Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Om it Out

Before I took up running, I tried a myriad of things to lose a pesky 10 pounds. None of it ever worked until I took up running, but the one exercise that stuck with me was yoga.

Generally I'm a pretty neurotic/anxious/tense person. I have to wear a night guard while I sleep because if I don't I will clench and grind my teeth to oblivion and need dentures before I'm 40. When I played flute, I would grip the instrument so tightly that I got imprints of the holes in my keys in my fingertips.

You get the picture.

Yoga seemed like a good idea for me. I thought it would help me learn to relax while increasing my flexibility and putting me on the path to some awesome abs. My mental picture of my life with yoga was kind of like this:

Relaxed. Mind at rest. Gorgeous.
 At my previous job, we had Fridays off during the summer, so instead of sleeping and laying around all day I opted to try out the Friday morning yoga class at the good old Y. The class was called "Fitness Yoga" and it absolutely kicked my butt. But I went back all summer and when I had to work on Friday again I started going to either the Saturday morning class or to a Tuesday night session called "Vinyasa Yoga" at the Y near my work.

It took a few months, but I did start to notice differences in my body once I started yoga. I became much more aware of my posture, particularly when sitting at my desk at work. I notice when I begin to clench my jaw unconsciously and tell myself to relax. My life with yoga doesn't quite equal that mental picture up there, but sometimes in the immediate moments after a class, it gets close to feeling like that.

Then I walk out the door and call my husband who hasn't started dinner yet and the calm feeling goes out the window.

Anyhow, nowadays I'm pretty faithful to my Tuesday evening Vinyasa classes at the Downtown Y. I love our instructor, Penny. She focuses on a particular goal for the class each session, so there is a lot of variety. Once 5:30 hits, she welcomes us to class with her customary words and tells us what we're going to focus on. I always smile really big to myself when she says, "Tonight we're going to do hip openers" and inwardly groan when the announcement is "Tonight we're going to do some back bends."

This evening's class was just fabulous. Lots of vinyasa flow going on and I was kind of nailing it. I did a decent eagle pose and a side plank, which I usually cannot do at all. My favorite pose of the night was intense side angle, which I managed to actually bind like this:

Tonight was also the first time that I wore my new Lululemon Deep Breath Tank.

I'm completely in love with this tank top. I paired it with a pair of bright pink yoga crops and didn't want to take it off.

Tomorrow is another 8 miler with Prabir, which I'm looking forward to. The weather has continued to be crazy warm and tomorrow's forecast is a high of 70 so conditions should be perfect.

Do you do yoga? 
Is it crazy warm where you are now? 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Doing Speed Work in Versailles

I'm in Maryland for the weekend to visit with my family, which means that this morning's scheduled speed work took place at the local Y. In the Richmond area, there are two branches of the Y that I frequent, and while both can get busy, they generally aren't swamped (that is, until soccer season when all of the soccer moms and dads and children invade and then I just curse and grumble as I circle the parking lot for the umpteenth time).

The Y here was a veritable madhouse when I arrived this morning at around 10:00. I had to invent a parking place because all of the spots were filled. On the way in, I saw what is probably the only snow I will lay eyes on all winter:

Sad, dirty parking lot snow.
Luckily, it was busy because apparently today was team picture day (?) and not everyone-wants-to-run-on-the-treadmill day. I checked in and jumped on a treadmill right away.

Speaking of visiting treadmills, isn't it kind of funny how you get used to the specific type of treadmill in your "home" gym and any other kind is just bizarre and uncomfortable to you? That's how it is for me at least. I'm a creature of habit, so having to run on a treadmill that is unlike my usual really throws me off. For instance, the treadmills at this Y have very small display areas and tiny drink holders that you have to prop your water into instead of the cup holders that you drop your water into on my home Y treadmills. Small thing, but it bothers me.

But I digress.

