Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tulip Tree Cabin

This weekend we stayed at another PATC cabin: Tulip Tree. Tulip Tree stole the show, making our previous cabin stays seem so primitive. Perspective, folks. This cabin was like a home in the woods without the amenities. I plan to place an offer on the not-for-sale property. Tulip Tree was built over the course of eight years by weekend volunteers. So if my offer is unsuccessful, perhaps said volunteers will be interested in an eight year build-cation in Montana?
Friday night, after arriving late, we explored the cabin a bit and then crashed. And somehow we slept until 10 am the next morning. That would make back-to-back 12-hour slumbers for me. My body is beat! The rest of our crew arrived an hour later. We scarfed down a quick lunch and began hiking. We wanted to reach Victoria Falls, webbing trails into a loop for this purpose. Turns out, I’m not great at estimating distance; our 11-mile hike ended up being more than 16 miles. Details. The waterfall wasn’t even great. It was decent for Virginia, nothing I’d normally hike 16 miles to see though. Again, details. I planned our direction based on the river, meaning we hiked along the river the entire way home. And it was stunning! And vocal! And kept my spirits high! Had our velocity not increased to beat dark on our return, my companions might have appreciated the water as well.
Eight hours later, we were back at the cabin. Boyfriend was dying (i.e., feeling the effects exercise has on a sedentary lifestyle). And the rest of my crew was furiously fighting tics. We found 64* in total, yuck. I filtered water and cooked dinner. Oddly, none of us were particularly hungry until the s’mores were presented. Forget the burritos I prepared!

Though Sunday was rough, rougher for some – Boyfriend was in immense agony, suffering from Old Man pains; A.J.S. claimed her knees has disintegrated; and, thankfully, our truffle-making friend, visiting from Boston, had fewer complaints. To my dismay, we took it easy for the day on Arrowhead Lake. We were able to reminisce about the bear we saw on our hike! This marks the second bear I have seen in Shenandoah National Park (and did not photograph). And this time it felt real because we were hiking in the backcountry, not sitting in a bear jam. Along with the bear, we came across a box turtle, a bunch of beetles, tons of centipedes, a grub, a snake, and spiders galore. It’s wild out there!
If Shenandoah wasn’t quite so far away, it would be a much more relaxing getaway.

*As this marks the second post in a row where tics have been mentioned – yay outdoors! – let me inform you as to the severity of Lyme disease (i.e., tics) in Virginia. This ain’t no joking matter. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control stated, 95% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states including Virginia. And the tic population has only increased in Virginia since the release of this statistic. Danger.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Looq Here: C.D.H. Visits and Another Weekend Captured

Are you sick of weekend recaps? I’m not. So on I will write. And as to whether you continue on reading is entirely up to you.

At this point in my life, The Blog is a place to talk about the weekends I live for as my job is oh so rough. Even yesterday, a day that was supposed be easy breezy, collapsed before my eyes. We had a Team Lunch scheduled to watch the United States/Germany World Cup game at one of my favorite Washington, D.C. establishments, Busboy’s and Poets.  But the following events supervened: First, our 90-minute Team Meeting ran over. Then Busboy’s and Poets released our table by the television, the only television, to another party. This required Busboy’s and Poets to set up a projector in the back, since our Team Captain specifically requested a table within view of The Game in the reservation. And, last, the projector did not work, so instead of relocating to a more spirited environment, we listened to the game… not actually watching any. I monitored the play-by-play on Twitter and angrily stewed.

This is why I don’t talk about The Dark Period, my nine to five. I already have to endure it. I find extending the day by venting to family, to friends, to the world unhealthy.

