Tuesday Things

About that relay… I’m still struggling to put together a recap for last month’s Reach the Beach. Ideally I’d like to keep it to one post so you’re not subjected to another multi-part recap but it’s proving to be pretty difficult. Here’s the short version: it was awesome and I kinda-sorta-maybe unexpectedly fell in love with New Hampshire. In a “I could have a summer house here”, not in a “ooh, I’d like to live here year-round” type of way. My team was great, the views were gorgeous, the weather was perfect. It really couldn’t have been any better.

Reach the Beach - Pumped Up Kicks - Finish Line

Coming up next… I realllllly need to take care of the RTB recap because after this weekend, I’ll have another recap to write. For another relay. I mean, have I completely lost my mind? I voluntarily signed up for all of these but I’m sure it sounds crazy to run 3 relays in 3 months. This particular one, Ragnar Trail Hill Country, is a little bit different than a traditional Ragnar. We’ll be ditching the vans and replacing them with… no, not smaller cars: TENTS! Instead of leap-frogging one another for 200 miles from Point A to Point B, we’ll setup a base camp and each of us will alternate running 3 different trails until we’ve completed each once. That probably sounds confusing. I like visuals, maybe a picture will help?

Note: we are a ‘Regular’ team because I have not yet reached the level of crazy that one must possess to sign up for an ‘Ultra’ team.

Ragnar Trail - How It Works

The loop distance and difficulty varies by location [find one close to you here] but one aspect is always the same: you will be running on trails. Let me tell you a little bit about my history of trail running… Oh. Right. This will be my first trail race – ever. EXCITING. Brad and I hike a trail [it’s debatable whether or not you can even call it that] almost every weekend and sometimes I trip over tree roots in broad daylight. The thought of running on a trail in the darkness at 2am seems slightly terrifying. If I make it through this race upright it’ll be a damn miracle. Hopefully I’ll be able to tear myself away from monitoring every single footfall to catch a glimpse of those Hill Country views they speak so fondly of on the website.

Ragnar Trail Hill Country - Course Map

On internet life… Lately I’ve become increasingly aware of just how much of my life is out there on the internet. I knew when I signed up for Twitter and then published my first blog post in 2010 that that was likely the end of any semblance of privacy. You can search the internet and you will find me. Not on Facebook though, I have that locked down so hard that even my coworkers are like “I tried to send you a friend request on Facebook, do you even have Facebook?” Anyway, back to my story. It wasn’t surprising when someone from my past – who has absolutely no business being a part of my present – emerged and began attempting to contact me on various social media channels. They started with LinkedIn, then moved on to my work email, then called my work 10+ times a day only to hang up on my voicemail. They then discovered my blog and in turn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. I know this because of all of exit links in my analytics report.

One night while stalking my Instagram they accidentally ‘liked’ one of my photos and then had a ‘holy shit, I messed up’ moment and promptly ‘unliked’ it. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t on my phone at the time – but I was. BUSTED. Instagram is now on private. Tear. This person also started reposting photos of my sister’s family to their own Instagram account. (!!) Seriously creepy. I’m not entirely sure they understand how Pinterest works either, because they repinned several of my pins, which obviously I can see. Pinterest is the probably the least of my worries – it’s a bunch of photos from the Internet pinned to categorized boards. But I blocked them anyway, because why not? I left my Twitter account on public because I really have nothing to hide on there. Over the weekend I had tweeted about the UT/OU game and this person then proceeded to retweet a few things about OU winning the game. This person has never showed ANY interest in college football, let alone anything to do with a team close to where I live.

I never really cared much about my analytics until this whole fiasco. I don’t have a ton of traffic but I know who reads my blog back at home and where they live. I began seeing extended visits from two locations that I knew were associated with this super creeper. And over the course of 3 days, they spent over 7 hours going through my archives. And then began checking my blog every.single.day [and multiple times a day] for new content. Did you know you can block IP addresses? Helpful information. The only social media stream left for them to see is my blog’s Facebook page. The views are up. WAY up. Directly related, undoubtedly. Unfortunately for them, most of my activity on FB is sharing links to new blog posts. Good luck accessing them, stalker, with your blocked IP address.

I’m kind of blown away by the situation. If I won’t return your phone calls, text messages, or emails … why would you think I’d respond to you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest? Take a goddamn hint and move on with your life. It’s embarrassing.

Go Away Stalker

On marathon training… Remember when I was talking about how “life happens” and our marathon training schedule may need to be tweaked accordingly? I didn’t anticipate having to change it so early in the game. The entire first week was plagued with thunderstorms. It rains in Texas, like, twice a year. And never on consecutive days. But the rain from mid-September completely washed out [heh, see what I did there?] Week 1. Rude. The following week was a struggle to get back on track and I had to flip around our long run mileage until it looked like a feasible build up. Such a pain in the ass. This past weekend we had our long run scheduled for Saturday morning and it monsooned/thunderstormed from 1am through almost noon. We moved it to Sunday, even though we’d be out late the night before at a hockey game drinking beer and eating crappy food. Halfway into our run [with a forecasted 4% chance of rain] the skies opened up and we were stuck in a torrential downpour. Hopefully this type of luck doesn’t carry through the rest of the cycle.

