Finding the Pain

After the Long Branch Half Marathon, it’s been no secret that this spring hasn’t included a whole lot of running for me. I’m not really sure why, but for some reason, lacing up my sneakers and going for a run just sort of lost its appeal for a little while. Part of me thinks I never really recovered from the physical and emotional strain of training for a marathon and having it get cancelled because of a natural disaster, but the other part of me just knows that while I think running will always be a part of my life, I never have been and never will be one of those runners who just LOVES RUNNING SO MUCH OMG ALL THE TIME RUNNING FOREVER and sometimes I will just need a break from it and won’t miss the miles one bit. But the great part of running is that no matter why you’re taking a break, it will always be there waiting for you when you’re ready to go back to it.

(via Pinterest)

And maybe it’s the fact that I’m “funemployed” while I wait for school to start or maybe I’ve just been away long enough, but slowly and surely, I’m starting to like running again. Sara and I went on a gorgeous 4.5 mile run/walk along the Puget Sound in Seattle (and she’s not even a runner!), and I found myself wanting more.

Although the view may have had something to do with that...

Although the view may have had something to do with that…

I ran 3 untimed miles last week, and while I felt rusty and 3 miles definitely felt harder than I’d like, it felt great to be back out there. So when Beth suggested I join her for her workout on Thursday morning, I couldn’t say no (even though it would involve waking up at 5:30AM while I wasn’t even working). She had a progression run on the schedule (she’s training for NYCM this fall while I attempt to PR in tv-binge-watching), but I figured I’d join for the easier beginning miles and could always bail if necessary. And when we met up at 6:15 (in 93% humidity, gross) and she informed me the plan was .5 miles at 10:00/mi, 1 mile at 9:45/mi, 1 mile at 9:30/mi, and 1 mile at 9:15/mi, the first words out of my mouth were “I might have to ditch you.” I couldn’t imagine why I had agreed to this — I’ve been spinning, cross-training, Refine-ing, and generally staying in shape, but this speed workout wouldn’t have sounded particularly fun when I was in shape, let alone when I’m out of it. But as she took off, I followed anyway.

(via Pinterest)

Not only did we both survive the workout (which included the West Side rolling hills in Central Park), but we demolished the splits, finishing the 3 fast miles in 9:43, 9:17, and 8:59. Yes, we were drenched in sweat by the end, and yes, we had to make some stops for water (safety first!), but it was a perfect workout. It was the kind of speed workout I haven’t even attempted in ages – I made a conscious decision when I signed up for Long Branch that that race was going to be about fun and finishing, not speedwork and tempos and intervals and pushing. And I got exactly what I wanted out of it — a 2:07 finish, good for my 2nd best half-marathon ever (out of 4) but a full 5 minutes off my 2:02 PR from the year before.

Yesterday’s workout took me to a place that runners simultaneously love and dread — the place where you finally realize what the phrase “sucking wind” really means, your muscles are burning, and the only step you can focus on is the one you’re in, because otherwise it will all fall apart. Whether it’s tempos or intervals, it hurts, and it’s awful, but in some ways, it is the purest, best pain you’ll ever feel. There are runs that are beautifully easy and runs that are achingly difficult, but speedwork is a different animal – it hurts like hell, but everything in that moment boils down to that exact moment, where your mind isn’t allowed to wander and you’re the most in tune with your body than you’ll ever be. It’s explosive, and awful, and wonderful all at once. And when you nail that split (or don’t, but you know your body gave everything it had that day) and you’re there in that trademark pose of bent over at the waist, hands on your knees, and gasping for air, it’s a beautiful thing. And yes, my speedwork paces are others’ long run paces (or slower), but I think the feeling is the same no matter where your fitness is. It never gets easier – you just get stronger.

