Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Going Commando

I thought about writing this post and then asked Tim if he thought it was a little, um, "taboo." He asked me if I would want my little brother or my in-laws reading it. I said no. I wrote it anyway. So far I have avoided a lot of controversial topics (having sex before races and long runs, anyone?) because well, the Internet doesn't forget. Luckily, I think I handle the repercussions of this topic. Deep breath. Here we go.

Yesterday Kyria posted about finding the right pair of undies for a long run. I laughed at that, because for me - it was a futile mission. I tried them all folks. The tighy-whities. The granny panties. The barely-there thongs. It took a long run on laundry day to finally figure out what worked best of all - nothing.

That's right. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Commando. Free balling. Got it?

I know how gross that sounds, I really do. I used to think runners who did that were absolutely disgusting. But when you run out of underwear....well, you get desperate. You try it out. Man, the lack of chafing is awesome. I promise, you won't miss 'em.

Since there is the potential to be a little unhygienic without knickers, I would definitely recommended only wearing the shorts that have liners in them. And, maybe this goes without saying, but.... if you are going commando, you should probably stop the whole re-using running gear thing. Just a thought.

I really wanted to add some more pictures to this post, but you can probably see the problem with that. If you don't, well...bless your heart, as they say here in the South.

What's your MO when it comes to running underwear?
Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I think it will have to be commando from now on. 

If you embrace the commando, are there any short/pants which don't work with that, um, "style"?
Compression shorts, for me at least, require undies. VPL be damned.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Things I Already Know

Do you ever find yourself learning (and relearning, and relearning...) the same things over and over again? My personal favorite is "several glasses of cheap white wine will NOT make you feel fresh in the morning". You would think I would know this by now, but no. I have to relearn it every month or so. Other gems I relearned the past few days:

-Trail running does not do good things for my hair. Enough said.

-Frozen yogurt makes everything better. Case in point: last Thursday night I went to a social run with the local running club. It was 98 degrees, but there was frozen yogurt at the end. Result? 3.75 miles in just over 32 minutes (8:37 pace).  I'm not kidding when I say I wanted to die, but I didn't really know where I was, so (once again) I was forced to keep running in order to get back to the start. 3 minutes into the frozen yogurt, I forgot all about the pain. It is SO good.

-My cat likes the Olympics more than I do. I have been watching more than I ever thought I would (ahem, women's archery) but I still think the kitten likes it more than I do. He sits in front of the screen for ages staring and then eventually tries to paw the athletes. So either he loves sports or really hates the Chinese team. Who knows?

-I may be capable of more than I think. On the whole I'm a doubter about athletic ability. I'm middle of the pack, but even then I can't embrace the good stuff. This week was a higher mileage week for me lately (at 44 miles). I know that may not be a ton for some runners, but it was excellent for me. And with no pains or problems, I feel like I can keep going. Boom.

-There is no way to escape Ikea without spending more than you planned. On Saturday we went in for a mattress (Tim's mom is coming to visit on Saturday!) and left with a closet, a bunch of baking trays and a carafe. A carafe. Apparently I really need that? I also learned that if you ask nicely, you can get your frozen yogurt from Ikea in a cup instead of a cone. It costs an extra 50 cents, but you get easily twice as much. Yes please.

Random old photo from Ikea. Relevance? 2/10.
What do you women (or long-haired men) do to keep your hair from going crazy in high temps and humidity when running?
I have a ton of Active Bands, and love them, but they seem to make it worse somehow in humidity. My new plan is to close my eyes when I walk past a mirror and just let it go.

Are you watching the Olympics? Any favorites?
I watched a little of the swimming, gymnastics and archery over the weekend, but I'm only really interested in the running events. Especially, of course, the women's marathon next Saturday morning! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Remember When I Used to Run?

I did a big ol' vacation recap a few days ago that a few people were kind enough to read so that I felt important, but I failed to mention anything to do with healthy eating or working out. You know, the alleged basis for my blog. I didn't have any grand plans for fitness over the two weeks in Europe, but I was pretty lucky in that I had some amazing opportunities for scenic running.

