Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pikes Peak Challenge 2011, Part 1: Pre-hike travel

Welcome to the first of several installments recapping my recent trip to Colorado Springs for the Pikes Peak Challenge, a 13.1 mile hike to the summit and fundraiser for the Brain Injury Alliance. 

Packing for the trip was easy, but wow did I have a lot of gear!
Hiking boots, long pants, a buttload of sporty clothing, wool socks.
Headlamp (yes, really), sunglasses (not to be worn at the same time as the headlamp), hat and gloves for once we hit the higher altitude. IT Band strap for ol' righty (my nickname for my drama queen knee).
And my favorite part of the gear: FOOD! Various gels, bars, bloks, some coconut water, and a baggie of just-in-case meds: ibuprofen and motion sickness medicine. Neither of which will do you any good in easing the symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness). More on that later...

Anyhow, once I was packed I headed straight to the airport, because I'm constantly doing things last-minute. Once I checked in and got through security, there were 45 minutes until boarding time, and I decided to get a quick bite to eat at Nonna Bartolotta's, run by the Bartolotta Restaurant Group. We work with the company on several special events each year and I'd heard great things, but had been waiting for the right opportunity and travel itinerary to out Nonna's.  There was plenty of room at the bar, which had an outlet for me to charge my iPhone and get my laptop juiced up. Speaking of juice...
Knowing that the Bartolottas chose the wine list, I figured I had to try a glass. I went for a pinot grigio and was poured a generous glass. It was perfectly chilled, and hit the spot.

I also ordered the veggie pizza off of the menu, and was pleased when it arrived: piping hot, with lots of fresh vegetables and basil chiffonade. And the taste? Delicious!
With pizza, I'm very picky about sauces and crust. Both passed my test, and were absolutely delectable. It was great that this pizza was healthier than anticipated, too. 
Classy, no? 

After enjoying the meal, it was time to hop on the plane. I took advantage of the DirectTV on the flight and did what every good Wisconsinite should do on an airplane: watch a Packers game. It was the season opener, and The Pack played an epic game. After all, they are the Super Bowl champions...
Watching football on a plane was pretty fun, about half of the other passengers also had the game on and were cheering, high-fiving after touchdowns and questioning bad calls. 

Did I mention there were cookies? I love Frontier Airlines. 
The flight flew by (pun intended) and soon I was in Denver, then a short ride later I was in Colorado Springs, getting the best hug ever from my sister! 

We headed to Shuga's, where we caught up on sisterly topics over (more) wine. It was the perfect way to relax after an evening of travel, with one of my very favorite people.
Coming up next: The Pikes Peak Challenge pre-hike rally, hike recap and photos.

You do the talking: What's your jet-set style? Do you like to lounge at the airport bar, or head to the gate right away? I have only enjoyed airport lounges a couple of times, and the nice glass of wine definitely had me feeling less anxious on my flight. As was the case for this trip, I typically travel alone, and prefer to hang out at the gate vs. a social setting.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ready as I'm gonna be.

Friends of the Blogosphere - hope that you are having a great weekend.

I've had the opportunity to take things (relatively) easy this weekend, starting with a Friday night Brewers game with Zak and my parents. It turned out to be the biggest night to be at Miller Park this season, because they won the game, clinching their post-season playoffs spot - and then the entire stadium stayed to watch the Cardinals lose to the Cubs... which meant the Brewers won the division title!
Everyone in the stadium was cheering and shouting, hugging strangers and jumping around, with fireworks, confetti and champagne in the air. It was a pretty awesome  collective experience, one that I'll never forget! The Brewers haven't won the central title since 1982, so this is a huge deal for the city. There will be a public rally this week, which I think I may be obliged to check out.

Saturday started off with a final long run before the marathon next weekend. I was supposed to do 8 miles, ended up doing 5, and am okay with that despite the fact it's not really a long run, comparatively. I haven't written much about marathon training, and I'm not going to lie, it's been rough. In a physically draining way, and in an I've been too embarrassed to write about my experience on my blog type of way. I'm glad that the event is next weekend and am glad to have the training experience under my belt. I'm as ready as I'm gonna be!

Today, I spent a few hours out in the woods with Chance, trail riding. The time outdoors was just what I needed - the weather cool and cloudy, the foliage just on the brink of changing colors. So refreshing and energizing. This evening will be about making a healthy dinner, and perhaps baking something. 