(via Pinterest)

Maybe it’s because I am jumping into a thrilling but unknown and likely very hectic time in my life starting grad school, or maybe I’ve been away long enough, but I think I’m ready to finally go back there. Not every day, and not right away, but finding that perfectly awful pain place reminded me that there was a reason I got involved with this sport in the first place. More than once this spring/summer (usually after a mimosa or glass of wine or two), I’ve made a sweeping assertion that I’m coming for a sub-2 hour half-marathon sometime this spring/summer (originally Eugene, but now that it’s moved to July, not sure which race it will be yet), and I think I’m slowly crawling back to a place where I might be able to do it. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting ready to hurt and work hard and wake up early and push my body where it’s not sure it wants to go, and honestly, I can’t wait.

(via Pinterest)

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Pie in the Sky

As Mark Bittman once said, “Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you make it yourself.”

…Okay!

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Making a delicious dinner and blueberry pie with Sara under Mom’s tutelage wasn’t exactly on my bucket list, but it was a worthwhile endeavor nonetheless. Anyone can follow a recipe, but learning to make something nuanced like pie crust with someone with years of (delicious) cooking experience is a game-changer. We learned things that won’t be in the recipe (like the proper technique for rolling out crust and measuring flour, and why it’s helpful to keep the cut butter in the freezer until immediately before you’re going to use it), and it’s always great to have someone next to you who can say “Eh, that sounds like a LOT of lemon juice…” and make adjustments on the fly.

The final product, complete with streusel topping.

The final product, complete with streusel topping.

We combined the pie with a dinner of lemon-onion chicken, spinach, and salads, and I know it’s bad manners to “mmmm” the things you’ve made yourself, but I’ll be damned if things that are already delicious don’t taste just a little bit better when you’re the one who spent the afternoon in the kitchen.

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Bucket List Update: Cronut Day

I’m a bit behind on blogging my bucket list progress (mostly because it’s involved a ton of packing, deep-cleaning my apartment, and a fantastically awesome trip to the Pacific Northwest), but before I descended into a black hole of “UM, why and how do I own so much stuff?” and running away from said black hole by getting on a plane to Seattle (excellent call), I made some actual progress on a crucial bucket list item: I procured a Cronut. Two, to be exact.

Oh, holy cronut.

Oh, holy cronut.

For those that have either been living under a rock or live in areas where people don’t go absolutely apeshit for pastries that cost $5 apiece, the Cronut is a croissant/donut hybrid invented by Dominique Ansel and sold exclusively at his namesake bakery, and NYC has gone bonkers for the little (delicious, cream-filled) buggers. To get one, you need to get on line (because New Yorkers wait on line and not in line. Hi, rest of the country, you’re doing it wrong) a good 1.5+ hours before the bakery opens at 8AM. So, armed with my Mom for company, a mission from my friend Sara, and absolutely no coffee (because no bathroom breaks allowed!), I arrived in SoHo at the bright and early hour of 6:30AM. We managed to get pretty close to the bakery, but not INCREDIBLY close. I shudder to think what time everyone else in line ahead of us needed to wake up…

At least I'm not as crazy as these people, right?

At least I’m not as crazy as these people, right?

Even after the clock struck 8, it still took almost a half hour for us to get inside the bakery to even order our cronuts, but a surprise was waiting inside for us: Mr. Cronut himself!

Mr. Ansel is on the left, and is adorable and French and super-nice.

Mr. Ansel is on the left, and is adorable and super-French and super-nice.

And after a few minutes of waiting, Mom and I each purchased two Cronuts (the max allowed per person), and she continued to her office while I trekked to west midtown to meet Sara, who had more than earned the right to my second Cronut after being the person to suggest putting “wait in the Cronut line” on my bucket list in the first place. I inhaled mine — she exercised a bit more self-control (what’s that?) and brought about half of it back to her office to share with her coworkers (also, I am greedy).

So, the biggest question everyone was asking on all forms of social media (because if you eat a Cronut and don’t Instagram/Facebook/Tweet it, does it taste as good? Nope) is: “WAS IT WORTH IT?”

