Monday, August 31, 2015

Running in the Rain

It feels like so much, and yet not enough happened this weekend!

I'm sorry for not popping in for a workout update, I just ended up being busy, and decided to use my spare time to nap instead of blog :P

On Friday right after work I met my friend Gloria for lunch. She used to work at the same company (we made the awesome Habitat bake display last year) but left a few months ago to pursue a calling to ministry at the United Methodist Church. I've really, really missed her lately so I was more than excited for lunch and some hangout time. We hit up Granite City again for lunch (that became a kind of tradition before she left) and then went to the mall to wander around.

As we were walking past one store I realized it was full of calendars and games...just my kinda place! So we went in and looked around and it was so cool! I found something for my mom for Christmas (never too early to start stocking up the gifts), and also decided to get an adult coloring book for myself. They're supposed to be great stress relievers, and I put mine to use right away. Here's what I got colored over the weekend:

I love that these are meant to be whimsical and surreal and I can color trees blue and the grass purple :P
Gloria and I had such a good time and it was fun to catch up. It's so weird not having her around, and after the rough few weeks I had it was good to get in some serious face time with a friend.

It was a pretty quiet evening and I decided to go to bed early since I had to get up for a long run on Saturday.

Oh, Saturday.

I woke up at 4:30 (yes, AM) from a nightmare. In my dream, I had signed up for an Ironman and decided NOT to train. Go ahead and put that on the list of things I would never do...the not training part. I've been really good about my half training, so if the day ever comes that I decide to do 140.6 you can bet your butt I'd train for it.

Anyways, not only did I decide not to train, but it was like a weird tough-mudder style Ironman, and first I switched to some stupid bike I thought would work better in the mud (it was literally rubber with roller blade, I know) and then I ended up leaving my bike behind and swimming through mud for most of the cycling portion. I woke up right after I finished the bike portion and was told I had 30 minutes to run a marathon or I'd DNF (Did Not Finish). You probably don't need me to say it...but I DNF'd in my dream.

So I woke up...and it was raining. Hard and loud. I checked the weather and it said the rain should stop between 6 and 8, but indicated that it would start again after. Knowing my long run (I'd planned 11 miles) would take just over 2 hours, I figured a 7am start time would still be okay, and I dozed on and off until about 5:45,

I got up and started getting ready, getting kind of anxious about the unrelenting rain, and decided to pack a bag for the gym too. People, it kind of killed me to even think about running 11 miles on a treadmill. But I packed the bag, including a towel, shower stuff, two water bottles and my Shot Bloks, and just as I picked up my keys to get in my car I decided I would run outside instead.

Okay...not one of my better ideas as it was about 6:45 and the rain still hadn't stopped, but I figured two things:
  1. The weather people said the rain would stop for a few hours.
  2. If it rains on the day of the half, I will have to run outside anyways.
So I laced up, put on my waterproof jacket and Camelbak, and stepped outside.

It really wasn't bad for the first few miles, but I should have known the "weather people" can't be trusted. The rain was pretty light, and I figured it would let up for a bit. So I planned out my route in my head because I wanted to stay close enough to home that I could get there relatively quickly if the weather looked like it was going south (ie too much thunder or lightning started, because there hadn't been any lightning up til then).

But then the rain decided to be heavy. And it also decided not to stop being heavy. My waterproof (which is really, really light weight) was only waterproof for about a mile and a half, and then I was soaked through. After about three miles my feet started getting more and more wet, and by 5 miles I was going crazy trying to decide if I should stick to my planned 11 miles, or head home.

'Head home' won out. I had what I felt were good reasons, but I still beat myself up about it a bit all afternoon. There had been a bit of lightning, but what really worried me was how wet my feet were. My shoes were so soaked that they were heavy and squishing with every step, and my feet were sliding around a bit in them. I haven't written about it yet but I've had problems with a blister on one of my big toes after my long runs - nothing terrible, it's just that my right foot is bigger than the left by almost half a size, so my right big toe rubs a bit against the side of my shoe as I run. After every long run I drain it and let it dry out, and I've been able to keep it in check.

But my feet were so wet that I was worried I would get other blisters that would interfere with my training. And since the whole point of training is to actually run the half, I decided to call it. I figured I'd end up running between 6 and 7 miles, and I was okay with that. I finished at 6.5 miles, and was (admittedly) pretty happy to get home and dry off.

Since I know you wanna see it, here I am after the run. Pardon the terrible lighting, while my mom took the picture I stood in the laundry room so I wouldn't drip all over everything:

And I totally took a picture of my feet since I knew I'd mention that blister. 
To make myself feel better about the whole thing I decided to use this run as my Platform 9 3/4k for the Hogwarts Running Club. The medals won't be shipped for a little while, but I took that second picture to use for it. I can't wait to see the medal!

I had to shower really quickly because I had a chiropractor appointment to get to...and since my shoes got so wet I decided to go buy an alternate pair just in case. It's something I've been meaning to do for a looooong while and I just haven't been able to convince myself.

Before I go on about the shoes, I've gotta say that the adjustment I had at the chiro was one of the best I've had. I go to the same place I was an LMT at, and just before I left a new doctor started. I've had a few appointments with him and he's really great. Very thorough and his 'style' works well with my body. But moving on...!

When I got to the running store, the woman helping me had me try both the Ghost and Glycerin models by Brooks, and I ended up getting the Glycerins. I've heard good things about the Brooks brand, but I've never had a pair. The Ghosts fit well but felt very clunky, even moreso than my 1260s (which are a very "sturdy" shoe) and they slid off my heels a lot when I ran. The Glycerins don't run in wide widths (not the women's, at least) so I tried the men's ones and almost immediately fell in love. They actually felt like gloves - light but supportive and hugged my feet really well without being tight. When I ran with them on the treadmill they won out over the Ghosts. And as a bonus times two, they had them in royal blue AND were 20% off since they're the "old" model (12s, not 13s)...check 'em out:

I also picked up a pair of footless compression socks while I was there. My legs have been a bit sore/achey after my long runs and I have a pair of footed compression socks that have helped, but wanted footless to wear with my flip flops. I put them on when I got home and I love them!

