Brendan and I recently returned from Spring Break in Puerto Rico. My 5 months of traveling back and forth to New York last year finally paid off. We flew to San Juan and spent three nights in the Sheraton in Old San Juan and then three nights West of San Juan at the St. Regis Bahia Beach!
I’m all about the whole “you’re in Puerto Rico… you have to try Puerto Rican (enter something I would rather not be eating/doing”. I get it. I also get being on vacation. I have a whole new outlook on vacation these days. It’s more like… I’m a young professional. Sometimes, I hate my job. Sometimes is right now. I would like to take some PTO, and that is valuable PTO, thank you. So f*ck your Puerto Rican (enter black coffee with creamer)… I’m going to Starbucks on my vacation. And that, my friends, I get from my mama.
But seriously now. This was the first time I truly needed a vacation in my life and really felt like it was something I was able to gift to myself. So we went from this…
We toured old Spanish forts…
Wandered the streets of Old San Juan…
Hiked to caves and cliffs…
Watched the San Juan Half Ironman!
If you know me at all, you know I immediately started researching sprint triathlons and bike prices. It was so inspiring. So exciting!
And then we went to the St. Regis…
…which was a stunning plantation-style resort. We stayed in a suite!
We went to the beach…
Hiked in the rainforest…
snorkeled and kayaked…
And played with iguanas!
It was really great! Then I flew home to Portland and did this!!!!!! Hop Hop Half Marathon…
A HALF MARATHON PR by 3 minutes!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AND… this is the first time I’ve placed in my division!!!
Last winter, I ran through the cold weather because I was training for the Toronto marathon. Each long run was a new challenge. How to dress warm enough, but not too warm when the wind chill is zero degrees. It is always hard to believe you really will get warm during the run. The big difference for me last year was that I was training with Julia, so every weekend we had a date that I looked forward to. This year, I am training by myself for the Eugene marathon. And it’s still really really cold!
How in the world do people here stay motivated to run all year? The real answer I’ve discovered is that they don’t. The number of runners goes down A TON in the winter. Honestly, they are stronger braver runners than me, because there is no way, I mean NOOOOO WAY, I am taking my running to the dreadmill. F that.
So I head outside… even when the Charles River is frozen! Obviously, it is super gorgeous! But that just doesn’t do it for me when I am warm and cozy inside. It is such a struggle to decide it’s a good idea. Probably because it really isn’t! The other night, my face mask froze to my face. WTF I’ve even had to wear my Nike Frees instead of my glorious five fingers, so I could run on the snow.
So, obviously I have made it out the door in the freezing cold. Just not as much as I’d like to. So here are the things that motivate me to get out there…
1. A training plan. You can’t beat it. I’m following Hal Higdon’s Intermediate I marathon plan. I haven’t always gotten all my weekday runs in, but I always get my two weekend runs in because I know it’s the bread and butter of his theory.
2. A good running playlist. My mom came up with the coolest idea. Since we are both on the same training plan, and we have the same long run each weekend, we trade off making a Spotify playlist for both of us to listen to. Sometimes, I am just so excited to get out there so I can see what she made for me. It’s also fun to listen to the one I made and imagine her reaction to each song.
3. Preparation. I know this might not work for everyone. If I spend the whole week looking at the weather report, planning my route, and deciding which weather accessories will be right for each run, I get pretty into the idea. This only really works for long weekend runs though. I don’t really need to plan out my route for the 4-mile midweek run…
4. Leave work early! This is just awesome in general. But… since it’s busy season, I work pretty long hours, and it’s hard to get in the midweek long-ish run. Right now it’s 7 miles. Since I am definitely not waking up an hour and a half early before work, and I am definitely not running at midnight, I’ve asked my team permission to leave early one night a week. Now don’t get too excited! Early just means 5pm instead of 7pm. But I’ll tell you what… I NEVER skip that run. I would feel like I was lying to my team and cheating.
Unfortunately, Nemo left me a little more than I’m comfortable with right now, so I am waiting a few more hours…
Stay warm out there!
Here is your gift guide for that young urban professional-runner-yogi-healthy eating-dessert loving-blog reading special someone on your list. In other words, here are a couple cool things that I have and love, as well as a few things I would appreciate under the Christmas tree this year!
For the foodie on your list… The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – OMG if you do not read this blog, you are crazy! I saw her cookbook at Angthropologie and I died. It is so beautiful. I have tried a good number of the recipes from the blog and they are just so wonderful, and the posts are so funny and well written.
For the runner on your list… a Garmin! This completely changes how you run and think about training. Before recently, I would have said that it isn’t really worth the $300 investment for most runners, but now that the Garmin Forerunner 10 is out, I think it’s a super accessible running accessory that will have huge impact. I even want one now because it’s so much smaller and cuter than the older versions.
