Meet Penelope

20120824-081342.jpg

Chris finally let me adopt a kitten. He isn’t much of a cat person so this is a HUGE deal.

20120824-081945.jpg
Not much of a cat person, hmm?

I could not be happier.

Penny and I are already BFFs.

20120824-081625.jpg

She likes playing with her toys, eating a lot, and cuddling. She hates running water, the noises the AC unit makes, and the sound of dogs barking.

Fortunately for her, I already love her so much that on her first night with us I skipped a run. She should feel special.

Guest Post: From a Half to an Ultramarathon

Seriously. I really did just go there.

Today’s post comes from one of my best friends, Kristen. She is a simple, 25 year old who isn’t passionate about much besides cats, Christmas, craft beer, Disney, food, and running! (And some might say making alphabetical lists!) When she’s not pounding the pavement with me, you can find her at Dogfish Head or at home with her cat attempting to cook. I wish I was joking. 

She has been my biggest influence in running and I could not thank her more. She is patient when I am moving ridiculously slow and when I want to walk. She encourages me to keep pushing, to keep moving, and to sign up for more races than I can count. I remember when I saw on Facebook that she had completed her first half marathon and thinking there was zero chance I would ever be able to do that. Little did I know that her finishing a half marathon would inspire me to compete in my own.

A big hello to Sarah’s readers! I was seriously stoked when she asked me to write a guest post! My first thought was, yes, someone is *finally* asking me to talk about my love of running instead of just putting up with it (hi mom…and my coworkers…)

If you told each one of my gym teachers spanning from kindergarten to high school that I’ve just finished an ultramarathon, they’d collectively blink their eyes, look at you in disbelief, and insist you have the wrong person. “Kristen isn’t a runner,” they’d say. “The furthest we’ve seen her run is from the gymnasium to the school buses to go home.” The girl who feigned mysterious stomach aches, her period, chicken pox (without the rash, of course), ebola, mad cow disease, and any other off-the-wall illness to get her out of running the dreaded mile around that quarter-mile track, is now the girl who runs marathons. What?!

In May 2011, one of my best friends and I were so stressed out at work, so we said screw it, let’s run a half marathon. I had never run more than a mile before this point (and begrudgingly at that). For the record, I do not recommend this approach! Despite the lack of training (and my giant Chipotle feast a mere three hours before the start gun), we finished the race in 3:10:09, which is nearly a 15-minute per mile pace. Even after three-hours-ten-minutes-and-nine-seconds of straight huffing, puffing, and death crawling to the finish line, I was willing to do another race just to prove I could do it and wasn’t a fluke.

I immediately signed up for the Disney World Half Marathon to be held in January 2012 and the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon to be held on St. Patty’s Day (And yes, green beer was served at the finish line!) I trained intermittently, but not seriously for these events and was able to finish the DC Half in 02:32:43, a 37ish-minute improvement over my first time. Not bad. *Now* I was hooked. Despite salty sweat stinging your eyes, shivers, hunger pains, and cramps and aches all throughout your body, nothing can touch the feeling of accomplishment you get after crossing that finish line.

My race day gear!

Running through Cinderella’s Castle at Mile 6 and a Post-race Mickey bar

I ran a few half marathons after that (including re-running my first ever race exactly a year later in May 2012 and coming in 42ish-minutes faster at 2:28:35!) I also completed my first marathon. Barely. However, thanks to that addicting feeling of accomplishment, adrenaline, and major life stressors such as a new job, new apartment, and nasty breakup, I truly committed myself to running. What better way to demonstrate this commitment than by signing up for an ultramarathon. In the desert. At midnight. Under a full moon. At an elevation of 6,000 feet. Right outside the ominous and mysterious Area 51. Done!

Cheesin’ in the elevator at my hotel. Ready to do this thang!

At the “Black Mailbox” before the start!

Fast forward to August 5th after a spring and summer of training, and I’m toeing the sandy, desert-y start line of the Extraterrestrial Area 51 Midnight Marathon and 51k. Oh crap. We had just made the 2.5 hour trek from Las Vegas to Rachel, Nevada and everyone was pumped! It’s midnight under a full moon with clear skies and stars for miles when the race director yells “Go!” Quite a humble start with zero pomp and circumstance. Just a sea of runners with their headlamps, glow bracelets, reflective tape, and Camelbaks.

Days earlier, I had met up with an incredibly nice group of fellow runners online where we decided to follow the Jeff Galloway method of running and do 2:1 splits. (This means two minutes of running for every 1 minute of walking. This would give us an 11-minute per mile pace. Totally respectable for a midnight marathon held at high elevations!)