I didn't do a whole lot after that...I dropped some stuff off at my aunt's for a party on Sunday (sidenote...check out this picture I took of a baby squirrel who decided to climb her!):

...and then I went to Cam's. His grandparents wanted to take us all out to dinner for his mom's birthday. It was a pretty uneventful night as far as things go, which I was totally fine with. I showed Nana how to play a one person card game called Grandma's Game (which I picked up from Runs for Cookies), and then Cam and I watched an episode of Bloodline (our new "watch together" show), and then I hit the hay.

Sunday (yesterday) Cam and I got up and headed for the gym right away (right around 8). I'd been playing with the idea of going for a run to make up miles from Saturday (and test out my new shoes), but I decided against it. We did this instead:

I'm feeling it in my back today (in a good way), so I'll take this workout as a success. We generally try to fit in one "core" exercise and then at least 4 auxiliary ones with each workout, and weekends are usually the day we do deadlifts, and then whatever we left out during the week.

After our workout I got out my CPCU study stuff (yup, that's still happening!) and crammed some studying in. I have a week and a half until my test, so I'm starting to get a little nervous! Eep! I'm at a place I'm pretty comfortable with, but the next week will definitely have some focus to studying. I'll be really happy to take a few weeks' break when I'm done with this test, especially since there's so much other stuff happening the week after. That said...I need to order books for my next test as soon as I'm done with the first, so I shan't relax too much.

Cam and I hung out with his parents and grandparents a bit before I headed over to my aunt's for a barbecue. A good chunk of our family was there, and it was nice to just sit around and talk for a while. The weather was warmer this week (apparently we're gonna have a temperature spike again here soon...yippee / was almost 90 degrees when I went out for lunch today which left me suddenly dreading today's run) so we got to sit outside in the sun for a while too. I felt like I left early (I was getting kind of tired) but my mom and brother got home about 15 minutes after I did, so I must have been right on par with everyone else.

And that was the weekend! Who would have thought all of that would happen in one weekend?! Not me, for sure, although I should kind of expect it by now, especially since I actually had a lot of that planned out...whoops.

In case you feel like you're missing out, here are my run and workout recaps for the last week. Sorry I've been so bad about keeping up with these...perhaps I should make it a September goal to be better about it...!

Since today is Monday, I did three miles, per my normal schedule:

Like I said...the weather has climbed back to brutal. It was hot and humid today...just the kind of day that makes me loathe running. I waited until after 6 to go out and run, which is really late for me. It was difficult, but only for my hamstrings and calves...I could certainly feel the afterburn from those deadlifts! I could also tell that there's a slight difference in form from the new shoes, but my knee fared really well. It didn't bother me at all, and that was my main concern with getting new shoes.

And apparently part of our weird weather the last few weeks is due to the wild fires out west. It's just so nuts to think that that's happening thousands of miles away and yet we're still impacted! Hopefully things cool off again after this week - I'd love to run the half in weather like we had last week, rather than weather like today!

And as promised, a workout roundup from last week, both runs and lifting:
Tuesday's run splits (I didn't run Monday because of Rico) and our workout log. Turns out our gym has a bunch of water damage so we couldn't use certain machines (like the leg press) and couldn't do a few of the things we wanted to.

And Thursday. I ran again...just two miles on the treadmill. We had to work out and then were going for dinner with Cam's fam so we kept things short and sweet. We also had an argument about my bench weight and ended our workout in angry silence while we both pumped away...that's why I didn't fill in the final weight for us. I know mine was 60lbs for the 10 set, and I think his was like 195...
And that's it for this post! I have nothing but the usual work/study/workout/run planned all week, so you probably won't hear from me for a bit. I kind of want to keep it that way...there is way too much other stuff that has happened in the past month, excitement can keep to itself for a while!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Warning: May Contain Emotions

Hi all!

Sorry for being radio-silent this week. It's been busy and a bit exhausting, and I just need some me-time away from a computer.

And I'll just be blunt about this: It hasn't been an easy few weeks emotionally. Things could be easier. But they aren't, and I guess I have to deal with that. I mean, they're getting easier, but the last two weekends were kind of the pits.

I mentioned in my last post that "I just don't feel like doing anything."

A few years ago I didn't understand that this is one of the cardinal signs of depression. Lethargy, sleeping a lot, the absolute lack of desire to do anything, and not finding joy in things you normally do...depression at it's finest!

I don't think I've mentioned it here but I was diagnosed (like for real) with moderate depression a few years ago. There were a few options offered to me, one of which was medication, but I declined because I wanted to see if I could manage my symptoms in other ways. "Diet and exercise" can help - and have - but it's not a cure all. I've actually had to spend a lot of time training my brain to think differently and to 'overcome', if you will, thought patterns conditioned by depression.

I don't want to bore you with the details, but another check-box symptom of depression is all-or-nothing thinking. I can give you a very simplistic example: I have a To Do list with 15 items on it. I get 10 done. I feel like a worthless POS because I didn't get all 15 things on the list, plus 5 extraneous things done.

(PS: Welcome to my senior year of college.)

I'm not surprised that I reacted to everything from the last few weeks the way I did...I've basically felt hopeless about the bad situations presented to me, so it's no wonder that my brain just wanted to power down for a bit. And I decided to let it.

I woke up at 5:45 on Saturday because I had a lot to do - I had a 10 mile run scheduled, I had a chiropractor appointment, and I needed to call the vet ASAP to get Rico seen.

But when I got up my knee was bothering me just a little too much, and I was getting more worried about Rico (remember, I thought he had an abscess that was going to burst) so I decided to skip the run and try to get Rico an appointment as soon as I could...and that appointment ended up conflicting with my chiro appointment, so I rescheduled that too.

