Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Volunteering at Nike Women's Half Marathon DC

This past Sunday was the Nike Women's Half Marathon here in DC.  I knew I wouldn't be anywhere near ready to run a half marathon by this point but I decided to go ahead and sign up to volunteer. I knew I was going to volunteer at a local race through MCRRC this year but I also wanted to try out volunteering at a larger race.  I convinced a friend to join me so I was even more hopeful that this would be a good experience.

So as not to bury the lead, we had a great experience and thought it was very well organized. I would absolutely recommend this as a good race to volunteer for if anyone is interested.

The good experience started way before the race day.  There were multiple appreciative emails. In addition, there was a happy hour set up for volunteers a couple weeks ago as well which was supposed to include some complimentary food and drinks.  I wasn't able to go but it was definitely a nice gesture.

Crowds in the starting corrals

Race day started bright and early as we were supposed to be checking in at 6am. We left the house at 5am and hopped on the metro which Nike had arranged to have running early. There was a bit of a crush trying to get out of the metro station once we were off the train but we finally reached the volunteer check in tent only 15 minutes late. This was one of the few break points in the organization of the day.  The individual at the volunteer tent just had us sign in, grab at shirt, and that was it.  But we didn't know where to go next.  The email instructions had just said to look for the water stop lead named Allie but no one knew where that would be. So we just wandered toward the start/finish line and kept asking volunteers we saw along the way.  We finally found the water stop and Allie.  She was great and gave us our instructions, which were pretty simple. Wait until all the runners had passed and the unload bottles of water on to the table so they were ready for runners to grab when they came back.  As the bottles were grabbed, we would re-fill the tables with more water bottles.

It was great that they had reusable water bottles sponsored by Whole Foods.  Not only was it greener, they stayed cold almost the whole time.

The water stop process went pretty smoothly for the most part.  The start was beautiful with the sun coming over the Capitol.  We waited and cheered on the crowd as they started and then began our work as soon as they were all past.  It was nice that the DJ kept spinning music while we worked and the announcer kept providing updates of what mile the lead runners were at. There were tons of volunteers and the work went quickly. We were ready at least 30 minutes before the first runners came in. That left time for some photos and hanging out with fellow volunteers.

Once the runners started coming in, things got busy fast.  There was a lot of carrying and moving crates of water bottles, replenishing the bottles on the tables, yelling out to runners to make sure they understood there was water in the bottles, and handing out the bottles.  We were also supposed to keep an eye out to make sure runners only took one bottle to make sure there would be enough for everyone.

This was the best part of the volunteering.  It was great to see all the runners coming in after finishing. It looked like it was a walk in the park for some and a struggle for others. Everyone did something impressive that day and I was happy to be able to help in their journey.  And of course, the runners were so appreciative that it made us even happier to be there for them. The DJ and announcer continued to keep things lively the whole time runners were coming in.  Apparently, at one point someone proposed to his girlfriend on the course (I think right after the finish) and the announcer gave a play by play for those of us that couldn't see it.  She said yes and her new fiancé gave her the necklace :)

There was only one more snafu that I saw and it had to do with the station after ours, the food.  There was one point where the food station really backed up and some volunteers from our station were taken to help out with the food. I'm not sure what happened but a line built up and didn't move for around 15-20 minutes. I'm sure it was really frustrating for the runners who came in at this point and they probably had a bad experience because they were stuck waiting in a long line. Because we were there all morning, we could see that this was a small blip and things moved  well before and afterward. But of course, that doesn't help the runners who were stuck in line.

After all the runners were in, we cleaned up the water station. We dumped out the water from all the leftover bottles and threw them into cardboard boxes for transport. Again, they kept the music going while we were cleaning up and spirits stayed high. The staff were great and our lead, Allie, really was wonderful keeping us all working but still having fun.

We were tired and I was sore the next day.  But it was still a great experience and a cool opportunity to get a look at a race I was trying to decide if I want to do next year. It seemed really well organized from my perspective and I think I'm definitely going to try the lottery for this one.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Weekly review

I had a great weekend but may have been overly ambitious! I'm pretty exhausted. Let's see... I had a great run on Tuesday with my running group.  We were at a neighborhood which had a park that had a half mile loop walking/jogging trail around it. There were lots of families, dogs, kids playing basketball, etc. and it was a fun run with the group.

According to runkeeper I also got this.