For the snobby healthy eater on your list… a Soda Stream. This is like one of those things I would love to have, but probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it for myself at this point. I do think I would use it a lot. I mean, what would you rather have, lemonade or sparkling lemonade??!! DUH!!
For the Yogi on your list… a Jade yoga mat. I can not tell you enough what a difference a good yoga mat makes. My Jade yoga mat was expensive, but SO WORTH IT. I never ever slip on this mat, and I am a super slippery sweaty yogi. I have the travel mat because it is cheaper, and it is still super thick. I saw that they have an environmentally friendly one on Amazon now!
For the yuppie on your list (or me)… I have been feeling especially needy this season, which is not something I am really proud of. Last year, I said I don’t really want “stuff”. This year, I was overwhelmed by how much “stuff” I found myself wanting. I had to take a step back and realize that they are just a bunch of things I would enjoy having, but I don’t need anything new in my life right now. That being said, I would really like new Citizens jeans, some light brown Aerosoles boots, everything at J.Crew (pink vest!), a nice wool coat, a tablet, and money to help me pay for a Crossfit membership this winter. lol you know… nothing really…
However, I do hope that Santa (and everyone else) considers giving to people who actually do need things this season. In fact, I would also really appreciate someone gifting me a donation to Girls on the Run. I am especially passionate about the program in the SF Bay Area because I was involved with it, but all of the local chapters are doing a great thing!
Last year, Brendan and I signed up for a turkey trot in Salem, MA. It started really early in the morning and it was pretty far away… so we slept through it. Never doing that again! This year, I signed up for the race that was just a few minutes from our house and started at 9am… much better. Brendan was still not convinced it would go any better, apparently, so he just drove me to Starbucks and then to the start line. I take what I can get.
It was 40 degrees outside, so I was pretty pumped for a chilly, but comfortable 4-mile run. I started the morning off with a bowl of pumpkin pie oatmeal at home (old fashioned oats cooked normally, add canned pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar. Finish with a dollop of vanilla yogurt on top!) Then Brendan took me to Starbucks for a caramel brulee latte.
I pretty much wore all my favorite running gear: Lululemon tank, highlighter warmer-than-normal half zip, full length Zella tights, unisex Nike hat, Garmie, and Five Fingers. I ended up wishing I had worn a lighter half-zip when I got warm, but it was freezing at the start, so I think it was the way to go.
This race truly was my last race before jaw surgery, so I wanted to push it, but I also knew I hadn’t been watching my pace at all recently, so I had no idea what to expect. Brendan and I talked about my game plan the night before, and we decided a 9-minute pace was realistic. I knew I could do better since I ran last weekend’s half marathon at a 9:15, but I’ve historically not been very good at changing my pace. My marathon pace is my half pace is my 5k pace.
I know I’ve said this before, but there is just something so cool about people coming together to run as a group. It is so magical when you are walking to the start of a race and runners are appearing at every corner, all waking up to meet and share this common love. It’s like we are all in on a secret. Runners are scattered on the sidewalks creeping towards the start, until suddenly we are less discreet…
How cool is that?! I don’t have Garmie with me right now, but my splits were approximately:
Mile 1) 8:15
Mile 2) 8:15
Mile 3) 8:30
Mile 4) 8:00
For a 4 mile race PR (I don’t think I’ve run a 4-mile race before) of about 33 minutes! I was more than happy with my time! The race was hard. It was hilly, it was cold, my left leg sucked the whole time. Did I mention it was like REALLY HILLY! But it was really fun, too. A lot of people dressed up with turkey costumes or hats, a lot of families came out to run together, and a lot of neighbors brought their Thanksgiving coffee outside to cheer us on. It was a really awesome community event, and I will definitely be signing up again next year.
Last weekend I met up with my bestest friend from college, A.Jay, in her new hometown for a little run. Aje and I had initially signed up for the full marathon, but we both dropped down to the half as training went on. It was my first time in Philadelphia, and Aje sure made sure I fell in love with it!
Our weekend together included tons of shopping at our favorite stores: West Elm, J.Crew, Anthropologie, and the local farmer’s market. I even tried on some super awesome PJ’s at J.Crew!
And lots of awesome food! My favorite place we went to was Pure Fare, which is a cafe that was started by a nutritionist. The entire place is gluten free, and it has tons of vegetarian, vegan, and allergy friendly food. But mostly the whole place is crazy delicious and nutritious. I fell in love with the Quinoa cranberry muffin and the Kale-Apple smoothie!!
The race was AMAZING… It was super well organized, especially for a big race: 30,000 people! The expo was big and overwhelming as expected. We picked up our packets, bought some matching sweaty bands (pictured above), and got out of there! The start was less than a mile from A.Jay’s apartment, so we enjoyed a nice walk to the start while we drank our coffee. We decided to wear matching race outfits AND matching pre-race outfits!
