Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ben's Run 5k 2015

This was my second year running the Ben's Run 5k.  My experience this year was similar to last year in that I still love this race.  This is one of those races that isn't about times, or PRs or a flat course but completely about community and the cause. The race is in honor of Ben, who 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."

This year, the race raised more than $90,000 for cancer research through the Children's National Health System and there were more than 1,000 runners.

Photo from Ben's Run website

One of the new things this year is that they added a 5 mile component in addition to the 5k.  I can't speak to the 5 mile course as I didn't do it but more options is always a good thing! 

Something that was the same as last year is that this race was amazingly well organized.  It is run in a neighborhood and the start and finish are at a public school.  There is a bit of a walk from the parking but thankfully a friend of mine lives in the neighborhood so we were able to just park at her house.  We walked from there to the start line and arrived about 5 minutes before the race start.  They were doing a group warm up, then the 5 mile started and the 5k started right afterward.

This continues to be a community event in spite of the larger size and added 5 miler.  There were people of all ages, babies in strollers, kids, and dogs.  There were plenty of walkers as well as runners.  The course was the same as last year so running through a pretty neighborhood with rolling hills.  It was cold this year but we pulled out the winter running clothes again and were fine.  The race was very well organized and everything seemed to run like clockwork.  There was one water stop on the 5k course staffed with adorable boy scouts :)

I did this one with friends and with my father.  We decided to walk it at my father's pace and also because two of us were planning on running a 10k the following day. I had forgotten my Garmin but according to the official results, I finished walking the 5k in 54:27 which is an average pace of 17:44 per mile.  Something else new this year is that they have a finisher video you can see when you check your results.  

There was plenty of food at the finish line, from bagels and bananas, to cupcakes and even a food truck if you wanted to purchase something more substantial.   There was also a silent auction with a lot of fun prizes to raise even more money for the cause.

We had a great time at this race again and I continue to think this one will be a yearly tradition.  The community feel, the fact that Ben's friends and family are organizing it, and the amount raised for such a great cause really allow you to feel like you're part of something bigger.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekly Review

I had a great week and hope you all did too!

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - 42 minutes on the elliptical

Wednesday - yoga and strength training

Thursday - rest day

Friday - strength training

Saturday - Ben's Run 5k with my dad.  We mostly walked it so finished with around a 17 minutes per mile average.

Sunday - Pike's Peak 10k. I'll do a full review later but I struggled a bit at this one.  Part of the reason is that I was overdressed (the weather ended up warmer than forecasted) and I think part of the reason is that my legs were tired from the 5k and the strength training on Friday.

My dad volunteered at Sunday's race and he seemed to have a good time. We got a lot of quality time together this weekend :)

In addition to the workouts, we're doing a step challenge at work so I've been trying to get extra steps by just walking throughout the office building during the workdays and around my living room in the evening.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Five - useful blog posts

This has been a long week!  But it's Friday and I'm excited as my parents are coming into town to visit for the weekend.  My dad and I are planning on doing a 5k together tomorrow and since Pike's Peak was short on volunteers, he's volunteering at Sunday's 10k while I run the race.  But before we get to the weekend fun, it's time for the Friday Five link up with Mar, Cynthia, and Courtney. Today's theme is blogs to love, and I decided to focus on specific blog posts that I've found really useful recently.

1. Fit, Focused and Fun Finds from Fitful Focus - I love these posts by Fitful Focus where she scours the internet for us and finds some of the most interesting reads!  I always seem to find great information here as well as entertainment :)

2. Don't be too busy from Eat, Pray, Run, DC - I loved this recent post.  I think most of us get caught up in the cult of being busy sometimes and it's hard to let go but this is definitely something I'm working on! I've been trying to really think before saying yes to things and feeling more comfortable just saying no if it's not something I can/want to do. This was a great reminder.

