Thursday, September 3, 2015

Canada Bound!

Good morning and happy Thursday!  By the time most of you are reading this, I'll be on my way to Canada as my flight leaves at 6:45 am today!  I've been talking about visiting Amber in Kamloops for many years so I am so excited that this trip has come to fruition!

Every time I get together with Amber (and our other running URL turned IRL friends) it always makes me nostalgic for trips of the past.  The first time I met Amber in person was in 2010. I flew into Vancouver, she picked me up at the airport and we were together non-stop for the next 5 days as we road tripped from Vancouver down to Portland where we met up with Lauren to run the marathon.  You know that a friendship is special when you can spend that much time together and not have any moments of being annoyed with one another!

Enjoying lattes in front of the original Starbucks.  Coffee is ALWAYS part of our meet-ups
In 2011, I got to see her twice as I hosted her in August for a long weekend in Minneapolis and had a blast showing her around the city that I love.  Iowa Amber came up for the weekend, too, and we had the best time together!  What made the trip extra special was that we helped Amber pick out her wedding dress!
Posing for a photo with views of my neighborhood in the background!

A couple of months later, I headed west to Victoria, BC where Amber, Leigh, Lauren and I met up.  Lauren ran the full marathon and the rest of us did the half.  We had a great time checking out Victoria - it's definitely a place I'd love to go back to!

Checking out the harbor area of Victoria which we ran by during the race.
Flash forward to 2012, and I was back out west to stand up as a bridesmaid in Amber and Eric's wedding in the Sunshine Coast area of BC.  On this trip, I also got to meet Kelly and Anais for the first time.  It was fun to check out another area of BC - that province is just stunning!
Dressed the 9's on Amber's special day!
2013 found Amber, Anais, Lauren and me in Chicago for the marathon.  I was a bit down on this trip as I was unable to run it due to a stress fracture and my RA, but I made the most of the trip and still had a blast. It was great to explore the city and reconnect with these ladies.

Pre-race/spectating selfie
 In 2014, Amber, Lauren, Leigh and I traveled to San Francisco where Kyria lives.  We did something different this time and ran a trail race which was really fun!  Leigh bowed out on the race since she was quite pregnant at this point - and we would later find out that Lauren was in the early stages of her pregnancy, so baby Henry got to experience his first race on the beautiful hills of the Berkeley area!

Pausing for a photo before biking over the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge!

And now here we are in 2015 and I am on my way to Amber in her home city of Kamloops.  So much has changed in our lives, and the lives of the other girls we have met up with, but I'm thankful for the fact that we still try to see each other on a regular basis - and that our rendezvous have taken us to such cool places!  I've definitely formed very special bonds with these girls as we of course share a love of running and being active, but there are many other commonalities that tie us together.  Amber and I will definitely be thinking of our other runner buddies on this trip when we run a trail race on Sunday!

Have a great rest of the week, everyone!  I'm sure I'll be back next week with photos of my time in Kamloops with Amber!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of August

I feel like a good chunk of August should have been renamed "Aug-tober" given how chilly it was (booo!!!!) but all in all it was a great month!  I went to my parents lake home twice and went to Chicago for work so those three trips made the month go by especially fast!  Here's how it shaped up!


** crickets **  I rarely listen to the radio these days so am completely out of touch with what's new and worth listening to these days! 


August was another strong reading month for me!  My favorite book was The Kind Worth Killing.  I usually don't read thrillers but this came recommended by a friend with good taste so I decided to check it out and am so glad I did.  It's a total page turner.  My least favorite book, by far, was Sense and Sensibility.  Similar to previous months, the books with stars behind them counted towards the Read Harder Challenge.  I only have one book left to read for that challenge!

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine* - 3 stars
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain - 4 stars
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - 4 stars
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson - 5 stars
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen* - 1 stars (note to self:  stop reading classics)
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen - 3 stars
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz - 4 stars


August was also a strong month for me in terms of mileage and workouts! I ran 138 miles, biked 54 miles and swam 2.5 miles.  I only fit in 3 strength training workouts, which is kind of pathetic, but that should pick up this month as I'm trying to strength train twice a week.


I've got nothing noteworthy to share.  I'm basically re-wearing the same summer outfits over and over again.  I feel pretty meh about my clothing options right now so while I am not ready for summer to be over, I am ready for a new season of clothing.  I really need to do some shopping soon, though, as I have purged so much clothing over the last 8 months.  If only I enjoyed shopping... 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Good Things Friday

Nora often closes out her week by listing out some of the good things happening in her life, so I thought I'd follow suit and do the same!  Here are some of the good things going on!

1.  I have my appointment with a sleep specialist today.  I've been struggling with sleep for a long time, so I'm classifying this appointment as a good thing in my life because hopefully I'll be one step closer to sleeping better after this appointment.