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And So It Begins

Marathon training, that is.

To be honest, I didn’t think another marathon was in my future. The idea of it seemed fun as I tracked fellow runners’ training and PRs each spring and fall. I wanted to run the five boroughs in New York, snag a fresh PR on the flat streets of Chicago or even tackle the endless hills in Austin. But in the end it was apparent I wasn’t interested in actually training for a marathon: I was just interested in the idea of it. Philly 2012 had stolen my marathon mojo and it took almost two years before I felt comfortable committing to the distance again.

September 15, 2014 :: Training for the Houston Marathon Begins 

There’s just something about a freshly [somewhat]-finalized training plan that gets me excited about the months to come. I’ve tweaked the colors, researched tune-up races and pondered the pros + cons of running more than one 20-miler. Last week I decided to shift our running schedule from Mon/Tues/Thurs/Sat to Tues/Wed/Fri/Sun, mostly so we could spend Sunday afternoon on the couch with Shiners free of guilt. Can’t say I’m 100% sold on the plan because the idea of running long on Saturday morning and having the rest of the weekend free is incredibly appealing. But based on our track record when it comes to dinner and a not-so-early bedtime on Friday night, Sunday miles will most likely be a better decision than Saturday ones.

The one major difference between this plan and plans of the past is the number of running days. I’ve generally steered clear of running back-to-back days because that seemed to be when my shin splints would flare up, resulting in time off and training setbacks. After registering for Houston, I wanted to make a conscious effort to add an additional running day each week. In order to do this safely, I added an extra day every other week for two months, followed by every week for another two months and never upped my mileage by more than 10% from week to week. This may have been overly cautious but in the end it was successful so I don’t regret spending the time on it. Over the past few months I also paid attention to my cadence and stopped over-striding, which in turn eliminated that evil all-too-familiar heel strike.

On the other hand, this slow progression also resulted in something I’m not all that excited about: loss of speed. I’ve never been anything remotely close to ‘fast’ but to see what my overall pace is now compared to what it used to be is depressing. And of course running in the summer isn’t helping my spirits either. Once the weather cools down [November? December? Marathon day?] we’ll be transitioning our Wednesday run to a speedwork session. The internet tells me that if you want to run fast, you have to train fast. And if it’s on the internet, it MUST be true.

I’ll stop rambling now and give you the most important piece of the puzzle: the official Houston Marathon 2015 Training Plan:

Houston Marathon - Weeks 1-9

Houston Marathon - Weeks 10-18

18 weeks may seem a long to some, but I like having the flexibility in case life happens and we need to reschedule a run. There isn’t much wiggle room in a 12 week plan and that makes me nervous. I’m sure the mid-week runs will get adjusted along the way as well, but for now I erred on the side of caution and kept the mileage manageable. It didn’t make sense to come out of the gate with an ambitious plan which will inevitably set us up for failure. The primary goal as of right now is to cross that finish line successfully.

Houston, I’ll see you in January.

Hood to Coast: The Main Event

Race morning, as they all do, started bright and early. I had an alarm set for 3:45am but was awake well before that due to paranoia of missing the alarm. This is pretty much the scene that plays out the night before every single one of my races. Elisabeth, Sean, Jenny, Eric and I sleepily met in the lobby to wait for Casey and Arielle from Nuun Hydration. They picked us up from the hotel at 4:30am and we were off to the starting line at Mt. Hood!

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Drive to Mt Hood

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Start photo credit: Arielle

The energy at the start was electric and I just could not get over the fact that I was about to FINALLY run Hood to Coast. Only a certain type of runner will get excited to spend 30+ hours in a van with sweaty strangers. The weather was a little foggy and overcast so Mt. Hood was hidden behind the clouds the entire time we were at the top.

Elisabeth was our leadoff runner and took off down the mountain at 10:15am. She cruised through her 5.65 mile leg under the projected time and then Jenny set out on Leg 2, followed by Eric, Sean, and Arielle.

HTC Relay - Exchange 1

HTC Relay - Jenny and Sean - Leg 1

Leg 1 – 6.97 miles

In the weeks leading up to the race I tried to read recaps of the legs I’d be running and review tips on HTC’s Facebook page from runners who had tackled the same miles in years past. One recurring comment was to prepare for traffic leading up to the exchange and this was no exaggeration. From the point where I got of the van until the actual exchange, it was about 3/4 of a mile. Casey walked with me and the one thing I remember distinctly is being incredibly quiet. For some reason I was ridiculously nervous and this was causing my heart to race. 80 degrees with 90% humidity at 3:45am in the dark is what I’m good at. Having the mid-afternoon sun beating down on you, despite how warm it is, is another animal entirely.

Arielle had [unsurprisingly – she’s a total badass] beasted through her leg and came flying into the exchange just after 2pm. She slapped the bracelet on my wrist and I set off to conquer my first leg. A majority of the first mile was spent trying to get my heart rate down and breathing under control. By mile 2 I was in good shape and riding my “I’m running Hood to Coast!!” high. Just after my watch clicked over to 4, the wheels fell off. It was a struggle from there on out and I was so damn happy to see all 11 of my teammates at Exchange 6 and hand off to Kevin.