Last week, my brother drove up from Atlanta, GA to visit the family in Northern Virginia. And I’m not sure who was most excited to see him; my excitement level was pretty high! Though he arrived on Tuesday, I had to wait until Thursday night to see him. When that time came, I walked over to Nationals Park, where I was meeting both of my brothers for a Washington Nationals/Atlanta Braves game. C.D.H. is not a Braves superfan; it was pure coincidence the Braves were in town to battle the Nationals. I do, however, appreciate his taking the time to indulge me for a game. I teleworked on Friday, providing time for a Starbucks run with my brothers before heading out to the suburbs for the weekend. We made time for Melt on Friday because duh. And we might have over-consumed leaving us not as hungry for the Birthday Boy’s dinner at Fords Fish Shack. I still feel as though I managed to consume my fair share. Everything I put in my mouth was delicious, specifically the French fries. Afterwards I watched the second game in the Braves/Nationals series (on DVR), then hit the sack. 
On Saturday, C.D.H. and I met up with Boyfriend and some friends at the Northern Virginia Beer Fest. There was kettle korn, so this designated driver was delighted. And the rain held off. And Louis got to join us briefly before I was escorted out by police—no dogs allowed, dumb. Despite Boyfriend probably having contracted Lyme Disease, it was a wonderful time with wonderful people. I hear the beer was nice too!
My mom graciously gifted me a Looq, a selfie arm; oh the joy! 
My parents cooked an incredible dinner on Saturday night. We all sat around and ate merrily.

I mostly remember sitting around waiting for the 6:00 pm start of the US/Portugal World Cup match on Sunday. And I think we the people of the United States of America will forever remember how that game ended – a final play in the final seconds – in a deflating blow. (But hey, writing a week later pays off, we’re moving on to the Round of 16 – Belgium beware!) There was a run to the dog park with Louis, which my friends and I might have enjoyed even more than Louis—oh the spectating to be had!
Leaving home is always hard, especially so when it means saying goodbye a brother I’m not sure when I’ll see next.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Blood Drive and a Stadium Tour

A few weeks back I donated blood because I'm keen on perks, like saving lives. And food. And juice and water. And Washington Nationals tickets. And (another) Nationals tshirt. And a Nationals Park stadium tour. All free, of course. The sticking of needles can be so glamourous. After attending more Nationals games than I care to count, I enjoyed the 'behind the scenes' aspect of the park.

From the press box. The Nationals have the highest press box in Major League Baseball because they wanted to bring the experience to the paying spectators instead of the paid press. So thoughtful.
We toured the Visitors Locker Room, where I pretended to be an Atlanta Brave. The Massage Therapist has a labeled locker of their very own. Precious.
The kitchen in the locker room was stocked. It was like a grocery store with an attached kitchen. There were multiple varieties everything--bread, cereal, granola bars, lunch meat, and beyond. And who knows what gets whipped up in the kitchen before games? The life of a professional athlete is tough.
My apologies. These iPhone photos are of a supremely poor quality. I did not think a camera would be necessary at a blood drive. After five years, consider this an epic Blogger fail. 
We made a few other stops from there before winding up in the visitors dugout. The view from that angle is oh my gosh. How do I get a seat in there when it's time to play ball? The seats from Section 136 no longer seem so stellar.
Our first (or two sets) of free tickets came on June 18 when the Houston Astros were in town. I follow baseball closely and I could not name a single Astro before they arrived. And after watching seven innings, I still could not name an Astro. They are indistinguisly bad. This was also the second time I have left a sporting event early. The temperature before 10:00 pm was still in the 90s with an unkind percentage of humidity; I have never been so uncomfortable.
In eight more weeks I'll return for another donation.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The AT Hiker Pit Stops in DC