Two Thursdays ago was the one that was faster than this.  Wednesday, Mike and I did yoga and I ended it with some supported head stand time to try to work toward my headstand goal.  Thursday was a run on the treadmill.

I didn't make it to the Saturday morning run with the group because I had to take the Darin for some work. And I I didn't make it after the blogger brunch because I was just too tired. Sunday was volunteering with the Nike Women's Half Marathon.  I had a great time but it was tiring and I was on my feet with no break from 6am to 12pm. Therefore, I didn't make it for a run Sunday either but at least I did some time on the elliptical for cross-training.

I have some padding in my 10k training schedule so I'm going to repeat this week since I didn't get the weekend long run in.  And I'm going to have to try not to be overly ambitious on future weekends!  But I enjoyed my weekend immensely (except for sitting at the car dealership).  I hope you all had a great weekend too!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Nike Women's Half Marathon unofficial blogger brunch

A quick post to update since it's Nike Women's Half Marathon weekend in DC. The race is Sunday morning but the "Expotique" was going on today. In addition, Stephanie from Cat Lady Runs co-hosted an unofficial blogger brunch with Roaen from Love Life Logistics.

I knew that it would be crazy in Georgetown where the Expo was being held, not only because of the Nike festivities, but also because it was a beautiful day and a lot of people would be out and about around the harbor.

Beautiful day on the water with the crowds just out of view

So I decided not to bother with driving and to take the metro/bus instead. This would have been a great idea except for the fact that I had trouble finding the bus stop once I got off the train.  I finally found it but there was a bit of extra walking involved.  This also meant that I got to the harbor just 15 minutes before brunch so didn't really have time to check out the Expo.  However, I was able to take some photos in the 15 minutes.

There were separate tents for packet pick up, t-shirts, and the expo. This probably helped things move a little faster and everything looked very organized in spite of the crowds (there was a long line in the photo above to take a photo with the We Run sign). There were volunteers everywhere to help direct and I was impressed with the handling of the logistics from what little I saw.  It also looked like a lot of fun.  I could hear the music from the Expo tent outside and ether were clearly trying to make it feel like a party.

After the photos, I went over to Sequoia to meet up with the other bloggers for brunch.  We had a great table by the window overlooking the river.  This is the first blogger meet up I've been to and I really feel like Stephanie and Roaen hit it out of the park. They did a wonderful job organizing and arranging for sponsors.  They had little goody bags (which Stephanie stenciled herself with the runner graphic in "Tiffany blue") prepared for us with a lot of swag from some of the sponsors. After receiving the goody bags, we went around the table to introduce ourselves (I think there ended up being around 17 people). It was great to meet in person with some bloggers I'd been reading as well as meet a whole bunch of new bloggers. We ordered drinks and food and then the hosts told us about more goodies they had to raffle off. I got a pair of ProCompression socks as well as a tank top from Xracewear.  I can't wait to try both out!

All the goodies I came home with from brunch.

Sadly, there was some difficulty at the end getting separate checks and it took a bit of time getting it straightened out with the restaurant. We figured it out but that did mean I was running a bit late by the time I left. That wasn't helped by the fact that I got lost trying to find the bus again!  I used to go to college in Georgetown but that was a long time ago and the bustle today didn't help.  Needless to say, I had very tired feet by the time I got home and didn't make it out for my run this afternoon.  I am hoping to be able to fit it in tomorrow after volunteering.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Five - Follow

The theme of the Friday Five link up with the DC trifecta (Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia) this week is "Follow Friday."

I'm going to use this as an opportunity to talk about five information sources I follow that may be useful to new (or not so new) runners :)

1. The Mickey Miles Podcast is a podcast that I really enjoy listening to. There are two episodes a week generally, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. As I'm sure you can tell by the name, it concentrates on Run Disney events. But it has a lot of useful information that is applicable to running in general and much of it is aimed at beginners since there are so many new runners at the Run Disney events. They have had people from teh Run Disney orgnaization on multiple times to talk about topics that can benefit new runners in general such as training, nutrition, etc. They often have episodes that concentrate on answering questions from runners that they receive so you also have the opportunity to submit questions which might be addressed on the podcast. And they're just a lot of fun!

2. Embrace Running is another podcast I enjoy by two people who live in Northern California. This one isn't as applicable to me as a lot of the races they review are in the western part of the country, but I just love their attitude and presentation. It really seems like it's just a casual conversation with friends. And they are a great source for running news from the running community in the US in general. I listen to this one more for entertainment and news rather than specific tips I can use in my own running. But it is great to be able to keep up on various news and events in the community at large.

