Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toronto Road Trip

A few weeks ago, I took a Saturday road trip to Toronto with my friend Ari. We really didn't have a specific reason for going other than a) Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America, b) there is an IKEA there, c) I have only been there once and I don't remember it because I was too young, and d) we both just wanted an adventure!

Ari modeling some IKEA
fashion wear
We headed out at 7 am, crossed the border in Niagara Falls (slightly nerve wracking), and stopped at IKEA (after getting slightly lost trying to find it) before heading into the city. I am a huge fan of furniture from IKEA. I have a few pieces from there (courtesy of my parents and the store in Philly) that look super classy but are affordable at the same time. We ate breakfast in the cafeteria (who knew that existed!) because we were famished, then enjoyed walking through the show room (except where some kid puked in the children's area and it smelled disgusting). Ari bought a few things; I (surprisingly) bought nothing, and we exited ~2 hours later to head into the city.

Traffic heading into the city wasn't bad at all, and we found a parking spot in a garage by the CN Tower. The garage was probably the scariest part of the drive, because it had construction going on, and the ramp was running traffic 2-ways, sometimes with a temporary traffic light, sometimes without. People are idiots and we almost got taken out in there!

We headed up the CN Tower, checked out the 360 view, walked on the glass floor (I did, Ari didn't!), and walked around the revolving restaurant.

view of the city from the tower
Fun Toronto fact - if it's a clear day, you can actually see Rochester on the other side of Lake Ontario! Unfortunately, it was too hazy the day we were there. :(

playing in some fun chairs in the Distillery District

pretty Christmas tree in the Distillery District
Then we spent some time walking around, checking out the public market, eating delicious pastries, and exploring the Distillery District. We eventually got hungry and headed off to this vegetarian restaurant that I had found online: Hibiscus. It was blocks and blocks away from where we were down by the water, so we walked for probably a good 45 minutes before we found the street that it was on. As we headed up the street, away from the busy part of the city, it grew more sketchy. The townhouses looked unkempt, with their window treatments skewed across the windows, people in the homes tapping on the windows at us, and no one on the street. We hurried up down the street which then came to a dead end. WHAT? (Because we couldn't use our cell phones, we were working off of a map of Toronto and an address I had written down at home). We took a left and got the hell out of that neighborhood, only to be relieved to see the lights of restaurants up ahead. We then found the street again (apparently, it ended and then started up again on the other side of a more "main" street) and after walking 10 more minutes, we found the restaurant, which, of course, was closing. Frustrated and starving, we backtracked to another vegetarian restaurant and ate some pretty good food! This whole neighborhood was very hippie, I kind of liked it! We rounded out the meal with churros for dessert and headed back to the car. It was a long walk and my legs were KILLING me (sheesh.. I can do an Ironman but I can't walk around for a day??).

my horn can pierce the sky!
(outside the market)
CN Tower at night
The drive home was much worse - I was soooo tired, but I managed and I think I made it home at 10:30 or so after dropping Ari off. It was a fun trip! One thing I noticed was the high amount of attractive, well-dressed, in shape men. Compare that with the guys you see walking around Rochester or even NYC, and it was a HUGE improvement. Good job, men of Canada! Keep it up and I will continue to cross the border and stimulate your economy just to stare at you. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Run For the Diamonds Race Report

The Run For the Diamonds is a Thanksgiving morning 9 mile race in Berwick, PA that started in 1908. It draws an incredibly elite field (top 8 in both genders get a diamond, the next 8 get a beautiful plaque). I have been wanting to do this race since about 2007, but there was always some conflict: work, the Philadelphia Marathon, being too out of shape, etc. This year I was determined to make it happen, and ran *just* enough this off-season (i.e. probably not enough to sufficiently train for a 9 mile race) to be sure I would do ok and not die.