Jenny navigated us to Laurelwood Brew Pub for dinner and our first real meal of the day. She then skyrocketed her way to the top of everyone’s “Favorite Person Ever” list by offering up her house as a place for us to rest, shower, and basically enjoy the extra room that the van sorely lacked. I spent a majority of the time there laying in the hallway with my legs up the wall and my eyes shut.

HTC Relay - Portland ExchangeExchange 13 in Portland
photo credit: Rachel

All of our night legs went off without a hitch, with the exception of a random man who barked at Elisabeth during her leg. There were some interesting characters in that particular area of Portland. During Sean’s leg I started to get really tired, so when Arielle [and Casey] took off for her leg we made a stop to grab ice for the drink cooler and some sort of caffeinated beverage for me. I settled on a Starbucks Double Shot Coffee that ended up being too sweet and too heavy, but overall got the job done.

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Exchange 17

Leg 2 – 5.23 miles

I don’t know if it was the legs up the wall or what, but this leg was magical. It felt like my first run of the day. Sure, there was a lot of climbing but it was only 60 degrees so I really didn’t care. The quietness of the night was so peaceful and I kind of wished it was a couple miles longer. We weaved through a neighborhood a few times and I was so grateful for all of the volunteers working through the middle of the night, letting us know where to turn. I loved every minute of Leg 18.

Walking back to the car someone mentioned to prepare for a shitty ride to Exchange 24 [where we would sleep + wait for the handoff from Van 2] and I didn’t quite understand how the traffic could be that bad at 3am. At some point, for a reason that’s still unknown, the exchange was shut down and no longer letting any vans inside. We sat in the same spot for over 2 hours. I would sleep intermittently and every time I opened my eyes we hadn’t moved an inch. Casey somehow managed to keep himself occupied in the driver’s seat the entire time – I don’t know what we would have done without him! We should have had 3-4 hours to sleep at the exchange but by the time we actually pulled in and parked? It was only 30 minutes.

With it being everyone’s last leg, we made a point to stop mid-way on each runner’s run to cheer and cowbell excessively for them, providing an energizing boost to help them push through the suck. And after Arielle crushed a monster hill on one of the hardest legs of the course, we set up finish line tape made of toilet paper for her to break through [the video at the end caught that gem]

HTC Relay - Eric - Leg 3
Leg 3 – 5.43 miles

This wasn’t pretty. I take that back – the actual leg was GORGEOUS and definitely the most scenic of the three I ran. My legs were toast at this point and the only thing keeping me going was the fact that the finish line [ahem, beach + beer] was oh so close.

And with that, Van 1 of Team Wild Berry was officially DONE!

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Team

HTC Relay - Leg Check Marks

As glorious as a shower sounded once we arrived in Seaside, everyone opted to venture down to the Biergarten instead. Hashtag priorities. A couple Widmer Upheavals later we heard our anchor, Liz, was almost done so we headed to the finish to cross as a team. This was an incredibly bittersweet moment: so proud + happy to have those 200 miles behind us, but so sad our HTC experience was coming to a close.

HTC Relay - Team Wild Berry - Finish Line    photo credit: Eric

HTC Relay - Team Wild Berry - Finish Line Beers photo credit: Eric

And the TL;DR :: My teammate Eric put together the video below that recaps our race fantastically in a short 3 minutes:

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An Ode to Nuun Hydration

I have to thank Megan Fay for one of the best weekends of my life. She worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure a successful experience for all of the ambassadors. If any issues or problems arose, we knew nothing of it. From the second I stepped off the plane in SeaTac on Thursday to my sad departure back to Austin on Sunday, every single detail was taken care of and perfectly executed by Megan. She worked her ass off to ensure everything went off without a hitch and I know every single one of us appreciated her hard work.

Nuun Hydration was the key to our success throughout the entire race. A company is only as strong as their team and I have to say – Nuun has an incredibly strong group of people working for them. [Kevin – hold on to ALL of them!] I hesitate to use the word “working” because every single person seemed to sincerely enjoy what they do. And that’s the dream, right – to love what you do? They’re a perfect example of this.

Thank you to our excellent van drivers – Casey, Jay, Kevin and Vishal – who signed up to be the navigators and had to deal with some of the worst HTC traffic in recent years. Thank you to the Nuun employees – Arielle, Megan, Zoë and Kim – who completed each of our vans and rocked every single leg. We couldn’t have made it across the finish line without each and every one of you!

I am so honored to represent Nuun Hydration and grateful to have been offered a spot to race with them at Hood to Coast. It was truly the experience of a lifetime.

Hood to Coast: The Prequel, Part II

Thursday morning started with a run along the Seattle waterfront for most of my teammates. I opted to sleep in and rest my legs a little. My shins get super feisty when I cram too many miles into too few days and with 19ish miles on deck between Friday & Saturday, taking Thursday off seemed like a logical decision. Skipping the run also meant I had a little extra time to get ready and enjoy my final shower before living in a van for 36 hours.

