Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Best Week Ever

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seems like nothing can ruin your good mood?

Fitful night's sleep? Oh well. Incompetent drivers on your commute? No big deal. Last minute meetings you didn't have time to prepare for? I've got it covered. Keurig broken? It's cool, I've got like 6 chocolate bars in my desk.

For whatever reason, any "negative" stuff this week has just rolled off. I don't hate it. 

Maybe it's the unseasonably warm 50 degree weather we've had the past couple of days. Or the way Pandora keeps playing the right songs. It might even have something to do with the way workouts have seemed effortless this week, even the tempo run. My guess, however, is that it has a lot to do with the unusual amount of time I've spent with my favorite boys this week.

1/29/13 Bruins vs. Devils

I'm lucky enough to know some pretty awesome people. Some pretty awesome people that know how much I love hockey and how crazy much fun I am when I get to go to games. So thanks, guys, for indulging me and not looking the other way when people say, "who the heck is that chick?".

(Source)

I'm spoiled this week, and went to the Bruins vs. Devils game on Tuesday night and am headed to the Bruins vs. Sabres game tonight. You could say I'm a pretty happy camper, considering it's pretty much impossible to get tickets to Bs games nowadays without forking over some serious $$ or forfeiting your first born.

Looking forward to shenanigans tonight and hopefully celebrating a birthday win with Boston's most eligible bachelor.

Captured this gem at the 2011 Stanley Cup Parade.

#LetsGoBruins

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Running in New England

New England is not for the faint of heart. What's that totally cliche saying? If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. You laugh, but it's true. A couple of weeks ago it was 61 degrees. In January. Now? Try 15-but-feels-like-negative-2. That's more like it.

The weather here changes more often than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends. So go ahead and make that training schedule, but don't expect every long run to be without challenges from the elements, especially not during winter. I'm not making fun of you, because I do the same thing. Every Saturday during training has a long run, and every Wednesday I start biting my nails, checking weather.com to see what might be in store.

Today we had 10 miles (t-minus 4 weeks until the Hyannis Half) to pull off. The longest distance I've run since November. And this is what we had to work with:



Lovely.

So I layered up, dragged myself out the door, and tackled 10 very long miles along the Charles with Molly.

At least the view doesn't suck.

It was windy. It was freezing. My legs felt heavy and like they couldn't possibly move any faster than they were going. I felt slow, and tired and blah. I seriously contemplated who would be the closest option to come pick me up if I decided to call it quits.

But guess what, Sarah? You lived. Shocker.

 
Slower than our past few long runs but for today, I'll take it.

I'm far from an expert, but here's what I've learned about winter running in New England:

1. It's cold. Get over it.
I don't know anyone who says, "Oh look, it's 16 degrees, let's go for a run!". If you're one of those people, more power to you. I'm not. My reaction to heading out into this weather is, "Someone get me back to my couch and snuggie ASAP!". It's cold. You'll live. Your snuggie will be there when you get back. Just go.

2. It's 99% mental.
I'm a true believer in the idea that running is primarily a mental vs. physical challenge. Cold weather running is almost all a mental challenge. Getting yourself out the door and getting through a run is that much harder in cold weather because you have that many more mental excuses as to why you shouldn't or can't go. Don't let it get to your head.

3. Be smart and layer up.
I know I joke, but cold weather running is serious stuff. Don't be dumb and go unprepared. Both Runner's World and Active have written articles on layering suggestions. I tend to go with a fitted, moisture-wicking base layer and then build up from there depending on the temperature and wind chill.


This week has been Pro Compression marathon socks, regular socks, and Nike running leggings on the bottom. Under Armour compression mock, New Balance long sleeve (similar) and thick Asics half-zip on top. Under Armour gloves and headband (similar) as accessories.

Everyone is different. Test your apparel choices on shorter distance runs and see what works best for you.

4. Adjust your expectations.
Personally, I tend to run better when it's cooler. BUT, there is a difference between cooler and cold. I don't know what I'll get from myself in cold. Thursday night we did a 4.8 miler in 20 degrees with an average pace of 9:30. Today, our average pace for 10 miles was a 10:20. It could've been that 4 degree difference, it could've been the additional wind chill, it could've been the mental adjustment that comes with a long run. I don't know. What I do know is that I'm happy to have just completed 10 miles in the cold, because most people would simply opt out.

