Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thirty (five), flirty and thriving

Today is my 35th birthday, and it has me thinking of one of my all-time favorite movies: 13 Going on 30. If you haven't seen it (sadness) it's a 2004 film where a 13-year-old girl wants nothing more than to be grown up.  She wakes up one day in her own 30-year-old body (which, lucky for her, happens to be Jennifer Garner's body) while still mentally a teenager.  I remember being a little girl and wanting desperately to be a grown up. Sometimes I feel deliciously grown up like when I'm having dinner and a cocktail by myself in an airport. However at 13 nobody tells you about the mortgage payment or taking the dog to the vet or never actually having a snow day.  Despite that I wouldn't trade 35 for 30 or 25 or 13 for anything.

As I reflect on this milestone birthday (halfway to 70? Gulp.), I realize that this age is unlike any other.  I remember a decade ago I was in the midst of a long relationship ending, I had just graduated from law school with no job prospects, and I felt like I was drifting. I didn't know where I was going next, and I didn't have focus.  Now I have this life that isn't exactly what I'd imagined, and yet it's so much better. 

I am married to a man who is in every way my perfect partner. He's funny, he's smart, and he challenges me every day. I am blessed with a family who lets me be my independent self and yet who are always there when I need them. My friends are just awesome. The best, best friends I could ever imagine. I have pets who are crazy and yet complete our little family. I am fortunate to get to advocate every day for something that I truly believe in.  

I've always wanted to travel frequently, and we're blessed with a life that lets us go pretty much wherever and whenever we want.   I never imagined I'd be a runner, and yet running is such a huge part of who I am.  It's my sanity and my nemesis all in one, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Do I have all the answers at 35? Not even close. But I've gotten to a place in my life where I know what I want, and I'm going for it. I don't apologize for being a strong and audacious woman. Maybe 35 is the year that I get it all right, but at the very least it's going to be the best year I can make it. Now who wants to join me for a cocktail? Cheers to 35!    

Rocking it out at 35

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Get By With a Little Help From my Friends

William Shakespeare said, "A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."  I love this quote, and it's one that popped into my head after my third trip to Washington, D.C. this year to visit my best friend who recently moved back from overseas.

Over a decade ago I met Charlotte, and we became instant friends. You've had that, right? That person you meet and feel like you've known that person forever.  Our friendship has made it through some rocky patches - things like long distances and girl drama - and yet she is still my go to friend for all of life's triumphs and crises.  After her living overseas for several years, I'm so excited to have her back on the same continent, in the same time zone, just a quick direct flight to National Airport.

This is a friend who has always been so supportive of my running and even loaned me her fabulous pup for a quick run on Saturday.  She's also the friend who will call me out for eating something that we both know is bad for me. Our friendship has evolved a lot over the last decade with us both now being married, her having several children, my struggle to have children, and two busy careers. But through all of that she has remained a steadfast part of my support system that I can't imagine not having.

My Saturday running partner
My trip to D.C. was super fast (less than 48 hours), and it was filled with hanging out, lots of shopping, and seeing a movie (something we always do together). This  is the kind of refueling of my soul that helps me remain motivated through the craziness of life.

We'll be back in D.C. in October for the Marine Corps Marathon, and I can't wait to see her and our other D.C. friends again.  We have some amazing friends, and it's part of what has made this life we have so very rewarding. My 48 hour friendship refuel = total success.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Learning to Say No

I think saying "no" is something many of us struggle with. We want to be helpful, we want people to like us. I have a tendency to say yes to everything, and when my schedule is bursting at the seams I wonder how on earth that happened. I'm working hard at saying no more often, and I'm starting with baby showers.

I'm not a fan of showers in general - wedding showers or baby showers. I know the intention is good, but it's something that women are obligated to attend with and on behalf of other women, and they're mostly torture. I get the need for them, and I know that showers will never go away. But for the foreseeable future I will be saying no baby showers (with the rare exception of several good friends). 

Despite the significant number of my amazing friends who are having children (many are already having their second or third child), I haven't attended a baby shower in about two and a half years. The last one I attended was when we had just decided we wanted to adopt, and I was in a place of grieving the fact we wouldn't be having a baby biologically. At the shower I was seated with my friend's high school friends whom I'd never met. They all had children of various ages ranging from teenagers to a newborn. The mom of the newborn had clearly taken a long time to conceive, and she was particularly snarky to me making comments like, "You just don't get baby showers until you have a child of your own" and openly judging me for not having children. I left the shower, called my husband, and cried for most of the drive home. That was the last baby shower I attended, and I don't expect I'll attend another one any time soon.

