Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Visiting Baltimore and Washington DC

A few months ago one of my very best friends invited me to visit her and her husband in Baltimore and run a 10k with them.  It was to be their first 10k and they knew I'd enjoy running in a new city.  I jumped at the invite and booked the trip.  The race was the Sole of the City 10k on April 12.

Here we are before the race and after.  It was an amazing course that started and finished in McHenry Row where there were restaurants, bathrooms, and shopping.  The course was different from the first two years of the race and this year there wasn't an awful hill right into the finish line.  The course was for the most part flat except from a short uphill portion that included some cobble stone.  Not cool.


Because of the amazing weather that morning and the flat course I was able to finish with my best time: 56:24 putting me in 815th place overall.  My pace was 9:06/mile.  I really wanted to beat 55 minutes, but I'm not at all disappointed in how I ran.  I cut 3:20 from my last 10k race in February - not too bad!  It was also fun to get to see so much of the city while we ran.  Hopefully next year they do a few waves at the start.  There were over 3000 runners and the first mile and a half was a lot of dodging and weaving.  Connie and Marc loved the race atmosphere and the 10k distance and are already looking for their next race.

After the race we grabbed some brunch and walked around a little bit more then headed back to their place.  That evening we went to a Baltimore Orioles game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The baseball fan in me loved seeing a new ball field, Camden Yards.  The long, brick building that is behind the scoreboard is actually party of the stadium and where all of the team offices are located.  We had great seats for the game and every now and then a foul ball would head in our direction.  The Braves and Orioles are in different divisions so I can't even remember the last time we played them. 

Sunday we decided to head into Washington DC to check out the last day of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  We drove about 30 minutes to a train station and then took the train in the rest of the way.  

Some of the trees were in full bloom and some of them were a day or two past full bloom, but it was beautiful.  The weather on Sunday was also amazing making the afternoon even more enjoyable.  The crowd was unbelievable, but still organized.  

We started by the Smithsonian and walked towards the Washington Monument and then to the Tidal Basin to walk around to the Jefferson Memorial.  

In all of my previous trips to DC I'd never walked around the water or over to the Jefferson Memorial.   Once we got to the Memorial the view back to the Washington Monument was breathtaking, especially with all of the cherry blossoms and the perfect weather.

Pink shades from Connie's wedding back in September. 

Inside the Memorial the statue of Thomas Jefferson was much larger than I expected it to be.  The walls were inscribed with some of his most famous quotes.  

Our last stop on our walking tour was over to the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial.

The lady on the bike wasn't moving, so there she is in my picture.  He looks out over the water, towards the Jefferson Memorial, and I wish I had taken a picture of that direction.  It is a beautiful stop along the water and much larger than I expected it to be.  

We didn't have time, and our feet were killing us, to make it across to the Vietnam Memorial so I'll have to go by there next time I visit.  The Holocaust Museum is also on my list for the next trip along with all of the other museums.  I think Vietnam and the Holocaust in one weekend will be heavy, but totally necessary.  I wish I had visited DC when I was a kid, there is so much to see, but I'm also glad that as I'm seeing these monuments and memorials that I'm old enough to appreciate them.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lululemon and a 6' Tall Lady

I work out at least three times each week, sometimes as many as six times a week.  I go through a lot of clothes and I am constantly doing laundry.  Being 6-feet tall makes finding the right workout clothes pretty difficult, especially in the winter when I need long items.  For me, the right fit means that they aren't too tight or too loose and actually cover the intended areas of my body.  I'm long and lean and not everyone designs clothes for my shape. A lot of brands will have long lengths, but then I swim in the clothes because they are so baggy.

Lululemon is my hero.

Let's outline some of the issues I have when shopping:

My Tall Girl Problem #1 - My legs are LONG
My inseam is 35" when I'm flat foot and if I'm wearing heels I need pants with at least a 36" inseam.  This is an issue when shopping for yoga pants or running pants.  Summer is great when I can just wear shorts.

My Tall Girl Problem #2 - My ribcage is small
Sports bras are also a challenge.  I need a small or extra small to fit my ribcage and bust, but a medium or large to fit correctly over my shoulders.  If I get a small the bra hits me mid-boob (I just typed that) and if I get a medium or large the bras are too loose to even work properly.