5. Have fun and be proud.
Running is a challenge. Add in cold weather elements and it becomes that much harder. It's not the end of the world and if you go, try to have fun with it (read: don't have the attitude that I clearly had today). It can be refreshing and invigorating to tackle a run in the cold. Plus, like I said above, most people would opt out. Be proud, give yourself a pat on the back, and brag to all of your friends about how badass you are.

For more winter running tips, I also liked this article by Active. 

What is your favorite piece of cold weather running advice?
What temperature do you consider "too cold" to run outside? 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Plum Paper Planner

...Say that 5 times fast. Ready? GO.

If you actually tried, we should be friends.

I'm a little late to the game with this post since the year has already begun, but I'm so totally in love with my newest Etsy purchase that it'd be a crime not to share.

As you've learned by now if you've paid any attention to my previous posts, I am a planner. To-do lists make me smile, checklists make me giddy and calendars are my BFF. #nerdalert.

In college, I couldn't live without my planner. It held meetings, classes, homework, notes, special dates, even cocktail ideas. I loved it for its functionality but it was U-G-L-Y. Once I graduated, I drifted away from my DayMinder, but always missed the appeal of having everything laid out for me. I tried to go back a few times, but was never successful in the long run and was bored with the layout and features.

This year, in my attempt to prioritize and de-stress my life a bit, I was determined to find the perfect planner. Enter: Plum Paper Designs on Etsy.

After browsing a few other options, Plum Paper won me over. I chose this 2013 planner. Its playful yet simple design is drool-worthy and its functionality is wonderful.

My apologies for the crappy quality photos, I promise the colors
are amazing in real life.

Here are a handful of my favorite features:
  • 2013 and 2014 full calendar snapshot at the front and back
  • Plenty of "Notes" pages for those top-of-mind thoughts, blog ideas, workouts, etc.
  • Monthly calendar snapshot
  • Weekly layout pages
  • Size - not too big and not too small (7.5" x 9")
They are a bit pricey ($30 ea. + $10 shipping), but not by much in comparison to your generic alternative. I think that it's worth it to go with something that you'll love and love to use.


You can check out more of Plum Paper Designs here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Forrest Gumping & an Apology to Cho

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 5.5 mi
Wednesday - Rest

In the past couple of weeks I've changed my usual running schedule up a bit and started doing shorter, easier runs on Sundays and using Monday as a rest day. I've really enjoyed this change for a few reasons:
  • Running on Sunday gives my legs a good shakeout after Saturday's long runs
  • There's no pressure on scheduling a run, just go when I have the chance
  • Having Mondays off allows me to ease into the week better - no pressure to add fitting in a run to my already long to-do list

We'll see how long this lasts. 

Tuesday morning I "Forrest Gumped" a friend's long run, joining Cat for 5 of her 10 miles. Best new running term ever, huh? Try it, all the cool kids are doing it.

Ignore the first mile split - this was more of me sprinting around the
area attempting to keep warm before meeting Cat. Sorry to the nice
older man I almost ran into in the process. Awkward.

Confession: I owe Chobani an apology.

When I first tried Greek yogurt probably a year and a half ago now, I hated it. Looking back, I know I was being unfair and really didn't give it a fighting chance. My taste buds have changed so much in the past several years (especially away from excessively sugary things) that I should've known I would grow to love it. Instead, I swore it off and gave people dirty looks in the grocery store as they stock-piled those cute little cups into their carts.

I started easing Greek yogurt into my diet late this past summer when I discovered overnight oats as a quick and easy breakfast option, but continued to mask the taste by adding in fruit, peanut butter, etc.

This past Monday while grocery shopping for the week I noticed that Chobani was on sale 10 for $10. I gave in (once I made sure no one was looking) and grabbed a few flavors to try out.


 

Surprise! I'm in love. I've eaten the Strawberry and Strawberry Banana flavors for breakfast the past couple of days with a small handful of Kashi GOLEAN Crunch on top. Delightful.

So, Chobani, I'm sorry for doubting you and judging you before I really got to know you. I was wrong. I hope you can forgive me and we can be the best of friends.

Assuming you're all much wiser than I am, you're already in love with Greek yogurt/Cho. So help me out...

