Thursday, June 30, 2011

Biker Chic

I'm not sure when it happened, but me and my tri-shorts have been making more and more public appearances. My family even laughs about my lack of style, or my "running" style. I love wearing them. I found a pair from Title Nine that fits like a glove and doesn't give me a muffin top. There's no chafing and the comfort level can't be beat. Plus, doesn't everything go well with black? White tops? Pink tops? Long sleeve, short sleeve, the options are endless. So what embarassing running, cycling or triathlon apparel do you wear that your family wishes you wouldn't?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Road Rage Against Cyclists is Not OK

I've been biking to work more and more with this wonderful weather - at least attempting to bike once a week, twice if I'm lucky. Mornings are always peaceful because it's as if I have the Metroparks all to myself. Motor traffic is minimal, lots of runners, and a few cyclists traveling in both directions. Love mornings. Evenings are the antithesis of mornings. Cars are dashing to and fro, people are in a hurry and distracted (please don't text while driving!), and it makes for a very tense riding experience at times. There's a stretch of the parkway where I will only ride the bike path because of how tight the road is...very little room for cyclists and cars to exist (at least for the evening crowd). Thank goodness I do that. Tonight I watched a White Suburban get so close to a cyclists that I could have sworn the passenger slapped the cyclists. The driver and passenger yelled horrible obsenities (words I usually only reserve for the "good" stories while drinking) and would not shut up. The cyclist was hugging the road, down in the aerobar position and I don't know how he maintained his composure. Fortunately, a Park Ranger was a couple cars behind and I'm pretty sure he saw everything because he sped up and it looked like the Ranger might have pulled over the Suburban.

The Metroparks is an area designed for motor vehicles and cars to coexist. It's crazy to be in a hurry to the point of disregarding someone else's safety - for what, to shave 30 seconds off your drive time?

Phew! I feel better now :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Alaska - In a Nutshell

What an amazing experience to visit Alaska. The beauty surrounding you everywhere is sometimes hard to put into words (although, by the end of the trip, it was like mountains-water-glacier-forest!). Since I consider this blog part diary for my girls and part running motivation, I'll tell my little story of our visit to the 49th state of the U.S. in a dear diary format.

Wednesday, June 15 - Day 1 and a long day of travel. 4.5 hr flight to Seattle from Cleveland, a 2 hr layover, followed by a 3.5 hr flight to Anchorage. Arrived in time to check in and enjoy the managers reception at the Embassy Suites. Two beers each and a couple plates of cheese and snack mix and we were golden. We ordered take-out pizza from the Moose's Tooth Saloon - the steak pizza with a jalepeno cream sauce and just made our first day a chance to regroup! Oh, and it's only dark for about a half hour during the summer. That's killer, let me tell ya!

Thursday, June 16 - Day 2 started with a very early wakeup due to the 4 hour time change. I actually had to WAIT for the 6am breakfast considering I was bright-eyed at 4am! Breakfast and a quick 3-mile treadmill run, then we were off to Whittier for our glacier boat ride. We saw sea otters, bald eagles, puffins, kittywakes (small sea gulls), and breathtaking views of glaciers. The drive was neat because we had to go through a one-way tunnel, which changed directions every half hour (hoping we made the right "half-hour" choice). Lunch was served on the 6-hour cruise of absolutely delicious crab cakes followed by an afternoon snack of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Since we were exhausted by 6pm Alaska time (10pm Eastern time), we had dinner of leftovers in the room. Thank you Moose's Tooth.

Love this family picture!

Friday, June 17 - Day 3. Morning trip to the Alaska Zoo for some kid time. The zoo was pretty sad in size - makes you really appreciate the Cleveland and Columbus Zoos here in Ohio. Lunch at the Snow Goose Restaurant & Brewery with a nice view after hitting up the smallest Expo I've ever been to. Since every race requires pasta the night before, we found a great little place called Ninos - fantastic italian food experience. I got the pasta bolognese and Greg was the dinner winner with a spicy meatball sub that was yummy, but painful!