The girls returned from their run around 9:30 and somehow the four of us were out the door by 10:20. A miracle I tell you. Vishal and Zoë from Nuun Hydration picked us up and whisked us away to Brooks Running’s new headquarters.

15052709071_6a3d7f26e9_z Photo Credit: George

Brooks’ new space is absolutely massive, spanning five floors in an energy-efficient building with open floor plans, a cafeteria [it was Mac & Cheese day and unfortunately we already had lunch plans] and a huge rooftop area with gorgeous views of the Seattle skyline. We were lucky enough to sit down with one of their Product Line Managers, Carson Caprara, who discussed the life cycle of shoes. It was interesting to hear about the research that goes into developing the next iteration of a specific model – it’s a lot more extensive than you may think. Carson also touched on the process of nailing down design details, reviewing 3D prototypes of the shoe [welcome to the future] and what the steps are once it gets closer to production. The amount of work that goes into one model of shoes is mind-blowing.

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Team Nuun Energy at Brooks HQ

After our tour of HQ, the vans took us back downtown to Pyramid Brewing across from our hotel for lunch. Pitchers of Hefeweizen and Thunderhead IPA were passed around the table and the only time anyone stopped talking was when our food hit the table. I ended up sitting next to Eric and we chatted about our New Jersey and Philly Marathon experiences, among other things. His running story and how it changed him is pretty awesome. I also had the opportunity to talk a bit with George, starting with me thanking him for the shot of Fireball that closed out the previous night. Since there were so many of us, it was really hard to get to know every.single.person especially if you weren’t roommates or in their van. I wish I could have had just one more day to spend a little more time with the people I missed!

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Everyone split off into groups after lunch and our group [Susie, Lauren, Doug] hit up Target for a few necessities, did a little browsing in an antique store, and ended up back at Pike Place Market to give Storyville a shot.

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Storyville  Collage

The final item on the agenda for Thursday was a visit to Nuun HQ for dinner catered by Chipotle, liquid carbs [beer] and van decorating. This was one of my favorite parts of the weekend because it was one of the only times every member of each van was together. I finally got to meet Joe of Recycling Runner, who knows my IRL friend Ashley. She wrote a great piece on him and his mission a couple years ago. The running world sure is a small one!

After dinner we moved out back to decorate the vans and show off our sweet drawing skills. Or lack thereof. One of those.

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photo credit: Rachel

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14862233968_b57911a12a_z photo credit: Lauren

Of course, the night didn’t end there. Once we were back at the Silver Cloud, a fairly large group of us wound up back at Jimmy’s on 1st despite having ridiculously early departure times in the morning. Ahem, 4:30am for Wild Berry – Van 1. We ALMOST made it out of there shot-free until we were 5 steps from the door and Sean called us back to the bar for a round of Fireball.

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Next up is the main event (!!) so now would be an excellent time to introduce you to the two teams that represented Nuun Hydration at the 2014 Hood to Coast Relay:

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Team Wild Berry

[Van 1] Elisabeth / Jenny / Sean / Eric / Arielle / me
[Van 2] Kevin / Rachel / Doug / Amanda / Megan / Liz

Team Lemon Lime

[Van 1] Justin / George / Carrie / Zoë / Susie / Lisa
[Van 2] Lauren / Sophia / Joe / Jim / Kim / Hyla

Hood to Coast: The Prequel, Part I

An absurdly early wakeup [3am] followed by an equally as absurd flight time [6am] kicked off the beginning of my journey from Austin to Vegas to Seattle. I had grand plans of sleeping during the first leg but those were quickly tossed aside in favor of a large coffee and way too many episodes of Million Dollar Listing. The connection in McCarran was short and sweet, complete with another large coffee. A couple hours of Bravo reality TV later the flight landed in SeaTac and I quickly located Elisabeth waiting in the food court for me. Megan from Nuun Hydration scooped us up from the airport shortly after and we made our way downtown to the Silver Cloud Hotel, conveniently located next to a brewery and CenturyLink Field. Huge thanks to Megan for shuttling all of the team members from the airport to the hotel all day long, dealing with traffic and many flight delays! She rocks.

Susie [one of our roommates] was just coming back from a run and brought us up to our room. Our hunger was taking over so we decided to take Megan’s suggestion and head to Elysian Fields up the street to grab lunch. The food was fantastic and I enjoyed the Immortal IPA so much I had two. Rachel [our last roommate], Sean, Lauren, Jim and Doug met up with us after lunch and our group set out to be tourists at Pike Place Market.

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We visited and made our contribution to the infamous [and gross] Market Theater Gum Wall in Post Alley:

download_20140820_165258photo credit: Susie 

Part of the group waited in line for coffee at the original Starbucks, but Holly had recommended a shop near Matt’s in the Market so Susie and I went in search of it. This was an interesting adventure considering we didn’t know the name of the shop and my GPS kept getting us turned around. We admitted defeat when we found Ghost Alley Espresso on the lower level and although it wasn’t what we were looking for, their double salted caramel nut latte hit the spot. On our walk back to meet the group we passed Storyville and knew immediately it was the place Holly suggested. Susie and I decided we’d try to make it back for a visit before heading to Oregon on Friday.

