Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Foodie Pen Pal 2014

The Lean Green Bean

It's Foodie Pen Pal (FPP) Reveal Day! The last time I did FPP, Lindsey had us send and receive from the same person. It was the same for this month, too. And I have to agree that I love it this way. My pen pal had a beautiful name, Naijean. She is originally from Grenada, but lives in Texas. At first, I was apprehensive about sending a package to someone in Texas, because, well, I live in Texas. I thought we wouldn't be able to get new things for each other. I was very wrong.
She sent me beef cube sticks (amazing), these energy bars (perfect), homemade grape juice (delish), and granola (had to put it away, because I kept eating too much of it). I loved everything. I honestly can't remember which Bearded Brothers bar I loved the best. I did find out that they aren't great (or at least the Peach Ginger ones) during long runs. I kept burping ginger. I guess there could be worse things.
Her package was so great that I felt bad about my package; it just didn't live up to the standards of this package. It really was just a crazy two weeks for me.
Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of my package. I only took two pictures of these brands so that I can remember to find them later.

If you want to join next month, then visit The Lean Green Bean.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A 15 Miler Officially Done

I saw it on my schedule...15 miles. I cringed at the thought since this would be the longest that I have ever run before. My record stayed strong with 13.1 miles and nothing more. But this past weekend changed the barrier of my long runs from training to freaking MARATHON TRAINING.

The night before, I treated it like a race day. I foam rolled, cut down on alcohol (stayed with wine to decrease bloating), ate some pasta, and went to bed early. I made arrangements to run with my friends, Elizabeth (remember her from The Great Urban Race) and Jim (remember him from the Karbach run). Elizabeth would join me on some of the time and Jim wanted to run all of it (training for the Ironman). I was happy to have friends with me, but I was nervous. These are both faster runners and run a lot more than myself since I run intervals.

On a side note, it's weird for me to say that I met up with friends to run some of the miles, because I read other bloggers picking up friends here and there to run parts or all of the long runs. I'm finally in that category.

The plan was to meet them at the adult playground area at Memorial Park to run one loop and then run to George R. Brown Convention Center downtown (six miles each way) and back for a total of 15 miles. I was excited to run a different route than I have ever done instead of just doing four loops around the park. In hindsight, I should have just stayed at Memorial Park.

Jim was late; so, Elizabeth and I ran the first loop without him. We kept an average 11 minute mile pace without stopping, but I think the first mile was actually under 11 minutes. I can't remember. I do know that we did 3 miles in 34:07 minutes. Again, I'm getting faster, but not there yet. Elizabeth and I had some good conversations about our exercising and just other stuff. When we finished, Elizabeth bid me farewell to run more with Jim. I can't wait to do the Splash & Dash with her in a couple of weeks.

Elizabeth and I after our 3 mile run. 
As soon as Jim met up with me, we started running in Memorial Park. He assumed we would run just the loops, but I wanted to run to George R. Brown. So, we did ran out of the park against better judgment. We decided to keep an 11 minute mile, but most of the time, I trailed him. He would slow down and I would catch up and sometimes, we ran side by side. We ran the first two miles without stopping. If you are keeping track, that's six miles without stopping. Yup...I understand the downfall of this method in which I will explain later.

My intervals turned into run until I reached the next mile on my GPS watch and then walk for a minute. I have been practicing five minutes run, one minute walk. Do you see the wrong about this statement? I really liked this, but naturally, I couldn't keep this up the entire way since I never practiced it before. However, now, I'm going to start working this into my training and already talked to JL about her trying it out, too.

Love this view. 
This is how I looked most of the run, but I still love this picture.
I ate a Passion Fruit Gu gel at the hour marker, which I hated and I realized that I'm not a fan and won't continue to try to make these work for me. Finally, we made it to George R. Brown where I could have kissed that wall. It was a monumental moment. When we got to downtown, I felt dehydrated. So, we walked over to Phoenicia Foods for a bottle of water, which I immediately fell in love with this store/bar/eatery/awesome place ever. I noticed that I didn't stop my watch. So, my timings were not right when we got back and I don't remember what it was when touched the wall. Oh well. I also ate some homemade peanut butter stuffed dates in the store, which were great to eat, but messy to get out of my bag. 

That's me at the George R. Brown wall after finally touching it. 
This was a cool wall at Discovery Green.

We left the store to head back to Memorial Park for the last six miles of this run. I ran without stopping until I got out of downtown and went to intervals of five minutes walk, one minute walk. I barely made it, but I did it. And then all hell broke loose. I was feeling my back (in the middle area, which is not good) around mile 7. It wasn't too bad then and I was certainly missing the time when it was lower in pain. My back proceeded to get worse and worse and worse. My body did the natural thing of overcompensating in other areas to take some relief off of my back. Yeah...that was not good, because other body parts started hurting just as bad.