People, I woke up at 5:15AM and stood in line for 2 hours for a $5 pastry. Can that ever be worth it? No. I don’t even do that in December when Rebecca and I go early-morning shopping for half-price Jimmy Choos at the Saks after-Christmas sale (although we come close. But that is worth it.) But the cronuts were REALLY delicious. It’s a FRIED PASTRY MADE OF CROISSANT DOUGH. Filled with cream and blackberry jam. Iced with blackberry frosting. It was really, really seriously good.

And honestly, the whole spectacle of the thing was just fun. It was a little QT with Mom, the opportunity to be one of the only people I know that has tasted a Cronut (and just in time, before the August flavor switched to coconut…Ick.), and probably the most popular I’ve ever been on social media, because apparently everyone got really sick of watching everyone tweet and Instagram about their sweaty workouts and instead preferred watching me stuff my face with empty carbs. Would I do it again? Absolutely not, unless I was getting paid to get Cronuts for someone else (hint, hi everyone! I have no income.). But it was a tasty and fun morning – definitely a Bucket List success.

 

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Seriously Eating

My first weekend of (f)unemployment has, by all counts, been a tremendous success. There’s been a bare minimum of lazy/HBO GO-TV-binge-watching time, a Saturday night celebrating a wedding on a rooftop with cake and champagne and good friends, two pretty solid workouts, a torturous but necessary afternoon of cleaning out my apartment in preparation for moving, and the most New York/bucket list/blog-worthy activity of all (and the subject of this post): an eating/walking tour of Chinatown/Little Italy.

Months ago, I saw a post on Serious Eats advertising a tour they had collaborated on with a company called Stray Boots. The entire tour was self-guided using an iPhone app, it was ridiculously cheap, and we’d get to stop at some of Serious Eats’ favorite places in the neighborhood. So I quickly roped in a couple of friends, bought the tour, and then promptly forgot about it completely.

When I realized I’d had the confirmation email sitting in my inbox for 6 months and the number of free weekends I had left in NYC was rapidly dwindling, I reached out to the same friends to pick a date. After one friend had to bail and we found a replacement, Sara, Mitch, Emily and I set out for our tour.

We had no idea what to expect (other than a lot of delicious food), but the app itself is pretty brilliant. Stray Boots has various themed tours for cities all over the country, and getting access to them is as easy as just downloading the app. Each tour has a set of challenges that lead you to various sites around the neighborhood that is the focus of the tour — each restaurant/site we went to came with a little trivia question to answer or a challenge (a picture to take, etc.). You can skip any challenges you want, and if you have a big enough group, you can split up into teams and compete (you earn points for every challenge/question you complete/answer correctly). Once you complete or skip the challenge, the app also gives you a bunch of fun facts about the site you’re visiting. A little dorky, yes, but we got to eat a lot of delicious food and visit some pretty interesting historical sites and yes, even learn a few things along the way.

The highlights of our tour…

Spicy Cumin Lamb Burgers at Xi’An Famous Foods

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I must find time in the next three weeks to go back and eat everything on the menu.

Mmmmmmmm

Mmmmmmmm

Learning about the Five Points slums

(via wikipedia)

Pork and Cabbage dumplings from Tasty Dumpling

Photo borrowed from talesfromastoria.blogspot.com, because I was too busy making a beeline for the dumplings to take any pictures.

Egg Custard Tarts from Bread Talk bakery

I wish I could explain how ridiculously delicious this was, but I can't, so just look at it and be jealous.

I wish I could explain how ridiculously delicious this was, but I can’t, so just look at it and be jealous.

 

Beef jerky from Malaysia Beef Jerky

The dark horse of the tour. Seriously. Who would have expected that this dinky little storefront would have ridiculously delicious and fresh-tasting beef jerky? Or that I would ever describe a piece of beef jerky as “delicious and fresh-tasting”?