The first thing that made running incredible was the weather. Holy crap it was dream running weather - around 60 most of the time with some sun in Germany and some rain in England. Yes, I had to wear a jacket, and no, I did not mind one bit. Since I'm dealing with temperatures of roughly eight gazillion degrees now that I'm home in Georgia, I look back at that cool rain fondly.

So even though I managed to get in a few solo runs throughout the trip, the best runs were with other people. I ran a 5k with my mom, my little brother and Tim one day that consisted of jogging, sprinting and then walking. Yeah, it took 45 minutes. But it was so fun and I loved being outside with everyone. I also realized that my walking miles were surpassing my running miles for the trip, since it was more fun to take a walk with family than a run alone.

I also got in some kayaking in Germany. Upper body workout? Check. Pair that with the push-up competition I had with my brother (he's 10. He won) and I call that cross training. Thank you very much!

When I wasn't posing for pictures, I was beating my biceps into submission.

So here's what I managed to do while on holiday. Not as much as at home, sure, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. I don't regret any of the mornings where I sat around the breakfast table for an hour with my family instead of a long run, and that's the way I want it.

In Germany:

Thursday, July 5th: 3.5 mile run/walk with Tim along the river
Friday, July 6th: 4 mile solo run, 3.1 mile run/walk/jog with family
Saturday : walked 4 miles
Sunday, July 8th:  12 miles solo
Monday, July 9th: REST
Tuesday, July 10th: 2 miles solo, 5 mile walk

In England:

Thursday, July 12th: 4.5 Miles with Tim
Friday, July 13th: 6 Miles Solo
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest
Monday: I think you get the idea....more rest!
Tuesday, July 17th: 10 mile run solo
Wednesday, July 18th: 4 mile run solo

What's your take on exercising on holiday?
I still like to run or keep active, mostly because I start to feel like crap after too many days in a row of doing nothing. But I definitely don't do anything I don't WANT to do - schedules and training plans go out the window!

Do you ever work out with family members?
I am pretty lucky because most of my family members are pretty active. This trip I took lots of walks with Tim's family, with my grandparents, with my parents and I even got to race my little brother a few times! P.S. - Robert, you're a speed demon. But you're going to have to work on those distances over a mile!!!!!!

The winner for the chocolate giveaway is: Karen! She has a great blog with beautiful scenic pictures from all the ultras she runs....no big deal. I feel cooler and more badass just reading her posts, so check it out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Real Catwoman

Yeah, I know that Anne Hathaway pulled off the whole black leather outfit thing better than I could have. But let's get real here - I am obviously the true catwoman. A few of you might remember a couple of months ago when Tim and I got our THIRD cat. For the record, two cats in a home means you are a kind couple who loves animals. Three cats in a home makes you freaks who can't handle human interaction. It's a fine line and unfortunately, we've crossed over to the other side.

Anyway, a lot of people have asked me about the newest addition. And by "asked," I mean "begged for more cute pictures." But there's this tiny little problem - our little baby kitten is massive. To refresh your memory, here's what our cat (Pumpkin) looked like when we brought him home from the shelter in May:

Even two weeks AFTER we brought him home, the little guy was under 2 pounds. He ate a ridiculous amount of food and definitely got bigger, but I guess compared to our other cats he still seemed small. Here are some pictures at the end of May and then June...

Napping in May


Now he's almost the same size as the other two cats - who are 3+ years older than him! Here are some new pictures of Pumpkin now:

Yes, he's still as cute as ever, but his constant chewing, biting and climbing up legs is less than awesome. Thankfully he should outgrow that before he outgrows his cuteness, so we'll probably keep him. KIDDING! Yeesh.

I don't really have a question to put at the bottom of this post. Do you like kittens? Are you a cold-hearted monster with no feelings or emotions?