Jim had to walk a lot so I could catch up to him, which I felt bad, but he didn't want to leave. I kept up my intervals until about mile 11 when we saw the hash mark and I had to stop for a rest on a bench. I ate some Stinger chews (love these) and finished off the last of my water. When we started running again, I tried to keep up with Jim, but I just couldn't. My walks turned into longer walks and I couldn't run up any hills. I told him that I admit my mistake; we should have stayed in the flat areas of Memorial Park.

When we got to the last mile, I planned to run it. I ran about 0.25 miles and walked the rest of the way. My body hurt so bad and I just couldn't push it anymore. This basically turned into my most miserable and worst run ever, but I freaking did it. I ran a total of 15 miles in 3 hours, 30 minutes. I am still in awe that I actually broke the 13.1 mile barrier. Afterwards, Jim and I headed to Canyon Creek for some really good food and a much needed beer.

Thankfully, this was close to the park and we had an excellent chicken fried steak with buffalo meat.

Lessons Learned:

  1. My nutrition felt great, but I did get dehydrated. I am looking at getting a running camel bak to have more water available to me.
  2. Run what you practice. I should have stuck with the intervals I'm used to running and not tried to run six miles without stopping. 
  3. On a record long run for you, try to stay flat unless you are used to running hills (I am not). 
  4. I just don't like the Gu gels.

I want to run this route again, because I know I can do better. I need to be smarter about my long runs and pick up my pace. I really need to work on my speed.

Thanks to Jim and Elizabeth for being there with me on this journey. I really appreciate it! And thankfully, I only have a 12 mile run planned this weekend. You are welcome to join me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Running for a Free Shirt

In late January, I joined the Karbach Running Club hosted at the Karbach Brewery. Right now, Karbach is the only brewery in Houston that has both biking and running, as well as talk about a triathlon team very soon. I think this is awesome and I love being a part of it. We run roughly three miles every Thursday at 6 p.m. After five running appearances with the club, you get a free shirt. I already have a shirt from the biking team in which I bought last Monday to support the Karbach Biking Team doing the MS 150 this weekend (plan to do this next year with this team).

Well, last night was my fifth night to run and I got my free shirt. Jim also got his shirt, too. I'm especially excited, because I increased my speed with the help of Jim. I ran a 9:47 in the first mile, which I haven't done in God knows how long. I couldn't keep up the pace, but still, I got it. I also ran the entire time. I had one 5 second stop to catch my breath and I was back to running. My overall time was 2.80 miles in 28 minutes. Jim continued on to make three miles, but I didn't. I was ready for a beer or water or both.

Rider, Joanne, me, Jim, and one of our new friends, Jessica. Joanne got her shirt a couple of weeks ago (when I should have, too).

Jim and I proudly showing off our shirts. I have no answers for what I am doing in the picture.
We also met some new people, while drinking beers and having a good time. I can't say enough how I'm loving this community. When we first showed up, we met Robert and was introduced to a new discipline of triathlons for us (Joanne and I). We now feel like the veterans welcoming new people and introducing them.

I got my new card and ready for another five exciting runs with this club. My next run is 15 miles this weekend. EEK! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Skipped My Registered Run

Last Saturday, I was registered for the 4 The Park Fun Run to raise money for Memorial Park. I couldn't do this run last year and was excited about being able to do it this year. I had a 10 mile run scheduled for the weekend as part of my training. I figured I would run the 5k and then finish off the rest of the 10 miles after I was done. However, because of wacky turns in my exercise schedule, I ended up with four days in a row of exercising by Friday. Saturday would make it five days, including that long 10 mile run. I had to put it on Saturday, because if I pushed it to Sunday, that would be six days of exercising in a row. And by Friday, I was already feeling drained.

I decided to set my alarm clock at 6 a.m. and then assess my body. Well, I woke up, went to the bathroom, and began to assess. I was tired. I felt tired Friday evening before I went to bed and my stomach was still off from whatever happened. So, I laid there for five more minutes, then turned off my alarm, and went back to bed. It would be the first time that I have deliberately missed a registered and paid for run that wasn't caused by injury or sickness.  And you know what...I didn't care. It wasn't a terribly expensive race. The money would go for a good use, but I had to accept that my body just wasn't up to a 10 mile run at all. Plus, I had the busiest day known to man with two parties on opposite sides of Houston booked (by accident) pretty much at the same time.

So, what did I do? I took Remington to Hermann Park for a long walk and picture taking of the bluebonnets. What I didn't know was that the bluebonnets were everywhere and mostly around the bayou. This was my first time taking Remington by the bayou (always biked here) and he was just super excited smelling the new smells. We haven't done a park walk together like this for awhile.