3.  Meatless Mondays from Confessions of a Mother Runner and Tina Muir - This is another link up that I love!  I'm a vegetarian and sometimes it's hard to keep finding new recipes to stay inspired to cook healthy food at home instead of stopping for take out.  This link up always has great ideas that sound delicious!

4. Advice for running attire in different weather from Runaway Bridal Planner - I find that I've consulted this post several times when I look at the forecast and see rain called for my next race.  In fact, I looked at it again yesterday when I saw that there's probably going to be rain on Sunday morning's 10k.  This post has been very useful!

5. The importance of a strong core from Marathon Training Academy - This is a podcast I listen too and recently checked out their blog as well.  I highly recommend them as they have some great information and tips on both the weekly podcast and the blog.  Here's the podcast description from their website.  "The Marathon Training Academy Podcast was started in 2010 to inspire and empower everyday people to live healthier lives and achieve fitness goals by unleashing their marathon potential. The show features actionable training wisdom delivered in a funny and relatable style. Co-hosts Angie and Trevor want you to believe that you have what it takes to run a marathon and change your life!"

I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead of them!  If you've found any useful things on the internet recently, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tasty Tuesday - Asparagus and Ricotta Frittata

It's Tuesday and for the first time in a long time, I have a Tasty Tuesday recipe to share!  I have to be honest that the reason it's been so long is that I just haven't been cooking that much.  I've been eating way too much take out or throwing together sandwiches or simple dishes like rice and beans. No one need me to blog about my PB&J!  But I'm trying to inspire myself with some of the spring produce that's beginning to come out and start cooking again.  This weekend was a perfect start since I had a friend over for dinner on Sunday and it felt like a nice, warm, Spring day.

So I scoured the internet and decided to go with an Asparagus and Ricotta Frittata since it seemed nice and seasonal.  I decided to pair it with guacamole since I love guacamole but don't usually make it because Mike is allergic to avocados.  I put on some music, poured myself some wine, and got to cooking.  And I got so into it that I forgot to take photos until the end!  Oops, but at least I was having a good time :) This recipe makes 4 servings.

1 medium onion
1 bunch asparagus
1 tbsp butter
7 eggs
2 tbsp sour cream
3 ounces ricotta
1 avocado
1 jalapeno pepper
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 plum tomato
Juice of half a lime
salt and pepper to taste

I started by preheating the oven to 375 and chopping half an onion and a bunch of asparagus.  I trimmed the woody ends off the asparagus and chopped the remaining spears into approximately inch long pieces.  Don't worry, this is a rustic dish so it doesn't need to be perfect.  I melted a table spoon of butter in a pan over medium heat, then put in the onion to saute for a couple minutes, until translucent. Once the onion had sauteed, I put in the asparagus to cook as well.

While the veggies cooked, I broke the 7 eggs into a mixing bowl and whipped them with 2 tablespoons of sour cream.  It's fine if the sour cream doesn't fully integrate since it will melt once the eggs are added to the pan.  I also put in salt and pepper to taste.

Once the veggies were cooked, I added the egg mixture to the same pan over the veggies.  I reduced the heat to medium low and let the eggs cook for a bit.  Periodically, I lifted up the edges that had already set up so more of the liquid on top could go over the sides and also begin to set up.  Once it was mostly set, I put the ricotta on top by just plopping down a couple spoonfuls of it and then spreading it around so it was evenly distributed.

I put the pan into the 375 degree oven and let it cook for 30 minutes.  While it was cooking in the oven, I made the guacamole.  I just chopped the jalapeno, remaining onion, cilantro and tomato into a fine dice.  I mashed up the avocado in a bowl and added in the lime juice, chopped veggies, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the frittata came out, it was golden and puffy.  It deflates as you cut into it but it's still delicious.

