Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just call me coach

In San Diego, I experienced that crazy phenomenon of "not wanting to take a rest day" for the first time. Our hotel was right along the water, and the running route I found was ridiculously beautiful. Plus, the weather was between 65-70 degrees the entire time we were there, with little to no humidity. But after running seven days in a row (I'm positive that's a first for me), my legs were begging for a rest day. So I took Monday off from running. The route Ifound was exactly a 10K, so I did that Tuesday and Wednesday.

I almost cried when we left. I think I need to start looking for jobs there.

Monday we watched the sunset - so romantic.

I got home just before 10pm Wednesday night, and I'll be here for approximately 32 whole hours! Tomorrow morning it's back to the airport to fly to my hometown to visit my family. When I got home, starving and exhausted, I expected to find an empty kitchen full of pizza boxes. I was pleasantly surprised to find the fridge filled with delicious, fancy food. Eric had worked at the bar during a private, catered party the night before, and took home a ton of extra food for me. He also cleaned, organized, and completely rearranged the bedroom while I was gone. Win/win!

While in San Diego, I took on a new responsibility as part of my running store job.

I'm coaching a 5K training program! I've never coached, but the store provides the training plan. I've done plenty of training of my own, I'm married to a coach, and I've taught tons of kids to read, so I'm clearly highly qualified. I'm way more excited than I should be, and I cannot wait to begin. If you are local, click the link and sign up. If you are not local, move here immediately, or come stay in my guest room, and sign up. Can you even imagine how awesome it would be to train for a 5K with me coaching you?

Apparently there were two screaming babies on one of our flights back to Baltimore, but I was so obsessed with reading Games of Thrones I didn't even notice. Given my massive amount of blogging about Twilight and Hunger Games, it's no secret that I don't really go halfway with pop culture book obsessions. I'm pretty proud that my latest is actually intended for adults.

I was desperately trying to finish the first book on the plane so that Eric and I could start watching the TV series. I finished it this morning (on the balcony, while sweating - I miss you already, California weather) and we just watched the first episode. So good.

We were supposed to have a marathon and watch all day, but my jet lag forced me to sleep most of the morning and the day seems to have practically disappeared. It's already almost 4 and I haven't even run yet.   

Last week was my first official week of JFK training. I ran 49 miles, so I'd say it's off to a good start. Of course, I don't plan on making running all seven days of the week a normal practice, and I'll be adding in some swimming and biking once I'm actually in town to do so.

Have you ever been in a training group, or even coached one? Any advice?

Monday, June 25, 2012

In a whale's vagina

That's right, I'm in San Diego, which of course in German means "a whale's vagina".

I'm here for ISTE, an international technology conference for teachers. The conference is Sunday - Wednesday, but my work was nice enough to let me fly down on Friday. My friend Rachel, from way back in the day (we've known each other since third grade!) flew down from Oakland to spend the weekend here sightseeing with me.

I arrived around 1pm on Friday, took a cab to the hotel, checked in, put on sunscreen, and went out for a run (no need to put on my running clothes, I wore them on the plane, obviously). 

Ashley is a San Diego native, and last weekend she told me that people come there for a visit and drop everything to move there. I'll admit I was skeptical up until about 20 minutes after arriving in San Diego myself. I figured I'd just use the run to explore the city, and about .05 miles after leaving the hotel I was staring at a street sign in confusion. In Baltimore, someone walking by would probably take that as an opportunity to completely ignore me, shove me out of the way (possibly into oncoming traffic), or rob me at gunpoint. 

In San Diego, a man walking by noticed my confusion, stopped to ask me if I needed help, then went way out of his way to not only suggest a great running route, but get me a map to show me where the route was. As if that didn't convince me enough, the route was right through Seaport Village and along Harbor Drive, which meant that between staring at the beautiful views of the water and all the fascinating things going on around me, I was lucky I didn't trip and bust my face up.

This stopped me in my tracks, literally

Big ships are fun to look at while I run
After my run, I walked around and checked out the area we were staying in, the Gaslamp District, which is the cool part of San Diego, according to the front desk. 

This was a highlight.

Our hotel had free watermelon sangria from 5-6 each night, so while I waited for Rachel to arrive, I had mine with a side of violence.

I was exhausted from jet lag when Rachel got there, but somehow I managed to pull it together to convince her to join me at Pinkberry.

Chocolate froyo with chocolate shavings

Since Rachel lives 3,000 miles from me, we obviously don't see each other on a regular basis anymore. We were pleased to find out that we are perfect travel companions. Case in point - we saw this, and both of us had the immediate reaction of "WE SHOULD ENTER!" It was at least a full 30 seconds before Rachel realized we didn't have our bikes.