I hope the person I meet with can make some sense out of my sleep log and has some solutions.  Averaging < 6 hours of sleep is not enough for me!
2.  I got the OK to take time off for our October Boston trip so that trip is going to happen! I'm really excited to see our friends, meet up with Kelly, and explore a new city with Phil!

3.  Speaking of travel, I get to travel to Kamloops to visit Amber in just under a week!  I'm really excited to spend 5 days with her exploring her area of British Columbia.  The pictures she posts are so stunningly beautiful so I can't wait to see the area with my own eyes!

4.  I didn't mention this before, but the weekend of my triathlon, I was side-swiped by a car when I was on the way to the race expo.  The damages were just cosmetic so it's not a huge deal but I was relieved to find out this week that the other insurance company is accepting liability so I won't have to pay anything out of pocket. The other guy was 100% at fault as he changed lanes without looking and did not see me, but you just never know what is going to happen when insurance companies are involved!

5.  I am wrapping up my 6th week of work and am really liking my new job!  It's crazy to me that it's already been 6 weeks.  Time flies when you enjoy what you do and the people you work with!  This past week I got to visit our HQ in Chicago, which was a jam-packed whirlwind trip, but I was able to fit in an early morning run along the lake.  Last time I was in Chicago, I was struggling with RA and unable to run so I especially appreciated being able to run on this trip!

Chicago, you are so pretty!
6.  Allison and her husband had Phil and I over for dinner last night.  It was great to catch up and after a couple of days of travel, it was great to eat a home-cooked meal!

7.  We have a fairly quiet weekend on deck.  We're staying in tonight and I will make this pasta dish for my olive-lover, tomorrow I'll run 20 miles with my club (eeks!) and on Sunday morning I'll volunteer at a trail race my running club is putting on.  Besides that we have no other plans which I am so happy about.

What are some good things happening in your life right now?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Currently: August Edition

And just like that, it's the last week of August!  Except it feels more like October in this part of the country.  :(  Come back, summer!  Here's what's currently going on in my world these days!

Reading:  The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Nora and Kelly both liked it so I am confident that I will enjoy it!  I just finished Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, which was a total CHORE for me to read (I'll admit it, I just don't like classics), so I needed something lighter and easier to get into after that!

Loving: watching Oscar grow and change.  I can't believe how big she has gotten since we got her in late June.  She has another vet appointment in a couple of weeks and it will be interesting to see how much she weighs!  The newest skill she has picked up is playing fetch.  I had no idea cats played fetch but she loves to fetch small balls and toy mice.

All tuckered out from lots of play time.

Oscar gets to have drinks from the bathroom sink.  She is a little bit spoiled!

Hanging out with Phil on his birthday.

Thinking:  about planning a long weekend trip to Boston with Phil in late October. A couple we are good friends with moved out there this summer as one of them will be attending a year-long grad school program at Harvard. It seems like the perfect time of year to visit that part of the country so I hope we can make it happen.  Plus that means I'd also get to see Kelly, introduce her to Phil, and meet her son Max!  The trip would be close to my Miami girls weekend so I just need to make sure I can get the time off from work.  Fingers crossed this works out! 

Frustrated: by my sleep challenges.  After several weeks of really bad sleep that's left me feeling like a zombie, I decided to see a sleep specialist.  My appointment is on Friday and I am hoping and praying that he/she can help.

Feeling:  a little overwhelmed by my schedule.  I feel like free nights are rare and I am not home much.  I can't complain because my schedule is full of things I enjoy doing and chose to say yes to...  but I really could use a week with fewer evening commitments.  I know things won't slow down in the next couple of weeks, but I'm hoping that September will be a little bit of a quieter month.

Anticipating:  my 21-mile long run on Saturday.  I'm a bit nervous as I missed the 20 mile run the weekend of the triathlon.  My training feels a bit off between missing that long run for the triathlon and missing last week's long run since I was at my parents cabin and ran 16 miles instead of 18 like everyone else did, so I really need to do a long run that leaves me thinking "OK, I can do this!"

Watching: the Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network, which started last night.  The Next Food Network Star just wrapped last week so I am glad I have a new show to watch!

Sad:  that this past weekend was the last weekend that we'll spend at the lake this summer.  Summer went by entirely too fast! I'm also sad that the weather for our last weekend at the lake was so crappy (rain, cold weather, high winds, felt like October).  That said, we still had a great time.  The crappy weather meant we played lots of games which always makes me happy!

Working: on incorporating more strength training into my weekly workouts now that the triathlon is behind me.  Ideally I'd like to get two strength training sessions in a week so hopefully I can stick to that.

Grateful: that Phil joined me for the last 5 miles of my 16 mile run on Saturday.  I've gotten spoiled by running with a running club - now I really dislike doing long runs alone!  Mentally, it really helped to know that I could look forward to his company for the last 5 miles, which we ran in a light rain/mist!  Even though it was cooler/rainy, it still felt great to jump in the lake after the run!