My Tall Girl Problem #3 - My torso is long
Similar to the sports bras, I can wear a small shirt, sometimes even an extra small.  Sounds nice, until I put the shirt on and it is a mid-drift when I lift my arms.

My Tall Girl Problem #4 - Long arms
Most long sleeve shirts aren't long enough for me.  Running outdoors in the winter requires long sleeves that stay put.

On a whim I ventured into a new Lululemon store just to check out what all the hype was about.  I'm much more of a TJ Maxx or Target shopper for exercise attire so there was some sticker shock when I checked out the Lulu prices.  But since I was there, why not try something on?  Of course, their clothes fit me perfectly.  The pants are long, the sleeves are long, their clothes have a slim fit and some items even come in a long size.  My poor bank account.

Solution to problem #1

The Speed Tight *full-on Luxtreme

The pants look short when you hold them up, but the store associate promised they run long so I gave them a shot.  The don't bunch at the ankle on me like they do in this picture, but they hit me in the same place - even with my crazy long legs.  And they're thick!  I've run a half marathon (at 25 degrees) in them and many training runs and can't get enough of them.  

Solution to problem #2 

Flow y bra iv
I own four Lulu sports bras, size 6, and they're perfect.  All four are different styles, one of them is the one pictured above.  It looks like they switch out their styles pretty often so I can't find my other styles online, but I haven't tried one on that hasn't felt good.  They are much more snug (on my A cups) than any other bra I've tried, and they are long enough to actually cover my chest properly.  I won't wear any other bra for a long run or a race.  

Solution to problem #3 & #4

Swiftly tech short sleeve

These shirts are so long!  And on top of that they have a slim fit, so they fit well in the arms, and all the way down the shirt.  Nothing is baggy or bunchy.  I wore this shirt with one of their skirts for my Disney Half Marathon and loved it.  You don't even feel it's there while you're running.  

I also have the shirt in long sleeve, and they are actually long enough.  I can use the thumb holes without the shirt becoming super uncomfortable.   Even without using the holes, the sleeves stay put.  They are snug the entire length of my arm so they don't bunch up and move around.  

Swiftly tech long sleeve *print

Now that the weather is heating up, I'm putting away my longer items and pulling back out my shorts.  I have an unreasonable amount of the Nike running shorts so I didn't think I needed any of the Lulu shorts until I tried on a pair a few weeks ago.  They fit completely different than the Nike shorts and I love the way they feel.  

Tracker short II 2-way stretch
They sit much lower than the Nikes and hold their form, but not in a stiff way.  I've only worn them once because of the temps, but I'll be wearing them this weekend in a 10k and I'm looking forward to it.  I'm not getting rid of any shorts that I own, but these are top of the pile in the shorts rotation.    

I can't say how happy I am that I found a store where I can buy clothes right off the rack.  I know the clothes are expensive and require some care when washing (delicate cycle, hang dry, no fabric softener) but they are quality pieces and they don't fall apart so once a quarter I can justify a new piece.  To all the tall ladies out there, check out Lululemon for your workout gear.  

*Lululemon did not sponsor this post.  The opinions above are mine alone and I was not compensated in any way for my endorsement.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Flywheel Sports - Spin class for adrenaline nerds

A lady I work with knows how much I enjoy working out and she invited me to a 5:30am Flywheel class on a Thursday morning.  She was going to pay for it.  There isn't much that will get me out the door at 5:00am, but a free spin class will do it.  I'm obsessed, but let me start at the beginning.

I've been obsessed with spin/cycle classes for years.  I took my first one when I was in high school, a million years ago, and I try to get to one a week at my YMCA.  It's a must when I join a gym.  There must be a spin class offering.  The first few classes I took at my Y were fantastic, but the instructor doesn't teach anymore (at least when I can take the classes) and the new instructor leaves a lot to be desired.

Flywheel isn't your standard class.  The bikes are amazing!  Step one is to create an account on the site and buy credits to you for your classes.  There are several packages you can pick from, they aren't cheap.  When you sign up for your class, which fill up QUICK, you pick your bike for your class.  During class, the bike tracks your distance, torque, and power for each 45 minute class.  After class you can go online and see your performance.  The great thing is that the website tracks all of your classes so you can see how you're doing over time.

I have no idea if I'm fast or slow, no judging!