3. Runner's World is something that I would think most runners keep up with. But if you're new to running and haven't gotten around to it yet, definitely head over to their website to check it out. They have a great section for beginners with articles, tips, and training plans. A recent article that explained different types of runs like fartleks, tempos and intervals was so useful to me as I kept hearing these terms thrown around but had no idea what they meant!

4. Twitter is something I just joined recently (feel free to follow me if you're interested) and I love it so far! One of the things I'm loving about it are the articles and sources of information that people post and re-tweet. @Fitfluential is a great one to follow on twitter as they're often posting alot of useful information. I also love the various twitter chats that they regularly host. #runchat is a great hashtag and there are weekly chats using this hashtag on Sunday evenings which are also a great way for runners to connect. If you're new to twitter and a little uncomfortable with jumping in, you can even just follow along with these chats without posting. It's still a great source of information and a way to see what other runners are doing.

5. I also like to follow local running groups or media, which of course will be different depending on where you live. A good one in the DC area is Run Washington. It is a great source of information on the local running community and local races. I think most cities and larger communities would have something similar given the explosion in running's popularity in the past several years. Your local running club is also a great option for keeping up with local events and maybe even meeting local running friends. I love Montgomery County Road Runners Club for anyone who's in Montgomery County. It might also make sense to sign up for sources of local deals/coupons. I've used groupon and living social in the past to get discounts off race entry fees.

So that's it for my Friday Five :) I hope everyone has a great weekend and I would love to hear about any podcasts or websites that you think are worth following!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Liebster Award

Michelle at From Baby Blue to Running Shoes nominated me for a Liebster Award earlier in the week.  Here's a brief description of the award and the rules:

The Liebster Award is an online award by bloggers for bloggers. It helps to generate attention for new and upcoming bloggers, generally those with 200 followers or less.
The Liebster Award Rules
1.) You must link back to the person who nominated you
2.) You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
3.) You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award (with a small following)
4.) You must create 10 questions for your nominees
5.) You must go to their blogs and notify the nominees

Thank you for the nomination, Michelle!  If any of you don't read Michelle's blog, definitely check it out. She has a great writing style and offers lots of inspiration :) So, here are my answers to her questions:

1. What was a defining moment in your life so far?  I'm going to cheat and give 2 for this one... Graduating law school because it was the culmination of so much hard work and because it's defined my professional life. The second is meeting my husband because that has defined my personal life in the best way possible and made me want to be a better person (cheesy!)

2. Who is your biggest inspiration?  There are so many people that have inspired me throughout my life but if I have to choose one, I'd say my mother. She defines strength for me in so many ways, even having grown up in a culture which often doesn't approve of strength in women.

3. What is one thing you are too scared to try?  There's a lot on this list too but I'm working on that :) Right now, I'd say a triathlon. My short legs and I have a hard time with bicycles.

4. What is a goal you are working towards right now?  The big goal I'm concentrating on this year, as I'm sure is obvious, is my running and getting up to a half marathon by the end of the year.

5. Do you have any phobias?  I don't think it rises to the level of a phobia but I'm not a fan of creepy crawlies.  No bugs, spiders or snakes for me!

6. Have you ever broken a bone?  Nope, knock on wood.

7. What is your favorite time of year and why?  Late Spring, early Summer.  I love the hot weather just beginning to settle in and the warm nights.  I love all the outdoors festivals that show up around here.  Plus, my birthday is in early June :) Fall is cool too but I hate that it feels like Winter is creeping up on you.

Interesting little art installation at a festival last year (Figment DC)

8. Who are 3 celebrities you would want to have dinner with and why?  James Franco because he seems like he'd be so much fun. Sandra Day O'Connor because she has been involved in so many defining moments in the law and I would love to hear about her experiences as the first woman on the supreme court. And Neil Gaiman because I love a lot of his books and would be interested in talking to him about the stories. (My husband just pointed out that this would be the weirdest dinner party ever, so maybe not all at one dinner.)

9. Do you have a nickname?  Just a shortened version of my name, Chaita.

10. What decision are you most proud of?
  The decision to take a different path in my career that resulted in a bit less pay but more home/life balance, less stress and more happiness. I'm glad I learned this lesson earlier rather than later.