We walked all long snapping photos, went on the bridge, under the zombie attack underpass, and then around the golfing trail of Hermann Park. It was a beautiful morning (not too hot, not too cold or rainy). It was just right. And Remington had a blast until about the fifth time I made him pose in front of the flowers. I couldn't help myself. The flowers were beautiful. This would also be a Last American Hourah bucket list item checked off.

On Sunday, I felt refreshed to run my 10 mile run without any issues. I am not sure if I actually did 10 miles or 10.25 miles, but I did something.

And here are the pictures of our walk. He really should be on America's Next Dog Model. No flowers were hurt in the making of these photos.

Something smells good down here.

Mom, I'm bored. Can we stop taking pictures?

What was that? You didn't hear that sound? Where was it? Who is it?

Mom, seriously, when I agreed to this walk, I agreed to a walk. I didn't agree to all this stopping and posing and you yelling at me to not move.

Clearly, we have missed the point of walking.

I've walked over this bridge a few times and I guess this is new. I thought it was a clever art display since we are in the Medical Center.

That guy is BACK. ON. THE. STAIRS.

To show you that I took pictures of other flowers, too.

I loved this pop of color.

This is my favorite picture and one I will have framed.

Was that a duck I just saw?

My man giving me some kisses after a long morning of picture I mean walking.
And just because this quote is so true right now...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Weekend of Friends, Fun, Wine, and a Half Marathon

Last Sunday, I participated in the first half marathon of the Texas Wine Series at the Messina Hoff Winery with Ray and JL. This would be my second half marathon ever in my life (remember the first one), Ray's second, and JL's first. I was excited to do this run, because
  1. I get to see the Cordovas, my running partners for my marathon (along with the beautiful Helen).
  2. I'm running my second half marathon finally.
  3. This half marathon involves wine...duh!
  4. It was probably one of the most beautiful weekends ever complete with low humidity weather and Bluebonnets galore. We don't get many of these days in Texas. 
Look at these beautiful Bluebonnets and Indian Red Paints.
JL's picture of the Bluebonnets and Indian Red Paints on the side of the road.
We all decided to drive up the day before to settle in before the race the next day at 8 a.m. I live less than 2 hours away, but I didn't want to have to get up at 4 a.m. to get there and then take a chance of being rushed or not making it on time.

We picked up our packets at Downtown Uncorked where we talked with the helpful and friendly owner about our wine choice and cheese snack.

Our beautiful race bibs, a great Malbec (which I bought), and some of the best Sriracha cheese spread ever.
 We had a wonderful pasta pre-race dinner at Napa Flats Wood-Fired Kitchen. I highly recommend it.
Thanks Dave for the suggestion.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel where we started our rituals of foam rolling, taping, and massaging. JL worked on some of my pressure points to release pain in my back, which worked like a charm (more on why we don't do that the night before a big race). And then we were off to bed for a restless and anxious sleep. I mean I haven't ran a half marathon since 2011.

Bright and early, we were up, foam rolling again (and I talked to Jim for some last minute motivational words), had some breakfast (Cheerios, a banana, and an English muffin with peanut butter), and headed to the winery. I would like to point out that it was cold...OH.SO.FREAKING.COLD!

I couldn't stop staring at this amazing sunrise.
When we got there, we sat in the car for awhile with the heat on and then the debate of what to bring began. We didn't have anywhere to stash our sweaters or long sleeve stuff and we weren't sure if there was a bag drop. So, I ended up wearing my blue long sleeve shirt and left my bag in the car. I found out later there was a bag drop, but they should have that information on the website since we saw lots of people coming back to the cars with their bags.  

The Crossfit guys started their warm up and I joined in for a little bit, but then decided to do my own stretches. Then, we walked over a quarter mile to the start. The Star Spangled Banner started playing with no notice, while some high pumping dance music was playing. So, it was not easy to hear. People started getting ready at the start line, but the problem was that there was a half marathon starting earlier than the 5k people. Thankfully, someone came on the PA to tell the 5k people not to line up just yet. And more than half of the people were gone. Oh the joys of being one of 155 half marathoners. You will either look great and possibly win or you will be a standout for the worst. I will take my chances.
I'm pretty sure the girl in the pink skirt had an ambulance called for her.

She doesn't know what she has gotten herself in to yet.
Finally, the race started and we all ran a mile together. I kept the pace slow, because I've been reading about using the first two miles as a warm up and I also knew that JL's longest run up to this point was six miles (BAD JL).

 I love this picture.
Ray loves this one.

And then Ray was off like a dirty shirt.
But apparently, we have to look at his butt first.
As Ray left us (ALONE and COLD and SHAKING...ha, just kidding), JL and I got into our rhythm of five minutes run, one minute walk after we hit the first mile marker. Eventually, we started running along side of another blogger named Christi (check out her blog here). She told us that she was running 40 half marathons 2014 for her 40th birthday and this was her second one that weekend. Bajeebus. So, she asked if she could run with us since we were running at a slower pace.

