Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Random Ramblings

Just a simple post about the things I have been doing and thinking about recently.

  • I am moving to Chicago in 42 days!  Ahh!  There is so much to do!
  • I have been eating a lot of sweets lately and need to focus on making my meals more balanced again.  
  • My mom made this Asian Noodle Salad that is so darn good.  I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but after a small bite I ending up eating a whole bowl of it!  And it is not too bad nutrition wise either.  
  • I was unsure about getting contacts, but I really like having them for working out now.  It makes things much simpler.
  • Earth Hour was this weekend and 134 countries around the world participated!  The hour brings awareness to climate change and sustainability issues.  At our house the lights and electronics were off.   We got the candles out and read.  Did you participate?
    Marbles decided to take a nap during Earth Hour.
  • I love starting new books, it helps with the twinge of sadness that comes along with finishing a good one.  I started another Jennifer Weiner book, Best Friends Forever last night and borrowed a new one called This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia from the library as well.  
  • Adele's new album 21 is amazing!  I have been listening to it on repeat recently.  Her first album, 19, is wonderful as well.  She can sing and write like no other.  
  • My second half marathon (the IronGirl in Clearwater) is a week and half away - ohmygoodness!  My last long run before the race is this Saturday.
And to go along with the randomness, here are some random questions for you: Are you reading any good books right now?  What foods or meals have you tried that you thought you wouldn't like, but ended up being great?  What song or artist are you listening to on repeat?  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Searching Chicago and Enjoying the Food

The past two days have gone by really fast.  My friend, Kristin, and I took a quick trip to Chicago to find an apartment, look into some job possibilities, and just explore some more of our soon-to-be new city, which included some tasty food as well.

We arrived in the city late Tuesday morning and after dropping our bags off at the hotel we headed around the corner to a small cafe, 3rd Coast.  It was a charming little place that played some great music.  We sat by a window that looked out onto the street.  I enjoyed a turkey and brie panini with a side salad that was quite tasty.  
We then hopped on the L to meet our leasing agent from Apartment Finders, which is a free apartment finding service.  We chatted with him about what we were looking for, what neighborhoods we were interested in, and our price range.  

While he pulled a few listings for us we ran across the street to check out Ann Sather's. It is a brunch restaurant that is known for their delicious cinnamon buns.  As soon as I heard that I knew I had to try one.  This cinnamon bun did not disappoint - great cinnamon spice flavor, warm, fluffy yet gooey texture, and sweet icing all over.  It was a great treat before our apartment search.  

We got on the road and looked at six different apartments.  We liked all of the neighborhoods we checked out and saw some good places.  Our choices were narrowed down to two, but, go figure, I had a hard time making a decision.  I felt like there was something out there that we were missing that was going to be better than what we saw though.  After some discussion, however, we decided on a walk-up on the North side of the city.  It is a nice place, near a park, close to transportation, and a really good price.  The lease is just for a year and I think it will be a good starting apartment for us so we can get to know the city.  We signed the initial paperwork and are just waiting to sign the actual lease which should be soon.  This is a super big deal for me.  It is going to be my first real apartment that I am going to pay for and in a totally new place!

Look at that steam!
By the time we finished with the apartment we were hungry and headed over to XOCO which is one of Rick Bayless' restaurants.  There was a little bit of wait, but it gave us time to browse the menu in which everything sounded good.  The host was super friendly and helpful, which is always appreciated.  I ordered the pork belly meal-in-a-bowl caldos, which was basically a big bowl of soup chock full of mushrooms, zucchini, onions, noodles, avocado, and spices.  It was pretty spicy, but had some great flavor.  
We tried to catch a show at Improv Olympics, but got there a little too late and there was no room left; they had to turn people away.  

I have read and heard lots of great things about the Chicago Lakefront Trail and finally got a chance to run part of it early Wednesday morning.  It was a bit chilly, cloudy, and misty, but decided to go out anyway.  I had a six mile run planned with four at tempo.  I started off slowly and the cold wind stung my face at first, but I knew once I got going I would warm up.  There were lots of runners and bikers on the trail.  I got to run by the choppy water of the lake, through some of Lincoln Park, and past some Chicago buildings.  
After I warmed up a little and got into my first tempo mile I was feeling good.  I decided to try to make my walk breaks a little less frequent and I did it!  I guess it was just the joy of being in Chicago, the energy of the city, running on a great trail, and all of the impressive runners around me.  My last tempo mile happened to be the fastest mile I think I have ever run.  Now, by no means am I a fast runner, but I completed an 11:50 mile, which is fast for me considering my pace is usually around 14!  I wasn't exhausted or huffing and puffing either.  Seriously, this might be one of the best runs I have ever had - it felt great!  As I was heading back to the hotel after my run I realized that I had a pretty gnarly blister on the back of my left heel.  I didn't notice it until I had slowed down but the back of my shoe was covered in blood.  I think it was the misty weather and that my sock had slipped down a bit.  The blister will heal, but the memory of such an amazing run will last forever.  I hope I can have that same energy and speed for the upcoming IronGirl Half!
Happy Post-Run!
After getting clean Kristin and I headed Uptown to a small restuarant called Tweet.  If I hadn't seen the good review on Urbanspoon we probably would never had seen or stopped at this place, but it was a good find.  They use fresh, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, organic when possible foods.  Lots of things on the menu looked great, but I went with the Santa Fe Special which was two black bean patties topped with scrambled eggs, salsa, hashbrowns, and fruit.  The hashbrowns were pretty standard, nothing great, but I really like the black beans, eggs, and salsa.  