Of course we couldn’t leave our first group outing without photo evidence:

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photo credit: Rachel

We moved the party to Pyramid Brewing for a few pre-game beers and just before 7pm made our way across the street to CenturyLink Field to watch the Seattle Sounders take on the San Jose Earthquakes. This was my first MLS game and Seattle was definitely the best venue for it. Their fans are super passionate and they are LOUD. And I mean REALLY loud. Seahawks games have to be absolutely deafening. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that the game ended in a tie because, a tie? That’s just weird. Someone needs to WIN. This is probably why I could never get into soccer.

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We ended the night at Jimmy’s on 1st for a late dinner and drinks with several teammates who had just arrived in town. It was great to meet a few more people but at this point the long day of traveling and/or exploring was starting to wear on everyone. As we were in the process of settling up our tabs, George declared none of us were allowed to leave yet. And that’s when our server reappeared with these:

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photo credit: George

We all toasted to the beginning of an exciting weekend and then parted ways to rest up for the next day’s busy schedule!

Westward Bound

After several years of dreaming about running the Mother of All Relays, this Friday I will finally make my way to the starting line at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Over the course of two days my 11 Wild Berry teammates and I will cover 200-ish miles through beautiful Oregon.

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We received our itineraries from Nuun for the week and I’m kinda-sorta-maybe-ridiculously pumped for what’s in store for us. I poked around on Yelp and Googled “Top 10 Things to Do in Seattle” over the weekend, compiling a list of restaurants to try and landmarks to visit. Also if I could find a nametag somewhere that reads “Hello, my name is: TOURIST” that would be ideal.

After skimming flight times and plans for the week, the amount of sleep I won’t be getting between Wednesday and Sunday is glaringly obvious. Maybe I should have taken another day off post-relay?

Wednesday: 3:30am wake-up call, 6am flight to the west coast

Thursday: all sorts of jetlag, 5:00am wake-up [guaranteed it] – 8:30am shakeout run

Friday: 4:30am departure for Van 1 of Team Wild Berry – proceed to stay up for 36 hours

Saturday: still awake from Friday, most likely suffering a severe case of delirium

Sunday: 5:30am departure for Seattle – fly for umpteen hours – return home to Austin at midnight

Monday: sleepwalk to work.

Stay tuned for incoherent tweets and desperate pleas for all of the coffee in all of the land. But guess what? I don’t care! Because I will be running HOOD TO COAST and it’ll be 110% worth it.10418999_927601913921803_1130609836037782024_nNow, let’s take a look at the legs I’ll be running on Friday/Saturday. I’m runner #6 [Van 1] which has the 4th most miles and the 4th most difficult legs. That freaked me out a little bit while typing it. Here’s what I’ve gotten myself into:

HTC Relay - Legs for Runner 6

NBD, just a few hills.

I was runner #6 during Ragnar Cape Cod as well and loved feeding off the energy at every major exchange. I’m also feeling pretty damn lucky to have snagged a spot in Van 1, since due to logistical issues and traffic Van 2 cannot go up to Mt. Hood. Being completely new to the PNW, I have a feeling the views will be amazingly breathtaking.

The HTC packing list is queued up in Google Sheets and I should be able to start check-check-checking things off tonight as they go into my bag. We have the option of leaving a larger suitcase at Nuun HQ during the relay so I’m struggling with whether I want to stuff the duffel to the brim or have a little extra breathing room for souvenirs in a suitcase on the way home. But larger suitcase = baggage fee. Decisions, decisions.

I have most of the day Wednesday and a few hours on Thursday free to explore all that Seattle has to offer. Any must-sees [other than the Space Needle, Starbucks, Pike Place Market, etc.] or restaurants I need to find my way to?

Life Lately

I don’t want to be different than every other blog on the Internet, so let me start out by saying: OMG guys, tomorrow is August! Can you believe it?! This year is just flying by!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way – let’s catch up on a few things, shall we?

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1. I’m 110% over summer. Almost positive I say this every year. Sure, Austin has only seen a handful of days over 100 degrees making it an exceptionally mild year for us. Lora, if it was you who brought these “cooler” temps then you’re never allowed to leave. While we may not have broken 100, we’ve been in the high 90s most days and the daily low is between 75 & 80. This occurs somewhere in the 3-4am timeframe and is hideously accompanied by 90% humidity. I’m jealous of you northerners flaunting your windows-open weather and enjoying morning runs in the 60s. Anyway, I’ve decided it’s definitely okay for us southern state dwellers to complain about how hot it is since we spent all winter listening to the rest of the country complain about how cold it is. What’s fair is fair.

2. Recently I received a promotion and have been splitting time between training my replacement and transitioning into the new role. I had been in my past position for two and a half years so I’m really excited for the challenge and experience in a new role. That being said, work has been keeping me very busy. The hours are a little longer but it doesn’t really bother me until we’re eating dinner at 8:30. Once the transition is over everything will settle down. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

3. With marathon training starting in mid-September, we decided it was time to clean up our eating habits. 3 weeks ago we switched to a modified Paleo lifestyle. I say modified because we still have coffee, sweet potatoes and dark chocolate on occasion. Moderation! In the first 2 weeks we collectively lost 14 pounds and it wasn’t terribly hard to stay on track. I also noticed a significantly positive difference in my sleeping habits, which was a welcomed surprise. Last weekend while friends were in town we definitely bent the rules [because pizza. Tex-Mex. beer.] so we’re starting from scratch again.