In search of adventure, I used to find pleasure in traveling each weekend. Then I got older and even more boring. And if this weekend is what aging is all about, I’m in. We began the weekend at Truckeroo with a few friends. I opted for ToKorean. And the longest line ever. The tacos – one beef, one pork, one tofu – were worth the wait. But not so great that I would wait again, despite being named Best Food Truck in Washington, D.C. over and over and most recently in the July 2014 issue of the Washingtonian. The event was both over- and underwhelming for a Friday evening. Tables were hard to come by. Rain was looming. And it was real loud. Plus, from where we ended up sitting, I could not hear the music. Suffice it to say, I feel no need to revisit Truckeroo, however, I’m glad I have been there, done that. Afterwards, I invited friends to our place for drinks and desserts. For this anxiety-prone host, it was real spontaneous of me, especially considering I was unable to vet the cleanliness of the apartment after the blurred work week.
I slept in Saturday morning. I prepped apricots for drying and myself for the day. Then Boyfriend and I walked over to Columbia Pike for the Blue’s Festival. The weather, although windy, was perfect. We listened to music for a while before making our way to Taqueria Poblano for some delicious Mexican Sangria on their patio. When the Uruguay/Costa Rica World Cup game began, we migrated inside to watch. We picked up some linner at Pedro & Vinny’s and headed back to the Blue’s Festival for the evening. And then my night was over…
Except it wasn’t. I napped on the floor for two hours at a friends' place and upon arriving home was unable to fall asleep until well past 3:00 am. I therefore slept in again on Sunday. And then the day vanished before my eyes! We met friends for an oh so delicious Ethiopian lunch. This was hands down the best Ethiopian food I have had… and the cheapest too! We coffeed at Blind Dog CafĂ©. I staked myself in our kitchen baking a Blackberry-Nectarine Crumble and a staple--Martha Stewart's Spinach Tart. We ate neither, opting instead for milkshakes from Ray’s: To The Third. I have no complaints.
I squeezed in a Father’s Day call at the end of the day. And an episode of Orange is the New Black before bed. This morning I made myself a pancake breakfast and all seemed well in the world. There is quite a line-up for the week, starting with the first United States Men's National Team World Cup game tonight (again Ghana). Go Team USA!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon Race Recap

Before signing up for the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon, I had no idea what to expect. I had not tackled this distance in several years. And my motivation to run has ebbed and flowed over this time. My routine and relationship with running have remained positive since March, this is not correlated to the start of my new position, I promise. Further, being selected in the Chicago Marathon lottery has encouraged me to train harder (and smarter) than ever before. So as I grew stronger, I selected a training plan and set to work with abandon.

With confidence, I set three race day goals:

A - Finish in 1:40 flat. This is a perfect day time.
B - Sub 1:44. Do not go out too fast. Run with nice, even splits. This is what I trained for.
C - Sub 1:47:30. In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, this is the pace I need to maintain for the full marathon in October. With a finish at this time in May, I will have a good idea of where I need to pick it up in my training.
Pre-Race: I was up at 5:30, stuffing half a bagel topped with peanut butter and a banana in my mouth. I was also drinking as much coffee (about three ounces) and water (about 17 ounces) as I predicted my stomach could handle… while dealing with two dogs, both with enough vigor to power them through their own half. Boyfriend and I were out the door by 6:00 am and in sight of the race start by 6:30 am. With a long, long traffic line, Boyfriend took the wheel and I made way to the porta johns. The line there, equally as long, did not move. So I was thankful the race started five minutes late as I was making my way to the start line.

Race: The weather was a few degrees above ideal. But overall, a beautiful day was in the works. I crossed the mat and hit start on the Garmin, and with that, my first race in sometime was underway. Aiming for a 1:40 finish time… when starting with the 2:45 pace group lent itself to quite a bit of weaving for the first mile and a half. Run hard, run smart, a motto from Pops echoing in my head, I was thankful to be weaving. It kept my pace reigned WAY in for the first mile. During the first couple miles, I was also able to shake-out quite a bit of anxiety, as if I actually was going to disappoint anyone beside myself with a poor race results.

Mile 1: 8:15
Mile 2: 7:36
Mile 3: 7:40
Mile 4: 7:26

There were water stops each mile and a half along the course. My gastrointestinal system does not appreciate hydration or food while exercising, something the stomach and I are working to overcome before October. I stopped to drink a full cup of water (about six sips) shortly after the four-mile mark.

