Categories
Food Travel

Charm City Memorial Day

My Memorial Day weekend was a healthy and active one, chock-full of sweat-inducing activities like baseball, running and lifting.

That is, (watching) baseball, running (errands) and lifting (pints of hard cider to my sun-parched lips.) To be fair, it was sweat-inducing, but only because the temperatures held above 90 degrees for three days straight.

Ok, so it wasn’t my most athletic weekend to date. But at least I ate well over the holiday, forgoing traditional picnic fare in favor of something light.

You’ve got to let me finish. What I meant to say was forgoing traditional picnic fare in favor of something light…ly battered and fried. (Though more often heavily battered and fried.) It’s true: my usually good habits went by the wayside this weekend as I celebrated the unofficial start of summer. Considering the sheer volume of Old Bay fries that made it past these lips at Oriole Park on Saturday afternoon, it’s a small feat in itself that I walked away from the holiday weekend with a pulse.

I also walked away from the holiday weekend with a newfound respect for puppy owners – and a surprise appreciation for my dog-free life. I was the primary caretaker of a toddler goldendoodle these past few days, and while I’ll be the first to admit she’s the cutest mixed breed in Delmarva, I’m not a big fan of the 3 a.m. wake up calls or the lunging sneak attacks – a combination of which is depicted below:

This is a snapshot I took while being violently attacked in the early hours of the morning. I think they were love bites, but my bleeding extremities think otherwise.

Tell me how your Memorial Day weekend compared. Unless you’re a Kansas City Royals fan, in which case, we’re in a fight.

Categories
Running Training

Running in the Real World

Most of my recent posts have been poorly concealed excuses to mass-distribute photos of my brother’s new puppy.

“I’m on a boat.”

What? Weird. How did that get in here?

But in an attempt to keep my apparent cynophilia (important disclaimer: means fondness for dogs, not sexual attraction to dogs, no matter what the internet says) at bay, I’m going to break from that trend today and instead pass on some real, honest-to-goodness running advice.

And not just any advice. Solicited advice! Over the weekend, I received an e-mail from a friend of a friend asking how best to negotiate simultaneous marathon training and full-time employment. A student nine months of the year, this runner has been fortunate enough to train for two half marathons on a flexible schedule, but her debut marathon training is inconveniently slated to coincide with her return to the working world.

I am nervous because that really restricts the times that I’ll be able to run. Before, if I didn’t get myself out of bed in time to run in the morning, it was okay because there would be time later in the day,” she wrote. “P.S. Let me share with you some humiliating law school stories about our mutual friend that you should absolutely post to your blog.” More on those later.

Well, Sarah, here’s my response to you: your question is a good one, but your anxiety is fortunately misplaced. That’s because training for a long race is most successful when done on a schedule, and working full-time is inherently a scheduled activity. Sounds counterintuitive, but I firmly believe it’s true: training while employed is actually a good thing when it comes to consistency, performance and improvement.

That said, there are only so many hours in the day, so anytime you can plan ahead to get the most out of your scheduled workouts, the better. Here are some strategies that have worked for me.

  • Run early. It’s tempting to postpone a workout until after the markets close, but running first thing in the morning has major benefits. It wakes you up, allows you to beat the heat and leaves your evenings free for surprise rooftop happy hours and/or Chopped marathons. Setting a daily alarm for 6 a.m. may initially sound more torturous than dinner at the Times Square Applebees, but after three weeks, you’ll be adjusted to the time difference and lacing up in your sleep.
  • Be flexible. Can’t squeeze in a 10-miler before work on Wednesday? Plan ahead and do it Monday when you know you’re going to be better rested. Or push it back to Thursday. It’s important to factor in some easy days on either side of your weekend long run, but the rest of your scheduled runs can be a little more fluid. In fact, you can even break up a mid-week run into two separate sessions. Can’t do 10 miles before work? Do six in the morning and a quick four once the day ends. Don’t break up your long weekend runs like this, since they’re crucial for building stamina, but your long weekday runs can be a little less rigid.
  • Get creative. I’m not going to lie – it is going to be challenging to train for a marathon, work full-time and maintain a social life all at the same time this summer. But if you can combine two of those items from time to time, you’re literally (said like Chris Traeger) creating extra hours in the day. For example, combine social time and a workout by going for a run with a friend. Or if your office has a shower area and/or you miraculously don’t sweat, combine work and running by sneaking out for a few quick miles during lunch. You can even try run-commuting if you feel particularly brave, although my experiences so far have been harrowing. Thank you again, New York tourists, for hogging the sidewalks. Your service is an important one.

Any more questions for the resident runner? If so, you can reach me at rileduprunner@gmail.com or the nearest puppy store.

Categories
Races Running Travel

I Won’t Mess with Texas

I usually limit my lists to trifectas, since most things – holy trinities, blind mice, Hanson brothers, etc. – are better in threes. But since everything is bigger in Texas, I’m going to break from tradition here and dabble into the double digits. So without further ado, I bring you:

The Top 10 Things I Like About Texas

10. Every single time you tell someone you’re from Manhattan, you’re magically transported into an early 90s salsa commercial.