Saturday, June 18 - Day 4 Race day. If you missed my report, you can read it here. After the race, we all met up at Humpy's Bar & Grill for lunch so meg could get another inappropriate vacation t-shirt. Then headed to Talkeetna for 2 nights. We stayed at this gorgeous log cabin home, which was so nice to have all the space. The kids truly enjoyed the space and it was so close to the town center (the town is like a small Taos, or a small ski resort). Dinner at West Rib Pub & Grill, featured on Man v. Food. More yummy microbrews and I tried the reindeer chili mmmmmm!

Sunday, June 19 - Day 5 Happy Fathers Day! Breakfast at the Roadhouse. Terrible service, but since it was also featured on Man v. Food on the Travel Channel, we had to try it. Bridget and I shared the sourdough pancakes which spilled over the plate, while Meg had the cinnamon roll and Greg ordered "the standard", which had the best bread as toast. Bridget and I stayed back while the rest of the group went on a charter plane to see Denali where they got to land on a glacier!

Joined up later for lunch at Denali Brewing Company, then a little light shopping. Alaska is a bit lean on cool shopping opportunities, and heavy on tourist trap shopping (which is not our cup of tea). Hit up a little ice cream shack post lunch. According to Megan, this was the best ice cream-it was hand-churned and we actually got to watch the "churning". Dinner at Mountain High Pizza Company as take-out, a smart move because the kids were beat (and so were the parents).

Monday, June 20 - Day 6. Off to Girdwood for the night. On our way to Girdwood, we stopped at Beluga Point to see if we could spot any white beluga whales. No whales, but all of us including my daring Bridget went rock climbing while there. Unbelievable views!

Tonight, we stayed at a ski resort hotel - the Hotel Alyeska (my favorite stop on the trip). Outside our room was the most amazing view of the ski resort and tram. Greg actually challenged me to some trivia - thinking that this was the place where The Shining was filmed (nope, it was Oregon - yay Me!). Went on a nice little stroll of the grounds, browsed the hotel shops, checked out the swimming pool, then off to the Silvertip Bar & Grill, a dive bar near the hotel. Great burger and IPA (this became a nightly ritual of trying out a new IPA each evening). A short walk from the bar was a great playground for the kids to burn off a little steam.

Tuesday, June 21 - Day 7. Greg and I went for an early morning run on the trails while Meg and Bridget slept in. We traversed the Winner Creek trail outside the resort, which turned out to be 5 miles. I would be lying if I didn't say I was nervous the whole time for fear I would see a bear. Everywhere you went there were signs cautioning you about bear encounters and what to do if you saw one. I did not want to rely on my bear-scaring skills. I mean, what if I got that one bear that was off the grid in it's behavior?! The first couple of miles were easy going with crushed gravel and lined paths. Then the trail turned into a technical single track, which was so exciting and freeing. Saw a breathtaking gorge and Greg got to go on a hand tram.

After a fantastic morning run, I could only top it with good coffee. Met up with the girls for breakfast then all of us went up the mountain on the tram. Famous run at the top is the double black diamond North Face trail. Lunch at the top, then off we went to Homer. The 3-hr deive was miserable for EVERYONE in our car due to my salmon and yellow and green pepper salad with ginger dressing. Literally, I was burping every 15 minutes and the whole car experienced it! I was banned from all things Salmon and pepper from that point forward! Our rental in Homer was a house at Lands End - amazing, but see for yourself. The view may be the best yet. More seafood for dinner (Halibut, not Salmon, thank you very much), then stopped in to the Salty Dawg for a Homer Ale in a recycled Sobe bottle! happy summer solstice! I'm really beginning to miss the moon!