We knew we wanted to do a long - ish run in the morning, so Rachel suggested taking a bus to a nearby beach so we could run along the Ocean, and sight see and take pictures while we ran. I think we had an awkward moment where we were both were worried the other would say something like "absolutely not I need to do negative splits at 87% of my VO2 max". That didn't happen though, we were both 100% on board with running tourism. 

We started out at Imperial Beach.

We had to pee pretty bad, since the trip there took something like an hour, and we were running along a fence forever with tons of bathrooms on the other side, but no way to get to them. When there was finally a spot to enter, it was cause for celebration.

When we got to Coronada Beach, I really wanted to dip my feet in the Pacific, just to say I'd touched it. So we took our running shoes off and went for it.

First time in the Pacific! Cold as hell!
We didn't bring any Gu, but luckily refreshment was available.

Anyone ever seen this in real life before? I hadn't.
We ended up running about 10.5 miles, and it only took us like 3 hours. Way more fun and efficient than regular sightseeing.

Even better than taking the bus back, we took the ferry.

More cool views from the ferry
After getting back and showering, we walked something like another 4 miles checking out the rest of the city, followed by dinner, drinks, and getting to bed early. See, perfect travel companions.

Sunday morning we went running at Seaport Village. The triathlon we couldn't enter was going on, so we alternated running, cheering, and running while cheering. We did four miles in something like an hour. 

After our run, Rachel came up with the brilliant idea to rent bikes for the rest of the day. Running sightseeing was efficient, but biking sightseeing would really be the ultimate efficient choice to make the most of our time. We had another awkward moment where we were each afraid the other would be one of those "I'm too cool to wear a helmet" types, but then we quickly realized that neither of us were total idiots like that.

We rented bikes and rode up to Balboa Park first, a huge park full of museums, gardens, artwork, and even the zoo, a San Diego "must see". Riding without my clip in pedals felt so weird!

Some views from the park:

Can you spot me?

After the park, we went through the city and down to the water again, but on bikes we were able to travel much further out, and the city line view on the way back was unbelievable. 

This really doesn't do it justice.

Even instagram can't truly capture the beauty.

I'm never going to a new city without renting bikes again. 

I've already told Eric to pack our things and meet me here as soon as possible, because I'm not leaving.

Would you be down with running/biking sightseeing? Personally, I think it was the best idea ever.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tower of Chocolate

Thanks for letting me get real yesterday, and now that I've said my piece, we'll return to regularly scheduled programming. Although those of you who didn't agree with me about Matt Lauer - I'm not saying he's on the same level as Dolvett, who refused to retweet me on my birthday and is dead to me now anyway, but he's very attractive for an older guy. Deal with it.

Running - ok, training for JFK has begun. That means nothing, other than when I am tempted to skip running in favor of the elliptical, I don't. So far, here's what the week has looked like.

M - 7 mile run, same pace as the Baltimore Ten Miler - aka I didn't push myself hard enough in the race.
T - 10 mile birthday run
W - 5 mile hungover post birthday run
T - 6 mile slow as hell it's way too humid run

I was going to wake up at the ass crack of dawn and run before my flight to San Diego. Then I realized I could do my boring neighborhood loop at 5am when it's already 85 degrees, or I could explore San Diego on foot where the high today is 69. 

Right now I'm just really building up and getting used to running higher mileage weeks. I want to still incorporate some biking and swimming, but now that I'm working two jobs, it's a little trickier to schedule.

Speaking of jobs, I learned how to fit people for running shoes this week! I still haven't done it by myself, but I technically know how.

More importantly, let's talk about my birthday cake. After wasting a significant amount of time on Pinterest, I decided to make myself this ice cream cake, substituting brownie for cake in the bottom layer, because brownie is always the better choice.

Making the ice cream
My ice cream mix - ins
Pictures really can't do this cake justice, but I tried.


After eating some - just to show the layers.
Carolyn and Lily came over to drink wine, eat delicious Mexican food at the restaurant across the street, 
and of course, eat ice cream cake.

The fishbowl sangrias are so good, so cheap, so dangerous.
They put the whipped cream on my nose.
How cute is this crab wine glass from Carolyn?
 I'm not showing all my gifts, because I was spoiled and got so many awesome, thoughtful ones, but here's some that I feel are blog - relevant.