Sidenote: I am busy. Every appointment I've made in the last month (eye doctor, chiro, massage...everything but the dentist!) has ended up being rescheduled, sometimes multiple times. Meetings at work, animals, other appointment's all messing with my schedule. I finally just rescheduled my eye exam for October because there's no way I can fit it in in September with all the stuff I'm doing (the half, our fall fundraisers at work, Nana and Papa visiting...)...I basically just said 'No!' to more stuff in September. know the long and short of what happened with Rico. I'd originally arranged to take him in early on Monday so they could check out the tumor and see if the could drain it and what made it way worse was that I had to call before they closed to change those plans and schedule an entirely different kind of appointment. It just sucked everything out of me to do that. And to make things more complicated, Cam and I had plans with friends Saturday night. I totally almost bailed (which he said he'd be okay with). Almost. But I decided in the end it would be 'good for me' to go and be around other people.

So I went. I ate dinner (thanks, Sarah!) and...I fell asleep on the couch. I was just mentally and emotionally too exhausted to actually interact with the people around me. And even though I was a bit mad and disappointed in myself, sometimes that is what needs to happen.

Cam and I were supposed to work out on Sunday too, but I told him I just wanted to get home and hang out with Rico while I could. I just wanted to be home. And Cam understood that.

So to my little dude...Goodbye. I missed you before I even had to let you go, and I'll never forget you.

And I'll forever remember your affinity for stealing my food.
The good news is, the weekend is almost here, and I'm getting out of my funk. Though I was busy at work this week, it was mostly because I had many more volunteer meetings than usual, and I think it's really good that that's what kept me busy. Seriously, the things that have lifted me up are PrideZ, the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, and knitting lessons. I love being involved, and I love helping. Those things make me feel amazing.

I also ended up doing a lot of yoga on Saturday and Sunday (and even throughout the week) to cope with all of this...which actually felt like a really great way to handle it. I put on a few Sarah Beth Yoga restoration videos and just settled in and let my mind focus on the physical aspects of what I was feeling rather than the emotional ones. It helped me calm down and escape from my brain for a little bit...and had the added benefit of easing some of the aches I've had lately.

I've actually been trying to fit yoga in more often, even if it's just for a 'good morning' stretch before work. It helps focus my mind and set positive intentions for the day, even when my main goal is just to work out some stiffness. It's truly amazing what a little activity in the morning will do!

Okay so all the sad stuff aside, we got a taste of fall this week and I'm in love. The temps are supposed to spike again over the weekend and through next week, but I'm really hoping for a drop off again after that. I miss sweatshirts and sweatpants and snuggling into warm covers in a chilly room at the end of a long day.

On top of that - Nana and Papa (Cam's grandparents) got here from Idaho on Wednesday night. We all had dinner together yesterday, and I'm so looking forward to having them here the next few weeks. They're amazing, amazing people.

Before I go - I feel like I've been revelling in my pets this week. Just really enjoying them and the happiness they instill in me. So here they are. The pups (in honor of National Dog Day this past Wednesday) and Benjen, my little fighter, and another one of Rico, my little dude:

I'm hoping to do some running and workout updates before the weekend ends, so fingers crossed you'll see something from me again soon!


Saturday, August 22, 2015


This will be a short one...

I'm pretty down and out today. I had a good week, but once again the weekend brought more bad news, and I just don't feel like doing anything.

Rico (my two year old hamster) has had a growth on his chest for the last few weeks. I've been keeping an eye on it, but it's grown by about 1/3 in the last few days, so I finally decided to get him checked on.

I honestly, truly thought it was an abscess that needed draining because of how fast it grew. Here's the best picture I could get...and keep in mind that 2 1/2 weeks ago he was totally normal and his chest was flat:

That purplish thing extending into his food dish? That's what I'm talking about.
Turns out it's a tumor. It's possible that there's a lot of fluid build-up around it, but regardless there's not much to be done.

I just feel so crappy about this. I asked for an estimate to drain and biopsy everything, but in the car on the way home I had a flashback to when I was eight. I got this awesome hamster when I was six. His name was Winny, and he was totally my bud. Just after he turned two he got this large saddlebag looking lumps on his sides, and we took him to the vet who informed us that he had tumors and probably didn't have much longer to go.

I cried and cried and cried, and after talking with my mom, at the ripe old age of eight, I realized that I could not keep Winny alive simply because I wanted him to be.

Well...I thought of Winny during the ride home today and the same thought planted itself in my irrationally whirring mind, putting a dead stop to the idea of spending nearly $200 to keep my old little dude alive for (maybe) a few extra weeks.

Rico doesn't need to have some painful, drawn out death just because I can't bear to let him go. I hate myself for knowing that, and for knowing what's coming on Monday.


I guess there's not much I can do though.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Roller Coaster Weekend

This weekend was...odd. As the title says, it was a roller coaster, and as a result this post will be too because I'm just going to take you through the weekend as I lived it.

It actually started out great - I had a 90 minute massage and it was wonderful. My LMT is amazing, and I've been having some imbalance in my left hip and knee when I run which she did a great job addressing. When I went out Saturday it was almost 6 miles before I had any issues, whereas I'd been having problems on my shorter runs the last few weeks, so it was a huge improvement.

But the bad news came almost right away. I got in my car to drive home and had a text message from my friend Mac...and (obviously) it wasn't good. She told me there were media updates coming out about Kayla, and that they might be graphic.

I'm not sure how to address this but I want to say the following: I know that ISIS is not a nice group of people. Human rights atrocities abound during times of war and are thoroughly embedded in the practices of war and terrorism. I was never under any illusions about what might have (or not have) happened to Kayla. These new articles that broke on Friday and have been cropping up over the weekend speak of terrible, terrible things that happen to girls who get kidnapped and caught by ISIS (I'm not going to post anything can google it for yourself).

The thing is...I knew those things probably happened to Kayla. I knew that as a humanitarian aid worker with American citizenship she was probably pretty "valuable" ways that allowed ISIS to use her for bargaining, but also to act like they have power over us.

I realized all that. I just didn't need the fucking New York Times to confirm it for me. I didn't need them to confirm any of it for me.

