NaBloPoMo mostly successful

Against all odds I finished National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) only missing one day out of thirty. Not bad! I compensated for my misstep by posting the second half of my Thanksgiving wrap-up on December 1st. That’s a fair trade-off, right? I’m going to try my best to keep up the same frequency of posts in December since this is my favorite time of the year (and I’m determined to enjoy it), but don’t know how successful I’ll be. The month has barely started and my calendar is already completely full! Like today when I had about four obligations after I got out of work. I actually left early to pick up my orthotics from the podiatrist so that I could run my scheduled 5 miles this afternoon. Since the Seal Beach Christmas Parade was taking place in the evening I didn’t even attempt to run my usual route around town. Even at 4 PM Main Street was just too busy and crowded. Instead I drove down to Bolsa Chica State Beach and completed my 5 miles there. It was really windy today, but running by the ocean is always lovely. Since I was planning to meet some friends at the Christmas parade I had to get home and quickly shower after my run. Luckily I live one block from the parade route so I could walk out my door just a few minutes before 7 PM. It was a chilly night for the Seal Beach Christmas parade and I got cold sitting there for an hour and a half, but I enjoyed hanging out with my friends. Now I am back in my warm house, but I need to go to bed soon. I’m meeting a friend and her daughter at Disneyland for the Christmas parade tomorrow. Happy holidays everyone!

OC half marathon 2016

I’m on a plane to Miami right now where I’ll catch my flight to Tallahassee this afternoon. I paid for extra leg room this time around (worth it for nearly five hours between LA and Miami) so using my laptop is a breeze! Also, there’s an empty seat next to me so I don’t feel like anyone is looking at my screen while I type. I figured I’d take this time to finally write a post about a races from earlier this year that changed the way I run. It was a big deal!

In May of 2015 I was registered for the Orange County half marathon, but ended up skipping it because I was still recovering from my knee injury earlier in the year. Of course I managed to get hurt again in early 2016, but much to my delight I was healthy enough to run the OC half marathon this year. However, I was pretty out of shape when the race rolled around in May. So in order to keep from being completely bored on the course for three hours I decided to run with one of my co-workers and her sister-in-law. They had modest expectations for their finish time so I figured I wouldn’t be holding them back. This was my first introduction to the Galloway Run/Walk/Run Method. Previously I only took short walk breaks about every mile, but that particular strategy broke down after the first seven or eight miles when I couldn’t run a full mile at a time anymore. That made the rest of the race pretty frustrating. But using the Galloway Method during the OC half marathon the other ladies and I ran for 1 min 15 sec and then walked for 40 seconds, repeating those intervals for the whole 13.1 miles. (Mostly. There were a couple of monster hills that we broke down and walked all the way to the top!) This approach to running was completely new to me and it took a while to get used to. Taking a walk break after only running a little over a minute felt really strange at the beginning of the race, but as the miles passed I was amazed at how well the Galloway Method was working for me. I didn’t hit the wall at mile 10 like I usually did during a half marathon, and after we crossed the finish line I actually still had some energy left which, for me, is unheard of. It was a remarkable outcome. My finish time wasn’t anything to be proud of, but I didn’t care. After that day I was resolved to buy an internal timer and join my co-worker’s Galloway running group. I loved it that much! It’s been over five months since then and now I use the run/walk/run method exclusively for my races and other long runs. Like my highly successful 16 mile run last Saturday. I know the Galloway method isn’t right for everyone, but it has worked wonders for me so I’m glad I got the opportunity to try it during the OC half marathon. The course was really beautiful too so I’m looking forward to running it again in 2017.

As a side note, there was one particularly funny moment before the race even started. After getting on the bus from the fairgrounds parking lot to the start line I realized that I hadn’t put any sunscreen on my legs! I slathered it on my arms in the parking lot, but I had completely neglected my legs below the hem of my running capris. So once I got to the start line I started searching through the crowd, looking for someone who might have sunscreen in their bag of supplies that I could borrow. I probably looked creepy, but I was desperate! It took a while, but I finally found someone who had a bottle of sunscreen out and was willing to let me use some. Bless that kind stranger! I would have had lobster legs otherwise!