I started thinking about this blog when I read last week that Jimmy Fallon and his wife had a five year struggle to have their daughter.  It made me think about the people I know who have struggled to start families and the extraordinary stress it puts on one's life.  I can't tell you the number of times I've gone for a run over the last 4-5 years, and it was fueled my hurt or disappointment about not having a baby. Being a running cityphile is who I am, but it's also helped me cope with this roller coaster.

There are lots of ways I need to start saying no, and I'm starting here. It's an easy first step.I love, love, love my friends. I've snuggled so many newborns the last few years, and I'll gladly do it again. I'll get pedicures with my friends before they give birth. I'll selflessly join them in having dessert (because I'm THAT nice). I'll walk a dog, watch a toddler, do whatever they need. I'll visit bearing appropriate and often extravagant gifts. Just please don't ask me to sit through your baby shower. Call me for wine once the little lovebug is here. I'm in. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Running/Life Balance

I love running (obviously), but I've made a conscious effort to fit running into my already busy life and NOT build my life around running. It can be challenging, especially when training for a marathon, but running is part of my life. It isn't my entire life.

Take this past weekend as an example. My sister, brother-in-law and niece came to Michigan to visit. They don't get up here very often (as a matter of fact it was my BIL's first time here), and I needed to get in a 12 mile long run over the weekend. I started thinking about them arriving Friday evening and how stressed I would be knowing I needed to run Saturday morning. So I got up at the crack of dawn on Friday and ran 12 miles before work. I was exhausted by lunch time, but my long run was finished. That meant enjoying gin and tonics Friday evening, walking around Michigan State's campus and sleeping in on Saturday morning.

I did get up on Sunday morning and ran a quick three miles before we headed to Greenfield Village for the afternoon, but it was a relief to have my long run completed. This week I'm heading to DC VERY early on Friday morning, and I'll be doing my 14 mile long run on Thursday to get it out of the way.

On the 100 year old carousel at Greenfield Village. I always get the frog!

A gorgeous day

With my sister, brother-in-law and niece
The run/life balance is critical for me. When I trained for the Detroit Marathon in 2010 I was so stressed about getting all of the miles in that it wasn't fun. It was stressful and exhausting, and it really made me want to take some time away from running. I did end up taking a few months off, and I had to reevaluate the kind of runner I want to be.

I'm never going to win a race, but I love running. For me it's about fitting it in my life in a way that makes sense. I want to have a few glasses of wine on the weekends. I want to sleep in sometimes. I want to go out to dinner with my husband even if that means shifting around my running schedule to do it a different time. In order to do that I have to be flexible with my running and cross training schedules. If I miss a run or a day cross training, I just adjust and make it work. I work to fit it in somewhere else, and sometimes I don't fit it in at all. But I don't let myself stress about it.

The things I love most about running these towns are taking in a new city, challenging myself in each and every race, and finishing strong while still smiling. When it stops becoming fun or taking over my life in a way that doesn't work, it no longer becomes worth it. I've struck a perfect running/life balance, and it's helped me really focus on what's important to me. Remind me of this balance on Thursday when I'm knocking out 14 miles before the sun comes up. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Do the Double!

Last weekend my husband and I took a rather impromptu trip to Indianapolis, only about three and a half hours south, to get away for a few days.  I also decided to sign up for the Double Road Race, a new way to race where runners run a 10k, have a "halftime" and then run a 5k.

We dropped our dogs off at the kennel and hightailed it to Indy.  It's an easy drive down I-69 through a lot of corn and...corn.  We dropped our stuff off at our hotel about a half a mile from downtown and immediately headed out to check things out.  Thanks to Yelp, lunch was a burger place, Punch Burger, downtown. I built my own turkey burger complete with guacamole and pico de gallo with (the kicker) sweet potato tots. It was the perfect way to introduce me to Indy.

After lunch we headed to the state capitol building. We are on a mission to see all 50 state capitol buildings, and we arrived at the Indiana State Capitol at 2:10, exactly ten minutes after it closed. That means we will require another trip to Indy for a state capitol do over.