Mile 5: 7:22
Mile 6: 7:32

I sensed the course was rolling up and down, however, the first sizable hill I recall came between miles five and six. The hill climbed and climbed until that point where I thought the top was in reach, when the course wrapped around and bend and I was forced to climb some more. I wound up drinking another two sips of water at mile six. I did not stop for this intake, as I had not accounted for this time prior to the race, instead I splashed and sloshed my way through this mini hydration jolt.

Mile 7: 7:50
Mile 8: 7:44

This is when the mental battle started to ensue. I was doubting myself. Did I go out to fast? Can I hold this pace for five more miles? My legs were starting to tire. The course fluctuated in and out of sun… and I wanted nothing more to remain in the shade.

Mile 9: 7:44
Mile 10: 8:01
Mile 11: 8:27

This was by far the hardest mile. I could not keep it together. And I was worried I was doomed. But once I had a only five kilometers left, the positive pep talks started. You are not alone in pain. You are strong. Run hard(er), run smart. The faster you run, the faster you’re done. Relax the shoulders. Pump your arms. Shorten the uphill stride. After working myself back into a good place, I felt great for the last two miles. I certainly felt pain. But I never wanted to quit. I knew I could finish faster than Goal B and probably closer to Goal A if I continue to push.

Mile 12: 7:42
Mile 13: 7:44
Mile 13.1: 0:52

In conclusion: I ran more aggressively than I had planned, but in the end, it paid off. The goal of this race was to see where I am at fitness wise. And I think I am slightly better off than I thought I was; I can safely say, "I’m back."
(Note: The credit for the layout of this race recap goes entirely to Claire at Will Run for Beer, a running blog I follow for added inspiration.)  

Friday, June 6, 2014

National Doughnut Day 2014

Since yesterday, when I learned today is National Doughnut Day, I have been scheming. Would it be possible to visit both Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme in the same day? This being a feat I have never before accomplished, I was up for the challenge. (If you recall I recently discussed my fondness for donuts here.) I was up at 5:41 am bounding with excitement. I am not allowed to wake Boyfriend up, the lesser passionate of us two, before 7:00 am. What's a girl to do?! I hung with Jillian Michaels, duh.

The pain educed upon me certainly passed the time, leading us to Stop One: Dunkin' Donuts. And the line that greeted us screamed something was being given away; I knew the reward would be worth the wait.
Pardon the supremely cheesy smile. Ill with excitement, I let Dunkin' Donuts add cream and sugar!
I cut up an apple to go with breakfast for good measure.
I had to attend to work after that. On National Doughnut Day, the shame.

And for lunch, Stop Two: Krispy Kreme. I clearly have not outgrown the "free things" phase of young adulthood. I'm soon hoping to realize biking more than six miles completely out of my way for one free donut is borderline insane. For now, when donuts call, I always answer.
There was a lovely gentleman singing Billy Joel tunes for me as I munched outside Krispy Kreme; I so badly wanted to take his picture, but on a mission for free donuts, one cannot afford to start paying the entertainer.

Please tell me you celebrated National Doughnut Day with matched enthusiasm!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Weekend Bliss

Conversation. Sugar cookies from Mom’s Apple Pie. A brief visit with Latte Woman and Sweet N.J.M. among others. A pre-race chirizo pasta meal. Sleep.

Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon. Food. An afternoon at the pool. Magazines. Time with the M family. Two loads of laundry. Shower. Televised Altanta Braves game. A steak, corn on the cob, and ceasar salad dinner. Dessert (also from Mom’s)--peach raspberry pie. And more, much needed sleep.
A shakeout run on The Woods road. A cinnamon roll breakfast, followed by hours of coffee on the deck. Another afternoon at the pool. More magazines. Reading. One more load of laundry. Grilled caprese salad, more commonly known as bruschetta to my people. A walk with Louis. (Toby was on the bench; he’s suffering from a case of arthritis, poor puppy dog.) Pork tacos with grilled Mexican ceasar salad. 
There is nothing better than a weekend at home.