Monday, May 5, 2014

Race the Bar 5k Recap (AKA: A Personal Worst!)

Do you remember a few weeks back, when I was all braggy about running in Florida in February/March? Sunny mornings around a lake with a light breeze off the water have turned, cruelly, into humid stretches of time where I am humbly reminded of my own limitations.

You guys, I see these gazelle-like creatures, men and women alike, who prance on my running route with compression socks, a soft glow of perspiration at their brow. It's beautiful. It's also a harsh reminder that I am not them. I am currently running in the thinnest, smallest items of clothing I can without offending anyone (shirt stays on, people). I dare not step outside without some awful visor or wide-brimmed hat. When I hop in the shower after a run, my face is a deep crimson that causes my husband to voice his concern for my general well-being.

Have I mentioned this is what happens after my easy runs, with a few walk breaks thrown in? Yeah. It's humbling.

Now, I'm not complaining. It's beautiful here, I'm not training for anything, and if "it's too sunny when I run" is my biggest thing to complain about, then obviously life is pretty freaking good.

I'm just creating a valid excuse to set the scene for my 5k recap, a race I did last weekend called Race the Bar. I didn't sign up for the race, because it was on a Saturday night and I knew I wasn't "race-ready" by any stretch of the imagination, but I had nothing to do that night and it was a mile away from home via my normal running route, so I showed up, got my shirt and warmed up.

Post Race: Pics or it didn't happen

It was 92 degrees at the race start at 6pm, but the course is fortunately 50% shaded and almost completely flat. Just to clarify, 92 degrees Fahrenheit. I wasn't gunning for a PR, of course, but somehow I assumed that if I wanted it badly enough, I could magically pull some great time out of my ass.

Spoiler! I did no such thing.

Although the results were posted up at the finish line a few minutes after I crossed, I've already forgotten the exact time. My Garmin says it was 29:49, so let's go with that. I distinctly remember being relived that the clock at the finish hadn't yet hit 30 minutes.  That translates to a 9:35 pace, which is almost a minute slower, per mile, than my marathon PR. (If you're not a runner, I'd just like to clarify that as a general rule, that should not happen. There is no one who should ever, ever have a 5k pace slower than their marathon pace. I just thought you should know that.)

However, there were upsides to this soul-crushing race.

1) I think the heat forced a lot of people to stay home or take it easy, because I managed to take first in my age group.  I feel obligated to also mention that there were only three women in my age group.

2) I didn't walk! Normally not something to be super proud of during a 5k race,  but I trudged on and refused to stop out of stubbornness.

3) My $30 entry fee went to a good cause - Florida Rural Legal Services.

4) I got a baseline! I plan to run several more 5ks, all really close to my house, this summer. So, the time to beat it 29:49. My plan to is not run in direct sunlight at 6pm. Seems like a solid plan so far.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I Run Less and Slower Than Before (Also, a Marathon Recap)

In December, I signed up for a trail-ish 50k in the Seattle area called the Pigtails Flat Ass. When race day rolled around in less than desirable weather conditions, I had an upset stomach, my heart wasn't into it and there was a mistake at signup that said I was supposed to run the 26.2 instead of the 50k.  I was given the chance to correct the mistake and run the ultra distance, but I happily declined.

That's not a good sign. When you are standing in the cold at 8 in the morning, you should want to be there.

When you have paid money to wake up early and run through slushy trails, you should be happy about it.

Post-race - the resigned smile. "Can we go home, please?"

Running is a cruel mistress. Some days it feels phenomenal, and other times it sucks. That's how it goes, and I accept that. But in December, something switched in me. I realized that I was HATING 95% of my runs. I was - and still am, occasionally- treating the act of running as some kind of punishment.

Overate a bunch of crap? Go for a long run. Extra miles.

Got in a fight with the husband? Sprints. Lung burn to make up for stupid crap you said.

Overwhelmed with work? Tempo run. Focus on the splits rather than how to deal with work problems.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with running as a way to lose weight, relieve stress or think through relationship problems. But I was treating it as a way to punish myself, in a weird way. A hard run made up for other areas of my life that I needed to improve. In many cases, it is easier to hop on the treadmill and push yourself to a faster pace than it it is email with a frustrating client at work, or apologize to my husband, or maybe not eat giant bags of candy while binge-watching reality television. (That last part has a place in every healthy lifestyle, however. Just not every day.)