Monday, July 23, 2012

I Went Some Places and Did Some Stuff

 I know, the title of this post intrigued all of you into reading. I just have a way with words, you know? I didn't mean to avoid writing and reading blogs for the past two weeks, but it kind of felt awesome. No offense. I really enjoyed my vacation, and the second half of it had no internet access. Yes, I scrambled to find a Starbucks wifi connection to check work emails, but I had zero desire to do anything blog-related. So I guess I don't really have an excuse for not blogging....I just didn't want to. Good thing I don't get paid for this gig, huh? Phew.

Anyway....onto the places and the stuff. I think the last post I wrote was when I was in Germany and dealing with all the nudists who didn't mind the cold....good times, good times. From Germany Tim and I headed back to the UK and stayed with some family in London overnight. I got to meet a ton of Tim's extended family that I had never met before, which was great. Since some of them are freakishly adorable babies and some hold positions above "anonymous web content writer", I've decided not to put their faces online. I never know what to do about that, honestly. Do you make people sign a waiver for a family photo? Can they sue you for unflattering angles or the fact that the camera may add 10 pounds?

Me and Tim's Mom

Me and grandparents along the Trent River

Anonymous cute relative. No face = legal.

From London we went up to Shrewsbury, the birthplace of Charles Darwin and the home of some truly delicious potatoes. We stayed with Tim's great-aunt who, at the ripe age of 92, still has a sharp wit and a funny sense of humor. It was definitely English countryside where we were, which was nice because there were fresh herbs in the garden, fresh new potatoes to dig up everyday for dinner and plenty of great country roads to run on.

Tim and the Darwin Statue

Cows from the kitchen window

Potatoes dug up from the garden

We saw stately homes, gardens and ruined castles, but the trip was really about seeing family. We made a few little trips to see my grandparents and then later just over the border to Wales. I was really excited to go because somehow I'd never been to Wales before. For the record, I wouldn't go out of your way to go there in the future. In summation: It rained. There were sheep. The end.

Conquering a Welsh Castle. No biggie.

Weston Park
The last night of the trip was back to London - and we managed to hit up the Tate Modern to see the current Edward Munch and Damien Hirst exhibits. Man, Hirst is seriously weird. Raw meat covered in live maggots and flies were a little much for a museum, methinks.

I'm really proud of everyone who made it this far in the post. Really, well done. Since one of the highpoints of my trip was eating as much chocolate as I possibly could, I figured I would send a little your way too. I'll send this bag of British chocolates to a random person who leaves a comment with the word "sweet" in it. Got it? Cool. I'll pick someone on Wednesday (25th of July) at midnight. Word.

I'm not kidding about how much chocolate I ate, either. I bought 12 massive bars (like, family-sized slabs) on the last day in Germany to take home. Even with the surplus of English candy I had, there was ONE sad little bar that managed to make it home to Georgia. I've heard of this thing called self control, but I'm just not sure I actually have any of it.

So- how's your holiday food/drinks self control? Or is having no self-control the point of vacation?
Normally at home I make an effort to at least include nutritious foods in my diet, but on holiday that concept is lost to me. One night my dinner was a massive plate of boiled new potatoes covered in butter, washed done by wine and followed by chocolate. 

Do you bring back souvenirs from new places?
Not really - unless you count the edible kinds that are gone in 24 hours. I do collect coins, so if I go somewhere where there is a currency I don't have I'll keep them and bring them home. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Clothing Optional?

As a half-prude half-American, I’m still not totally used to the whole “clothing optional” thing. Naked in bed? Cool. Naked in the shower? Also acceptable. Naked for 3.7 seconds when changing into new clothes? Fine. Naked when flying a kite on a public beach? You lose me there.

For the past week I’ve been in Germany, where there is obviously a more lax approach to the whole “staying dressed in public” thing. The place we were staying is just a short drive or hour long walk from a beach that embraces the FKK policy - Frei Korper Kultur - AKA clothes are lame, let’s all get naked.