Our fearless leader, Dave, hit the lap button on his watch and off we went, exchanging nervous glances and hooting into the night! We were ready to conquer this:

Source

After only a mile had passed, I naively yelled out, “This is so much fun!” Laura, another member of our 2:1 clan replied, “Let’s see what you say at Mile 26.” But see, it *was* so much fun. Despite the almost literally neverending hill, cramps, elevation, and night sky, I was happy. The girl sitting in the nurse’s office with a fake stomachache during gym class was running an ultramarathon­ and actually holding her own!

As we slowly took down the miles, we began to gain and gradually lose members. People would stick with us for awhile, but would eventually fall back and walk. Dave and I stuck together the whole time, running most of the 13.1 miles up to the halfway point. Along the way we spotted cows, heard coyotes, gazed at countless shooting stars and rocky canyons, and talked about our families, cats, and post-marathon dining (and drinking!) traditions. Why run if you can’t eat?

At Mile 20, we started to approach the finish line at the Little A’Le’ Inn. (Literally the only business in a town of 54 as of 2010). But before we could cross that line, the marathoners had to run 3 miles past and 3 miles back, and ultramarthons would run 6 past and 6 back. Ouch. I held it together until about Mile 26 and then started walking. My aching legs just couldn’t keep up with the 2:1 splits anymore.

But then around 5:30am, the sun started to rise over the canyons and rocks and for the first time, I could see the road ahead of me. Incredible! I got a jolt of energy and was able to run a little more, enough to get me over the finish line.

Scenery from the race!

Mile 30. 1.67 to go!

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face at 7:39am. 31.67 miles in seven hours and thirty-nine minutes for a 14-something minute per mile. Ouch.

Crossing the finish line!!

Iconic!

As I was beating myself up, I realized several things:

1- I had run 13.1 miles straight uphill. I could now tell people I ran an entire uphill half marathon!

2- I had PR’d at the marathon distance. My previous time was 6 hours; I was at the marathon point for this one in 5:50.

3- I ran all night. Literally. And had been up for nearly 27 hours by the time the buses brought us back to Vegas.

4- I didn’t get attacked by a rattlesnake or abducted by an alien. I win!

After arriving back in Vegas, I took a cold shower (it’s good for your muscles!), assessed my wounds, ate a miraculous Kind bar (oh, that is a post for another day!), finished the last few chapters of Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run,” and slowly drifted off to sleep. For the first time in a long time, I finally felt like myself again. I might have started the summer running away from something (everything!), but had now run my way to irrevocable happiness. From now on, as long as I have my sneakers, I know I’ll be able to confidentially outrun whatever life throws my way.

My two new favorite things…

The Kristen I knew ate McDonald’s or Taco Bell everyday for lunch. Funny enough, she still does this quite often. And she is an ultramarathoner. Wow! 

I am so lucky that she chooses to run alongside me. 

Who inspired you begin running? How so? Do you know anyone that has completed an ultramarthon? Which one? What were their thoughts? Let’s discuss!

Birthday Shenanigans

Chris baked me a cake and lit all the candles. On the 10ft walk over to me, they all blew out except one. Love it.

My actual birth date was filled with a lot of love and happiness.

Cupcakes, flowers, and a new running toy? Consider this girl elated!

To celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday further, I was whisked away to Atlantic City!!

Chris, Jenny, and Kristen conspired together to surprise me with a fun-filled weekend of gambling, comedy shows, and alcohol.

We went and saw Aziz Ansari. If you haven’t heard of him or checked out any of his stuff, you are missing out. I definitely peed my pants a little from laughing so hard during his set.

Chris managed to snag us tickets about six rows from the stage. Definitely no complaints there. [I apologize for shitty iPhone quality photo, but its just for proof.]

We prepared for the show accordingly.

Following the show we went out into the casino and tried our luck at various table games and slots. Personally, I am a fan of roulette. Picking the numbers is fun for me and there isn’t really much skill involved unless you can do probability based math.

Embarrassing Sidenote on Gambling: On Saturday night during my first time ever playing Craps, I hit someone in the face with dice. No joke. My hand was shaking so bad and I lost all control of my arm with adrenaline because I was so focused on trying to hit the back wall … instead I threw the dice up, not down like a normal person would and BAM! I hit some poor innocent player square in the face. Thus ending my future career in Craps dice rolling. Also, I could’ve probably slowed down on the drinking to avoid the future jokes made on my behalf about this situation, but such is life.

The rest of the weekend was spent doing a little shopping, eating, consuming more alcohol, and more gambling.

Being the smartypants I am, I took Monday off to recover. For my own celebration, I treated myself to seeing the Katy Perry movie which I shamefully admit to crying at, doing a speed work exercise, and grocery shopping. A nice change of pace from the last couple of weeks.

This birthday was a lot of fun and I could not be more thankful for the people involved in making it such a fabulous occasion. Seriously, all the love shared on the day and then the weekend with the fun and ahhhh. Getting a little too sentimental and emotional here, but whatevs, I have great people in my life.

What has been your favorite birthday? Why? Have your friends and your spouse ever worked together to plan a surprise for you – party, trip, etc? Let’s discuss!