The Pigtails Flat Ass race, which turned into a marathon for me rather than a 50k, was miserable. I came in at 4:23:45, which was good enough for 5th woman overall in the very, very small field of runners. I met my patient husband, got my cute plastic pig medal and stomped immediately to the car. I was not happy. Not with the time, not with the experience, not with 5th place. It wasn't fun.

So I stopped running.

At first, it was just a few days to recover. Then it was purposefully taking off until the New Year and really enjoying the holidays. Then, it was more than that. I was actively NOT running. After a few weeks, the desire came back, and I began to run a little more. Now, I've been running 2-4 times each week. No rush, no speedwork, not even always a Garmin. I'm not training for anything, I take walk breaks when I feel like it and I have no problem with skipping a few days just because.

It's probably anti-inspirational to say, "Look at me! I run less, and do it even slower than before!" I just feel like it's something that is okay to say.  Contrary to what running blogs might imply, you don't have to run marathons, or compete in 5ks, or even run all that much to still be considered a runner.

I have no races on the calendar - and I'm a runner.

I stopped using Daily Mile - and I'm a runner.

I only wear my Garmin 50% of the time - and I'm a runner.

I don't take sweaty selfies at the completion of each run - and I'm a runner.

I take walk breaks - and I'm a runner.

Running, for the most part, is supposed to be fun. If it's not, you might be doing it wrong.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Balance Fresh Foam Show Review

When I got on the plane to fly from Washington to Florida, and after I had paid a silly amount of money to connect to the Internet from 35,00 in the sky, I received an email from Online Shoes asking if I would like to try and review the New Balance W980 Fresh Foam running shoe. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I gladly accepted without even looking up anything about the shoe. About six weeks ago, I received the shoes on my doorstep, unpacked the box like a kid on Christmas, and kind of...grimaced.

The first time I saw these shoes, I thought they looked a little gaudy. Not quite Hoka/Vibram level obnoxious, but definitely too bright and clunky-looking for my personal tastes.

As of today, the color combination no longer shocks me every time I open my closet door, and I actually quite like the brightness. However, I would certainly not recommend them for anyone in search of running shoes to blend in. On that note, what happened to boring running shoes? Are they all neon now?

Obligatory leg/shoe shot. AKA "the thigh gap angle"

Colors aside, which really mean nothing and should probably never influence a running shoe decision, I still wasn't crazy about these "maximalist" shoes. Primarily because there is only a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, which is pretty minimal for me. I've been running for the past few months in shoes with 11mm heel-to-toe, which feels drastically different. I felt pretty comfortable in them for shorter runs (<5 miles at a time), but I didn't try them for anything longer. That's due to two factors: I'm not actually running long distances at all right now, and I don't particularly want to transition to a more minimal drop. I know that switching from a supportive shoe to a more minimal drop requires a slot transition and the use of different muscles, and that is not something I care to do at this time. Of course, that's my opinion, and every runner feels differently. I am firmly in the "if it's not broken, don't fix it," camp.  I'm not injured, so I'm not changing the way I run!

Unfortunately, I did feel like there were some drawbacks that weren't particularly subjective. First, the outsoles of the shoe have a hexagonal print, but there doesn't feel like there is a lot of traction. I noticed when I wore them in the rain that I constantly felt like I was going to fall on the wet sidewalks. I didn't, but I certainly felt uneasy. Additionally, the toe box of the Fresh Foam shoes was narrow. I do have wider feet, so this is a common issue for me, but I wouldn't recommend it for someone who also has wide feet.

So... the main points that you need to know:

• The New Balance Fresh Foam running shoes have a minimalist heel-to-toe drop of 4mm
• Padded, "maximalist" design
• Potentially slippery soles
• Narrow fit
•  Felt firm - lots of support, but not much cushion
• Lightweight at under 8 ounces for the woman's shoe
• BOLD colors (along with the blue/orange I was sent, there are gray/yellow and purple options)

• Price point around $110

Personally, I wouldn't purchase these shoes for myself in the future. However, I would definitely view them as alternatives to more expensive maximalist shoes. If I ever wanted to transition to this type of shoe, I would (and will!) keep the Fresh Foam in mind.