The Best Popcorn
After a good breakfast we took some time to explore our new neighborhood before heading back into the city.  We checked the distance to the train and grocery stores.  We then walked the windy city streets of downtown and after passing the delicious smell of Garrett's Popcorn had to stop and grab a bag of the Chicago Mix, which is an oh-so-tasty blend of caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn!

That afternoon I also had an interview to discuss some job options.  I was nervous, but the meeting went well.  We talked about what my plan for moving to the city was and what kind of work I would be interested in.  My goal right now is to find something I like, that is going to pay the bills, give me a chance to learn more about the city, and figure out what I want to do.  I don't have a ton of information to share on this front yet, because it is still in the works, but I have hopes that something good will come from it. 

A trip to Trader Joe's was a must, seeing as there are none here in Central Florida.  I picked up some fruit bars, cookies, and fruit strips.  Ah, I just love Trader Joe's and can't wait to be able to shop there more often when I move.  

I had never tried a Chicago hot dog and was set on trying one on this trip.  So after the store we walked a few blocks to Portillo's to grab one.  The Chicago dog comes with mustard, onions, tomatoes, and a big pickle spear.  I got it without the relish and had to take the peppers off because they were too hot, but this was a tasty hot dog!  You should definitely try one!

All in all it was a successful trip to Chicago!  It looks like we have an apartment, in a good neighborhood, which was ultimately the goal of this trip.  
I have to say that the Maps and Urbanspoon apps on my iPhone were really useful on the trip.  It helped us navigate our way through the city and discover some new places to eat.  So if you are going on a trip soon, you should utilize these apps.    
Moving day is a little more than a month away now!

If you could move to a city where would you want to go? Have you ever had a Chicago hot dog or tried the Chicago popcorn mix?  

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Hair!

Last Tuesday I went to the salon and got a brand new hair do.  I am kind of picky about my hair, the length has to be just right, not too long, not too short, but hair dos are personal to everyone, right?  Recently I have felt like my hair has just been getting too long and it is starting to get warmer and I needed it cut.  I had been eyeing a short Michelle Williams/Carey Mulligan do for awhile and decided to just go for it.  The stylist said she thought it would work for my face shape, so I had a lot of hair chopped off.  When I got out of the chair she told me that it suited me well.  I gave a half hearted smile, because I thought I looked pretty different and was not sure this hair do was right for me.  It was a bit shorter than the picture and I thought it looked a bit like a mushroom top.  When I got home my mom and step-dad saw it and said they liked it, but I was still unsure.  I just needed some time, I have never had a hair cut like this.  In all honestly I was leaning toward not liking it.  I iChatted with my sister and she thought it looked good too (I trust that she would tell me if it didn't really look great).  So all of that is to say, it has taken some time, but I think I like it.
Old, long hair
New, short do
I still think I will like it more when it grows out just a bit and doesn't have that "just cut" look.  Seeing myself in the mirror is quite different, but it's good.  It is something new and different!

I am heading to Chicago tomorrow morning for one last trip before the big move in May.  It is just going to be a quick two day visit.  This trip is to find an apartment and sign a lease.  We have a meeting scheduled with an apartment finding service that is going to show us a few places in some neighborhoods surrounding the city.  I am also looking into a few job possibilities during my time there.  Wish me luck!  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Run With Some New Shoes On

Old & Worn
I have been running in a pair of Saucony Echelon 2s since I first got them in July.  They have been with me through three 5ks, a mini triathlon, a 10k, my first half marathon, and more than halfway through my current half training.  After a short run I had last week I noticed that the shoe didn't feel the same; the cushioning was definitely less.  I think that this explains why my legs have felt sore the past few days as well.  I had a 12 mile run coming up Saturday and knew I needed some new shoes, so after work I headed over to the local running store, Track Shack, for a fitting.  I brought my old shoes and told the guy I liked them, but was thinking about trying something not as bulky.  I am open to different brands, but really do like Saucony.  He brought out a few different shoes, Brooks, Asics, and Saucony.  After trying a few, none really felt right so he went back and brought out a different pair of Asics.  They were certainly comfortable with the gel cushioning.  I tried on the Saucony Echelons and the Asic Gel Fortitude on both feet to try and decide.  I was hoping there would be another Saucony shoe that would work for me, but he said they didn't have any.  