I made plans to carpool the 1.5 hours to Berwick with my high school cross country coach, Mike, and his wife, Rachel, who are both talented runners and have both *just* missed out on top 16 awards at this race. (Also, these two are both registered for Mooseman 70.3 and Ironman Lake Placid for 2012)! It was ~27 degrees when I woke up on race morning, but it was supposed to warm up to mid-50s during the day, so I wore shorts and brought a bunch of different running tops along, just in case.

hilariously awful race shirt!
I showed up at their house promptly at 7:45, and we arrived in Berwick at around 9:15. The car ride was full of stories of other races, tales from High School, and Mike scaring me to death with a description of the terrain of this race. We picked up our race packets, warmed up, hit the portapotties, got race-ready, and headed to the start which was set to go off at 10:30 am. I decided to run in shorts, a short sleeved tech shirt, arm warmers, and gloves. I started at the front of the middle.. in the midst of maybe 1500 runners? The gun went off and it took me about 12 seconds to cross the start line, which is when I started my Garmin. Rachel had asked me my goal for this race, and I said that I was shooting for 8 min/mile pace, which, once I heard of the terrain (after 2 miles, you run up a non-stop hill for at least a mile), thought that might be a little fast. An 8:00 min/mile pace would put me across the finish line at 1:12, so I tentatively aimed for that as a ballpark finish time.

Unsure of my fitness, and how fast I might actually be able to run a 9 mile race right now regardless of the hills, I took it out at 8 min/mile pace for the first 2 flat-ish miles. This race is a huge party in Berwick - tons of people were out on their porches and lining the streets - drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, etc. Gotta love Pennsylvania!

The first 2 miles felt a little fast and I was cramping a little and wondering how I was going to run 7 more miles at this pace (and 8 min/mile pace is not super intense fast for me.. it should be doable!). It's a testament to how of shape I really am right now. But once we hit the big uphill, I settled into a decent rhythm. It was slow going, but I actually felt better running up the hill than I did for the first 2 miles of that race. I ran up, up, up for what seemed like forever, and then it turned into a steep downhill, and then went back up! Once the downhills started was where I started to have some problems. I am not a great downhill runner, but I knew that if I wanted to make up the time I lost on the slow uphill sections, I would have to push it, so I was basically running as fast as I could down this huge, unrelenting hill. My right knee and leg seemed stiff but I didn't want to stop and stretch it so I just ignored it. It didn't hurt.. just felt weird and a little uncomfortable.

I hit the halfway point at about 38:45 (which was ok, both Mike and Rachel had assured me that it is impossible not to negative split this race, even if you started out like a maniac), rounded a hairpin turn, and saw some young guy puking on the side of the rode. Lovely. I continued to run downhill for most of the rest of the race (mixed in with some quick uphills). It finally flattened out as we started to approach the town, but after running downhill for so long, it actually felt like I was going uphill! I passed the 8 mile clock in about 1:06:xx and knew that there was no way I was going to run a 1:12, so just started hoping I could finish in less than 1:15. At about 8.2 miles, I ran out of steam (funny, this is about the length of all of the "long runs I have done since Ironman Wisconsin). The last mile of this race was the worst part.. it's the same as the first mile (more or less) and is a straight shot down a divided "boulevard" with grass in the middle, which I am assuming is one of the main drags in Berwick. It just kept going on, and on, and on at what felt like a slight uphill grade. I finally saw the finish line, crossed, and was DONE! My legs were jello from those hills and my right knee was bothering me. I tried to stretch it out and then found Mike and Rachel. We went over to where there was food so they could check results, unfortunately, neither of them had super great races so we left without waiting for the awards ceremony.

I ended up finishing in 1:14:36 (8:18 pace), 13 out of 83 in my age group, and 605 overall, out of 1579 total runners.

