Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Committing to being committed

Day three of summer break found me making a summer "To Do" list, which included creating a marathon training program.  As I ate my way through half a box of Cheez-Its, I scoured the Internet for a suitable training plan.  After much frustration, a nap, and several hours of procrastination, I decided to adapt several different training regimens into one master plan that I creatively entitled, "Chicago Marathon Training."  Then, despite my hatred of calendars, I devised a simplistic (and colorful) monthly program.

I carelessly typed in workouts such as, "6x800's" and "10 mile race pace" and didn't bat an eye when I penciled in a 22-mile long run on Labor Day Weekend.  In fact, I kept right on going until all 14 weeks were filled with some type of numbers that resembled a craptastic marathon training plan. 

Then, staring blankly at my beautiful creation, I deleted it with one "click."  I've never been one to complete things half-heartedly - except when it comes to marathon training. 

Training for the marathon is a commitment, and perhaps I'm a bit of a commitment phobe - but I've got some serious baggage, which explains my tentativeness on many levels, yet is no excuse - I know.  In the past, I've made serious training plans, only to watch them unravel mid-way through due to various factors: weather, boredom or a Saturday night out with friends, which leads to one too many vodka sodas and a day-long hangover, which makes a Sunday 20 mile run out of the question.

Although I love schedules, many marathon training programs leave little room for flexibility, let alone, a life outside of running.  So instead of penciling in pre-emptive miles, I'll write them in as I go and try to relinquish some control.  And maybe even surprise myself in the process.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A "Finger lickin' good" race report

June.  The month when summer begins, school ends, and drinking takes precedence over running - sort of.  When it gets hot, I get thirsty.  And the only cure is beer.  Or wine, vodka, sangria...

Debauchery and sizzling temperatures aside, I still make time to get my run on at a few local events.  I may not be properly trained or hydrated for any of them, but no need to get serious about running (or anything else for that matter) until the thermometer dips below fifty degrees.

Run #1: Wissahickon Trail Classic

Living in Philly, there are very few hills; until one travels to the outskirts of town to the Wissahickon trails.  On a pleasant Saturday morning, a few friends and I trekked our way outside the city to run 6.2 miles on mountainous-like terrain.  Having ran the race in 2010, I dubbed myself an expert on such nonsense nursed a cocky inner-monologue - for the first mile.  After approaching hill mountain number one, I soon realized just how out-of-shape I was.  I also started breathing like an 85-year-old with an oxygen tank.  As I dodged uprooted branches and shuffled up hills, I became mesmerized in the beauty of nature.  That last sentence is totally bogus; in reality, I was thinking to myself "Is this effing race over with yet?!" while simultaneously enjoying the scenery/trying not to get poked in the eye with a stray tree branch.

When I finally finished the race, glad that I hadn't wiped out on a hill like the guy who beat me at the last second, I basked in the sweat/dirt that encapsulated my body and smiled, for nothing is more satisfying that accomplishing something difficult.  As the sweat in my eye burned, I watched as each of my friends crossed the finish line, all of them grinning, despite the difficult terrain they had just trodden.  Nothing beats camaraderie, challenge and a true sense of accomplishment.  I'll be back in 2012, perhaps with a bit more training under my belt.

Run #2: Fried Chicken Run

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of meat.  And beer.  And running.  So when the Fishtown Beer Runners decided to combine all three of my passions into one event, you can bet I celebrated - with a beer, of course. 

The Fried Chicken Run was not a race, but a leisurely 5.5 mile run to a bar, where chicken and beer awaited sweaty runners.  Perhaps sweaty is an understatement; more like "drenched" runners.  Thanks to the sweltering Philly humidity, I arrived at the establishment about 2 pounds lighter than when I started the run.  Obviously, I had to replenish all of my lost fluids - with beer. 

If all of my runs ended with the fried chicken/beer combination, then...
Actually, then I'd probably make more bad decisions than I already do...until next year's chicken run!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Italian Chicken-Lentil Soup

One of the things I've come to enjoy in the past year is cooking.  Specifically, in my slow-cooker.  I've dubbed "Crock-pot Sunday" as the day I test out new recipes while engrossing my tiny apartment with the aroma of food.  Add a little Ella Fitzgerald in the background and sometimes I think I'm at a romantic restaurant instead of my cramped kitchen. 

As a runner, I have to make sure that I eat a balanced diet; as a runner in her 30's, this has never been more important.  Gone are the days of heating up Lean Cuisines via microwave (I can't believe I ate those).  Nowadays, while cooking is a way for me to relax, it also helps me keep track of what exactly I'm putting into my body.  And with marathon training around the corner, fuel is imperative!

On the menu this Sunday: Italian Chicken-Lentil Soup

I've never made soup.  Or cooked with lentils, so this was going to be an experience.  I actually had most of the ingredients on-hand, which shocked even myself because I think this actually means that I can somewhat consider myself more than a "novice" at cooking!

Prep: 15 min Cook: 6 hour 15 min.
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
4 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup dried lentils (rinsed and sorted)
4 1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil or 1 tbsp. dried basil leaves (I used 1 bay leaf because I didn't have basil)
Shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired

Remove fat from chicken.  Mix remaining ingredients in slow cooker except : mushrooms, tomatoes, basil and cheese.

Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Remove the chicken from cooker; place on cutting board.  Pull apart chicken into shreds.  Return chicken to cooker.  Stir in mushrooms and tomatoes.  Cover and cook on low about 15 min. until heated through.  Sprinkle with cheese. 

Hopefully, my first attempt at making soup will be a success - and I'll have lunch prepared for at least the next two days! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

In a funk

Sometimes I get bored with my day-to-day workout routine.  This generally happens when the weather finally breaks and it is finally light enough outside for more than nine hours.  I start frolicking around the city, gorging myself with beers at outdoor happy hours and smiling because it's almost summer and I will have all the time in the world to work out like a maniac/lounge by the pool perfecting my tan.