Today I thought I'd try to do some 800s instead of the 1600s that my training plan called for. I did 4 miles, running the first half of each mile at a pace of 6.2 mph/9:40 and the second half at 7.0 mph/8:34. By the end of the workout I was sweating buckets, but felt ok. Total time was 36:40 with an average pace of 9:10.

I liked the 800s - I was able to run faster during the speed intervals and didn't get as bored during the recovery pace intervals. It also worked out so that each half mile was more or less equal to one song on my iPod. When things line up like that, the OCD part of me is really happy.

Today my shuffle was serving up some great tunes. Isn't it amazing how certain songs can just take you right back to a time in your life in an instant? This happened to me a few times during today's work out. Most of the songs on my shuffle have some kind of memory or association attached to them, but some are stronger than others. Today the shuffle was picking out the ones that just give me goose bumps.

Example: Lady Gaga "So Happy I Could Die." For me, this song will forever be associated to the day that I spent at Versailles. I had dreamed of visiting the chateau and when I finally got there, I was so overcome that I couldn't stop smiling. As we walked up to the gates, my travel buddy and best friend was filming me and asked, "So how do you feel to be at Versailles?" and my reply was, "I'm so happy I could die."

There are about 50 pictures of me from that day, and in all of them I am wearing a giant, goofy smile. I won't torture you with all 50, but here are two.

When this song comes blasting through my shuffle, I feel like I could run forever. The treadmill, the gym, or the road just melt away and I'm back in Versailles, and I never want to leave.

The song that happened to be playing during my last 800 of speed work was "Deliver Me" by Robert Randolph & Family Band.

I couldn't help but think how appropriate! Yes, PLEASE deliver me from this speed work!

The afternoon was spent shopping at the outlets and Best Buy in a pair of 4" spike heel ankle boots. By the end of the day my calves were absolutely killing me.

But, the plus side of speed work and walking through outlets and Best Buy for 3 hours is that I feel absolutely no guilt about eating this giant piece of cake in celebration of my Dad's birthday.

Have I mentioned yet that I love cake?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Richmond Rave: Maymont

So far I've been talking a lot about the running and the eating part of my life, but not so much about the playing. It's about time I rave about something fun to do in Richmond.

Up first, Maymont.

If you are from Richmond or the central Virginia area, you probably know Maymont. If you are a transplant like myself, you probably don't know Maymont or it took you a long time to figure it out unless a native took you early on. It's such a great place that I think Richmonders kind of want it to be their "secret."

I didn't really discover Maymont until I had been in Richmond for four whole years. Don't ask me how that happened - the place has so many of my favorite things that it's ridiculous. A Gilded age mansion with all the trimmings, beautiful gardens, open park land, big old trees, adorable animals.

And best of all, it is free.

The thing that most people don't realize is that Maymont is not funded by the City of Richmond, but run by a private foundation. It costs over $9,000 a day to keep Maymont free and open to the public 365 days a year. So the next time you visit, stick a few dollars in the donation collection spots or text to give.

When family and friends come to visit, Maymont is now one of the top "Places to Visit" on my list.

Here's just a taste of what it has to offer (all photos are my own):

Spring magnolias along the famed Magnolia Drive

The Three Graces and reflective pond

Italian Garden in the fall

Japanese Garden with Azumaya  in the fall

More Japanese Garden

Maymont Mansion

J, myself, my best friend, and her husband on a trip to Maymont in the fall

Oh yes, and Maymont is in fact so fabulous that you can also run a race there.

Sportsbackers sponsors a Cross Country Festival at Maymont each year in September. I did the 8 Miler for the first time in September 2011. It was extremely challenging for me (the longest distance I had ever run) with lots of different types of terrain and even some water obstacles. A beautiful but difficult run. You start in Maymont then utilize a series of James River Trails before re-entering the property. The last quarter mile involves running up the extremely steep hill in front of the mansion, which is where they thought it would be best to station the photographer (naturally).

Please, don't be blinded by my paleness.

I hurt for a week afterwards, but it was great fun.