What are your favorite flavors?
Any exciting recipes using Greek yogurt that you're dying to share?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bruins Are Back

Thursday - 2 mi, stairs & weights
Friday - 3 mi walk
Saturday - 7.1 mi
Sunday - 2.6 mi

I've been loving weekends since the holidays. These past few have been some of the first I've had free in months and I've enjoyed every second.

Saturday morning I had one of those "oh please don't make me get out of bed to run" moments. Per usual, a couple of miles in, I got over it and just enjoyed this heat wave we've been experiencing in Boston. 50 degrees in January? Ok, I'll take it.

Molly and I rocked our 7 mile run with some pretty sweet mostly-negative splits.


The remainder of the day was filled with low key errands and lounging, and the night was spent celebrating birthdays with some pretty great people.



This morning I woke up with every intention of spending the day bonding with my couch. Twitter convinced me that other plans were much more important and I was able to convince my equally hockey-obsessed friend to venture down to the TD Garden for some Bruins training camp festivities.

 

Alyssa and I spent the next few hours ridiculously giddy playing it cool and enjoying being able to see our boys back on the ice. All things considered, they did a great job getting the fans excited and we had a blast.

 

Anyone else excited for hockey season to start?!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

I'm a firm believer that some of the most comforting things in the world come in the form of a scent. In my case, there is nothing better than the smell of my grandmother's rolls fresh from the oven, clean laundry, or even bleach. Seriously though, is there anything better than the smell of clean? Busted, you know for sure I'm a freak now.

I digress. You know what else smells ah-may-zing? Cupcakes. Sign me up.

A co-worker of mine reached her retirement milestone recently and I jumped at the opportunity to celebrate. What screams celebration more than cupcakes? Well, maybe champagne, but that's beside the point.


I stumbled upon this cupcake recipe via Pinterest a few months ago and fell in love. It's so easy and versatile. You can add milk, various flavors of coffee, or pretty much whatever you'd like to manipulate the flavor. I also love that you have the ability to make them in smaller batches. I've literally split this recipe in half and only made 6 cupcakes before, and they're still amazing.

I cheated and used store-bought vanilla frosting, but the original recipe has a link to a great chocolate buttercream that you could use as well.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brewed coffee*
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar**
*I used hazelnut, but you could get creative here
**I omitted this since I didn't have any on hand and my cupcakes still turned out delightful!
  1. Preheat your oven to 350, line your cupcake pan with paper or silicone cups as preferred. 
  2. Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together in a large bowl. Add in your sugar and salt, then use a whisk to fully incorporate the ingredients. 
  3. Combine coffee, oil, vanilla and vinegar in a separate bowl and whisk to incorporate. 
  4. Slowly pour wet mixture into dry mixture, stirring constantly just until no dry spots remain. The batter should be slightly lumpy at this point, which is normal as it's important not to over-mix. 
  5. Spoon your batter into your cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. (I baked some regular cupcakes and some mini cupcakes. If you go with the minis, they take less baking time so be sure to check on them sooner.) 
  6. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, allowing them to cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate as desired. Yields 12 cupcakes. 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Comeback Lessons

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 4 mi progression
Wednesday - 4.1 mi hills

During training for the Philadelphia Marathon, my mileage peaked at 44, averaging about 32 miles per week. For someone who had only ever trained for a handful of half marathons, and I use the term "trained" lightly, this was a huge change for me. 

My life started to revolve around when I could get in my training runs, and my Type-A self discovered my obsession with my Garmin and running data.


I discovered my love/hate relationship with the track and speed work, handed over Fridays to low key evenings and early bedtimes and learned to be OK with dedicating most of my Saturday mornings to long runs.

I fell in love with running as quickly as I fell in love with Jonathan Taylor Thomas in the second grade. We were inseparable. My brain was taken over by mile splits, long run anxiety, and reflections on workouts. I know I talked about running more than any normal person should have (sorry, friends and family), but I couldn't help myself. 

I've always used races as motivation and notoriously made excuses to not run if I didn't have anything on the calendar. Before I knew it, Philly was over, and I didn't have the same drive to get up and go that I did before. I got caught up in the holiday season, and running was no longer a priority. I didn't want it to be, I just wanted a break. 

After taking nearly the entire month of December off I've spent the last week and a half diving head first back into running.


My sudden enthusiasm has not been without some consequences. Here are five things that I've learned in the last 10 days.