Via 313 - Craft Pride

The plan is go hard for 30 days to allow our bodies to adjust and then maintain an 80/20 balance afterwards. The only downside is all of the cooking. The prep work can be tedious and letting a spaghetti squash cook for an hour in the oven after walking in the door from work at 7pm results in several late dinners each week. Eventually it will be second nature but for right now I’d rather just pour a bowl of cereal and call it a day.

4. Relay #2 is just around the corner! It’s hard to believe Hood to Coast is only 3 weeks away. I’ve never been to the PNW so spending 4 days out there should be pretty damn fantastic. Much like my last foray into slap-bracelet world, I haven’t met a single one of my teammates in real life. Each and every one of them is a Nuun Ambassador so we’ll have that in common at least. I’m fairly certain this girl and I will get along just fine, based on her appreciation for the Red Sox and stellar social media posts. The sarcasm that girl throws around unabashedly is top notch. I also just found out my best friend from high school will be out there running HTC as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to rendezvous on the beach in Seaside Saturday night. This will be the second Seaside city [next to our neighboring one in NJ] we’ve wreaked havoc in. Can’t wait.

5. Sox has pretty much turned into Dora the Explorer on our hikes and two weeks ago managed to snag a sweet case of poison ivy. Thankfully she didn’t eat any or it could have been a lot worse. Her poor face did swell up though. Dog - Poison Ivy

Sox - Poison Ivy

Sad puppy. Google Machine to the rescue, since it was Sunday and a visit to the emergency clinic would likely result in a $200 bill. A few rounds of Benadryl and she was good as new. Now that we’ve seen what Benadryl can do to her, we sometimes talk about giving it to her when she’s being spaztastic and we’re trying to sleep. Kidding, kind of. Parents of the Year over here.

6. Weird Al released “Word Crimes” [his spoof on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”] and it touches on almost every grammatical error I find myself getting fired up about. If you’re passionate about using the English language correctly, you’ll love this video. If you’re one of my friends on Facebook who doesn’t know what a run-on sentence is, writes words like L8R, or misuses ‘literally’ on a regular basis – you might not understand most of this video. But plz watch it neway, k thx.

7. I probably spent too many dollars at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but you won’t find any traces of regret here. I was able to grab a tote for work large enough to hold my beast of a laptop but small enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m carrying the entire world on my shoulder. I’ve been on the hunt for 6 months so it was nice to finally quit that adventure. I also picked up my first pair of Fryes– a little gift to myself for the recent promotion. Treat yo’ self, kids.

8. I had the absolute best Manhattan of my life last weekend at Travaasa. Not usually one to choose Makers Mark over other whiskeys but the bartender said he’d make one with it for us and we could order something else if we hated it.

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Rather than using sweet vermouth and bitters, he used a bottle of something delicious from Barbados that sent the Manhattan way over the top. Between the two of us over the course of the evening we sent the bartender dashing out of the building to grab another bottle of Makers after flying through the first and landed ourselves a pretty healthy bar tab. Sadly, I can’t recreate this cocktail at home unless someone wants to make a quick trip to Barbados for me. Any takers? I will pay you in tasty whiskey beverages.

And that’s all folks! Until next time…

Packing for Ragnar Relay Cape Cod

While scouring the internet for Ragnar Relay packing lists, there was a common theme: don’t bring a huge bag and only pack the necessities. I condensed my own list down pretty far but it still seemed like a stretch for it all to fit in a reasonably sized bag. Apera reached out earlier this year and offered to send me one of their bags to try. I’ve been using it for several months but wanted to wait until after putting it to the true test in Cape Cod before sharing my thoughts.

So, here is all of the crap I was attempting to cram into their Performance Duffel:

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Packing

The Usual Suspects

3 sets of running clothes packed into separate bags specifically marked for each leg, Road ID, 2 pairs of running shoes [there was rain in the forecast so I wanted to make sure I had a backup pair], flip-flops & sweatpants for downtime, fuel [Nuun / Picky Bars / Honey Stinger Chews], compression socks/sleeves, The Stick to work out kinks between runs [TSA didn’t take it away, hooray!], anti-chafe stick, phone wall & car charger, auxiliary cable for van music, Garmin & charger, iPod shuffle, headlamp, reflective vest, Nathan handheld, hat, sunglasses, iFitness belt, hair brush, elastics / bobby pins, toothbrush / toothpaste, deodorant.

Good Decisions

Spike Bag: This was super helpful to keep all of my frequently used items in, rather than having to rummage through my duffel in the back of the van every time I needed something. The spike bag held my headlamp, reflective vest, portable charger [see below], cowbell, runfinity scarf, Picky Bars, wallet, and extra hair ties.