More info for the 2012 Maymont Cross Country Festival is here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Punny Running Partner

I'm a lucky girl. My regular running partner is a rockstar-scientist-chick magnet-storyteller who keeps me so entertained as we tick off our miles in downtown Richmond that sometimes I almost forget that we are running our butts off. I make fun of his old man knee (he is 31 to my 28). He regales me with tales of his latest space-related discovery and uncanny ability to come up with puns. For example, a recent chat with Prabir produced the following:

We make a good team.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Prabir.

This is an old picture, but a goodie.

So after my epic fail yesterday, Prabir very kindly agreed to run the 8 miler with me this evening.

Things started off well. I remembered my socks.

Again, we were lucky to have great weather. Clear skies, light breeze, low 50s. I had a crazy day at work, so I didn't exactly prepare very well when it came to hydration and food (but better than Prabir, who confessed that all he consumed all day was 4 cups of black coffee, a grilled cheese sandwich, and tater tots - the latter right before our run).

Still, it was an overall decent outing. We didn't keel over in exhaustion, though we did walk maybe 4 blocks total whenever Prabir's grilled cheese or old man knee acted up.

The only problem we have when running together is that we get so involved in conversation that we don't pace ourselves and the result is erratic/crazy pace changes. Tonight's jaunt was the perfect example:

During mile 1 I was saying, "Prabir, we've GOT to slow down." So we would slow down... then forget to pace ourselves. When mile 2 beeped and I checked out our lap info to see that we had picked it up to 8:55 I said, "Prabir! We HAVE TO SLOW DOWN or we're going to DIE before you get to go on your date tonight, and that would be tragic."

We walked a few blocks during miles 5, 6, and 7.

Even though this was a little bit slower than my last 8 miler (right before Christmas, about 9:15 average pace), I'm ok with it. With still more than a month until the half marathon, I'm not going to sweat the slowish pace.

Tomorrow and Friday will be rest days out of necessity - tomorrow I'm giving J a break from cooking dinner and packing up for our weekend trip to Maryland for my Dad's birthday, and Friday we'll be on the road.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a piece of cake.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Epic. Fail.

I planned today for optimal fueling in preparation for my anticipated 8 mile run with my running partner, Prabir. Salad and soup for lunch. Half a peanut butter sandwich at 3:30 pm. 48 ounces of water. 500 trips to the bathroom.

The weather was beautiful too. 60 degrees and sunny on January 24. What could be better?

I even was able to leave work a little bit early so I could meet Prabir early and get the 8 miles finished so I could get home before 8 pm.

I was actually excited about this run. Thrilled to be running 8 miles on such a lovely day (yeah, that's nuts). And quite looking forward to eating that piece of cake when I got home.

Now imagine my absolute disappointment/rage when I am the locker room of the Y frantically tearing apart my gym bag in search of one very important item that I somehow neglected to pack.


Yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen. My brilliant self somehow managed to forget to pack SOCKS for my 8 mile run. I distinctly remember getting out my favorite pair of Injinjis last night and laying them in the running clothes pile. But somehow they did not make it into my gym bag.

Arm warmers that I didn't need? Check.

Not one, but TWO pairs of gloves that I didn't need either? Yup.

Socks? Nope.

I was so desperate to still get the run in that I actually went up to the desk at the Y and asked them if they had a sock stash. I was willing to wear a stranger's socks. That is how much I wanted to go on this run.

Prabir, being the great person that he is (you'll get a formal introduction tomorrow), gamely agreed that we could do our 8 miles tomorrow instead of today. But I was determined to do something - after all, that darn peanut butter sandwich was sitting in my stomach like a rock and I had to attempt to burn at least some of it.

Running 8 miles without socks was a definite no, but 2 miles I could do. So that's it. 2 measly miles.

As soon as I got home I re-packed my bag for tomorrow and triple checked that I had socks.

Here's to better luck tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

3 Miles and Extra Nuts

Writing this post about my new favorite afternoon snack - a do it yourself trail mix - is going to be a lot of fun because I get to use the word "nuts" a lot. I might be nearly 29 years old, but the word still makes me giggle when used excessively.