9. The healthy dairy option at Starbucks is 2% milk. And it’s delicious.

8. The City of Denton advertises its local 5K on a giant, orange truck.

7. You can win third place (female) in the afore mentioned 5K by running not particularly fast. My Saturday morning race only had 400 participants, plus a mascot, meaning my non-spectacular-by-NYC-standards 7:44 pace was actually fast enough to earn me a medal. Thanks, Texas! Thanks also for the brisket you distributed at the end of the race at 8:30 a.m.

6. Brisket.

5. When you rent an inner-tube at a classy establishment dubbed “Hillbilly Haven,” they throw in a separate “beer inner-tube” for free. Good thing, too. My beer never learned to swim.

4. Old-fashioned tractor festivals that you decide to attend after seeing the event advertised on a giant, orange truck.

3. All of its movie theaters have waiters, tables and full menus.

2. And those menus include spicy, fried pickles. Come on, New York. Keep up.

1. This girl.

I usually end my posts with a question, so here’s one for you. New York: why should I ever come home?

Categories
Travel

Dallas, Here I Come

My sister has planned a ridiculously fun itinerary for us in Texas this weekend, which is surprising, because we’re always so serious when we’re together.

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Yes, I had a pretty sweet haircut as a child and yes, I’m thinking about bringing it back.

The tentative schedule that arrived in my inbox this morning came complete with activities like “BBQ dinner” and “drinking on inner-tubes” and, oh yeah, “Moonlight Festival and Outhouse Races.” As you are all aware, outhouse races are my all-time favorite pastime. To quote an over-caffeinated Jessie Spano, I’m so excited.

I’m also running a 5K tomorrow morning for good measure. That’s the only item on the agenda I’m kind of skeptical about, but I can’t really complain because I brought that one on myself.

Speaking of skepticism, gratuitous adorable photo, anyone? Done.

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How will you try – and likely fail – to top my epic weekend plans?

Categories
Races Recipes

Weekend Warrior

It’s both startling and invigorating how quickly the world around us can change.

But don’t believe me. Just ask Central Park.

A lush and silent oasis at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, the Sheep’s Meadow was almost unrecognizable by the time I returned with picnic in tow seven short hours later.

The songbirds had been replaced with Corona peddlers eager to sell an illegal libation in a paper bag, but the skyline – and my unyielding affection for this particular sanctuary in the city – was the same. To quote the famous French proverb I totally can’t pronounce, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”) Also, voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir. Congratulations. You now know the extent of my French.

Waking up before 7 a.m. is usually a luxury I reserve for the working week, but a 10K in Central Park is not something I like to miss, especially when it’s 65 degrees out and there’s a $25,000 cash prize at stake. (Spoiler alert: it did not go to me.) The purse size did, however, attract a number of leading global competitors, including U.S. Men’s 2012 Olympic Marathon team Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman, making for an exciting event all around.

I arrived at the starting line Saturday still riding my runner’s high from Broad Street, and while I wasn’t sure I’d be able to maintain the 7:47 pace I’d achieved in Philadelphia on Central Park’s cliff-like hills, I was optimistic I might be able to walk (hobble?) away with my first sub-50:00 10K. I squeezed into the orange-bib corral and – what do you know? – came face to face with Leigh-Ann, one of my favorite NYC runners ever. A speedster of an athlete with – you know, whatever – four Marine Corps Marathons under her belt, I knew I’d be infinitely more likely to reach my target race pace with her by my side.

And I did! I crossed the finish line at 48:53 for a 7:53 pace and a new PR. The UAE Healthy Kidney 10K’s 1st place winner Daniele Meucci only beat me by 20 minutes and half a year’s salary. No big deal.

Another great thing about this weekend? This surprise view from the West Side.

I know I tell you this all the time, but New York, I love you.

How did you milk every last second out of this beautiful weekend?

Categories
Races Running Travel

Coming Soon to a City Near You

As Woody Allen once famously said: “A running career is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And then all you have on your hands is a dead shark.”

Oh wait. Maybe he said that about relationships, not running. It’s hard to be sure. Mr. Allen is clearly an expert in both.

Either way, I have decided to take this minced idiom to heart and shake things up in the months ahead. While that could mean adding more hill work or upping my interval training, I’m taking the “movement” piece a bit more literally: I’m taking my racing schedule on the road.

I’ve run a handful of miles this spring in such far-flung locales as Virginia and Rhode Island, going so far as to even log a few terrifying laps in the sidewalk-free wonder that is Alabama. But I’ve yet to toe an official race course in any time zone outside the Eastern Standard one, and for fear of repeating yet another loop of Central Park and/or killing a metaphorical shark, I’ve decided it’s about time to take my Asics westward.

First up is Denton, Texas, home to both my favorite older sibling and the world famous 3rd Annual DATCU Dash. (DATCU stands for the Denton-Area Teachers Credit Union, but I’m sure you knew that, considering how world famous its annual 5K race is and everything.) My sister isn’t convinced an 8 a.m. road race is the best way to begin our first weekend together since Christmas, but I figure it’s 1. A good way to see her new community and 2. Justification for the slab of BBQ ribs I plan to have consumed by 8:35 a.m.