The porta-potty lines were long, but they were just the right length because they gave me time to do my pre-race potty dance.
The race was well-supported with lots of bathrooms, water, gatorade, and Cliff Shots (eww). I brought sharkies! It was chilly, but the temperature ended up feeling great during the race. What really made this a great race was the AMAZING crowd support. MILES of this course were lined with people. Lots and lots of people. I have never experienced that much enthusiasm at a race. It made me realize how much I really want to do one of the famous races… mostly I really want to do NYC, which is famous for the crazy crowd support all along the course.
We had lots of fun! And we finished in a great time!! I really couldn’t have done this without Aje. I was really hurting, but she was FULL of energy and speed. At mile 11, she asked me if I wanted to pick it up for the last stretch. I was like, “I am picking it up!!!” I am so glad I held on.
This was also the first time I’ve raced in my Vibram Five Fingers. It went great! My toes were a little chilly, but not too bad. I thought about my form quite a bit because I still struggle with heel striking when I get tired, and that really hurts when you aren’t wearing shoes!
This was my last distance race before my jaw surgery, so I was happy to end the year with a strong half. Here’s to a healthy resting period, so my leg can repair itself!! Thanks for a super fun weekend, Aje… and thanks for being my photographer!!
The Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) is a HUGE event where Nike takes advantage of the female love for girls’ weekends. They have thought of so many ways to make girls weekends super awesome… so many little details that make women so happy… for a price, of course. I would just LOVE to get my hands on some revenue analyses for that event. But… for one weekend, I prefer to put my analytical, judgmental, cost/benefit business mind to sleep. I just stop judging and start running. This, of course, would be dangerous if I lived my whole life like this, but I feel okay about this informed decision I am making to be an ignorant consumer.
I started my weekend off with an evening flight from Boston to San Francisco. I got in around midnight and took BART to the St. Regis San Francisco, where Maryanne was snoozing and my mom was waiting up for me in bed. The hotel was super nice! It is officially my favorite thing in the world to wake up in the morning in a room with friends, knowing that you have nothing to do that day except whatever sounds fun. And I got to do that TWICE this weekend. It is the best feeling.
We went to a super cute restaurant by our hotel called The Grove that had amazing breakfast! Then we spent the day shopping, talking, and checking out the race setup. This was my second time at the NWM (my mom and I did it in 2010), so I knew a little bit about what to expect. I still think nothing quite prepares you for the way 25,000 women can take over a city when they are all out to have an amazing girls’ weekend. And there is no way to really expect the new ways Nike will attempt to think of every little detail. Nike Town in Union Square was just as overwhelming and amazing as I remembered, The store turns into a platform for female-themed motivational posters, wall-shaking club music, and more race garb than you could possibly sell.
Since the expo line was super long, we decided to keep shopping elsewhere for a few hours. Big mistake. OOPS, sorry mom and Maryanne. I think that was my idea… When we came back, the line was looping around Union Square MULTIPLE TIMES! WHAT!!?? What are you doing, Nike?! You are bigger, better, and more organized than this! Right??!! It was a disaster. It didn’t ruin my day or anything because we just chatted in line, but I sure would have been fine doing something else for the hour-plus wait. Emily came and met up with us in line (cutter!) to spend the rest of the weekend with us! Well, Nike… every time you piss me off, you seem to come up with some way to make me forget about it…
I’m not even kidding. This was SOOOO AMAZING! There really is nothing else to say.
We had a great pre-race dinner at Burger Bar in Macy’s in Union Square. I had the veggie burger with avocado and a fried egg on top, and we all shared the fry sampler. Yummm… so much better than pre-race spaghetti. Then we went back to the Grove (breakfast restaurant) for a huge chocolate chip cookie!
The rest of the night was full of gossip, girly secrets, and giggling before we all settled into a short anxious pre-race snooze.
Race morning was the usual frenzy of excitement, nerves, and everyone’s pre-race routine needs being met. We went to Starbucks and then to the start line. There were so many people. Unreal.
you can see yourself if you look at my cheeks or chin!
But my mom can’t see anything!
It was crowded the whole time! The race was full of good music, great varied scenery, and the usual friendly conversation among runners.
It was also full of irritated women who had paid over $100 for registration alone and just wanted to have a good time, but who were ALL overwhelmed by an over-crowded course. I won’t rant too much because I am also one of those women who paid to travel to SF for an expensive race, and I would also like to have a fond memory to go with my credit card bill, but OMG really!!?? Really!!?? The thing I love about that race is the way it brings women of all abilities out to enjoy a healthy activity with friends. But the think I hate about that race is the way it is FULL of people who don’t usually run races. I am sure they are great people… maybe (I’m not actually sure), but when you put that many people on one course, you NEED race etiquette. People who don’t race don’t know that suddenly stopping and walking in the middle of a path up a crowded steep hill = I will punch you in the face, scream horrible foul names, and make you feel like an idiot. Of course, I mostly resisted that behavior, but I was not always on my best behavior. AND I HATE THAT. I hate that such a great event turns into such a catty bitch riot. But it does.