So although I've been running for the past month, there is no documentation of it.  And that's fine by me.  Right now I'm not necessarily training for anything major - that will begin in the sweltering month of July when the realness of the Chicago marathon hits me.  Until then, I'll be partaking in a few fun races just to keep my competitive heart sane (and my body in tip-top bikini condition).  Here's a list of some of the races I intend on running:

Wissahickon Trail Classic: This is 6.2 miles of intense, single-file trail and I love it.  I ran this race last year when it was like 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity and still had a blast.  You won't see any cell-phone-talking girlie treadmill joggers here - this is for the purely dedicated and insane running "professionals."

1/2 Sour/ 1/2 Kraut: Seriously, say the words, "beer" and "sausage" and I'm there, whether it's a half marathon or not.  Although there is an option for a full marathon, I'm not entirely sure that June in Philly is the best time to log 26.2 on the trails.  But, who knows.

20in24: For this insane 24 hour relay race, I'm teaming up with 3 others.  We're each running roughly 16 miles all for the "Back on My Feet" charity, which helps homeless people become self-sufficient through running.  I'm thinking I need to join this organization in the future.

SheRox Duathlon: I've always wanted to complete a duathlon, ever since I registered for one 7 years ago and never did it because it was raining.  (I have my days when I'm a wuss...no shame)  Not only will this be my inaugural duathlon, but it's a "women's only" event.  I'm not sure if this excites me because of all the "girl power" I'll witness or disappoints me because I won't be able to see any hot men in tri outfits. Hmmmm.

I think that's a good summer line-up, don't you?  I mean, it has to be better than all of the crap I'm going to watch on T.V. this summer, right?!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guest Post!

Check out my guest post for one of Philly's best running clubs, Fishtown Beer Runners.

Had an awesome week of sight-seeing and running to catch you all up on.  But first, I must enjoy being home and the amazing summer-like weather Philly is having! 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Feel the burn

Sunday Funday.  Most would consider this a day of leisure coupled with brunch, bloody mary's and baseball.  Add a 34-mile bike ride into that mix, and my Sunday is perfected.

I love running.  I really do.  Running and I have endured a relationship that's lasted for decades. Hell, we might even be common-lawed at this point.  But sometimes, I need my space.  I need to spice things up - with my bike. 

OMG, suburbs DO exist!
I wouldn't say I'm "cheating" on running by biking, but it is thrilling to bring something new and fresh into an old and stale relationship.  This Sunday, a group of fellow runners/friends biked to the suburbs...the SUBURBS!  I can't contain my excitement about this.  You just can't find a good strip mall and chain restaurants in the city these days.

Our trek ended at Johnny Brenda's, also known as the bar that serves the "Best bloody mary in Philly," according to myself and a few friends.  A few beverages and two bars later, I saddled up for a semi-intoxicated trek home.  I. Love. Sunday Funday.

I also love biking.  Despite the chronic pain in my quadriceps, I look forward to Sunday rides.  Perhaps this is a fad and the newness will wear off soon...but I doubt it.  My bike is my freedom.  I can go anywhere.  I can also go downhill a super high speeds, which is an adrenaline rush and a half. 

I've felt the burn before - relationships, work, finances - but this time, something's different.  The burn feels refreshing, not worrisome.  And I can't wait to feel it again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bread, bikes, and blossoms

The weather in Philly has not been idea for running.  Yes, that's my lame excuse for a poor attempt at logging the miles lately.  Maybe one of these days Mother Nature will decide that she's punished the Northeast corridor enough and give us some sunshine and mild temperatures. 

Although sucky weather may deter me from hitting the pavement, I rarely let it dampen my spirit.  But sometimes, even the most diligent runners need a break from the norm.  Especially if it involves cherry blossoms.

This past weekend, some friends and I hurled ourselves into a rented mini-van and made our way to Washington D.C. to salivate at the renowned cherry blossoms.  In the process, several of us learned the following:  Cherry blossoms are not real cherries; museums in D.C. are FREE (what!); pub food in D.C. tastes the same as pub food in Philly.

Blossoms pre-monsoon-like rainstorm

While I mosied around D.C. thrusting my camera at every sight of a cherry blossom, I saw volunteers setting up for the famed Cherry Blossom Ten Miler.  I was insanely jealous and could feel the adrenaline rushing to my weary legs.  This race is on my list for 2012 (assuming I am chosen in the lottery).

Better-looking blossoms
 After an eventful trip to D.C., I mustered up the energy to bust-out my brand-new/slightly-used bike the next day for a 26 mile jaunt to outskirts of the city.  I realized quickly that I was not educated properly in the area of bicycle gears, which cost me the embarrassment of walking my bike up several steep hills.  Despite the feeling of knives stabbing my thighs on the ride back to the city, I couldn't help but conjure up a little evil laughter every time I passed a runner.  Suckerrrssss.

As soon as I nestled my bike in the garage, I ordered an air pump from Amazon.  I have a feeling that my bike and I are going to be best buddies this summer...

Banana bread awesomeness
 Totally unrelated to biking is banana bread, which I made tonight.  I don't particularly enjoy baking as much as I do cooking, but I also tend to buy bananas and then not eat them.  So I decided to act like my mom and make bread on a random weekday night. 

So although the blossoms and bread were awesome, the biking still has me feeling like I ran a marathon on Sunday instead of biking one.  If you know more about biking than I do (which is like, everyone), then I'd love to hear your tips.  Until then, my flower-printed youth helmet and I will continue to get acquainted with each other on the bike path each weekend.