Whirlwind Weekend: Beach, parties, family

WOW. I still feel like I’m moving at the speed of light after this weekend.

As mentioned in a post last week, I had plans to visit my family in New Jersey this past weekend. In three days, I managed to fit in two beach days, an 8-mile run, a reunion with two high school friends I haven’t seen in 13 years, a birthday celebration for my dad, and got together with cousin David’s family. How I packed this into 72 hours is beyond me.

First things first: THE BEACH! Here are some pics from the beautiful Jersey Shore:

Yes, this is New Jersey.

Yes, this is New Jersey.

Here's me and big bro, Michael, enjoying the gorgeous weather.

Here’s me and big bro, Michael, enjoying the gorgeous weather.

Okay, now onto my training. I ran a solid 8 miles Saturday morning. Half was on asphalt and the other half was on the boardwalk (much kinder on the knees). Here’s what I looked like at 7:45 a.m. before starting the journey. Believe me, I looked like hell afterward…and no, I don’t have a picture of that!

The starting point: West Long Branch, my old college stomping ground.

The starting point: West Long Branch, my old college stomping ground.

I finished in 1:13 and felt great at the end, minus the fact that I was dehydrated. Unfortunately, I ran out of water just after I completed mile 5. NOTE TO SELF: Carry more water.

Saturday was a busy day. After eating my weight in bacon for breakfast, I treated my dad to a seafood birthday lunch and gave him his gifts: a Dammit Doll and flying wish paper (thanks Ali!). What more could a guy want, right?!

That evening my family got together with my cousin David’s family for a cookout. My Aunt Mary (David’s mom) always hosts and provides enough food to feed half of Monmouth County, so I find it my responsibility to eat as much as humanly possible. She undoubtedly makes the best deviled eggs (I ate six), macaroni salad, baked ziti, and chocolately goodness bars (a highly addictive dessert — just ask any of my girlfriends).

It was fantastic to see David. He’s hanging in there! He finished up his chemo on June 24 and has the next 2 weeks off from treatments. He’ll have his bone marrow biopsy back at that time and the results will determine his next step of action. I learned that his form of leukemia is highly treatable and curable. It’ll be a tough battle, but his wife, daughter, and mother have enough strength to keep him focused and positive.

Here’s a great picture of the cousins (David is the 6’6″ guy on the left!):

Here's the cousins! From left: David, Courtney (his daughter), me, my nephew Ezra, and big bro Michael (Ezra's dad).

The cousins! From left: David, Courtney (his daughter), me, my nephew Ezra, and big bro Michael (Ezra’s dad).

Getting all of us together this weekend refilled my tank. Family tends to do that for me. I can’t wait to see everyone again come race day!

More fuel, more energy, more training. Let’s do this!!

DIY Race Day Signs

After learning the other day that my best friend, Ali, is coming to visit in October (only 2 weeks from race day), I decided that she and I are going to have a Race Day Sign Crafting Party complete with neon-colored posterboard, markers, wine, paint, sparkles, more wine, 90s dance music, and streamers simply because they’re fun.

As I started planning this in my head, it reminded me of race day signs family and friends have created for me in the past. I’m going to share them with you because it’s Thursday…and well, who doesn’t want a laugh first thing in the morning?!

This went over well.

This went over well.

Well, that's exactly what I did! This was used during half marathon in March 2014.

Well, that’s exactly what I did! This made an appearance during my half marathon in March 2014. Thanks to brother Michael!

I stayed Jersey Strong during my first half marathon in 2012!

I stayed Jersey Strong during my first half marathon in 2012!

Me? A Wino? Nooooo.

Me? A Wino? Nooooo.

If you don't have posterboard, use the lid of a shoebox! My friend Caitlin got creative with this one and made it two-sided (and no, she is not referring to my brother Michael)!

If you don’t have posterboard, use the lid of a shoebox! My friend Caitlin got creative with this one and made it two-sided for me and her friend, Michael, running this year’s Rock ‘ Roll half.

Uptown, Uphill

Hill running sucks. There. I said it.

Yesterday morning’s training was tough. The LLS / TNT schedule I’m following called for 4 miles of hills yesterday. Obviously, I didn’t run 4 miles of all hills. Instead, I did some interval hill training on a course that undulated with hilly terrain.

The run to Rock Creek Park is all uphill, but super pretty. Here’s what the park looked like yesterday morning. Bet you didn’t realize how green D.C. could be, huh?

The tree tops of Rock Creek Park.

The tree tops of Rock Creek Park.

My interval training happened on this hill (from the crosswalk at the bottom to its curvy top):

From the bottom of the hill to it's curve up to the top, you gain 325 feet.

From the bottom of the hill to it’s curve up to the top, you gain 325 feet.

The hill doesn’t look like much from here, but you gain about 325 feet in about a quarter-mile. I’ve run this hill several times  during the Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathons and no matter how many times I’ve run it, it remains a bitch. Needless to say, after running up and down this thing three times, my quads needed a break so I continued my course through the park, into the National Zoo, and then back up Bitch Hill. Indeed it was tough, but I felt great afterward knowing that I conquered such a challenging workout.

As Tuesday is my doubling up day, I can tell you that barre class was challenging and frustrating at times. My quads were like, “Yeah, girl. This isn’t working out. We’re breaking up.” Needless to say, I’m relieved that today is my “off” day.

So, in other news…

I’m visiting cousin David and his family this weekend! He finishes up condensed chemo treatments today and I can’t wait to see him on Saturday. Pictures and updates to follow!

