Monday, February 20, 2017

The wheel in the sky keeps on turning

Hello, friends!

It's been a long time since I last published a blog post - almost 11 weeks, to be exact. Today I am finally back and ready to explain my nearly 3-month absence from the blogosphere. Are you all ready for a boatload of lame excuses and the awards that come along with those lame excuses?
I'll just cut to the chase.

I am pregnant. Adam and I are going to be first-time parents this summer.
Many times it's hard for me to believe it. I am feeling a lot of emotions, but most predominately I am an ever-changing mixture of extremely excited and eye-poppingly terrified.

When I've shared the news with folks in person, here are the first questions I've usually been asked (along with my responses):

How far along are you?
As of yesterday, I was 16 weeks. The time has gone by both quickly and slowly for me, depending how I think about it.

When is your due date?
August 6, 2017. Hurray for summer babies! (Incidentally, I have the exact same due date as Amanda - how cool is that!?!?!?! We've already been sharing and comparing notes. =) )

Do you know the baby's gender and/or are you going to find out?
Adam and I just found out a few weeks ago that the baby has a Y-chromosome. Translation: There will be a lot of blue in the near future because...
Going back to the early weeks...
The pregnancy came as a TOTALLY unexpected surprise. I found out in early December and was in complete shock for several days. The reality didn't truly hit me until Adam and I went to our first ob-gyn prenatal check-up and saw the live, moving image on the ultrasound.

The body's ability to create life is amazing. My entire perspective on life has now changed.
About my blog silence...
I wanted to follow suit with the common practice of keeping quiet until reaching the second trimester. Needless to say, it was difficult. There was and is so much to think about how drastically the baby is going to change our lives. It will impact family, friends, health, career, finances, where we're living, etc., etc., etc. I couldn't bring myself to blog without talking about any of these things - it felt so disingenuous. Therefore, I opted to step away for awhile.

I once heard a friend say that anytime someone is unusually quiet on social media, it's always because they are trying to hide something. Yes, this was true for me.
In any event - I am happy to finally share the news with all of you! It is not my intention to turn this blog into a baby blog, but I will definitely share some updates here and there.

On that note - in the past several of you have previously undergone and blogged about your pregnancy journeys, and at the time I always skimmed through those posts. NOW I have been going back and rereading all of your pregnancy posts in enraptured delight! =) Funny how life changes, eh?

Much more to come!!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot race recap

This year marked my fifth consecutive running of the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh. It has become an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition.
Admittedly, I came close to breaking the streak this year. I didn't arrive in Pittsburgh until very late the night before. I considered not even signing up due to the quick logistical turnaround required. Then, the meteorologists predicted rain on race morning, which made me consider DNSing. However, I've always enjoyed this race and I think it sets a good tone for the day- so ultimately I followed through.

The festivities include a 1-miler, a 5K, and a 5-miler. I did the 5-miler only.

On race day, Adam and I arrived just as the 5K was getting underway. It was fun to watch. Unfortunately, I eventually had to Frogger my way through the running masses since I needed to do race-day packet pickup.
Packet pickup was a breeze, and there were no lines at the portapotties. Excellent.

As I was waiting for the 5-miler to start, I noticed the organizers were blasting fantastic 80s music over the loudspeakers. It helped energize me. When this old classic came on, I shamelessly broke into the best Wahlberg-esque moves I could muster:
Next, I got a couple of pre-race photos:
One of the ever-iconic bridges
With the Bill Mazeroski statue
Time to start. Shortly after I got underway, I saw Adam stationed at the side of the road with his phone. This was an opportunity for a jumping pose. Yeah!!!

The result wasn't horrible. But again it didn't come out quite the way I hoped:
Do I look like I'm doing Wahlberg-type moves while on the run?
Ah well.

Having run this Turkey Trot so many times, I knew the course well. I elected to run without my phone, which felt surprisingly invigorating. It enabled me to focus entirely on all the sights and sounds without thinking about photo opps, text messages, etc.

This was the first running I'd done since the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half, so I wasn't sure what the paces would feel like. At the very least, I wanted to break 50 minutes.