I can deal with the nudity, really. So people aren’t into clothes - no big deal. I just found it hysterical what people would DO while naked. Have you ever seen a man flying a kite wearing a shirt - but no pants? How about a father and son holding hands and frolicking through the waves - totally nude?

I feel it is also important to mention the temperature. We were not in the Mediterranean, here. We were on the Baltic Coastline. THE BALTIC SEA. Like, an hour from both Poland and Denmark. Even in July, I looked like this:

Sixty degree temperatures and even colder, frigid waters had a way of...affecting certain pieces of anatomy. Let’s leave it at that.

Nudie beaches aside, we did a lot of fun things over the past few days in Germany. We rented some kayaks and canoes one day, went fishing, went on a bunch of runs/walks and celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary by walking a few miles in the rain and going for dinner.

Robert and Tim Playing paddleball

Keeping warm on the beach!

Trying to keep the rain off on our anniversary dinner!

Kayaking and stealing water lilies

Overall - A+ plus. Right now we’re on the train leaving Germany and heading to the U.K. I have a bag full of chocolate bars which should last me the day. We’ll see - I make no promises.

What’s your take on the whole nude beach policy?
I remember finding it REALLY strange when I lived there in high school. Especially the vary cavalier attitude in changing rooms, swimming pools, etc. Now it doesn’t bother me, but I would still be SUPER uncomfortable stripping down in front of my family. Alone on a random beach with Tim? I’d do it to fit in with the locals. :)

How cold is too cold for outdoor swimming?
I just ask because I was way too cold throughout the trip to contemplate a swim, but so many people (my family included) were fine with it. To me, 55 degrees is just too dang cold to be swimming!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Let's Pretend It's Downton Abbey

When Tim and I planned to visit our families in Germany and England this summer, I wanted to add just one thing to the itinerary: a trip to Highclere Castle.  Mostly because I'm really interested in the architecture of the period, and....totally kidding. It's because Downton Abbey was filmed there and I freaking love that show. We're in Germany now and heading to England next week, but I don't think we will have time for the castle trip after all.

Luckily, I don't mind too much because I was pleasantly surprised by the German part of the trip. My stepdad is German, and he and my mom recently purchased an old home in former East Germany called Schloss Pütnitz in Ribnitz-Damgarten. It was in complete disrepair when they bought it, but they are completely renovating it to rent out as private holiday apartments in the future. 

Front of the house

View of the back of the house

I didn't really have any idea what it looked like, to be honest. Once we got inside...holy crap that place is big. I kept thinking I would get to live like a princess until I remembered that the place is for renting out, not making into my own personal Downton Abbey. Rude, right?  There's even the whole upstairs/downstairs thing for the residents and then the "staff". I told my parents to only hire dramatic staff that have dark histories and like to create good plotlines, but they said something about "not that kind of place"? Weird.

It's kind of neat to see all the renovations though - they are keeping the outside EXACTLY as it looked for the most recent renovation (1906). It was used for public housing over the years after World War II, because in the Communist DDR people didn't really "own" their own homes anyway. Pretty incredible history attached to it all.

Since my stepdad's family is originally from this area, we keep seeing his last name pop up everywhere. We went to the local cloisters today, and found this statue of his great-aunt. Apparently she was a short old woman who lived in the convent and smoked a pipe, but she protected all the women when the soldiers came and attacked in WWII. Girl power.

Left hand - cane. Right hand - pipe. No joke, even in the statue.

Inside the local museum there were more pictures of their new vacation house/ hotel and lots of family crests from his side of the family. Sure, it was cool, but I haven't seen my little brother in a while. We were far more interested in doing cool stuff like trading jackets.

So far, the trip is excellent. Cool weather, amazing running paths, very relaxing and awesome family. Downside = I still have to work a little, and I want to sleep all the time. There's only a 6 hour time difference but I'm still somehow exhausted!

Do you like museums? Historical landmarks?
Yep, and yep. Unless they are entirely about leaves or bugs or something. But history/art museums I find pretty interesting most of the time.