Wednesday, June 22 - Day 8. I talked Greg into getting up with me and venturing out for coffee at the Coal Mine Tea & Coffee Company. We've been together long enough that he gets my addiction - it's a combination of having to have a cup of coffee and having to find the neatest little place serving coffee. One of the most unique things about Alaska is that coffee shops are in stand-alone little shacks located along vitually every road. No Starbucks. No chains. At the Coal Mine Tea & Coffee Company, we had a great barista - I could easily spend a day with her, even picked up some local beans. Let the kids sleep in a bit, and then we headed out to find Seward. Checked into the Seward Windsong Lodge, the least liked place that we stayed at this whole trip, but still ok. Took the kids to the Sea Life Aquarium, which turned out to be another of Meg's faves. The Sea Life Aquarium was originally established to address the animals who were affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Dinner at Chattermarks where we all had King Crab legs (with quinoa!) and ice cream for the kids after dinner. Food during this trip has been simply delicious. Short hike to another glacier in the Kenai forest area, but the bugs were biting too much. We learned that Alaska is a temperate rain forest - cool - didn't know that, but it explains the biting bugs!

Thursday, June 23 - Day 9. Up bright and early for the Iditarod Dog Sled tour with the Seavey family. Mitch Seavey won the Iditarod in 2004 and there's 3 generations of Seavey's racing dogs today.

On the way back to Achorage we stopped at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood-best side stop yet. We got to walk around and get up close to elk, moose, bears, caribou, musk ox, eagle. Very cool. That's exactly how I want to view bears - with an electrical fence between the two of us! Every trip must eventually come to an end, and ours will end with a final pit stop to the Moose's Tooth before making our flight back to Cleveland. That place was so pivotal to us, that we ALL got t-shirts at the Moose's Tooth!

A wonderful, incredible experience. Not sure I would change anything because each stop offered a new and different kind of Alaskan experience. But by far, the day spent at Girdwood at Hotel Alyeska was my favorite. Meg's was a tie between the small plane ride over Denali and the Iditarod sled dog experience. And Bridget's favorite part was collecting sea shells and seeing her cousins.

But no matter how amazing someplace else is, there's no better feeling than sleeping in your own bed when you return!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Race Report: Mayor's Half Marathon Anchorage, Alaska

What a wonderful racing experience. It was exactly the motivation I needed to get back into distance running. The course was just as written - challenging, but beautiful. The hills between miles 3-5 were wicked, but nothing compared to the long incline at mile 9 and the very challenging half mile incline at mile 12-ish. By the time I finished the unforgiving hill at mile 12, the less than half-mile finish was relatively easy!

mile 1 - 11:02 (too many walkers in the front-lots of dodging)
mile 2 - 10:18 (can't leep up this pace for 11 more miles)
mile 3 - 10:49 (this feels much better)
mile 4 - 11:08 (that felt like a little bit of a hill, right?)
mile 5 - 11:55 (ok, quads are telling me that was a hill)
mile 6 - 10:49 (better - this seems to work for me)
mile 7 - 11:51 (hello, trails - I don't remember reading about you)
mile 8 - 11:34 (still trails, but picking up the pace thanksfully)
mile 9 - 12:45 (ok, that was a monster incline - whoa, nelly!)
mile 10 - 10:50 (where did this energy come from? oh yes, powerbar!)
mile 11 - 10:44 (are we there yet?)
mile 12 - 10:57 (must hurry)
mile 13 - 12:59 (ok, THAT clearly kicked my ass)
.1 - 00.75 (uhm, Garmin swears this was 13.29 miles with my finish in 2:27:46.

The first 3 miles were run along Northern Lights Boulevard to help weed out the crowds. I really do dislike walkers who line up near the front. I never know if it's a newbie move, or just plain lack of running etiquette. We ran past the airport, which was weird seeing planes about to land overhead. At mile 4, I stopped to take a picture and a lady came up to me to tell me that if I looked off in the distance, I could see Denali. So awesome! Around mile 5.5-6.5 we turned onto an access road which made footing difficult (very rough, uneven road and my least favorite of the course). Then totally unexpectedly, we veered into the forest. We started out on a wide bridal trail, mostly of grass, then the course narrowed to single track before spilling out onto the Coastal Trail. The beauty was breathtaking and all around us. The greenery, the water, the view. At mile 8.5-9.0 you could see downtown Anchorage from a distance. Funny moment was when I ran into Gumby at mile 12 - he was holding a sign that said he was a better running partner than Sarah Palin! Just the laugh I needed!