Within the first half-mile, my Garmin said my pace was around a 9-minute mile. The idea momentarily crossed my mind that if I kept the pace up, I could attempt a sub-45. Then, a 9:00 pacer blew by me, which immediately brought me back down to reality. He passed with so much alacrity, it reminded me of this:
Either the pacer was going way too fast, or my Garmin was off-kilter. Either way, it was an easy decision to slow down and refocus on enjoying the course atmosphere.

My favorite parts of the course, as always, were the bridges. In previous Turkey Trot renditions, I've felt the bridge inclines quite acutely. With this in mind, I braced myself each time I approached. What a pleasant surprise to find the inclines didn't bother me at all. The hill training I did earlier this year apparently had stronger staying power than anticipated, woo hoo!
This Pittsburghese, as seen on several runners' shirts, just seemed appropriate to say here.
Around Mile 3, I spotted Molly and Julie on the course and shouted a hello. I saw them a second time around 4.25, and shouted another hello. Always so uplifting to see friends on the course!

With about a half-mile to go, I saw Adam again. Time to attempt another jumping pose. Check out the action stream he captured:
Still not quite there yet, but getting much closer - especially with #3!!! =D

With less than a quarter mile to go, I saw a man ahead of me wearing a banana suit. I instantly decided I didn't want to be beaten by the banana. I turned on the jets as best as I could and did manage to pass him shortly before crossing the finish line. It's funny what kinds of random encounters end up motivating you, eh?
My official finishing time was 48:01. Had I known how close I was to 48 minutes flat, I would have pushed a little harder to break 48. Even so, my time ended up being a course record for me by exactly 30 seconds. More importantly, my legs and lungs both felt really good throughout the duration. That was a nice morale boost.

Adam and I ran into several friends afterwards, including our friend Jared (who we didn't even know was running!) It was wonderful to catch up.
L to R: Adam, me, and Jared
Jared actually finished just a few seconds after I did, but surprisingly we never saw each other on the course!
Brian, Laurel, Julie, Adam, Hudson, me, Molly, Jacob
In summary, I was very happy to run this race again. I love the festivity, the atmosphere, and the backdrop. It was a great way to close out my 2016 racing season. Let's get the streak to six next year!

With that... I now have exactly zero races on the future calendar! Let's see how long this lasts...!

--
Linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday festivities, Nov 21 - Dec 4 training, TV binging

Hi friends! I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend.

I've been thoroughly enjoying the beauty of the winter holidays in Chicago. For example, earlier this week after work, I stopped by the Christkindlmarket, which I adore. I was walking around like a wide-eyed child in a winter wonderland.
Source
Seeing all the German and Austria vendors reminded me of visiting Vienna a few months ago. So much nostalgia! I even saw a vendor selling apfelstrudel, which was my favorite dish in Austria. I didn't buy any (not enough time), but you better believe I'll be back soon to indulge. Maybe multiple times!
Flashback from the Naschmarkt in Vienna
Also coming soon - I want to go ice skating at one of Chicago's outdoor rinks, see Lincoln Park Zoolights, visit the Holidays Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, and go window shopping on Michigan Avenue. Time to make a list and check it twice... ;-)
Once again I am behind a week in recapping my workouts, so here are the last two weeks:

Nov 21 - Nov 27
MONDAY - Yoga class, 30 minutes strength-training
TUESDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling
WEDNESDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
THURSDAY - PNC YMCA Turkey Trot (recap still to come)
FRIDAY - Rest
SATURDAY - Rest
SUNDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling

Nov 28 - Dec 4
MONDAY - Rest (lots of walking in DC)
TUESDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class, Mobility 101 class
THURSDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
FRIDAY - Yoga class
SATURDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill
SUNDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling

Last night was Adam's company's holiday party. The celebration was a blast. His colleagues are really good people and his company really knows how to rock out the night! The party was a much different atmosphere than what we were both accustomed to after working at accounting firms for a combined 25+ years.

Here is a picture of us:
Here are a few fun "photobooth" shots from the night:
The party venue was just a few blocks from where we live, so we had some of Adam's colleagues over beforehand for pre-party festivities. It was then that someone suggested we do a mannequin challenge. Yours truly volunteered to do the camerawork.