Now, here are my nominations.  I tried to make sure they were individuals who hadn't been already nominated but I apologize if any are repeats.

Jennifer at Run Jenny Run
Stephanie at Cat Lady Runs
Stacey at Running Muffin
Lena at Lean Lena
Nevie at Writing, Reading, Running

1.  What inspires you to lead a fit lifestyle (however you interpret that)
2.  Why did you start blogging?
3. What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome?
4.  Favorite vacation spot?
5.  What is the one piece of gear or clothing that you would recommend a new runner purchase?
6. What was the last book you read and would recommend to others?
7. What is your preferred way to spend a weekend?
8. What is your favorite race you've run so far?
9. Puppies or kitties (or other)?
10. What is a dream race on your bucket list?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tasty Tuesday - Dinner at Del Campo

I'm linking up with Fairytales and Fitness and Lean Lena for Tasty Tuesday.

I have it confess that I haven't been cooking much lately due to a busy schedule. I'm hoping that will change soon but in the meantime, I'm going to post about a celebratory dinner at Del Campo in the Gallery Place neighborhood of DC. Now, this was by no means a healthy meal, and it wasn't meant to be as we were celebrating paying off student loans.  But, it gave me some ideas for healthy meals to try out at home.

We shared a burata salad to start, Mike had the Peruvian chicken with yucca fries and I had the kale pot pie.  For dessert we shared tres leches "twinkies" with mango sorbet.

Everything we had was amazingly delicious, even the salad. The base was a good quality cheese (burata) with grilled artichokes, shaved fennel, and greens.  The lessons I'm taking home from this dish are that trying vegetables prepared in a different manner can make them taste completely different and that a little bit of high quality cheese goes a long way, allowing something to taste decadent without being too unhealthy. The burata was the star here but the grilled artichokes were a pleasant surprise.  I had no idea artichokes could taste like this and I can't wait to try to replicate them, as well as the shaved fennel.

Del Campo is known for their meat dishes but their vegetarian entree was unbelievably tasty and unique.  It certainly didn't seem like an after thought thrown together by the chef at the last minute.  It was swiss chard, spinach, kale and a rich bechamel sauce cooked in a buttery pot pie crust.  It was topped with a fried egg and a blizzard of parmesan.  It was so rich I was only able to eat half of it.  But I think this would also be delicious at home as sautéed kale topped with a poached egg and a sprinkling of parmesan. And a vinaigrette could be a good option instead of the rich sauce.  It would taste very different from the pot pie but I bet it would still be good.

Now there is probably no way the tres leches cake can be converted to something healthy. But the mango sorbet was tart and refreshing and would probably be a great summertime dessert on its own.

I love having special meals out but I know that there is no way I could eat like this on a regular basis if I want either my waistline or wallet to be healthy.  But I do love getting ideas from our restaurant meals of new things that we can try to do at home.  And of course, I try to include a lot of activity on days with rich meals like this.  I had gone for a run in the morning, walked around downtown all afternoon, and went to a NBA game that evening where there was lots of cheering and jumping up and down.

Pre-game warm up.

Anyone else ever tried to recreate a restaurant meal for healthier home eating?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Weekly review

This week's workout report isn't too good, sadly.  This is the first week in a long time that I didn't get three runs in.  It was due to various scheduling issues plus the weather and not feeling too well the earlier part of the week due to allergies.  Still, excuses.

I did pull it together on Thursday and I went for my scheduled run of 2.5 miles according to the Hal Higdon 10k training plan.  I am so glad I went. I feel like it took me out of a funk and it went really well. It was a beautiful morning, though still cold enough that I had to pull my running jacket back out of the closet.

And then I received this notice on my phone.

Thank you, Runkeeper!

Friday I made it to a yoga class and Saturday morning I went for my scheduled run of 3.5 miles. I wasn't able to join the running group in the morning but ran on a treadmill in the afternoon.

Sunday was some strength training.  I've just been using body weight exercises so far but I'm going to have to get some weights soon, I think.

I'm planning for things to be better this week.  The plan is for running with the group on Tuesday evening. Yoga on Wednesday and running on my own Thursday. Saturday will be another group run and strength training on Sunday. I hope everyone has a good week!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Five Fitness Goals

Yay for Friday and what is supposed to be a mostly beautiful weekend! It's time for a Friday Five link up with the DC Trifecta (Mar, Courtney and Cynthia) and this week's theme is fitness goals.