We enjoyed our delicious Spring dinner, and ended the meal with a bowl of strawberries and ricotta topped with some homey and a bit of granola for crunch.  Yum!  This definitely helped inspire me for more cooking and I hope that I can keep it going :)

I'm linking up with Lean Lena for Tasty Tuesday and will be linking up with Deborah and Tina for Meatless Mondays.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Weekly Review

My week started out a bit rough with allergies last week but ended up going really well.  I think part of that is due to getting some new medicine.  I'm excited that flonase is now over the counter :)  So here are the work outs from last week.

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - rest day (really feeling the allergies, I even left work early and went to the store to get the flonase)

Wednesday - strength training (jumping jacks, squats, calf raises, planks, push ups, glute bridges, clam shells and crunches)

Thursday - 3.1 miles on the treadmill after work.  I did a 1600, a 1200, an 800 and a 400 with 250m walks in between as recovery.  Sadly, my phone died just as I was finishing up so no photo :( It's ridiculous how upset I was about this, and I even said something to my husband like does it even count without a photo!?!  Of course, I know it does and I quickly got over it, especially when Mike gently laughed at me over it :)

Friday - 42 minutes on the elliptical while watching the first episode of the West Wing.  I had forgotten how good this show was!

Saturday - Run on the Capital Crescent Trail with my old running group.  There were 2 of us planning to do Pike's Peak 10k next weekend so we did 5 miles. I forgot to turn the Garmin on for the first 4 minutes so there's an extra quarter mile we did that's not reflected in the Garmin data.  It ended up getting hot much quicker than I expected but it was a good run overall.  A beautiful morning with lots of flowers out.  We were slower on the way back but that was to be expected given that it's uphill on the way back.

Sunday - My 2nd barre class.  I enjoyed this one more than the first one.  The teacher seemed more experienced and I think it was also more enjoyable because I knew what to expect this time.  It was a great work out for my core and legs.

The plan for this week is to run on Tuesday, strength train on Wednesday, run on Thursday, yoga on Friday, walk a 5k with my dad on Saturday and run Pike's Peek 10k on Sunday.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Five things from the Internet

It's time for the Friday Five with Cynthia, Courtney and Mar.  I've been pretty busy at work this week and falling behind on blog reading but hope to catch up on that this weekend!  In the meantime, here are 5 things from the internet that I've found of interest this week.

1.  Interesting article on carb loading the "right way" - A few good tips and some misconceptions cleared up.  I have to admit before I read up on the subject I did think carb loading just meant eating a large amount of pasta the night before a race.  I'm still not doing this exactly the right way, and I'm really bad at hydrating properly, but I'm getting better at both!

2. More benefits from yoga - Interesting article about the possible heart health benefits from yoga. I love yoga already but it's nice to know that it might have some extra benefits I was unaware of. 

3.  Runners World Boston Marathon coverage -  .I was able to watch the Boston Marathon coverage on tv last year since I was home sick from work.  This year, I'll have to follow along online but Runner's World is making that a bit easier with live coverage on their website.  Plus, there are some interesting preliminary articles already on the site, including a preview of the elite field.

4.  Maintaining a healthy weight by moving more -  A really interesting article on some science and a hypothesis on maintaining a heavy weight.  The essential hypothesis is that if you remain active, your body has an easier time maintaining a balance between calories in and calories out. However, if you're sedentary, your body has a hard time figuring out the balance.  I'm not sure of the veracity of this but I know I feel better when I'm active and this is one more reason to try to remain that way.

5.  Profile of Shalane Flanagan and her Boston Marathon hopes  - Speaking of watching the Boston Marathon last year, I was fascinated by Shalane and Meb.  Shalane still has hopes for the Boston Marathon and I'm definitely cheering her on.  This profile was a fun read.

And ending with a cat photo, because why not.  Here's Perry bonding with a new toy.  I have noticed that cat playtime often ends up looking a little violent!

I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend and I hope you guys have a great weekend too :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Weekly review

I had a great weekend full of cherry blossoms! Sadly I'm still dealing with allergies. But overall, a good week :) and the workouts went pretty well too.