Mockingjay pin - it goes perfectly with my new Mockingjay Noodle Hugger from Emily!
My Dad got me some delicious smelling fancy coffees from Harry and David, and I was super excited. Then I came home from work the day after my birthday, and this was waiting for me.

Naturally, this picture sucks, because I was WAY too excited to rip open every single one of those boxes because they all contain some type of chocolate. I've already sampled way too many of them and it's brought me so much happiness. I would photograph them all but I forgot and now I'd be embarrassed to show how much is already gone and it would just make you all jealous that your dad didn't send you a giant tower of delicious chocolate. Note to Dad - I hear your metabolism goes down as you exit your 20s, so as wonderful as this was, non - edible gifts for my 30th birthday only!

Would you rather have a Mockingjay pin or a tower of chocolate?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

29 things

In honor of my 29th birthday today, I'll share 29 things that I think are/will be awesome while I'm 29.
Posting this picture only because I think it's a good picture of us.
I tried not to get too sappy, but I took extra consideration and wrote the cheesy ones in red so that any cynics like me can skip over those ones.

In no particular order:

1. The Katy Perry movie comes out July 5th. I don't care if I have to go by myself (pretty sure I will), I'll be at the theater soaking in the beauty that day.

2. Speaking of cinematic bliss, in less than two months we will be the proud owners of the Hunger Games DVD.

3. Running- here's a "is this normal or is this weird?" moment.  Every day I get excited about how I can actually run and I don't have any illness or injury or anything that prevents me. Like, honestly every day I think about this. Please weigh in.

4. I'm going to San Diego in just 3 days!

5. I consider all my immediate family my BFFs. When people say things like "I'm glad I have a buffer zone from my parents", it confuses me just as much as when people say things like "that dessert was too sweet, I couldn't finish it". It just doesn't even make any sense. I'm obsessed with my family and can never get enough time with them. Moving 400 miles away didn't help.

6. Biking - I just need to talk for a second about how much I love this. A little over a year ago it scared the crap out of me and now I can't get enough. By this logic I'll be requesting a pet tarantula for my 30th birthday.

7. Next month Eric and I will be an aunt and uncle! How great is that? We are going to have a nephew!

8. Ragnar in Miami for Lily's 30th birthday. If flying to Florida to alternate sleeping in a van full of sweaty people with running in the middle of the night doesn't appeal to you, your title of "runner" will be immediately stripped away.

9. Dolvett - as far as I know he's still on the Biggest Loser, and I look forward to continuing to drool every Tuesday night. Unless he doesn't retweet me today, in which case he is dead to me.

It may be my birthday, but I'll give this gift to my readers. So selfless.

10. Chocolate. Obviously. It's my birthday, so calories don't count, which incidentally is the philosophy I follow the other 364 days of the year as well. Turns out if you have a blog dedicated to chocolate, you get all sorts of wonderful treats for your birthday. 

11. Coffee. Without it, I would probably be in jail for slapping the first person to say "good morning" to me prior to 10:30 am. Also, it's delicious, smells good, and is just fun to drink. Confession - I'm really jealous of Amanda for coming up with such a perfect blog name.

12. Bike shorts. Without them, my ass would be in such bad shape.

13. My running buddy - she met me at 5am so we could start my birthday off with a ten  mile run!

14. Sir Mix a Lot. For so many reasons.

15. Friends. I'm extremely socially awkward and shy, so it consistently amazes me that people other than my mom willingly spend time with me. Not just any people though, some of the most wonderful people I've ever known.  

16. The internet - you can't go wrong here. It brings me so many hours of amusement, and it has also provided me with the majority of my new friends recently. I may have to assure my husband that I'm not inviting serial killers to sleep over numerous times, but so far all these friendships have worked out great.

17. I'm married to a hottie. Also, he waits on me hand and foot whenever I ask him too. I lucked out here.

18. DVR - those of you living without it, I don't understand you.

19. Lady Gaga - she can wear meat dresses all she wants, her music has helped me through many races.

20. My iPhone - I used to need a camera, ipod, and phone - now I have one device that does it all, plus has the internet, PLUS has Words with Friends.

21. Words with Friends - my number one goal as a 29 year old is to improve at this game. I will put career, my master's degree, running, and personal relationships on the backburner if need be.

22. JFK 50 - I don't think anybody who hasn't done Stone Mill can fully appreciate how excited I am to be running a 50 mile race that will actually be 50 MILES.

23. Wine. It's helped me through some rough times, and I plan on continuing our relationship well into the future.

24. The Hartford Marathon - running with Kari, Emily, and Emily is going to be epic. It's not until October and one of us probably mentions how we can't wait at least once a week.