I took Mac's advice and was careful about the source I picked. I picked ABC because they don't tend to be as graphic as the NYT...but it was still a difficult read. And I spent my ride home in tears, once again rehashing my emotions around what the last 18 months of my beautiful and courageous friend's life were really like.

It subdued my mood, that's for sure. It took me back to February...feeling lost and jaded...but this time there was an exponentially greater feeling of anger inside me. There still is. I know these feelings will dull with time, but right now it's all up in the air. Good one minute, sad the next, angry in another. That's just how mourning works. But make no mistake...I am also under no illusion about how men like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi die. And it's not peacefully.

So by Friday night, I was more than ready for my Saturday run. With all those emotions going through me all I wanted was to get out, pound some pavement, and exhaust myself while I let the anger and sadness fuel my run.

I'm not sure I've ever mentioned it, but I rarely run with head phones in. It is my alone time to observe and think, and I don't usually want to be distracted from that. Saturday was no exception as I strapped on my Camelbak and left for a 4.5 mile out-and-back tour of my city.

I was (luckily) distracted for the first 5 miles of the run by a consistently uphill route (okay, not uphill but there was a positive elevation grade the entire time of at least 1-2% which left me with a 128ft gain for the whole run). It's not something I'm used to, and I also ran through an area where they're repaving, so it wasn't really until my turn around that things got a bit easier and I settled into my thoughts.

And started crying. At one point I started sobbing and realized that if I didn't stop, I wouldn't be able to run. So I calmed myself as much as possible and started thinking about what I can do to honor Kayla's memory. I mean, there's all this negative press, and people are now focusing on her victimization...and that's not how I remember (or want) to remember her. I found it incredibly ironic that I was running - training - for a half marathon called "Women Rock"...and realized that Kayla was one of the strongest women I've ever known. She was the definition of this race slogan. And that's awesome. It was a good reminder, mid run, about who my friend was and how she needs to be remembered. So on I went:

Decent splits, and I slowed my intervals from 5/:30 to 4:30/1 around the 5 mile mark.
When I got home I immediately put my dogs in the car (because puppy eyes) and headed over to 7-11 for a Gatorade, and then to the bank to get some singles (puppies got treats from the bank too).

Singles, you may ask? Why yes! Cam and I made plans to head to the Renaissance Faire with some good friends this weekend, and we wanted a huge wad of singles so we could tip the performers. It was one of the only things I wish I'd known before I went the first time...bring cash to tip!

After my little errand it was home for a shower, and then I fell asleep on the couch watching Jurassic Park and icing my knees. I won't lie, I was really tired after that run, moreso that I have been after any of them lately. But I got up after a bit, had lunch, and did some chores, then headed to Cam's.

We decided to wait for our friends Brian and Steph to drive up from Champagne before having dinner (they were coming after work and the drive is about 3 hours). So we just hung out and played some chess and cards (sidenote: It was my first ever game of chess and I wasn't absolutely horrid! Yay!). And we went to Los Burritos (our favorite Mexican place) to meet them. We stayed up until about midnight playing 300 Rummy (because 500 would have been crazy) and a few games of Blokus.

Fortunately the Ren Faire starts at 10 so we weren't pressed to get up super early. We left around 8 so we could have breakfast on the way, and got to the Faire right around 10. We'd tried to plan so more of our friends could come but apparently group plans aren't succeeding this summer (because if it's not something everyone can do the plans tend to get pushed back and forth until they just end up not happening...) and it ended up just being the four of us for the day, with plans to meet up with one of my college friends briefly.

One thing was immediately apparent: It was definitely hotter than when we went last year, and I was sweating almost right away. Last year we had perfect 73 degree weather, and I was hoping for that again. Normally I'm miserable when I'm hot, but I really didn't want the heat to be the thing that ruined the day. especially when I needed some fun and laughs. I didn't take many pictures, but Steph did so I stole these from her:

The first show we saw was the Mud Show!
We followed that up with lots of walking around, random little shows and shops, met up with my friend Sophie and her fiance, had some lunch, saw 2 Merry Men and then went to the Queen's Joust. The final stop for the evening was the Globe Stage for two shows - the Twin Tortugas and MooNiE.

Both shows had a lot of audience participation, and they pulled quite a few people up on stage for Tortugas. I'd never seen their show before but it was hilarious. I had seen MooNiE perform though and was really excited to see it again. But what made it even better - and gave me just the laugh I'd been looking for all weekend - was when he came out into the audience and selected Cam to go up on stage and help him:

I was able to record pretty much the entire thing too! My phone ran out of space in the middle, but it was right before he did his little Ode to the Ren Faire so if you decide to watch you won't miss much!

Now, I'm really a stickler for living in the moment and not needing a video for every single thing I see, but I thought Cam's family would love to see this, so I decided to record it. However...the video isn't professional quality or anything. I held my phone around my forehead to take the video a) so I could still see the show and b) so I wouldn't block the view of the people behind me. As such, you miss out on some of MooNiE's facial expressions and gestures, and that crowd (including that head of blonde hair) are in view at all times...yeah, that detracts a bit from the overall quality...but see my previous comment about living in the moment and making memories.

All that said, if you still wanna check it out, here you go!

Hopefully you watched and enjoyed (or will come back to it later!).

I gotta bounce though, because Cam and I are headed out to the gym! See you later, peeples!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cakes and baking and meetings and stuff that all somehow have something to do with each other.

You know what always kind of 'gets' me? Like, what stumps me day in and day out?

How to start a blog post.

I've found that blogging can be a great antidote for writer's block because it really gets you to push stuff out of your brain coherently, but actually starting a post is where I always feel I get stuck. That's why I tend to start with some kind of salutation - but I feel that, without fail, that makes me seem like some overly peppy person - and if there is anything I am not, it is peppy.

So on that note: Holy crap is my caffeine addiction bad. (Yeah that's right, I'm working on my intros and not my segues. Deal.) Yesterday I could barely function after about 12:30. I was ready to fall asleep at my work computer with my eyes open (definitely not what they pay me to do). I had a meeting at 2 and had to down a (terrible) cup of (instant machine) coffee beforehand so I didn't die a slow, tired death before during it. But actually, the meeting was really good and probably would have woken me up regardless, so it was good I had that on the books.