Jackery Giant: Obviously being away from an outlet isn’t ideal when you spend a lot of time on social media, so the Jackery was a life saver. This particular model will charge my Samsung Galaxy S4 three times, which was more than enough to get through our time in the van. There are smaller, lighter options but you won’t get as many charges out of it. This was perfect for the weekend.

Colgate Wisps: A last minute addition to my cart in Target, but these minty little gems were well-loved by everyone in our van. It’s funny how much better you feel after “brushing” your teeth with a Wisp at 3am.

Dry Shampoo: Sure, this might be strictly a vanity item but if you sweat while on your first run, you might not want to spend the rest of the weekend hiding under a hat. The travel sized can took up minimal space in my bag and helped freshen up the lion’s mane in under a minute.

Apera Performance Duffel - Pearl

Back to the packing. The Performance Duffel had plenty of pockets, possibly even too many considering two weeks after I got back to Texas I couldn’t find my compression socks or sleeves. Apparently there was a pocket I forgot to empty. There’s 10 total pockets, including two in the front for water bottles and two spots on each end for shoe storage. In a previous bag, there was a separate compartment on the bottom for shoes but unfortunately when it was filled, it took up space in the bag’s interior. With the Apera bag, I was able to fit a pair of running shoes in each end with absolutely no impact on the space inside!

Apera Performance Duffel - Shoe Storage
Even with all of my crap packed inside [yes, ALL of it fit – a Ragnar miracle] the padded shoulder strap made it comfortable to lug around the airport. Heading up to Boston it served as my carry-on and fit comfortably under the seat in front of me. On the way home, I used it as a checked bag to test the durability and surprisingly, it arrived in Austin unscathed. The huge skeptic in me was absolutely positive the baggage handlers were going to ruin this thing.

I was incredibly pleased to see how well the duffel performed for traveling, even though it appears to be used mostly as a gym bag. The pockets made it easy to keep everything organized and the bag was able to hold much more than I initially expected. This will definitely be my new bag for weekend trips. Simplicity FTW.

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Apera Bags

Apera bags inspire a healthy, active lifestyle. The interior and exterior of each bag is coated in antimicrobial protection, with vented compartments and linings which can easily be wiped clean. Included is a removable washable insert to store your wet gear in, keeping it away from the rest of the items in your bag. Also, Apera donates a custom bag to a Special Olympics athlete for every three bags they sell. Pretty cool, right?

 

Apera’s Current Deals:

*Anniversary Sale: All bags are 20% off with the code SUMMER2014! [ends July 31st]

*All Duffel Packs are 40% off

*Time to Get the Blues: All blue bags are 40% off

*Monthly Giveaway: Sprint Pack, enter to win here

It’s a Choice, Not an Obligation

This post has been sitting in my draft folder for quite some time and floating around in my brain even longer. It’s hard to write about certain topics without feeling like you’re going to ruffle feathers or have people jump down your throat. I’m certain it won’t stop the questions from coming, but at least it’ll let me vent a bit about why the answers are the way they are. 

In the 5th grade I turned to my best friend and declared I wasn’t going to get married or have children. She laughed at me but I was quick to assure her how serious I was. And everyone else when I told them. “You’ll change your mind when you get older,” they said.

But I knew I wouldn’t. 

The idea originated while thinking about my future. Yes, I’m well aware it was a little early in life to start thinking about my future. If I were to work and focus on my career, would I want my child to grow up in daycare? I would miss their childhood. That wasn’t something I was willing to do. And I wouldn’t ask my significant other to give up their career to stay home with our child. It wouldn’t be fair, in my opinion. Since I wanted to be in an equal relationship and wasn’t willing to let my child grow up with a nanny or in daycare, it was clear having children was something that wouldn’t work for me. Let me reiterate – for ME. Not for everyone.

Most people would read that paragraph and immediately call me selfish. And rightfully so. I mean, the audacity I must have to want a job to pay bills and support myself. I’ve always been an independent person, sometimes even working 2 or 3 jobs to ensure everything would be paid. I need financial security. I couldn’t imagine not working because what if, God forbid, my significant other & I were to split up? After years of unemployment I’d be thrown out into the job force expecting to find a job in a world full of much more qualified people. I cannot [and will not] rely on someone else to pay my bills for me while I am physically capable of doing it myself.

I’m not a normal girl. I don’t have the biological clock that supposedly ticks inside of you, driving you to procreate “before time runs out”. The countless baby photos strewn all over my Facebook and Instagram feeds don’t make me fall all over myself or cause my ovaries to ache. Side note: what does that even mean, to have your ovaries ache when you look at a baby photo? I don’t have a perfectly curated Pinterest page chronicling my dream wedding or wonder how Brad will propose someday.

Although it’s changed somewhat over the years, society leads you to believe natural life progression for a woman is marriage –> baby –> house. Apparently all you need are those three things and you have life figured out. People are always asking when Brad is going to “make me an honest woman” and if children are in our future. The shocked face and silence after responding with ‘maybe never’ and ‘no’ sometimes causes me to wonder if I’m making some kind of mistake.

But then I remember I’m not.