I have a hard time making decisions and decided to walk around the store to think about which pair I wanted.  I was a bit unsure about the Asics because they were white, grey, and red, not the prettiest shoes, and they weren't Saucony.  The shoes I had before were fine, but I was worried that they had too much going on for me and were too bulky, so I wanted to try something different.  I left the store with the Asics but was still unsure about my decision.  I didn't know I was such a brand loyalist!  I decided to go to DSW to check out their Saucony selection.  I was there for about an hour trying on different shoes, running up and down the aisles, but left empty handed.  I was still kind of unhappy and had resigned to the new Asics when I passed Sports Authority and decided to check out their selection.  They had some different Saucony shoes and the Guide 3s caught my attention.   They were comfortable, had good support, and were $80 in comparison to the Asics which were $100.  I went to the car and got the Asics I had just bought to compare with one shoe on each foot.  More walking and running and thinking ensued, like another hours worth.  I called my mom to try and talk it through, but I really had to make the decision myself since I was the one that had to wear the shoes.  I decided to buy the Sauconys and figure out what I was going to do later.  
I had pros and cons for both shoes and just wanted to make the right choice.  
I was fitted for the Asics and was worried that the because the Sauconys were not shown to me at the store, that they might not be right for me.  I am also super sensitive to the idea of injuring myself - I don't want to get hurt in a shoe that is not right for me!  My mom said I was making the decision more complicated than it needed to be and was getting too emotional about it, it should be a logical decision.  I hurt myself in the past when I was inactive and 80+ pounds heavier.  (I have had some ankle issues- broken ankle several years ago which was really painful, uncomfortable, and a bit of a traumatic experience for me, along with several ankle twists.) 
I went to bed hoping that sleeping on it would help me make a choice.  

I woke up still unsure, but gave myself until the end of the day to figure it out.  That evening I tried on both pairs again and ran around a bit.  I tried the Sauconys on first and they were just OK.  They felt a little stiff.  I did the same with the Asics and after a little jog back a forth decided they were the ones I was going to keep.  The shoes just felt better and the cushioning is very nice.  They are a bit more expensive, but they are the shoes I was actually fitted for and you need good shoes to run.  If I have any problems with them I can just go back and talk to the people at Track Shack.  I feel a little strange about switching brands and am not down on Saucony or anything, but I think the Asics will be good for me this time.  I can get over the color thing too.  In fact they already look pretty good on my feet!   

I know I probably made a bigger deal about my decision than I needed to, but everything ended up working out and I am so glad to have new shoes!

I had my longest training run, before the IronGirl half, this morning - 12 miles.  After getting all of my fuel and gear ready I set out.  This was a pretty big run for me.  When I trained for my first half the longest run I had done before the race was 10.5 miles.  After running the race and making a new training plan for the IronGirl I decided getting a longer long run in before the race would be best for me.  Those last three miles were a bit tough and I am hoping that the extra training miles will help prepare me for the race.  
I decided to fuel every three miles and ate about three chews each time.  I ran on a nice path not too far from the house.  The first seven miles felt very good.  The last five were a bit tough as I began to feel the distance in my legs.  I stopped for a short stretch break during mile seven and then continued forward.   

I always bring a bottle of G2 with some water mixed in and it is usually is the perfect amount for my runs.  Today however, it was quite warm and sunny and I was thirsty.  I tried to ration the amount I had because I knew I would need some for the latter half of my run, but I was so darn thirsty.  On the second half of the run all I could think about was a nice, cold glass of water.  My G2 mix had gotten kind of warm and there was not much left.  I didn't bring any money with me so I couldn't stop at a convenience store to get something either.  Then I remembered that there was small water fountain at the end of the trail near my neighborhood.  The thought of finally reaching it really helped keep me going.  I was so happy when I finally saw it. I filled my bottle up, took some big sips, and started the two miles back home.  They were kind of rough and I had to walk a bit more than usual, but I finished.  
The Asics were pretty good.  The cushioning was definitely welcomed, but the toe box for my right foot felt a bit tight, so my pinky toe was red when I took the shoes off.  I am hoping that loosening the laces a little will help.  But all in all they held their own for a 12 miler. 

Check out that knee strap tan line!  