Monday - rest day
Tuesday - strength training
Wednesday - 45 minutes on the elliptical at home

Thursday - 3 miles on the treadmill

Friday - strength training

Saturday - I met up with some people from my old running group to run on the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda. There was a neighborhood right off the trail with a lot of cherry blossoms so we detoured to see them. This was a great, laid back run with friends, approximately 4 miles plus a warm up and cool down walk.

Sunday - lots of walking!  

Mike and I went downtown to see the cherry blossoms.  We caught the tail end of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, walked around the Tidal Basin a bit, and then walked to the Natural History museum to see an exhibit on underwater photography, and finally walked to CoCo Sala for a ridiculous brunch.

I hope all of you had a good week as well :)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Five - tips for running trips

I missed participating in the Friday Five link up with Courtney, Cynthia, and Mar last week so I'm doubly happy to be back to it this week!  Today's theme is about trips.  I'm going to take that as traveling and not falling :) So I'm going to write about five of my tips for including runs on a trip.

1. Packing list - I have a packing list for every trip I take.  It definitely helps minimize the risk of forgetting something.  I use google docs for my packing list so that I can easily share it with my husband or other travel buddies. Since I started running, I have a section on the packing list for running things.  When I'm creating a new packing list, the first thing I do is copy the running section from the last list and paste it at the top of the new list since most of the time, I need the same running stuff on each trip.  And throughout the week before the trip, I add things to the list as I think of them if there are any unique or new items needed for the specific trip.

2. Research, research, research - I always research the heck out of all my trips as far as what to see, where to stay, good restaurants, etc.  I started doing the same when I began incorporating running into trips.  This week includes things like safe but interesting places to run as well as things like weather conditions, crowds, how to get there, etc.  of course, if it's for a race I would concentrate on information from the race about timing, course, directions, expo location, etc.

Beautiful run on my trip to Philadelphia with a route I found through the internet

3. Talk to locals if possible - if you're traveling to places with family or friends, this becomes much easier. But even if you don't know people (or people that run) in an area, you can still find locals with useful information.  I took my niece and nephew rock climbing in New Jersey once.  I started talking to one of the employees and it turned out he was training for a triathlon. He had great tips on beautiful places to run and I was able to check one of them out on the trip.

Run on one of the trails recommended to me in New Jersey

4. Pick places you actually want to go - I run into this problem when looking at races sometime.  There are a lot of awesome races but they're not necessarily all in places I want to go outside of running.  At this point, our vacation time and budget is limited (isn't everyone's?) and I want to prioritize places that I would go to anyway, with or without the running.  That's one of the reasons I'm not planning to do a race in every state challenge, since there are plenty of states I don't necessarily have interest in traveling to given the need to prioritize.

5. Be a tourist at home - don't forget the place you live!  There are so many new places I've discovered  in my area since I started running.  This includes places close to home in Maryland and places a bit further off in DC.  We've even had a couple actual staycations where we got a hotel room in the city for the weekend and I ran on the Mall amongst the tourist sites.

Run on the National Mall with a friend during a staycation

I have loved combining running with the trips we take!  It really has provided a way to see a new place (or even home) from a different perspective and in a way that I haven't been able to do in the past.  Plus, I think Mike enjoys some of the alone time!  He managed to win gambling in Vegas while I was off on a run :)

I hope you all have a great weekend!  I'd love to hear about any tips you have for combining travel and running.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Piece of Cake 5k

I ran MCRRC's Piece of Cake 5k a couple weekends ago and am now getting around to the review.  I did this race last year as well as it was the goal race for our beginning running training group.  It was the goal race for that group this year as well so it was cool to see some of the coaches and other participants from last year's group.  

I like that this race has both a 10k and 5k option.  In addition, it is one of the club's low key races so it is free to club members.The other cool think about this race is that it is the club's anniversary so there is always a catered breakfast following the race along with a cake contest (!) and an awards ceremony where the club's yearly awards are given out.