We did get to see outside!
We explored downtown and were surprised at how few people were downtown for a city the size of Indy. The streets just a few blocks from the center of downtown were nearly deserted, but we found more people hanging out closer to the Indiana War Memorial, a downtown cornerstone.  We discovered the Indy Artsgarden, a cool space that has regular performers and artistic touches. It was connected to a downtown mall that was packed. It turns out the mall attracted all of the people, and they were out en masse.

Inside the Artsgarden
War Memorial in Downtown Indy
The Indianapolis City Market was an obvious destination, but in the mid-afternoon on Saturday most vendors were closed. That was disappointing, so we headed toward the professional sports stadiums where there appeared to be more people (and the end to a fun scavenger hunt). We stopped at the Tin Roof, a nearly empty joint (in the late afternoon) that clearly attracts a lively crowd during football and basketball games. We enjoyed a few cocktails before heading back to the hotel to change for dinner.

The Fountain Square neighborhood was recommended for dinner - in particular Bluebeard restaurant.  We walked to Bluebeard from our hotel, and it was absolutely incredible. When we were in Toronto a few months ago we fell in love with Richmond Station, and Bluebeard was close to that good. The cocktails were probably better. We shared a cheese platter and panzenella salad. To carb up I had shells and cheese with the best chicken I've ever had. Ever. It was incredible. The Moscow mule was a bit too ginger-y for my taste, but their John Daly cocktail was a-mazing. If I hadn't been running the next morning, I would've had several more.

At the Bluebeard. Incredible.
We turned in early for the race, and our wake up call came way too soon.  We walked about a mile to the start at the NCAA Hall of Champions. The race packet pick-up the day before was several miles outside of town, and we didn't want to deal with moving our car and driving again to get the packet. Pick-up the day of was VERY slow. It felt like we were waiting in line forever. 

The 10k race started shortly after. The race ran the same loop three times, and it was a bit taxing. It would be my largest criticism of the race - the course was very boring to run three loops. It also ended up being hotter than I thought it would be, and there wasn't a lot of shade.

Start of the 10k

Around the halfway point. Hot.

A strong finish.
My 10k time was one of the slowest I've done in several years, but given the upcoming 5k and the heat, I felt okay about it. The race hosted a recovery zone for runners with massage therapists and foam rollers. Unfortunately only runners were allowed, and after asking my husband to wait an hour I really didn't want to leave him outside while I pampered myself. I changed my socks (my knee-high compression socks were too hot), and we explored the NCAA Hall of Champions. It is actually a really fun space with lots of exhibits and interactive pieces.

Stretching (and changing socks) during halftime

Playing around in the NCAA Hall of Champions

I did some stretching, and before the 5k we noticed Sean Astin wandering around. You know the guy - Goonies? Rudy? It was one of those "wait a that...?" moments. He was sitting near us outside, and he graciously posed for pictures with fans. A super nice guy, and a dedicated runner.

So this totally happened.
Like the 10k, my 5k time was my slowest in years. The course felt like Groundhog Day, and I struggled in the final mile. But I did it, and I couldn't have been happier to have my medal and head back to the hotel. It felt good to shake out my legs during the walk.

Round 2!

Finishing the 5k...slowly.


On our way out of town we stopped for lunch at Maxine's Chicken and Waffles, a random spot essentially in a gas station. It was awesome. I am a sucker for southern food. There is no better way to round out 9.3 miles than with fried catfish and grits. My husband had the traditional chicken and waffles. The place was packed, and the service was so friendly.   

Indy was a bit of a surprising city. It feels like a big small town. We had no idea there were such fantastic foodie options in Indianapolis. It was a perfect weekend getaway. The Double Road Race was a new, fun challenge, and I look forward to our next trip to actually see the state capitol building. And of course we'll be heading back to Blackbeard.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Weekend Staycations

I think I like the idea of a staycation, but I am way too restless to stay in my house for too long. I'll end up cleaning and organizing the whole place (not that it doesn't need it). We travel so much on the weekends that I've considered the last few weekends at home staycations of sorts. We've essentially been home for four straight weekends (potentially a new world record for us), and we've gotten to discover all the fun things we can do in our adopted hometown.

This is random, but a few weekends ago we had some friends over for dinner and bought our dinner meat at Mert's Specialty Meats.  We've been hearing about Mert's for a while, and it turns out it's awesome. Maybe that doesn't seem like a fun thing to do on the weekend, but we love 1) entertaining and 2) food (not necessarily in that order), and their pork chops were delicious. Don't even get me started on the deliciousness of bacon and blue cheese stuffed burgers. I was the 1995 West Virginia State FFA meat judging champion (true thing), so I know good meat when I see it (insert joke here). Seriously - that's a true story, and we are now Mert's addicts. If it weren't for these weekends at home we probably still would not have discovered Mert's awesomeness.