In general though, the waning of energy throughout the day is one of my least favorite feelings. I go to bed every night with so many ideas and plans for the next day and then by the time I leave work it's like, "Nah...nahhhhhh, that can wait til tomorrow...again."

But eventually you get to the point where things can't wait, and that's where I was Sunday morning (great transition, huh? And you thought I wasn't working on them ;P).

My cousin asked me pretty last minute (no worries, Jen) if I would make a cake for her oldest son's birthday on Monday. One single cake is easy, so I of course said yes. He requested chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, and then upped the ante by requesting marbled cake. According to Jennie "He actually asked for chocolate, then said, 'Marble will be a challenge for her' in an evil kind of way." Charming kid, right?

So after my workout Sunday morning I headed home to make the cake, and since my mom and I were going over there for dinner, I made some jalapeno poppers too (because I have lots of them growing in a pot on my patio and for some reason the rabbit and squirrels and Stewarts aren't eating them).

That dark chocolate buttercream was divine.

Cocoa Devil's Food marbled with the 2 egg Yellow Cake from Joy of Baking, baked in 9-inch rounds.

Looking at it through these pictures Jennie sent made me want to eat my phone. I mean...I made it, I knew how good it smelled...and the frosting? Probably the best chocolate frosting I've ever made. But oh god, these pictures. So on Monday (Elias' birthday and the official cake cutting day) I asked if Cam and I could stop by after dinner to try a piece.

It tasted even better than it looks. I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa because I was too lazy to grab the regular stuff (which, I might add, was stacked right under the Special Dark), and it was the best lazy-decision I've ever made. The combo of cakes and dark chocolate buttercream was superb. I could have eaten the whole thing.

I have to stop talking about it now because I just want it so badly and might try to claw through the monitor to get it. So on we move.

The other awesome thing that happened when I got home on Sunday was that there was a package waiting for me! And it contained my Hogwarts Running Club shirt! I only ordered one, but I made buy a few more as the months go by:

"Run like You-Know-Who is chasing you!'
I got a ringer style, size Large. I usually get mediums which are a tighter fit on me, but I wanted this one to be looser. It's super comfy too, so if anyone is thinking of ordering one, the ringers are great.

Aside from the baking and shirt wearing, Sunday afternoon and evening ended up being pretty low key and relaxing. We went over to Jennie's for dinner (which is always a good time) and then I amused myself by reading the latest chapter of Senator Dracula. I know I mentioned it last time, but for real people, you need to check that out.

Other fun things from this week (worthy of mentioning):

Ronda Rousey did an AMA on Reddit. She's a pretty badass woman and, colorful language aside, a pretty good role model for girls as far as the health, fitness, and badassery go.

I also finished Jurassic Park! Holy crap, I loved it. I can't wait to start on The Lost World. I love that the book is extended beyond the timeline confines of the movie (the beginning is before the movie picks up and it all ends way past the ending of the movie). It was fun and thrilling to read, really keeps you engaged, and makes you think about the way we treat animals in captivity as far as corporate-money grabbing goes. Really good book, highly recommended!

I'm also really excited to be joining my company's PrideZ group. It's weird to think (or say) "I am an LGBT ally" because I feel like supporting others should be a no-brainer. But apparently it's not.

Soapbox for a second or two:

Though I am ecstatic that my company is supporting this, and even more excited to be involved, I think it's ludicrous that such groups need to exist. But all throughout history we, as humans, have found ways to hate, ridicule, and even persecute others for simply being different in ways they cannot change.

This movement happening in America surrounding "gay" rights - it's yet another cycle of history to acknowledge rights they should have had all along. It was the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, the women's suffrage movement in the early 1900s, the struggle to end slavery in the 1860s. It is the same as all those things. People want to be equal and have rights that the majority have, and the majority has no reasonable grounds to deny those rights based on personal preference or belief. Your religion does not matter. Your political affiliation does not matter. You can choose and have your beliefs. Hold on to them and cherish them and stand by them - BUT - and it's a big one, and I don't care how many times you say, "I don't hate gay people!" - if you are willing to sacrifice the equality of others' in lieu of your beliefs, that is a benchmark of hatred and secondclassmanship.

Today during our first meeting I heard the same thing said twice - "When I was young, I never thought I'd be able to be myself and work at a place like this without the fear that it would affect my career."

You know what? I don't ever want to hear my child, or their friend, or a family member ever have to say this. I want my children to grow up in a world where they don't have to hide something they cannot change about themselves because someone has some arbitrary rules they've ascribed to and tells my child they are wrong for being who they are.

The point of being an ally, to me, is adding my voice to the conversation and saying, "I think this is wrong, and I will work to right it." For my whole life I've been part of most majorities. I am a woman, but I am white, and I am straight (and I grew up Christian to boot).

It is damn well about time that I used my majority to do something.

*Gets off soapbox*

Anyways...I am SO excited to get involved and see where it goes, and I'm beyond proud of my friend Travis for spearheading the program at our headquarters! He's done so much work and advanced things so far in the last couple of months and he deserves all the good thoughts and vibes and feels for it. So here's a picture of us - for the sake of goodwill and as a mark of the start of things - taken after the Corporate Challenge:

And finally, to lighten the mood: Oh man. I have had baking on the brain lately. I have two baking-related charity endeavors in the works for, well, work. One for September and one for October. I've been rationing myself very well this year (if you forgot or didn't know, it was my goal not to take on any commissioned projects because it got wayyyy too stressful and time consuming), so I'm looking forward to busting it out in the next few months and impressing some people with my mad skillz.

I'll leave you with this little tidbit, overheard in the office today: "I don't like secrets!! Well...I like secrets once I know them..."

Ahh, don't we all. Peace out people! I'll be back with more workout and run recaps, probably Saturday after my NINE MILER!