Above is my performance after two classes.  The top section is my average across those statistics and below that is my performance for each of my two rides.  I've burned less calories than estimated because my weight is below the weight assumption - not a big deal to me.  Knowing that I've ridden 21 miles each class blows my mind.  I say that Flywheel is a class for adrenaline nerds because you have to enjoy the class, the loud music and pushing yourself to the limit, at the same time all of the analytics are very exciting.  At least they are to me.  As soon as I got home I went online and checked my performance and compared it against my last class.  I love data.  Especially workout data.    

I have to also give Flywheel credit for the ease of their website.  Setting up an account was easy, finding the performance results is easy and scheduling a class is easy.  This is what the class schedule looks like for the Buckhead location in Atlanta for this week.  I'm not joking when I say classes fill up fast.  When you're logged into your account online you select the instructor you want and the class you want and you're all set to pick your bike.  You can sort the list by instructor if you'd like, too.  If the class you want is full you'll have the option to get on a waiting list.  I was on the waiting list for my 2nd class and within 24 hours I got the email saying I had a reserved bike.  I'm not sure if that's typical, but it worked well for me.  

Another great thing about Flywheel is that all of the bikes are set for the clip in shoes which are given to you when you check in.  (Also an easy process with an iPad and the shoes are ready in your little cubby.  That way at 5:15am you don't have to talk to a human being if you don't want to, and more importantly, the line isn't out the door 5 minutes before class starts.)  I'm sure people bring their own shoes if they own a pair.  I should have asked for a pair for my birthday - big miss for me!

I've only taken class with Richard S so I can only speak to my experiences and his classes.  He kicks ass.  I'm sweating before our warm up is complete and I don't stop until I get home to my shower.  He is encouraging and motivating and isn't afraid to push the class.  I hate that the only time I can make his class is at 5:30 in the morning, but it's worth it.  Even the 20 minute drive to Buckhead.  

If you're in the area and want a new workout challenge, try Flywheel.  I'm fitting it in 1x a week to mix up my cardio workouts.  They also have FlyBarre in the same studio which I haven't tried yet.  I hope to try it out soon, but I think that will be a Saturday morning class when I don't want the hard cardio workout.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon

A few years ago if you told me that I'd run two half marathons in four months I would have told you that you were crazy.  Running a full 10k was difficult a few years ago and I only dreamed of 13.1 miles.  Well, I did it.  Twice.

The first race was the Thanksgiving Day Atlanta Half Marathon in 2013.  It was 25 degrees at the start of the race and still below 30 when we finished.  It was cold, hilly and pretty miserable.  Let's not go back to that morning.

Instead, let's focus on my first Disney race - The Disney Princess Half Marathon on February 23, 2014.  I grew up in Orlando, I love all things Disney and I love fun swag, so signing up for this race was a no-brainer.  When my friend, Sam, suggested that we run the half, we signed up right away.  Pro tip #1: sign up right after registration opens, it sells out FAST.

The race starts at 5:30am so that the park can open after runners have finished so we decided we were going to get a hotel on Disney property.  We chose Port Orleans Riverside because it is the closest hotel to the start and finish lines at EPCOT.  It wasn't until 3:45am, when we went to the bus stop to get on the shuttle that Disney provided for the runners, how lucky we were that we chose that hotel.  We were told that the last bus was going to leave the hotel at 4:00am so we went out a few minutes early so we didn't miss it.  Our ride rolled up just before the deadline and our stop filled a bus.  We were lucky to be the first stop because the next 3 stops that we passed had 50+ runners at each stop waiting for a bus.  From the look on our bus driver's face, there weren't any other busses behind him for a while.  Those poor runners, I'm sure they were worried if they'd make it to the start on time.  Pro Tip #2: My advice for any runners next year is to stay at Port Orleans Riverside - no bus issues!  Our stop was also the first stop coming back from the finish, another bonus!  Even from the closest hotel to EPCOT it took us about 30 minutes before we were in the parking lot and got off the bus.  The traffic was intense.  This is at 4:00am.  Nobody wants to be sitting in traffic in a car at 4:00am.  Stay on Disney property and take the shuttle.