For the longest time I did not like nuts in any shape or form. Nuts in my cookies? No thanks. Nuts in my ice cream? No way. Nuts in my food? You've got to be kidding. I'm not sure when this changed. I think it was at a dinner that I attended with my dear work wife, Allison, at a local hole in the wall restaurant called Zeus in the Gallery District. She ordered a salad that I would never have considered: roasted beet, peach, arugula salad with candied pecans, sonoma chevre and a white balsamic vinaigrette. One bite and I was sold on two things: candied pecans and sonoma chevre.

Now I'm a big fan of walnuts, pecans, and I'm learning to like almonds. Since I started really kicking up my running last year, I've been trying out a variety of trail mixes as an afternoon snack. I would buy the tiny bag at the grocery store that cost $5 a pop and usually included the dreaded peanut. Yuck. So last month I decided to make my own trail mix - mainly to avoid peanuts.

So here it is: Kathryn's Trail Mix - Extra Nutty

I use plain pecans and walnuts from the baking aisle, dried cranberries, and then splurge a little bit on fancy almonds toasted in olive oil with sea salt. Pop into a tupperware, shake it up, and there you have it.

While nuts are supposed to be good for you, I try to remind myself that they are good for you in moderation and that eating 2 cups of the stuff isn't a good idea. In fact, it's a little bit... well... nuts.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Tonight's training plan called for an easy 3 mile run. I don't really understand why the training plan has dropped me back to a measly 3 miles this week. Getting dressed and going out for a mere 3 miles seems like a big fat waste of time to me, but training plan is the boss of me, so I did it.

Kind of.

The weather today was absolutely abysmal. Foggy, drizzly, and chilly. Luckily my local Y has an indoor track so I didn't have to make friends again with the dreadmill. The only downside is that the track is small so there are 17 laps in one mile... which means that you have to concentrate pretty hard to not lose count.

The first mile was a piece of cake and I was feeling great (probably thanks to my nutty afternoon snack), so I decided to ignore the training plan and run the next two miles as fast as I comfortably could instead of at an easy pace. Here are the results:

Mile 1 - 9:16
Mile 2 - 8:35
Mile 3 - 8:20

Total: 26:18

Not too shabby. I could have kept going but had a lot to accomplish tonight before bed, so I stopped at the 3 and headed home.

Tomorrow is my long run - 8 miles. Luckily it looks like the weather is going to cooperate and I'll be able to have a nice outdoor run downtown. I'm mainly looking forward to the fueling... I think a nice salad for lunch then 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich and a Nearly Naked Smoothie will do nicely.

And of course the post run decadence - there is piece of pound cake smothered in vanilla butter cream icing downstairs calling my name. But it's gotta wait until tomorrow.

What is your favorite afternoon snack?
Have you always liked nuts or did you have to warm up to them?
Do you ignore your training plan sometimes?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reasons to Run: Food & Figure

Let's be honest with each other. People take up running for as many different reasons as there are people who run. There are many who do it for noble reasons: charity, to fight some terrible disease, in honor of someone who can't run, to change their lives.

I am not one of those noble people.

The number one reason that I run is simple: I like to eat whatever I want and I also like to be thin. If my eating habits were super healthy, maybe I wouldn't have to run as much as I do to maintain my weight. But alas, the foods that I love the most are the baddies: pasta, cheese, fried chicken, bread, ice cream, hamburgers, McDonald's french fries, wine, cupcakes, pizza.

Give up this greasy salty goodness? NEVER.
Don't be fooled - these things are not what I eat every day. Not by a long shot. They are my splurge foods and when I splurge, baby, I splurge.