I received the New Balance W980 Fresh Foam free of charge from, but this is my take on the shoes. I wasn't compensated in any other way, and this is 100% my opinion.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Brace Yourselves: Cuteness is Coming

One of the hardest things about moving, for me, was wondering how the cats would adjust each time. Although our cats are super travelers at this stage, I feel really guilty every time we have to pack them up and force them onto a plane. I remember my grandma telling me years ago that when she moved with a cat, they put butter on their paws. That way, the cats spent the first day in a new house licking their paws to get them clean, and that was enough time to lose the "smell" of the old house. I love that story, and I wish the same principle applied to longer moves.

Anyway, that's a super long intro to say that for the fellow cat ladies out there, our three fur babies are insanely happy in this jungle gym of a home here in Florida. It's warm, there are plenty of sunny spots to curl up a take a nap, and they have lots of room to spread out. Despite the space, of course, they still usually want to take a nap on my head at night. Obviously. They also love climbing on our mid-century furniture, which Tim has managed to turn into a great business: Trystcraft! (Head over there if you're into MCM furniture!)

If you hate cute things, now is the time to look away. This picture combines two of the most adorable things in the world, and they're napping while holding hands. HOLDING HANDS. It's almost too much.

This picture is especially cute because the cat pictured is reckless and wild most of the time. Here he is trying to figure out how to escape from the atrium. The ceilings are like 20 feet high, but he is going to keep trying. As they say in the South, bless his heart.

I vaguely remember that once upon a time, this blog revolved around food and running more than it did around cats and DIY. I'll get back there, probably. We'll see. For now, I'm enjoying not training for anything, running whenever I feel like and enjoying multiple guilt-free rest days whenever it rains/is too hot/my shakras are not properly aligned. I have many, many excuses.

And also...bonus picture. Because it's funny to see a demon cat in a fireplace. Right? Don't worry - we live in Central Florida. That fireplace is not getting used any time soon, so it is essentially just another toy for the cats. (See also: couch, bed, chair, walls...)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rice-Less Sushi and Kirin Beer Tasting

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Kirin. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”

I love sushi. There, I said it. I have a very deep, ongoing, and near-spiritual relationship with the nori, the soy sauce and the fatty deliciousness of raw salmon. I also have an aversion to work and the actual creation of said sushi.  I have all the super-handy tools for rolling sushi, but the lazy woman in me would really just prefer to order takeout. Lately, Tim and I have been making rice-less sushi. Yes, this is an aberration, and yes, technically I guess it is just sashimi once you've taken out the rice.

However, cucumbers make an effective salmon and cream cheese delivery system, so don't knock it until you try it.

Option #1: Seriously Lazy. No, like REALLY, REALLY LAZY.

-Slice cucumbers
-Spread cream cheese on said cucumbers
-Layer on chunks of raw salmon

Option #2: The Unecessary 

-Hollow out a cucumber
-Fill with a layer of cream cheese, a layer of salmon and a sprinkle of nori (dried seaweed)
-Eat like a cucumber boat of deliciousness that looks ugly but tastes fantastic

I did warn you re: ugliness

Option #3: The Nori Sandwich

-Spread a thick layer of cream cheese onto a square piece of nori
-Put sliced cucumbers and salmon on one half of the nori
-Fold in half
-Munch en route to somewhere super important. Or in front of the TV. Whichever.

Obviously, you can mix up these options with ingredient variations. Tuna, shrimp, pickled carrots and avocado are all tasty. I just happen to like the classic winning combo of salmon and cream cheese.

Just because we are half-assing the sushi, it doesn't mean we half-ass our drinks selections. I got sent some Kirin Ichiban beer and Kirin Light to taste and pair with a meal, so this was that opportunity. Living in Asia has given use plenty of chances to try Asian beers, but I am personally more familiar with the Tsing Taos/Singhas/Tigers of the world, and I don't know if I have actually ever tried Kirin before. (Spoiler: it totally tastes like beer!)