Healthy Recipe Sharing

In addition to being a fitness fanatic, I also love being in the kitchen. Marathon training is allowing me to seek out new high-protein and high-carb recipes. It’s been fun experimenting!

Lucky for me (sort of) that training is during the summer. The seasonal produce is simply luscious! Don’t get me wrong, I can devour a bowl of pasta with meat sauce, but it doesn’t feel “right” eating that when it’s 95 degrees.

The main person I collaborate with on recipes is my friend, Tana. Also a cooking enthusiast and food blog finder, we trade recipes weekly. Recently, she shared a healthy and easy pasta dish from food blog Bake Your Day. Although not high in protein, it satisfies my craving for pasta and has all my favorite things: garlic, Brussel sprouts, pine nuts, and cheese. The key to this dish? The dried thyme! Check out the recipe here. (For those who are gluten-free, rice pasta is an excellent alternative.)

Along with pasta, I’m a quinoa lover. I don’t typically mix quinoa with fruit, but I learned yesterday that it’s a great idea! My new favorite salad, which was a hit at a friend’s BBQ this weekend, is a mixture of quinoa, berries, and almonds. Inspiration came from food blog Oh She Glows. The key to this dish? Seasoning the dressing properly. Isn’t this gorgeous?

Heirloom variety quinoa, fresh blueberries and strawberries, and a refreshing dressing is all you need for this dish!

Heirloom variety quinoa, fresh berries, almonds, and a light dressing is all you need for this dish.

I’m going to make this again today, and will add some raspberries and tweak the dressing. (I’ll let you know how it turns out.) I’m a fan of this recipe: it’s high in protein and I don’t feel bad going back for seconds.  For those with dietary restrictions, it’s also gluten-free and vegan.

Stay tuned for more healthy recipes!

Autopilot

Occasionally, a runner experiences “runner’s high” and it’s legit. Everything is in sync — arms, legs, ankles, feet, mind. You’re in autopilot. For me, it feels as if I’m gliding along effortlessly on a plane of ice. I feel weightless, quick, at ease. I’ve only experienced runner’s high three times in my life, and today was number three.

Matty Boy (my hound dog) woke me up at 6:30 a.m. I planned on getting up early, but not that early. He must have sensed that I had a 6-mile run ahead of me today and that I should hit the pavement now since rain was in the forecast. After a shot of espresso and a homemade protein bar, I laced up and headed out.

In a previous post, I talked about how much I love running in the mornings and today was no different. It was a cooler-than-normal morning, overcast, and misty (great conditions in my opinion!). I changed up my route and hopped on Rock Creek Trail heading south. There were lots of runners out today and it charged up my competitiveness. I’m that girl — totally racing you. All. The. Time.

The trail took me past the Kennedy Center where Disney’s The Lion King musical is currently playing. I remember seeing that show on Broadway and the costumes blew me away!

It also took me to the Memorial Bridge, a landmark that inspires me yet discourages me at the same time. It’s inspiring because at the end is Arlington National Cemetery; it’s discouraging because I’ve run over this bridge twice in Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathons and it’s where I’ve always felt my weakest.

I did my best to stay positive (Do It For David!) and after crossing the bridge, rounded the corner to get on Mt. Vernon Trail, which is in Virginia. This trail is familiar because I run it often during my lunch hour.

I mentioned runner’s high earlier and this is where I realized that I wasn’t thinking — my body was just doing. At this point, I was at about 4.5 miles and couldn’t believe how great I felt. I was averaging 8:37 min/mile and felt strong and energized. Even so, I had to stop to take pictures for you, my readers.

Here's a view of the Kennedy Center from Mt. Vernon Trail. The building behind it is The Watergate.

Here’s a view of the Kennedy Center from Mt. Vernon Trail. The building behind it (to its left) is The Watergate.

Here's the backside of the Lincoln Memorial and a partial view of the Washington Monument. That bridge is the one I ran across!

Here’s the backside of the Lincoln Memorial and a partial view of the Washington Monument. That bridge is the one I ran across!

By the time I got to mile 5, it started pouring. I welcomed it though; I was hot.

Double digit miles don’t start until July 12, so we’ll see how strong I feel once that begins! You know what they say: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

 

Love My Morning Runs!

I’m finally into a routine with my training schedule. Long runs on Saturday, a.m. runs on Tuesday and Thursday, and barre classes twice a week. I feel strong and I feel really good. I feel my best, though, when I’m running in the early morning like I was today.

D.C. is a different city before the sun fully rises. It’s incredibly peaceful. The angry commuters, disoriented tourists, and year-round city dwellers are still asleep. The National Mall is stunning in the early morning light; the monuments take on a peachy-yellow glow as the sunrise climbs over the horizon.

Today’s run took me back to Constitution Gardens and over to the Vietnam War Memorial. It’s rare to see this memorial without people searching for the names of relatives lost.

The Vietnam War Memorial in early sunlight.

The Vietnam War Memorial in early sunlight.

On your way to the memorial (depending on which direction you’re coming from), you’ll walk down a path with several bronze statues situated in the shade under some trees. I had never come from the direction I did today, so seeing these for the first time was new and exciting! Here’s my favorite. These three men are looking toward the memorial and from their vantage point, it’s an incredible view (unfortunately, one I did not capture).

Vietnam Memorial Statue

After exploring, I decided to take a different route home…but ended up taking an unintentional detour a mile out of the way! Ooops! My 4 mile run ended up being around 5.5 miles. Not that it’s a terribly long distance, but I wasn’t prepared for it. As you might imagine, it was a bit chaotic getting to work on time, but I made it there — EARLY! GO ME!

Looks like someone needs to set her alarm clock 30 minutes earlier…