I don't know about the rest of you, but this month has flown by. I've got a ton of catching up to do on here - a recap of my Colorado trip and the Pikes Peak Challenge (it was more difficult this year!), some fun concert stories, and a playlist to share with you. I look forward to getting back on a regular posting schedule this week!
You do the talking: How has your weekend been? What's your favorite autumn outdoor activity? Have you ever trained for a marathon and isn't it freaking hard?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Psyching yourself up for long runs

Tonight, as I work from my laptop in the dark, sitting at a table under a big tent at the our outdoor movie series, and semi-watching "The Big Lebowski" on the big screen, I have begun the long and arduous process of psyching myself up. 

You see, I have to run a ridiculous amount of miles tomorrow, and I am anxious to say the least. Some of the thoughts running through my mind:

My IT Band isn't going to let me run 20 miles. 
I could really use my foam roller right now.
Why didn't I think to bring an ice pack to ice my knee while at work?
I'm up too late already; I shouldn't be working right now, I should be home and in bed.
Crap, I still haven't had dinner. 
I won't be fueled properly tomorrow morning.
What am I going to eat for dinner when I get home after 10PM tonight?
I should be chugging water right now. My bottle is almost empty.
Why am I blogging right now? Clearly there are other things I should be taking care of.
Wish I could have a beer. Everyone around me is drinking beer.
No, I wish I could have a White Russian. Nothing goes better with "The Big Lebowski" than White Russians. 
Nope, can't, gotta prep the bod for running twenty f*cking miles tomorrow morning.

Doesn't that all sound nice? 

Onward and upward - I thought I'd share some insight on how oneself can psych themselves up for a long distance run. 

Divide the distance into smaller sections. 
This tip comes to me from my wise runner friend Sheila. She told me to envision the 20 miles tomorrow as four 5-milers instead, mentally dividing each section.

Take in the scenery.
One of the things that I love most about long runs is looking around and taking in all of the details of where I am, and how different some places look on foot versus traveling in a car. When I ran across the Hoan bridge as part of a half marathon this summer, I was blown away by how different things looked... the bridge almost felt smaller than when I drive across it. By distracting yourself with the pretty scenery, the miles don't feel quite as long.
Think about your real reasons for running.
Sure, we all run for various surface reasons, but think about those deep down reasons that you're out there pounding the pavement. What is truly motivating you? For me, it's a combination of reasons... one big one is to get out there and just be. Running slows life down to each minute, each breath. That resonates with me. Some reasons are more personal, and I often think about them and how I'm honoring them when I'm out there on a long run. Whatever your reasons, thinking about them puts your body into auto-pilot.

Distract yourself with your favorite fuel.
I know that many people are against using food as reward, but I absolutely do this and it works for me. What can I say, I really really love snacks. Plus, when you're out on a long run, you need to take in calories to keep your energy levels up. In addition to your requisite gels or other endurance formula stuff (enough to cover your fuel needs for the run), sneak a few pieces of your favorite sugary candy in your fuel belt, or some pretzels or crackers. I don't know about you, but a 20-mile run seems more fun if a few Sour Patch Kids will be awarded at the halfway point. 

Bring along kick-ass music.
My secret to endurance running: music. Obviously you've got to be careful about where you wear headphones; you should exercise extreme caution if using them while outdoors, and alone. That said, it's incredible what a killer playlist can do for your workout. This is no new advice, I think pretty much everyone runs with some sort of music, however consider this angle: change up your music to suit your mood. I've found that classic rock songs about America or freedom motivate me more than anything else. What started with a cheesy playlist for a Fourth of July tailgate party is now my go-to soundtrack for running! Tom Petty's "American Girl," Neil Diamond's "America," Don McLean's "American Pie." A little tacky, but it works for me. Who knew? Plus, because these songs are of epic length, they take up more space on my playlist and help to pass the time. 

After tonight's movie at work, I am feelin' the need to build a playlist based on "The Big Lebowski" soundtrack... anyone? "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" would be awesome... or how about Gipsy Kings's "Hotel California?"
You do the talking: What are your tips for psyching yourself up for long runs? 
And, what's your favorite sugary candy? I am partial to Sour Patch Kids, but also love Hairbo gummy bears and generic candied fruit slices, all three of which I plan on bringing with for the Pikes Peak Challenge next weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1st; but first...