The race was well organized, which is what I expect from anything Disney.  As soon as we got off the bus Disney cast members ushered us towards the start/finish area.  Here is where you could find the bag check, bathrooms, ice tents, food tents (open after the race), etc.  We stood around here for a few minutes then it was a 5-10 min walk from the staging area to the starting corrals.  All along the way we met cheery, happy Disney cast members making 5:00am not so bad.

Sam and me on our walk to the starting corrals
You can't really tell in the pictures above, but that morning the humidity must have been at 100%.  Anything over what felt like 100 yards away was hidden by fog.  It was in the low 60s but felt MUCH warmer.  I was warm before we even started running.  I have no idea how Sam ran in crops, a t-shirt and long sleeve shirt.  If I could have worn a tank top I would have, I forgot to bring one as a backup.

In other large races once you're in your corral you stand around and wait and slowly march closer to the start line.  Disney had TV hosts all around the start area and jumbo screens set up so everyone could see their interviews and what was going on at the start line since some people were pretty far away at the other end of the parking lot.  After the National Anthem, some speeches by Miss America, Children's Miracle Network and Disney, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother came out to get the send us off on our run. With the start of each wave, which seemed to be about 3 minute apart there were fireworks. (If you do stay at the Port Orleans Riverside and family members stay back at the hotel to sleep while you run, they will be woken up by the fireworks.)

Fireworks for the corral before I started the race.  You can see how foggy it was, that's not smoke from the fireworks.
Once we were on our way the humidity really kicked my butt.  For the past 5 months I'd been running in cold, winter temperatures with very little humidity.  I wasn't ready for how heavy the air was, but at least I wasn't shivering and I could feel my toes.  

All along the race course there were Disney characters posing for pictures and there was even a high school marching band around mile 1.  Having the distractions along the way definitely made the time fly by which was nice because the first 5.5 miles or so you're on a state road between EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom.  It could have been the addition of the fog, but if there wasn't entertainment for us, it would have been a very boring course.  As we got closer and closer to the next park you could feel the excitement.  I didn't stop to take pictures with any of the characters along the way, I was there to run.  However, there were definitely people stopping and standing in line.  Some of the lines were 20+ runners deep.  A half marathon is long enough, I'm not stopping for pictures.  The course circles through the Magic Kingdom and back to EPCOT, the same way we came.  The characters were a nice distraction again.  My favorite was the Green Army Man from Toy Story.  He was on a hill at mile 10 and was hilarious motivation for the only "hill" on the course.  (Coming from Atlanta, the city of hills, the course was nice and flat for me!)

While we're on the topic of stopping, luckily I didn't need to, but some runners need to stop along the course for a bathroom pit stop.  Disney had a group of Port-o-Pots and a Medical Tent at every mile.  If it wasn't every mile, it was every 1.5 miles.  It was great - thanks Disney!  It's always a great fear of mine that I'll suddenly get the urge and be miles from the next stop.  The medical tents were fully stocked and staff was handing out body glide to runners who were having chafing problems.  Thankfully, again, no need to stop.  

I didn't finish the race any faster than I finished the Thanksgiving Day race a few months earlier, I was actually :20 slower, but with the humidity as high as it was, I am proud of my time!

Total Female Finishers: 19,321
Overall Place: 1,944  
Division Place: 306
Gender Place: 1,680 (8% what!?!)
5k split: 30:55
10k split: 1:02
15k split: 1:35
Finish Time: 2:14:56

I'm not a fast runner, yet, but because so many people stopped to take pictures, etc, I actually finished in the top 8% of female racers.  That's nuts!  I've signed up for the Thanksgiving half marathon again for 2014 and I hope to be sub 2:00 at that point.  

Me and Sam post-race!  Check out the medals!

In our packets at pick up we were given our performance t-shirt that I've worn a few times back in Atlanta and at the end of the race we were given small, mesh backpacks along with our medals, food, and water.  Bring on the swag!

The entire event from the packet pick up on Saturday to the end of the race and the shuttle ride back to the hotel was fantastic.  It was well organized and as always, Disney seemed to have thought of everything.  The only thing I didn't like was that the massage tent was $1 a minute for a massage.  I hadn't seen that listed anywhere before the race and of course I didn't have cash on me.  I had my MagicBand (room key and credit card info) from Disney and my cell phone.  I had about an hour to wait for Sam to finish because she was in a later corral and I would have gladly paid $15 for a 15 minute massage.  I probably would have paid $30.  Pro Tip #3 - bring cash. 