If I do say so myself, I think the video turned out pretty decently. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present my triumphant debut as a mannequin challenge film director!
Thank you, thank you, please hold applause. =D

Speaking of excellent videos - Adam's colleague, Deepthi, mentioned that the NBC show "This is Us" was fantastic.
Source
The only thing I'd heard about the show was that it was devoid of the overscripted drama, violence, or action scenes that have become typical. Sounds good to me.

On Friday night, Adam and I pulled up what was originally supposed to be a single episode via On Demand. It quickly degenerated into us binge-watching four episodes.
I think there are five more episodes before we are caught up. I fully anticipate getting through all remaining episodes by tomorrow at the very latest, and very possibly before tonight. It's so addictive!

Who else is watching "This Is Us"? If so, please let me know so we can talk about it!

--
Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, and with Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Coffee Talk - December edition

Happy Friday, everyone! My calendar got hit by a bulldozer this past week so I'm playing catch-up on blogging yet again.

I am linking up with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five, and will be linking up with Coco and Deborah for the December edition of the Ultimate Coffee Date.
The Ultimate Coffee Date link-up asks, "If we were having [insert choice of beverage here] together, I would tell you..."

Here are five things I would share:

1) You are who your Facebook pictures say you are 
I enjoyed attending one of Adam's high school reunions with him last Friday night in Pittsburgh. At the event, the organizers had old yearbooks on hand to peruse. They also showed original video footage from senior prom, etc. It was a hoot to see how different the styles were back then! To sum it up in a single word:

MULLETS!!!!!!!!
Jaromir Jagr had a fantastic mullet!!!
Mullets aside - Adam has told me a lot of stories about his classmates, so it was great to put faces to names. On the opposite side, when I would introduce myself to others, I received a very consistent response. Almost all of Adam's old classmates would invariably say to me, "I've seen pictures of you on Facebook - you're a runner!"

WOW! I'm not sure which photos they all saw??? Obviously some are worse than others, as we already discussed.
YEAH BABY!!!!!!!!
The good news was that nobody ran away screaming and/or laughing (at least, not to my knowledge). So that was a relief. =)

In any event, I was both surprised and flattered at the consistency of the responses. I like being a runner, of course. (Incidentally, sometimes I like the idea of being a runner more than I actually like running - but that's a whole other story.) Through the magic of Facebook, I am happy to portray that image and be identified as such!

2) Weddings are fun
Last Sunday, Adam and I attended the wedding of his cousin, Matthew, to Matthew's long-time girlfriend Teresa. It was my first time meeting Teresa in person, and she is very sweet. She and Matthew are perfect together. I am very happy for them!

The wedding festivities took place at Adam's aunt/uncle's house in Maryland. Everything was a blast. It was the first time I'd ever attended a wedding and reception at someone's home, and I loved how personal it felt.

Here are some snapshots:
The ceremony
Bridal party
Adam and me
With the happy couple
Congratulations and Mazel Tov to Matthew and Teresa!!!!!

3) It's time to bake the doughnuts
I love doughnuts but rarely eat them since they are typically fried and not healthy. However, Kelly has talked a few times about making homemade baked doughnuts, and Amy brought homemade baked doughnuts to book club last summer. All looked amazing!
My ears perked up at the concept of being able to control the ingredients and bake instead of frying. Therefore, yours truly has invested in a doughnut baking pan!!! It arrived in the mail earlier this week. I hope to test it out over the weekend.
This is the one I bought
Homemade doughnut baking aficionados - if you have any recipes, suggestions, or tips, please share!

4) All points, all the time
Recently, some coworkers talked about taking nice vacations by opening credit cards to obtain new-account specials. For example, one colleague said she received two free nights at a 5-star resort during peak season just for opening up a hotel-branded credit card.

I was intrigued by the stories. I asked how they found out about these deals. The answer: Reading blogs that are specifically focused on them.
Since then, I started reading The Points Guy. I am a big fan! It keeps me up to speed on so many travel deals, and has taught me a lot about maximizing loyalty programs. Even for folks who don't travel a lot, it can be a real game changer! I really wish blogs like this existed back in the old days when I used to do a lot of business travel.