Can someone tell me how it's already September? I mean, really? Last time I checked, it was mid-July. I think I got sucked into a vortex of work, concerts and marathon training and somehow landed on September 1st. Yikes!

In all seriousness, I love September. The weather is usually remains summer-like around here, with the bonus of the beautiful changing colors of the leaves. I've always enjoyed raking leaves outside, and this year I'll have the company of two dogs in the yard instead of just one. I can't wait to take photos of Clay and Blue playing in the leaf piles.

Trail riding on horseback is always pleasant in the fall, and I imagine my long runs on the city trail will be as well. All of those colors, that delicious leaf smell in the air, plus slightly cooler temperatures? Bring it on, September.

Tonight (actually, right now) we have TV on the Radio, who in my opinion are one of the most creative bands in indie rock. Their live show is as incredible as people have described to me, and this is the first time they've ever played one of our venues. Plus, they have a trombonist for the tour, which is awesome because back in middle school I played that instrument. I've got mad love for the 'bones! 
I should really get inside the theater and enjoy the show, but I've seen so many "September Goal" type posts that I'm inspired to write my own. So here ya go - Seven goals for September:

1. Give the final month of marathon training my best. 
I haven't written much about it on the blog, but I've been training for a marathon since late May. There haven't been too many "I love this!" moments, which I have found to be discouraging, but nobody said that I have to do another marathon after I complete this one. The main reason I'm doing it is to accomplish another marathon before my 30th birthday in December. 
For the final 4 weeks leading to the marathon (October 2), my goal is to treat each training run like it's individually important: fueling and hydrating properly leading up to the run and afterwards, and stretching / icing immediately afterwards. Since I've been running so much, I've become sloppy with some of the details, and in these final weeks it will be important to re-focus and become methodical with all of these elements. 

2. Give marathon training a rest... literally
Yes, that's right. On the rest days of my marathon training plan, I need to actually rest and not attempt to do one million things besides training. In the past month I've only watched 1.5 movies, and have taken zero naps. Something is wrong with this picture! Isn't one of the best parts about heavy training plans, taking naps? I've been missing out!

3. Bring back date night
I feel like this one has been on my list every month for forever (aka the entire seven years Zak and I have been together) and I'm determined to get it right this month. Dates are important to resuscitate romance in a long-term relationship between two busy people. I would love to finally go out for our anniversary (which was about 4 weeks ago). I can't remember the last time I got all dolled up for no other reason than date night! A minimum of one date for September is my goal.

4. Try cooking with new (to me) foods
I'm looking at you, box of quinoa that's sat on the shelf for three months! I really want to try making quinoa, it's nutrient-dense and a great source of protein for vegetarians. There are a ton of killer blog recipes and I'd like to try a few. I would also like to make the Mmmm Sauce everyone keeps talking about, and something with eggplant. 

5. S-t-r-e-t-c-h more frequently
I won't go into too much detail here - I pretty much need to stretch 5x more than I am currently. I feel like a tight rubber band most of the time, which is not comfortable or cute. This girl needs some yoga back in her life!

6. Figure out what the hell I want to do with the next five years of my life
Okay, this is an ambitious goal, and obviously I can't plan something like this out. But what I can do is realistically outline some things that I'd like to have happen within the next five years. I would like to realize my vision for this next chapter of my life. Lululemon has a neat goal-setting worksheet that employees work with, I may use this tool to help with this goal.

7. Spend more time with family
When my work schedule gets crazy, family time becomes more difficult. When this happens, It makes me feel like a bad daughter / sister / not-in-law to Zak's family (since he and I aren't married). 
This month, I want to schedule some time with my family - my parents, especially - so that I have that to look forward to. Grilling out at my parents house? A Brewers game? Sounds great! Also, I'll be visiting my sister for 4.5 days next week, which will be relaxing and just what we need for our sisterhood. In fact, next week at this time, my plane will already have landed at Colorado Springs and we'll be hanging out at her apartment! I can't wait, it will be so fun to hike together during the Pikes Peak Challenge again as well.
So there you have it, these are my goals that I'll work on this month. What will you focus on during September?