Garmin data.. at least I kept my heart rate stimulated!

mile splits

We headed out of town, hit up a Sheetz for some MTOs (LOVE SHEETZ!!) And then started the 90 min drive home. Mike decided to take a different route home than we took to the race, and we ended up driving over this mountain and in the "town" of Lopez in Sullivan County. Remember all of that terrible flooding that happened in PA in September? Well, the area that my parents live and the surrounding counties were hit hard. There are bridges closed all over the place. We got to Lopez, and the bridge we needed to take to get home was closed. So instead of turning around, we went straight (the bridge was to the right of us) into the PA State Gamelands hoping that we could go through them and emerge on the other side. 20 minutes later, we were driving up huge rocky ATV trails in a Subaru Outback, splashing through giant mud puddles, and Mike was getting frustrated. Meanwhile, Rachel and I were giggling because in reality, the situation was pretty hilarious. Mike was worried that we were going to pop a tire and be stranded miles into the wilderness with only some water and a Clif Bar. Rachel and I were facebooking back and forth in our iPhones (her in the front seat, me in the back).

the "A" marks Lopez, the green area is where we were driving around lost!
We finally just had to turn around and backtrack because we weren't finding any other way out. 40 minutes after we first entered the Gamelands, we exited in the same place we started, laughing about how there was probably mud all over the side of the car with branches sticking out of the roof rack. There was an older couple walking down the road just past the closed bridge, so Rachel asked them how to get to Wyalusing (which is where they live) and they gave us directions, with the warning that it was 10 - 12 miles and "part of it is a dirt road." Umm.. did you folks NOT see where we just emerged from? Dirt road is fine.

We made the turn onto the detour road, which eventually turned into the widest dirt road we had ever seen, complete with "do not pass" signs. Seriously, I can't believe that a dirt road in freakin' Lopez, PA gets enough traffic to warrant a "do not pass" sign! 20 minutes later, we turned onto a real road. Comments from the car included: "LOOK! a real road!" "it even has a painted line!" and "CIVILIZATION!!" We arrived back at Mike and Rachel's not long after our return to paved roads, and I thanked them for driving and headed home for Thanksgiving dinner with my family!

en-route Facebook conversation between the passengers
Unfortunately, after racing a hard, hilly 9 miles and then sitting in a car for over 2 hours, my right knee was not happy with me. It was stiff and painful to walk. Since the race, I have been taking ibuprofen and icing religiously in hopes that I didn't do any serious damages. Fingers are crossed!

I will DEFINITELY be returning to this race in future years - it was a blast!

Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

accidental tapering

I have taken a sort-of "accidental" break from blogging - i.e. I keep forgetting that I have a blog. :) When the title of your blog is "Just Keep Swimming" and you have skipped both swims this week.. maybe you're not living up to the expectations of your blog? Whoops!

I am running a 9 mile race on Thanksgiving.. so I have 6 days to go until that race. Therefore, I am not skipping workouts, I am "tapering." :) Which I probably shouldn't be doing since the farthest I've run since IMWI is 8.5 miles.. Whoops again!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's chilly out but not freezing (normally), there is ALWAYS a race to run in the morning (there are like 5 billion Turkey Trots in the USA), there is delicious food to eat in the afternoon (which I love even though I don't eat turkey), you get to hang out with your family, you can get drunk in the middle of the day and no one cares, and it's the first day (in my opinion) that you can play Christmas music without judgement. There is also that whole Black Friday thing but I'm not into that. I do 95% of my Christmas shopping from the comfort of my house via Amazon.com.

Also, with the bad economy, rampant publicized child molestation, the obesity epidemic, plus a million more things going on in countries other than our own, there's a lot of horrible crap going on in the world. I think it is absolutely prudent to be thankful for what we do have. Not just one day a year (hello, Thanksgiving) but EVERY SINGLE DAY. Hey, I don't have any money, I am 27 and single - these are not things that I necessarily love, but if I die tomorrow with 15 pennies in my pocket, I will have been grateful for what I did have during my lifetime: my family and friends, the ability and drive to stay fit and active, Fiona and Cherry (I really, really love my pets), my independence, and the fact that I lived my life and was happy. Also, Harry Potter. :)

..Stepping down from the pedestal..