5) Next year
I am completely, thoroughly, 1000% enjoying not having to train for any races right now. I got a Groupon for another barre studio membership deal which I plan to redeem next spring. I also want to continue rolling with my strength-training momentum, which has made me extremely happy. Beyond that, I've got no specific fitness plans or goals for next year - and it's the best feeling.
Similarly, my race calendar is still a completely blank slate for 2017. I truly believe next year is going to be very much more about quality versus quantity (which is what I've long wanted to do but have repeatedly had trouble executing). I am considering trying to hit some more Rock N Roll destinations, maybe doing the Soldier Field 10 again since I will be in town over Memorial Day Weekend, and in a dream world running something in Hawaii. It'll be fun to see what ends up standing out!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Runfessions - race photo edition

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! I enjoyed spending the time with family and friends yesterday, including running my fifth consecutive rendition of the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot. More on the race to come.

I am linking up with Marcia for Runfessions, as well as with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five.
Today we are doing a special race photo edition of Runfessions.

As I previously mentioned here, I have been trying to up my race photo body spasm game. My recent focus has been to achieve a cool jumping pose, e.g.:
At the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon two weekends ago, I made some valiant attempts. Any time I passed a photographer on course, I hurled myself into the air with as much energy, effort, and gusto as I could possibly muster! 

We all do these things on a random basis, right?
Yes, Chicago Blackhawks fans, this is Artemi Panarin during his KHL days!
I only wish I knew the story behind this snapshot...
Today I went to look at the results of my race photo poses. I runfess that in summary, things didn't turn out quite the way I hoped. 

Here are five examples:

1) Stumbling on the dismount
This photo was taken immediately post-jump just as I was landing. Unfortunately, it looks more like I am stumbling forward and about to fall flat onto my face. (Feel free to reference the runner next to me for a postural comparison.)
DERP!!!
2) Winding up
I think this one was taken right as I was awkwardly preparing to jump. The closed eyes make it look even worse.
DERP!!!
3) To jump or not to jump???
That is the question. I'm not sure what I was focused on, but the facial expression definitely doesn't match everything else.
4) Uncategorized
Yeah, I honestly don't even know where to go with this one.
TOTAL DERP!!!
5) I'm a maniac, maniac on the floor...
... and I'm posing like I've never posed before!
(Extra credit to those of you who recognized the musical reference! 🎶)
In summary...
Clearly I have an uphill battle to fight with my jumping poses! 

To paraquote all the star athletes: It's time for me to get back to the drawing board and focus on working hard, simplifying the poses, and just taking it one jump at a time. ;-P

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Alaskan weekend - Part III

Today I am finally getting around to recapping the rest of my weekend visiting Vanitha in Alaska last month! I am continuing from here and here.

To kick things off on a somewhat random note, Vanitha observed that Alaska has a lot of hilarious license plates. I got a nice laugh from seeing this one in downtown Anchorage:
Were Forrest Gump and/or Bubba hanging out in Anchorage, too?
DAY 1
Alaska Native Villages lecture
My first night in Anchorage, Vanitha and I went to the University of Alaska Anchorage to attend a lecture. The speaker, Barrett Ristroph, spoke on how Alaska native villages are adapting to climate change and how the law helps or hinders.
Incidentally, this subject is exactly what Vanitha is working on during her time in Alaska. During audience questions, Vanitha was even asked to share some of her own expertise a few times - and she nailed everything. I loved seeing how stunningly professional and knowledgeable she is! It made me very proud to be her friend.

In general, the subject matter was very eye-opening and informative to me, as I had no prior awareness of the ongoing challenges. It made me realize what a different completely life we live in the Lower 48.