Most of my current fitness goals have to do with running as I'm new to it and it's my priority this year. I'm concentrating on increasing distance but not worrying about speed this year (other than keeping up the required pace to not get swept).  So here we go.

1.  Complete the Lawyer's Have Heart 10k in June.  I'm looking forward to this one as I'll be doing it with a friend and it's in Georgetown off the river.  Should be pretty and I'm crossing my fingers it's not too hot.  Last year, they changed the 10k to a 5k because of excessive heat :( I really hope that doesn't happen this year because I'm hoping to use this as a proof of time for my next goal race.

2. Finish the Tower of Terror 10 miler at Disney World in October.  I'll be honest, the idea of doing a race at Disney World is what started me running in earnest last November.  Having a goal race that is at a destination I have to travel to is definitely a motivating factor as I want to make sure that money doesn't go to waste! And not only do I want to finish, I want to finish in good enough shape to be able to enjoy the after party at Hollywood Studios.  That means I have to be well trained and not just winging it.

3. The Richmond Half Marathon is my last big goal race.  I figured if I'm training for a 10 miler in October, I might as well keep the training going and do my first half marathon in November,  10 miles is too close to the half marathon distance to not give it a try.  And I've heard great reviews of the Richmond race so I'm really looking forward to it.

4.  I want to be able to do 10 "real" push-ups.  Right now, I'm still doing knee push-ups but trying to transition to full push ups.

5. My yoga goal is that I want to be able to do an unassisted headstand. Right now I still need the wall.

So those are my goals for the year, and hopefully achievable :) I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead of them!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Pretty Quick Pinto Picadillo"

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for another Tasty Tuesday link up with Fairytales and Fitness and Lean Lena.

A while ago, I saw Quick Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson on sale for Kindle so I snatched it up. It has some interesting recipes and the first one I tried was called "Pretty Quick Pinto Picadillo." It's another variation on rice and beans but it had some interesting flavors so I gave it a try.

Here's my interpretation of the recipe and it made 4 servings.

1.5 cup uncooked rice (I reduced this to 1 cup since that's our usual amount for 4 servings)
 1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves garlic (I used garlic powder instead)
1 can pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced (I used a variety of olives from the olive bar at the grocery store instead of buying a whole jar I wouldn't finish)
2 tbsp chopped canned green chiles (I used a fresh jalapeno)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp toasted slivered almonds
Salt and pepper to taste

I have to be more careful with an e-cookbook!

I cooked the rice separately in a rice cooker.  If you don't have a rice cooker it can of course be cooked in a pot on the stove top.  I just like the rice cooker so I can put it in to cook and forget about it while I prepare the rest of the dish.

Once the rice is started, heat the oil in a pan.  Then sauté the onions, garlic and peppers until soft. Next I added in all the rest of the ingredients except the parsley and almonds. I probably added some smoked paprika because I end up putting it in almost everything.  It all cooked together at a simmer for about 15 minutes. Then serve over rice and top with the parsley and almonds.

The finished meal!

It was pretty good and an interesting variation on rice and beans. I liked the salty punch of the olives. It was a little sweet for me so I would probably cut down on the raisins and apple next time but it's definitely something I would eat again.  The recipe also indicates that the dish can be served with guacamole, salsa, or as a burrito filling.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekly review

This week was only ok on the working out front.  I was babying my knee in the early part of the week so Monday was a rest day.  Tuesday I went on a 20 minute walk at work and Wednesday I went on a 20 minute walk with Mike in the evening.  Mike noticed that the sidewalks in our neighborhood our kind of slanted so I wonder if that's why it's more uncomfortable for me to run here?

Thursday, I ran on the treadmill after work.  For some reason, it was a horrible work out.  I felt like I had a hard time breathing and walked more than my planned 6/1 intervals :(

Friday, I went for another 20 minute walk in the morning.  Saturday morning I met up with some people from the running group at a local trail. The group had decided to continue meeting informally through the summer, which is great.  And I had a wonderful run!  I did buy a knee brace for my left leg and it really seemed to help, as did being on the trail instead of in my neighborhood and taking Claritin the night before.  We were on the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda and there's a neighborhood right off the trail that has cherry blossoms in bloom so we included a run in the neighborhood as part of our route.  It was a beautiful morning with perfect temperature, fun company, and great scenery.  As you can see below, I was able to keep the pace mostly consistent and I only had to take one walk break at around 25 minutes.