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

An 8 mile run!

Hello hello, once again!

I finally have some time to update about the weekend! I won't lie and say it was busy, because Saturday was not busy, apart from my run. As a matter of fact, I was super lazy for a few hours after my run because Cam was playing StarCraft with his boys. After those few hours I told him we had to go do something, and since he loves me, he obliged.

But I'm getting ahead of myself so let's back up to Friday. Right after work I met my mom and her friend for lunch at a restaurant right across the street from my office called Granite City. Since they opened I have told pretty much everyone that, "Everything on the menu is good." Well - I met my match on Friday! (Gloria, if you're reading, I miss our GC dates and clearly this happened because it's the first time I've gone without you...#sadface)

I wanted something light because Cam and I were going out again with friends for dinner and a movie that night, so I got the Bruschetta Chicken salad...and I was not a fan. The seasoning on the chicken didn't match the rest of the flavors, and the vinaigrette was a little dull. Oh well...the other 10 things I've had off the menu have been amazing, so one dud isn't exactly surprising.

Afterwards we went to the mall (because it's right next to work/restaurant) so my mom could look for curtains and curtain rods (which she found). I also decided it was time for me to look for a few new wardrobe items - to say it hasn't been a priority lately would be a mondo understatement. At this point my mom and her friend (Wendy) realized just how picky I am when it comes to shopping. Wendy kept holding things up and I would say, "No, X is wrong with it" or "It's too short" "The neckline is too high" "it has gold" "too many sequins" etc. I tried on about 15 things and left with 1. Womp womp.

I wasn't too disappointed though - for everything I didn't buy, I saved money, so there's that.

Afterwards I headed to Cam's and we left to meet our friends to see Shaun the Sheep. I know it's a kids' movie, and I don't care, it was adorable. If you didn't know, Shaun actually got his start in Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave. And I happen to have a little Shaun who sits at my desk, so it was a good fit for a movie pick.

Like I said, super cute. And there's no dialogue in the movie. I think that says something about storytellers - to keep you engaged for 90 minutes without a character saying anything more than "hmm mmm mmm hm mhh" is quite a feat!

Dinner and a brief walk around was had after the movie, and after that Cam and I headed home. He knew I had a long run in the morning so he'd made plans that would end early so I could get to bed. I set an alarm for 6, and was asleep by 11.

I won't lie - I was nervous about the 8 miler. It's the longest distance I've done to date, and I wasn't sure how well it would go (especially since I'd never actually done 7 miles). But I needn't have worried.

I decided to do the 8 miles at a local forest preserve called Busse Woods. I picked it because I seemed to remember that one loop was somewhere close to 8 miles and the trail is really well maintained. It's a fairly common area for people to train on too, so I figured why not. I knew it'd be better than trying to figure out some kind of course that long through Cam's neighborhood!

I left Cam's house around 6:45 and got to Busse by 7:00 - like any other Saturday I wanted to train at race time, and moreover I wanted to avoid whatever heat and humidity the day had planned. Fun side note: Cam let me borrow his (precious and beloved) Jeep because along with the registration of my car came new license plates, and I hadn't switched them out yet (whoops!). So it was fun driving his V8 down fairly empty roads on the way, and even more fun on the way back to have that subwoofer in the back, haha ;)

Anyways, I was on my way running a little after 7, and set myself up for 5 min/30 sec run/walk intervals. Like with previous runs, I agreed with myself that I could drop my intervals to 4:30/1 after half the distance (4 miles) if needed. I ended up doing just that, but I only kept them like that for two or three intervals before I switched back to 5/:30 - I felt so great during Saturday's run, and dropping my intervals down just seemed unnecessary.

Here's the map (yay! I love it when I can share my actual routes...I just don't want anyone to know where I live which is why I normally don't) and my intervals:

Turns out the loop was only 7.3 miles (by my Garmin) so I had to do a short out-and-back to get the final distance to 8 miles.

Miles 5 and 6 are where I dropped my intervals.
I cannot tell you how happy I am with these times. Obviously by the end I was tired and slowing down a bit, but I feel like for my first time at this distance, these are very good times to see. Hell, I'm just happy I did all 8 miles! My friend Mo told me a few weeks ago that, "Even if you only get to 8 miles in your training, you can do the half" - so I'm holding her to that, even though I plan on doing more than that before the race!

Also of note - my heart rate. You remember how a few weeks ago I talked that awful run where my heart rate almost hit 180, with an average of 164? Well this time around the highest my heart rate got was 168, and the average was 160. No wonder this run felt so much better than some of the other ones lately! It really helps to run when it's not freaking a million degrees and 1200% humidity out!

I also had the foresight to bring my Camelbak with me - I think I filled it about 2/3 of the way (I have the Classic, which has a 2 liter capacity) so I wouldn't have to run with the full weight. Being able to take a sip or two during every walk interval (and some gummies after the 4 mile mark) really helped throughout the whole run. It was also way easier and less awkward than carrying my Camelbak water bottle (though I still like having that option).

I'll tell you what though, there are major differences to running at a park like this than the streets of my 'hood. Mainly - cyclists and other runners. I don't normally see either when I'm out and about, but those recreational activities are what bike paths are good for. And I saw lots. Quite a few other individual runners, runners with their trainers, cyclists (some clearly training for events) and there was even an entire marathon training group out. They even had water coolers every 3 or so miles. At one point I got passed from behind by an entire group of them...perhaps not the best for one's self confidence, but I brushed it off because they were all clearly seasoned runners/marathoners. Other than that, I did my best to say "Morning" to everyone I met eyes with, and "Thank you" every time a cyclist either said "Bike back!" or "On your left!" No amount of running is an excuse for lacking manners, especially when others are trying to ensure your safety!

I took a few selfies when I was done, most notably this one of me with Cam's car:

Sorry if I look evil, the sun was in just the right spot to get into my eyes!

On the way back to Cam's house I rocked out to Depeche Mode (exceptional recovery music!) and stopped to grab an iced coffee from Starbucks. After nearly three hours of awake time (and 1,300 calories burned) I needed some caffeine!