Orso
Following the lecture, Vanitha and I went to dinner at Orso. This is a local "farm-to-table" restaurant in downtown Anchorage that features Alaskan ingredients and dishes. I loved the warm, rustic interior:
The food was terrific, too:
Upper L: King crab corn dogs
Upper R: Rockfish with red quinoa salad
Lower L: Alaskan sockeye salmon niçoise
Lower R: Guittard chocolate, espresso, and vanilla cream custard
DAY 2
The first thing I did was head out for my long run on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

Anchorage Museum
After my long run, I went to visit the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. My favorite exhibit was the Alaska Native Cultures, which features hundreds of indigenous artifacts from various tribes. I was surprised to learn there are over 200 federally recognized Alaskan tribes.


Saying "welcome" in various tribal languages and dialects
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from some of the other Anchorage Museum exhibits:
Alaskan street art
Original newspaper announcing Alaska being voted in as the 49th of the United States in 1959.
It's a little scary to realize my parents are older than Alaska's statehood.
Alaskan king crab
DAY 3
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Vanitha and I went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood for our first of two weekend visits. Since I already covered it in detail separately, I won't rehash it here other than to share this adorable pajama set from the gift shop:
and to share another of my favorite wildlife close-ups:
Scenic Drives
Here are some of the stunning landscapes we saw during our drives in between Anchorage and Girdwood (NOTE: these sights weren't limited to Day 2, we saw them all throughout). The pictures so do not do the majestic scenery justice.
Girdwood Hotel
On our way back from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, we stopped by the beautiful Girdwood Hotel. In my opinion, it is the type of winter lodge that ski resort dreams are made of. Look at the views from the lobby:
Moose's Tooth
For dinner that night, Vanitha and I went to a local Anchorage favorite called Moose's Tooth.
Moose's Tooth is extremely popular for its pizza - and it was easy to see why! They have the most creative, delicious selections of pizzas I've ever seen. There were a zillion ways to mix-and-match and customize your own pizza. The food was outstanding.
Upper L: Mexican squash soup
Upper R: Half Solstice, half Veggie Delight pizza
Lower L: Half Amazing Apricot (I think), half Spicy Thai pizza
Lower R: Lemon Love cake
They even had themed plates:
When/if I ever go back to Anchorage, Moose's Tooth will be a must-visit for me again!!!

DAY 4
This was my last day in Alaska. Vanitha and I went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for the second of our two visits. Afterwards, we did some more exploration on the way back, including browsing at a few local shops, plus stopping at the...

Girdwood Picnic Club
This is a super cute little restaurant nestled in downtown Girdwood with a cozy, artistic flair.
As was the case with every restaurant we visited in Alaska, the food was delicious:
Seafood chowder
Tamale platter
Indian Valley Meats
I wanted to try to find some smoked Alaskan salmon to take home. Vanitha had heard of this place as a great destination for local products, so we stopped by.
Wow - talk about getting the local experience. This place was a completely full-service shop for hunters and fishers. Here's a picture of the shop area (as opposed to the window where folks could make drop-offs to be processed).
I bought some salmon jerky, which I'd never seen in stores before.

Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center was closed for the season. However, since it was near Halloween, the center was hosting a special fall festival with entertainment, shopping, and food; with trick-or-treating and story-telling options for kids.

It was cool to see the replicas of Alaskan abodes:
Vanitha and I got a picture amidst some whale bones (?!?!?!?):
We enjoyed some local performances:
and perused the center's cultural exhibits:
That concluded my visit to Vanitha in Alaska! I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and I left with a much deeper appreciation for Alaska's pristine beauty, culture, history, and people.

It goes without saying that I am tremendously grateful to Vanitha for being the most wonderful hostess for the weekend, and for being the best friend anyone could ever ask for. I can't even begin to express my gratitude for the incredibly valuable time we had to catch up, laugh, share stories, and talk in full detail about everything that life was throwing our ways. I am already looking forward to the next time Vanitha and I can get together, whenever and wherever it may be.

Cheers to lifelong friends sharing travel adventures!

--
I will be linking up with LaurenVanIsabel and Marcella for Wanderful Wednesday; with Chris and HeatherLaurenAshleyAmanda and Brian, and Carolann and Macrae for Weekend Wanderlust; and with Arnie and JoSally-AnnAnda, and Anisa and Katherine for The Weekly Postcard.