It was the weekend following the Rock and Roll Half and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel, so I signed up to volunteer at registration for the race.  I figured if I was feeling it, I could jump into the 5k once registration was done, and that's exactly what I did.  The volunteer stint was busy as a lot of club members seemed to use this for their first race of the year and were exchanging last year's chip and bib for this year's.  But everything was really well organized and flowed smoothly.  The only downside was that it was cold but that's not unexpected in March.  At least it wasn't raining like last year!

The 10k started at 9 and the 5k at 9:10.  The kids race started in between those 2.  So I jumped up from the registration table at 9:05 and headed to the start line.  The 10k started right on time, as did the kids race.  The 5k started a couple minutes late so that most of the kids from the kids race could finish up.  I didn't mind at all and it was fun cheering on the kids as they ran past :) They were all so cute!

The race is at Seneca Creek State Park, where the club has a lot of their races. It is a beautiful area with a lot of green and a lake.  We run on the streets in the park so it never seemed too congested.  The club has a lot of their races here and I really enjoy the location.  The course is hilly but I try to tell myself that's part of it's charm :)

Since I was well aware of the hills, my strategy involved abandoning my usual run walk intervals.  Instead, I ran for the first mile and a half or so and then on the way back took walk breaks on the uphills.  You can see the pace differential.

And this ended up being a 5k PR for me!  According to the website, my official time was 37:44.  My previous PR (from the Semper Fi 5k last May) was 38:54. Garmin record below, though the time is a bit longer since I started my watch a little early.  Also, this is the first time my Garmin recorded exactly 3.1 for a 5k race!  It's usually a bit more.

The only real downside of this race was the parking situation.  I don't remember it being this bad last year or at the New Year's race which was at the same location so maybe it was a fluke?  I got there early and therefore was able to park close.  My friend came later to run the race and ended up having to park more than a mile from the start line, along the race course.  So not only was it a long walk to and from the car, it was also hard for her to get out because the race was still going on.  And I waited in a line of cars around 15 minutes just to get out of the park.


But other than that delay at the end, this was a great race.  I love that there are multiple distance options. I love the beauty of the course, and I love how well organized it is.  As well as the free race entry for club members and the free photos!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Weekly review

I hope that everyone's week is starting out well! I'm a day late with my weekly review but it's here now :) Last week was a pretty good week and a nice mix of being productive and relaxing.  In fact, there may have even been a Star Wars movie marathon in my basement Saturday afternoon where I did nothing more than watch movies. But we all need days like that once in a while.

As far as work outs, here's my list.

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - Ran on the treadmill at work

 Wednesday - DDP Yoga

Thursday - Running on the treadmill at work again.  This was my attempt at speed work so it was a 1600, a 1200, an 800 and 2 400s with a half lap walk as recovery in between each set.

Friday - strength training (squats, planks, bridges, push-ups, crunches, calf raises, jumping jacks)

Saturday - I went to my first Pure Barre class.  It was definitely interesting.  I'm not sure of my final verdict yet but I'm going to give it a try with a couple different teachers and then see what I think.

Sunday - Barre was definitely a work out and I was sore in my abs.  So sore that I didn't end up going for a run since I was worried about being able to maintain any sort of decent form.  I did attempt the elliptical for a bit but that didn't last too long.  I also managed to get in about a 30 minute walk outside.

So I've learned my lesson.  Next week, it's running on Saturday and barre on Sunday!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Aerial Yoga review

So as previously mentioned, I bought a Groupon for aerial yoga classes.  They were held at a studio called Yin Yang Yoga and Wellness.  I had never heard of this yoga studio but it was close to my house in Maryland and the price was right, so I bought the groupon for both myself and Mike.