Post-run, pre-jumping in the lake.

Listening: to lots of podcasts, as usual.  Death, Sex and Money did a series of podcasts about New Orleans/Hurricane Katrina in honor of the 10 year anniversary of Katrina (side note:  I can't believe it's been 10 years!) so I have been listening to those lately.

Wishing: that summer would return.  I know that a lot of people are happy that fall-like temperatures are here, but summer is so short in the Midwest so I really don't want fall to arrive prematurely!  It's been overcast, rainy and cold here lately and I don't like it at all!!

What are you currently reading, frustrated by and grateful for?

Friday, August 21, 2015

RA-nniversary #2

This Sunday marks the 2 year anniversary of my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) diagnosis.  In some ways, my diagnosis still feels fresh; in other ways, it feels like a distant memory.  I've certainly come far in the last 2 years and am so thankful that my disease is managed.  I had a surreal moment of reflection after my triathlon last Sunday. I thought back on my first appointment with a rheumatologist.  The waiting room had all sorts of depressing magazines about disease management and such, but in the pile of magazines, I found one that featured an elite triathlete with RA.  At the time, I was in a boot and in so much pain so it was hard to believe that maybe I'd consider myself an athlete again.  But I remember feeling a sense of hope when I read the story about her.

Now, 2 years later I've completed my first triathlon and I can confidently say that I am an athlete again.  I'm training for a marathon which is something I thought I'd never have the opportunity to do again.  I'm pain free, for the most part, and thriving.

But of course, it isn't all sunshine and rainbows.  I hate how many bottles of pills reside on my counter.  I hate that I get so many prescription refill reminders from Target that I can't keep track of which request is for which medication.  And I really hate Monday nights when I have to give myself my weekly injection.  On those nights I try to remind myself that a minute of discomfort is worth being pain free but I still mope quite a bit and usually have to find some sort of reward - usually a sweet of some sort.  I hate that aches and pains that wouldn't get much of a second thought plant the seed of worry over whether that pain is the first sign of a flare up.

And yet - in the grand scheme of things - life is good.  Life is really, really good. I try to remind myself that while I was unlucky to get diagnosed with this chronic disease, I am lucky that it was caught so early and is being managed so well.  Some days it's hard to think of myself as "lucky," but I know I am.

The past year was an uneventful one for me health-wise and I just hope and pray that I have many more years like this to come!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Quick Lake Getaway

As I mentioned last week, I took Thursday and Friday off so I could make a quick trip to my parents' lake home.  My brother from Chicago and his family were up there for the week but I was unable to join them over the weekend since I had plans to see Music Man with Phil's mom.  I'm really glad I was able to take 2 days off from work so I could spend some time with them as it had been way too long since I'd seen them!

I got to the lake late on Wednesday night and was woken up on Thursday morning by my sweet niece, Anna, who is almost 4.  She crawled into bed with me and we chatted for a bit which was fun.  My brother made some awesome gluten free pancakes which were made out of cornmeal and called johnny cakes.  I was so touched by the fact that he did some research and found a GF recipe to try.  After breakfast we all changed right into our swimsuits.  I love being at the lake because all I usually wear is swimsuits and pajamas.

Sweet Anna
It was an overcast, hazy day but even an overcast day at the lake is a good day.  I love days like Thursday where the lake is like glass.

The calm water meant it was the perfect day to do some paddle boarding.  My niece and nephew had never been paddle boarding before so it was fun to introduce them to it.

Kolin got the hang of it right away and toodled around on his own quite a bit!

My parents got there later that afternoon and we spent the rest of the day catching up and relaxing outside.  On Friday morning, we woke up to an absolutely perfect lake day.  The sun was shining and the lake was once again like glass!  It was my mom's birthday so I am glad she got the gift of a perfect day at the lake!

I headed out for a quick 5 mile run and got back in time to join the family for my mom's birthday breakfast pontoon cruise. It was fun to cruise around and have breakfast and Bloody Mary's. 

The birthday girl and my dad.  I hope I age as well as my mom has!
My sister and her kids got to my parents shortly after we got back from the boat cruise so I got to see my 2 nephews and niece.  Our time together only overlapped by a couple of hours but I'm glad I was able to see them.  I'm always amazed at how much Evelyn changes every time I see her!

Bikini babe Evie!
Evelyn is not a fan of the sand so we brought the lake to her - she was very content to play in a small bowl of water.

And just like that, my time at the lake was over as I had to head back to Minneapolis for Phil's birthday get together that evening (his actual birthday is today!!!).  I was only there for 1.5 days so it was a very quick trip but a fun get away.  And luckily Phil and I will be heading back to the lake this coming weekend so I've got more lake time in my future!  Being at the lake is definitely my summertime happy place.