Learning about the Eldridge Street Synagogue

…and the fact that they host an EGG CREAMS AND EGG ROLLS FESTIVAL every year that I somehow have never heard of or attended in my 27 years as a New Yorker. Travesty.

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And finally, a stop at DiPalo’s for mozzarella/capicola pinwheels

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“This is my happy place.” – Sara

All in all, a thoroughly successful afternoon. I swear I don’t work for the company or anything, but the Stray Boots tour and entire model is seriously cool. It’s an easy an unobtrusive way to make sightseeing a little more exciting (rather than being on a giant walking tour that screams I AM A TOURIST!) Being a tourist in your own city is always fun, and I think it would also be fun to do one of the tours in a city I didn’t know quite as well. And anything that encourages me to eat dumplings and beef jerky is okay by me.

Now, the only issues are the leftover mozzarella pinwheels calling my name from my fridge and the dumpling craving sparked by only eating ONE dumpling yesterday. Whoops.

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The Bucket List

If we’re being honest here, I wasn’t really planning on writing much in this blog again before I left for school (in case the fact that I updated it all of two times in June wasn’t a big enough clue). It turns out that trying to wrap up a job, an apartment, and a social life before moving to a new city is pretty time-consuming, and if my choices are between seeing friends I’ll be leaving in a month-ish(!) or taking an afternoon to lie on my couch with my trusty friend, HBO GO, or blogging, I will inevitably choose either #1 or #2.

(via tvtropes.org)

But as I wind down my last week at the office, I’ve been working on a list of all the things I want to get done in NYC before I leave (the fun list, not the boring list that has things like “Renew passport” and “Return shirt to J.Crew” on it), and I remembered why I started this blog in the first place. The whole point of it was to challenge myself to do interesting things and discover new things about this city. I used to blog about museum trips and restaurants and concerts, and then it mostly turned into a blog about training and running. Which is fine — it doesn’t mean that I stopped going to museums, eating in restaurants, or buying concert tickets (especially the eating in restaurants part), but I did stop writing about it.

However, now I’m thinking about all the things I want to make sure I get done here before I leave, and in true Liz fashion, I’ve got a list going. A New York Bucket List — The things on the list range from the intellectual (a visit to the Tenement Museum) to the mundane (watching all of The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and The Wire on HBO GO before I leave to be super-busy at school), from the delicious and sugar-filled (the Cronut line - look away, Kim) to the intensely sweat-drenched (I’ve got a 5-pack of Refine Method classes and a 5-pack of Flywheel classes to use as a farewell to my two favorite studios). I’ve got a little over a month, including a trip out to Seattle and Portland, to soak up everything I love about NYC and pack up/move out of my apartment, and I plan on making the most of that time. Even if sometimes, “the most” means television and sitting at home trying not to spend any money. And I’m going to write about it.

So far, here’s what I have on the list:

Things It’s Impossible to Do Properly When You Have a Job: wait on line for Cronuts, snag a choice spot for me and my friends for a Bryant Park movie, get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, get a lot of sleep while also fitting in workouts and a social life

Museums/Exhibits I’ve Been Meaning to Do for Ages: the Tenement Museum, the Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibit at the Met

Delicious Food/Restaurants I Keep Procrastinating: Battersby (although I’ve tried valiantly, this also requires not having a job and being able to get on line early for a table), macarons at Laduree (I went there in Paris, but have yet to have the patience to tackle the NYC line), Jacob’s Pickles, a dumpling crawl in Chinatown, Greek food in Astoria

Fitness Things to Burn Off All of the Above to Keep from Starting School 25 Pounds Heavier: Flywheel, Refine Method, going to the gym at non-peak hours, Bryant Park yoga, a run/walk (because my running fitness sucks right now) to the lighthouse, all the random yoga/strength classes that are offered at places like Lululemon and Athleta that I can never go to when I’m working, finally try to get some of my running fitness back

I’m not sure I’ll get to everything on the list (in fact, I’m I’m currently accepting more suggestions to add to the list — preferably free and/or delicious ones. Bonus points if you want to come do these things with me. And if they are free. Because you know what else you don’t have when you have a job? Income. Which is sort of a bummer.