1. I am not where I was 7 weeks ago.
I don't know about others, but after running a marathon I felt pretty invincible. Guess what? After 7 weeks with little to no running, I'm not invincible. Shocking. I can't expect to get back out there and run long distance like it ain't no thang. I decided to take time off, now I have to deal with the consequences.

2. I shouldn't try to be where I was 7 weeks ago.
It will take time to get back into it. I look back on one 5 mile progression run from early November and literally salivate over my last mile being a 7:53. I remember looking at my watch after that run and saying, "What? I DON'T RUN THAT FAST". My fastest split from my 4 mile progression run yesterday? 8:23. And I felt like I was dying. And my calves screamed at me for the rest of the afternoon.

3. I need to let my body recover.
Stretch, hydrate, foam roll and love your Pro Compression. I solemnly swear I will do more of these, and I will like it. 

Fun tidbit? Pro is 40% off all black socks/sleeves with code SOM113 for January. I have a soft spot for the black marathon socks since they were my first pair.


 4. Stay positive.
It would be so easy for me to sit here and call myself lazy for taking time off, or to get frustrated that I've lost some of what I built up during training. I've flirted with those thoughts more than once, but what good does that do me? I'm not going to be mad at myself. If I had kept up the mileage and the training I probably would be taking time off anyways because I'd resent running. Burnout is burnout. I give myself credit for taking the time I needed and coming back when I knew I could love it again. 

5. I love me when I run.
I won't lie, it was nice taking time off. It was nice sleeping in on Saturdays, saying yes to post-work plans and not having my life revolve around running. But I missed it. I love me when I run. I love pushing myself to be better. I feel healthier, I feel stronger and I feel better about myself. I just need to find a good life/running balance.

What's your favorite piece of running comeback advice?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Icy Long Runs, Grilled Cheese & Hockey

Saturday afternoon Molly and I headed out for our first "long" run of half marathon training for Hyannis. Like many other Boston runners, we've found ourselves using the paths along the Charles river most often. They offer some solitude from the business of the city and the pedestrian pathways make it easier to get in longer distances without constant interruption.

After reading this article last week about mandatory snow removal from the paths I was confident heading into the run that we'd be in good shape. Lies.

In true New England fashion, a good chunk of our run was spent tip-toeing on ice, dodging snow banks and puddles and cheering whenever we found patches of cleared path. I would have taken a picture, but I was too afraid it would result in me flat on my face. Regardless, we got in a good 6 miles.

Betcha can't tell where most of the ice was.

Some early morning Twitter stalking led us to the Roxy's Grilled Cheese food truck post-run and stretch. Normal recovery food, right? Oops. Probably not, but you learn to take advantage when they're local.


Today, I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning to the BEST NEWS EVER.

Yes, I was sitting in my bed at 8am this morning
with my hockey jersey on.


HOCKEY IS BACK! For those of you that don't know, I'm only slightly obsessed with my hockey team. This winter has been absolutely brutal thus far with the lockout, and though I am bitter that we've had to wait so long, I could not be happier to have my boys back. Let's go Bruins!

This afternoon was an easy 3 miles with a couple friends, followed by a New Year's purge of my dresser and closet.

Does anyone have any suggestions on great places to donate running shoes in the Boston area?

Friday, January 4, 2013

First 13 of 2013

Yesterday was a rest day after a late 6 mile run on Wednesday. I'm calling myself out for NOT stretching afterward (shocking) in the hope that the combination of my stiff legs and public humiliation will push me to be better about it.

Today was an early 3 miles on the treadmill, stretching (see, worked already) and abs. I really wish I could be more enthusiastic about waking up at the crack of dawn to workout.



In other news, I registered for my first 13 of the year on 1/3/13. I really just wanted to sign up for a half marathon yesterday because of the distance and date, I didn't even look at the race. Kidding.

I'm officially running the Hyannis Half Marathon on Sunday, February 24, 2013. 

I've heard good things about the Hyannis series and half marathon course so far. I even threatened recruited two friends to do it with me, so I'm confident that it's going to be a lot of fun.

Who wouldn't want to run 13 miles at the end of February on the Cape? Sign me up.


Hunger Games, anyone? (Source)

I'm using this race more as motivation to jump start my training for this year rather than as a target for a PR. I'm planning to register for at least one, probably two more half marathons this spring which is when I'll plan to tackle my sub-two goal.