Next on the tour is the Pacific Coast, where I’ve registered to run a half marathon with one of my best friends ever in the famously flat city of San Francisco. At least the late morning start time will allow us to enjoy a leisurely morning in the Bay Area before pinning on our bibs… oh wait – never mind – the first wave begins at 5:30 a.m. That’s it. I’m calling in sick. (Just kidding, Mere. I’m psyched. Mostly for post-race Napa Valley, but also to run 13.1 miles holding your hand.)

And third on my cross-continental race schedule is – your town! I haven’t yet decided where else my travels will take me this summer, so if you’re running an event and need a partner to help you carb load and keep your couch company, let me know. My traveling shoes are already laced up.

Where else should I race this summer?  Let the bidding begin!

Categories
Races Running Travel

Philadelphia for the Win

The City of Brotherly Love sometimes gets a bad rap. For example: If you’ve seen Philadelphia, you watched a young Tom Hanks ousted from his homophobic law firm for contracting AIDS. If you’ve seen The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you witnessed a couple of guys who were up to no good start making trouble in the neighborhood. If you’ve seen Rocky, you learned its art museum has entirely too many stairs.

But Philadelphia, despite your poor decision to locate all four sports stadiums in the same logistical nightmare of a complex and your infamously sweltering summer of 1776, I salute you.

That’s because you throw the best, darn 10-mile race on this side of the Mississippi. Or maybe on both sides. I’m going to have to check with California and get back to you on that.

You also house three of my favorite people in the entire history of the United States.

Yes, this was taken at the top of the Rocky stairs. No, we did not walk up them. Don’t judge us.

I’d gladly travel to the Quaker City any day of the week to see these brilliant friends of mine, but this weekend’s visit was centered around one event in particular that’s near and dear to my heart: the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. As you may recall, the 2011 Broad Street Run was my first racing experience as a fledgling athlete, and while my initial participation was at best reluctant and at worst coerced, my eventual five-month training and 1:33.23 race time instilled in me a surprise love for the sport that’s still burning strong today.

Anxious to relive the excitement of last year’s festivities and measure how far I’ve come in the course of a year, I registered again for this year’s run, booked a round-trip ticket to The City that Loves You Back* and arrived on Carrie and Keirnan’s doorstep Friday night primed for a weekend of mayhem and/or extreme physical fitness.

*Listed as a nickname for Philadelphia on Wikipedia. May or may not be accurate, but we’re going with it.

And it was glorious. Although a solid two-thirds of the weekend was spent waiting in lines – queuing up behind 1,000s of runners at the Saturday morning expo, queuing up behind 100s of art enthusiasts at a killer van Gogh exhibit, queuing up all alone to snuggle with Laura on a comically large bean bag chair – the time spent in single file was time spent with friends, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world and/or more boxed wine.

But as much fun as we had Friday and Saturday, the main event this morning really took the cake.

It’s been a hard couple of weeks for a whole host of reasons – not the least of which has been my unbridled envy surrounding my brother’s adoption of the best looking mutt I’ve ever seen – so when I toed the starting line this morning, I had big plans to harvest that emotion, go out hard and leave it all on the race course. (Your strategy was to run fast? How novel.)

Turns out, that’s a strategy for success. But don’t just believe me. Ask the 16 minutes I shaved off between last year and today.

I had been targeting a 82-minute finish – which would have been an 11-minute year-over-year improvement and certainly nothing to scoff at – but as the starting gun went off, I felt strong and quick and ready to really push myself. So I did. And it freaking paid off. It also justified the giant soft pretzel waiting for me at the finish line. It probably should have been a cheesesteak, but I’m not complaining (much).

Where did your weekend take you? Answers can be literal (i.e. to Philadelphia) or figurative (i.e. to a state of utter exhaustion and contentment, likely culminating in an hour-long massage. Right. About. Now.)

Categories
Food

Mongolian in Michigan

Hello from Dearborn, Michigan, both home to the largest Middle Eastern population outside of the Middle East, according to my taxi driver, and home to a pretty anticlimactic hotel room view, according to my pretty anticlimactic hotel room view.

I may be visiting this industrial suburb of Detroit for work, but I was fortunate enough to also get to meet up with my godmother and a duo of my Great Lakes State cousins last night for dinner. And not just any dinner: an authentic Mongolian dinner.

Now I don’t know much about Mongolia compared to, say, a Mongolian, but seeing as my (significantly more adventurous) sister lived in that landlocked Asian republic for the last several years of my adult life, I’m pretty sure I qualified as the chief Mongolian expert at the restaurant last night. And while I could be wrong, I’m not 100-percent sure this dish on the menu really exuded the culinary offerings of the land of Genghis Khan.

Maybe if you made some quick substitutions. “Served on a cookie crust and topped with HERSHEY’s horse fudge.” Mmm.