I made sure to cool down, stretch, and foam roll when I got home, but the first thing I did was drink some cold water from the fridge.  I also enjoyed a glass of chocolate milk, which is always good post run.  I decided my legs need a cool bath, so I ran the cold water and put in some ice cubes.  The cold water felt good on my sore legs for sure.  

Now that that run is complete tapering will begin.  The IronGirl Half Marathon is only three short weeks away!

How are you at making decisions?  Are you brand loyal when it comes to running shoes?  What shoes do you run in?  How long are your longest runs before a big race?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Running Style

Yesterday afternoon was another Girls on the Run practice.  The head coach's daughter was not feeling well, so I got the opportunity to lead the practice.  The lesson was all about gratitude and we spent some time discussing and writing what people, things, and circumstances we are thankful for.     
The girls are already great runners.  We are still working on pacing, but they are rocking the workout sessions each week by running several laps every time; I am impressed!  Four laps around the field equals a mile and to keep track the girls collect a silly band for each lap.  Then at the end of each practice we count and mark the number of bands each girls has.  Our head coach came up with a great idea for the girls to keep track and show off how many miles they are running as well.  They get personalized keychains to attach to their backpacks and add a bead for each mile they run.  They always look forward to adding new beads each week!  
For the workout yesterday we tried to focus and run the laps quietly, without talking to anyone, and just let our minds wander to process the day, enjoy the weather, think about what we are thankful for, etc.  Usually during the workout they encourage each other and like to run and talk together, so it was a bit of a challenge.  I am glad they tried to do it though and they certainly learned more about how they like to run - they are social runners for sure!  As we wrapped up the lesson I passed out a cute running journal for each girl to use.  It went perfectly with our lesson of gratitude and taking time for yourself!   

This lesson made me think about my own running style.  I usually enjoy running by myself.  When I first started working out I did it by myself because I was worried that other people might judge my workout style or see that I wasn't really fast or strong.  That seems so silly thinking about it now, because, honestly, who cares what someone else might think about what you are doing, because you are doing it for you and your health!  When I see people working out or running I just think how awesome they are for getting our there and doing it.  
I am not against running with other people though and totally see how having someone with you can push and encourage you to do your best.  Heck, I enjoy races because of the great energy a group of people running brings.  I have also enjoyed group fitness class for the same reasons.  For me, each workout serves a different purpose (besides physical fitness) depending on how I feel that day.  Sometimes it is just time to be alone, a way to de-stress from the day, enjoy a good book, rock out to some awesome music, or just get lost in my own thoughts.  Whatever reason it is, it makes me feel good!  

Do you like to run by yourself or are you more of a social runner?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reading and Running at the Same Time

Recently I have enjoyed listening to a book while running throughout the week.  I usually listen to music during runs because it helps keep me going, but after the Disney half I started to get a little bored with my playlist.  I tried to shuffle the music around and buy some new songs, but it didn't really work.  I had been wanting to read The Help for awhile now since I have heard lots of great reviews for it.  We happen to have the book on CD and my mom kept telling me she really enjoyed listening to it while running, so I decided to give it a try.  I put the CDs onto my iPod and went running.  Guess what?  Listening to a book during a run is awesome!  I often run slight variations of the same route around my neighborhood so there is nothing spectacular or new to see.  The book caught my attention right away and I really looked forward to my runs so I could get a chance to hear more of the story.  

If you haven't read (or listened) to The Help yet I highly recommend it. Here is the book description from Publishers Weekly

The Help"What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it."
I can't say enough good things about this book.  All of the characters are complex and the story itself is very interesting.  The audio version has great voices for all of the characters which really makes the story come to life.  

I just finished this book during my long nine mile run this Saturday (the run itself went very well, one of the best long runs I have had in awhile).  It probably only took me a few weeks to get through the book.  I have a growing list of books I want to read and there never seems to be enough time to get to them all.  I really enjoy reading and listening to books and I love that I now have a new time to do that.  Listening to a book while running allows me to enjoy two of my favorite things! 

Good in Bed Certain Girls: A Novel  Little Earthquakes: A Novel (Washington Square Press)  Fly Away Home. Jennifer Weiner
In addition to listening to a book while running I have also been a library fiend lately and am reading a book during my break at work and before bed.  I recently have been on a Jennifer Weiner kick.  I have read three of her books already (Good in Bed, Little Earthquakes, Certain Girls) and am currently reading a fourth (Fly Away Home).  They are all great reads although I have liked Good in Bed and Fly Away Home the best. 
bKen FollettyThe Pillars of the Earth (Deluxe Edition Oprah's

I just started a new book yesterday on a two mile run through the neighborhood.  I read some good reviews for The Pillars of the Earth, so it is my current running book. 

Have you ever listened to an audio book while running?  What books have recently read and enjoyed?