25. I'm still in my 20s. For 364 more days. I need to enjoy this.

26. Breaking Dawn part 2! If it is released the night before my 50 mile race again, my life will be complete. 

If this doesn't excite you, you are dead to me.
27. I work with great people. Last week, my fellow third grade teacher friend made me brownies for my birthday. I don't have to worry about being exhausted from waking up at 4am today to run, because my hall bestie (yes we actually call each other that at work) is treating me to Starbucks at lunch. Even more importantly, she watches my class whenever I have to pee.

28. Our 4 year anniversary next month - obviously, I will take any excuse to bake and eat cake, but it goes deeper than that. We are going to the Smoky Mountains for some hiking and since I'm basically spending the next 10 days on trips away from Eric, I'm pretty psyched. We watch our wedding video every year on our anniversary - seriously, any future brides reading, DO NOT skip the wedding video!

29. Christmas - I'm obsessed with any holiday, but ESPECIALLY Christmas, and especially this year when it won't be all adults! From what I've heard a 5 month old might not participate fully in all the activities, but he'll still be adorable to look at.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eric's Guest post!

Kara suggested that my husband, Eric, do a guest post with his Baltimore Ten Miler experience (she noticed that based on his Facebook statuses, it might be an interesting post). I've really wanted him to do a guest post for a long time, since his pictures tend to get such positive feedback. As expected, he protested like crazy when I brought it up, but I pulled the birthday card, so he has been basically forced into it. He freaked out that he would "come up with a post that everyone hated", so I suggested an interview format to help calm his nerves.

Here it is, straight from his mouth (typed by me, verbatim). 

Alyssa: Tell us the events leading up to the race.

Eric: I had to work Thursday night, and didn't get home until 3am. I had a full day of cleaning and things that needed to be done, so I woke up at 8 or 9 Friday. I was up early, went to the chiropractor, went to Home Depot to get all the stuff to clean and organize the house, bought a safe, so all our documents are now safe. Once I cleaned and organized the observatory and the bathroom, I began vacuuming. I had to be at work at 4:30, I got done cleaning about 3:30, so that meant no nap. No proper nutrition. I went to work, I bought two 1.5 liters of water and a foot long sub. I had to work cashier, so I couldn't get any other sustenance. So, um, I drank all the water, I ate the sub. Nothing exciting really happened except a guy told me "F-you" because he didn't understand what a cover charge was. He got mad because he paid cover and he thought he should get a free drink. Other than that, uneventful night.

So at the end of the night, I was counting the cash, and I thought I was $200 over, and the manager counted, and said I was $80 short. While I was finishing up all the other stuff, he came to me and said I was $20 over, but that's still a write up. 

Really old picture, all I could find of him in his work uniform.

So when I finally got home, about 3 in the morning, I was too wired to sleep, so I made a little playlist, so I laid down about 4:30, which gave me about an hour of sleep. I woke up, picked up my running outfit, which was my usual vibrant self, my highlighter yellow shirt. 

We got in the car, I had my protein shake and two pieces of toast, I took a little half hour nap.

Once we arrived, I took my 5 hour energy. Then we began the mile walk to the start line, it was a good warm up for me, considering the fact I hadn't trained for this run. After checking our bags and going to the porto potties, I said goodbye to my lovely, beautiful, supportive, best woman on the planet, wife (I swear, these are his words!) oh and did I mention sexy? I went back to my start, as always, I had trouble trying to figure out when to start my Runkeeper app so that it gives me an accurate reading. And as always, I started it way too early, and I ended it way too late. 

As I started my descent into these ten miles, I was having a little bit of chest pains, a little bit of issues breathing, that lasted for about a mile, maybe a mile and a half. Then I started to feel my stride, I was feeling pretty good. About three miles in, I saw my twin brother, another black guy wearing my exact highlighter yellow shirt. We yoyo'd for about a half mile. Then he ate my dust.

I felt pretty good as I went through mile 4. I saw Ashley and my other friend Adam who runs at a ridiculous pace. I felt pretty good, then it happened. And by it, I mean Lake Montebello. I think the mix of not getting enough sleep or proper nutrition combined with treacherous Lake Montebello conspired to have my body shut down. 

After mile 5, it became a mixture of run, walk, limp, the process repeated itself for the last five miles. As I got to mile 9 and the last water station all the people who were cheering, I couldn't really hear what they were saying, but it looked like they were cheering for me, I'm not sure because I was rocking out to my playlist. They did help me get through the last mile. That, and the Final Countdown, by Europe. As I came around the turn to see the finish line, I had cramps in both my quads, both my calves, but I still persevered to run that last 50 yards. 