Final Check-Out

It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving and instead of being responsible and productive I did something completely frivolous – I spent the day at Disneyland! I went with my good friend Natalie and we had an incredible time. The theme of our trip was Tower of Terror since the ride in its current incarnation is closing on January 2nd. Since Disney announced that they are converting the building into a “Guardians of the Galaxy” attraction in 2017 the responses have been mixed. While Disneyland is always changing in on way or another (like the ongoing construction of Star Wars Land that’s supposed to open next year) it’s a little sad to see such a unique landmark be completely overhauled. Due to the imminent shuttering of the Hollywood Tower Hotel it has become the most popular ride in the parks with long lines and quickly disappearing Fast Passes. When I was there last weekend the wait time was 150 minutes! Yikes. So in order to make sure we got on Tower of Terror without spending hours in line, Natalie and I headed directly there as soon as California Adventure opened for the day. That was what we’ll call ToT #1, and it was amazing. After our first experience we walked across the street and got Fast Passes that we could use an hour later. After some coffee, hot chocolate, and a little shopping we made use of the FPs – that was ToT #2. We were lucky enough to be in the front row that time and the photo that’s taken on the ride turned out great. You’d think two times through Tower of Terror within an hour and a half would be enough for us, but you’d be wrong! Upon exiting we got another set of FPs for a little later in the morning. While waiting to use those we made our way over to Disneyland and got Fast Passes for Hyperspace Mountain, my favorite. But then it was time to get back to California Adventure for ToT #3. After walking out that third time we figured there was no use tinkering with a successful formula and so we picked up a third set of FPs for the afternoon! At that point it was time for a delicious lunch at Carthay Circle and then Hyperspace Mountain over in Disneyland. Due to crowds and a little rain we almost didn’t use our last Tower of Terror Fast Passes, but there were some Christmas presents that needed to be purchased in California Adventure so there was no use letting them go to waste! That was ToT #4 – our final check-out. I’m not happy about it, but I’ll be content if I don’t find my way to the Hollywood Tower Hotel again before January 2nd. Thanks for all the great memories!

Photos from all four ToT experiences will be available in my Disneyland 11/20/16 photo album once I am able to download them from the Disneyland PhotoPass website!

Halloween 2016

The annual chili cook-off at work wasn’t the only thing I had planned on Halloween. (I tend to oversubscribe myself during the fall/winter holidays because I’m afraid of missing out. This is my favorite time of year and I’m determined to enjoy it as much as possible!) Since it was a Monday I had a welcome day off from running, but I still wanted to get to the gym before my evening obligations. I was ambitious and signed up for a 4 PM boot camp class which meant I had to leave work an hour beforehand to drive home, change clothes, and get to the gym on time. Note to self: Leaving work early on the day of the chili cook-off is a bad idea! As much as I try to keep the cook-off from affecting my productivity, I always spend a lot of time configuring the conference room tables and chairs in the morning and deconfiguring them in the afternoon. It requires more effort that I’d like to admit. Luckily I was able to successfully leave work and make it to my 4 PM class at the gym. And it’s a good thing too because I really stuffed my face at the chili cook-off. In an effort to not blow my diet too badly I started off with a small bowl of chili (3 different kinds I wanted to sample, including my own) and some salad, but eventually went back for chips and desserts. I couldn’t help myself! The delicious food my co-workers made was just too hard to resist. I also had my first sugary soda since September 10th (more about that in another post), but it was an incredible specialty cherry cola and worth the calories. Fortunately I felt better after an hour of resistance training at the gym.

After boot camp concluded I drove home as quickly as possible and jumped in the shower. I was due at a friend’s house to trick or treat with a few families and their kids at 6 PM so I had to rush. In an effort to make it there on time, after my shower I simply threw on the same clothes that I had worn to work that day – jeans and my Mickey Mouse Halloween hoodie (see above photo). I bought the sweatshirt at Disneyland when I was there with a friend back in September, but it had been too hot for me to wear it until the last few days of October. Much to my delight it was gloriously cool and fall-like for Halloween this year. The last three years summer has lasted until early November so it was really lovely to have a comfortable Halloween for a change. Trick or treating with the kids – dressed as Harry Potter characters, superheroes, Star Wars icons, and Disney cartoons – was a lot of fun. They were so excited that they dashed from house to house like they were already hopped up on candy! I was actually a little chilly being outside for so long, even in my hoodie, but the kids weren’t affected at all. All they wanted was to fill their buckets with treats. I was completely wiped out when I went home at 9 PM, but trick or treating with the kids was the perfect way to end Halloween.

Saving the planet?