We chilled out for most of the rest of the morning (read: I made us eggs to eat while we finished Season 3 of Orange is the New Black and then laid on the couch while Cam played video games) before I decided we needed to get up and go do something. So Cam agreed to take me to Target so I could continue my clothes search - I've had good luck there in the past and was confident I'd be able to find some new stuff this time.

And I wasn't disappointed! I ended up with three new "dresses" - I say it in quotes because I would never wear any of them to work without leggings. It would be indecent. I also got a skirt, but tried it on with some other stuff at home and decided to return it.

After Target we went to Trader Joe's and picked up some stuff for dinner, got a sushi snack for lunch, and then headed back home where I ate and fell asleep. Those long runs, man, they can wear a person out!

When I woke up it was close to dinner time, but Cam had agreed that we could take a short walk before dinner so I could finish the Road to Hogwarts challenge that I was 2 miles away from completing. We were both getting hungry though, so he suggested we do 2 miles on our bikes instead - I was sold, and we were back in no time. It ended up not mattering though because MakeYesHappen had problems syncing with Garmin all weekend, so I ended up having to manually enter my data on Monday to complete the challenge. It doesn't matter though! I got there in the end!

What's really fun is that since completing the challenge I've had at least 3 other people tell me they signed up too! Wooooot! That's what it's all about...encouraging and engaging others!

I was so happy to know the challenge was finished, and so glad that Cam and I just had a low-key night planned. We watched Get Hard - I'm not a Will Ferrell fan but that movie was so funny. Then I fell asleep on the couch while he played more StarCraft (clearly our relationship is the definition of excitement).

Now this next part is just one more reason I love Cam. I went to bed fairly early (~10) and the next morning I woke up to a text from him that he'd gone to bed at 12:30, but that 'as I snore next to you I'm subconsciously telling you I'm okay with waking up at 7:30 to get the day started.'

How adorable is that? We'd agreed to move our traditional Saturday workout to Sunday, and this was his way of saying he'd get up at 7:30 because he knew I had a lot to do after the gym. I thought that was adorable of him.

I waited until 8 to wake him up, and we eventually headed to the gym to fit all this in:

My pen died after I dropped it halfway through the workout. Oopsies.
We had heavy reps on the schedule for our core lifts (deadlifts, benchpress, and squats are our general 'core' lifts). Those 150lb deadlifts were tough, but rewarding. Cam failed in thinking I could bench 3 75-lb reps, and I had to drop the weight significantly to be able to complete the 2nd set. Afterwards he said I'll probably plateau for a few weeks because it's harder to increase the weight on upper body lifts, but eventually I'll be at 75. So I guess I'll just have to w(eight) for that and keep working towards it.

Sunday morning felt pretty perfect in the end...lifting and then Starbucks breakfast (Americano and turkey + eggwhite sandwich) with my man. It was one of those mornings that just felt so right.

I'm gonna leave it there for now...I have another post planned with the rest of the stuff I did on Sunday, but I feel like throwing it in here would just make this stupid long, so I won't!

But if you're really searching for something else to read right now, you could amuse yourself for a while with the Senator Dracula series. It's hilarious, partly mostly because of the terrible, terrible metaphors and similies that they use. But absolutely hilarious, I promise.

Read and enjoy, and I'll get back to you later!


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Re-introducing myself (with a bazillion pictures...cute dogs and hamsters, I promise!)

Hello there!

This post is exclusively to say that I've noticed an uptick in readership since I commented on the Hogwarts Running Club's Facebook page. Since I'm steadily seeing at least twice as many page views, I wanted to take this moment to say: Welcome! I hope you like it here in my little nook of the interweb. I also want to give a quick not so quick intro about myself for anyone wondering (and if you're already a reader of the blog, sorry to bore you with all these things you probably already can just skip this post and come back later for my Saturday/Sunday round up unless you just want to look at a million fun pictures of my life).

I don't think I've ever actually done an "about me post" so I hope this one isn't terrible.

Anyways...My name is Christina. I'm 27 and I live and work in the northwest Chicago burbs. I live with my mommatrons and brother:

Here we are in front of Hogwarts in January! We had the most perfect Scottish-highlands-effect fog.
...and I work at the headquarters of a fairly large insurance company. I'm pretty involved with different volunteer work there. Like last year, I made this cake for a cake contest (our charity of choice was Habitat for Humanity):

My friend and I did that whole display by ourselves (I did most of the baking, she put together everything else) and we were pretty proud of beating out 5 other (much larger) teams and winning two awards for it!

So yeah - I do that kind of stuff. I'll actually be repping H4H again this year in the same event...and I need to put together a team pronto!

Aside from work and volunteering there, I like to hang out with my super cool boyfriend, Cam:

I also force him to go to the gym thrice a week, and he angry-faces me for that. But really, he's a big teddy bear, and I don't know what I'd do without him. We're partners, through and through, on bad days and good, and we're coming up on year 2 of many more to come:

This was right before we went white water rafting on vacation!
Let's see, what else...

I also have two dogs, Nigel and Stewart:

Nigel is pretty much my child, he had a health scare a few months ago and I didn't know what to do with myself. He's the living teddy bear I always want as a child, and my best fur-friend.
Stewart is an everyone's-dog. He doesn't care if he's hanging out with my mom, brother, or me...he loves us all equally and is kind of neurotic. And terrified of everyone else because everyone else is an ax-murderer.
I also have two hamsters. The first is Benjen (any GoT fans out there should recognize that name!). He's a pretty chill little dude, not easily excitable. I found out a few months ago that he has a massive tumor in his abdomen. He's been doing okay but it's definitely affecting him :( He and I are just taking it day by day:

My next little buddy is Rico. He loves to explore, and he really loves trying to eat my breakfast, whatever it is. He recently began to encounter his own health problems, and it's a real blow for me. He just turned 2 so I know he doesn't have a ton of time left, but it's still really difficult. That's why I let him eat pancakes and English muffins:

And finally, we have Ned (GoT fans, rejoice again...we have a Ned and a Benjen). Last year for his birthday Cam got a bearded dragon. Ned likes to hang out with us all the time, mostly in the form of clinging to our shirts as we watch TV or play board games. I never thought I'd be a reptile person (my affinity lies with hamsters, for sure) but Ned's changed that for me:

So there are the pets...but you're probably wondering what else I do.