 So, what is aerial yoga?  According to the studio's website: 

In an Aerial Yoga class, students of all levels can use gravity as their greatest tool to access their individual goals. By implementing simple poses, students learn to release muscular tension, increase joint mobility, build balance and coordination, and slow down the aging process, while having a great time!
 Aerial Yoga is Suitable for most bodies regardless of age or physical abilities. The applications of this unique device are endless an adjustments can easily be made to suit the individual's specific needs.

Sounds great, sign me up!  Well, let's talk about the studio first.  It is located in the suburbs and has a parking lot which seemed to have plenty of parking for the most part.  The only time we had difficulty with parking is after one of the many snowstorms this Winter because piles of snow were still taking up some of the spots.

The studio is upstairs and you do have to climb a steep staircase to get up there.  But once you're at the top, it opens up and is welcoming and cozy.  There is a sign directing you to the left for wellness services and to the right for yoga.  Once you go to the right, there is a reception desk as well as a little tea stand stocked with various types of teas and a section where they sold some yoga goods.

There was an area where you could leave your coats and shoes, but it was small.  This area definitely felt tight in the transition period between classes. The studio itself was beautiful.  There are straps hanging from the ceiling to let you know where to set up.  Everyone would then get a backpack which had your hammock, which is what you suspend yourself from for various moves. 

Mike testing the height on his hammock - you can see the straps and backpacks in the background
The hammock is made of parachute material and hangs from the straps using S hooks.  Initially, I was a little worried about the sturdiness but the teachers started each class letting us know that the set up was graded to hold up to 1000 pounds.  That definitely made me feel safer.

What the hammock looks like without anyone in it

The practice itself was a lot of fun!  After the first class, Mike turned to me with a huge smile on his face and said that he had forgotten how much fun it was to be upside down.  There were definitely a couple times when I laughed and felt a bit like a kid playing around :)

Just hanging around

But it was also a good workout.  I initially thought it would be good for getting deeper stretches, back bends, etc. but I didn't think it would be much of a strength training workout.  Well, I was wrong.  There was a lot of core and thigh work.  Planks were done with hands on the ground and feet in the hammock. Warrior moves were done with one leg in the hammock and one on the floor.  All of these moves with parts of your body in the hammock definitely made balance tougher and forced the use of more muscles. It was also great for practicing handstand as part of your weight could be held by the hammock wrapped around your legs.

So what are the normal prices like?  The website indicates it's $20 for one class but there are various class passes that do lower the per class prices a bit.

Here are some other thoughts I had about the aerial yoga class at this studio: 

1. Schedule ahead - The classes were often full and we had to schedule all four of our classes about a month in advance to make sure we got in before the Groupon ran out.  The annoying thing was that the classes were never actually full when we got there.  It seems like they had a lot of no shows or last minute cancellations :(
2. Wear sleeves - I wore a tank top once and had bruises under my arms. There are several moves where the hammock is under your arms and you are hanging from it, which can be a bit uncomfortable.  Sleeves definitely help!
3. Know your potential for feeling motion sick - I had to make sure I went on an empty stomach because there were a couple times when I felt a bit nauseous.  I heard other people in the class comment on the same so it wasn't just me.
4. Falling - For the most part, it is hard to fall if you listen to what the teacher says.  The fear of falling was real and several times the teacher would come around and say, you can lift your hands off the ground, I promise you won't fall. But there were two incidents where someone did fall.  They were small falls and they caught themselves, but I advise caution.  The first time in class, I would definitely wait to invert until the teacher is watching so she can caution you if you're doing something wrong.  I think both falls were when people had their legs on the inside of the hammock instead of the outside.
5. Different teachers - It was strange but there really didn't seem to be a set teacher for the class.  Out of four classes, we had three different teachers.  I liked some more than others so it was a good opportunity to try out different styles but I would have liked the option to stick with a teacher I like.

Mike is thinking about sticking with it even now that our Groupon has run out.  I have a deal for barre classes so I'm going to try those next and then probably decide between the two.  But overall, I really liked these classes.  If you have aerial yoga near you, I definitely think it's worth a try.