A couple of months ago I started going to the gym with a co-worker/friend/running buddy. We have been running together since the OC Half Marathon in May (more on that in another post) and her cross training habits inspired me to include other activities in my exercise routine. I haven’t even been to spin class in months, and resistance training has been extremely sparse for a number of years. So since I can’t survive on running alone, in early June I went to her gym as a guest to try it out. Most of the classes are Crossfit-style and have a different group of exercises each day. My first class was awkward and slightly embarrassing due to my lack of overall fitness an unfamiliarity with a lot of the exercises, but I kept going back. And now my friend and I are usually there three times a week. Not bad! But discussing my new workout schedule is not the reason I’m writing this post. When I showed up at my first gym class I brought a plastic bottle of Arrowhead water with me for hydration purposes. But when I looked around at all of the other attendees I noticed that everyone else had reusable bottles instead. I felt so wasteful! It was time for me to cut the cord with disposable water bottles. So over the next week I researched and ordered three different stainless steel bottles to use at work, at the gym, and while driving. All of them are insulated so I can keep the water cold longer, which is especially refreshing at the gym. And one of the bottles has a sippy cup lid which turned out to be a necessity after a couple of spillage incidents on my way to work. It’s important to hydrate safely while on the go! I’m pretty pleased with my purchases and I feel good about my little attempt to save the planet. Not more plastic water bottles in my life!

Dueling races

Last July registration for the 2016 Seal Beach 5K/10K opened for previous participants. Since I was sure I’d want to run my hometown race this year I signed up for the 10K to take advantage of the low price for early registrants. Fast forward six months to December when I discovered the Hollywood Half Marathon. Knowing that I wanted to run as many half marathons as possible in the spring I signed up for it without checking for conflicts on my race calendar (which I maintain on a wall calendar at work and in an Excel spreadsheet at home). Big mistake. Luckily the Seal Beach 10K registration fee was really low so I wasn’t that concerned about it. I forgot about my dueling races until about a week before they were both set to take place. To keep the registration from going to waste I offered my spot to a co-worker and he took it. He even went to the packet pickup himself to get the bib and shirt (which he was even able to exchange for his size). No effort required on my part! It was great. To augment my laziness, I also avoided having to drive up to Hollywood before the half marathon. Races that don’t have race day packet pickup are very annoying, especially if they require a significant drive to get there. I thought I’d have to make the miserable drive from Orange County to Hollywood, at least an hour each way, on either Thursday or Friday afternoon to get my bib and shirt for the Saturday morning race. Not a fun prospect. But then another co-worker offered to pick up my things on Friday since she was staying at hotel in the area overnight. How did I get so lucky? Two races and I didn’t have to lift a finger for either one before race morning!

On the morning of April 9th I drove up to Hollywood before 4 AM. (Not quite the way I prefer to start my weekends, but runners make sacrifices. Mostly sleep.) At that hour of the morning traffic was mercifully light so I got to the parking structure at Hollywood and Highland in record time. The bit of rain I encountered on the way made me nervous for the weather during the race. Running 13.1 miles in a downpour would be intolerable. I brought a poncho with me to prevent getting drenched beforehand, but I’d have to ditch it when the race started to avoid overheating. It seems that the prayers of all of the runners were answered because the skies granted us a reprieve…at least for a while. (And in the meantime the clouds kept the sun away.) I met up with my fantastic co-worker at the start line and got my bib that she’d picked up for me the day before, and we all started running around 6:30 AM. The rain held off until I was at about mile 10. It wasn’t ideal, but fortunately the rain was light enough to not cause serious problems (i.e., squishy shoes/socks or heavy, chafing clothes). My final time was slow, but respectable for me in my current circumstances. I’m still not in the greatest shape since getting injured so I was just happy to finish at all. It was my practice run for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge the next weekend at Disney World. More on that later!

#tbt – Funny story from Halloween

I went to Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland with some friends back in October. Since I didn’t have a proper Halloween costume I decided to just wear my Rapunzel running shirt with a flowered headband and my hair in a braid. It was barely an homage to a costume, but it was the best I could do on short notice. The shirt is purple and says “Rapunzel” on the front, with a long strand of blond hair printed on the back. The first group of friends I ran into that evening was a family with an adorable three year old daughter. They were all dressed as Monster’s Inc. characters which was awesome. My t-shirt-as-a-costume was lame in comparison, but it was far too warm for me to wear my Emperor Palpatine robe (pictured above at last year’s Halloween party – it was still too warm to wear it then as well). When the mom saw my shirt, here’s what she said to her daughter:

Mom: “Who is she dressed up as? What does her shirt say?”
*pause*
Mom: “Oh wait, you can’t read.”

This made me laugh so hard! It took mom a few seconds to remember that her daughter was only three years old and had no idea what my shirt said. Luckily the blonde hair printed on the back was enough for her to recognize that my “costume” was Rapunzel-inspired. Then she insisted that I accompany her on a roller coaster (child-friendly Gadget’s Go Coaster in Toon Town). It was the beginning of a great Halloween-themed evening at Disneyland with friends and their kids.