I saw the one Porto-Potty coming up, but I figured there would be one at the turnaround. It wasn't right next to the road and I didn't want to lose the momentum. I was wrong; that was the only bathroom on the entire 13.1 miles. As we were running, Christi recognized another lady named Eyvonne from her area of Texas. So, she joined us, too. She had another amazing goal; she's trying to run a race at each of the counties in Texas. I thought these ladies were amazing for their running goals and I may do something similar in the future. 

We caught Ray right before the turnaround. That's Christi, me, and Yvonne in the background.

We (now group of us ladies instead of Ray) kept up with the five minutes run, one minute walk. I was the time keeper and usually the bearer of bad news when our minute was up to run again. I got a lot of, "I don't think that was a minute."

On a side note, I really need to get the intervals working either on my phone or my watch or something. I missed it a few times.

Finally, we made it to the halfway point and I could see lots of people still behind us. YAY! We weren't last. I started to feel the areas where JL released the night before, which made it difficult to run hard (and that's why you don't do that before a run the next day). At this point, I really had to go to the bathroom, but all of the cover up bushes were next to barbed wire fences. I did find an area by a creek where I went and managed to get thorns or needles scraping my butt. When I finally caught up to the ladies, I was picking needles out of my butt. Oh they had a laugh.

Turnaround point.

JL and I left our long sleeve shirts on the railing around mile 2, right next to a beautiful Bluebonnet patch. When we reached that mile marker again, I ran to get our shirts and stopped to take some pictures.

I couldn't help myself but take pictures.
It was also this time, that we started walking more and running less. We got down to five minutes run, two minutes walk, then four minutes run, two minutes walk, and always walking up the hills. JL was now glad that we didn't push ourselves too hard in the beginning. Eyvonne eventually said goodbye to us, because she couldn't keep up and then later Christi took off leaving JL and I together. As we got within the last mile, there were so many people walking back to their cars. I felt like a doof running behind and I started to pick up the pace. I left poor JL, but I had to go and I crossed the finish line at 2:49:58. This was four minutes greater than my first half marathon. Oh well. Next time.

Just after we crossed the finish line, we forced Eyvonne into a picture with us.
As soon as we high fived and got some water, we headed over for wine and food. I was so hungry. They had Olive Garden, but it was somewhat cold by the time we got there. It was still good though. And seeing someone win a Bundt cake, made me want one so bad. I was hoping they would have those for sale, but they didn't and thus, started my quest for dessert.
Our awesome medals...with a corkscrew.

Along with our awesome medals, we got a wine glass and four tasters. OH YES PLEASE!
And of course, we couldn't a miss a photo opportunity with Christi
We had post race beers at the famous Dixie Chicken.

And I got my dessert...yummy Drumstick.
All in all, it was a peaceful and beautiful down and back race, with some hills, but mostly flat. I loved it and can't wait to do it again next year. I just hope they have more bathrooms. Also, my BolderBands headband was amazing the entire race. I'm so glad I took a chance on this purchase. Thank you Ray and JL for joining me on both this adventure and our next one.

These are some of the other photos from our awesome trip. I swear JL and I make our exercise adventures into one hell of weekend travel getaway.

A cool sign at Downtown Uncorked. I need this.

JL and I enjoying the sun and the wine. Yes, I'm sporting a with it.

I get to run with these sexy people.
Our wine lady pouring the Reisling (yes, I bought) at Messina Hoff.
Visiting the Messina Hoff Winery is actually part of my Last American Hoorah mission complete.

My loot at the winery; I was appropriately placed by the belt buckles.
She bought a very cool wreath to hold the wine corks.
Ray and JL out in the back pond area of the winery. It was so beautiful here.
Well, hello there little guys. They (including about 10 more) rushed at us as soon as we showed up, which means they are used to being fed.

JL and I having some fun on the bridge to the back area.

Right by us, they were setting up for a beautiful looking engagement about to take place under the gazebo.

We stumbled upon this wonderful display of pinwheels at a bank. It was to honor the more than 800 children dealing with abuse and neglect in the Brazos Valley area alone. I can only imagine the number for Houston. And yes, we were careful not to step on any of the pinwheels. And I have to mention that the grass felt so good on my feet.

I may not be a fan of Texas A&M University College Station, but I do respect the Bonfire Memorial and what it represents. I was saddened to hear the news all those years ago and I was thankful that I saw this in my life before I died.

Ray surprised me with this sticker. He's so sweet!
And now the crew is gearing up for the marathon in Scotland. There is talk of Texas flag kilts, cowboy hats, and belt buckles. You never know with us folk. The Scottish will never know what hit them...poor Scottish people.