Start line (love taking pics to show the crowds). Greg swore that was Teen Wolf in front of me!

This picture was around mile 4. The view of the mountains in the distance was just simply awe-inspiring!

Somewhere around mile 7-8. The picture doesn't fully show how beautiful the canopy of trees were.

The beauty before the storm. When we popped out of the secluded portion of the trail, we were greeted by this view - right before being greeted by mile 9's incline - argh! You can see downtown Anchorage in the distance.

Meg took this picture right after I finished. Loved the medal, but loved having my family with me even more!

Kim and I posing with a moose - cheesy, but so much fun!

Loved this race. I totally enjoyed myself. I took pictures along the way, chatted with runners, thanked EVERY volunteer and police officer, and was thrilled to receive my medal (which was awesome since it had the state of Alaska on one side). As usual, Megan greeted me in the runners corral as I was trying to grope my way to the food tent and Bridget eventually found me and gave me a bouquet of the biggest dandelions she could pick.

Best runner's food was by far the fresh-baked cinnamon chip bread with a table full of whipped butter. I even got an end piece - my favorite! Orange slices, fresh watermelon, and bananas were wonderful to eat. No stale half-sliced bagels!

Small race, which I do love. I really don't enjoy the monster-size races of 25,000+ participants. I think this race had around 3,000-4,0000 for the marathon, half-marathon, and 5k races. Perfect. I only had to wait 2-3 minutes to cross the start line (I hate waiting 20+ minutes to cross the start line). The weather was perfect - mid 50s, slight breeze, and sunny - couldn't asked for a better day!

All in all, I give this race 5 stars. Can't think of anything to change and would recommend the half marathon to anyone wanting a good reason for visiting Alaska.

And did I mention, I checked off the 31st state!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Robert Smith and Strawberries

Odd combination - Robert Smith and strawberries - but that sums up my wonderful Sunday. I love this guy. As vocalist for The Cure, he entertained me during my high school years, including Cross Country. Twenty (plus) years later, the man still can make me run with a smile. I actually charged up a hill while singing (out loud) Why Can't I Be You - great beat, but I've always loved his voice. Can't explain it, but Robert Smith really knows how to make me run a decent speed and makes knocking out 12 miles feel easy. Afterwards, I joined my family for breakfast at Borderline for what I call recovery food!

And strawberries - the girls and I enjoyed an afternoon of picking fresh strawberries. I told them the story of how my mother would tell the employees at Bihl's Farm in Wheelersburg to weigh me in and out because I would eat so many strawberries. It was so cool to watch my girls sneak in a few strawberries today. Bridget wasn't even sly about it. We could hear her saying Mmmmm with each bite!

Then Bridget and Megan each got to pick out their own Gerbera Daisy - Bridget picked pink (of course) and Meg found a two-headed mutant one, which thrilled her just fine.

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend as well!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pinch Me - I Won This

Just look at the size of the Croc! And it came filled with a pair of men's Crocs flip flops, a few pairs of Croc ballet flats for us girls, a pair of loafers for Bridget to grow into, couple shirts, key ring light (which Bridget hasn't stopped turning on/off), and a cool little croc key ring. Thank you, Girls with Sole, for having such a wonderful raffle prize! We all love love love this!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Celebrating Our 7th Anniversary

A very easy date to remember: 6-5-04. We purposely picked that date because it was an idiot-proof way to remember your own wedding date and, best of all, it sounded like a rocketship countdown. We can add another number to that now - 7. Seven very wonderful, exciting, adventurous, and always amusing years together. Kids. Dogs. Vacations. Yardwork. It's all there.