The color of the Kirin Ichiban vs the Kirin Light was apparent once we poured them into glasses:

Taste-wise, there was a clear winner to me: the original was better. Unsurprising, really. The light has fewer calories (95 to the original's 145), but it also has about 25% less alcohol. So, if you want to match someone beer for beer, or you don't want to get too dehydrated at a summer barbecue, Kirin Light is the way to go. Otherwise? Original, please. To my completely unrefined palate, it tasted like a German wheat beer, and it was perfect to pair with a really fatty dish like cream cheese/salmon.

Oddly enough, Tim loved the Kirin Light. I'll be honest and say that each sip, to me, tasted like water with a beer aftertaste. Not a glowing recommendation, right? But he loved it, and thought it was really refreshing and something he could drink a lot of. Since he has undoubtedly consumed more beer in his lifetime than I have, I will have to assume he knows what he's talking about.

I will say I was kind of disappointed when I read the label and saw that Kirin was another Anheuser-Busch product that was licensed - so, actually made in the United States. Not in a pretentious, "I only drink beer from abroad," kind of way, but I think it's fun to try food/beverages as they are consumed around the world. Apparently, some places in Japan and the U.S. serve draft Kirin with a frozen-beer slushy portion served on the top of the glass! I could get on board with that.

Are you a sushi roll kind of person? Or do you prefer nigiri, cones, sashimi, etc?
Nigiri, rolls, hand rolls - whatever. I like it all. 

Your thoughts on a beer slurpy. Go.
I am intrigued. Yes to keeping the beer cold as you drink it, but I'm not sure if it would be too cold to have any real flavor. Side bar: now I want a wine slurpy. A lot.

NB: Lest ye long-time readers get the wrong idea, this beer is not gluten-free! It's 100% malt. I'm back on the gluten wagon, but I'll save that for another post :)

Learn more about Kirin Ichiban and their partnership with Iron Chef star Candice Kumai on Facebook!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Just a Little Bit Fickle

What's four months between friends, right? The last post I wrote was back in December, when I discussed the fact that Tim and I moved from Georgia to Seattle. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful, it has the best running weather, and there were bumper sticks with bleeding-heart liberal slogans on the back of every Eco-friendly car. I was in love.

Except things don't ever work out quite that simply, do they? Long story still pretty long (sorry about that), I am writing this post from Central Florida. A few months ago, from our apartment in Bellevue, Washington, Tim spotted his dream house. He has long been into Usonian-style homes a la Frank Lloyd Wright, and this random, run-down, 1950s house in the middle of nowhere, Florida, was perfect. But it was in Florida. And we JUST moved from Georgia to Washington.

To top it all off, Tim started a new mid-century modern furniture company: Trystcraft! If you like MCM style, Danish lounge chairs and high-end pieces from the likes of Eames, Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner, definitely check it out. There's a shop and a blog (I help with that!), so even if you just want to learn more, you should head over there to see what's new.

But what's the point of being flexible, being child-less and having a work-from-home job unless you take advantage of it? So we did. The house was previously inhabited by an older couple who were, essentially, hoarders. We tackled as much of the renovation as we could on our own over the past six weeks, but we had to call in the big guns for things like putting on a new roof and installing an air conditioning system. Most of the work, however, was cleaning. Imagine 30 years of dust and grease coated onto every surface of the house, and then sprinkle a healthy amount of cockroaches into that image. Yeah. Delightful.

From this(buckets for roof leaks, natch).... this (filters for that proud yuppie glow!)

Getting my sanding on.

I think the roof might have been a little rotten. Maybe.

Morning sun in the interior atrium

Lest I sound like I'm complaining, I have been running straight out my front door around a lake each morning in amazing Florida weather. Don't hate. (Also, feel free to laugh in my face when I can't handle going outside in the heat for the entire summer.)

Views from my run

Basically, this is a post to a) explain my absence from the blog-o-sphere, b) explain why my Facebook location got changed, and c) rub everyone's nose in my nice sunny weather. I think I have accomplished all three perfectly, so I'm done now.

Obligatory question time!

Are you a DIY-enthusiast? Or a call-a-handyman-to-hang-a-picture-frame type person?
I'm the latter. No shame. We kind of had to do most of the stuff for the house that were were capable of doing, because $$$$, but I would much rather call in a pro and then blame them if it goes wrong. Thankfully, my husband is a lot more handy than I am. That being said, it feels really good to accomplish something with your own two hands.