I didn't buy any of the photos from the 100 photographers along the course even though some of them were pretty good.  The photos with the EPCOT ball were so foggy you could barely make it out in the background and I'll wait until the next time I run it and hope for clearer weather.  That's right, the next time I run - I'll absolutely run this race again.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cross Stitching: My New Hobby

This year Stephen and I decided that for Valentine's Day we had to give each other handmade gifts only.  No cards, no fantastic presents, handmade only.  I struggled for a while to come up with something to make.  I'm crafty, but I didn't want to make something I've already made before.  I needed something new.

When I was little I remember my Grandma cross stitching and being fascinated watching something come from string and little x's.  I loved the backs as much as fun as the fronts.  I decided that I'd teach myself how to cross stitch and make something funny for Stephen.

Of course I turned to Pinterest and Etsy for inspiration.

From this AMAZING Etsy shop

This Etsy Shop

The two above, and about 30 other ones made my short list of inspiration but ultimately I decided that I wanted to create my own design.  It would have been SO much easier to pick one of the designs from a shop and buy the template for download, but I don't always do easy.  After some Google searching I found this website that I ended up using to create the text that I wanted to use.  There are a TON of fonts out there, but I liked this site because I was able to write what I wanted and print it out at home.

Next I had to figure out how to lay everything out on a template so I had something to follow.  This is where I almost threw in the towel.  I tried to do it in a fancy new Excel program that takes an image and converts it to small squares but it never worked out right.  I was almost in tears and ended up telling Stephen what I was going to make him so he could try to help.  In the end I turned to trusty old, regular Excel and plotted it in squares.  Definitely not my recommended route, but I was on a time crunch and needed to get moving.

For my Valentine's Day gift I stitched a phrase that I say to Stephen all the time.  He finds it creepy and silly which only encourages me to say it more often.  I have no idea where it came from, but it's stuck with us know.

I'm working on framing it and I think I'm going to hang it in our guest bathroom.  We are actually very short on wall space in the house.  We both love artwork so much we're running out of room.  My cousin has asked me to make me one of these for her because she says something similar to her husband all the time, too.  I guess weird runs in our family.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Goodreads and My 2014 Reading Goal

It's been 11 months since my last post.  I can't believe it.  I was warned that after a vacation where I wouldn't be able to blog or use the Internet that my usage would change.  Yep, that happened and now it's been months since my last post.  Anyway, I'm back after almost a year hiatus.  It's been an amazing year, so at least I wasn't sitting around bored!

In 2014, I set some pretty serious goals for myself and I'm not letting myself slack, even a little bit.  The hubby is going back to school so I have some extra time alone at the house and I plan to take full advantage of this new "free time."  (But let's be honest, I'd love to have him around more.)

My first goal is to Read 50 books in 2014.  I've joined Goodreads and I'm using the website/app to keep track of my read books, my progress while reading each book, and all of the books I want to read.  Is anyone out there using Goodreads?  Do you want to be my friend?  My username is KatieAtlanta.  So far, I've read 13 of my 50 book goal and I'm just past the halfway point of my 14th book, but this one is a doozy at over 950 pages.

Above are the books I've read so far.  I'm currently reading Fall of Giants by Ken Follett.  It's the first in a LONG trilogy, but I welcome the challenge. The most rewarding books so far have been The Road, The Glass Castle and Devil in the White City.  Each of those books I would recommend to anyone.  All are very different from the next, but each of them has stuck with me long after the final page.  I'll write a book review post in the next week or two that will run down each of these books.

Overall, I love using Goodreads and I update my reading status every day.  I loving having lists, checking my lists and crossing off completed items on my lists so having a website that tracks all of my books lists for me is genius.  I have only have one friend on the site, so I'm not using it for it's full potential and I don't really follow along with the reading lists of the groups I'm in because none of them have really appealed to me, but it's great for tracking what I am reading and what I plan to read.  I also like that I have a place where I can go back to see my completed books and re-read my reviews so I don't forget what I've read and accomplished.  I don't want to just fly through 100-page books just to reach my goal.  I'm looking for books that interest me and books that have been recommended to me as "books I must read".  Any suggestions?

So there you have it.  My first big goal of 2014 - 50 books in 12 months.