Brad and I both work hard to be equal partners in our relationship. We fight less than most married couples I know because we actually talk about our problems rather than sweeping them under the rug and pretending they don’t exist.  We bust our asses at work day in and day out. There is no “his paycheck” or “my paycheck” because the money is ours. Neither of us are interested in having children, so we’re not having them. I still can’t comprehend why this concept is so hard for people to understand. We’re doing what we want and because it’s our lives, these are decisions we have to live with for the rest of our lives. And if being a dual income household with no kids is something which makes us happy, why isn’t that acceptable?

We may be unconventional in buying a house first and not being interested in a wedding or having children. When you’re in a relationship, you have to work hard to keep it together because it’s much easier to walk away from than it is to walk away from a marriage. It’s a choice, not an obligation. 

You don’t need to be married to reap the benefits of marriage. I think we’re doing just fine the way things are. As I’ve always said when people ask why we just don’t get married already…

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Tuesday Things

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1. My work-life balance is struggling. Our annual audit begins each year in March but doesn’t really kick into high gear until the end of April and carries through the month of May. May is also one of our busiest months on the revenue side. For the past several years I’ve made the stupid mistake of taking vacations the first week of May: New Jersey Marathon, Long Branch Half Marathon, Ragnar Relay Cape Cod. No matter how well I plan for the time off, I’m inevitably buried for the remainder of the month. The third week in May is always our annual user conference, so basically as soon as I have a handle on my to-do list I have to somewhat abandon it again for four days. I try to stay caught up on emails between sessions but it can be overwhelming. This was my 5th year working the conference and for the first time I actually came back to the office to get work done. It definitely helped me stay on track but there were still items that didn’t get done and ended up coming home with me last weekend. No idea why I keep doing this to myself year after year, but I want to declare right now that MAY 2015 WILL BE A VACATION-FREE ZONE. It has to be. I miss my sanity.

2. I was chosen as an ambassador for the Houston Marathon!  I was blown away in January by the organization of the race, the number of spectators on the course and how great the course actually was. The weather was pure perfection [this is a variable, I know] and despite having a miserable race performance-wise, I knew this wouldn’t be my last time in Houston. As an ambassador, this also means I will be running the Houston Marathon. After quite a lengthy hiatus, I’ll be making my grand return to the marathon distance in January 2015. And possibly the most exciting part of all? Training doesn’t start until September. So while I may be slightly jealous of everyone running Chicago and NYC this fall, I won’t have to do any sauna-running at 4am this summer.

COME RUN HOUSTON WITH ME! Early registration for my fast friends [sub-4 full marathon or sub 1:52 half marathon] closes on May 29th. The lottery opens up on June 4th and will run through June 19th , with results announced on June 23rd.

Houston Marathon Registration

3. In August I’ll be running Hood to Coast with Nuun. After several years of trying to make it on the team and now finally securing a spot, it still doesn’t seem real. Airfare has been purchased and 3 months from today (!!) I’ll be heading out to Seattle. After running Ragnar Cape Cod last weekend I feel less nervous and much more excited for HTC. I have a loose training plan sketched out for the next few months but probably will push the kickoff to the 26th. My shin & knee are now more of a dull pain, but I don’t want to rush into it just because the plan was supposed to start this week. Once it’s underway I’ll talk a bit more about the training. HTC_logo4. RedFest starts on Friday and we FINALLY won tickets. I’m not even sure how many different contests we were entered in to win tickets to this festival. Eventually we came across a voting-based contest, which allowed us to plaster the link all over social media. All of the begging [so annoying, I know] paid off when we scored 3-day VIP passes! To be honest I’m a little nervous because there is little to no information about the event on their website. They finally uploaded a map and schedule over the weekend, but there is nothing about what time the gates open or what activities are included with the ticket. I emailed them two weeks ago to find out and apparently they were “still in the process of figuring that out”. Two weeks out from the event. In any case, we’ll be drinking and eating for free all weekend while listening to country music. I highly doubt we won’t have a good time.

KASE-101-Cutest-Couple

5. We’re going to Europe! Unfortunately, the trip is 18 months away. After we unexpectedly had cancel our Mexico trip [which coincidentally freed me up to run HTC…] Brad was on a mission to find us a replacement vacation. One of his suggestions was a European cruise. I was hesitant initially because while our all-inclusive resort in Mexico was fairly pricey for 7 days, the airfare to Cancun was about $350 per person. A trip to Europe requires a ridiculously expensive [and ridiculously long] flight and the total cost of the trip was almost twice as much as Mexico. There was no possible way we could go anytime soon, so we pushed the date out to Fall 2015.

Cannes, France

It’s hard for me to get excited about it because it’s really far away and there’s definitely potential for a wrench to be thrown in our plans. But this didn’t stop me from ordering a couple books on Mediterranean cruise ports. On the agenda: Barcelona, Cannes, Rome, Naples, Palma Majorca, and Florence/Pisa. I’ve already been researching hotels and we’re in the process of learning Spanish. The plan is to be pretty damn fluent en Español by the time we leave. We’ll be spending an extra day before/after the cruise in Barcelona so if you’ve been there [or any of the ports we’re exploring] please tell me EVERYTHING.