I’m not sure I’ll do it again. I’m excited to try Lululemon’s race in Vancouver, CA, and I want to try for some new destinations. But OMG… I had such a great weekend. The race recovery included SF soup company, a spa day with my mama, shopping, and more good food and laughter. I love those ladies!
Unfortunately, I put blogging aside while I was in NY, so I don’t really have a lot to share. Basically, here is what I did. Every Sunday night, I packed work clothes in a suitcase (I got REALLY good at this), said goodbye to Brendan, and called a cab to take me to the airport. I flew to NY on JetBlue every time, even though I had to go to JFK, because I LOVE the terminal at JFK! Try it. I stayed in hotels every week. I had a budget, but I could basically stay anywhere I wanted as long as I could get to work on time in the morning. The picture of me above is on the Brooklyn Bridge. I worked in Brooklyn right at the base of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.
My food was free up to $50 a day. My hotel was free. My subway pass, free. Up to $40/week to spend on health and fitness, free. Ummmm… need anything else? So that was me… a West Coast girl transplanted to the East Coast and then spending 5 months exploring NYC for FREE!!!
Then on the weekends I could either fly home to see Brendan or use the money I would have spent to go to the airport and fly home to go somewhere else… OR… stay in NYC for FREEEEEEE…
I got to explore so much of NY because I stayed at different hotels in different neighborhoods all the time. My first week there, I cried because it was so dirty and scary and lonely. My last week there, I cried because I had fallen in love with my favorite places in the city and I had a million new friends that I was saying bye to.
I mean… a city famous for pizza, hot dogs, cupcakes, cookies, and huge parks full of runner…. what’s not to love?
It wasn’t all perfect. I did work 55 hour minimum weeks the entire time. Including some weeks where I literally didn’t know I was in NY… 8:30am to 11pm = who the F cares… but I definitely fell in love with a city in a way I never thought possible… here are the basics for your next free trip to NY…
Favorite hotel: the W in Union Square for the great central location and huge cheery rooms.
Second favorite: The Sheraton on Canal Street for their great Club Lounge for Platinum members. It is an outdoor terrace on the 21st floor with free breakfast and drinks.
Favorite restaurant: Dos Caminos on Houston for their seared tuna tacos and blood orange margaritas… I know this is a chain, but I fell in love with it so shove it.
Second Favorite: Westville in Chelsea for their fresh market sides. You can order a HUGE plate of maple brussel sprouts, parmesan artichoke hearts, roasted zucchini, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, and butternut squash for $14!!! In NYC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Favorite Workout: Soulcycle for the biggest grin I have ever had on my face for 45 minutes straight every week. It is a dance club on a spinning bike, and I have never enjoyed myself more. Plus, the instructor was AMAZING… go to soulcycle union square with Marvin before you die. You must.
Second Favorite: Yoga to the People for their amazing culture. I raved about this already when I went to the classes in Berkeley, but in NY it is something else. They fill 3 floors of 50 people each for each class! The donation-based part helps, too.
Favorite Subway Line: the Q! It only stops like 3 times… ever. If you want to go somewhere that isn’t on the Q… don’t go. If you stay in a hotel on the Q line… amazing!!!
Second Favorite: Just take the Q. Otherwise, look at the map… I guess. You really can go anywhere in NY on the subway. It just might take a little longer than it would on the Q.
Favorite Cupcake: Apple Cobbler cupcake from Crumbs. It is HUGE and there are fresh apples in there! It is like apple pie and spice cake on crack… with frosting on top.
Second Favorite: this is cheating, but I choose the Banana pudding at Magnolia. Apparently, people in NY have been tricking us tourists into just ordering cupcakes at Magnolia. They’re amazing, but you really must try the banana pudding. Homemade banana pudding, tons of fresh sliced bananas, and cubes of banana cake all in one!!
Favorite view: Brooklyn Heights Promenade for the view of the sunset behind the financial district. I think this is the only way to fully appreciate how big those buildings are on that little island! Check it out when the Freedom Tower is lit up red, white, and blue and you will be a patriotic American forever.
Second Favorite: It is perhaps a little more spectacular from Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you are closer to the water, so everything really looks HUGE. Plus, the view of the bridges all lit up is amazing. I’ll call this one a tie. Either way, you need to get your butt over to Brooklyn.
This is making me tooooo sad. I feel like I did SO MUCH, but there was still so much left to do, as well. Of course, I could probably go on and on forever about my least favorites of NY…