We celebrated first at Y.O.L.O.'s Wine Bar in Battery Park. I had a fantastic drink called "Stormy Morning" made with Creme de Violette, St. Germain, and Prosecco. The bartender told us that Creme de Violette is an old-fashioned spirit and it gave the drink the perfect taste and color. And besides, it's the name of my bike. I had to try it.

Next, we headed to bac to try our hand at some raved-about asian cuisine in Tremont. Oh my gosh, the food was amazing. Amazing. Greg had a bahn mi sandwich and I had the kim chi noodles. We started off with some summer sangria, a side of edamame and two chorizo spring rolls. Great dinner and wonderful service. Afterwards, we went to a late night movie - that's right, a movie not during the "matinee" hours. Could we stay awake? Yes, we did! We saw Hangover 2. While it was good, I still thought the first Hangover was heads and shoulders superior.

And gift exchanging. Since 7 is copper, I surprised Greg with a beautiful piece of art from Copper Leaf Studios. If you haven't seen Christie's work, you really must pay her website a visit. We saw her at an art show around Christmas time in one of the old Cleveland warehouses and swore we'd have to keep her in mind. I figured one of her copper Cleveland-inspired pieces would be perfect for this anniversary and she was simply wonderful to deal with! I bought Greg the Great Lakes piece and he loved it.

For me, he gave me the Mary Tyler Moore package from a local day spa. It's a massage, a facial and a pedicure. I think it will be the perfect "recovery day" post-race when I return from Alaska! And what a wonderful name, too! I so adored watching her show when I was a kid with my mom. If I remember correctly, my mom liked Donald!

Hope your weekend was just as grand!

Girls with Sole 5k Race Event

Beautiful weather, wonderful cause, great company, and an amazing 4-year-old in the jogging stroller! That's a recap of my Sunday morning. I woke up at 6:00am with every intention of running 9 miles before the 8:00am 5k race. After piddling around petting Jameson and feeding him powdered donuts while loading up my fuel belt, my 6:00am start time turned into 6:25! Yikes! So I wasted no additional time and pounded out 8 miles before meeting Greg at 7:45am for the hand off of Bridget in the jogging stroller. My little doodlebug is a whopping 45 pounds, add in the 15 pounds for the jogging stroller, and I was toast! Even though I had already ran 8 miles, I was happy to be running 11-minute miles while pushing B. Good run, great company, and the best tasting banana granola pancake post-race!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Running and Biking

What a great week so far! I completed an 11-mile long run on Monday. Should have knocked it out over the weekend, but too many Memorial Day activities prevented a Saturday or Sunday run. No worries - Monday worked just fine. Rest day Tuesday, then a hot, humid 3-miler during lunch on Thursday. Hello Summer - did we even see Mr. Spring this year? Wednesday and Friday brought some great cycling weather and I took advantage of it by biking to work. As I was carrying Violet (my bike) up the stairs at work, I actually had someone ask me if I rode that into work? The smart ass in me just wanted to reply, "No, it's Show & Tell week. Today we're on the letter B for bike!" The Metroparks is so zen in the morning. By the time I reached my office, I was in the best frame of mind. Beautiful, tranquil, and I could hear so much - the water rushing, squirrels dashing around the leaves and trees, and just enjoy the silence as well.

Sunday brings another long run of hopefully 12 miles. This training for a June half marathon certainly caught me off guard. I thought I had more time. Is it just me or do the weekends tick away far too fast anymore?! I have a 5k Girls with Sole race in the morning in which I'll be pushing Bridget in the jogging stroller. Doing so serves two purposes - it eliminates the hopes of a PR (what a relief there!) and it gives me quality time chatting with my 4-year-old while running. I'm going to try to complete most of my long run BEFORE the 5k (and before the spike in temps), then muddle through the race with kid in tow. With any luck, total running miles should equal 12 tomorrow. Pancakes smothered in syrup are going to taste soooooo good afterwards!

Oh, and let's not forget, I'll be celebrating my 7th anniversary with my better half! Can't wait till he sees the cool anniversary gift I have in store!

Have a wonderful weekend running, biking, swimming or just being still!