We also did a lot more walking on Saturday as we went downtown in the afternoon and visited the American History Museum. In addition to walking around the museum, we decided to walk to gallery place for dinner instead of taking the train as the metro looked so crowded.  My fitbit goal is 10,000 steps per day and I had more than 20,000 steps on Saturday.  I ended the week on Sunday with a strength training routine from Fitocracy.

So the week ended really well and I'm hoping to continue that momentum into this week.  I plan to do yoga on Monday, meet some people from the running group on Tuesday, run on Thursday, strength train on Friday, and run on Saturday.

I hope everyone had a good weekend!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Five Things Making Me Happy

Yay, it's finally Friday!  I've had a long week so I'm extra happy this week that the weekend is almost here.  And of course, that means it's time for another Friday Five link up with Mar, Cynthia, and Courtney.

To continue with the happy Spring feelings, I'm going to talk about 5 things making me happy right now.

1.  The Cherry Blossoms are finally in full bloom and we're going to head into DC to see them tomorrow.  We have plans to go down to the Tidal Basin to see the Cherry Blossoms and take some photos, dinner reservations at a restaurant I've been wanting to try, and tickets for the Wizards game.  This is the first season in a long time that they're going to make the play-offs so it's an exciting year for them.

2. Speaking of photos, I'm glad that Spring is here and I'll have more opportunities to get out and about to indulge in one of my other hobbies, photography.  Hopefully I'll be able to get to the zoo soon since they have several adorable baby animals right now and they're a great photography subject :)

Photo from my last trip to the botanical garden in DC

3. My first 10k is coming up in June and I just started an 8 week training plan from Hal Higdon yesterday.  I'm looking forward to the training for a new race distance.

4.  I just joined Twitter!  Yes, I know I'm a bit behind the times but I've been finding a wealth of great information on there.  My user name is @Chaita_1 on twitter.

5.  My second race volunteer experience is coming up at the end of April.  I'll be volunteering at the post race water station at the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC.  Let me know if you're going to be racing that one :) Also, Stephanie from Cat Lady Runs is hosting a blogger brunch the day before the race.  The information is available on her site if anyone else wants to meet up.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ben's Run

Ben's Run is a local 5k race with a 1 mile option as well.  It is held in a friend's neighborhood and she asked me to do it with her.  Initially, I was going to decline just because I had the Piece of Cake 5k the weekend before.  But once I read the website, I had to do it.

Ben passed away at Children's National Medical Center after 6 years of battling Leukemia. The website has a very touching write up about Ben and his battle and the funds raised through the run go to benefit the Children's National Medical Center. The write up ends with the following paragraph:

"This race honors Ben’s amazing spirit, and the many other children who battle life-threatening illnesses every day.  Run or walk this race for Ben, and for the other heroic children out there.  Do it because they can’t."

All photos from Ben's Run website.

Well, after reading that I had to do the race.  And I am glad that I did.  This was a wonderful event with a great community feel and it was so well organized.  I was truly impressed. There were lots of families, kids, and dogs everywhere. This was the neighborhood where Ben grew up and the race started in the parking lot of the school where he attended elementary school.  I got the feeling that there were a lot of people who had actually know Ben and know his family.

I can't speak to the parking because I parked at my friend's house and we walked to the start as it was only a 5 minute walk. There was a lot of energy in the air. There was a clown, a bouncy castle for the kids, a silent auction, food trucks, and various other bits of entertainment.

The race itself ran through the streets of a hilly neighborhood.  It was a little congested at the beginning but cleared out quickly.  According to the website, there were more than 1100 participants and $65,000 raised.

There were people from the neighborhood out cheering, as well as students from local schools.  We saw cheerleaders, lacrosse players  and basketball players encouraging runners along the course. And there were plenty of volunteers with one water stop at the halfway point.

I was running with friends and we were doing 6/1 run walk intervals. My time was 1 minute slower than the Piece of Cake, but I was mostly just trying to enjoy myself at this one.  And Runkeeper seemed to think the course was a little long.

According to the race results, my time was 45:07 with an average pace of 14:32.