But regardless, NYC and I have been in a pretty serious relationship for the last 5 years (not to mention the 18 before I left for college, and the 4 years I came back here on breaks), and I think it deserves a proper goodbye.

 

 

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A Not-Training Recap

In addition to mostly being too lazy to write one, I wondered if writing a weekly workout recap post was even remotely interesting now that I’m not training for anything. I’ve still been creating loose workout plans on Sunday night like I used to when I was training to try and at least make sure I can get some workouts in, but as promised, I’ve been approaching them with a much more “Do whatever you want!” attitude and they’ve included a lot less running. As in, 3.5 miles last week. Whoops. Slash whatever. I do what I want.

But then I thought that I hadn’t written in a while, didn’t have much else to say, and I thought maybe one or two of you might find it interesting how I’ve managed to fit in exercise and stay motivated with exactly zero races on the horizon (see: 3.5 miles last week). So here we go:

Monday: Planned - my favorite 20-minute elliptical hill workout and upper body weights.

Actual - slept in after a long week of the Mini 10K + Flywheel + Zog football and had happy hour plans after work, so, rest day.

Tuesday: Planned - rest

Actual – did Monday’s workout before work. These are the two workouts I used, because the gym is terrible if you don’t have an actual plan, we all know that. Also I feel compelled to say that I hate Pinterest but it is actually useful for these types of things.

Found randomly on Pinterest, and I hate the name of it, but it is an excellent upper body weights workout. I also feel compelled to disclose that I skipped the push-ups. Official reason is because I was doing this workout on the gym sundeck and it was soaked from the previous day’s rain. Unofficial reason is that push-ups are terrible.

Wednesday: Planned – 3ish mile run

Actual - 3.5 mile run! This run was tough until the very end. Awesome. Thanks, legs. This sport is so awful sometimes.

Thursday: Planned - PM Refine Method class

Actual – conquered my fear of an AM Refine class after hearing epic rain forecasted for that night. I showered there and everything, and it was not terrible in the slightest. Although I had to drag four pairs of shoes around (rain boots, sneakers for class, shower flip flops, ballet flats for work), it was a great class and I obnoxiously bounced around on an endorphin high all day.

Friday: Planned - rest

Actual – rest, crunched into a ball all day due to crazy soreness from using TRX straps during Refine. Hurts oh so good.

Saturday: Planned - AM Refine Method class (I just started my intro 8-pack, and I have to use 8 classes in 30 days)

Actual - AM Refine Method class! Miraculously got myself to an 8:15 class on a Saturday morning and then to Grand Central by 12:15 to meet friends for a Mets game, where I spent the afternoon rewarding myself with Bud Light and hot dogs. Glorious afternoon.

Sunday: Planned - 5-mile long run (oh, how the mighty have fallen)

Actual – Yes, I could have fit this in before an early morning Trader Joe’s trip and then a quick shower before hopping on a train to meet my family for Father’s Day in Westchester. But honestly, I just didn’t feel like cramming a thousand things in before noon and I was tired and it was humid and hey, I’m not training for anything, so I settled for a walk across the park to Trader Joe’s and filled the void with lobster rolls and sangria with my family and old friends. Clearly awful, my life is a tragedy, someone please start a telethon in my honor.

So… a pretty standard non-training week. Some days, I was extra motivated to fit things in (see: two Refine classes before 9AM). Some days, fitting something in was more stressful than not getting the workout in (see: lobster rolls and sangria). I think these types of weeks are what I’m going to see a lot of this summer… ambitious plans, fitting in most of them, and skipping some of them in favor of having a more relaxing day and not making myself insane. Which I think is a pretty good workout philosophy in general, so I’m calling this week a win.