Christmas 2015

Christmas in Tallahassee this year included a lot of food, a lot of fun, and a bit of running in the record-breaking Florida heat. The first full day I spent in Tallahassee (December 23rd) we bought all of the groceries we needed for the holidays, had a delicious lunch at Smashburger, made some homemade lasagna for dinner (and many, many leftovers!), and took a walk in the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights. I even got all of my Christmas presents wrapped rather than leave them until the last minute, like I usually do. Not that wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve isn’t festive, but it’s pretty much the pinnacle of procrastination. On Christmas Eve my mom whipped up some homemade egg sandwiches for breakfast (my favorite), I bought stocking stuffers at Target, and went on a long walk at Maclay Gardens with both of my parents. It was unseasonably warm that week so it wasn’t the best weather for outdoor exercise, but I love to see the gardens anytime I can. We walked 4.5 miles today, which helped us work up an appetite for leftover lasagna for dinner. My mom and I also took a short walk in the neighborhood that night to see the Christmas lights on a different street. It’s a Christmas Eve tradition! Christmas Day was also full of traditions. A breakfast of my dad’s pancakes, my mom’s scrambled eggs, plus some bacon and fruit. It’s always one of the best meals I eat all year. The three of us opened Christmas presents while watching the Disney Christmas parade. Due to the hot and humid weather I didn’t think I’d get any running done while I was in Florida, but my dad and I braved the heat for a jog anyway. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, but I was sure glad I’d packed running shorts in my suitcase! Christmas dinner was another tradition – smoked turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, herbed corn bake (I need to post this recipe sometime), and green beans. Delicious. Dessert was my mom’s incomparable pecan pie (another recipe I need to post) and an experimental pumpkin and sweet potato pie from a magazine recipe that I doctored up a bit. The pecan pie was marvelous, as usual, but the other pie was only a marginal success. Some recipes are winners and others aren’t! Our last activity for Christmas Day was going to see “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.” I had been looking forward to that movie for months and I wasn’t disappointed. It was so good! The perfect end to the day. On December 26th we braved the mall in search of some post-Christmas deals. We had minimal luck, but it was still a good trip, with the added benefit of Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets for lunch. My dad and I went for another run that afternoon to burn off some holiday calories. And it’s a good thing too because we had leftovers from the previous day for dinner. That night we watched the extended edition of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (which I thought was far superior to the theatrical version) while I baked an eggnog cake for the next day. My last full day in Tallahassee was a mixed bag. First of all, I learned that broiling a pan of brownies doesn’t work as well as baking them. I should pay more attention when using ovens that aren’t my own! My dad and I had to go to the grocery store after that disaster to buy ingredients for another batch. We discovered that finding toffee chips after Christmas is not an easy task. No luck at either Publix or Target so we resorted to buying some mini Heath bars and chopping them in the food processor. Fortunately I got the second pan of brownies, including the improvised toffee chips, just right. I had some old friends from high school coming over for a little party that night so I made a big pot of chili for everyone. Seeing my friends was so much fun. We always talk, laugh, and eat a lot when we get together. We took care of that entire batch of chili! I was so glad we could all get together while I was in town. December 28th was the day I flew back to Los Angeles, but my dad and I still made time to go to a jog that morning. Without him my workout clothes wouldn’t have gotten any use on that trip! My parents and I had lunch at Burgerfi on the way to the airport. (This was the second gourmet hamburger place we went to since I don’t have the opportunity to visit them in California. Not the healthiest meal option, but very tasty!) My flight back to LA was uneventful and I got back to my house without any trouble. It was a great Christmas trip and I loved every minute of it.

Feeling famous

I missed the birthday party of my friend’s adorable daughter last Sunday because I was dead tired after the Star Wars half marathon. I felt pretty guilty about that, but my legs were like jelly after running 19.3 miles in two days. Luckily I brought home more than just my three race medals from Anaheim. The previous Friday my friend asked me to find a particular birthday present for her daughter – a BB-8 sippy cup from Disneyland. This was perfect since I was going to be spending the whole weekend there. So on Saturday I ate a big breakfast at Carnation CafĂ© after the Star Wars 10K, and then I walked over to Tomorrowland and bought a BB-8 sippy cup from Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port. Isn’t he just too cute? As I was toting him around Disneyland that day, sipping Cherry Coke out of the top of his head, I realized that all of the folks around me were looking at, pointing at, and talking about BB-8. It was crazy! I couldn’t believe how much attention he was getting from absolutely everyone. It was a $12 drink container, and unless Mickey Mouse himself appeared, easily the most popular thing in the parks. After a while I started carrying BB-8 with pride and enjoying all of the attention I was garnering on his behalf. I figured this experience was a little like being a celebrity. I felt famous! I don’t always leave Disneyland with such a memorable story so I wanted to share this one because it was so funny. Now I want my own BB-8 sippy cup!