Celebrating meat judging awesomeness in 1995
I'm now fully immersed in training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so my Saturday mornings start with a long run. Last weekend I ran 10 miles on a beautiful morning along the Grand River on Michigan State's campus. I've got three months of training to go, but if every run was like the last few, it will be a good few months.  

After my run we attended the World Dwarf Games at Michigan State (seriously - that's also a thing). We've known about the games for a while, so we thought we'd check it out. We went on track and field day, and it turns out that it's really an incredibly inspiring event.  There are not just adults competing - there were also children. There was a running category for kids six and under. That's so young - and these kids were rocking it out. One heat had a young (under six) child who freaked out and ran back into his mom's arms at the starting line. It was adorable.  This crowd and these contestants were just awesome. We were so touched by the event, and it was great to have competitors and families from all over the world converge on the Lansing area. The World Dwarf Games...who knew?

Awards ceremony at the games
Later in the day we headed to Old Town Lansing for JazzFest. We'd never been to this free event in one of Lansing's coolest neighborhoods, so we headed out with one of our friends. We were invited to a reception that featured the owner (and he's a sommelier) from the newly reopened Zoobies Old Town Tavern. We had great wine and a really fun time. I haven't been to Zoobies yet, but everyone I know has been raving about it. I plan to rectify that situation later this week. 

With my girlfriend at JazzFest
On our way out of Old Town we popped into this cool and quirky store - Love, Betti.  Speaking of love, I am now in love with this awesome store.  The furniture was gorgeous, and it was filled with tons of fun accessories, clothes, and lots of eclectic gifts and items. We will be back to buy a well priced console radio because we are that weird.

It is hard to beat delicious meat, wine, cocktails, quirky wares and athletic events, so Sundays are filled with more sedate things like grocery shopping and yard work.  It's been strange for us to be home so many weekends in a row, but it's been nice to just enjoy the greater Lansing area for a change.  I don't imagine, however, that this weekend staycation trend will continue. Where should we go next? 


Friday, August 2, 2013

Life is short; wear the cute shoes.

This isn't my first post about the dressing for success, but I like it so much that I wanted to do another one. I like shoes. And clothes. A lot. I enjoy shopping, and traveling, and running. It's a rough life. I have a goal to be the best dressed runner at every race I'm running. I mostly succeed. I work hard at picking out something cute to wear for a race (I already know what I'm wearing for Marine Corps), and I think it's important. For me I love being a runner, but just as I do in the rest of my life I have to do it with style. Life, afterall, is too short to not spend it looking like I've got it together.

One of my fav race outfits from the Cherry Blossom 10-miler earlier this year
I am a loyal follower of "What Not to Wear" (sadly in its last season), and I continue to be amazed at the number of people who think the way they dress is not important. When people see you, the first thing they see if you appearance. And if you look like a hot mess, they will assume you're a hot mess. Maybe carrying my must look adorable philosophy to running is a little much, but I love wearing a cute running outfit. Even during my training runs I am wearing something that works for me functionally as a runner but also is super cute.

I heart a running skirt and compression socks.

Life is about always being the best version of myself that I can be in whatever I'm trying to accomplish. And doing that without wearing an outfit that is appropriate and together just doesn't make sense. I pick outfits for special occasions weeks in advance. If I have a work event, a unique social event or a race, I know what I'm wearing long before the event happens. I'm going to a country music concert on my birthday in about a month, and I have an outfit picked out (now all I need is the perfect cowboy boots).

I got more compliments on these arms sleeves than perhaps any race outfit I've ever worn.
I'm sure there are those of you reading this who think this is ridiculous, and that's fine. But I will tell you that when I feel good about the way I look (in particular what I'm wearing), I can accomplish anything. I may never run a winning marathon, but I will go further and faster looking the part and feeling good about myself. My feet may hurt from wearing heels all the time, and I may not always feel like rocking a cute dress. But at the end of the day it's the same philosophy as a good run - I may not feel like it, but I'll never regret it.

One of my many running skirts. This is perhaps a little out of control.
Ladies and gentlemen take my advice and wear the cute shoes. Or dress. Or blouse. You'll feel amazing, and you'll be surprised at where the cute shoes can take you.