Any recommendations for other spring races in the New England area? 
Other thoughts on Hyannis?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Goals for 2013

2013 is off to a great start! A delayed gym session last night meant that I didn't need to fight any resolutioners for a treadmill and got in a great run. This is actually the longest I've run since Philly, oops? Back at it.


Like 99% of the population, I've been thinking a lot lately about what goals I'd like to set for myself in the new year. I enter every year with some sense of what I'd like to accomplish, but I've never written anything down.

My general goals for 2013 are more so guidelines on how I want to live my life, whereas my running goals are a bit more measurable.

General
1. Be healthy 
Pretty simple. Sleep more, eat clean, improve fitness and drink more water.

2. Be fearless
I am a totally risk-averse person. I think things through to the point of over-thinking them, am not good with surprises, and plan everything. I want to let go of this a bit in 2013 and just enjoy life and all of its adventures. Baby steps.

3. Be happy 
One of my greatest joys in life is making other people happy. That may sound odd, but let me clarify. I'm a people pleaser. I love the feeling I get when someone enjoys something I cook, when I can help someone out, when I give the perfect gift, when I make someone smile, etc. This can be great, but it can also seriously suck. I can't say no, and that often leaves me open to being taken advantage of and getting hurt. In 2013 I want to spend more time focusing on the things that make me happy and doing the things that I love. 

4. Prioritize  
This kind of relates to all of the above. Since I have such a hard time saying no, I often over-commit myself. I want to, and try to, do too many things at once. This leaves me burnt out, exhausted and no fun for anyone to be around, including myself. I want to spend time this year better prioritizing the things that mean the most to me and recognizing that it's OK to say no. It's all about balance.

Running
I like to refer to 2012 as the year that I officially fell in love with running. During a year where so much felt like it was out of my hands, running was something I could control, and something that could offer me peace. As a result, I have some pretty lofty goals for 2013.

1. Run a sub-2 hour half marathon 
The half was my first love in running, so 2013 is going to have a few 13s. This one is a pretty big goal, since I'll need to shave nearly 12 minutes off of my current PR, but doable. The last half I did was pre-marathon, and training for Philly proved to me that I'm much stronger than I think I am.

2. Run stronger, faster, smarter 
The morning after Philadelphia, my running buddy and I escaped our friends and family at the hotel to drive and hobble into Dunkin' Donuts for coffee. What had been "OMG why did we EVER think this was a good idea?" the day before, quickly turned into "OK, next time we need more of...". 2013 will be all about running stronger, faster and smarter. Incorporating more strength training and other fitness workouts, falling in love with the track and speed workouts and taking what I learned in 2012 and applying it in 2013.

3. Run another marathon
Call me crazy, but I want more.

4. Volunteer at a race
I can't tell you how much respect and love I have for the people that dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that races go off without a hitch and that runners have the resources that they need. It's hard to show your appreciation when you're running past them, but if I could hug each one of them I would. Seriously. As a result, I want to volunteer at at least one local race this year and show my support for the sport from the other side. 

5. Have fun
After training for Philly this past fall, I was burnt out. Running isn't easy for me. It's hard. I don't naturally wake up every day and want to go. In fact, more often than not it's the opposite. But I love the sense of accomplishment it brings and the way that I feel after I run. I love being able to do something that most people won't. Yes, I have running goals for 2013, but mostly I just want to have fun and continue to love the sport.

So there you have it. I've already started working hard on these, especially being fearless. My face arrived unknowingly on a holiday card from my parents in the mail last night and I didn't even flinch! Probably because my little sisters and puppy are so cute.


Bring it on, 2013. I'm ready for you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Eve 2012

I've never been very enthusiastic about New Year's Eve. I get the goodness of it, it's just never been a priority of mine.

I've done the staying in and ordering Chinese thing, I've done the open bar thing, I've done the house party thing, I've even done the oops-I-passed-out-long-before-midnight thing. So this year, I didn't really know what my plans would be until the day of... totally fine.

So here's the short run down of NYE 2012. Half day of work followed by a quick last-run-of-2012. First Night in Boston with the roomie and her family for the parade and fireworks. Dinner, champagne and a relaxing night in with the boyfriend.

Boom. It was a great one. The perfect mix of excitement and relaxation, and the perfect way to say goodbye to 2012.

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve and I wish you an even better New Year!