One more thing, Mandy AKA CaratunkGirl and I are striving to start a sort-of Kindle club where people we know who have Kindles can see lists of the books everyone has and then loan each other books. As much as I love, love, LOVE my Kindle, it does get expensive. I wind up buying books (because you just have to click a button on Amazon and I am compulsive like that) that I may not have purchased if I were wandering around Barnes and Noble. Kindle has had this lending thing going on for a while, so I checked it out last night. There are a few things that kind of stink: 1) The lending period is 14 days. That's it, so if you are a slower reader, or you are busy, or you borrow a huge book, you may not finish in time. And then once that 2 weeks is up, bye bye book. 2) Not all books are available for lending. This is determined by the publisher. 3) IF the book is available for lending, you can only lend that book out once. EVER. I understand why they don't want the lending to be a free-for-all, but couldn't they have made a limit of lending to 5 people per year, or something similar?

I feel as though if I spend my money and buy a book, it's my choice to lend it to as many or as few people as I want. If I bought a regular paperback, I could lend it to a string of 30 people - it's the same thing. If I borrow a book and I love it, usually I end up buying it anyways, or I buy a different book by that author, so I don't really think the publisher would be losing any money (any more than they already do by the mere existence of libraries). Anyways, I could go on and on about this, but I'll stop. However, even with these restrictions, if you're interested in this, let me know via a comment. I have listed the books on my Kindle on a page of my blog (although I have to update it to which of those books are actually available for lending).

Monday, November 14, 2011


Last post published on Oct. 24.. wow. Slacker alert!

It's late and I'm feeling not so great.. and tired.. so I think I will do a bullet list of updates to my life.

  • First things first, I won a week of vacation days to use next year in our company's United Way campaign raffle.. it was the grand prize! There are no words to describe how freakin' excited I am to have won this! Only ONE person out of everyone who works at our Rochester plant (there are 4 buildings in total) wins this grand prize (other prizes are 1 vacation day, gift cards, gift baskets, sometimes electronics such as ipods, etc.). The only other thing I have ever won in my lifetime was a set of limited edition collector's coins at a Chinese auction when I was like 10 years old. Needless to say.. I am PUMPED!
  • I am road tripping to Toronto on Saturday with my friend Ari.. a spontaneously planned trip as of last week that I am excited for, having never been to Toronto (at least not when I was old enough to remember it). Although I guess there ARE some things that I need to worry about, such as exchanging some money, how I am going to navigate/stay informed/exist without my cell phone (no way am I getting roaming charges!), what we are actually going to do when we get there, etc. Should be exciting!
  • I made a budget this past week and it was totally depressing. Turns out, I spend WAY more on monthly bills than any normal person should. I really don't think I have a lot of extra costs, other than of course, the horse, who is slowly but surely sucking my money away as fast as I can earn it. Other than that, I have cheap, 13 channel cable, the cheapest, slowest internet option that exists, I keep my apartment freezing cold all winter long to keep my heat bills down, I don't go out to dinner or drink a lot, and my main forms of entertainment are via Netflix/Hulu+ or occasionally a movie in the theatre. So it's a little frustrating when I am searching for ways to cut costs and there doesn't seem to be much there. My one really bad habit is buying stuff I don't need - so as of Friday, after buying the new (and final) Harry Potter movie on Blu Ray (come on.. I couldn't NOT buy it!), I effectively ended my extraneous spending completely. I have a feeling.. it's going to SUCK. 
  • I am plant-sitting for Matthias while he spends the next 2 months back and forth to different places. One is an orchid and the other I can't remember the name of, however it is not good for cats (i.e. poisonous) so I had to put that one way on the top of my bookshelf where she can't get to it. The orchid is on top of my fridge because he likes that one and doesn't want Fiona to eat it either. I hope to god I don't kill them.. I have never successfully taken care of a plant..
  • I sold my Garmin 305 this weekend with the help of Gretchen and the Moms in Motion message board (thanks Gretchen!). I also have a pair of hot pink Zensah compression socks, size S/M that I have never worn because they are too big for me. Seriously, please someone buy them. They are so pretty and pink! I will sell them for $35 which includes shipping!! PLEASE!!!!!! They are just sitting in the box they came in and are taking up space in my apartment (as well as money that could be in my bank account). Someones calves need to be loved by some pretty pink compression sleeves, right?