Where is your favorite place to be in the summer?  I love being in Minneapolis in the summer as we have so many lakes and other outdoorsy things to do, but nothing compares to being at my parents' lake home.

Monday, August 17, 2015

YWCA Women's Triathlon Race Recap

My first triathlon is in the books and it was a great experience!  I have a lot to say about the experience (warning - long post to follow!) but will start off with the night before.  I biked over to Phil's in the afternoon and we stayed in that evening and made one of my favorite pasta dishes which is chicken with a white wine sauce (with GF pasta, of course).  It was really good!

After dinner, I laid out everything that I was planning to bring to the race.  There is so much to remember so I am glad I had made a list last week!  I got everything to fit in my bag, though, so that is good!

After that we watched a documentary about how Champagne is made and I obsessively checked the weather forecast.  It was not looking good and the race director had sent out an email saying that the race may be cancelled if there was lightening so I was kind of freaking out a bit.

Luckily I woke up to overcast skies but no rain on Sunday morning!  I was so relieved!  My friend Courtney picked me up which saved me from having to bike to the race.  It was only about 3 miles away but I didn't need to bike any extra miles that morning!

We got to the transition area, got set up and took some pre-race photos.  Courtney is the person that talked me into doing this race as she's done it twice and loved it. However, she is 7 months pregnant so instead of doing the full race, she did the swim leg of the relay.

I was in one of the later waves so had a lot of downtime between when they closed the transition area and lined us up but it went by fairly fast.  The first wave started at 8 am and my wave started around 8:39.  I was soooo ready to start and just have the swim behind me as I was very nervous about the swim since it's my weakest sport.  From here on out, I'll break down the race by sport:

Swim:  500 yards. Goal = 15 minutes; Actual = 12:40.  The swim actually went better than I was expecting.  It's definitely the weakest of the three sports for me but it went better than I thought it would.  One thing that helped is that it wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be.  When they released the waves, they had 4-5 swimmers start at a time, with 3-4 seconds in between sets of swimmers which meant that the swimmers were way more spaced out.  I was expecting to be kicked and hit and swam into but I only had one little collision.  That said, I was soooo happy when the swim part was over!

Courtney snapped this shot of me running out of the water to the transition area.
T1:  2:14.  The first transition took the most time as I had to put on socks and shoes.  I had rolled my socks which made it easier to put them on my wet feet quickly but it's still time consuming.  I had worn a water proof watch for the swim but I threw my Garmin on at this point so I'd have an idea of how fast I was biking and running.

Bike:  15.5 miles. Goal = 1 hour; Actual = 54:41.  I was really happy with how the bike went as my pace was 17 mph which is faster than I was anticipating.  I ate an applesauce within the first mile which gave me some extra energy. Those were the only calories I had during the race.  I probably should have had another applesauce during the run but all in all I felt pretty well-fueled.  I passed quite a few people during the bike ride and pushed it pretty hard on the pace, which made me nervous that I might not have much left in the tank for the run.  In the last mile I saw Phil so that gave me some extra energy and made me smile.

T2:  1:23.  This transition went really fast as all I had to do was dock my bike, ditch my helmet and throw a hat and my race bib on (which I pinned to my spibelt).

Run:  3.1 miles. Goal = 28 minutes; Actual = 26:31.  I saw Phil right away at the start of the run and he ran with me for a little bit.  He asked me how I was feeling and I told him I was tired but he gave me some encouragement and said to remember that running is my strongest sport.  I definitely needed that pick-me-up.  My legs felt pretty tired and if I had to guess, I would have said I was running slower than 10 minute/mile pace, so I was shocked to look down and see a pace of 8:30-8:40.  I was definitely very ready to be done at this point but I powered through!  I was so in the zone that I did not hear Phil, Courtney, and Courtney's family cheering for me at the end.  Those 3.1 miles were tough so I was shocked to look at my results and see that I maintained an 8:34 pace during the run!

Courtney's husband snapped this photo of me as I was coming into the finish.  You can tell that I am pretty 'in the zone'.

Total Time:  Goal = 1:50; Actual = 1:37:28.

Officially a triathlete!
Phil and I at the finish!
I was really surprised and very pleased with my time.  I ended up finishing 246th out of 935 participants and 44th out of 155 participants in my age group, which I feel good about.  My ultimate goal for this race was to finish and have fun and I definitely accomplished that!

So the big question that always gauges how good the race experience  was is - would I do this again?  And the answer is yes!  I think I would stick to this race, though, as it's really well-organized plus I think the sprint distance is the right distance for me.  And honestly, I liked that it was women-only race.  I feel like that made for a very supportive and positive environment.  I will say that my next triathlon will be done at a time when I'm NOT training for a marathon, though!  Training for two races simultaneously is too much.  Lesson learned.

Have you ever or would you ever do a triathlon?