I know that serious runners are very careful about the foods that they eat. I understand that - if you're going to push your body into running 25+ miles a week, you need to put good fuel in the tank. As I continue to push myself to become a "real" runner, I'm trying to do better on this front. I dutifully clip recipes from my Runner's World magazines with the intention of trying them (I haven't tried a single one... yet). I am becoming friends with the salad bar, smoothies, greek yogurt, and almonds. I take a second to think before eating that one of the red velvet cupcakes that my very kind co-worker took upon herself to bring in for the office. I even gave up drinking Coke.

But sometimes, you just need a big fat bowl of pasta in cream sauce.

Luckily, I am married to an Italian man who not only loves to eat pasta, but also loves to cook it. Last night we tried a new recipe that indulges my love of pasta and cream sauce - without all the guilt. I'm a seafood lover but my husband is not, so we made this with chicken. We've done the shrimp version before - it's also excellent.

Find the recipe after the jump.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Treadmill - Friend & Foe

Right now I'm in the middle of training for my first half marathon. For me, the fast I'm done the better, which is unfortunate because at the moment I'm not exactly what anyone would call "fast." My average pace is usually somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30. My pace for the longest race I've run to date (Army 10 Miler) was more like 11:00.

It's ambitious, but I want to try to finish the half in 2 hours or less. This means speed work, and for me, the best way to do speed work is on what so many like to refer to as "the dreadmill." Being on the 'mill forces me to stick to the faster pace and then ratchet things back far enough for adequate recovery. I don't like the thing, but it is what works for me when it comes to speed work intervals.

I like to be different, so I don't do my long runs on Saturday mornings. Instead I save Saturday for speed work. This morning's session was supposed to be 4 miles of 1600s. Unfortunately, some pre-workout cardinal sins combined with bad luck at the gym made this morning's workout a tough one.

My husband J and I went to a wedding last night, which included a superb dinner reception at one of the best restaurants in Richmond: LeMaire at The Jefferson Hotel. This was the kind of reception where you have one wine glass and ever-watchful waiters who are only too happy to top off you glass every time you take a sip. As a result, I have no idea how much Pinot Grigio I actually consumed last night (don't worry, J was my DD). The menu was also decadent and full of rich food like beef tenderloin and wedding cake.

Chocolate buttermilk cake with chocolate ganache

While delicious, it wasn't the best pre-run dinner. Making matters worse, this morning I was still feeling so full from Friday's decadence that I didn't eat breakfast and only sipped some water on the way to the Y. Very bad idea.

Conditions at the Y didn't help. It was pouring this morning, so the place was packed. The cardio room was much warmer than usual. My iPod died around mile 2.3. My hamstrings still hurt from Tuesday night's yoga class.

Let's just say it wasn't pretty and not the workout that I had hoped for. But I powered through and finished, sweating buckets in the process. Now I can now look forward to a lazy Sunday before tackling a week that includes an 8-miler on Tuesday.

What are your pre-workout cardinal sins?
Do you love or hate the treadmill? A little of both?
What's your favorite wine?

Introduction/10 Fun Facts

Hello, web universe. My name is Kathryn and I've claimed this small corner of the Internet to share a slice of my life as a runner, culture junkie, food lover, and shopaholic. I've been inspired by the blogs of many fellow runners and am starting my own to hopefully inspire others and keep myself accountable and motivated.

I thought a good introduction might be to share 10 fun facts about myself with you. So here it goes!

1. I am a huge band geek and got a degree in Music Performance. 

2. I've been known to dress up like Lady Gaga.

3. Cheese is one of my favorite food items. My motto: A day without cheese is a day wasted. 

4. I have a cup of Twinings tea every morning.

5. Paris is my favorite city in the world. I can't even watch Ratatouille without sighing with longing. 

6. My husband J and I got engaged at the top of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. There are no pictures because our camera got stolen the next day.  

7. I'm a list making, detail plotting, organizing, obsessive planner and scheduler. 

8. George Mason Basketball and Redskins football are my favorite sports to watch. I am fanatical about basketball in particular... I have a crazy yellow wig and a really big mouth at games.

9. My favorite number is 17. No reason, I just like it.

10. My dog Mason is my kid.