Weekend?! Oh right.

This past weekend. Holy moly. Whirlwind. Does not even begin to describe it.

Let’s begin with Friday evening.

Lindsay, one of my closest friends, met me at work so we could head into DC for Truckeroo.

Lindsay really does not enjoy having her picture taken. Or having a friend that will go to great lengths to pretend to send a text msg and actually snap a photo instead.

There are so many things I love in life, but one of my top favorites is a food truck. Supporting small and local restaurants all while enjoying tasty and delicious eats. Sign me up. Everytime. So, essentially, Truckeroo is a monthly event held at the Fairgrounds outside the baseball stadium that features 20+ trucks.

Yum!

In preparation for the evenings festivities, I enjoyed one of my favorites, District Taco, for lunch.

If I could eat tacos everyday, I would be the happiest person ever.

Once she arrived we were on our way. Unfortunately, we were just a little too hungry to get too many photos of everything we sampled but I did manage to snag a few.

Cap Mac. They have a gift for taking already amazing macaroni and cheese and making it out of this world delicious.

Feelin’ Crabby. Lobster and crab roll sliders.

We also sampled some icecream and Korean BBQ tacos. The food did not disappoint, and I honestly had zero doubts at all. I’ve been asked by multiple people “do you trust it? the meat and stuff?” uh yes. Hands down. I would choose a food truck over a chain restaurant anytime.

Saturday, I went to Pittsburgh to see Girl Talk perform a hometown show with Jennifer, Denean, and Christopher. This show was ridiculous! I had such a blast just dancing and grooving to all the music. Under the advice of Jennifer, I wore workout clothes to the show. Best decision of my life. This was an outdoor show, it was about 100 degrees with humidity and I didn’t really care if they were ruined.

Downside – beer spilled all over Chris and I, being shoved all over the place, and my toes smashed so many times I thought they were broken.

Upsides – he played music from Feed the Animals, All Day, and a bunch of new stuff.

We did a quick driving tour of the city (aka we got lost). Clearly, Chris is a baller in my aviators. 

We moved around a lot during the show. 

Needless to say, right now I am feeling pretty exhausted. But I am PUMPED.

Did you have an exciting weekend? What did you do? Does your town/city have food trucks and have you taken advantage of them? Whats your favorite? 

Adventure Run!

On the first Thursday of every month, Road Runner Sports hosts an adventure run. The general gist is run around to as many stops as you can within an hour and collect raffle tickets. You can earn more raffle tickets by wearing one of their shirts or doing a little task. These raffle tickets are then put into a giant bucket and if they pull the other half of your ticket you can win some amazing prizes such as shoes, water belts, $500 gift certificate, a garmin watch, etc. Not too shabby for an hour worth of running. Did I mention that this is also a FREE event. Yes! That is correct. Awesome.

My friend Kristen (the pretty girl in the neon green shirt!) invited me to join her, and since I love to win and she loves raffles, we knew we had found something special.

We arrived at the store shortly before the running was scheduled to begin. Next time I think we will aim to be there at least a half hour early so we can learn more about different products they feature and maybe be able to test some out.

At 6:30pm the organizer announces that the map has been unveiled so the crowd swarms around to write down the names of the shops to visit and to get a general idea of the course. And then we were off!

A bunch of people had the same idea we did and decided to just get a snapshot to reference.

Kristen and I are kind of slow. And directionally challenged.  Also, we definitely were far from being as in shape as the majority of the people there. Slightly intimidating. So we found a group of people and slowly trekked behind them trying not to be too creepy. Luckily, everyone we talked to was super nice.

I can honestly say that this was a fun event. Despite battling an oncoming cold, warm temperatures, and achy muscles from previous nights workout – I had a fabulous time.

We opted for the fun options some of the stops had to offer. Cornhole or push-ups? Uhh no brainer!

Basketball or even more push-ups? Easy choice! Also, if you made a basket you got double the amount of tickets.

Seriously, check out my form.

I was pretty pleased that I managed to hit the basket rather than airball it like a bunch of other people there.

Once we returned to the store we laid out our tickets and anxiously hoped that we would win something. Unfortunately, none of these were winners.

But we were rewarded with a pretty good workout! (AHHHHH cheesy!) The path we followed took us on a bunch of hills and through neighborhoods and streets. Kristen and I both forgot to turn on Map My Run (app on the iPhone) so I have don’t have an exact basis for how far we actually ran besides using google maps to pinpoint specific places we passed. Based on google maps, I am guessing around 3.5 miles with all the stopping and waiting.

I would totally do this event again. Maybe not in July and August because the humidity in DC is just too CRAZY and I really don’t want to experience heatstroke. But in the Fall, you’ll definitely see me there.

Have you gone to a fun exercising event rather than hit the treadmill or trail? If so, do you have a favorite? Let’s discuss!