Even though the picture doesn't show it, I was in a hell of a lot of pain. There was many times during this run that I thought about quitting, and walking the whole way, but all I could think of is, if I quit, I won't earn the white jacket. And really, that's the only reason I ran this race, or I run at all, is for stuff.

Alyssa: Anything else?

Eric: I can't think of anything. I really don't want to relive those miles 6-10, so they went pretty fast, but in reality, they were pretty slow. It was by far my worst running experience ever. And I will never do a race again without training. And if I need to, I will quit my job, because I will not work the night before a race again.

If you want a little interesting tidbit, my time in this race was 2:20 and my fastest half marathon was 2:45, so that should tell you how terrible of a race it was. I finished 329 out of 333 in my age group. I did not have negative splits.

I guess really just the one question was all he needed! The "never doing a race without training thing" is on the internets now, so it's official. Might as well be written in blood.

Baltimore Ten Miller X3

Friday night, Ashley came to Baltimore for our pre-race slumber party. Eric was working at the bar, so we had the whole place to ourselves for pillow fights.

We enjoyed some pizza and wine. I don't usually drink before races, but Ashley brought this really delicious Cupcake wine (that's the brand, not the flavor, unfortunately) that I couldn't resist. She was nice enough to bring me my own bottle as a birthday gift! I don't know why I've been holding out, because drinking wine pre-race only gives me another excuse to blame poor performance on. 

I really had to idea what to expect from the race, so I decided to try and just stay with Lily and not look at my Garmin. My main goal was to avoid going out too fast and hating the whole thing like last year.

Should have stayed with her.

We ran the first mile in 7:36, but it was mainly downhill, so I felt ok. After that, we ran the next few miles around a 8:30-8:40 pace. It felt like that "comfortable hard" pace that I've heard you are supposed to aim for in tempo runs.

Then, for some reason, after the mile 5 marker, I fell apart. I got freaked out that I was totally out of breath and couldn't hold that pace for the second half of the race so I fell back and let Lily go ahead. Mile 6 was my slowest mile, 9:03. After that little freak out, I started feeling good again, and picked up the pace again back to where I'd been holding it, even for the last two miles, which are famous for their terrible hills. 

My official time was 1:26:41 (average pace 8:40), so I'm really mad because my course PR from two years ago was 1:25:50. I was less than a minute away from beating it, so if I'd just stuck with Lily I would have been fine. I'm upset because it was all mental - it wasn't that I couldn't keep up, it was that I was worried I wouldn't be able to down the line. 

We hung out for awhile and waited for Eric - he ran the race on less than an hour of sleep after something like a 12 hour shift at the bar!

Then we found a bunch of friends who were listening to the post-race band and had some beers (well, everyone who likes beer, aka everyone other than me). We got to ride down this sweet slide.

Notice how there are all children....and then me and Carolyn.
After the race, we got bagels, and Lily treated me to a birthday pedicure (don't worry, we showered first)!

My BFF Casi and I have birthdays 5 days apart, so we often celebrate together. This weekend was right in the middle, so we (mainly, she) planned a birthday scavenger hunt. We split into two groups and had lists of things to find and photograph around the city. Some were general (a mullet, a smartcar), and some were specific (an Elvis statue, a pagoda in the park).

Since we were the birthday girls, we demanded to be on the same team. We drew all the other names out of a paper bag and handed out gold or silver beads to designate the teams.

I lucked out and Eric was the last person drawn for our team, and I got REALLY excited.

Gold (aka winners)
 Berger cookies were on the list so I tried to thwart the silver team by hiding them behind hamburger buns.

It was really important that everyone know it was my birthday.
 The scavenger hunt ended up being quite a little workout with all the fast walking to different locations. When we finally met back up, we were starving, and went out to a great Indian place for dinner. I refueled with so much garlic naan. 

I'm only posting this picture to get opinions on my finger - doesn't it look freakishly long?
 No night out is complete without some dancing.

Being nearly 30 now, we didn't have quite the wild night like we used to back in the day. I think we hung out chatting until nearly midnight before I put my hair up and begged Eric to take me home.

On Sunday, I think my butt was only off the couch for approximately 2% of the entire day. In my defense, I was doing grad work (and reading some blogs and Games of Thrones).

Don't worry, my real birthday isn't until tomorrow, so if I haven't yet received your gift, you still have time.