Have you ever watched Downton Abbey?
If not, I feel terribly that you read this entire post but haven't watched the best show ever. (Until I discover the NEXT best show ever, that is.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

A 10k PR and Botox!

Confession: My 10k was a PR only because it was, technically, the first 10k I've ever raced.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here's the recap!

Once I started getting my iron levels back up, the parasites in my belly were heading out and I started picking my running pace back up, I decided to sign up for a shorter road race to test my speed a little. I signed up for the "Affordable Botox Stars, Stripes and Wishes Race" that takes place at Enterprise Park in Chattanooga. It was the first year of the race, I drove there alone and I didn't know anyone running, but I just wanted to get a race in before heading to Europe (tomorrow!) So here's the good and bad for this race:

Kicking it at the finish


-Considering it was the first running of this race, things went pretty smoothly. I got there with time to spare, there was plenty of parking and packet pick-up was convenient.

-The course was clearly marked, perfect for a park that has lots of different trails and road that intersect constantly.

-The volunteers were great. Not many of them cheering along the way, but every single person out there was positive and enthusiastic.

-The Botox. The main sponsor was a Botox place.  That's weird, right? I don't want to wear my race shirt because it says AFFORDABLE BOTOX! across the back.

-It raised money for the Make a Wish Foundation. This is incredibly important to me because when I was 7 and my sister was 5, our family received a "wish." My younger sister has had a brain tumor since she was five, and when she was first diagnosed it seemed fatal. The entire family got to fly to England to see our relatives over the summer, something we could never have afforded with the medical bills my parents had at the time.

-The awards were handmade with the handprints of the current Make-A-Wish children awaiting their wishes at a nearby hospital. Hands down, it was the most touching award I've ever gotten. Dang it, I'm tearing up again reading this. I can't help it - how incredible are they?


-It was 81 degrees at the start. I don't know how to make that sound better than it was. Luckily, it was 90% shaded on the route so it could have been a lot, lot worse and I'm definitely grateful.

-Hills. No, really. HILLS. The people I was running with kept saying, "this HAS to be the last one. Right?" It never was. The only good part about the uphills were the corresponding downhills - I don't have any knee/ankle pains so I could earn back some speed on them. The last mile was entirely downhill - beautiful.

-Results for the race were kind of confusing. Even though I started 3-4 seconds MAX after the start of the race (I was close to the front) my gun time was a minute later than my chip time - didn't really make sense to me.

-The Volkswagen factory is pretty new, and my car's GPS didn't even know there was an EXIT there - let alone how to get to the parking lot. 7am freakouts are not appreciated over here!

-Post race treats were limited. To be honest, I didn't even see anything to eat/drink after the race, and went back to my car to refuel. Afterwards I saw people with fruit, so I'm guessing there was something but it just wasn't clearly marked?

-The 5k started 10 minutes AFTER the 10k, which seems ideal. However, my 54 minute finish meant I was crossing the finish line with the 44 minute 5k-ers. Not ideal when you are trying to sprint to the finish! (Think: dodging walkers holding hands when you have .2 miles left to run. Um, not cool.)

I finished the 10k in 54:34 (chip time) and ended up as the second in my age group (20-29). When I started running, I was the 6th woman overall, and I am 99.999% sure that no women passed me during the run, so I should have been 6th at the finish. I'm still waiting for the online results so I can check! Keep in mind, there couldn't have been more than 100 women running the 10k - this wasn't a big race by any stretch of the imagination.

What was the best award/trophy/medal you have ever received?
Even though my marathon medal will also hold a special place in my heart, this award was pretty cool. I was so touched by how personal they were, and it's definitely something I'll keep forever. 

Do you like to run races alongside someone or alone the whole way?
Normally, all alone is best. But yesterday I stuck with a guy for about 5 miles, and it was great motivation. He said his average 10k finish time was 53 minutes, but he was adjusting for heat and hills- so I let him do the pacing until the very end! (For the record, he beat me!)