I have a few hobbies that I'd like to think I'm fairly good at. Cam's papa once told me that he'd never met someone who was so productive in their free time - probably because my hobbies produce stuff.

Obviously I blog, so we'll skip that.

But my first (and well loved hobby) is baking. I love to try, test, and tweak recipes until they're perfect. Remember the cake I posted the picture of? Well it tasted even better than it looked (it was half Devil's Food, have Tie-Die white with both chocolate and vanilla buttercream, in case you're wondering). I make everything from cakes and cookies to (recently) pies. I like to try difficult things (like French macarons) but I love the simplicity and comfort of a homemade chocolate chip cookie too (I even have my own CCC recipe that I invented myself :P). I also make these trademark sugar cookies...people rave about them and even pay me to make them (I'm not just tooting my own horn, it's true):

These stackable teddy bears are Cam's favorite. And the entire 20-cookie batch of these blue and white ones went for $725 at my company's bake auction this year.

Any Star Wars fans?! These ones turned out so cool!

There are more, but those ones are the most fun.

I recently picked up the gardening of vegetables as well, but since I need to do an update post on said vegetables, I'll save you all from that for today. Except for this picture of a cucumber, runner bean, and dog butt hanging out together:

I also love to knit, and I recently (around this time last year) picked up crocheting as well. If you're interested in either you can check out my Ravelry. My most recent project was the Bermuda Shawl, and I'm currently working on a teddy bear with some yarn I picked up on vacation in Idaho. Other honorable mentions to: A crocheted Heidi Bears Bear, Ernest; the Patchwork Animal Blanket I made for my godson (I've seen at least 3 people post these on reddit's knitting forum since I made mine!); and this teddy I made for my godson too.

Speaking of, another fun fact about me is that I have dual citizenship! That's right, I'm a "naturalised" UK citizen (with US birth citizenship). My dad was English and moved here when he married my mom, but his whole family is still there.

This is from when I last visited in October. There are three generations of our family there!
 And in a weird, cruel twist of fate, the person who ended up being my best friend (and arguably soul mate) also lives in England. It's a strange and at times unfair feeling to know that a piece of your heart is held by someone so far away, but I'd do anything for Hannah. She's one of the kindest and most sincere people on this planet:

And since she's so fantastic, she made me godmother-by-default of her son, Miles. There was never any ceremony or anything, but 'godson' is the closest relationship I can think of. And I get to be an Auntie!

This was the first time we met in September!
For these reasons I've been to England almost more times than I can count. It's like a second home now.

Otherwise, most of my family and friends live within 50 miles of me and I see them many times a year. We're a family so we have our 'things', but we're pretty tight-knit as far as families go, and supportive of each other in general. One of the coolest things to happen in recent years was my cousin Jennie (over at The Presidentress) moving here with her husband and kiddos from California. I've never had a sister, but Jennie comes about as close as I think I'll get:

Revisiting my childhood home in the city last year...this donkey is nearly 40 years old, and still gets many honorable mentions in family stories.
Incidentally, I also love to provide copious amounts of sugar to Jennie's kids (and her husband Steve, who is one of my Top 5 favorite people on the planet, and the only one who I can actually remember is on that list). Jennie's kids are my favorite children on this planet. Fun and witty and devilish little trouble makers, at times:

Now enough about me and my family (because you're probably like WTF, I thought she was interesting), you probably want to know what you can expect here.

Honestly, it's mostly my day-to-day ramblings. I don't really have a "theme" and I'm sure that sometimes my blogs get a bit boring, but blogging is almost like a journal of stuff I do so I don't forget (because I want to make sure I include that cake contest I won in my yearly review so I get points for exceptional volunteerism :P).

But really, I mostly post about the stuff I do. This involves things Cam and I get up to (with and without friends):

But we have so much FUN together.

I don't even know.
And I tend to include a general round up of our workouts, which usually consist of my half-marathon training and our weight lifting workouts. Every so often you'll see a screenshot of my running splits, or a picture from our lifting journal, and I usually expound on something about that that was new or that I'm proud of. Blogging about these things keeps me accountable and helps me to be more analytical (and self congratulatory) about my progress.

My half training is a big thing in my life right now because I've never trained for a race longer than the 5 Miler Cam and I did in May. It means a lot to me to complete it and feel good about it, so it's a bit of a theme here as of late.

Also, the community of health/fitness/running bloggers is fantastic, and I like feeling like I'm part of that network and have something to contribute. And if you did find me because of the Hogwarts Running Club, you can sure as hell bet I'll be posting about all those races!

Aside from that, I'll occasionally post about my volunteer projects at work, or something I did with work (like doing the Chase Corporate Challenge in May):

I ran with my friend Travis and PR'd a 5k!
I've got a big fundraiser for the American Cancer Society coming up in October so you'll for sure be hearing about that!

And in keeping with my hobby list, sometimes I blog about things I bake, knit, or crochet. Those posts aren't as common, mostly because I forget to take pictures of stuff I make (and with baking this is a problem since people tend to consume the project) but I'm getting a bit better about it!

I hope that's a fair introduction to who I am, a little bit about me, and a little big about this blog. Like I said, I've never done a post like this before!

That said, it is Sunday and I have to get my day started. Cam and I will be heading to the gym, and then I have a birthday cake to bake (for one of those sweet children mentioned before). There should be a post about all of it later, so I hope you'll come back for another visit soon!

(Really though, it's my most sincere hope that I didn't bore you to death with this, and that the reason you're coming back is that you're still alive.)

So see you later!


(PS...feel free to comment! I don't have a ton of commenters so don't feel obligated, but comments are always welcome!)