The finish line was also well organized.  There seemed to be plenty of water, juice, bananas, oranges and bagels. There was live music and the party continued on.  I would absolutely do this race again in the future.  I've already talked to friends about making this one a yearly tradition.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Baked potato bar

It's Tuesday and that means time for another Tasty Tuesday link up hosted by Lean Lena and Fairytales and Fitness. Thank you again for hosting!  Sunday we had about 8 people over at our house for dinner and wrestlemania. I'm not a wrestling fan but enjoy entertaining so I was agreeable with this plan :) The group had various dietary needs such as gluten free and vegetarian, so we figured some sort of fix-it-yourself option allowed for the most flexibility.

We decided on a baked potato bar with sweet potatoes and regular potatoes as well as veggie chili and various toppings.

First step was getting the potatoes baking.  We preheated the oven to 425 degrees.  While the oven was heating we scrubbed the potatoes, poked them with a fork, rubbed the outside with olive oil and some salt, and wrapped them in foil.  The wrapping in foil isn't necessary but we figured they'd stay warm longer that way since people may want to eat at different times. They went into the oven for 45 minutes. We took one out at that point to poke with a fork to see if it went through easily and since it didn't, we put the potatoes back in for another 15 minutes. At that point, we tested again and they were ready to go.

While the potatoes were baking, I made the veggie chili using this recipe from The Picky Eater blog. There was some chopping to start with, an onion and two bell peppers.

But it wasn't too much work after that.  Just sauté the veggies, and then add in the canned beans, canned tomatoes, veggie broth and seasonings.  This was a great recipe for veggie chili!  It had a really interesting depth of flavor.

Once it was time to serve dinner, we put out the foil wrapped potatoes (labeling which were sweet potatoes and which were regular) with the veggie chili in a crockpot to stay warm.  We also had cheese, sour cream, bacon, broccoli and green onions for people to use as toppings.

It was delicious and everyone seemed to enjoy the options. We also had beer and wine, with regular and gluten free cookies to end the evening. We had some chips, salsa, veggies and hummus out as snacks for people as they arrived before dinner was ready.  We had leftover chili for dinner today and I think I'll turn the leftover potatoes into a soup for dinner later this week.

Anyone have any recommendations for a good go-to for entertaining a small group?  I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Weekly review

Time for another weekly review. I had a pretty good week. Monday started out as a rest day and Tuesday I ended up on the elliptical.

Wednesday I did a strength training routine from Fitocracy. Oddly, the routine I had been doing and planning to move up to the next level was gone. I guess they cycle out the options sometimes? So anyway, here is the new one I did instead.

Plus tricep dips and planks.

Thursday was another rest day (though I did get in a 20 minute walk with a colleague during lunch time). Friday was a run around my neighborhood in the afternoon since I was working from home that day. This run didn't go too well. I decided to do intervals of 6 minutes running to 1 minute walking. The first 2 running intervals went ok and I felt good. But then I started coughing and had a hard time catching my breath. I can see how the intervals slowed down when I look at my splits :( I finally gave up and just walked at the end. My left knee was also beginning to hurt. This worried me since I had a 5k on Saturday. But I stretched, foam rolled, and iced that evening and hoped for the best.

Well, I woke up feeling great on Saturday and my knee didn't hurt at all. I had also taken some allergy medicine so the coughing was gone. The race was in a friend's neighborhood so I went to their house early to hang out and we walked to the start together. I'll do a full review later but the race went great! I felt good the whole time, had no problems with either my breathing or my knee, and had fun running with friends.

So I'm not sure why the run on Friday was so bad. I think the breathing issue was due to the start of allergy season so I'll have to remember my medicine. And I think part of it may be a pacing problem. I still haven't figured this out but maybe I'm going out too quickly at the start when I'm on my own without other people to pace me. But I can't figure out why running around my neighborhood hurt my knee when running on the streets in my friend's neighborhood was fine. Is there that much of a different between concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets? Have any of you experienced this type of difference from one day to the next?

The rest of the weekend went pretty well. We saw the Captain America movie and had a great evening with friends over to watch wrestling on Sunday. I even enjoyed wrestling, mostly for the great costumes and campy story lines :) I hope everyone else had a great weekend too!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday five grab bag

Yay, it's finally Friday! For some reason this has seemed like a really long week. As usual, I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta (Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia) for the Friday Five.

Today is just a random grab bag of five things on my mind.

1 I love that it finally feels like Spring. There are daffodils in my yard! I'm looking forward to running a race tomorrow where I don't have to wear my jacket. And I'm going to spend some time this weekend clearing out the yard and planning my garden.