 

 

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What’s Next?

(Any excuse for a West Wing clip. Watch the whole thing. It’s amazing.)

The Long Branch Half Marathon is over. I’ve returned from two weeks in China and Korea. ‘Tis the season for firing up the air conditioner.

So… What’s next? A break in training before starting up again and getting redemption from the NYC Marathon? After a 2:07 from a relaxed training cycle, maybe choosing a fall half and trying to inch closer to my 2:02 PR, OR the elusive sub-2 hour half-marathon time?

Not quite.

I’m not sure if I have a lot of readers who don’t know me in real life, but for all four of you who don’t really know me, Fall 2013 is going to be no ordinary season. I won’t be training for any long-distance races or focusing on any PRs… Because I’m leaving New York and moving to Boston for grad school (!!).

This is a terrifying but thrilling development, and it’s been in the works for a while – if anyone remembers last summer’s marathon posts full of super vague lines like “I have a lot of stuff going on right now…”, grad school applications were the lot of stuff. But I emerged on the other side of that crazy summer by getting into a school I am unbelievably lucky to be attending and so, yeah, no distance racing for me this fall (sadly, this also means that this blog is likely going to stop bring updated, like, ever. So my lazy posting this summer is really just my efforts to ease you into what this fall is going to be like).

But so… Now what? What does summer 2013 hold? I can already tell it’s going to fly by in a blur of getting ready for school, wrapping up at work, a trip to the Pacific Northwest to consume my body weight in craft beer/cheese/other delicious things, and of course, spending as much time with everything and everyone I love and will miss dearly in NYC.

...Like these girls, pictured before the Mini 10K on Saturday.

…Like these girls, pictured before the Mini 10K on Saturday. We can discuss the fact that I wore a running skirt at a later date but let me tell you, I kinda liked it.

On the workout front, things are going to look a little bit different than they have in a while in these parts. I was in a yoga class at Strala the day after I returned from Asia, trying to stretch out everything bad that happens to your legs after 14 hours on a plane, and I had a weird little epiphany that what I want to spend my summer doing is having fun and really just doing lots of GOOD for my body.

…Which is one of those stupid things that I say that doesn’t actually mean anything. So let me explain.

I will never in a million years say that training for a distance race is unhealthy or a bad thing, but it takes its toll on me. My muscles get tight and sore and tired, and I inevitably wind up on the physical therapist’s table getting yelled at for my weak hips. I’m tired because I wake up early a lot to work out (and uh, I’m working out a lot). Running a lot makes me hungry, and I really like bagels and pancakes. I sacrifice strength training and yoga to have time to run (see my above comment about weak hips). I get angry and sort of anti-social because I’m tired or need to wake up the next day to run. It’s not that it’s impossible to solve these problems while training, but honestly, I’m ready to de-emphasize running in my workout routine for a little bit to focus on those other weaknesses.

This summer is going to be full of strength training, Refine Method (a new addiction I haven’t properly celebrated in a post yet, but I will), Flywheel, yoga, clean (for the most part… If you think I’m completely abandoning New York pizza and bagels my last few months living here, clearly you haven’t been reading this blog for long enough) eating, sleeping, and yes, some running, but probably not more than 10 or 12 miles a week for a long, long time.

I know this summer is going to fly by, and then I get to embark on a completely new adventure. I don’t know what my workout options are going to be at school, but I know that I’m going to be adjusting to a completely new routine, new city, new obligations, and new friends, so I want to get the most out of this summer that I can. I want to leave for school in August after having the best summer ever, feeling like I finally dedicated myself not to increasing mileage and pounding the pavement every day, but to doing great things for my body and mind.

SO. Want to do something fun this summer? Take a class with me, throw some weights around, run some laps around the reservoir (but not too many), eat some vegetables, and find every place it’s possible to drink wine outside in the five boroughs? I’m in!

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