocolate coma state but I managed to keep eating.  We tried a crazy chocolate cookie thing and then a sugar-coated, light and fluffy donut-like thing.  I don’t recall the details…mind was starting to blackout.

Good news…I didn’t actually die.  Bad news…I don’t think I can type the word chocolate one more time so I am going to close by saying…if I was forced to die from overindulgence, I would want it to be death by….you know what.

p.s. Guess how many times I typed the “C” word in this post?

I Made a Birthday Cake for My Dog

I always wondered what kind of person would bake a birthday cake for their dog.  I guess I’m the kind of person who would do such a thing.  Part of the reason is I like to think I’m a pretty crafty chick (I’m not saying I’m a pretty and a crafty chick…I’m saying I’m a chick who’s pretty crafty).  It was Finn’s 1st birthday so what better time to test out my canine culinary skills?!

I found a doggie birthday cake recipe on allrecipe.com and a frosting recipe from The Daily Pup (yes, I made frosting).

The recipe calls for an egg, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup cooking oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/3 cup honey (optional – I did not use), 1 cup shredded carrots, 1 cup whole wheat or white flour and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

dogcake

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 6 cup ring mold.  (I used a square brownie pan).
  2. Combine the egg, peanut butter, oil, vanilla, and honey, if desired, in a large bowl; blend well. Stir in the carrots and mix thoroughly. Sift together the flour and baking soda and fold into the carrot mixture. Spoon cake batter into prepared pan.

The “batter” looked something like this (blah):  cakemix

   3.  Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes; then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Don’t be surprised when your “cake” turns out 1 inch thick and is the consistency of shortbread.  It pretty much looked like an epic dog cake fail.  That’s when I decided frosting was necessary to hide the flaws (actual frosting recipe link here).  I used a light cream cheese base, added peanut butter and a dash of canola oil so I could spread it on the shortbread…I mean cake.  Since the cake was so flat, I cut it in quarters and stacked the layers.  Here’s the finished product.  You’re probably digging the fancy carrot pile on top of the cake, aren’t you?  That’s the crafty part of me I mentioned earlier.

finisheddogcake 

Truth be told, I only frosted the 2 sides of the cake that you see in the photo.  My perfectionist side lost the battle to my frustrated, the-dogs-won’t-even-give-a-crap-about-what-the-cake-looks-like side.  When baking for dogs, you need to know when enough is enough.

I decided to keep my day job and not pursue a career in canine baked goods.  But if times ever get real tough and I need to rely on my mad canine culinary skills, at least I know this cake was puppy approved!

dogcakecollage

Happy first birthday Finn!

finnsfirstbday

Have you ever baked goodies for your dog?  Was it an epic success or an epic fail?

10 Commandments of a Color Run

My son and I participated in our first color run last weekend.  It was the Color Me Rad 5k run, to be exact.  Not only was it the first Color Me Rad run for my son and I, it was the first Color Me Rad 5k for our city!   Based on the number of people who showed up and the energy level that morning, I’d say the event was a HUGE success.

If you’re not familiar with a color run, here’s how the Color Me Rad organizers describe it:  “When Zoloft and balloon animals can’t seem to raise your spirits, the best way to brighten your life is to run Color Me Rad 5k….Start out as clean as a newborn babe, and throughout the run, you’ll coat your chaffing thighs with blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow until your face, shirt, and body come out silkscreened like a tie-dyed hippie on the other side. Yup…that is how you turn regular running into The Art of Running!”

Since I have one color run under my belt, I think of myself as a color run expert now and in a position to give advice on how to prepare for a color run.  So for anyone considering signing up for a color run, check out these 10 Commandments:

COMMANDMENT #1:  Wear white.  Lots and lots of white.   Go to a thrift store and buy a white shirt, a white hat, white socks and a white handkerchief.  Just don’t wear clothes you care about too much.  They will get thrashed.

clothingaftermath

COMMANDMENT #2:  Speaking of a handkerchief…I suggest wearing one so that you don’t inhale the color bomb contents.  What is a color bomb made of, you ask?  Well, it’s basically cornstarch with pizzazz.  Inhaling it won’t kill you but I just didn’t feel like tie-dying my lungs.

Here’s a before picture.  I know, I know…we look like a couple of thugs getting ready to rob a bank.

colormeradbothbefore

COMMANDMENT #3:  Wear sunglasses.  Color Me Rad provides each participant with some groovy shades and all the runners were wearing them.  Not only do they make you look cool, they will protect your eyeballs from the color bomb dust that will surely make its way to your peepers.

COMMANDMENT #4:  Wear shoes you don’t care about.  This is not the time to break out your new kicks.  Wear the oldest, rattiest, gnarliest running shoes that you own.   Something that, if they turned into the color of cantaloupe, you would not be saddened.

COMMANDMENT #5:  Bring a trash bag to put your dirty shoes and clothes in after the race.  You will NOT want those nasty, colorful items in your car.  Bring some flip flops to wear on the way home and you are set!

COMMANDMENT #6:  Speaking of nasty, colorful things…your clothes will be wretched, yet beautifully colored.  You should bring a t-shirt to change into after the race.  Or do what my son did.  He just wore two shirts and when the race was over, he took off shirt #1 and was already wearing clean(ish) shirt #2.

COMMANDMENT #7:  Bring a sheet or towel for each participant.   When it was time for the ride home, I took off my shoes, put the clean sandals on, changed out of my dirty shirt, then wrapped a sheet around my waist so I didn’t get any color bomb matter on the seat of my husband’s car.  He really appreciated that.

COMMANDMENT #8:  This is an amazing race to run with friends and family so plan accordingly.  Don’t do this one alone…It’s a very social and fun event so make it a family affair or a girls day out.   I usually do races alone but this run is an exception.  Don’t be a loner.

beforeafter

COMMANDMENT #9:  Enjoy all of the festivities.  The Color Me Rad event had gigantic color bombs go off every 10 minutes.  Don’t miss out on that!  The volunteers had fire extinguishers filled with the color bomb dust and they would spray everyone in sight.  They also had tanks of colored water that they would spray on runners throughout the run.  When runners crossed the finish line they received a color bomb (baggie full of colored cornstarch) and waited for the color bomb countdown.  5, 4, 3, 2, 1,  Poof…Everyone simultaneously threw their color bombs in the air.  Visibility was zero in the midst of a color bomb.  It was awesome.  Music was blaring, people were dancing, kids were rolling on the floor getting covered in color, adults morphed into what looked like art class kindergartners gone wild.   It was a crazy scene.  My husband even had a fun time and he didn’t run.  The people watching was entertaining enough for him!  (Thanks to hubby for all of the great pics…like this one):

colorbombinsky

COMMANDMENT #10:  A color run is a happy occasion so be happy on the day of your run and be prepared to get messy.  Don’t hold back on the color bombs…in fact, buy some extra bombs to throw on your loved ones.  And don’t worry, the color will come out!

colorbombwar

Have you ever participated in a color run? Did I miss any important commandments?