2. I'm not a wrestling fan but my husband is. And he's invited people over to watch a special wrestling thing on Sunday (I don't even know what it's called). But I love entertaining, so it works out. We're planning a baked potato bar with baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, veggie chilli and various toppings such as cheese, sour cream, and green onions.

Photo Mike texted me from the wrestling match he was at last week.

3. We're doing a fun wellness challenge at work where teams of 2 "walk to the beach." The way the challenge is set up is that they have calculated the number of miles to Key West and each team has to exercise that number of minutes in a 6 week period. The catch is that the weekly exercise minutes are based on the number of minutes logged by the person that exercised the least. So if my partner exercises 4 hours and I exercise 4 minutes, we can only log 4 minutes. It's motivating because you don't want to feel like the one holding your partner back! And we've been taking walks at lunch to get in some extra minutes. The mid-day walk is great to stave off the afternoon sleepies. And everyone that makes it to "the beach" gets entered into a raffle for prizes, which certainly doesn't hurt!

4. The one annoying thing about the challenge is that they specifically said you can't count strength training or yoga. Umm, what!?!  Building muscle and flexibility are just as important as cardio for a well rounded exercise regime. If walking (at any speed) counts, I don't see why yoga and strength training shouldn't count.  Plus, they didn't tell us that before we signed up for the challenge.

5. Lastly, I'm getting excited about some vacations we have coming up. We booked show tickets for our long weekend in Vegas and we've booked a hotel for our trip to Disney World for the Tower of Terror 10 miler. Yay for quick get aways :)

Port Orleans Riverside, where we stayed on our last trip to Disney World and where we'll stay again on this trip.

I hope everyone has a good weekend ahead of them!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Piece of Cake 5k

I did the Piece of Cake 5k this past Sunday. It was the goal race for the beginning running group that i had been part of since January. It is also the race MCRRC uses to celebrate their anniversary and hold their annual awards ceremony. There is a full brunch afterward, and of course, cake!

The race has always been a 10k in the past and this year was the first time they added the 5k option. It was at Seneca Creek State Park and I knew that the course was hilly because the MCRRC New Year's Day race was there too.

Sadly, it was cold, windy and rainy that morning.  I think that this affected the number of racers. Based on the results, there were 269 10k finishers and 69 5k finishers. So a very small race.  Which was good given the parking situation. Cars could not park on the grass because of hiw wet it was so it was difficult finding spots and there was a but of a walk to the start line even though I was there an hour early. However, the volunteers and park rangers did a great job about directing the parking and helping show us where to park.  

Registration was simple for me since I was already a club member and had my 2014 bib and chip, which I can use for all their low key races in the year. It looked like registration was very quick even for the people registering that morning.  The 10k started at 9am and the 5k 10 minutes afterward.

Registration tents.  Photos courtesy of MCRRC.  I love the free photo downloads.

I'd run the course just a few weeks earlier but it seemed so much harder this day. I assume that's because of the horrible weather. My hands and feet just felt numb after a while.  But I finished in 44:34 with a 14:21 per mile pace according to the official results.  This was 2 minutes slower than when I had done this same course 2 weeks earlier.
I turned it on a bit early and stopped it a bit late.

The course is usually a beautiful run on the roads in the state park with rolling hills and views of the lake and forest. 

But I couldn't think about anything but being done. The course is an out and back and the 10k course starts out the same as the 5k course. At one point, the 10 k runners turn right to keep going and the 5k runners turn left to return. It was very well marked with plenty of volunteers to make the directions clear. 

On the way back, I was running with the back of the pack for the 5k and the speedy 10k participants. There were lots of people cheering at the finish, which was nice.  They were mostly club members heading to the awards brunch, I assume.

Almost done!

After the race, I walked over to the tent where the brunch was being held.  The food was tasty, hot, and plentiful. I definitely appreciated it after the cold run. There were eggs, sausage, potatoes, pancakes, fruit, juice and coffee.  

However, there wasn't much warmth in the tent. I stayed through the beginning of the awards ceremony but left early because I was just getting colder and colder sitting there in my wet clothes. I even left before the cake.  I walked by the cake table on the way out and there were several cakes that all looked delicious.  It seemed like the cake would be plentiful too for those that stayed.

Overall, this was a really well organized race and the small numbers were kind of nice.  The full brunch afterward was great.  But the weather made it hard to fully enjoy.